Chicago Theatre Review
No Spare Change
After Miss Julie – Strawdog Theatre Company
By Lazlo Collins
Change affects us all in different ways. Sometimes our response to change can be unpredictable. We look for meaning within ourselves and in others. When change happens, especially a tragic change, the world is no longer the same. In the wake of change, rules become different, the risks fade away; and we fool ourselves that with breaking out of our own existence – relief, of a certain kind, can be achieved
This adaptation by Patrick Marber, of the classic play Miss Julie, by August Strindberg, has set the story in 1945 on the eve of a game changing election for England. The shift from Churchill to Socialist is palpable.
There is an intensity in this story of hurt, frustration and deep resentment. The characters rally against their own stations in life on this election eve. The identity of two of the characters are locked in a battle to see what they could be if their circumstances were different. How much control does a person actually have when the cards have been dealt?
Julie is a wealthy daughter of the house. She has much freedom to come and go as she pleases. With an distant father and a lost fiance, she is mangled mess. She has cast her on John, a servant of the house. She teases. She flirts. The servant knows the danger of her advances, and knows the power she possesses. She could destroy him both as the “master” and as the “lover”. John knows this, but her allure of power and sex is too strong. Julie’s hope for a new life matches John’s hope for new life as well. They both want freedom from the positions life has given them. The audience sees her facade slowly fade away, until she must ultimately break away.
This tightly packed 90 minute show, makes the audience uncomfortable, compassionate, and breathless. The story twists and turns, and makes the viewer squirm… just a little.
As Julie, Maggie Scranton, brings a breathless performance to this complicated character. She moves through moments in the story with willowy grace and chilling calculations. At times it seems she cannot even keep up with the emotions surging through her mind. Ms. Scranton is lovely and enchanting, but also giving us danger and menace. I felt she was confident and true. John, played by John Henry Robert, plays this complicated character well. He brings a sympathetic ring to someone that you might ordinarily feel anything for as delusion broken man. Mr. Roberts What I liked about his performance was his commitment and fury at his station in life, but willing to take the biggest chance he sees.
Completing this trio, moving about the house, is the fellow servant, Christine. Christine loves John, she loves him because he is there; because she has no other choice. She is attached to John. He has promised her a life of marriage and stability, of which I never feel she was really convinced of that promise. Christine, played by Anita Deely, was subtle and pointed. She also brought some humor to the proceedings. Ms. Deely, was a force to be reckoned with as a character and actress. She commanded her character well.
Under the capable direction of Elly Green, the execution of the show was lovely. Although, with a slow start, the movement of the show, was complex. The production team was right on the shilling, with lighting (Clare Chrzan), the costumes (Brittany Dee Bodley), and sound (Heath Hays). Special shout out to scenic designer Mike Mroch. This complex and multi dimensional realistic set, puts the audience directly in the story. The clever “offstage” hallway and servant entry really helped to tell this story. The detailing was thrilling.
This show is uncomfortable, and a glimpse into lives changing and out of control. You could feel the audience hoping these characters would make the “right” choices. As the play progresses, you realize you on the train, heading down the road, and the bridge is out. You are along for ride. A witness to these lives that are not content, not honest, and definitely not settled.
After Miss Julie Continues through Sept 28th at Strawdog Theatre Company, 3829 N Broadway Chicago.
For tickets order online at www.strawdog.org or call Ovation Tix at 866-811-4111
Additional information about this and other area productions may be found by visitingwww.theatreinchicago.com.