Growing up in the Bronx in the 80s, I was a tomboy who raced the boys on my block, bloodied my knees, and loved my ballet classes more than anything. I’ve relied on my contradictions, they’ve helped get me this far. Being a character actor is the greatest gift in the world. To me, the women who have great flaws and imperfections and weaknesses, are the most exciting. These roles inspire me to get up every day and continue pursuing this seemingly impossible dream.
There are dreams described within August Strindberg’s 1888 play, Miss Julie — such as the moneyed title character being stranded on a pillar, and the object of her scandalous lust, a footman named Jean, stuck on the ground while yearning to climb trees….
The setting is a theater company’s production of Miss Julie, in which the newly hired and nervous actress, Mina (Lynn Adrianna), finds herself barely understanding the role. Meanwhile a tyrannical director (Edward Alvarado, playing to cliché as the director, and also terrific in other roles in this production) is in a panic because the play is supposed to open within the hour and Mina can’t be found — though she stands before him.
Furthermore, Mina can’t recall her lines. The production opens with her calling for her first line. Nobody else from the company can hear her, because nobody else can see her. The stage manager has cellphone glued to ear trying to discover where she might be.
This comedic, cruel absurdity is theme-and-variation on Christopher Durang’s 1970s one-act, The Actor’s Nightmare. But here it comes with a twist: The real Miss Julie (Elan O’Connor) has blown in on a zephyr and salvages the play-within-the-play, at least to some extent…
At the same time, actress Mina and real person Miss Julie battle out their own identity crisis so that questions of who is real and who is acting, and what is real and what is illusion, keep bumping up against each other and sparking…
The primary beauty of the Fell Swoop Playwrights’ project lies in the way it transforms the play’s dodgy sexual politics — and Strindberg’s psychological explanations for his characters’ destructive behavior — from the logic of cause and effect to the surreal.
In this Miss Julie-in-Wonderland, the reasons things happen aren’t necessarily discernible. Actions are arbitrary and only make sense from a subconscious dream state, leaving a lingering, eerie effect. After all, it’s not so much the absence of logic but the introduction of an alternative logic that rattles the cages of the determinedly rational.
The production’s in-jokes about actor training, puns on lines from Waiting for Godot (among other plays), analysis of Strindberg’s misogyny, and the very fact of the playwright’s penchant for staging dreams (see: Dream Play), make this a jocular, nutty, thoughtful and sometimes insular event. On the night I attended, the jokes were landing fitfully, leading to an effect more beguiling than funny.
Still, the meditation of what Strindberg could possibly mean to us in the here and now — as well as the meditation on what actually constitutes the here and now — retained its charm…