Unique stage propels provocative production of Miss Julie

ChicagoCritic.com
January 20, 2008
Tom Williams

August Strindberg’s 1888 Miss Julie is know as the start of Naturalism on stage. Strindberg chided directors to create a new style of production with new concepts of character. He offered unheard of innovations for the 1880’s—references to menstruation, blasphemy, lust, and bodily functions. Director Sean Graney sure heeds Strindberg’s call for a new style of production. Graney uses a promenade performance style that has the audience standing and moving to spots around a large wooden box (set design by Marcus Stephens) that opens to depict different locations. He has three “Farm Workers” (Ryan Bourque, Lila Collins and Jack Tamburri—on cello) act as narrators, stage hands and singer/musicians. Graney uses Kevin O’Donnell’s original pop/rock music to underscore the singing of parts of the preface and during several key scenes of the play.

This provocative work is testimony to Strindberg’s misogynist fetish come through as he paints the lustful Julie as a sexual predator. The struggle of class and sexual desires containing lust and obsession renders Miss Julie as controversial for an 1880’s audience. Graney’s innovative stage and the terrific work from Samantha Gleisten (Kristin), Gregory Hardigan (Jean) and Stacy Stoltz (Miss Julie), make the 90 minutes a thrilling and unpredictable evening of adventure. Graney breathes new life in Strindberg’s classic as he experiments with presentation styles. His Miss Julie would make Strindberg smile.

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