By Suzanne Appel, Cutting Ball Managing Director
Last Saturday the thirteen actors and five production staff for Strindberg Cycle: The Chamber Plays in Rep pulled off an incredible feat. They performed all five of August Strindberg’s Chamber Plays, over seven hours of theater, in one day. Then they did it again the day after! This weekend we have two more marathons planned.
These marathons have always been a part of Artistic Director Rob Melrose’s plan for the Chamber Plays, but it will likely take sitting through one yourself to understand why the plays are so powerful in concert with each other and why any theater company, let alone a small one like Cutting Ball would take on such a task.
I like to think of the marathons as a sort of Strindberg vacation. They give you a chance to fully immerse yourself in Strindberg’s Stockholm, his strange often dreamlike plays, and time to contemplate the themes that connect all five plays. All the other parts of life that can seem so important fall away for a little respite of contemplation and theater magic.
There are also hidden little gems to discover that Rob has planted that you’ll only notice if you see all five plays. One of my favorites is a memory box that you’ll see first in the prologue Rob has created for Storm that shows up again in The Black Glove and that in both plays connects an older man at the end of his life to a family and a past from which he has become estranged. Then there are the chances to follow Cutting Ball’s actors as they take on Strindberg’s archetypes. James Carpenter is a master at this. Although he plays an older gentleman who could be considered the Strindberg autobiographical character in each play, he embodies four very different human beings who share similar obsessions but very different histories and dreams. Caitlyn Louchard, a Cutting Ball Artistic Associate, charms me with the radically different young women she plays. In Storm she is a naughty young woman, in The Black Glove a young maid accused of stealing, in The Pelican a duped newlywed, and in The Ghost Sonata an ingénue whose dark inside is masked by a glowing exterior perfection. Cutting Ball regulars will also enjoy seeing David Sinaiko who has been an Artistic Associate for over a decade, playing a variety of great character parts that often bring levity and even a bit of comedy to Strindberg’s reputation for heavy material. You’ll only fully appreciate the work that all 13 actors are doing when you see them master these roles across a full day of performances.
I’ve had an opportunity to see other theater’s marathon like performances – The Great Game Afghanistan (Berkeley Rep), Robert Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach (Cal Performances), The Coast of Utopia (which I saw in New York but you’ll be able to see at Shotgun Players) and Elevator Repair Service’s GATZ (no plans yet for this to come West, but cross your fingers it does). What all of these great performances share with our Strindberg Cycle is that they give audiences a rare opportunity for total indulgence in great storytelling, and a great gift of immersion into a world apart from our own. I hope you’ll consider traveling with us this weekend for one of our final marathon performances.