By Alina Trowbridge Devoted Cutting Ball Audience Member and Local Playwright
I missed a lot of Cutting Ball’s Strindberg staged readings this year (i.e. Krispy Kritters) that turned out to be preparation for full productions this season. But I caught the Strindberg staged readings of the chamber play series, otherwise known as one-acts, and I never stepped into the same playwright twice.
“Pelican” is a recognizable modern drama with all the secrets, intrigue, slow horror, and love that turns out not to be love that you would expect from Ibsen or Chekov. “Black Glove,” on the same night, was almost a Victorian Christmas play with a benevolent sprite creating chaos in a good cause and long-lost children being found.
The very next week, Cutting Ball gave us “Storm” and “Burned House.” Where in “Pelican” characters turn out to be a tad monstrous and the innocent and not-so-innocent meet a horrible end, in “Storm,” Strindberg is kinder to his characters and more merciful regarding their fates. Then “Burned House” launches into a slow, subtle comedy, relentless in its reverses and revelations. You have to wait for the end to draw your conclusions because any judgment you make along the way will be toppled by the next revelation.
Revelation is the operative word with the chamber plays. Strindberg presents us with a situation and a set of relationships, then changes everything by adding one fact we didn’t know. Then he does it again. And again. Most of these new circumstances seem to come out of the air, and yet they are credible. If someone wrote that way today, they would be told that they hadn’t “prepared the reveal.” Strindberg doesn’t seem to care about preparing us or convincing us. He says it is so, it’s possible according to the rules of the play, and we accept it because he, and some very good actors, tell us it’s so. It’s a bit liberating.