STRINDBERG AS COMEDY IS SOMEWHAT STRAINED.
THE CRUEL gamesmanship that drives the marital relationship of Edgar and Alice in Friedrich Durrenmatt's ``Play Strindberg'' could be considered a precursor to the seedy machinations of George and Martha from Edward Albee's ``Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'' but is not nearly as theatrically compelling.
Under the sure hand of Company Rep artistic director Hope Alexander, a talented and energetic three-member ensemble drive this adaptation of August Strindberg's ``Dance of Death'' for all it's worth, but there is not enough substance in the work to warrant the effort.
In 1968, the renowned Swiss playwright and novelist Durrenmatt scripted his own personal variations on the theme of Strindberg's turgid work, wherein a military officer and a gentleman are driven to the verge of madness by an untalented actress.
Strindberg intended it as a tragedy. Durrenmatt adapted it as a comedy (translated by James Kirkup), a farcical glimpse into a monumentally dysfunctional marital relationship, divided into 12 rounds (as in a boxing match). What he failed to instill within the work is a compelling sense of thematic evolution to give needed weight to the hateful jousting of Edgar and Alice.
Set on an unnamed island military outpost, the play centers on failed career officer Edgar (Joe Garcia), and his wife, failed actress Alice (Holly Jeanne). Living in genteel squalor, they have no social outlet other than to have at one another, mitigated only by periodic rounds of more-or-less-civil card playing. Into their midst comes Alice's former beau, Kurt (Travis Michael Holder), a deceptively meek house guest with an agenda of his own.
Alexander certainly is familiar with this work, having staged it in 1999 at Costa Mesa's South Coast Repertory Theatre. She perfectly underscores all the comedic elements as Alice ridicules her husband's failures, while Edgar scores with a series of well-timed one-liners about her less- than-stellar thespian skills.
Though forced to deal with an overabundance of thematic repetition, the ensemble certainly relishes this conjugal warfare. Garcia simply chews up everything in sight as Edgar, whose bitterness often drives him into a state of rigid catatonia whenever Edgar falls into one of his fits. The most complex performance is turned in by Holder, whose Kurt is constantly in the process of balancing his concerns over Edgar's odd behavior with his ogling lust for Alice.
Though understated, the production designs of Luke Moyer (sets and lights), Max Kinberg (music) and Alexander (costumes) do much to facilitate the mad doings in the household of Edgar and Alice.
PLAY STRINDBERG - Two and one half stars
Where: The Company Rep, 5112 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday; through Feb. 22.
Tickets: $20 to $22.50. Call (818) 506-7550.
In a nutshell: Clever staging and a thoroughly committed ensemble elevate this otherwise mediocre adaptation of August Strindberg's ``Dance of Death.''
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|Title Annotation:||U; Review|
|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Jan 30, 2004|
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