BWW Reviews: Like a Dangerous Peep Show, Strindberg's CREDITORS Exposes the Raw Nerve and Vulnerability of Love, Lust and Revenge
David Trainer directs the Los Angeles Premiere of David Greig's celebrated new version of August Strindberg's psychological thriller CREDITORS, a co-production between two of the city's most respected theaters, the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble and The New American Theatre. The production is a sexy, savage, darkly comic, and very modern take on the battle of the sexes. The action takes place in the summer of 1888 in the lounge of a seaside resort in Sweden. But this very modern adaptation could be set in present day given the extreme, passionate, vigorous, smart, funny characters who are put in an intense toxic triangle and allowed to go for each other's throats.
Featured in the cast are three ultra talented actors: Burt Grinstead (as Adolph), Heather Anne Prete (as Tekla), and Jack Stehlin (as Gustav). Director David Trainer skillfully keeps the action moving at a fast pace during the 90 minute piece performed without an intermission.
We first meet Adolph, a sculptor, as he is being comforted by his worldly advisor, Gustav, while anxiously awaiting the return of his wife to their seaside resort. For reasons that become crystal clear as the play progresses, Gustav tries to convince Adolph that his marriage to Tekla is in danger. But although Adolph admits he sometimes misses his freedom, he feels incomplete and lost when his wife is not with him. They are one person when they are together, she writing books about him while he creates works of art featuring her. Their marriage certainly seems to be wonderful in his mind.
But Gustav warns him that the last person a man should trust is his wife, causing Adolph to take a hard look at his wife's loyalty. Old wounds are opened, insecurities are laid bare, and former debts are settled in this fierce tale of obsession, honor and revenge - ultimately proving the saying that payback's a bitch.
Burt Grinstead's Adolph is a sensitive artist, a former painter turned sculptor who manages to move with ease on crutches. Grinstead's is an open book of woe and worry as he goes from confident husband to insecure basket case of a man as Gustav convinces him that his wife does not love him. As Adolph develops a backbone figuratively, Grinstead becomes more sure-footed and throws the crutches aside until he falls apart emotionally in a riveting scene with his wife. His fierce physicality will have you feeling his heartache and pain with each turn of events.
One wonders why Gustav would want to undermine his friend's marriage as he tells Adolph that although he has never met Tekla, she must not love him. How is he able to weave his deceitful way into Adolph's insecure thoughts? Why does he want to cause Adolph such distress? Jack Stehlin brilliantly takes Gustav from trusted confident to a revenge-filled monster as the play progresses. His every movement and nuanced expression will entrance you as Gustav's true nature is finally revealed when he and Tekla confront each other.
Heather Anne Prete gracefully takes Tekla from a young loving wife through her husband's emotional challenges to her revelation as a woman who sees through Gustav's machinations. Hers is a captivating performance of authenticity, taking us with her on each step of her emotional journey.
"It is rare when a play rings with the sharp authenticity and relevance as does August Strindberg's 'Creditors.' Like a dangerous peep show, Strindberg exposes the raw nerve and vulnerability of love, lust and revenge. The bravura intelligence of the play bristles with irony and the dark humor of pure truth. One is forced to recognize oneself as the characters struggle to achieve their most intimate desires," says Jack Stehlin (Artistic Director-New American Theatre)
CREDITORS performances at 8pm on Wednesdays Oct. 30, Nov. 13, Dec. 14, and Thursdays on Nov. 7, 21, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, 2pm on Sundays through December 15, 2013. Pay what you can performances on Oct. 30 and Nov. 15 only. Produced by Ron Sossi, Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin, and Beth Hogan.
The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 South Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90025. Tickets are $25- 30 ($20 for students, seniors, and Guild members except on Sat., $15 on Fridays and $10 minimum on 'Pay What You Can' performances) and can be purchased in advance by calling (310) 477-2055 ext 2. For more information please visit www.odysseytheatre.comor www.NewAmericanTheatre.com. $3 parking available at the theater, or free street parking.