Theatre for the New City to Present August Strindberg Rep in MISS JULIE 1925

Performances run from June 27 to July 7.

By: Jun. 08, 2024
Theatre for the New City to Present August Strindberg Rep in MISS JULIE 1925
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"Miss Julie" by August Strindberg centers on a proud, neurotic daughter of the degenerate aristocracy who is willing to sink her pride in a frenzied attempt to satisfy her love of sensation.  Strindberg originally set the play in a Swedish manor house in 1888.  From June 27 to July 7, Theater for the New City will present August Strindberg Rep in a production, translated from the Swedish and adapted by Robert Greer, that transplants Strindberg's story to a Long Island country estate in 1925. 

In this Americanized retelling, the engagement of the Governor's daughter, Julie, to the County District Attorney has just been broken off.  It's Fourth of July and an extravagant party is underway, parallel to the midsummer festivities in Strindberg's play.  Julie, a young woman of privileged birth, is headstrong, domineering and emotionally volatile. On this particular evening, she engages in flirtatious and provocative behavior with the servants, particularly Jean, her father's butler. The pair dance and drink at her insistence.  Their dynamics are complex and fraught with tension, driven by a mix of attraction, power play, and deep-seated class resentments.  Jean discloses that he has been obsessed with Julie since childhood. As the night progresses, their interactions become increasingly intimate and manipulative. She, despite her upper-class status, reveals her vulnerability and desperation.  He, ambitious and cunning, sees an opportunity to exploit her emotional instability to elevate his social standing.

Hearing the Governor's roughneck field hands singing a lewd song about them, they hide in Jean's room to avoid being discovered by these rowdies.  Leaving the room, it is revealed that Jean has seduced Julie there.  They plan to flee to Mexico and open a hotel and she steals her father's cash box to pay for the trip. But the power balance has shifted. Julie's initial authority over Jean crumbles as he begins to assert dominance, revealing his contempt for her aristocratic pretensions and her emotional weakness.  Ultimately their plan is thwarted when Jean's fiancée, Christine (the cook), announces that she, enroute to church, will tell the chauffeur not to give anybody the car keys should they try to get away before the Governor comes home.  Unable to face the certain scandal, Julie walks out of the kitchen to see one last sunrise before tragically committing suicide.

Moving Strindberg's play, with its extreme class consciousness, to an American setting might seem surprising, but it's a peek into our American social hierarchy that cautions us against the 21st century redistribution of wealth which is becoming hardened in our society.  The notion that America is a classless society has always been more myth than reality. In the jazz age, rich sections of Long Island, such as the Gold Coast, were known for their opulent mansions and wealthy residents, starkly contrasting the working-class individuals who served them. So the setting provides a backdrop of class distinction, mirroring the original play's focus on class struggle.

The play will be acted by Natalie Menna (Julie), Mike Roche (Jean) and Holly O'Brien (Christine).  Menna and Roche last appeared together at TNC in the August Strindberg Rep production of "Hedda Gabler" in 2022 (she as Hedda, he as Judge Brack).

Costume design is by Billy Little.  Lighting design is by Alexander Bartenieff. 

Robert Greer (translator/director) is Artistic Director of August Strindberg Rep, which is a resident company of TNC.  He has staged 18 Strindberg plays with the company to-date as well as English-language premières of contemporary Scandinavian playwrights, including Denmark's Stig Dalager; Sweden's Kristina Lugn, Marianne Goldman, Helena Sigander, Cecilia Sidenbladh, Hans Hederberg, Oravsky and Larsen, and Margareta Garpe; and Norway's Edvard Rønning. He has also directed classics by Henrik Ibsen, Victoria Benedictsson, Laura Kieler, Anne Charlotte Leffler, and Amalie Skram. His productions have been presented at the Strindberg Museum and Strindberg Festival, Stockholm; Edinburgh and NY Fringe Festivals; Barnard College, Columbia University, Rutgers, and UCLA; Miranda, Pulse and Theater Row Theaters, La MaMa, Manhattan Theatre Source, Tribeca Lab, Synchronicity, TSI, and BargeMusic in NY; and The Duplex in LA. He has directed plays by Mario Fratti, Sartre and Corneille here in New York. He is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, Actors' Equity Association and Swedish Translators in North America. (www.Strindberg.org)

Natalie Menna (Julie) has appeared at Theater for the New City in lead roles in five Strindberg plays: Hedda in "Hedda Gabler," Elise in “Pelican/Isle of the Dead,” Laura in "The Father," Tekla in "Creditors" and Alice  in "Dance of Death, Parts 1 & 2," all in new translations by Robert Greer.  This season at TNC, she played Vivien Leigh in "Orson's Shadow," written and directed by Austin Pendleton.  She is also a playwright and TNC has presented her plays "Hiroshi Me-Me-Me " "Zen A.M." and "Occasionally Nothing."    (www.NatalieMenna.com)

Mike Roche (Jean) has appeared at TNC in Strindberg Rep productions of "Hedda Gabler " (as Judge  Brack) and "Creditors"  (as Gustav).  Other credits include "Occasionally Nothing" by Natalie Menna (TNC), "The Hook" by Arthur Miller (American premiere at Brave New World Rep), "Night Over Taos" (INTAR, dir. Estelle Parsons), and "Billy the Kid" (Flea Theatre, dir. Jim Simpson). He is a member of Godlight Theatre Company (2010 Drama Desk Award). (www.MikeRoche.net)

Holly O'Brien (Christine) has appeared in the TNC productions of "Hiroshi-Me, Me, Me"  and "Occasionally Nothing" by Natalie Menna. She played Belle in "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" and Goldie in "Two By Two," directed by Martin Charnin.  Other regional credits include "Norma Jean Enlightened," "The Teffetas," "The Marvelous Wonderettes," "The Iceman Cometh," "The Fantastiks" and "Noises Off."  She sang Glinda in a "Wicked" Broadway concert with the Rockland County Choral Society. (www.HollyEOBrien.com)

August Strindberg Repertory Theatre, under the direction of Robert Greer, is committed to productions of Nordic plays in new translations and interpretations that illuminate the works for today's American audience. That is why TNC has taken this repertory into its family.  Mr. Greer writes, "The Strindberg Rep is deeply grateful to Crystal Field for having made us a resident company. Ms. Field's support of new plays (and plays newly translated) has been a godsend to us. Her knowledge and experience of theater is a beacon guiding us and her unflagging devotion to the art of the drama and its artists is a role model for leaders of all cultural institutions. (https://Strindbergrep.com)




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