BWW Reviews: FANNY AND ALEXANDER at the Kennedy Center - in Swedish, with Surtitles, and Scrumptious


Here's your option on a Saturday night. How about attending a four-hour long drama in Swedish, with English sur-titles. Well, I thought it would be an adventure to attend FANNY AND ALEXANDER from Sweden's Royal Dramatic Theatre based on the film of the same name by Ingmar Bergman and Directed by Stefan Larsson. An adventure it was and a very satisfying adventure as well.

FANNY AND ALEXANDER performed for only three nights under the auspices of "Nordic Cool" which is an international festival of theater, dance, music, visual arts, literature, design, cruisine, and film celebrating the diverse cultures of the Nordic region: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden,Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and Aland Islands. The festival ends March 17, 2013 and complete festival information can be found at

This was the U.S. Premiere of this retelling of Bergman's Academy Award winning film which was autobiographical in nature.

Before the play began, I noticed an individual sitting in the front of the theater below the stage with a music stand sitting in front of the first row. I went up to her and she explained she was the Prompter (Ingrid Wallin Enos) who was there to assist any actors who missed a line. She commented Prompters are used all the time in the Swedish theater. Thankfully, her use wasn't needed.

The play is set at the turn of the 20th century. This epic follows the lives of three generations of the Ekdahl family which at the beginning of play features Oscar Ekdahl and his lovely wife Emelie. Ekdahls ( Thomas Hanzon and Livia Millhagen) run a theater. They have two young children Fanny and Alexander (Kajsa Hallden and Hannes Alin).

The evening starts with a wild Christmas celebration. The incredible set (wonderfully done by Rufus Didwiszus) sits on a turntable so the entire evening you feel like you're on a carousel. There is a lot of sexuality that occurs which led to a couple sitting on the aisle in the front row to leave in a huff. Actors and stage hands walk around and through different sets in a mezmarizing fashion. Sometimes actors change clothes as the walk from one set to another. It is all very clever.

There was a little irony in that Director Stefan Larsson had to undertake the role of Landahl who has a scene directing Oscar in a Shakespearee and displays incredible frustration in Oscar in his acting ability until Oscar gets it all together and almost explodes. Soon thereafter, Oscar is on his death bed and later his wife Emelie is on her own with her two children.

She leaves her beloved theater behind and she becomes attached to a Bishop (played ruthlessly by Reine Brynolfsson). They marry and Emelie and her two children have left the lovely and exciting life of theater to a dismal and living hell after she marries the Bishop (who reminded me of the minister father in the film "Footloose").

The Bishop cannot cope with young Alexander and ends up beating him with a cane. When Emelie finds out, her brothers help rescue the children and the family returnes to their prior life in the theater.

I truly beleive there is life in this play in this country and I expect theater companies may desire to produce the play translated into English.

The afternoon before we saw the show, there was an opportunity to talk with Director Larsson in a program entitled "From Screen to Stage: The Making of FANNY AND ALEXANDER".

My only regret was their were no bios listed in the Playbill. Maybe next time.

Coincidence..this week the Washington Post reported the passing of Princess Lilian of Sweden at the age of 97.


I highly recommend you take the family and enjoy the marvelous exhibitions that are displayed all over the Kennedy Center that runs until Sunday, March 17.

Do not miss the exhibit "Are We Still Afloat" by Finland's Kaarina Kaikkonen who is one of Finland's leading artists. You will see a thousand shirts belonging to DC residentss turned into a hanging sculpture in the shape of a boat broken in two pieces (in the Hall of States).

In the South Atrium voyer "Archive-Endangered Waters" is an interactive multidisciplinary installation of 52 waterfall photographs and includes an acoustic experience where one can listen to the sounds of various waterfalls.

There is Denmark's "Northern Lights" on all four sides of the Kennedy Center evoking the aurora borealis, each evening.

Finally, not to be missed in the Nations Gallery on the fourth floor is "Lego Exhibit and Play Space" from Denmark. There you will see two large LEGO murals and there is also plenty of play space for children to use LEGOS to make anything they wish.

My congratulations to the Kennedy Center for this amazing celebration from Scandenavia.

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From This Author Charles Shubow

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