“An Evening of Short Plays”–Trifles, The Jewish Wife, Miss Julie at Theatre Marin
Theater Marin’s current season is nothing if not ambitious, bringing to the stage plays that were new a hundred years ago, by playwrights in their prime. The works of Strindberg, Brecht, Ibsen, and O’Neill play more often in the black boxes than the big houses. They laid the foundations for modern theater that is still evolving today, and I’m grateful to Theater Marin for taking up the challenge of putting some of them on. Good theater, no matter when it was originally produced, continues to enlighten us to this fact: no matter what era we live in, we humans are always milling about, trying to find our own ways through the turmoil and constraints of our contemporary societies.
The current production “An Evening of Short Plays” opens with two short plays before the intermission. Susan Glaspell’s Trifles (first produced in 1916) takes us into the farmhouse investigation of a rural murder scene, where the two detectives come into and out of the set, looking for “evidence.” In a witty take on women’s innate superiority in a time of repression, their wives remain in the kitchen chatting and rummaging through the effects of the accused, uncovering (and then covering up) a host of clues to which their husbands remain oblivious.
Next Berthold Brecht’s The Jewish Wife plans her escape from 1938 Nazi Germany before it is to late to leave. In a remarkable performance Judith Stein, along on the stage for most of the play with only a telephone and an empty chair to which to direct her words, builds the story of her world in a stage of collapse. How can she tell him that she is leaving him in order to save his career? It will only be for two or three weeks. . . . .
The real powerhouse of the evening’s lineup is director Ron Nash’s production of Strindberg’s 1888 play Miss Julie. Set in Sweden in an era when social class and class awareness ruled all of society. There were boundaries which could not be crossed, and the Countess Miss Julie (Stephanie Ann Foster) is determined to ignore them all. She seduces her father the Count’s valet Jean (Michael Walraven). These two actors so intertwine their performances that it seems almost a perfect dance, a powerful waltz to the music of passion and despair, as the dutiful cook Kristin (Jocelyn Roddie) looks on. This is one of those memorable productions that keep you thinking and wondering long after you have left the theater. I think we may expect the same when Ron Nash takes on Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten for Theater Marin in May. Don’t miss that one, either.
“An Evening of Short Plays” ends soon. Two performances left: Saturday March 1 at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday March 2 At 3:00 p.m.
Stage: The Little Theatre at St. Vincent’s, 1 St. Vincent Drive, San Rafael CA
Box Office: 414-448-6152 or www.MarinOnStage.org