By Jean Sidden
The question of why certain plays are done at certain times hangs in the air from beginning to end during the performance of Kristina. Presented by the August Strindberg Repertory Theatre the answer seems to be simply that Strindberg isn’t done enough and deserves to be. Unfortunately, Kristina, though actively interesting in very specific moments, meanders and yammers along and signifies very little to justify itself.
Raised as a boy after her father’s death, Kristina (Ivette Dumeng) was a monarch of Sweden crowned as King rather than Queen. Though the brief history included in the production program doesn’t reveal much with respect to her life Strindberg wrote her as a petulant child surrounded by a male court who all seem to desire her in some fashion. She is an interesting and attractive woman that eschews the realities of monarchy while running up the country’s debt with her decadence and self-indulgence. Her only way out of this pickle is to abdicate, which she does by the play’s end. The fact that it takes four acts of words, words, words to achieve this abdication is a stretch considering very little actually happens in this play. Its first act is packed with incomprehensible exposition and its fourth act plods along attempting to endow the King/Queen’s abdication with some degree of importance. It is in the second and third acts where the action picks up and may be heading towards something more meaningful than that of a lengthy personality study, but it is only a tease. All that can be said of Kristina by the end is she was fascinating as a combination of Isadora Duncan and Eva Peron might be fascinating. For someone raised as a boy this is a very girly girl.
Ivette Dumeng makes a wonderful Kristina who is attractive, intelligent and behaves like a teenager who throws a wild party when her parents leave town. Jacob Troy, as Magnus, brings a serious parental tone to the court as he watches Kristina play at monarchy. Brent Shultz’s Tott makes sense of an ambiguous character in love with an idea rather than a human being. The large cast solidly supports the play even with some confusing multiple casting choices. It is Strindberg’s play that fails at making the only mildly interesting as interesting as it should be. One character’s line sums up the play’s problem, “Has there really been any intent in your meaningless rampage, or are you improvising.”
Kristina – Written by August Strindberg. Translated by Wendy Weckworth, Directed by Whitney Gail Aronson.
WITH: Ivette Dumeng (Kristina), Eric C. Bailey (Tavern keeper; tailor), Martin Boersma (Anton Steinberg), Sergio Castillo (Johan Holm), Michael Sean Cirelli (farmer and tailor), Amy Fulgham (Maria Eleonora, Kristina’s mother), Al Foote III (Axel Oxenstierna), Daniel Mian (Karl Gustav, Bordelot), David Mohr (tavern keeper and tailor), Christine Nyland (Ebba Spare and presser), Jonathan Olivera (Pimentelli), Brent Schultz (Claes Tott), Steve Shoup (Allerts and tailor), Jacob Troy (Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie)
Scenic Design by Kate Noll, Costume Design by Jessa-Raye Court, Sound Design by Andy Evan Cohen, Lighting Design by Miriam Crowe, Fight Director: Martin Boersma, Choreographer: Dara Swisher, Production Stage Manager: Hannah Delmore, Assistant Stage Manager: Randolph Cardenas , Press Representative: Jonathan Slaff. Presented by The August Strindberg Repertory Theatre, www.strindberg.com, at The Gene Frankel Theatre, 24 Bond Street, New York, NY. From March 13th – March 29th, 2015. Running time 2 hours; 2 intermissions.