Photo by Jan Versweyveld

Photo by Jan Versweyveld

Up until now I have not been a fan of Ivo van Hove. Yes I am that one pest of a hold out. After seeing this production of Scenes From a Marriage at the New York Theater Workshop, I must reconsider my position. I hate that. Sigh.

I will say, however, that I have always been a fan of van Hove’s production designer, Jan Versweyveld, who has never failed to amaze me. In this production he went over the top. Although seated in the theater, to which I have been at least a hundred times – I had no idea where I was.

Three scenes from a marriage – beginning, middle and end are played simultaneously in three pie shaped slices of the theatre. They are joined together by a sort of waiting room through which they each sashay to get props, play a record, or make a door slamming dramatic exit.

Extraordinary performers play Johan and Marianne. Susannah Flood and Alex Hurt are the well off and shining couple that actually drive onlookers a little nutty with their good fortune. One such on looking couple is Peter (Erin Gann) and Katrina (Carmen Zilles) who come perilously close to killing one another on the spot. Once they depart the dinner party we see the beginning of the cracks in Johan and Marianne’s relationship.

Dallas and Roslyn Ruff are the same couple at a midpoint. The lassitude that fills their lives has a strangle hold on them. They struggle against it, leaning on one another for support, but ultimately it numbs them down.

Arliss Howard and Tina Benko give us the final gasping moments of this marriage. The car accident of an event is breathtaking in its direct hits and its moments of self control.

All that before intermission! After a 30 minute break we are brought back into the theatre to see that Johan and Marianne are not done after all. The three couples come together like a tidal wave of passion, courage and specificity. They twist and turn, often saying the same lines at exactly the same time. At other moments they become more like a hall of mirrors that ripples on and on.

In an odd choice for the final two scenes we focus on Howard and Benko, which, although engaging, feels a bit lonely. We have become so used to the many layers of these two characters that to see them confined to one pair of bodies is feels odd.

Still, it is a magnificent event. It is a life event to be revisited many times over. Just the way we relive our relationships.

Scenes From a Marriage        

By Ingmar Bergman; English version by Emily Mann; directed by Ivo van Hove

Dramaturgy by Bart van den Eynde; production design by Jan Versweyveld; production stage manager, Terri K. Kohler. Presented by New York Theater Workshop, James C. Nicola, artistic director; Jeremy Blocker, managing director; Linda S. Chapman, associate artistic director. At New York Theater Workshop, 79 East Fourth Street, East Village; 212-279-4200, Through Oct. 26. Running time: 3 hours 30 minutes.

WITH: Tina Benko (Marianne 3), Susannah Flood (Marianne 1), Erin Gann (Peter), Arliss Howard (Johan 3), Alex Hurt (Johan 1), Mia Katigbak (Mrs. Jacobi/Mother), Emma Ramos (Eva), Dallas Roberts (Johan 2), Roslyn Ruff (Marianne 2) and Carmen Zilles (Katrina).