By David Walters
The play takes place in a parlor in a seaside resort where successful artist husband and wife, Adolph (painter) and Tekla (novelist), have come for the summer to rest and work. Tekla has been gone for a week on a book tour, departing on tense terms with her husband. Meanwhile, Gustav (Tekla’s ex-husband) has arrived just after Tekla left and worked his way into the insecurities of Adolph, befriending him and discussing his art, first telling him that his painting is not touching truth and that he should be a sculptor instead as 3D is true life, and then suggesting that ultimately sculpting cannot reveal true life as it does not have color (much like this production). With Adolph further confused and weakened, Gustav then starts whittling away at his insecurities about his relationship with his wife, all in the guise of strengthening his moral fiber. Tekla returns and Gustav instructs Adolph to be strong and exercise his new found wisdom while he listens from the other room. As instructed, Adolph is unpleasant with his wife, striving to apply the ideas given to him by Gustav, but after a frustrating, confused exchange with Tekla, Adolph storms out of the room. As planned, Gustav and Adolph trade places and Gustav attempts to seduce Tekla and almost succeeds. She sees through his devices just as Adolph succumbs to his worn down emotional and physical weaknesses. Gustav crows with delight at the destruction he has wrought.
It’s Strindberg, so of course someone dies.
I was so looking forward to the psychological chess game and deep intrigue of this play and wanted to revel in the one-upmanship, the power shifts and the twists and turns of manipulation. I wanted to delve into open marriage and gender disparity, be turned on by the impulses of the “power of skirts,” and feel challenged by the torn curtain reveal of male anxieties. I was hoping for a wild ride through a deadly carnival of human emotion and to voyeuristically watch the snake toy with the mouse before striking the final blow in Strindberg’s play he referred to as his most mature work.
It didn’t happen.
Creditors – by August Strindberg; translated from the Swedish and directed by Robert Greer
The play runs August 27 through September 4 as part of Dream Up Festival 2018 at Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue (between 9th and 10th Streets), New York, NY 10003, running time: 90 minutes