Review: Miss Julie sets the bar high for the Summer Season at The Winnipesaukee Playhouse

Angelica Potter

  • Boston Theatre Critic

Directed by Matt Cahoon, this US Premiere production of Howard Brenton’s new adaptation of August Strindberg’s 1888 play Miss Julie invites the audience into the kitchen of a home in Sweden. It tells the story of Julie, lady of the house, Jean, her father’s valet, and Kristin, the house cook and Jean’s fiancé. It is a story of lust, ambition and a desire to break through the barriers of class. When Julie and Jean give in to the building sexual tension between them, the unforeseen consequences are catastrophic.

At the start of the play, Julie is a seemingly happy young woman who is enjoying a good time on a midsummer’s eve while her father, the Earl, is away. She is playful and flirty with Jean, who tries to resist her advances for fear of being caught by the other servants with the Earl’s daughter. What is fascinating to watch is the game Julie and Jean play with one another; especially when they each think they are in control of it. Julie, who had sworn she would never let a man control her or have power over her, allows herself to be wooed by Jean and when it doesn’t end how she had hoped, it crushes her. She thought Jean was more than just a lover, she thought he was a friend she could trust. When he reveals that this is not the case, she is devastated by the decisions she made in her time of weakness. In the end, after what seems like a complete psychotic break that Julie is unable to recover from, she begs Jean to order her to do what she thinks will save her from her mistakes. 

 Photo Credit: Rebecca Tucker as Miss Julie. Photo by Matthew Lomanno

Photo Credit: Rebecca Tucker as Miss Julie. Photo by Matthew Lomanno

Riveting from start to finish, this torturous story was performed by an immensely talented trio that included Rebecca Tucker as Miss Julie, Nicholas Wilder as Jean, and Carey Cahoon as Kristin. They were so in tune with their characters and their relationships that the audience was quickly drawn into their world. Yet, in watching their performances, it was as if the audience didn’t exist and there really was a fourth wall in the kitchen. Their emotional intensity was strikingly palpable.   

Carey Cahoon’s portrayal of Kristin gave a down to earth contrast to the boundless desires of Julie and Jean. Rebecca Tucker’s powerful performance as Miss Julie captivated the audience. It was apparent that she poured every ounce of herself into this character. No part seemed forced or overdone, she was completely genuine. At the start she was classy and charming with a touch of naiveté. Later her performance of Julie’s rapid demise was done with raw emotional anguish. Her scenes with Jean, incredibly played by Nicholas Wilder, were passionate yet fiercely destructive. As Jean, Wilder was tender and affectionate, but also deceitful, cruelly honest, and angrily heartbroken. He played Jean unlike any other character I have seen him portray. Though I have enjoyed both Tucker and Wilder’s performances in the past, their portrayals of Julie and Jean, might be the most emotional, psychological and gut-wrenchingly transformative performances I’ve seen them give.

When the final scene concluded and the lights faded to black the audience sat silently stunned. The only thing that could be heard were a few breathless whispers of “Wow”. Moments later the lights rose for curtain call and it didn’t take long for the audience to stand and applaud. If an audience member wasn’t standing by the time Rebecca Tucker walked on stage they stood when she did. As one of the strongest casts I have seen in recent memory, they deserved every moment of that standing ovation. ©

Miss Julie runs about 80 minutes with no intermission and plays at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse until June 23rd. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm with a matinee on June 21st at 2pm. Tickets range from $20-$34. For additional information and tickets visit www.winnipesaukeeplayhouse.org 

 

Special Events from the Education Department:

Friday, June 15th – How’d They Do That?

Following the performance, you’re invited to join the technical staff for a backstage tour of Miss Julie and learn the secrets of the set.

Wednesday, June 20th - Talkback
Following the performance, you’re invited for an informal discussion with the cast and creative team.

Thursday, June 21st, 6-6:45pm – Symposium

Pre-show presentation offering insight into the play. The Highest Shall Be the Lowest: Perspectives on Power in Miss Julie. Presented by Timothy L’Ecuyer, Education Director at The Winnipesaukee Playhouse

For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/