Review: An Engrossing Production of August Strindberg’s "Creditors" Now Plays at Shakespeare & Company

    Photo Credit: Jonathan Epstein & Ryan Winkles in  Creditors . Photo by Nile Scott Studio

 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Epstein & Ryan Winkles in Creditors. Photo by Nile Scott Studio

Angelica Potter

  • Boston Theatre Critic

August Strindberg’s tragic comedy Creditors is a fast-paced, psychologically intense look at life and the cost of relationships. In this adaptation by playwright David Greig, three characters must face their past choices, and in doing so come to the realization that their present state is a result of those choices. Through deception they come to realize the debts they owe others and the unfathomable cost of love. Strindberg, in his naturalistic style, is a master of balancing the darkness of a dramatic psychological thriller and an authentic, unapologetic comedy. The three veteran actors (Jonathan Epstein, Ryan Winkles and Kristin Wold) who have taken on this play under the incredible direction of Nicole Ricciardi have expertly captured each facet of their multidimensional characters. In doing so, they grabbed the audience’s attention from the onset and held it to the end.

Adolph, a successful young artist who struggles with confidence in himself and his work, is portrayed by Ryan Winkles. Adolph is an impressionable man who befriends Gustav while at a seaside resort where they are both vacationing. Gustav, played by Jonathan Epstein, is a sophisticated professor. He is both charming and manipulative, though what his endgame is isn’t revealed until late in the play. Tekla, played by Kristin Wold, is a well-known writer and Adolph’s wife.

Given that the play is only ninety minutes and is staged on one set with no black outs, the flow of action is continuous. This allows for the actors to really hone in on the language and story they are telling. This play examines the flaws and attributes of humankind: jealousy, revenge, desire, passion, domination, and love. Throughout the play, each character goes back and forth between being likable and sympathetic to being perplexing. We feel sorry for them one minute and the next, they frustrate us. The characters are unfiltered and honest, saying things to each other that some of us would have kept as an inner thought and not said aloud. There were moments when I felt for each of these characters, what they were going through and how they must have been feeling.

This cast was phenomenal, they were so invested in their characters and the story they were sharing that no amount of audience reaction, or lack thereof, could distract them. As I looked around at the audience at various points during the performance, I saw faces of astonishment, others smiling, some with dropped jaws and some with no expression at all. I further appreciated the skill and the focus of these three actors to perform such an intense and humorous work and not allow the reactions of the audience to faze them in the slightest. I’ve said this before, but I think it’s even more evident in a smaller theater (where the audience can be inches from an actor), that the focus it takes for the actor to not lose concentration or get thrown off by a reaction from an audience member really speaks to their professionalism and skill; both of which were abounding from this cast.

The play did not end how I was expecting it to and while some moments I could see coming, the final few minutes surprised me and I think many in the audience were as awestruck in those last moments as I was. This trio’s performance was humorous and fascinating to watch. The audience was fully engaged and quickly stood with resounding applause upon the plays’ completion.

This play isn’t a light, just for fun and entertainment-type of production that many people may be used to. While it has humor, it is a meaty, realistic look at human nature, our positive attributes as well as our worst flaws. It's real life reflected before us and it’s not to be missed. ©  

 

This production runs about 90 minutes with no intermission. Creditors plays through August 12th in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre on the Shakespeare & Company campus located at 70 Kemble Street in Lenox, Massachusetts. Tickets and more information about this play as well as Shakespeare & Company’s full season can be found at www.shakespeare.org or by calling the box office at 413-637-3353.

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