by Nancy Sasso Janis, OnStage Critic
Hole in the Wall Theater is presenting Ingmar Bergman's 'Through A Glass Darkly' in its New England premiere. The play runs at the New Britain theater through February 8.
Matty Skwiot is the director of this play that is an adaptation by Jenny Worton of the film of the same name. Mr. Skwiot wondered how a film that he loved would translate to the stage and he knew that he had to direct it. His own mother's battle with manic depression made him especially interested and in order to take advantage on an opportunity to raise awareness of mental illness,
he took great pains to execute this psychological family drama as effectively as he could.
He dedicates the production to the memory of his mother Pauline.
The action of 'Through A Glass Darkly' takes place on an island in 24 hour period. A young woman named Karin, who has recently been released from a mental hospital, is spending her vacation with her husband Martin, a doctor, her father David, a writer just back from Switzerland, and her teenaged brother. Karin is suffering from hallucinations and hysteria and ultimately thinks she thinks she is visited by God. It is all very intense. The title is supposed to refer to the characters mirroring each other, a motif that I did not catch in this play.
Describing himself in his notes as a minimalist director, he decided to go with stark staging that would reflect the main character's "chaotic state of mind." There are no walls around the set that he designed and all the props and set dressing are visible on stage at all times, "with the actors continually present, making costume changes behind screens." There is one important freestanding wall with wallpaper and a visible crack that plays into the madness; mix in the evocative lighting by Johnny Peifer and some incidental but loud violin music and
it was all most effective.
First time HITW producer Kelly DiMauro describes this cast as seeming to be born to play their exceedingly complex roles. I would agree that these are wonderfully intense characters and that the four very talented actors that play them were riveting to watch.
Emily Nyerick, an alum of St. Paul Catholic HS performing arts department and currently studying nursing at UCONN, was simply amazing in the role of Karin. The audience can see on her face every step that she makes in her descent back into her mental illness. At one point her acting had shades of the always marvelous Kristen Jacobson. Kudos to this young actress on her stellar performance.
James Hyland, who has studied at the National Shakespeare Co in NY and makes his HITW debut, showed his strong acting chops in the role of Karin's distant father David.
Thomas Bryda, who has worked both on and off-Broadway, was also strong in the role of her younger brother, here called Maxi. Tristan Cole makes his debut at this wonderful little theater to play the role of Karin's loving husband and gave a heartfelt performance.
My one criticism of the casting is that the ages seemed a little off, but the performances of the talented actors clearly outweighed the mismatch. This is not a drama for the faint of heart, but I enjoyed watching it unfold.
Coming up next at Hole in the Wall is their eighth annual Ceildh featuring the Rude Mechanicals on Feb. 28, followed by 'Fat Men in Skirts' by Nicky Silver opening in late March. Check their website hitw.org for details.