Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Dream Play by August Strindberg at The Gene Frankel Theatre

Miranda Webster in A DREAM PLAY at The Gene Frankel Theatre
August Strindberg wrote A Dream Play in Swedish in 1901 and it was first performed in Stockholm six years later.  It is considered one of Strindberg’s most important and ground-breaking plays.  Strindberg, himself, having written the play following a near-psychotic episode in his own life, referred to it as “the child of my greatest pain” and “my most beloved play.”  As Strindberg described it:

“In this dream play., the author has…attempted to imitate the inconsequent yet transparently logical shape of a dream.  Everything can happen, everything is possible and probable.  Time and place do not exist…the imagination spins, weaving new patterns, a mixture of memories, experiences, free fancies, incongruities, and improvisations. The characters split, double, multiply, evaporate, condense, disperse, assemble.  But one consciousness rules over them all, that of the dreamer; for him there are no secrets, no scruples, no laws. He neither acquits nor condemns, but merely relates; and, just as a dream is more often painful than happy, so an undertone of melancholy and of pity for all mortal beings accompanies this flickering tale."

The principal character in the play is Agnes, the daughter of the god Indra, who descends to Earth seeking to understand humankind and the reasons behind human suffering.  She encounters many characters, including those of primarily symbolic value (such as those representing theology, philosophy, science and law, and she experiences all sorts of human suffering including poverty, cruelty, and the repetitive routine.of daily life.  Ultimately she concludes that human beings are to be pitied and she returns to Heaven.

The Onomatopoeia Theatre Company is currently staging an English language production of the play adapted and directed by Thomas R. Gordon at The Gene Frankel Theatre on Bond Street in lower Manhattan.  It is an ambitious project that is being carried out by a young and enthusiastic troupe which states that its mission

“…is to produce theatre for the New York City community that not only entertains audiences but also enlightens and educates everyone involved…[and that it is] dedicated to producing shows that can change a person’s heart and imagination.” 

To that end, the company’s prior productions have included Dracula: Bloodlines by Thomas R. Gordon, both Macbeth and The Tempest by Shakespeare, The Three Sisters by Chekov, and Lysistrata by Aristophanes.  It will be interesting to see what they come up with next.

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