Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Scenes From a Marriage

The effect is jarring.  The result is jarring.  Nothing about Ivo Van Hove's re-imagination of Ingmar Bergman's already jolting TV mini-series and later screenplay involves bliss and happiness.  On the contrary, the scenes from this approximately 20 year relationship depict the most difficult parts, the growth, change, and friction that marriage can bring.

Mr. Van Hove chose to divide this stage play version into 2 parts.  The first act being 3 scenes in isolated mini-theaters built inside the theater.  These mini-theaters allow sight and sounds from each concurrent scene to waft into the other.  I believe this was meant to evoke the feeling of memory and remembering the past over and over.  Sight-lines through a window into a central room where the actors all collected themselves evoked a similar feeling of a bit of visual snip-it of memories.  All a bit off-putting when the action starts, but once you realize this is intended, you settle in for this bumpy ride.

As you can tell, since there are 3 scenes running concurrently, there must be 3 sets of actors playing the roles of Johan ad Marianne.  Casting appears to me to be quite intentional too.  The actors were the furthest thing from 3 sets of the same people.  Super handsome and hunky Alex Hurt and Susannah Flood are the youngest and most eager of the 3 couples in approximately the first 5 years of their marriage.  Dallas Roberts and Roslyn Ruff are the middle couple struggling with years of habits and rituals, boredom, and long standing issues in the marriage.  Arliss Howard and Tina Benko round out the couples as the oldest and desperate for change.  There's an affair, a one-sided discontent and issues buried deep and repressed over the years.

When  you exit the theater for a 30 minute intermission and told to all re-enter through the main doors, you can only imagine that they must be transforming the theater into a single stage somehow.  Of course they do - and it's a common performance space in the middle with the seats surrounding it - all the walls have been lifted above to reveal this massive space in the entire theater.

Act two is distinctly different with fascinating results.  All 3 couples appear on stage but this time they all recite the dialogue and act out the scene in triplicate.  Stereophonic dialogue and action.  What further throws you off is that the actors all fluidly interchange with each other and speak male to female among the various couples - throwing off your regional thoughts about the couples and making you focus on the dialogue not the physical characters themselves.  This part is sequentially later than the first act and the discord escalates into a fight.  They are fiercely independent people with modern ideas about marriage and relationships.  It's not your parents marriage.  Speaking of parents, Mia Katigbak aptly portrays the mother of Marianne and reveals this stark approach to marriage that the older generation took.

The play concludes in the last scene with only the oldest of the 3 couples where the couple is divorced, moved on in life and both re-married, but still attracted to each other in a quite honest and creatively lit bedroom scene.  We hear some of that memory-evoking music (still played on a turntable because of course they wold still have one) that the couple would have enjoyed in the 70's which brings us all back to the original time the couple must have met and fell in love.

You will certainly leave the theater with feelings about what you saw.  One older woman in the audience asked me during the end of intermission if I was married.  I, of course, answered "No" to which she responded "Well do you understand any of this?".   I told her "I think I get it".  To which she replied "I lived through this.  I am hating it and loving it at the same time".   Now that's good theater!