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The climax of this short, intense play takes place in the course of a violent confrontation in the downstairs apartment. The Gentleman, when he becomes aware of Gerda's intrusion, is profoundly stirred by her piteous, sensual presence. However, he wishes to keep the past as something embalmed , a memory in a jar. The stormy clash between the spouses evokes Pirandello's Six Characters. At one point, the Gentleman, losing all selfcontrol leaps upon the chess table as though to strangle the woman on the other side. This is Italian Strindberg at its best. Has the "storm" been averted? Perhaps no one has been struck by lightning , but, left alone, the Gentleman lights one match, then another. As he recalls in a brief soliloquy how everyone attempted to impose their will upon him, he mimics the firing of a powder keg. Suddenly, this peaceful middle-class man becomes a Dionysian force. As he holds his burning match closer and closer to the audience, it becomes clear that Strehler is showing us Strindberg, the firebrand, the revolutionary thinker and writer. This scene is a key to the entire play. Temporale, however, does not end with this hint of terrorism. Peace has returned to the house with the departure of Fischer and of the Gentleman's wife and daughter who have gone to live with Gerda's mother. Twilight falls like a benediction. The street lights go on, glowing reassuringly in the dark. The white nights of a northern summer are over. The Gentleman states: "Let the light of reason guide us, so we won't lose our way." Perhaps this is also Glorgio Strehler's message. La Danse De Mort August Strindberg Directed by Claude Chabrol Th6itre de I'Atelier (Paris) Arthur Holmberg Claude Chabrol directing The Dance of Death? Why not? The wizard of film noir, whose elegant visual style and sensitivity to the psychological ramifications of violence transcend the meretricious genre he has devoted his life to, would seem to command all the requisite talents needed to breathe new life into Strindberg's old masterpiece. All the talents, that is, except one. Chabrol understands nothing about theatre. The catastrophe currently on view at Charles Dullin's Theatre de I'Atelier proves again that film and drama are false cognates and that whereas it's relatively easy for actors and directors to migrate from stage to studio, the reverse seldom, if ever, succeeds. 60 Chabrol didn't deviate from a four-square, realistic mode. The play opened in total darkness with the sound of waves pounding the shore. The set, a grey stone, subterranean dungeon, failed completely to create the claustrophobic atmosphere Strindberg's regressive dyad moves in as their element. The actors took an elegant, comedy of manners approach. When Alice, who looked like a denizen of Toulouse-Lautrec's demimonde -alerted Kurt to the fact that she needed to slip into something more comfortable, she languidly unbuttoned her bodice. When he kissed her open bosom, she squealed like a sow, then burst into giggles. Only Michel Bouqet as Edgar was not deceived by the realistic surfaces of the play. Only he caught the restless spiritual fever that drives Strindberg's lost souls. And the violence. His "Entry of the Boyars" was one of the few scenes that caught fire theatrically. Storming back and forth in a frenzy of impotent rage, one actually expected him to lop off Kurt's head with his saber and then go to work on the audience. "We live, we die, we become fertilizer . . ." By shrugging his shoulders and waving his hand as if to shoo away a nagging fly, Bouqet also pierced beyond the bravado to Edgar's despair. A master actor in a master role, but acting in a vacuum. No production of a great play is ever completely a waste. Chabrol did catch some of the light-hearted good humor of the play-a quality sadly lacking in Anglo-Saxon productions that tackle Strindberg as boxer versus slugger. But high spirits are as much a part of Dance of Death as anger and agression , and in the anniversary scene-with only a candelabra flickering across the stage-one sensed some of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1537-9477
Print ISSN
1520-281X
Pages
pp. 60-61
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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