By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
photo by Tim Fuller
Matt Bowdren as Jean, Marissa Garcia as Miss Julie andHolly Griffith as Kristine
It is fairly evident the feminist movement has made some progress since 1888 when August Strindberg's “Miss Julie” was first staged. It is also crystal clear in the Rogue Theatre's pressure-packed presentation that the core of humanity can't be simply divided into male/female or left brain/right brain. Each of us is far more complicated than that.
The more thoughtfully you watch this production directed by Cynthia Meier, the deeper will be your appreciation for all of life's relationships. Every glimmer of one person's withdrawal is another's advance. Every shift in psychological weight is a change in direction.
There are only three people in this play, plus one brief parade of anonymous villagers across the stage. Each of the three individuals represents a specific social force in the Scandinavian world that is reluctant to even identify the possibility of what we today so easily call the middle class.
Miss Julie (Marissa Garcia) is a young woman with a spirited nature, raised to hate men, we are told. But being naturally beautiful on the outside, she is also happy to use these physical charms to get what she needs from men.
She is independent, unconventional, eager to keep everyone disarmed by grabbing whatever she wants before they can mount much opposition. Garcia beautifully captures this passive/aggressive quality within the context of those times.
Propriety was everything then. Knowing how to act, how to play the game, was essential.
Miss Julie could flirt with the servants, or make fun of them, and they could do nothing. This drove crazy the ambitious valet Jean (Matt Bowdren), a commoner who considered himself more worthy than most.
From today's perspective, he represents the modern middle class – smarter and harder working than the privileged class with royal lineage. Jean looks at Miss Julie from his lower social position with a combination of envy and disgust.
Kristine (Holly Griffith) completes the trio of social forces. She runs the kitchen for Miss Julie, representing the stable, responsible folk. Not the privileged desperately clinging to their position. Not the ambitious, planning their take-over of the economy by making lots of money.
The chemistry among all three in this household feels genuine. Their ensemble work reaches deep by keeping every brushstroke of personality simple and straightforward.
Strindberg's dialogue is direct and unadorned. For the audience it is easy to understand. The beauty of “Miss Julie” is in feeling the intensity of their struggles for power, and then ruminating on the implications.
Basically, the plot begins with boredom. Jean needs to kick start his dreams to run a grand hotel on Lake Como by finding a partner with money.
Miss Julie feels like a prisoner on her father's estate, longing for an independent life of her own but keenly aware that as a women she owns nothing. Her welfare will always depend on the men in her life.
Kristine is the practical one, following the rules, doing everything the right way. She admires Jean's ambitious ways but he won't make any commitment to her. Instead, he keeps flirting with Miss Julie, which is driving Kristine crazy.
“Miss Julie” continues through March 13, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, at the Rogue Theater, 300 E. University Blvd. Tickets are $35. For details and reservations, 520-551-2053, or visit TheRogueTheatre.org