August 14, 2013

It’s rare that, at the close of a play, I’m still anxious to follow its characters around, still curious about their lives and where they lead but after the uproarious, somewhat abrupt close of Around Miss Julie, which follows the lives and loves of three Canadian actors as they rehearse an ill-fated contemporary adaptation (‘Miss Julie in a Snowstorm’) of Strindberg’s famous story of class, sex, and brutality, I was left with the overwhelming desire to watch another episode - or several - in these characters’ lives.

The ‘loudmouth’ Donna, the laid-back, somewhat awkward Lyle, the jittery Ilona (playing Caroline, John, and Julie respectively) - all felt developed, indeed real enough to make the circumstances of this particular play incidental: these were fully realised characters with rich inner lives, of which this particular rehearsal of ‘Miss Julie’ felt only like a part.

Briskly directed, brilliantly acted (with a special mention to Lindsey Huebner’s Donna: a consistently riveting powerhouse performance that left me wondering whether her Caroline should be considered the real protagonist of Strindberg’s play), Around Miss Julie explores the boundaries between art and life, acting and reality, with subtlety and skill - the involvement of the show’s narcissistic, utterly obtuse director (also named Julie, and played with bravura intensity by Miriam Cummings) subverting what could have been an all too simplistic parallel between actor and character.

Around Miss Julie isn’t entirely perfect. Its spends more time carefully setting up characters and situations than it does resolving them, and the absurd ending - the final production of Miss Julie - feels (despite the hilarity) a bit rushed. I couldn’t help but long for more time with these characters - a full-length production, or even a television show, instead of a paltry forty-five minutes. But the number one rule in show business is, after all, to leave your audience wanting more. I know I did.

Hopegrown Productions — 2013 — Around Miss Julie