September 2005

The Affairs of Anatol
by Arthur Schnitzler, directed by Sue Miner
September 17 – October 9, 2005 Artword Theatre Toronto
Strung-out on Love
by Stanley Fefferman

John O’Callaghan plays cock-of-the walk Anatol strutting among his seven barnyard chicks, tupping them in sequence at his pleasure. But in the end, it is the chicks that rule the roost.

Arthur Schnitzler’s 1890 portrait of the Viennese aristocratic rake has been updated to show that a man who appears free to do as he pleases is, in fact, the slave of his addiction; and that the submissive women, his victims, actually have the power.

Anatol, with no other interests but love to distract him, is appealing because he can focus the full force of his ardour on a woman—champagne and truffle suppers, anytime assignations, promises of eternal love. When he gets bored, he can cheat. But when he suspects that shoe also fits his women’s feet, he gets very upset. Anatol is not so appealing then, striking righteous poses as he whines about feminine deceit.

Under Sue Miner’s direction, the seven women on Anatol’s string function on stage as a collective or chorus. Sometimes they are grouped behind Jackie Chau’s ingenious see-through backdrop to enfold a sister as she exits a scene in Anatol’s world. Sometimes, one or more of them will sit, as though invisible, onstage, during one of Anatol’s assignations, in silent judgment. During the final scene, six of them gather onstage to console the bereaved Ilona whom Anatol is leaving that morning in order to marry someone else. Ilona takes comfort in the suggestion that she might come back into the picture when Anatol gets bored with his wife and needs an affair.

The high-powered cast, beautifully costumed by Erika Connor, manages at times to bring a moment of real feeling out of this otherwise farcical, political, entertainment. Kathryn Winslow reaches poignancy when her character is touched by Anatol’s pleasure in his current mistress. Tara Samuel, as a woman who lets go of one secret in order to hide another one, also has a good moment. O’Callaghan’s Anatol has the ability to make you believe he cares about what he feels, especially when he lays hand on heart, but apart from a certain cunning and sophistication in pursuing his advantage, I don’t find he has any character at all.

Overall, the production is colourful and energetic, though I wish some of the women were directed to modulate the volume control. Daniel Abrahamson as the abused manservant/waiter could be a bit less nuanced; James S. Murray is convincing as ever-faithful Max, the friend who lives vicariously through the mercurial Anatol. This is a generous production that still needs some tuning to reach cruising altitude.

We welcome your comments and feedback
• • • • • •
Report by Stanley Fefferman
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for The Live Music Report

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