Friday, April 13, 2012

"Anatol" UNRATED

Playwrights have been writing plays for upwards of twenty five hundred years. There are countless good stories from which to choose. So, if in a particular season your program calls for a revival, you can pick from history's best.

So we have to ask Aurora Theater: You could pick Sophocles and you do Arthur Schnitzler?

Many people, including translator Margret Schaefer, whose new translation is the basis for this World Premiere, are fascinated with the end of the 19th Century in Vienna. It was Paris a generation before Paris, the city of artistic experimentation, the hot bed of new expression in Europe. Schnitzler was a part of that scene and it could be that his work was titillating when it first appeared in 1893. Perhaps Freud, Schopenhauer and Schoenberg got a kick out of watching two drawing room gentlemen talking about women while pouring champagne.

But these are not nice people. Anatol (Mike Ryan) is a little prig, and his best friend Max (Tim Kniffin) is worse. Act One is interminable after the hypnosis gimmick at the outset goes nowhere. Act Two starts off better, but your hopes are soon crushed by the indifference of Anatol and Max.

The wonderful Delia MacDougall plays several different women, and in all cases her characters are fun to watch. But they are prisoners of love. 'Cora' is interesting, and 'Ilona' is too, as is the woman who breaks up with Anatol before he can break up with her. But no one learns anything, no one goes anywhere.

Maybe it's the translation. But it's so much talk about so little.

Despite some humor and the interesting Christmas Eve scene, in which Anatol almost appears human, the pacing of "Anatol" is deadly. The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division has chosen not to recommend this show. It remains UNRATED.

The Aurora Theater
2081 Addison Street, San Francisco
Through May 13

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