by Lynn on May 2, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Coal Mine 798 Danforth Ave, Toronto, Ont.

Written by August Strindberg
Adapted by David Grieg
Directed by Rae Ellen Bodie
Set designed by Andrea Mittler
Costumes by Ming Wong
Lighting by Siobhán Sleath
Composed by Ted Dykstra
Starring: Hardee T. Lineham
Noah Reid
Liisa Repo-Martell

About three intricately entwined relationships, revenge, games playing and psychological manipulation, in other words, pure Strindberg country.

The Story. The Creditors was written in 1888 in Sweden by August Strindberg—noted for his angst ridden characters and plays. And rather than financial creditors, the play is about creditors with emotional ties and bonds to the characters in the play.

It’s about three characters. Adolph is a fragile minded, physically weak artist. He needs crutches to walk, perhaps symbolic of all the other crutches he needs to function. He is married to Tekla who is vivacious, charming, attractive and according to Adolph, a flirt. She was married before but left her first husband when she met and fell in love with Adolph. Gustav is a mysterious man whose identity we soon realize.

Adolph and Tekla have come to a seaside resort for a holiday of sorts. Adolph is sculpting a statue of Tekla. Tekla has been away for about a week at conference. Adolph and Gustav meet by chance in the drawing room of the hotel they are staying at.

It’s soon obvious that Adolph is easily manipulated and manoeuvred emotionally and intellectually by Gustav. He challenges Adolph’s love for his wife and also wonders if Tekla really loves Adolph. Gustav berates Adolph so severely he convinces Adolph he’s got epilepsy caused by his anxiety about his wife. Gustav puts further doubt into Adolph’s mind by proposing a test of Tekla’s sincerity when she returns, which is imminent. Adolph and Tekla will meet in the drawing room and Gustav will be in the next room listening to what goes on.

Tekla toys with Adolph in a way different from Gustav but just as effective. They quarrel. Adolph leaves. This is Gustav’s cue to come into the drawing room and have a conversation with Tekla, and here the fire works shoot off.

The Production. Andrea Mittler has created the drawing room of the sea-side hotel with a divan, a few comfortable chairs, a tea service, a place for Adolph to sculpt, and several rugs on the floor.

Rae Ellen Bodie has directed a strong cast of Noah Reid as Adolph, Liisa Repo-Martell as Tekla and Hardee T. Lineham as Gustav. Everything about Hardee T. Lineham’s performance says “power.” From his three piece suit, his bearing and his penchant for zooming in at close range, staring down Adolph until he is so uncomfortable he weakens. Lineham’s speech is clipped, the voice is quiet and he is relentless.

As Adolph, Noah Reid portrays a man who hasn’t got a chance, whether trying to get from under Gustav’s spell or trying not to succumb to his wife’s charms and flirtations.

Finally, as Tekla, Liisa Repo-Martell is a flirtatious, coy, perhaps calculating woman with tremendous charm. She certainly knows how to ‘play’ and toy with Adolph. When dealing with Gustav the power shifts. Through it all, director Rae Ellen Bodie maintains the delicate balance of the three characters in this emotion packed production.

Comment. I think the play is a terrific example of easy manipulation, exploitation, and playing on a character’s weakness. Strindberg is a master of putting characters in seemingly untenable situations to see how they cope. And how his characters manipulate each other is stunning.

The Creditors is the last of three productions this season from the Coal Mine Theatre. They have done wonderful work in their first season.

Produced by the Coal Mine Theatre

Run: April 28 to May 17, 2015.
Cast: 3; 2 men, 1 woman
Running Time: 80 minutes

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