Arthur Schnitzler isn’t a great playwright, but he’s sharp, fascinating, and worth our time. In league with Chekhov and Freud, he’s another turn-of-the-century doctor (the 19th to 20th variety) who saw a corrupt world and gave it back to us with poison and a smile. He was a sophisticate who knew all the secrets and got a kick out of most of them, especially the bad ones.
Despite Cutting Ball’s many content warnings, there is a distant morality present in La Ronde, though not one that would ever announce itself as such. The play is a series of sexual liaisons: A hooks up with B; B hooks up with C; C hooks up with D and so on until, say about, ten letters in when we return to A all over again, each coupling a failure if you believe in happily ever after or even a week or two of fun. Everything is distant, including Schnitzler’s judgments, and his accusations of social and personal hypocrisy come in whispers and jokes.
The problem with Cutting Ball’s production is that it’s a circus act. Ella Ruth Francis and Jeunée Simon are energetic and precise comediennes, but they’re playing clowns not the characters Schnitzler sketched with great and loving precision. We could be watching any play and that’s a problem. The production’s bruising style reduces every role to the same role, every line reading to a false and naïve jokiness that misses, buries, and destroys Schnitzler’s sharp, focused, take on individual human beings.Read More