The Aurora Theater in Berkeley is the King of dressing up junk in well-acted, well-designed productions. If steady competence alone were a virtue, the Aurora would ascend to the heavens to lounge with Shakespeare and Aristophanes. And yet somehow here they are producing The Creditors, August Strindberg’s nut fest of betrayal and revenge, tempting the Gods with the real thing.
And let’s just say the real thing destabilized the Aurora’s well-oiled machine and was a welcome surprise to the opening night crowd. As you might guess, it’s more fun to see a great play in an imperfect production, than a bad play in which the acting, direction, and design are without fault.
Barbara Dameshak’s direction rarely courts the mania of Strindberg’s fever dreams, though she does manage one brief flourish that is expert and true. Towards the end, Gustav runs from Adolph’s room to hide from Tekla and spy on her. He’s told the hapless Adolph that he wants to help him by observing them alone. As soon as he’s shut the door behind him, the lights change, and what we thought was a solid wall turns out to be a translucent scrim.
The audience gasped in delight at the chance to see the duplicitous Gustav in action. That one moment is terrific and I won’t soon forget it, but the rest of the production is too much of not enough. It’s a nice staged reading with costumes and lights, which in the case of Strindberg’s The Creditors is worth your time but not his. He’s asking for an engagement with the world and that’s a type of theater the Aurora rarely aspires to.Read More