While retaining most of the original work’s Parisian plot and characters, it alters the gender and sexuality of some. A male character becomes a lesbian and most crucially a dog replaces a child. Yes, a dog.
Festooned with yards of cotton string mops and wearing a white body suit, an actress ambles about and carries on like a dog. Visually this is a very good representation of a Komondor, a longhaired Hungarian sheepdog. Narratively it’s a further distraction as after “Maid Marian” suddenly dies, this already trying play devolves into an absurd murder mystery.
This canine concept opens the show. There is a lengthy introductory sequence as one of its owner’s parades her around and plays with her in the park. This passes the time as the audience uses the restroom that is behind the stage. Then the play starts.
Maurice is a playwright whose play is opening that night and depending on its critical reception could bring him fame and fortune. His wife Jean and he are devoted to Maid Marian and have raised her to be a show dog in competitions. Strindberg’s original has Maurice linked to a long-time mistress and their young daughter.
Jean is unable to attend the play’s opening night party and there, Maurice becomes enamored of his lesbian (a male in the original work) painter friend’s Andrea’s girlfriend, Henriette. She and Maurice have a passionate affair but the romance is stymied by his refusal to leave his wife, as it would complicate his relationship with Maid Marian. The dog’s unexpected death is the dramatic catalyst. A dim-witted policeman arrives to investigate and everything is eventually resolved.
The mastermind behind this travesty is Whitney Gail Aronson. Ms. Aronson’s dialogue is archly stylized and the New York City cultural milieu is strictly fantasyland. Aronson’s direction is rudimentary and sluggish.
The August Strindberg Repertory Theatre presents this production. Since 2012, they have produced a number of the author’s works in New York City and for this one it was decided to condense and update it in order bring out its humor. The result is pretty much laugh-free.
The genial cast consists of Randall Rodriguez, Ivette Dumeng, Christina Toth, Crystal Edn, Katie Ostrowski, Alyssa Simon, Theodoric Wells, and John Cencio Burgos. Unfortunately their uniformly limited characterizations range from flat to overly emphatic with varying off-kilter accents and often monotonous delivery.
Scenic designer Daniel A. Krause has nice small rectangular cityscape paintings wrapped around the side walls of the stage. There is a large screen on the backstage wall that projects whimsical images of New York. The furnishings for the bar and the hotel where the action takes place are basic but are too much. Scene changes are laboriously achieved with stagehands lugging objects back and forth.
Jason Fok’s lighting design and Andy Evan Cohen’s sound design are both proficient. Besides the terrific dog suit, most of Matthew C. Hampton’s costumes are mostly simple street clothes though there are some flashy outfits as well.
August Strindberg’s There Are Crimes and Crimes is an intriguing work but that’s not really what is on view here. It is instead an academic experiment that is poorly realized.
About the only real entertaining element of Crimes and Crimes is the uncredited excellent music played during the scene transitions. It’s vibrant instrumental versions of pop songs. There is the fun mental accomplishment of realizing what they are. “Oh! That’s Adele! Elton’s John’s ‘Little Jeannie’! Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’! Queen’s ‘Killer Queen’!’ ‘Blurred Lines’! Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’…”
Crimes and Crimes (through August 20, 2016)
August Strindberg Rep Theatre
Gene Frankel Theatre, 24 Bond Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call (212) 868-4444 or visit http://www.strindbergrep.com
Running time: one hour and 40 minutes with no intermission