Vancouver Playhouse

The Amorous Adventures of Anatol by Arthur Schnitzler | Adapted and Directed by Morris Panych

Sets Ken MacDonald Costumes Nancy Bryant Lighting Alan Brodie Sound John McCulloch

Dates and Venues 16 February – 8 March 2008 @ 8pm | The Vancouver Playhouse

Reviewer Jane Penistan

Vienna at the beginning of the 20th century was a city of freedom, pleasure and decadence for the wealthy -- the perfect setting for an opulent playboy. Hypnotism was the fashionable science of the day, and was tried out by many of the society Viennese, most not involved in its medical use.

The underlying vice and sleaze of this era is not immediately apparent in this amusing production currently running at The Playhouse.

The intriguing backdrop of an enormous chest of drawers is centred by gilded glass doors, an intimation of the ormolu decoration of the Vienna of the fin de siecle.

The drawers are not only those of an oversized file cabinet, but of a number of other surprises, even a doorway to Anatol’s bedroom and shower. It is also the screen for notes from a notebook of the names of several of Anatol’s girlfriends. This lets the audience know who is the next inamorata.

Furniture is sparse and what is needed is adroitly wheeled on or off stage by the services of a manservant or waiter, played with all the efficiency and superior obsequiousness of his class by Chris Cochrane.

Anatol’s present preoccupation, besides women, is hypnotism, which he demonstrates to his friend Max (David Marr). When Anatol (Mike Shara) tells his friend of his doubts of the fidelity of his current girl friend, Hilda (Jennifer Lines), who will shortly appear, Max suggests he use hypnotism to find his answer.

When Hilda appears and is hypnotized, the two men argue about what questions should be asked, but all suggestions provoke ambiguous answers.

Out of her trance, Hilda and Anatol discuss fidelity, proving that Anatol considers it his right to love where and when he chooses, but that any woman on whom he confers his affections should love him alone.
Through out the evening Anatol entertains several other female acquaintances, but always with the result that he becomes bored with his present girlfriend and longs for the new one whom he has just met.

Jennifer Lines plays all these women, Gabrielle, a married woman who envies Anatol his freedom to play the field. Next Emilie, his fiancée, whose bureau he turns out and is furious that she has learnt the art of love at an early age from someone else.

Then comes Mimi, member of the corps de ballet. Anatol and Max await her arrival at a table set for dinner. The celebratory meal is for Anatol to honour his contract with Mimi for either of them to tell the truth at once if either wishes to end the relationship, and Anatol does. Mimi arrives, the meal is served.

Mimi is outraged at not being met at the theatre and is here to confess that she has a new lover. Anatol is shaken by Mimi’s rage and her readiness to tell the truth. She leaves in a magnificent huff and Max thinks the evening went rather well.

This time Max is expecting a lady friend, an old acquaintance. When he answers his door Anatol is there, with a box of mementoes he wishes Max to house so that he can come and visit them when he feels inclined. He is tired of his life and is leaving Vienna.

Bianca arrives and Anatol recognizes her as a girl he once knew. Bianca confuses him with a boy she met in St. Petersburg. Anatol is crushed and leaves. Max does not believe that Bianca ever had any feelings for Anatol, but that Anatol had romantic illusions about her.

The next episode involves a married woman Elsa who will not leave her husband for Anatol. His pride is hurt and he is unaware of the sacrifice he is asking of her.

Max, now a married man, arrives in Anatol’s apartment to attend his friend at his wedding. But Anatol is in no hurry to get ready for the great event. From the bedroom appears Liona, a girl Anatol picked up after the previous night’s party.

Even Max is horrified. Anatol is finally dressed and sent off to the wedding. Liona threatens to commit a dramatic suicide but Max persuades her to calm down and she realizes that to make it a memorable wedding would be a better revenge.

Extravagantly dressed in fashionably opulent Viennese costumes Jennifer Lines makes her many women human and sophisticated. Max is the voice of wisdom and tolerance. Anatol’s philosophy is that “all women are the same, Max, it’s the experience that’s different.”

Thus he weaves his way through his many affairs with egotistical aplomb. It is only at the end he foresees a new life, but we think that things will never change.

This is an entertaining evening with an amusing script well performed by an all-star company.

© 2008 Jane Penistan