Theatre at UBC

La Ronde
By Arthur Schnitzler | Adapted by John Barton from a translation by Sue Davies

Director John Cooper Set and Lighting Alan Brodie Costumes Linda Chung Sound Andreas Kahre Stage Manager Noa Anatot

Dates 16-26 November  2005 Venue Telus Theatre, UBC Reviewer Jane Penistan

Marie-Eve Boudreau in La Ronde

The glorious extravagance and decadence of 1899 Vienna is projected visually on screen and audibly by the lush exuberance of Strauss waltzes to open La Ronde. When the lights go up there are the iron railings and a gate in a park. As the fireworks are extinguished the only people left in the dark are a young soldier and a sad-looking drab. The glitter and opulence are on the other side of the iron bars.

The prostitute is young and inexperienced, the soldier brash and impatient. His failure to pay his dues is an education for the girl and a reflection of the callousness of society.

The soldier (Kevin Kraussler) next seduces a comely young housemaid, well played by Joanna Rannelli, who, in turn is favoured by her employer's son (Keegan Macintosh), in a hardly gentlemanly way. The son next tries his art with a young wife (Marie-Eve Boudreau) and enjoys his conquest with "a respectable woman."

But for the young wife and her somewhat older, traditionally authoritarian husband (Tim Cadeny), all is not entirely smooth sailing, as the husband pursues a pretty young thing in a café. And so it goes, with the sweet young girl and a poet, who is enamoured of an actress, a masterful Sheila Burns, who certainly puts him firmly in his place, and then exercises her authority over the philosophical, dilettante count.

Now the social scale is ascended, only to come back to its beginning with the count, disoriented and lost to the arms of the prostitute (Oliva Rameau), who now has a place of her own, and some security in life.

This is La Ronde, the round dance. Schnitzler examines the layers of society as each succeeding scene shows more opulence and self-indulgence, only to end almost where it began. In the end it is the men who appear the more arrogant, selfish and self-seeking and the women who manage to manipulate them and so remain objects of their desire. But rich and poor are all alike.

By swift, well choreographed scene changing, accompanied by excellent Viennese city photographic projections and Strauss music, the scenes flow smoothly. The status of each venue reflects the modus vivendi of the characters. The lighting never lets us forget that this is still the romantic era of warm candlelight and gas lamps. The wardrobe department has outdone itself in the artistry, authenticity, and suitability of all the costumes.

While Schnitzler withheld publication of his play because he thought it was too scandalous, in this day and age, and in this adaptation by John Barton, this is an interesting vehicle for student actors. It provides varied roles in a decadent society of an earlier age, thus encouraging the study of lives of people of a different culture. But while things change, human nature remains the same.

© 2005 Jane Penistan