MISS JULIE by August Strindberg, directed by Herbert Olschok, with Patricia Fagan, Tony Nardi and Jane Spidell. Presented by Soulpepper at the Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queen's Quay West). Runs to September 21, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Wednesday 1 pm. $27-$46, stu $25. 416-973-4000. Rating: NN
Miss Julie bubbles best as a play of smouldering, mostly unrequited passions. Herbert Olschok's stylized production for Soulpepper alternately keeps the heat too low or turns it up to scorch. Neither approach works.
The condescending, high-born Miss Julie (Patricia Fagan) is drawn to the groom Jean (Tony Nardi), but each has a hidden agenda. She wants to leave a stifling life, he wants to set up as a successful hotelier. Their battle of wills and desires leads to tragedy, but at least a hint of raw passion has to ignite the piece.
Olschok, unfortunately, makes the play's subtext of desire its outward action. We should feel the electricity between the pair, not see hands up skirts or violent kisses from the start. Demonstrating the passion diminishes its power, and the director's heavy-handed, symbolic staging doesn't help.
Nardi makes a fine Jean, by turns deferential and demanding, whichever works to his advantage. But Fagan's lovely-to-look-at Julie is all outward show, and rarely convinces us of her inner drives. The pair talk about a fire's danger, but we seldom see its spark.
Nardi does have a foil, though, in Jane Spidell's wonderful Kristin, the sometimes bitter, sometimes angry servant who knows her fellow's tricks and can play her own sex games in this play of shifting physical and emotional power.