THE AMOROUS ADVENTURES OF ANATOL by Arthur Schnitzler, adapted and directed by Morris Panych (Tarragon, 30 Bridgman). Runs to February 10, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday and Sunday 2:30 pm. $27-$53, pwyc matinee February 2, $13 rush Friday and Sunday, stu/srs discounts. 416-531-1827. See listing. Rating: NNN
The central character in Arthur Schnitzler's The Amorous Adventures Of Anatol is a womanizer, but he's not your typical Don Juan.
Self-centred, charming, unable to maintain a long-term relationship because of his jealous nature and roving eye, Anatol is a tad naive in his understanding of the opposite sex. In the hands of adaptor/director Morris Panych, Anatol is also often quite funny in the way he jumps into an affair and then does his best to extricate himself from what he sees as his partner's clutches.
Seven scenes in early 20th-century Vienna show him with seven different women. He's sometimes accompanied by his best friend, Max, who regularly chastises Anatol for the treatment of his lovers. As Max notes, the woman currently in Anatol's life is never the one he wants.
While Mike Shara's Anatol is properly beguiling and infuriating in equal measure, Schnitzler gives Anatol little depth. He never seems to learn anything from his experiences - the scenes could almost be played in any order - though his anxieties have some variety.
As Max, Robert Persichini is the supportive sidekick, in this production suggesting a Freudian doctor. The Viennese period's perfect, Max has in his home a settee just right for clients, and he takes notes in a little therapist's pad when Anatol talks to him. At times, their relationship has the give-and-take of an entertaining comic duo.
Adam Paolozza, playing various others in Anatol's world, uses his considerable clown skills to get laughs with a raised eyebrow or a dismissive shrug.
But the real centre of the production is Nicole Underhay, whose seven characters provide a kaleidoscopic look at the women attracted to the fickle Anatol. Playing a married woman, a rejected mistress, a ballerina who bests Anatol in the break-up game, a deceptive lover who can't let go of her past and several others, Underhay is a delight.
Using different vocal timbres and elegantly costumed by Charlotte Dean in a parade of styles and colours, the actor embodies a multitude of women who all appear to be feisty matches for the willful Anatol. The women are full of surprising emotional twists and turns that echo the Art Nouveau swirls in Ken MacDonald's set, lit by Jason Hand.
That set's remarkable in several ways. MacDonald's backdrop is a series of dozens and dozens of drawers that make up a pair of shelving units. The drawers become shop windows, depositories for Anatol's letters, doorways, wine cellars and even a fireplace. A series of Klimt projections give a touch of exoticism to Schnitzler's tale of a constantly searching man who can't bear to be tied down to one woman.