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'Miss Julie' Misses Some of Its Complexity in SDSU Production

February 12, 1988|NANCY CHURNIN

SAN DIEGO — An evening of seduction. A night of passion. A morning of panic. Some would call it "Fatal Attraction." One hundred years ago, August Strindberg called it "Miss Julie," his play about a young aristocratic woman whose brief encounter with a valet leads to tragedy.

Which is not to say that "Miss Julie" isn't also about class warfare, sexual warfare and internal, psychic warfare. Strindberg, after all, had a way of covering a lot of ground.

But one should not expect those complexities from the San Diego State University production playing at the Don Powell Theatre through Saturday.

The show is long on ambiance thanks to the care lavished on the authentic Swedish dances, music and costumes under the direction of Anne-Charlotte Harvey, who also translated the play.

But the problem is that "Miss Julie" is the kind of delicately wrought play in which every immature acting choice shows up like sludge on a white carpet.

On the plus side, Laurena Allan, who did a lovely turn in last year's "Independence" at the Bowery Theatre, brings a solidity to the role of Kristin, the cook who hopes to marry the valet, Jean.

However, in the crucial roles of Julie and Jean, Romy Kittrell and John Quigley founder, never once giving the sense of the inherent danger in the love-hate dynamic that presages their end.

If done right, the result of simultaneous desire and repulsion should climax with the electricity of Stanley Kowalski telling Blanche Du Bois that they have had this "date from the beginning." But this is one production in which no one turned on the lights.

Still, Richard Larsen's set, nicely lit by Leif A. Cadenhead, is elegant and evocative: A bright airiness contrasts with hanging nets just beyond the walls. Lois L. Hammond's costumes capture the servants's uniforms and rough peasant garb, although they could offer an even greater contrast with Julie's excesses.

While Harvey's translation is supple and in musical harmony with Michael Anderson's sound, the gaps in the acting render the best parts of this show the non-verbal segments in which Kristin labors in the kitchen and the peasants do their dances, not only during the play but also in the courtyard outside the theater before the action begins.

These moments create a larger sense of the world from which the show flows. And that, in the end, is the largest contribution to the play that this production offers.

Performances at 8 p.m. through Saturday at the Don Powell Theatre at San Diego State University.

"Anything Goes." "42nd Street." The popularity of revivals is not unique to Broadway. If you didn't catch the hit Japanese musical "Utamaro" back in 1972 at Japan's Imperial Theater, now is your chance to see Toshio Fujita's 1985 award-winning and rewritten revival at UC San Diego's Mandeville Auditorium at 8 tonight.

In Japan, "Utamaro" won the Cultural Affairs Agency Arts Festival Award and the Kinokuniya Drama Award (similar in rank to the Tony). Now fresh from five days at The Japan America Theatre in Los Angeles, the San Diego premiere of this true story of Utamaro, one of Japan's most famous woodblock artists, marks the end of the show's first West Coast tour. From here, it goes to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The performance will be in Japanese. An on-stage translator, supertitles and translation of the songs in the program will be provided.

Tickets are $15 general, $12 for seniors and $10 for students. For tickets, call 534-4559.

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