David Hare’s 1998 reworking of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde – a daisy-chain of sexual encounters – is being presented at the White Box Art Gallery downstairs. Schnitzler’s original play was not written for public performance but was handed out to his friends, who judged it too obscene. The production by The Bridge Production Group under the artistic direction of Max Hunter seems more voyeuristic than a series of studies on how relationships change us for the good or bad. Rather than connecting, this production distances us. Part of this has to do with Hunter playing the male role and directing.
We are invited to watch ten characters fall in and out of bed with each other, never quite finding fulfillment. We start with a young, amateurish prostitute (Christina Toth). New to the work, she is trying to catch the eye of a potential customer. When the cab driver (Max Hunter) walks past her, twice, the girl invites the conversation, asking the cab driver to come home with her. The savvy driver knows her game and tells her he doesn’t have any money. She persists, telling him she doesn’t care about money, and they end up walking down to the street in order to have sex. Projections inform us of the length of each sexual encounter. In this case three minutes. He leaves her with no money or satisfaction. In this scene, it didn’t seem like it was Ms. Toth’s first time. She seems much younger as the model. As the cab driver, Mr. Hunter just seems too mean for an inexperienced girl to hook up with and so it goes with each of the characters. Ms. Toth does grow stronger, though it is hard to hear her.
Mr. Hunter and Ms. Toth (Orange is The New Black, Boardwalk Empire) lack a certain chemistry, as well as character development. Though this is a dance between the revolving door of partners, many of them seem the same when played by Mr. Hunter. He is best as the husband. Ms. Toth looks beautiful, and her work grows as the play goes forward.
I’m actually a huge fan of this work, especially the musical version, Hello Again and the film, La Ronde.
The set up at the White Box is two rows of chairs on either side, with most of the performance on the ground. Not easily seen if you are in the back row. Also, it would make more sense to put the projections over each side of the audience, but that may have been a budget problem. There is also no air conditioning or fans, so the theatre gets extremely hot. It would have made more sense to add a platform to elevate the action and add a fan or two. Bravo to Cheyenne Sykes for her lighting design.
The Blue Room: White Box Art Gallery, 329 Broome Street. until July 29th