A wonderful article in St. Olaf’s very own Manitou Messenger written by Martin Santangelo.
The first theatrical production of the new school year, August Strindberg’s play “Creditors,” is the convoluted tale of a volatile love triangle produced by Deep End APO and directed by Sam Fiorillo ‘11. It ran Sept. 13 through Sept. 15 and starred stage veterans Andrew Mehegan ‘11 as Gustav, Clara Kundin ‘12 as Tekla and Jason Andrews ‘12 as Adolf.
Amid a time of year customarily devoted to the excitement of beginning life on campus again, the play’s somber intensity and the actors’ gripping execution was a shocking dive into the maelstrom of creativity and perfection for which St. Olaf is known.
Despite the small company’s claim that they were simply trying to keep busy over the theater-dry summer months, “Creditors” was a far cry from being a hastily drawn-together production. Chalk it up to the famous Minnesotan humility.
The play was performed on the floor of the Pause Mane Stage, and the audience was immediately tipped off that they were in for a unique experience. The set was minimalist and surrounded on all sides by folding chairs.
As the small crowd shuffled into the square arrangement that could hold less than 50 people, audience members had to decide where to sit, determining his or her view of the show. It was unnerving to be blocked from a character’s face while they spoke, or to hear a scuffle out of your line of sight. The tight quarters created an atmosphere of tension and intimacy that continued to build throughout.
The plot revolved around the interplay and emotional ties between two men and the woman with whom they both have irrevocable romantic connections. The play took turns examining the dynamic between each pair, very rarely having all the characters on stage at once.
Only through small hints in their dialogue did the viewer learn anything about the characters: who they are, how they came to this place and why their exchange is at once filial and hostile. The questions raised in the first 10 minutes remain largely unanswered until the play’s finale, allowing audience speculation.
“Creditors’” rather unpalatable climax showed ample display of each character’s beauty and ugliness. All three were at times admirable, petty, disgusting, charismatic and vulnerable. The play shows Tekla’s divided love and the feuding ambitions of the others in an uncompromising light, which the actors handled aptly.
Andrews conveyed the building suspicion and defiant hope of a near invalid with a wife of questionable loyalty while Kundin switched from cute and seductive to vicious within the same breath. Mehegan, whose voice both ushered in the play and sent it out, handled the character of Gustav with subtle venom, managing stiff formalism and layering it with a menacing strength and distant honesty.
“Creditors” was a stirring show, hardly befitting the modesty with which the cast and crew prefaced it. From its opening banter to the final line, the show kept the audience guessing, thinking and attempting to make sense of the characters.
The script would be impressive for a professional company to perform, and to know that thespians here regard it as an odd summer project has me looking forward to this year’s future productions of St. Olaf’s theatre department.