‘Miss Julie’ Adaptation Excels Technically

Photo by Alex Baran

The adaption of controversial playwright August Strindberg’s “Miss Julie” was performed in the Sharp Theater, acting as the first main stage student production of the year. From a technical standpoint, the play broke down barriers previously constricting Ramapo performances, ushering in a realm of possibility largely unexplored.

Three focal points of the show competed for the viewer’s attention: the action occurring on stage, the chorus movement transpiring just below the raised set and the live stream of video from on-stage cameramen Steve Fallon and Sean Keough.

The innovative bit of workmanship involved in projecting the entirety of the performance in real time was perhaps the most successful achievement. It was a contemporary dynamic that provided a constant, as well as a vantage point that would be impossible to attain otherwise.

“Over the past 125 years, film and television have become the dominant modes of representation, taking over from theatre and creating the template for how we judge what is real and what is artifice,” Director Peter Campbell said.

An ensemble chorus added another coloration of modernity to a story set nearly 100 years ago. The dancers accentuated moments of significance happening between Jean (Ryan McGilloway), Kristine (Amber Walker) and title character Miss Julie (Samantha Simone). In the style of hip-hop backup dancers, the chorus moved to the music of artists like Beyoncé and Kanye West.

The trio of central characters were complicated, oftentimes befuddling in their interactions with one another. Many moments of key exposition, which would have revealed a stronger sense of concrete validity for the exchanges, were lost due in part to lengthy monologues that were crowded with hard to follow information. 

If not for the outstanding choreography and video elements, the power of this adaptation might have been a challenge to unpack, even for those with a mind for theater.

The piece commented on class relations and the often dire consequences people suffer when overstepping rigid societal boundaries. Gender variances were highlighted as well, and although not as extreme as in the time of the play, issues of this nature are still a prevalent dilemma faced in the modern day.

“In this production, we explicitly address some more contemporary manifestations of human realness through video, music, dance and the representation of sex and violence…While some of these tools were not available to Strindberg, his own theatric work and practice always leaned forward and he encouraged the constant reinvisioning of his works for the theater,” Campbell continued.