Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Aurora Theatre stages new version of 'Creditors'

Jonathan Rhys Williams (left) is Gustav, and Joseph Patrick O'Malley is Adolph.

What seems like friendliness becomes sinister in August Strindberg’s “Creditors,” presented by Aurora Theatre Company.

In this new version by David Greig, Adolph (Joseph Patrick O’Malley) is telling Gustav (Jonathan Rhys Williams), a stranger who befriended him, about his marriage. 

Adolph, a genial artist, is concerned that his wife, Tekla (Rebecca Dines), a novelist, often goes off without him.

Soon Adolph is revealing deeper feelings, encouraged by Gustav. He tells Gustav that Tekla calls him little brother and herself big sister. That seems a bit off, to say the least.

As their conversation continues, Gustav shows his misogyny. One suspects that he isn’t there just to be friendly.

He tells Adolph, who has some physical problems, that he might have epilepsy and that he should abstain from sex for a year. He eventually tears Adolph down before leaving.

Tekla (Rebecca Dines) gets playful with her husband, Adolph (Joseph Patrick O'Malley).
While Gustav eavesdrops, Tekla returns and senses something is amiss with Adoph. When Adolph leaves, Gustav comes back in. 

As one might have suspected, he's her ex-husband. Although coquettish at first, she resists his advances and his pleas to return to him. She says she loves Adolph.

As might be expected, there’s no happy ending.

Barbara Damashek directs this outstanding cast with great skill, gradually building the tension. Williams as Gustav becomes more sinister.

O’Malley as Adolph tries to put on a happy front, but he soon begins showing the effects of Gustav’s manipulations.

As Tekla, Dines is a complex mix as she holds her own against Gustav.

The play takes place in 1888 in the lounge of a seaside hotel, where Tekla and Adolph are on holiday. The set by Angrette McCloskey, with lighting by Jim Cave, helps to create the ambience.

So does Matt Stines’ sound design with its lapping waves, fog horns and ferry whistles. The handsome period costumes are by Christine Crook.

Running about an hour and 40 minutes without intermission, “Creditors” will continue through Feb. 24 at Aurora Theatre Company, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley.

For tickets and information, call (510) 843-4822 or visit www.auroratheatre.org.

Photos by David Allen