Unlike Johann Sebastian Bach with his Goldberg Variations – where the development of a basic theme improves the work – adding interest, Patrick Marber in his attempt to expand upon August Strindberg’s “Miss Julie” in his updated, indulgent and somewhat ludicrous version “After Miss Julie” now running at the American Airlines Theatre – as a Roundabout production – doesn’t – hitting more than a few out of tune notes along the way.
While August Strindberg might not be exactly turning over in his grave because of Mr. Marber’s work, he certainly must be feeling some discomfit – as were many of the audience members in attendance.
The basic love triangle of a spoiled rich girl – Miss Julie (Sienna Miller) lusting after her father’s chauffeur – John (Jonny Lee Miller – no relation) who is almost engaged to his girl friend, the maid Christine (Marin Ireland) has been moved from 19th century repressed Sweden to a more relaxed Great Britain circa 1945 – when the Labor Party is coming into power.
Class struggle. Power. Love and lust are the powerful ingredients that made Miss Julie a classic. Here they are turned into a melodrama where Miss Julie, a stunning Sienna Miller, gets to stalk her man like a panther in heat. Pacing and pouting, cigarette puffing and pouncing on the not so reluctant John. It seems that he’s always had a “thing” for her – ever since he was twelve, no make that five. But never the twain could meet as they are of different social classes. That does not prevent her from going after him right in front of the overworked Christine who falls asleep at the desk in the huge realistically detailed downstairs kitchen set provided by Allen Moyer.
After a very lengthy pause (one of many supplied by director Mark Brokaw) Christine comes out from her off stage bedroom to join John in his off stage bedroom only to find Miss Julie and John together as she returns to the kitchen in shock. Not saying anything until the next morning as she prepares them both to go off to church. Miss Julie has other plans. This is where the play veers towards the ridiculous. Wanting them all to go off to New York together Julie wants to take her pet bird with her. Enough said.
In this wealthy cat and poor mouse set up Sienna Miller is quite the vixen and the highlight of her tantalizing performance is when she orders John to kiss her shoe as she offers it and then retracts it teasing him into a frenzy of sexual fire.
Jonny Lee Miller is quite good in his nervousness and confusion as to what to do or what not to do under the circumstances. He is strong and good looking and there is a palpable sexual tension between them.
Marin Ireland as the unfortunate third wheel gives a believable and compassionate performance. Having to sleep through a scene where the others are playing hanky panky with one another and to wake on cue takes complete discipline.
“After Miss Julie” is ninety minutes long without an intermission which includes some very lengthy pauses of nothing happening on stage. Through December 6th.