Under the sure handed direction of David Leveaux “Through A Glass Darkly” a stage adaptation (Jenny Worton) of Ingmar Bergman’s 1962 Academy Award Winning Best Foreign Language film for the Atlantic Theater Company is a provocative, atmospheric, well executed and beautifully designed production which centers around a dysfunctional family dealing with the mental disorder of Karin (a finely tuned Carey Mulligan) while on holiday on an Island Paradise which turns out to be anything but.
Karin has just been released from a mental institution and appears to be adapting nicely with her husband Martin (Jason Butler Harner) who is a doctor, her sixteen year old brother Max (Ben Rosenfield – in an auspicious Off-B’way debut) and her arrogant and distant father David (Chris Sarandon) who has long been absent with the writing of his latest novel.
He has promised to spend the entire summer with them but that is not to be as he must give an important lecture in Yugoslavia. The lecture being more important than his family. A family that Karin has tried to nurture and hold together after the death of her mother who suffered from the same malady. Typical Bergman themes.
When Karin reads in her father’s diary that her disease is chronic she begins to unravel hearing birds and smelling musty clothes and waking in the middle of the night to go through a wall where the people greet her with love and understanding. A place where she is important.
The production team has done wonders in making this film stage worthy. The set by Takeshi Kata representing the sea side and bedroom and mystical wall is enthralling in its simplicity and color. As are the costumes by Jess Goldstein, the superb lighting design by David Weiner and the eerily mood inducing music by David Van Tieghem.
David, a second rate writer who longs to be accepted as a genius, hopes to use the dissent of his daughter into mental oblivion as the basis for a best selling novel asking if she wouldn’t be better off dead. Try being not anxious under these circumstances as they advise Karin to be.
Her young brother Max, just experiencing the strange stirrings of puberty, finds it a bit uncomfortable seeing his sister’s naked breasts and then some. Wanting to gain the respect and attention of his egocentric father, Max has written a play that he would like him to critique. His confusion and desire for acceptance are heartbreaking.
Karin’s husband, at a loss, tries to comfort his wife as she slowly dissolves before our eyes in a mesmerizing performance.
They are all excellent in this most interesting and unsettling production which makes one want to see the original film written and directed by the granddaddy of dysfunctional families, Ingmar Bergman – who was a true cinematic genius.
At the New York Theatre Workshop 79 East 4th Street. Through July 3rd.
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