The Naked Stage's Miss Julie: One of the Year's Best Productions

August Strindberg's 1888 masterpiece chronicles an eventful Saturday night and Sunday morning in the servants' quarters of the estate of a Swedish count. Miss Julie (Katherine Amadeo), a flighty noblewoman, escapes her upper-class trappings for a midsummer's eve of frivolity with educated valet Jean (Matthew William Chizever). Their actions, fueled by lust and alcohol, explore the life-changing implications of a carnal mistake, after which master and servant regularly switch places, vitriolic invectives are spat, feminist arguments fall on the deaf ears of a patriarchal system, and the only escape is death. This bracing and urgent production from the Naked Stage proves that Miss Julie is as relevant now as it was more than a century ago. Amadeo is irrepressible and coquettish, both the architect of her own demise and the play's most tragic victim, while Chizever is a fount of repressed animalism regularly — and convincingly — surprised by his own outbursts. Their chemistry smolders, with director Margaret Ledford eliminating as much space between them as possible and using nocturnal blue lighting to artfully conceal one of the most suggestive onstage sex scenes in recent memory. Deborah L. Sherman provides eviscerating support as Jean's fiancée Christine, enlivening a secondary part with the nuance of a lead; at one point Ledford positions the three of them in a literal triangle. Rich enough to benefit from multiple viewings, this is quite simply one of the year's best productions.

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John Thomason