note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Carl A. Rossi
Miss Julie … Gillian Mackay-Smith
Jean … Hugh Lawton
Kristin … Michelle M. K. Hatfield
Carly Assael; Lisa Dempsey; Kevin Kordis*;
Ahmad Maksoud; Maylin Murphy**; Brian Peterson
* performing in Duxbury only
** performing in Boston only
The Gurnet Theatre Project, a year-old company but new to me, is currently offering MISS JULIE, August Strindberg’s searing love-hate tryst between the daughter of an aristocratic household and her father’s valet. Mr. Strindberg’s domestic tragedies are not regularly performed in this country --- some may say, why bother, when the Messrs. O’Neill and Albee are far more accessible --- so the Project is to be commended for choosing the Swede for their second production; since the company is, for the most part, composed of Northeastern University students and graduates, its MISS JULIE can be forgiven somewhat for lacking in passion, erotic heat and liberating hatred --- it must also keep in mind such basics as suspense, pacing and being more selective in its lighting and sound designs; hopefully, all this greenness will ripen in future productions.
Since the JULIE leads are Project co-founders and/or on the Board of Directors, chances are we shall be seeing them, often. Of the three, Hugh Lawton as the valet Jean is the most successful, offering a smooth, feline portrayal of a social climber who is not completely without a heart; Mr. Lawton guides and supports Michelle M. K. Hatfield, who makes a smiling ninny out of Kristin, the peasant voice of morality, and Gillian Mackay-Smith, whose vulgar, clumsy Julie is closer to Mr. Albee’s Martha than Mr. Strindberg’s anti-heroine. Ms. Mackay-Smith earned (and deserved) one of my first Addisons while still at Northeastern and I last saw her there as the Princess in SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH where she was alternately funny and poignant. Ms. Mackay-Smith’s obstacle is being a character actress in a still-young body so what comes off as imitative and showy should develop into a technique organic and true over the decades; for now, Ms. Mackay-Smith needs to listen more closely to her co-players (her attention wanders when she is not the focus of a scene) and to reign in her facial expressions that otherwise contort her cute, amused mask --- and wearing the proper period underclothing to keep her movements in check wouldn’t hurt, either.