It comes as no surprise that Alan Rickman, a mordantly arresting screen actor, would have an affinity for Strindberg, and he has directed CREDITORS with terrifying deftness. Less performed than Miss Julie, The Stronger or Dance of Death, less studied than The Father, CREDITORS, like some overlooked stepchild, has always begged the recognition that it deserves, as it turns out, with a vengeance.

It is based, like The Father, on a central conceit that plays out with naturalistic inevitability to psychological catastrophe (which is why the term “tragedy” applies so easily to Strindberg). No one understands perverse psychology or passive violence better than Strindberg, and with no blood shed, the chalk white stage of this production feels stained by what transpires before us and expires in gasps, tears, and speechlessness. On the night I saw it, the actors themselves were moved, unable to get beyond what “they” had done, even at the curtain call.

CREDITORS is second of two great works of European Naturalism this month at BAM. The other was the Maly Drama Theatre of St. Petersburg’s UNCLE VANYA, directed by Lev Dodin and performed in Russian, on the requisite sparsely appointed stage, ‘neath hovering evocations of seasonal passage and the dominion of time. Certain characters shared a dim intuition of their cosmic comedy rollicking to a Beckettian finale; others sputtered and wept in farcical counterpoint to the impending silence. It was strange but necessary to break that silence with applause, so potent were the actors in their talents and the effects they produced, with gestalt and impeccable skill.

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