Around Miss Julie Harry Standjofski
Director: Norah Paton
Cast: Mitchell Cohen, Miriam Cummings, Lindsey Huebner, Samantha Megarry

Review by: Brian Morton

Three actors (one male, Lyle and two female, Donna and Illona) are at an audition for an indie theatre production of August Strindberg’s 1888 naturalistic play MISS JULIE.  They nervously work on a very sexually charged monologue about losing ones virginity. One of them has memorized it in order to impress the director.  The audition does not go well, as the director (played by Miriam Cummings) dominates the proceedings with odd notes and a strange interpretation of the text.

A quick side note here – if you don’t know anything about Strindberg’s play, there are a few key things you need to know in order to make some sense of this.  MISS JULIE is a sexual triangle between a virile young footman Jean, his fiancee who is a cook in the same house, and the daughter of the Count the title character Miss Julie who has a torrid and sordid affair with the footman that ultimately leads to her committing suicide.  Along the way Julie’s pet bird Felix has its neck snapped by Jean.

Ok back then to the version here presented to us by a group of former Concordia University Theatre students who have been touring this play AROUND MISS JULIE across the Canadian Fringe circuit since early June.   (In two weeks they are off to the world’s largest arts festival the Edinburgh Fringe, a very theatrical city where it is likely more people will know the original text of MISS JULIE).  None the less, despite the imperfect audition, it is these three actors who end up getting cast in this production.  They are pleased, as it is paid work – paid upfront in cash in fact – but are quickly dismayed by “the process” of the production’s director Julie, who insists that the play was in fact written about her.

At the bar over drinks, the three actors wonder over the circumstances of the production – the fact that they are rehearsing in the theatre space, the fact that it seems they are doing some strange adaptation of Strindberg’s text, (JULIE IN A SNOWSTORM) and the fact that the director has been sexually harassing the only male actor (played by Mitchell Cohen).    Lyle who is involved with actress Donna (Lindsey Huebner) fins himself very attracted to the other actress Illona – here played by Burlington’s own Samantha Megarry.  Life begins to imitate art as the sexual triangle of the play repeats itself.

As rehearsals continue the cast is dismayed that the director does not know what a stage manager is or why the production needs one. Increasing left to their own devices during rehearsals they are also confused by who is playing for the production

“My father gave me the money for it” Julie tells them.

The production falls apart when it is discovered that Julie the director has neglected to get the production rights to the version of the play that they are rehearsing – she urges the cast to create their own version based upon their own lives.

I was impressed by the clever pile of furniture (set and lighting design by Sonya Vallis) that morph to become the several locations required by the script.  I was also very impressed by the actors dedication to the production and their delight in sharing it with us the audience.  Ultimately the whole production is one theatrical “in joke” – so it helps to know the source material from which it sprung.

Montreal is more likely to have seen MISS JULIE then Hamilton is – but the show is indeed worth seeing Hamiltonians.  I recommend it to aspiring theatrical types particularly.

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