WHEN WE DEAD AWAKENby Henrik Ibsen
Director: Kami Rogers
Assistant Director: Michael E. Muller
Stage Manager: Vanessa Anders
House Manager: Jason Sikes
Graphic Artist: Donna French
Photographer: Brian Dougher
Costume Designer: Christina Garcia
Technical Director and Lighting Designer: Craig Largent
Sound Designer and Board Operator: Aaron Plaskonos
Professor Arnold Rubek: David Crouch
Mrs. Maia Rubek: Rene Sarradet
The Inspector: Julian Gonzales
Ulfheim: Aaron Vaughan
Irene: Holly Kiehn
Past Irene: Heather Alverson
Sister of Mercy: Amanda Henderson
Lars: Michael E. Muller
Reviewed Performance: 1/28/2012
Reviewed by Kayla Barrett, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
This play is Henrik Ibsen's last work. It is rarely produced and is not widely considered to be a masterpiece. When We Dead Awaken is a dark, somber drama that makes the audience ponder the purpose of life. The mood is ominous though there are times that the flawed characters make you laugh. The ongoing message: as an artist, to create life, you must sacrifice life. Is the sacrifice truly worthwhile? The tagline is "When we dead awaken, we see we have never lived."
At the beginning of the play the blocking seems unmotivated. There is unnecessary stage crossing and lines fall into a sing-song pattern. Shortly, the play begins to flow more naturally.
David Crouch presents subtle humor with his reactions in his performance as Rubek. He is natural and composed. Crouch does a good job playing a troubled character. Rubek is unmoved by anyone and keeps himself to a distance. While he depicts love in his art, he never loves in his own life. Crouch accurately portrays a man who does not allow himself to truly live life. Rene Sarradet plays Rubek's wife, Maia. She has good reactions and facial expressions. Both she and Crouch accurately depict a couple in a desperately strained relationship. As Rubek explains his indifference to her, Sarradet's taking in of the heartbreaking information is touching. She expresses great loss and shock. Maia is determined and at times ridiculous. She goes hiking in the mountains in heels and a cocktail dress! Through her actions it is obvious that she just
wants to be loved.
Irene is complex, and Ibsen wrote her in two forms: Irene in the present form, and Past Irene. Holly Kiehn, who plays Irene in the present, is an experienced performer. She captures the mood of the play perfectly. At times she moves her eyes and hands in a creepy way. Her character has a strange and demented sense of humor but is also sorrowful and reflective. Kiehn creates a strong three-dimensional character with expressive eyes, while delivering sulking, mocking, and sarcastic lines with ease.
Heather Alverson plays Past Irene who also represents sorrow and harbors a feeling of having been exploited by Rubek. Alverson does a wonderful job showing reflection and heartache. The women work well together on the stage. I'm impressed with the perfect mirroring of the two in both blocking and in dialog.
Director Kami Rogers makes good blocking choices that allow them diverse movements mirrored only at critical moments.
Aaron Vaughan creates a weird and interesting character with Ulfheim. I find his part to be the most humorous. His looks are spot-on in his crass dialog and interaction. Vaughan has a unique stage presence that is both natural and oddly intriguing. Casting him for the role of Ulfheim was a good move. Michael E. Muller plays Ulfheim's accomplice Lars with a nice stage presence. Amanda Henderson, as Sister of Mercy, presents a mostly silent ominous presence throughout which assisted the play's complex theme. Julian Gonzales delivers some humorous one-liners as the Inspector.
The audience may be somewhat uncertain of the setting based on the set alone. It might be an issue of consistency. The set is representational in design though it does not accurately represent the different places. A lattice and stairs seem unnecessarily architectural in a space also used for varying spots in the outdoors. Other elements add to the scene, like the running stream and pond. It makes a faint sound of running water that adds to the mood and it is nice to see the actors interact with it. The lighting is simple. Designer Craig Largent creates a nice, natural outdoor light that features some lightening.
Sound designer Aaron Plaskonos chooses intermission music that fits the mood and embraces the dated element of the play. Creepy sounds are subtle and the wind is so natural it is not realized at first. It is often difficult to measure the volume or intensity of sound so that it doesn't overshadow the actors. The sound in this show is well balanced.
The costumes consist of muted neutrals and choice colors that pop. Clothing is enhanced with a colorful tie, handkerchief, feather or pocket watch. Bolder characters boast bolder colors when they need to pull focus. Maia is dressed in a peacock blue cocktail dress with sparkling brooch and earrings and a beautiful peacock feather hairpiece. Irene, in both forms, wears the same costume. Costume Designer Christina Garcia chooses to represent the constant physical exploitation of the model. She dresses Irene in all white with exposed arms, ankles and bare feet. Very nice touch!
Pantagleize Theatre's version of When We Dead Awaken is a successful collaboration of a talented cast and crew. The play is Ibsen's very personal and haunting final contribution to theatre that presents a compelling message. What does it profit to succeed as an artist, if you fail as a human being? I hope all dedicated theatergoers take the time to experience this rare treasure!
1115 Rio Grande Avenue, Fort Worth, TX 76102
Limited run through February 5th
Friday & Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sunday matinee at 3:00 pm
General admission is $15.00
For information and discounts call their box office at
817-472-0032 or visit www.pantatheater.org