For the second time this season, Odeum Theatre Company has given an exceptional performance of a tough script.
Last weekend, the company opened After Miss Julie, a one-act play written by Patrick Marber and set in 1945 England, on the evening of the Labour Party's historic victory over the Torys.
Miss Julie (Cassie Hollis) is a 20-something debutante who goes slumming in the servants' quarters, celebrating England's freedom and flirting with the male help.
One man in particular catches her eye. John (Will Carpenter) is Miss Julie's father's chauffeur and has worked for her family his entire life. He's also semi-betrothed to the cook, Christine (Sara Cruncleton).
As Miss Julie forces her way into his home and begins making sexual advances, John is unsure of how to respond, and migrates back and forth between dutiful servant and potential lover.
Miss Julie herself, inherently damaged and craving affection, isn't quite sure she wants to go through with what she's suggesting. She teases him one moment and then hits him and pushes him away the next.
Once they finally succumb to their passion, the tension worsens, and the pendulum between them swings back and forth from affection to violence.
It sounds exhausting to watch, and it might have been were it not for the skilled acting of all three players and the careful direction of Billie Sue Thompson.
Hollis is quite fantastic as Miss Julie. Even as she's exerting her authority over Carpenter, there's just enough vulnerability in her demeanor to reveal her true state. Although she's trying to be strong, she's completely fragile and on the cusp of a breakdown.
Miss Julie, under the hands of a less capable actress, could have been portrayed as a flighty girl with some serious mood swings. But Hollis ensures she's much more than that and takes care to deliver all of the complexity that is innate in her character.
The same is true for Carpenter. He allows John a measure of vulnerability, so his violent outbursts aren't the product of a simple, lustful man; they're the result of a lifetime spent under the thumb of another, fighting against the caste system and finding his efforts most often futile.
The chemistry between the two players and the tension that mounts between them is so realistic it's almost difficult to watch.
Cruncleton also does an extraordinary job with her character, giving a beautiful, subtle performance. Christine is also trapped by her class and feels helpless to stop the man she loves from being with another. But in the end, she shows more strength than Miss Julie, as she determines to leave the country estate where she works -- not because she thinks she deserves a better life but because she's determined to keep her man.
After Miss Julie continues its run this weekend, Nov. 18-20 at 8pm and Nov. 21 at 2pm in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's Charles E. Norman Theatre, 110 E. 2nd St. Tickets are $20 at tulsapac.com.
On Thursday, Nov. 18 at 7:30pm, the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa presents the Flatlanders, a Texas-based trio formed by Joe Ely, Jimmy Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock in 1971.
The trio, each of whom has earned solo success, worked together in 1998 on the soundtrack of the movie The Horse Whisperer and later released several critically acclaimed albums. Their latest release, Hills and Valleys, exemplifies the magical, mythical synergy of Ely's bad boy rocker, Gilmore's mystical cowboy and Hancock's stellar song-crafter.
Tickets to the show, which is in the PAC's John H. Williams Theatre, are $26.
Theatre Pops will present the Oklahoma premier of Tim Blake Nelson's drama Eye of God Nov. 18, 19 and 20 at 8pm and Nov. 21 at 2pm in the Tulsa PAC's Liddy Doenges Theatre.
Eye of God was originally produced by Seattle Repertory Theatre in 1993. The play unfolds out of normal time sequence but tells the story of Ainsley DuPree, a young woman in Kingfisher who marries her pen pal and ex-convict Jack Stillings. The discovery of a body and the tragic repercussions converge as the people of Kingfisher wrestle with their questions of faith.
Tickets to the show are $15 at the PAC's website.
On Sunday, Sept. 21, Chamber Music Tulsa presents the Prazak Quartet, a string quartet from the Czech Republic, in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's John H. Williams Theatre.
Established while students at the Praque Conservatory in 1972, the ensemble, composed of violinists Pavel Hula and Vlastimil Holek, violist Josef Kluson and cellist Michal Kanka, has released more than 30 award-winning CDs.
Sunday afternoon's concert will feature Beethoven's Quartet in A minor, Op. 132, as well as works by two Czech composers, one of whose music is rarely heard in the United States.
Frantisek Adam Mica was a friend of Mozart in the 18th century and highly regarded during his lifetime, but is now largely forgotten. Kluson compares Mica to a young Haydn, and his melodic ideas reflect the influence of Moravian folk tunes. The group will perform Mica's Quartet No. 2. Bohuslav Martinu's Quartet No. 6 is also on the program. A prolific 20th century composer, Martinu's string Quartet No. 6 was written in New York, where he lived in self-imposed exile during WW II.
Saturday evening, Nov. 20, the Prazak Quartet will perform in a subscribers-only concert, playing Schulhoff's Five Pieces for String Quartet and Smetana's Quartet No. 1 in E minor, "From My Life," T. 116. Friday evening, the group will conduct master classes to scholarship students at Barthelmes Conservatory and the University of Tulsa.
The Sunday concert begins at 3pm and tickets are $25 for adults and $5 for students. They and other information are available at the PAC's website.
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