The Persona Review

Posted by on October 8, 2011

Laura Gragtmans (the nurse) and Monique Bernadette (the actress) in the Yale Cabaret's stage adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's Persona. Photo by Yi Zhao.



Through Oct. 8 at the Yale Cabaret. Based on the film by Ingmar Bergman. Director: Alexandru Mihail. Dramaturg: Emily Reilly. Set: Kristen Robinson. Projections: Paul Lieber. Assistant ProjectionsL: Connor Lynch. Lights: Masha Tsimring. Sound: Solomon Weisbard. Sound Design Advisor: Ken Goodwin. Costumes: Seth Bodie. Stage Manager: Sonja Thorson. Technical Director: Jackie Young. Producer: Michael Bateman. Cast: Monique Bernadette (Elizabeth Vogler), Laura Gragtmans (Sister Alma), Emily Reilly (The Doctor), Lucas Dixon (Mr. Vogler), Carmen Zilles, (Radio Actress), Xander Martin (The Child).

The Yale Repertory Theatre did a new stage version of Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata last spring, directed by Robert Woodruff. Now the Yale Cabaret’s adapted Bergman’s Persona. There is no purpose in comparing these two shows, except to scream this loudly from the fjords: MORE PEOPLE SHOULD BE ADAPTING INGMAR BERGMAN’S FILMS AS PLAYS! These are sturdy, well-structured scripts which invite fresh interpretations. Woody Allen should stop trying to rewrite Bergman and just revive his scripts. There should be Bergman Theater Festivals and competing Bergman translations and Bergman scene studies. The writer/director’s brilliance as a filmmaker, especially with works such as the exquisitely edited and close-upped Persona, can distract you from the basic glories of his dialogue and plotting.

Alexandru Mihail, who laid an insane table for Chekhov’s The Wedding Reception at the Cabaret last year, goes still and immaculate for this gently told yet not at all tender tale of female bonding, one-sided confession and stressed solipsism. As Monique, an actress who’s had a sort of breakdown that renders her silent, a watcher instead the watched, Monique Bernadette is tended by Alma (Laura Gragtmans), who doesn’t realize she’s being drawn in to a drama

The effect of Bergman’s words, on a wide open stage that spans the length of the Cabaret space, played by humans who touch and spit at each other without distancing camera angles, is mesmerizing, lulling, transfixing. The concept of remoteness is handled with translucent curtains and, well, projection screens, but in a subtle manner that suits a mood also imbued by ’60s pop music, home movies and sensitive lighting. Supporting characters have weight and reality. Lines are cleanly spoken. Every nuance of Monique’s silence is profound. No supertitles.

Bergman being Bergman, wherever he lies.

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