Mr. Bengt's Wife
nytheatre.com q&a preview by Craig Baldwin
August 21, 2013
What is your job on this show?
What is your show about?
The English-language Premiere of a Strindberg play about a free-spirited young 19th century woman, and the men who wish they could entrap her - a sexy, smart, fever-dream of a play.
What type of theater do you like most to work on?
That's a little like being asked to name your favorite child... But I would say I'm into theater that is somehow "new". Though, paradoxically, I love working on classical plays as much as new writing. I guess I am interested in theater that feels like an experience I could never have at any other moment, in any other place. There has to be something about it that catches me off guard and sweeps me away unexpectedly. I don't want to be able to guess what my experience is gonna be for the next two hours. If it is a classical piece, then that work often becomes more of a challenge. As a director, how do you travel the well-trodden road of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" or "The Seagull" without everyone knowing exactly what path you will take? Luckily with "Mr. Bengt's Wife", I get to work on a classical play from 1882, that has not yet been premiered in English. The "newness" is already built into the experience...
Complete this sentence: My show is the only one opening in NYC this summer that...?
features an "independent woman", a lustful priest, a nun with a whip, and some shady business loans... but was written in the 19th Century... in Swedish.
Why did you want to write/direct/produce/act in/work on this show?
Strindberg was a true genius and a real artist. From painting, to music, to sculpture and from prose, to verse, to fiction, to drama - he did it all in a great frenzy of creativity. And that all-encompassing creativity is evident in his plays. They run the gamut from naturalism, to dreamscape, to comedy, to melodrama. "Mr. Bengt's Wife" sits in the middle of his career and contains elements of all aspects of Strindberg's artistry. In it, the psychological realism is as captivating as "Miss Julie" and the poetic surrealism is as theatrical as "The Dream Play". I wanted to direct "Mr. Bengt's Wife" to introduce this undiscovered gem to New York, but also because I get to immerse myself in this multi-layered, hyper-creative fever dream that is "Mr. Bengt's Wife". Thrillingly dimensional characters that display deeply relatable human desires are framed in an impressionistic and poetic narrative - it's the best of both worlds.
Which character from a Shakespeare play would like your show the best: King Lear, Puck, Rosalind, or Lady Macbeth -- and why?
Lady Macbeth. No question. At the center of "Mr. Bengt's Wife" is a woman, Margit, who has decided that she will not accept the disempowerment of her role as a woman. With wit, seduction, cunning and plain old brute strength, she shatters all the particular glass ceilings of her 19th Century existence. Margit would definitely be welcome at the Lady M's great theatre party in the sky, along with her girlfriends Hedda Gabler, Abigail Williams, Saint Joan and Medea.
If you had ten million dollars that you had to spend on theatrical endeavors, how would you use the money?
I'd give 9.9 million of it to charity and use the rest to put on a show downtown...