In today’s Wall Street Journal drama column I review John Doyle’s Classic Stage Company revival of Peer Gynt. Here’s an excerpt.
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American stagings of “Peer Gynt” are scarce to the point of singularity. Mark Lamos directed it at Hartford Stage in 1989, but I’m not aware of any subsequent full-length regional productions, and “Peer Gynt” hasn’t been seen on Broadway in any form since 1960. John Doyle’s new Classic Stage Company revival would thus be of signal importance regardless of its quality—and in spite of the inescapable fact that Mr. Doyle, unlike Mr. Lamos, has given us not the real right thing but an intermission-free two-hour “adaptation” of Henrik Ibsen’s five-hour masterpiece, performed in modern dress on a bare platform by a cast of seven. Fortunately, his version is directed and acted with considerable imagination, but there’s no denying that it amounts to a “Peer Gynt” suite, a production that whets the appetite rather than sating it….
“Peer Gynt” would doubtless be far better known in this country if it were even somewhat more manageable in size and scale. Alas, it is all but impossible to produce in anything remotely resembling its original form save in a festival setting. Hence Mr. Doyle’s scaled-down, unsparingly cut production, performed in the round in his own prose adaptation of the original Dano-Norwegian text….
Nevertheless, a two-hour “Peer Gynt” is better than no “Peer Gynt” at all, and when a gifted director like Mr. Doyle turns his hand to such a venture, one cannot but profit from seeing how he goes about it. His English-language adaptation, for instance, contains any number of felicitous touches….
Mr. Doyle’s staging, by contrast, struck me as almost penitentially drab, denuded of much of the play’s humor and stripped of Edvard Grieg’s justly popular incidental music (which in this country is far better known than the play itself). Mr. Ebert is plausible enough as Peer Gynt, lively and blustery, but I didn’t find him compelling…
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Read the whole thing here.
John Doyle talks about his staging of Peer Gynt: