Nov 29, 2004

Shticky Schnitzler

Critics turned in admiring but variously quibbling reviews for writer/director L. Flint Esquerra’s adaptation Schnitzler’s tale of a serial womanizer, Anatol at Hollywood’s Met Theatre, which Esquerra sets in a boxing ring and re-titles ANATOL VS.. The LA Weekly’s Deborah Klugman found the tweaking “delightfully unpredictable” and Esquerra’s staging “effective” at bringing forht “the piece’s existential humor.” And while Back Stage West’s Jeff Favre acknowledged that “audiences unfamiliar with the original text won't be able to appreciate Esquerra's handiwork on a deeper level,” he praised an “intelligent, easily accessible script and sharp direction, performed by a captivating cast” making a “mostly lighthearted 75-minute battle of the sexes.” Not so fast, countered the Times’ Philip Brandes: He gave Esquerra points for “follow[ing] his predecessor's lead in structural experimentation” and “preserving Schnitzler's unsentimental clarity,” but found the boxing conceit “an uneasy graft that clashes with the original source,” most markedly in its clear sympathies for Anatol’s female marks, but also in the way its “heavy-handed antics” overwhelm the “subtlety of Schnitzler's trenchant psychological insights.” All the critics praised Lisa Welti, who plays all of Anatol’s lovers, as “impressive” and “chameleon-like.” For myself, I have fond memories of Jessica Kubzansky’s staging of the Schnitzler original for Buffalo Nights Theatre Company at the Powerhouse Theatre in 2001, in which the unlikely Kevin Weisman made the lead character his own in a way that suggested a more virile, and more existentially despairing, Woody Allen.

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