LA TIMES AUGUST 23, 2001
Gets a Rare but Passionate Staging
By F. KATHLEEN FOLEY, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
Visionary Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke is certainly not known for his dramas. The few plays Rilke did write are seldom, if ever, produced today.
“Everyday Life” at the Pacific Resident Theatre is a welcome opportunity to see a full-fledged Rilke drama in all its glory and excess. And while Rilke’s semi-autobiographical portrait of a young artist struck broadside by love is more a literary footnote than a masterwork, it is rendered with formidable passion and restraint by director Gar Campbell and his elegant cast.
Set in 1900 Europe, in an artist’s studio consummately executed by set designer Victoria Profitt and lighting designer Keith Endo, “Life” is full of the feverish, fin de siecle sentimentality that characterized Rilke’s early work. But don’t expect a large-scale, expressionistic canvas in this production. Campbell and company wisely opt for a muted, miniaturist treatment, capturing the intellectual foment of the times without emphasizing the play’s youthful mawkishness. The solipsistic protagonist of the piece, George Millner (Kevin Rahm), is an artist with a magnificent disregard for all but the act of creation. George’s sister Sophie (Sara Newman) has willingly shouldered the care of their elderly mother, leaving George free to paint. While Mascha (Ginna Carter), George’s selfless model, pines patiently in the background, George falls hard for Helen (Ursula Brooks), a philosophically highfalutin woman George briefly imagines is his soul mate.
In her difficult role as George’s long-suffering doormat, Carter gives a cameo-perfect performance, making us acutely aware that in Mascha’s day, repression was an essential survival skill for most women. Newman is also effectively constrained, while Scott Conte gives a curious, yearning turn as George’s lonely doctor friend, who might be in love with Sophie. Intense but not overbearing, Rahm makes George both a monster of entitlement and a pure idealist, aflame with his own inner vision.
“Everyday Life,” Pacific Resident Theatre, 7051/2 Venice Blvd., Venice. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Ends Oct. 14. $20-$23. (310) 822-8392. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.