Through a Glass Darkly

Carey Mulligan received rave reviews for her role as Karin; otherwise the response was, well, hesitant.

Through a Glass Darkly

Carey Mulligan received rave reviews for her role as Karin; otherwise the response was, well, hesitant.

Atlantic Theater Company
New York
'The Criterion DVD has excellent subtitles.'
Village Voice

About the production

The New York Times' Ben Brantley wrote that Mulligan more than confirms her promise as one of the finest actresses of her generation. Her performance 'convinces us that we are seeing through Karin's very skin'. He concludes: 'Such vision is a rare and frightening privilege afforded only by acting of the highest order.' Marilyn Stasio in Variety hails the actress as the performance's saving grace, citing the 'power and passion' of her performance.

Even Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post, who literally hates the performance and means that Bergman is 'lucky to be dead and safe from this fiasco,' is seduced by Mulligan and her 'incisive stage smarts'. Vincentelli further declares that Mulligan 'has the uncanny ability to be simultaneously brooding and radiant, and here she shades Karin's descent into madness with an almost painful sympathy'.

David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter certifies that 'the play belongs to Mulligan's Karin,' and refers to her performance as 'volatile yet restrained'. Rooney disapproves however of Jenny Worton’s adaptation and remarks that it 'stumbles in the climactic scene'. He continues: 'Bergman's film was part of a trilogy about loss of faith, but in this context, Karin's religious hysteria remains merely a vestige of her madness, stripped of metaphysical meaning. The attempt to explain away her illness as a hereditary condition fed by the family's history of denial and withheld affection seems banal.' He concludes: 'But even when the writing lets her down, Mulligan's haunting performance is riveting.'

The Associated Press' Mark Kennedy writes that all the performances are superb, but thinks that Mulligan is 'riveting' and that she 'pours herself into the role.' In Back StageNY Andy Propst adds: 'Mulligan delivers a performance that is by turns warmly endearing and frighteningly volcanic'. Most impressed is Propst by the 'elegant simplicity and utter lack of artifice' in her work.

Newsday's Linda Winer is no less convinced. 'What a performance this is,' she states and continues: 'Mulligan has such an apparent sweetness, such an unforced girlishness about her that, when the demons start calling, she magnetically pulls us down the abyss with her. Have dimples ever looked so sad?'

The stage design by Takeshi Kata design received mixed reviews. David Rooney in Hollywood Reporter found the set an: 'austerely beautiful canvas on which to plot the descent into madness of Karin.' The lighting of David Weiner he described as 'soft and shadowy, acquiring harder edges as the drama darkens'.

Variety's Marilyn Stasio calls Kata's split-focus set 'stunning' and presents a descriptive exposition of it: 'On stage left, the boxed-in interior of the claustrophobic cottage. On stage right, an expressionistic expanse of lonely beach. And against it all, a bleached blue "sky" of painted planks. But the spot that draws the eye […] is the attic where Karin retreats to commune with the god she hears calling to her from behind the faded wallpaper.' Associated Press' Mark Kennedy on the other hand found parts of the design 'unnecessary' and 'clumsy'.

When it came to the production as a whole few were really convinced. Ben Brantely in New York Times meant that it: 'never builds as strongly as it needs to its shattering climaxes'.
 
Most critical was undoubtedly Elisabeth Vincentelli in New York Post who called Worton’s adaptation: 'clueless about Bergman's aesthetics and themes'. Worton, she continues, 'spells everything out. She replaces Bergman's silences with constant, shallow pop-psychological yakking'. It is telling, Vincentelli states sternly, that the name of Karin's younger brother has been changed from Minus to Max. Her review ends with the merciless conclusion: 'What a colossal missed opportunity'.

Michael Feingold in The Village Voice unfavourably compares the theatre production with Bergman’s film: 'Beyond Bergman’s stunning sense of visual fields, there’s his fascination with faces: Even the best actors alive, at a moderate distance from a theater audience, couldn’t rival the close-ups that have etched Harriet Andersson, Gunnar Björnstrand, and Max von Sydow onto the world’s memory banks. Given the impossibility, Leveaux’s cast does well. It's just that they seem to be waving at the event from a distance rather than living through it. The Criterion DVD has excellent subtitles.'

Sources

  • Ben Brantley, New York Times, 6 June 2011
  • Michael Feingold, The Village Voice, 8 June 2011
  • Mark Kennedy, AP, 7 June 2011
  • Andy Propst, Back Stage NY, 6 June 2011
  • David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 June 2011
  • Marilyn Stasio, Variety, 7 JUne 2011
  • Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post, 6 June 2011
  • Linda Winer, Newsday, 6 June 2011

Collaborators

  • Ingmar Bergman, Text
  • Jenny Worton, Adaptation
  • David Leveaux, Director
  • Jenna Woods, Master carpenter
  • Joanne E. McInerney, Stage technician
  • Carey Mulligan, Karin
  • Jason Butler Harner, Martin
  • Chris Sarandon, David
  • Ben Rosenfield, Max