THEATER | Balls-out sturm und drang in Red Eye’s “Maria/Stuart”

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Maria/Stuart, a play chock full of incest, ghostly apparitions, and deceit, was supposedly based on Mary Stuart by 18th century German playwright Freidrich Schiller. Well, I’m guessing if you haven’t read the original version you probably won’t before you see the show (although it is available on Project Gutenberg if you want to give it a shot), but you really don’t need to read it. The main thing to understand before going into watching Maria/Stuart is the kind of playwright that Schiller was.

maria/stuart, presented through april 25 at red eye theater. for tickets ($15-$18) and information, see redeyetheater.org

Schiller, along with Johann Goethe, rebelled against the rigid rationalism of French Neo-Classicism and began, along with other writers, the Sturm Und Drang movement. Translated as “Storm and Stress,” the movement embraced extreme emotions, violent outbursts, and tormented longing. These guys were the ones who came up with the idea of the genuine-genius, the belief in the superiority of the artist over other human beings. Maria Stuart actually was actually a later work by Schiller, when he had moved on with Goethe to form a different movement called Weimar Classicism, but the point is that Maria/Stuart, by Jason Grote, is totally Storm and Stress.

The play involves three generations of family, and the lies and secrets that have pervaded their lives. The intrigue revolves partially on a falsely written letter, which also happens to be a major plot point in Mary Stuart.

I won’t get into more specifics because I don’t want to spoil it, but be warned that the plot is balls-out over-the-top, in the most melodramatic situations you could imagine. On top of über drama, the characters occasionally get possessed by spirits, speaking lines directly quoted from Schiller, sometimes in German.

Grote plays up the comedy the extreme situations by putting in some hilarious lines and zany bits. Mirium Must, who plays the eccentric Aunt Sylvia who has two hooks for hands, is wonderfully quirky and sympathetic, and truly shines in the role. Not all of the other actors are at Must’s caliber, but for the most part the play energetically zings along to its absurd and momentous conclusion.

Director Steve Busa has pulled together a wonderful design team for the production too. Gary Johnson’s two-kitchen set, with ominous windows where spirits lurk, works wonderfully with Ron Albert’s eerie lighting and Katharine Horowitz’s subtle but clever sound design.

Disclosure: I am currently working with Red Eye for their upcoming Works In Progress Festival.