Theater archives

In a Bleak Hapsburg Autumn, Schnitzler’s Artists Go It Alone


The word wegrat in German means something like “signpost” or “pathfinder” but the Wegrat family at the center of Arthur Schnitzler’s The Lonely Way

A melancholic air of unfinished business hangs over everyone. The action takes place in the chilly late autumn, and this 1904 drama seems to suggest that the autumn in question might be that of Hapsburg, Vienna. Schnitzler, a doctor-playwright like Chekhov, was farsighted.

Jonathan Bank’s production (the play’s New York premiere) is like his and Margret Schaefer’s translation, smooth and a little drab—a pity in a work that needs depth, sensuality, and a kind of neurasthenic resonance. George Morfogen (Professor) and Jordan Lage (von Sala) do well, as does Lisa Bostnar as a prying ex-lover of Julian’s. But others aren’t so clearly focused. Bank’s staging style, full of old-fashioned confrontations and arm waving, seems out of key with Vicki R. Davis’s bare abstract set (the Frank Gehry chairs have an intriguing post-jugendstil air), and the enterprise is finally sunk by Ronald Guttman’s resolutely uncharismatic, overstated Julian.