August Strindberg’s THE GHOST SONATA directed by INGMAR BERGMAN

(an “emotional” theatre production review by Timothy J. Verret)

Just when I thought I had seen all the brilliance I could handle of Swedish film director, Ingmar Bergman, I found this play production of August Strindberg’s THE GHOST SONATA directed by Bergman on YouTube. Don’t know the year the play was directed, don’t know one actor or actress in the cast (actually, I did spot Erland Josephsson, one of Bergman’s film favorite actors, in the production), don’t know the name of the theatre where it was done (it is Swedish with English subtitles, so I assume somewhere in Sweden), but who needs these details when you have Ingmar Bergman directing a play? Man, do I ever count myself as blessed to have found this gem and to have watched this gem that left me utterly speechless and breathless as the play went on until I was just dumbstruck and “dead” at the play’s conclusion.

I recalled when I was a drama student at The University of Texas at Austin, and I had entered the room of one of the faculty’s academic advisers. He had a framed poster of an Ingmar Bergman play production (I don’t recall the name of the play), and I had commented to the adviser that I loved Ingmar Bergman’s films. The adviser looked at me and said, “You have not seen anything until you have seen Ingmar Bergman direct for the theatre.” This adviser was not in the least bit kidding!

And if I’m being totally honest, I can’t really write an intellectual review of this production because it’s just too darn smart for me. But what I can do, and will, is write an “emotional” review. And if I know Bergman like I think I know Bergman, never having actually met him, he would probably consider such a review better than fine!

This is simply a theatre production of a Strindberg play about how our past misdeeds haunt us. The haunting can be so deep as to have the victims of one man’s misdeeds lock the man away in a closet and hand him the rope to hang himself. Our misdeeds are actually what do hang us in a closet if there be no forgiveness. I am not kidding you about the last 20-30 minutes of this play when I tell you I could not breathe. I was about as vocally wordless as the animals I care so deeply about. And speaking of animals, the doomed lovers in the play at its conclusion underwent animalistic movements and gutteral sounds that one can easily assume are humanly impossible. I witnessed backs breaking, holdings and graspings that tore away skin, and hearts that were ignited and lit onstage in more ways than one. I saw Bergman all over the staging of this part of the production, as no one does human movement and behavior of regret and shame and guilt better than Bergman. Once again, I am not kidding you when I say at the conclusion of this viewed production, my insides were mindless mush and my outsides were unadulterated and mesmerized. This is sheer genius, ladies and gentleman, when a theatre director can leave you held spellbound and you are doomed to evaporate away of all your senses and time becomes completely irrelevant and unnecessary.

Whoever filmed this production and whoever posted it on YouTube, I sincerely and most graciously thank you from the bottom of my forever-changed heart. My witnessing of this production has once again allowed the magnificent magnitude of human Bergman to exactly and precisely define for me the kind of artist I want to be. And that is a daring artist, an “emotional” artist, a cut-throat and “cut-it-deep” artist, who takes ALL prisoners hostage upon the witnessing of my artistic forms and, as a result, these same prisoners are forever changed from their lives being just too darn comfortable. In another words, ANYTHING but a boring artist. I can honestly say this much: Ingmar Bergman may mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but the one thing Bergman does NOT mean in any way, shape, or form, to anyone is BORING!!!!

I will follow, borrow, and steal from Master Bergman as an artist, until there is nothing left for me as an artist to follow, borrow, and steal.

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