PAD presents Anatol Nov. 17-20

Bill Whitaker adapts Arthur Schnitzler classic

Will Jacobs as Anatol (left) and Malcolm Foley as Max. Photos by David Kilper/WUSTL Photo Services. Download hires image.

“Well, Anatol,” says Max, “I envy you.”

And what’s not to envy? Anatol is young, rich and good-looking, blessed with charm and taste and a hedonistic nature, unencumbered by family, scruple or employment.

And so begins Anatol, Arthur Schnitzler’s strikingly modern deconstruction of a dapper but self-deluding would-be Don Juan.

This month, Washington University’s Performing Arts Department (PAD) in Arts & Sciences will present the play — in a new adaptation by director Bill Whitaker — for five performances in the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre.

Shows begin at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 17, 18 and 19; and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 19 and 20. The A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.

Tickets are $15, or $10 for students, seniors and Washington University faculty and staff, and are available through the Edison Theatre Box Office and all MetroTix outlets.

For more information, call (314) 935-6543.

A ‘Freudian presence’

Set in Vienna in 1893, Anatol unfolds through seven scenes, each exploring the relationship between its protagonist and a different woman. Observing the action is Max, Anatol’s amused and amusing friend and confidante, who dispenses counsel, commentary and therapeutic advice.

“Max is an almost Freudian presence,” says Whitaker, senior lecturer in drama. Indeed, he notes, Schnitzler and Freud were contemporaries and correspondents, with Freud going so far as to call the playwright his “doppelgänger.”

“Freud found it uncanny that Schnitzler was able to reveal on stage ideas that Freud was developing in his own work,” Whitaker says. “There was that shared interest in the darker impulses of human sexuality.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Schnitzler would, in his own lifetime, become a highly controversial figure. The public premiere of his play Reign (Merry-go-round) sparked anti-Semitic rioting in Berlin, followed by a six-day obscenity trial that ended in acquittal. (That play, more commonly known as La Ronde, bluntly depicts serial encounters between 10 lovers of different social classes.)

The playwright’s soul

But despite his notoriety, Schnitzler remains an obscure figure to English-speaking audiences. Whitaker, who previously directed Anatol for the Washington Stage Guild in Washington, D.C., found existing translations to be accurate, but stiff and overly literal.

“They were good, but a little too careful, a little too faithful to the original text,” he says. “They lacked ‘the playwright’s soul.’”

And so last spring, Whitaker — who reads German but makes no claim to fluency — recruited Randy Bachman, a senior in Germanic languages and literatures in Arts & Sciences, to help him develop a new version.

Their process was inspired by the playwright Tom Stoppard, who worked with German translators to adapt Schnitzler’s Das weite Land (Undiscovered Country) and Liebelei (Dalliance). Bachman would provide a careful, word-by-word translation. Whitaker would then trim, massage and otherwise shape the text into something “playable” for actors.

“I don’t imagine that I’m a playwright, but my experience as a director has given me a certain ear for dialogue and a sense of what works on stage,” says Whitaker, who employed a similar process to adapt Molière’s The Imaginary Invalid for the PAD in 1999.

“This is a lean version of the play,” he adds, noting that his Anatol runs about 6,000 words shorter than previous English versions.

“The idea is to get the text to a place where what’s being said sounds right for actors,” he concludes, “but still holds onto the spirit of the play.

“Hopefully we’ve done that.”

Cast and crew

The cast of 10 is led by sophomore Will Jacobs as Anatol and senior Malcolm Foley as Max.

Also featured are sophomore Kate Drummond as Cora and senior Joanna McNurlen as Gabrielle. Junior Gabriela Schneider is Bianca. Senior Sasha Diamond is Emilie. Sophomores Sarah Palay, Louisa Kornblatt and Ariel Saul play Annie, Elsa and Ilona, respectively.

Rounding out the cast is sophomore Connor McEvoy, who pulls double-duty as a waiter and as Franz, Anatol’s unflappable valet.

Set design, which suggests the ornate, gold-and-marble extravagance of fin de siècle Vienna, is by alumnus Justin Barisonek. Costumes are by Carly Oshima, a junior fashion major in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. Lighting is by senior Artem Kreimer.

Sophomore Rachel Blumer is assistant director. Senior Sunjoo Cho is stage manager.

Calendar Summary

WHO: Washington University Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences

WHAT: Anatol by Arthur Schnitzler, adapted and directed by William Whitaker, from a literal translation by Randy Bachman.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 17, 18 and 19; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 29 and 20.

WHERE: A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre, Washington University, Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.

COST: $15, $10 for students, senior citizens and Washington University faculty and staff. Available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets.