Mulligan Cracks Up in ‘Glass Darkly’; Lysistrata Sings: Review

Carey Mulligan and Ben Rosenfield in "Through a Glass Darkly." Photographer: Ari Mintz/Boneau/Bryan-Brown via Bloomberg

Ingmar Bergman’s brief, intense “Through a Glass Darkly” offers the young star Carey Mulligan a choice opportunity to play a woman well beyond the verge of a nervous breakdown.

She throws herself fully (and at several points quite physically) into the role of Karin, an iconic Bergman heroine at once childlike and seductive, consuming the attentions of the men around her while falling utterly apart inside.

Mulligan was brilliant in the creepy coming-of-age film “An Education” and as Nina in “The Seagull” on Broadway in 2008. Here she plays a doctor’s wife recuperating from a mental hospital stay at her childhood seaside home. With the couple are Karin’s father David (Chris Sarandon, perfectly cast), a vain writer of popular novels, and her sensitive younger brother, Martin (Jason Butler Harner), so desperate for his father’s approval that he has written a play to impress him.

The one-act drama begins with all four characters tumbling from the beach into Takesha Kata’s spare cottage setting, trying too hard to show how much fun they’re having. Father and son-in-law Max (Ben Rosenfield) are relegated to chores while Karin and Martin dally in provocative horseplay, foreshadowing a climactic sibling encounter.

Before this, however, there are echoing conversations, one between David and Max, the other between Karin and Martin, about the nature of God that add great empathy to the proceedings without veering into ponderousness.

Jenny Worton’s stage adaptation, directed with urgency by David Leveaux, is more explicit than Bergman’s 1961 film, while lacking his visual elegance. On its own merits, “Through a Glass Darkly” impresses as a character study, if not so much as a fully satisfying drama.

Atlantic Theater Co, production at New York Theatre Workshop, 79 E. 4th St. through July 3. Information: +1-212-279-4200; Rating: ***

‘Lysistrata Jones’

A youthful cast abundant with good spirits lifts “Lysistrata Jones” above the usual summer sillies.

It’s a dumbed-down spin on the 2,400-year-old comedy by Aristophanes about the women of Athens who go on a sex strike until their men stop running off to war. The script is by Douglas Carter Beane (whose similar but better “Xanadu” was a Broadway hit), songs by Lewis Flinn, and terrific staging and choreography by Dan Knechtges.

Hoop Dreams

The clueless basketball team at “less-than-competitive” Athens U is used to celebrating its losses with the more-than-willing cheerleading squad, until their leader, Lysistrata Jones (Patti Murin, a tiny powerhouse), has her consciousness raised by poetry-slamming, fire-breathing librarian (brassy Lindsay Nicole Chambers). It all unfolds under the beneficent maternal nudging of Hetaira (the not-so-tiny powerhouse Liz Mikel).

Beane indulges every conceivable stereotype (Aristophanes would have been proud) and injects enough topical humor (there’s even a reference to Dominique Strauss-Kahn). A little goes a long way. But the songs are harmless (some even better than that) and the setting -- an actual gymnasium -- gives it a site-specific buzz. It’s piffle, but entertaining piffle.

Transport Group at the Gym at Judson, 243 Thompson St. at Washington Square South, through June 19. Information: +1-212-866-4111; Rating: **1/2

What the Stars Mean:
****        Excellent
***         Good
**          Average
*           Not So Good
(No stars)  Avoid

(Jeremy Gerard is an editor and critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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