John Gabriel Borkman – BAM
BAM Harvey Theater – Fort Greene, Brooklyn

I was lucky enough that our good friend Paula had an extra ticket to see the new take on an old play called John Gabriel Borkman. What a great treat it was. The show played at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater on Fulton Street in Brooklyn. I don’t travel outside of Manhattan to often, but I decided this would be a good time to check out BAM and some of Brooklyn. Although, it was a terribly miserable evening with cold rain and snow, It was well worth it. The weather outside was very close to the overall feel of the play.

The play was originally written by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen in 1896 and has been done only several times over the years. A revival of the play was performed most recently at the Abbey Theater in Dublin, Ireland in 2010 and then on to BAM for 2011. It was previously at the Abbey in 1928.

The story revolves around John Gabriel Borkman (Alan Rickman), His wife Gunhild (Fiona Shaw) and her twin sister and Borkman’s first love Ella (Lindsay Duncan) and Borkman’s son Erhart (Marty Rea) who is raised by Ella. The story takes place eight years after Borkman is released from prison. He was convicted of embezzling other people’s money as the head of a powerful bank. He served five years in prison. Thirteen years have passed since the crime was committed.

The parallels of this play and the major stock market crash and events that occurred most recently are really relevant. Bernie Madoff definitely comes to mind. Borkman is shunned by society after his release and self imprisoned in a house on a large estate where he waits for the heads of finance to come for his help and leadership in financial matters. He is very self absorbed and delusional. He paces back and forth in his room waiting and waiting.

The play begins with Gunhild’s twin sister Ella arriving to claim Borkman and Gunhild’s son Erhart, who she raised, as her namesake. She is dying and wants her name to carry on. Years before Borkman dumped Ella to marry Gunhild all part of a plan for a promotion at the bank. And the Fun begins.

I won’t go on much more about it. But I do have to mention the Set. It was so wonderfully done. The floor had a shiny mirror? Black, waxed marble look? It really helped set apart the characters and other set pieces. The play unravels in a large room surrounded by mounds of snow. See the pictures below. It created a very cold feel for the play. I thought it was perfect. The last scene took place outside in a snowstorm. Snow fell heavy from above and was lit from the ground. It was quite amazing and created a sense of vertigo. It was really wild. As you looked around the snow mounds appeared to move and the height of ceiling seemed to stretch out. I am not sure that this illusion was created purposely but it was happening. And NO, I was not on any hallucinogens or drunk. After the show I asked Paula if she experienced it as well and she did. We discussed it in detail.

Overall It made me appreciate theater more than I have and made me realize I need to be seeing more theater.

If you have the chance check it out.


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