The play takes place in the kitchen of a Swedish estate in the 1890's on a midsummer's eve. There is a party going on upstairs in which Miss Julie, daughter of the count, dances with the servants. She's particularly fond of Jean, the count's valet, and follows him to the kitchen, much to the annoyance of Christine, the cook and Jean's fiance. Here the power struggle between Jean and Julie begins, as Christine looks on helplessly. At first Julie has the upper hand and commands Jean to do her will, testing him to see how far he'll go. Later, after intermission during which Julie and Jean have gone to his room, and all that that implies, he has the upper hand and is unspeakably cruel to her. She bows to his will, but then remembers who she is and takes back control. It's a constant power struggle with each of them having the upper hand at different times, but in the tragic ending, there is no winner. Gender roles, sexual politics, and most of all the class structure that defines their lives all play a part in this intense and brutal drama.
|"Kiss my shoe," Miss Julie commands, and Jean is forced|
to oblige, while Christine sleeps unawares
(Kelly Nelson, Brie Roland, James Napoleon Stone)
Miss Julie continues in the Turnblad Mansion through October 26. It's a wonderful example of the site-specific theater that seems to be happening more and more often (see also Gremlin's production of After Miss Julie in the James J. Hill House a few years ago). The authentic setting aids greatly in suspension of disbelief, and the small cast in close quarters with the few dozen audience members makes you feel like you're eavesdropping on a real conversation. If you're able, take the stairs instead of the elevator to the third floor and peek into the dark and mysterious rooms of the mansion on your way up and down, and imagine the real dramas that occurred in this beautiful house and others like it a hundred and more years ago. (You can also, of course, tour the mansion during the daylight as part of the ASI museum.)