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Miss Julie (Ilana Niernberger) seduces John (Sam Coughlin) with his straight razor.
Miss Julie (Ilana Niernberger) seduces John (Sam Coughlin) with his straight razor.

Review – ‘After Miss Julie’ at Main Stage West in Sebastopol


Feb 20, 2019


Christine (Jenifer Coté) greets John (Sam Coughlin) after a long day at work.‘After Miss Julie’ is a tightly-written, captivating play with the steamy rhythm of a sensual tango. Raucous celebrations of the 1945 Labour party victory reverberate around the cozy kitchen of an English country manor. Christine, the hard-working, amiable cook is looking forward to a romantic evening with John, the chauffer. Instead, the bewitching lady of the house, Miss Julie, flounces downstairs, where she does not belong, and shamelessly attempts to carouse with the staff. Their consternation simply amuses her, and Julie chuckles at their “feudal anxiety.”

Adapted from an earlier play,Patrick Marber reset the story in post-war Britain, where the tensions of transitioning class structure augment the inherent themes of August Strindberg’s original concept. The constant give and take of power crackles with energy between the characters, who circle each other in a shifting confrontation of desire and envy.

Co-directed by Elizabeth Craven and David Lear, this intensely physical production vibrates with passion, while maintaining subtle reactions from the stellar cast. Silence is integral to poignant moments, and allows time to breathe between flashes of ardor.

John (Sam Coughlin) makes his intentions clear to Miss Julie (Ilana Niernberger).Jenifer Coté’s Christine conveys rich layers of emotion in a character who is exhausted emotionally and physically. Christine yearns for a quiet life and family of her own, and believes the best in people, until they prove her wrong. High-spirited Miss Julie covers up her personal struggles with arrogant pronouncements. Ilana Niernberger’s aristocratic veneer is gradually peeled away to reveal a devastatingly vulnerable performance. Her chemistry with Sam Coughlin’s John is visceral and mesmerizing.

An awkward moment between Christine (Jenifer Coté) and Miss Julie (Ilana Niernberger) before church.As the three spiral down together, Dana Seghesio steps in with daring choreography that gives ‘After Miss Julie’ an extra edge of fascination. Throughout the staging, there are tiny moments reminiscent of dancing—a hand held slightly too long, a foot placed just so on the bench. It builds into an actual tango, bathed in blood-red lighting by Missy Weaver. 

‘After Miss Julie’ is a sexy, thrilling dive into the depths of lust and power. There are no weak links, from flawless dialect coaching by John Craven to chilling sound design by Matthew E. Jones of shouting mobs. This unique gem of a play is disturbing and entrancing—well worth a trip to Sebastopol.

After Miss Julie
Presented by Main Stage West through March 3, 2019
Thur/Fri/Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 5:00pm
Tickets: $30 general, $25 senior, $15 student

Main Stage West
104 North Main Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 823-0177

Photos by Eric Chazankin

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