EU: American La Ronde: A Provocative Dietz Play Staged by FSCJ Dramaworks

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Florida State College of Jacksonville staged the North Florida premiere of American La Ronde, by noted playwright Steven Dietz, during October 31 – November 3, 2019. The script is based on Reigen a much older play by Vienna writer Arthur Schnitzler (1862 – 1931). 

The play, written in German in 1890, portrays sexuality in a social context. It was first staged in 1920, and was not well-received by the public. A storm of criticism led to a court case. And although the charge of immorality was dismissed, Schnitzler no longer allowed productions in German-speaking countries. However, the work became popular in other countries, and has been staged in translation in many languages. It was extremely popular in Russia, Czechoslovakia, and France and has been the basis for a number of films

FSCJ’s production was selected and directed by Ken McCulough, Professor of Theatre and head of FSCJ’s Theatre Performance Program. He has been with the college for twenty-six years and the Dual Critics are proud to say we have seen most of his work during this period. His selections and productions have been outstanding and thought-provoking; this is his fifty-first production.

Dietz’s interpretation explores the good and bad aspects in various romantic relationships using ten short stories/scenes with two characters; the interactions revolve around sex, attraction, and rejection. The characters are intertwined; at the end of each scene, one exits the stage, the other remains and is joined by a new companion, as in a circular dance.  Dietz has introduced a silver bracelet (not found in Schnitzler’s original manuscript) which underscores their connectedness as it is passed from couple to couple. Interactions related to sex are implied rather than graphic, and for the most part, words you might expect to be present aren’t used. 

The setting was like an enormous wooden cave that extended from ceiling to floor. The walls had multiple doors and entrances, and as the scene changed, one of these access points would open and props and furnishings – beds, tables, chairs, etc. – and the actors – would appear. It was a unique way to manage entrances and exits, and held the audience’s complete attention.

The cast of twelve FSCJ students was sensational and they handled well the mix of disdain, lies, pleading, and romantic intervals that were often interwoven. The outstanding cast and their roles were Madison Williamson (The Dancer), Joseph Mercedes (The Soldier), Taylor Wynn (The Maid), David Castro (The Young Man), Dinah Landrum (The Wife), Allen Melton (The Husband), Matthew Sarmie (The Student), Johnny Flannagan (The Songwriter), Erin Stephens (The Famous Singer), Ryan Lemmon (The Wealthy Man), Julianna Guevarez (The Blonde/The Young Dancer) and Adis Alic (The Club Manager/The Maître d’/Male Understudy).

The production team included Ken McCulough (Director), Johnny Pettegrew (Scenic and Lighting Design), Bob Rupp (Scene Shop Supervisor), The Costume Crew – Camala Pitts and Dorinda Quiles (Costume Design), Elizabeth Stermer (Stage Manager), Sara Ackerman and Ashley Klaase (Assistant Stage Managers), Isaac Miller (Sound Engineer), Tara Paige (Program Layout), Grace Guevarez (Poster Design), and  Shanika Flood and Kendall Nevison (Properties Supervisors).

Thanks go to FSCJ for another fine theatrical production of American La Ronde, which was provocative and well-staged. The black box theater of the Nathan H. Wilson Center for the Arts was an excellent location for this production. And we’re looking forward to DramaWorks’ next production.