ANATOL a politically incorrect romp at Aurora Theatre.

A waiter (l. Wiley Naman Strasser) and Max (r. Tim Kniffin*) watch as Annie (c. Delia MacDougall*) gorges herself on oysters and wine and breaks up with Anatol (c.l. Mike Ryan*) in Anatol

Ilona (c. Delia MacDougall*) destroys one of the bridal bouquets as Anatol (l. Mike Ryan*) and Max (r. Tim Kniffin*) watch in disbelief in Anatol. Photos by David Allen.

ANATOL:Comedy by Arthur Schnitzler. World premiere translation by Margret Schaefer. Directed by Barbara Oliver. Aurora Theatre Company, 2081 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA. (510) 843-4822 or at

ANATOL a politically incorrect romp at Aurora Theatre.

In this present era of political correctness and the importance of the women’s vote in the coming election, one wonders whether it was a wise decision to produce a play that is loaded with dialog that denigrates women. Aurora Theatre almost gets away with it by casting the marvelous, effervescent Delia MacDougall in a pivotal role allowing her character(s) to get the better of the egotistical, insensitive protagonist Anatol (Mike Ryan). That being said, why then is this reviewer recommending the play as a “should see” production?

There are two answers to the question. The first being because Delia MacDougal gives a Tony Award winning performance and the second is the attractive clever staging. The usual effective direction by Aurora theatre favorite Barbara Oliver just doesn’t make the subject matter palatable. She allows Mike Ryan to make his entrance on a high energy level full of buffoonery and self centered anti-female bromides that never lets up. Fortunately, Tim Kniffen’s marvelous staid demeanor as Max, Anatol’s confidante, almost balances out Ryan’s lack of nuance.

Then there is the question of Arthur Schnitzler’s expertise as a playwright even though he received great acclaim for his La Ronde. According to the program notes the present format for this production were gleaned from a series of nine short plays that Schnitzler wrote early in his career about Anatol and his mistresses. Translator Schaefer and Aurora have selected 6 of these plays (actually vignettes) and strung them together to give a sense of continuity and closure. Each playlette is loaded with dialog where Max asks questions and Anatol replies. Overheard in the audience, “If Schnitzler were writing for a college playwriting class he would be ostracized.”

We can forgive the deficiencies since the play(s) take place in 19th–century Vienna at time when life of the bourgeois was gay and full of excesses and MacDougal plays five different women before returning in the sixth vignette to potentially extract revenge on the insensitive Anatol. From her first entrance as a not so naive 19 year old Cora who submits to hypnotism by Anatol to her climactic final exit has a former spurned lover; her performance is a tour de force. (She even overcomes a couple of technical glitches in the scenery . . . now that is professionalism!). All of her entrances and exits dominate the show. A couple of the standouts are as a Slavic circus performer and a ballerina who loves oysters and fine wine but will give them up for the love of an handsome impoverished chorus member.

This fourth play in Aurora’s 20th anniversary season is visually stunning and is recommended as a “should see” and not the usual “must see” that is expected from this great theatre company.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of