Everything we see we want to possess. –Sting
Sometimes attending a play is like attending a party. The energy crackles, the assembled audience is alert and engaged, and everyone onstage looks like they’re just having so much damn fun. On such nights, it feels like if you just stick around long enough, maybe they'll haul you up there to be a part of the in crowd, or at least top off your glass.
In Cutting Ball Theater’s Free for All: A New Miss Julie for a New World, written by Megan Cohen and directed by Ariel Craft, we see August Strindberg’s Miss Julie deconstructed to a bare frame, then filled extravagantly back up with madcap futurism, and all of our modern-day concerns explored to their most strangely logical extremes.
Worried about climate change? Just wait until the snows melting off of Nob Hill drown the lower-lying neighborhoods. Concerned about the ingrained misogyny and power dynamics that led to the #MeToo movement? Your introduction to power-bros Brockingfield and Jacobson won't alleviate those concerns (though they will make you laugh). Have feelings about the destructive nature of unchecked capitalism? Have another tiny donut and a cigar. Or a deviled egg and a cigarette. In the world of Free for All, even the vices are indicative of class position.
Actors Stacy Ross and Phil Wong—as Julie and Brockingfield, and John and Jacobson, respectively—elevate their roles to hilarious heights. Ross is especially mesmerizing as she chafes visibly against the smoothly aristocratic shell that is her birthright. In the opening scene, she skis down the “slope” of Nob Hill, exalting and cursing with equal vigor. Later, when she flirts with John in the kitchen, she almost coos; when she slaps him, she laughs with impudent delight. When she gets a hot flash, the whole theatre feels as if it’s increased in temperature with her. When she’s disgusted within her own skin, you get the feeling that she might just peel it right off.