Some lost plays are better off that way–whatever made them noteworthy in their own era just doesn’t resonate in a later time. But Tina Landau and Curt Columbus, who jointly translated Elsa Bernstein’s 1908 drama for this English-language world premiere by Steppenwolf, handily make the case that Maria Arndt deserves resurrection. It’s not quite a masterpiece, but it is a wonderful complement to Ibsen’s familiar images of repressed women: Bernstein makes central something Ibsen could never be bothered with–a complex, loving mother-daughter relationship. The drawbacks are some hoary melodramatic passages and the kind of overstated symbolism and irony common in plays of that period, and the moral conflicts feel a bit dated (as they often do in Ibsen). But the humor is still fresh, as are Bernstein’s observations of male-female relationships. And under Landau’s sympathetic and precise direction, the fine design team and cast, headed by a luminous Molly Regan in the title role, bring Bernstein back to the public eye with skill and dignity. Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted, Chicago, 312-335-1650. Through March 31: Tuesdays-Fridays, 7:30 PM; Saturdays-Sundays, 3 and 7:30 PM; Wednesday, March 13 and 20, 2 and 7:30 PM; Sunday, March 17 and 24, 3 PM only. $40-$50.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Brosilow.