Michael Gallagher
The Silhouette

After watching La Ronde, McMaster Thespian Company’s latest – and highly sexual – production, you may not be surprised to find out that the play was only performed twice during Arthur Schnitzler’s, the playwrite’s, lifetime. Set in 1890s Vienna, the play contains ten scenes about the moments before and after sexual intercourse. Despite a strong performance from the cast, the “no means yes” mentality behind many of the male characters’ sexual advances would make even Robin Thicke question whether this script was due for a much needed update.

The story is simple: a dialogue between two characters soon finds them having sex that will only further complicate, and inevitably connect them to an interlocking chain of lovers revealed throughout the show.

While the show began on shaky ground, the cast soon proved their talents, making the romantic pasts of the characters all the more believable. All actors and actresses were enticing, compelling, expressive, and engaging. Annalee Flint in particular did a fantastic job of portraying “the actress,” reflecting both her talent and the experience gained from the Algonquin College Theatre Arts program.

Instead, many of the show’s flaws come from its source material. While it is clear that the play looked to be a commentary on morals surrounding sex, adultery and an examination of classism within a sexual context, it was hard to ignore that many of the encounters could be defined as rape.

Watching scene upon scene wherein female characters repeatedly verbally and physically rejected male sexual advances, only to suddenly comply at the last minute or irrationally fall in love with the man after sex, made La Ronde feel like a perverted dominance fantasy. This made it difficult to care about the moral complexities of having multiple partners, or cheating, when a far more controversial – though likely unintentional – theme of the play was ignored.

The result is a play that for all its talent and style leaves the audience both frustrated with the decision to not acknowledge the complexities behind the men’s advances, and uncomfortable instead of intrigued by the affairs and scandals.

Author

Comments

  1. This review would make a great grade 9 paper on the morality of sexuality, but you’ve completely failed to encapsulate any element of the actual production in your article. This makes a better opinion piece than a review of anything. I review your grade 9 sexual dissertation as a D+.

    1. Put simply, there was a word limit, and a short one at that. I chose to prioritize what I felt would most impact someones decision to see the play…the story (specifically MTC’s interpretation of it which was a conscious aspect of the production)

      That being said, I actually liked most elements of the production. The set was fairly simple but effective, and the lighting, costume choices etc were all good. There were some hiccups, and some acting that was a bit weaker, but for the most part I don’t feel it worsened my experience.

      I can see why you feel it is like an opinion piece, but I still feel I am reviewing the production as a whole’s decision to not relate the material to the past and the present, which I do think the MTC had responsibility for.

      To me, sex before marriage deserves less thematic attention than rape/sex without consent, because sex before marriage is much more socially accepted today while rape is still not acknowledged, but unfortunately just as common. A play like this (again in my opinion) should showcase the period it was written in, but also stay relevant to the modern audience, and by neglecting that theme I felt it didn’t do that.

      Even though both were common in the play, only one got touched on, and to me not the one that mattered that could have deepened the artistic meaning of it as a whole.

      Try to be a bit more constructive and bit less rude next time 😉

  2. This article comes off as though the author had made up his mind about the play long before it had concluded. Myself and the person with whom I saw it very much appreciated the portrayal of sex as a tool that was being used in contextually different ways by different people (of both genders – there were at least two instances of the female character making the obvious sexual advance), especially given the friendship of Schnitzler and Freud the sex maniac. In a historical context, this play was written when Italy was rolling through some crazy authoritarian socialist bullshit, which fundamentally means that it was at a near record high for entrenched patriarchy and mistreatment of women. The “no means yes” attitude (that the author correctly interpreted to have rape implications in a contemporary sense) was almost certainly a formality at the time of this play being written. Of ~course~ the majority of these women were obliged to try at least somewhat to maintain the pretence of being a lady. If they didn’t, it may become public knowledge and they would sink to the depths of social classes or be strangled in bed by some maniac sexist father. It’s not pretty, but just because it makes you uncomfortable does not mean it isn’t capable of being something to learn from and appreciate. That’s what history (and the expression of if through art) is all about. Don’t get me wrong, there was perhaps one darker moment in the play where consent was not in the equation, but in the rest of the scenes I think it was abundantly clear that “no” actually DID mean “yes.” Making that historical context clear in an intimate situation just by the virtue of your own acting is a very difficult thing to do, and if the author claims to appreciate the fine acting as much as he says, that distinction should have been clear as day.

    1. Thanks for the opinion! It’s nice to see that even though you clearly disagree with me, you at least think its worth explaining why you felt my article was bad, instead of just calling it a “D+” ….

      I definitely don’t think I made my mind up until the play was over but…
      There is a very distinct difference between characters making sexual advances, and bordering on sexual assault. In the play, when most of the female characters made the so-called “abundantly clear” “no” meaning “yes” it often was so ridiculous and unbelievable that a woman would go from aggressively resisting to (like they were hypnotized) suddenly being totally OK with the situation. This was definitely not the case in all situations, but there was definitely more than one moment where in the play where consent should be looked at more carefully than I think you realize.

      It was uncomfortable yes, but that wasn’t why I wrote about it in the review. I really did feel that the commentary on that aspect of the play I believed wasn’t well fleshed out. This made it hard to learn from or appreciate it in that regard. The production seemed to focus more on societies views of adultery and premarital sex, and little on the (for lack of a better word) “rapey” elements of the story.

      Again I think you missed my point (which you are still welcome to disagree with…) that while the historical context was quite clear to me, the commentary was missing. That is pretty much the entire thesis of this review.

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