By MIKE CHAIKEN
Ingmar Bergman’s 1961 film, “Through the Glass Darkly” had an impact on audiences, as evidenced by its Golden Globe award the following year.
Then in 2010, the story reappeared, this time as a Bergman-endorsed play written by Jenny Worton, which appeared on the London stage with Academy Award winner Carey Mulligan taking on the central role of Karin.
Now, Connecticut theater-goers will get to see the play for themselves when Hole in the Wall Theater in New Britain gives this dark, dramatic work its Connecticut debut.
According to the theater’s press materials , “In this poignant psychological drama, Karin – a young wife, older sister, and only daughter – finds herself in a kaleidoscopic internal world where the boundaries between different realities blur and shift. Karin’s family goes on their annual holiday to a bleak, beautiful island off the coast of Sweden, and together, her husband, father, and brother struggle over the best way to help her. However, as events spiral out of control, Karin realizes she must take control of her own destiny.”
Southington resident Emily Nyerick has taken on the role of Karin in the local production.
Prior to taking on the role, Emily explained in an email interview, “I did have a chance to view the film… I enjoyed watching the film…. I thought the way ‘Through a Glass Darkly’ was adapted for the stage was very similar to the original film by Bergman. There were some scenes that were included in the film and not included in the play, but overall the story line was congruent.”
In the New Britain production, Bristol native Tom Bryda plays Max, Karin’s 17-year-old brother. “I love the story,” said Tom via email. “While some topics and events that take place are taboo —incest, suicide, masturbation, growing up, God— everything happens for a specific reason and directly relates to the main issue that we’re dealing with- mental illness. If anything, mental illness has become more taboo today. I hope audiences can look past what might be a shocking act or topic and look at why this is happening instead of focusing on what is happening. The content is specific but universal to human nature and with how it’s written, you’re forced to relate to it even if you don’t want to. Whether it’s remembering those painful teenage years, dealing with mental illness in some capacity, a passed on or distant parent, or just that we are a broken family. Bergman really went there and I deeply admire his honesty.”
Regarding her particular role and what she liked about it, Emily said, “The character of Karin is so complex. Karin takes the audience for a ride on her emotional roller coaster throughout the whole show. It was not easy to depict a person with mental illness. It took a lot of character analysis, and reading the script over and over and over again. Not only do the emotions have to happen naturally, but the emotions have to have a sense of passion behind every feeling.”
When asked what he liked about his character Max, Tom said, “Oh, goodness, do I love Max. What I love most about him is his passion for art and for his family. He truly loves them. I also have to admit I enjoy that he says exactly what’s on his mind. That is so much fun.”
For Tom, the role did put his acting skills to the test since older than his character.
“My first challenge was our 12 year age gap,” said Tom of playing a teenager. “For that, I tried to weaken my posture, roll my shoulders forward and find his physicality. That, combined with the way that he speaks, which is similar to mine, somehow gets things going or at least I really hope it does. Tapping back into my teenage years wasn’t easy either, but I take it slowly at first and eventually dive in.”
As for the direction she has received in this production, Emily said, “The director, Matt Skwiot, has been such a pleasure to work with. Matt has carefully thought out, and planned every aspect of the show. He has been able to assist me in becoming the character of Karin. We have spent multiple rehearsals discussing what Karin is feeling in each scene and why she is feeling the way she is. In terms of how to approach the character of Karin, he has helped me understand schizophrenia itself, and how the idea of multiple personalities can be portrayed to an audience through body language, movement, and tone inflection.”
Tom said of the director, “He’s given me a lot of freedom to do my thing and explore and play to find the character but then he’s truly an actor’s director. He knows exactly how to talk to me to get an idea across to make a change… Matty and I were on the same wavelength about Max from the start… He’s given us a skeleton, and we’ve each fleshed it out to make it our own. He tweaks and adjusts to realize his vision… but he’s very open to hearing our thoughts and ideas.”
The cast is a small one with just four actors on stage. Besides Nyerick and Bryda, the show includes James Hyland as David, Karin’s father, and Tristen Cole as Martin, Karin’s husband.
It’s a dramatic scale that appeals to Emily. “I love the fact that there’s only four cast members,” she said. “It is so nice to be able to know everyone and be able to take so much time in establishing not only a relationship with our characters, but a relationship with each other. There is definitely chemistry with our cast on stage. We have become comfortable with each other and that can be seen when we are working together during the show.”
As for why audiences will be drawn to the story, Emily said “It is different than your average story. The story that ‘Through a Glass Darkly’ tells is something so deep and complex. The audience will be able to watch and venture along on the family’s journey as it unfolds. I think the audience will enjoy being able to leave after the show with unanswered questions, and it will evoke a dialogue amongst those who view the performance. Although the content of the show is very deep and interpretive, it reveals a true portrayal of what mental illness can bring to a family.
“‘Through a Glass Darkly’ will capture the audience in many different ways,” said Emily.
“There’s a lot of fluff done out there,” said Tom. “I know you won’t find anything like ‘Through a Glass Darkly’ done in the area… There’s something very special and sacred about having actors live, in front of you, and there for you– so let’s talk about something that matters. Hole in the Wall Theater… does not play it safe and that’s why I love this place and everyone here. We have something here we’d like to discuss with everyone. No theater in their right mind would touch this piece because it isn’t mainstream and especially because of the subject matter. ‘Through a Glass Darkly’ is an honest but very sincere family drama.”
“Through a Glass Darkly” will be performed at Hole in the Wall Theater, 116 Main St., New Britain from Jan. 23 to Feb. 14. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays, Feb. 1, 8. Admission is $20. Students with ID and seniors are admitted for $15. Friday, Jan. 30 and Sunday, Feb. 8 are pay-what-you-can nights. Tickets can be ordered online at hitw.org, or by calling the box office at (860)229-3049.