Review: APT completes season with astonishing production

Review: APT completes season with astonishing production
Marcus Truschinski & Jim DeVita, Creditors, 2017. Photo by Liz Lauren.

American Players Theatre’s final production, “Creditors,” starts slow but it leaves the audience almost unable to exhale by the time the figurative curtain falls an hour and 40 minutes later.

Written by Swedish author August Stringberg in 1888, the play features veteran APT actors James DeVita, Tracy Michelle Arnold and Marcus Trushinski, which pretty much means the audience is guaranteed a good experience no matter what it sees on stage.

In the hands of a less talented cast, “Creditors” might come across as weird, or, even, as a joke. In the hands of DeVita, Arnold and Trushinski, it is an astonishing theatrical experience.

As I said, it starts out a bit slow. It focuses largely on two characters: Adolph, a painter-turned sculptor who is miserable because his new wife, Tekla, is out of town, and Gustav, Adolph’s newfound friend who keeps encouraging Adolph to be less of a wimp. Trushinski plays the role of Adolph; DeVita, obviously, is Gustav.

As the play progresses, Gustav slyly undermines Adolph’s trust in Tekla, suggesting she had previously undermined her former husband and then betrayed him with Adolph.

So, you don’t have to be a plot genius to figure out that Gustav is really the first husband, who Adolph has never met.

About halfway through the play, the sound of a ferry boat bell rings, announcing that Tekla has returned. Gustav banishes Adolph to the attic, and yes, he does turn out to be the first husband.

Up to this point, the whole plot seems a bit hackneyed, and one wonders whether it is up to the quality of the actors involved.

Then, Gustav and Tekla begin their interaction and the play grabs the audience by its figurative throat and doesn’t let go until the stage goes dark (the Touchstone Theater at APT doesn’t have a literal curtain).

DeVita, who seems a bit stiff and banal when the play begins, subtly transforms himself into one of the most evil characters I’ve seen on stage. He looks the same, he talks the same but you see him taking charge of Tekla, shaping her perception, leading her into a pit of despair, seemingly of her own making.

It’s actually pretty terrifying.

As I said, it wouldn’t be as terrifying in the hands of lesser actors. And it might not have been as terrifying with a different director. APT let director Maria Aitken choose the play and she let the action build up so subtly that an audience member (myself included) doesn’t realize Gustav’s capacity for evil until he is caught in its web.

DeVita and Arnold carry the compelling part of the dialogue but Ttrushinski’s portrayal of Adolph is also spot on. The problem is that Adolph is a wimp and the better Trushinski plays the part, the more it recedes.

“Creditors” will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, at 8 p.m. Friday and at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday.