"After Miss Julie" - It's Miller time for Strindberg on Broadway

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In this theater publicity image released by Boneau/Bryan-Brown, In this theater publicity image released by Boneau/Bryan-Brown, Sienna Miller is shown in a scene from the Roundabout Theatre Company?s "After Miss Julie," currently running at Broadway's American Airlines Theatre in New York. (AP Photo/Boneau/Bryan-Brown, Joan Marcus) Photo Credit: AP Photo/Joan Marcus

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REVIEW

"Do I shock you?," asks Julie, the slinky mean-girl heiress, of John, her father's hunky valet.

"Not as much as you'd like to," says he.

And so it is with "After Miss Julie," Patrick Marber's pointless and pretty toothless British update of August Strindberg's 19th century Swedish power-play about class and sexual warfare.

To be fair, there is sort of a point to director Mark Brokaw's good-looking production - that is, the fan-mag matchup of young British celebu-stars Sienna Miller and Jonny Lee Miller (no relation) with characters intended to shock audiences since 1888.

Both prove to be real actors - but especially he does, as he twitches and flips between being an upward-mobile hustler and a besotted slave to the landowner's overheated daughter, who hunts him down in the huge old kitchen of the estate (meticulously designed by Allen Moyer).

She is awfully actressy at the start of the 90-minute drama, purposefully meandering in her clingy summer dress and camera-ready makeup. "I'm just a simple country guuuurl," she purrs, taking a dragon-lady toke from her cigarette and commanding him to kiss her gorgeous strappy shoe (by costume designer Michael Krass).

She is more believable when the mask falls away after their night together, as powers keep shifting from predator to victim, from lust to tenderness to violence and back.

More mysterious than either character's motive is the reason for Marber's adaptation - which, despite the misleading title, is not a sequel to the Strindberg but an unnecessary new version.

For reasons that probably make more sense in class-conscious London, where the play first opened three years ago, the action now happens in an English country estate in 1945. The war is over, and the Labor Party has just had a landslide victory over Churchill's Conservatives.

Mostly, the servant folk don't appear, but there's much carousing outside the kitchen door. When Miss Julie taunts John, accusing him of being "secretly a Tory," we're supposed to hear that as a killer insult. Marin Ireland plods sympathetically around the fringes as the cook, Christine, unofficial fiancee of John, a character given more weight than in the Strindberg. When she says, "I have lower expectations, so I am seldom disappointed," it's hard not to suspect she's recommending the same to us.What "After Miss Julie"

Where American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42nd St.

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Info $66-$111.50; 212-719-1300; roundabouttheatre.org

Bottom line Good looking but misbegotten 'Miss Julie'

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