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Theater review: 'Through a Glass Darkly' -- 3 stars

"Through a Glass Darkly" Credit: handout

Through a Glass Darkly

3 stars

Ingmar Bergman's Oscar-winning 1961 film "Through a Glass Darkly," about a tortured young woman on the verge of slipping back into mental illness while the men in her life watch helplessly, is not what anyone would consider light material.

Set in 1960, the play takes place on a remote island where a family of four has gathered for their annual vacation. Joining Karen, played by the luminous Carey Mulligan, are her father (Chris Sarandon), an author concerned mainly about his career, her caring but ineffective husband (Jason Butler Harner) and her pubescent 16-year-old brother (Ben Rosenfield), with whom she shares an uncomfortably close connection.

Jenny Worton's stage adaptation makes for a slow but intense 90 minutes. You might even consider it a pared-down version of "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Although the striking cinematography of the original film cannot be re-created, David Leveaux's production utilizes an impressive blend of scenic, lighting and sound design to create an empty, shadowy and genuinely claustrophobic atmosphere.

The men all give fine supporting performances, but the play is ultimately a showcase for Mulligan, who hardly ever goes offstage. The play requires her to display the mood swings and creeping onset of schizophrenia and then violently break down.

Mulligan, who last appeared in New York in the acclaimed Broadway revival of "The Seagull," has since become a genuine film celebrity, best known for her Audrey Hepburn-like turn in "An Education." It is great to have her return and deliver such a fragile, restless and emotionally raw performance.

If you go: "Through a Glass Darkly" plays at New York Theatre Workshop through July 3. 79 E. Fourth St., 212-279-4200, atlantictheater.org.

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