An accomplished 11-member ensemble luxuriates within late 19th-century Austrian scripter Arthur Schnitzler’s “Anatol,” which follows the misadventures of a Viennese philanderer as profoundly frightened and distrustful of women as he is hopelessly addicted to them. Helmer Dan Bonnell impressively infuses a zesty sexually charged energy within the troubled protag’s seven “encounters” with the distaff enemy. Not all the vignettes work to optimum effect, but that’s the fault of Schnitzler’s uneven scripting, not the performers.
Set in 1900 Vienna, the action focuses on the constantly shifting emotional state and agenda of socially privileged Anatol (Matt Letscher). While relentlessly practicing the jaundiced arts of seduction, adultery, infidelity and betrayal, he is steadfast in his belief that “women are always unfaithful to us. It comes naturally.”
Letscher captures Anatol’s sophisticated, hedonistic facade, which is reduced to melodramatic rants of frustration at the first sign of a woman’s innate superiority over him. Thesp’s at his comical best in each scene when Anatol realizes that, in the quest for romance, he has once again entrapped himself as victim. Providing droll commentary to his friend’s socio-coital meltdowns is Alex Enberg’s transcendently sophisticated voyeur Max.
In the most successful of the vignettes, “Farewell Supper,” set in a hotel’s private dining room, Anatol is energetically surviving two trysts, with two accompanying suppers, every evening. With Max serving as a one-man Greek chorus to the action, Anatol attempts to extricate himself from dancer Annie (Ginna Carter), only to learn that she has already decided to leave him for an impoverished member of the corps de ballet. Carter offers a tour de force comedic portrayal of the sloshed ballerina who admits her only regret in leaving Anatol is the loss of the champagne and oysters he provides.
Not all the episodes work as well, due mainly to the scripter’s sketchy scenarios. “Agony” spotlight’s Anatol’s longtime affair with married woman Elsa (Martha Hackett) that never develops beyond its inherent angst. The lackluster “Keepsake” focuses on Anatol’s distrust of fiancee Emilie (Shiva Rose) on the night before their wedding, which results in an elongated one-note diatribe by the flawed would-be bridegroom.
The closing scene, “Anatol’s Wedding Day,” is a hilarious comedia-esque knock-about farce, highlighted by scantily clad Illona (Valerie Dillman), a prenuptial dalliance who refuses to go home. Dillman exudes a raging sensuality and sense of purpose that completely obliterates Anatol’s pitiful efforts to get rid of her.
Laura Fine’s minimalist sets adequately serve the action, as does the lighting of Jeremy Pivnick. Audrey Eisner’s costumes provide a colorful flare that enhances these amoral turn-of-the-20th-century Viennese shenanigans.