Since birth, the titular hero of August Strindberg's post-pagan fable has been isolated from the world in a church bell tower, which makes him a perfect tabula rasa for the author's rather joyless philosophy about humanity gone wild. Seduced by the sweetness and seeming innocence of a pretty fairy, Lisa (in a tough/tender performance by Danielle Taddei), the adolescent Per (a competent Michael Moon) takes off into the big world in search of happiness, a concept—one of many—he cannot comprehend.
This brainchild of an alleged misanthrope—although he often denied it—quickly clarifies that happiness isn't all it's cracked up to be. Per's magic ring, which guarantees all his wishes are granted, proves the theory, "When you get there, there is no there there." Immense wealth, jewels, gold, palaces, and castles are as copious as false friends, who quickly disappear when abundance runs out. Public honor and glory are as lacking in honor and glory as absolute power is powerless in the face of governmental corruption, graft, intolerance, and hypocrisy. And you can't love someone unless you stop loving yourself. If there's a moral to this story, it is that everything has a moral; there are lessons to be learned at every crossroads. The pauper who becomes a (lonely) prince, a (despised) burgomaster, or a (godless and powerless) caliph, will only find what he's looking for back in the old bell tower.
Director David Patch, founder of the Strindberg Society, has undertaken the massive project of staging this overlong diatribe in its American English–language premiere. The attenuated morality play becomes a bit of a harangue as it provides 10 actors, painfully trying too hard for comedy, with the opportunity to stridently overplay more than 30 roles, from rats, to brooms, to fairies, to statues, to Islamic wazirs. The language ranges from florid, simplistic, genius, fake-poetic, moralistic, and declamatory to sometimes plain silly, which together adds up to two and a half hours of mainly diminishing returns after intermission.
"Lucky Per's Journey," presented by the August Strindberg Society of Los Angeles, in association with the Barbro Osher Pro-Suecia Foundation, the American Scandinavian Foundation, the Consulate General of Sweden and the Swedish Women's Educational Association at Studio/ Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 7:30 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. Jul. 8-Aug. 14. $15. (323) 769-5680.