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REVIEW: Anna Christie

by Rebecca M. Alvin

If the prospect of seeing a Eugene O’Neill drama in Provincetown in July seems a bit intense for a summer activity, you may miss out on an incredibly authentic experience that is actually very Provincetown. The Provincetown Dramatic Arts production of O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Anna Christie takes advantage of the fact that a good portion of the play is set in Provincetown by staging their wonderful production in the Wharf House at the Provincetown Marina. To see Anna Christie anywhere else would be to miss the atmospheric qualities embedded in the play.

Jody O’Neil and Sarah MacDonnell – Photo: Margaret Van Sant

The four-act drama begins with the captain of a barge, Chris Christopherson (Jody O’Neil) receiving a letter that his daughter, whom he has not seen in many years, will be coming to see him. When she arrives, it is clear she is not what he imagined. Anna Christie (Sarah MacDonnell) is a prostitute, rough around the edges and trying to recover from a life she hates. Still, her father treats her as an innocent young lady and invites her to stay with him on the barge, warning her not to get involved with a seaman. But when a boat capsizes and Chris and Anna rescue the survivors, she meets Mat Burke (J. Stephen Brantley) and a romance ensues.

It’s remarkable to look back on O’Neill’s play and see the sophistication and complexity of the sexual politics as they play out here, with the very notion of purity and virginity and the double-standard in men’s favor up for reconsideration, considering the play was written in 1919.

The pared down cast (this production eliminates some smaller roles) features excellent performances, with each of the three main actors—O’Neil, Brantley, and MacDonnell—adding new dimensions to the characters through their interpretations. In particular, the rough and tumble swagger of MacDonnell makes Anna feel real, not like a theatrical version of a sex worker, but a hardened prostitute who is fragile inside, but doesn’t want anyone to know.

These strong performances combine with the visceral effect of being out on a wharf, away from the throngs of people on Commercial Street, with boats passing in the background, the sea air chilling you to the bone (bring a sweater!), and even the smell of bluefish in the waters just outside the open wharf doors. The result is a deeper understanding of the meaning of the sea in Anna Christie, as both an element of struggle and alienation and as a savior, cleansing those who feel “unclean.” It’s really quite a beautiful experience.

Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie is performed  at the Wharf House at the Provincetown Marina, 9 Ryder St. Ext., Thursday, Friday, and Sunday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. through July 30. For tickets and information call 800.838.3006 or visit Tickets are also available the day of the show at: House of LaRue, 244 Commercial St., Provincetown.

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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