The Visit

published: Fri, 6-Feb-2004   |   updated: Wed, 4-Jan-2017
programme cover

Anton Schill in The Visit by Friedrich Durrenmatt for Theatreworks at the Dwire Theater. Directed by Bob Pinney. April/May 1994.

The Visit is a weird play, very much of the time it was written. It's about revenge, and dignity, and what money can buy, and acceptance of one's fate. My second play in the Springs.

I suppose one reason I was cast in this production as the main character, Anton Schill, was because I had an English accent. Just like the character's position in his village, I was part of the production but was obviously different.

It was also amazing that, Bob Pinney, the director allowed me to go on vacation for two weeks in the middle of rehearsals. Well, all right, let's put it another way: it was amazing he cast me knowing about my holiday. While I was in England I was learning the part and analyzing the text, so that when I came back a mere 10 days before we opened, I was able to jump right back in.

The Visit: Leah Chandler Mills and Julian Bucknall
Publicity shot (with Leah)
Again, a great play to meet more excellent actors from the Springs. I was surprised at how many people I knew that I'd forgotten were in this production. It was also an honor to play opposite Leah Chandler Mills, quite possibly the most amazing actress I've ever acted with.

The other interesting thing about the production was one of the pallbearers at the end of the play decided that he didn't want to do it on the last weekend and simply disappeared. Sigh.

 

 

Cast

The First ManJoel A. Beck
The Second ManDavid E. Mason
The Third ManMelvin T. Grier
The Fourth ManScott Quilleash Nelson
The PainterHeath Houseman
The BurgomasterSol Chavez
The TeacherMichael Augenstein
The PastorBrian Prescott
Anton SchillJulian Bucknall
Claire ZachanassianLeah Chandler Mills
The ConductorCurt Layman
The Station MasterAndy Rabagliati
PedroJonathan Scott
BobbyChris Dysart
The Police ChiefMichael S. Borghi
The ChildrenShannon Arndt
Teresa Matthews
First Bodyguard--MaxGregg Gilmartin
Second Bodyguard--MikeLance Barton
First Blind Man--KobbyJason Willard
Second Blind Man--LobbyStephen Doyle
The AthleteJoel A. Beck
Frau BurgomasterMarjorie Koenig
Frau SchillNicole Mueller
The Daughter, OttilieLori Gross
The Son, KarlDavid McGill
The DoctorChristopher Lowell
The GymnastsAdria Orosco
Oakley Johnson
Doranne Pittz
Ana Brown
Nicolle Mizer
The First WomanJudy McClow Harris
The Second WomanMarjorie Koenig
The Truck DriverKevin McGuire
The ReporterKevin McGuire
The Camera ManBrett Coddington

Review from the Gazette Telegraph

Guilt, greed, pessimism make a gripping `Visit'

Mark Arnest

"The Visit" is a pessimistic, thought-provoking allegorical play that explores the power of money and the irrationality of revenge. Director Bob Pinney deftly explores the play's many levels in Theatreworks' new production of the German-Swiss playwright Friedrich Durenmatt's masterpiece.

"The Visit" revolves around the return of unimaginably wealthy Clara Zachanassian to her home town of Gullen, now fallen on hard times. She quickly gets to the point: She'll give the town and its citizens a billion marks if they give her "justice" - that is, kill Anton Schill, her former lover and the town's most popular citizen.

At first the townspeople rally around their old friend. But by the end, they're angry at Schill for forcing them to murder him.

If "The Visit" were just about the corrupting effect of money - nothing more than "The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg" with a Kafkaesque twist - it wouldn't hold our interest for long; we know from the beginning that Schill is doomed. But greed is only one of this play's many issues.

The dramatic crux of "The Visit" is Schill's guilt: Years earlier, he denied fathering Clara's child and gave two witnesses a bottle of schnapps to perjure themselves. The townspeople seize on this as a moral escape-hatch, justifying their murder in the name of justice.

Justice, of course, doesn't figure in "The Visit" at all. What Clara wants is revenge, a word no one ever uses. The different ways citizens come to justify this revenge form the action of the last two acts.

Though money is a powerful corrupting influence in "The Visit," the play also explores the limits of money. While poverty has brought the town misery, Clara's wealth hasn't brought her happiness.

Anton Schill, ably played by Julian Bucknall, is the play's most interesting character. He begins as a terrified victim and comes to a calm acquiescence of his fate, no longer wanting to live in a world that would murder him so callously. Bucknall is at his best in the third act, giving Schill almost tragic grandeur in his farewell scenes.

The figure of Clara towers over the play, affecting everything and everyone. While the other characters develop, she remains static, her life frozen at the moment of Schill's betrayal. Already dead herself, nothing less than Schill's death will satisfy her.

Leah Chandler Mills gives a moving account of this mix of victim and monster. Mills' coldly melodious voice is perfect and her face is an amused mask through which only the strongest emotions pass.

A few supporting characters break through the veil of caricature to which Durrenmatt has confined them, notably Michael Borghi as Schultz the Police Chief, and Michael Augenstein as the Teacher.

The play's pessimism never becomes boring. Scenes are short and to the point, and Pinney manages the large cast adroitly. The sound design by Randy Toddish and Michael Borghi is superb, with uncannily realistic trains passing Gullen by. Betty Ross' costumes for Mills are stunning, just what you'd expect for a zillionairess.

You may not agree with "The Visit." It's arguable whether money would so completely choke off any moral dialogue. It stretches credulity that no character ever explores the question of whether the punishment fits the crime. But you'll have a hard time forgetting it.

Mark Arnest is the Gazette Telegraph's theater critic.

(c) Gazette Telegraph 1994