Beginning this Friday, Berkeley’s very own Aurora Theatre Company will present “Anatol,” a lighthearted comedy about a casanova’s attempt to find true love. The play is set in turn-of-the-century Vienna, which is faithful to the time period of the playwright, Arthur Schnitzler. Schnitzler was an influential critic, novelist and dramatist in Europe, although his work was highly controversial for its frank depiction of sexuality. In his time, Schnitzler’s plays were sometimes criticized as pornography, and were met with rampant anti-Semitism (later banned by the Nazis) since his work mostly featured characters from the Jewish upper-middle class.
All of these factors, of course, help make Schnitzler’s work fascinating to contemporary audiences. “Anatol,” for example, was his first hit play, and is strikingly modern in its structure (a loose series of episodes about Anatol’s affairs with various mistresses, as opposed to a tied-together, overarching storyline). Schnitzler was also friends with Freud from their medical school days, so that probably gives you a pretty good idea of the exploration of sex drives in his plays.
A fun fact from the bio on Schnitzler by Margaret Schaefer: Schnitzler son, Heinrich Schnitzler, moved to Berkeley and directed plays for the UC Theater Department during the 1940s. His mother lived on Telegraph and Haste. So the Schnitzler family is more local than one would think.
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