From time to time the Trinity Parish Church in First Hill transforms into Theatre 9/12. This July its space has been opened for its production of Henrik Ibsen’s The League of Youth. Ibsen distinguished himself with dark, tragicomic pieces like the The Wild Duck and A Doll’s House that have proven to be universal and timeless. Though The League of Youth earned the title “Ibsen’s only comedy,” it is no exception. The talented cast is able to uphold Ibsen’s reputation of universality as the production (with the help of Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation) fit seamlessly into America’s current discussion of gun violence.
The League of Youth follows city-slicker Stensgaard from the capital to a Norwegian village where he starts a revolution against their corrupt, one-party system almost immediately upon his arrival. Being an “idealist,” Stensgaard is horrified by the degree to which one old money family hoards the majority of the village’s wealth. Stensgaard sets out to establish an anti-capitalist party, his “League of Youth,” to combat the privilege he sees. His good intentions are blurred when we see him propose to several different upper class women in the span of 10 minutes in order to be eligible for a seat in parliament. Stensgaard’s cartoon-like resilience eventually runs out as he spreads himself too thin and is cut from power by the bourgeoisie who gang up on him. The super rich stay in control and Stensgaard (and the rest of us) are dismayed.
Theatre 9/12 is committed to helping professional and talented non-professional actors develop their skills. It was no surprise that I was impressed by the talent of every actor I saw on stage. Michael Ramquist, who played Chamberlain Brattsberg (Stensgaard’s enemy), was the perfect pompous, corrupt, ruler. Exasperated by Stensgaard’s actions against his character’s family, Ramquist turned red in the face and growled his lines. I even caught him drool on stage in a passionate fit. Robert Alan Barnett, who plays the bumbling Lundestad, succeeded in completely embodying his character as well. Lundestad has been head of the village’s one-party system for years as well as Chamberlain Brattsberg’s puppet. Barnett was one of the production’s most comical features as he shuffled around the stage, muttering to himself, portraying a character who is completely unaware of his own incompetency as a ruler.
My only criticism is the last 20 minutes of the play became hard to follow. However, this was the nature of the play itself not the fault of the actors nor the staff behind the scenes. Although it was possible to get lost in the hysteria of the play’s final moments, it seemed to be a grand finale of the characters’ hilarious and ridiculous behavior which contributed to the play’s overall humor. A fitting way to end the play.
Theatre 9/12 brings us The League of Youth at a time when gun violence is on the minds of many Americans. The theater dedicates its performances to current social and political issues in a post-9/11 world. It was founded on the ground that its plays would uplift its audiences, encourage discussion and eventually understanding of current issues. One of drama’s purposes is to relieve the audience of their own hardships and struggles by seeing them acted out in a theater. If you have ever struggled to enact change or been made to feel small by the capitalist system, Stensgaard’s problems will feel familiar to you. Though over 150 years old this play carries timeless issues which Theatre 9/12 showcases through their talented actors and simplistic sets. Activists, those passionate about gun violence, and Ibsen fans alike will enjoy this production.
The League of Youth, by Henrik Ibsen. Theatre 9/12 at Trinity Parish Church, 609 8th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104. Fri & Sat, 8 pm. Sun, 2pm. Until July 26. Info & Tickets: https://www.theatre912.com/theatre912/Welcome.html. Tickets: