July 28, 2015

Our global age of income inequality certainly cannot be guaranteed to add a jolt of relevance to any classic play, but it definitely serves as an illuminating backdrop to Thomas Ostermeier’s stark and penetrating production of “Miss Julie,” August Strindberg’s celebrated 1888 drama about the turbulent war of wills between a well-to-do young woman and her father’s servant. For his first visit to the Lincoln Center Festival, Mr. Ostermeier has brought a Russian-language production of the play originally staged in 2011 at the Theater of Nations in Moscow. Like his versions of Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House,” “Hedda Gabler” and “An Enemy of the People,” all seen at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Mr. Ostermeier’s “Miss Julie” takes place in the here and now, in this case the here and now of Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia, where globe-trotting billionaires minted after the collapse of the Soviet Union live in extreme luxury while much of the population merely subsists. The production, at City Center through Sunday, takes places on a minimalist set depicting a gleaming modern kitchen decked out in stainless steel. Video has become an almost obligatory element of European avant-garde theater (see Declan Donnellan’s stimulating “Ubu Roi,” also at the festival this year), and Mr. Ostermeier’s “Miss Julie” is no exception. A large screen hanging above the black turntable set shows us (mostly) a bird’s-eye view of the proceedings, which begin with the servant Christine (an amusingly unflappable Julia Peresild) meticulously preparing chicken bouillon — for her mistress’s young puppy, who’s been newly spayed.