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Psychological warfare runs deeps in blistering ‘Creditors’

Gabriel Ruiz stars as Adolph LindGillum portrays Tekl'Creditors' Remy Bumppo Theatre.

Gabriel Ruiz stars as Adolph and Linda Gillum portrays Tekla in "Creditors" at Remy Bumppo Theatre.

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When: Through June 2

Where: Remy Bumppo Theatre at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln

Tickets: $27.50 - $42.50

Info: (773) 404-7336;

Run time: 90 minutes, with no intermission

Updated: May 28, 2013 7:22PM

August Strindberg’s play, “The Creditors” — now in a tightly turned Remy Bummpo Theatre production — has little to do with money. Rather, it is about the always shifting currency of sexual power, particularly as it plays itself out in classic triangular form.

Adapted by David Greig (the Scottish playwright also responsible for “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,” the inspired production recently seen at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, as well as “Yellow Moon,” the story of a modern day Bonnie and Clyde, now at Glencoe’s Writers’ Theatre), “The Creditors” is an intriguing 90-minute talkathon that has been neatly directed by Sandy Shinner. As often is the case with the late 19th century Swedish playwright’s work, it veers between blistering misogyny and ahead-of-its-time feminism. And whatever Strindberg created, Greig clearly has pushed just a little bit further.

Set in an elegant apartment at a Swedish island resort, the play’s upscale bohemian world is beautifully conjured by Jeffrey W. Bauer’s marvelous set — a perfect evocation of the milk white decor and gauzy curtains found in the interiors of Carl Larsson, master of the Swedish Arts and Crafts Movement.

The owner of this apartment is Tekla (Linda Gillum, a most stylish flirt). A successful novelist, she is now married to her second husband, Adolph (Gabriel Ruiz, who captures the soft, malleable neediness of his character), a painter-turned-sculptor who is somewhat younger and less experienced than his wife, and wholly in thrall to her.

It is not long before Tekla’s first husband, the older, shrewder, manipulative and jealous Gustav (Mark L. Montgomery, a most sophisticated villain) arrives on the scene. He proceeds, Iago-like, to gain the confidence of the insecure Adolph, listening to him go on and on about how Tekla has helped shape and change him. He then plants subtle but poisonous seeds of doubt in the man — telling him that a woman never loves her second husband as she did her first — and suggesting that Tekla has emasculated him. He also advises Adolph that the only way to regain his dominance in the relationship is to withhold sex for a year.

Gustav’s next “victim” is Tekla, who he teasingly tries to seduce again, using the most warping tactics.

Later, after much damage has been done, Ruiz tells Tekla: “You stopped loving me when I became your creditor,” meaning that his initial thrill for her — as a young, handsome lover and promising, gifted artist — lost its tantalizing value once he became dependent on her love.

To be sure, Strindberg’s view of relationships is not for romantics. Chillingly cynical and blisteringly honest he also has no need for the sort of literal murder and remorse found in Shakespeare’s “Othello.” Strindberg’s currency is psychological warfare. And it’s not at all pretty.

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