http://www.digitaljournal.com/a-and-e/arts/theatre-of-human-bondage-perfectly-adapts-maugham-s-novel/article/382083

Theatre: Of Human Bondage perfectly adapts Maugham's novel Special

Posted Apr 25, 2014 by David Silverberg
Few theatre productions have moved me as much as Of Human Bondage, the adaptation of the classic 1915 W. Somerset Maugham novel, staged by Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre Company.
Philip (Gregory Prest) and Mildred (Michelle Monteith) from a scene from the theatrical adaptation o...
Philip (Gregory Prest) and Mildred (Michelle Monteith) from a scene from the theatrical adaptation of Of Human Bondage
Courtesy Soulpepper
The first theatrical adaptation of this rich textured novel is long overdue. Of Human Bondage peers hard into the emotional complexity of relationships lost and found, with philosophical brushtrokes probing the essence of art vs. science, free will vs. destiny. It's heady stuff, but thankfully Soulpepper pulled off a theatrical adapation I won't soon forget.
Of Human Bondage follows London medical student Philip Carey trying to survive the rigours of school. He soon falls in love with a waitress but she doesn't share the same feelings, instead using Philip for his kindness and wallet. The story is autobiographical, in fact, because Maugham once said: "I have most loved people who cared little or nothing for me..."
Carey navigates his relationship with Mildred with the weakest backbone you have ever seen, cowering at her insults and begging for forgiveness when he blows up on her. You are rooting for Carey to grow a spine, but also urge him to find a woman who actually supports him. Carey does indeed dive into a love triangle that threatens both his profession and sanity, and finding out how he tries to survive unscathed is truly enjoyable viewing.
Gregory Prest as Philip shines with a truly mind-searing display of emotional range. He bounces from whiney to determined to inspired to melancholic without it looking forced; and the tragedy of his decisions are often etched on his pained face.
Playing a manipulative character with talons of steel, Michelle Monteith shows great strength as Mildred, and she spits her lines with all the vitriol of a person so low on self-esteem she has to push down others to feel on top.
Kudos to director Albert Schultz for igniting the London scenes with the hustle of the market streets. Placing musicians on stage added a genuine personality to the production, and it was remarklable to see how Schultz played with imagery: real actors were used to portray Carey's paintings, as they struck poses behind frames. And the audience won't soon forget the play's opening scene of a cello portrayed as a human cadaver, its "parts" shadowed on a brick wall.
A scene from the theatrical adaptation of Of Human Bondage
A scene from the theatrical adaptation of Of Human Bondage
Courtesy Soulpepper
What makes this work so profound is its humanity. It doesn't matter the setting is early 20th-centruy London; the drama behind the relationships is stunningly realistic, as if Maugham has been peering into the lives of modern-day folks who are also pained by men and women who can't return the love they receive.
Soulpepper has produced a winning production with no discernible flaws. Toronto is lucky to be treated to Of Human Bondage, and let's hope other cities can be treated to this gem as well.
Of Human Bondage runs until May 17. The venue is the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane, Toronto. For info, visit the Soulpepper site.