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The Baroness - Isak Dinesen's Final Affair

From 15 critic and 71 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Intelligent, Slow, Thought-provoking

About the show

Scandinavian American Theater Company presents the U.S. premiere of this drama inspired by the true story of author Isak Dinesen's relationship with a much younger poet. More…

Karen Blixen, better known by her pen name Isak Dinesen, wrote such epic tales as 'Out of Africa' and 'Babette's Feast.' At the pinnacle of her fame in 1948, the 62 year-old Blixen was introduced to 29-year-old Danish poet Thorkild Bjørnvig by his publisher’s wife, Benedicte. Blixen took Thorkild under her wing and the two shared a powerful, dangerous, and intimate friendship. This is a tale of passion, courage, art, love, and lust between a young ambitious poet, a grand dame of literature, and the charming wife of their patron.


“Dramatizations of the lives of authors rarely work as it is very difficult to show them in the act of creation. In ‘The Baroness - Isak Dinesen's Final Affair,’ Thor Bjørn Krebs has brought Karen Blixen and Thorkild Bjørnvig to vivid life both as people and as artists using primary sources. Dee Pelletier and Conrad Ardelius do not seem to be acting these roles as much as living them. Just try taking your eyes away from the stage for a moment.” Full Review

Reviews Off Broadway

“Dee Pelletier is pulling off a brilliant turn as Karen Blixen in ‘The Baroness, Isak Dinesen's Final Affair’ at the Clurman Theater. The story sets out to detail the final mentor relationship / love affair of Blixen's life with a young poet played by Conrad Ardelius. It tells their true story as it delivers a symposium on art, love, dedication and desire. It is an inspiring show for the creator or lover of art in all forms.” Full Review

Applause! Applause!

“The play chronicles the intense and strange relationship between the young, Thorkild Bjornvig, and the famous, Baroness Karen Blixen (known in the United States by the pseudonym Isak Dinesen), who takes a special interest in his ‘career’ after he published his collection of poems in 1947. Many aspects of this play were revealing and powerful, especially regarding the creative process which Blixen states ‘takes courage.’ I recommend it.” Full Review

Off Off Online

"Krebs’ free-ranging interpretation of Bjørnvig and Blixen’s relationship is a charged, if occasionally uneven, treatment of ambition, love, literature, and pain…This plays out best in moments of intense emotion, where Krebs has wrought some fine dialogue…Their sexual chemistry is surprisingly palpable, and Hegland somehow imbues a sense of will-they-or-won’t-they into the narrative in spite of Blixen’s weltering temper, their age difference and their continual clash of egos." Full Review


"The second act doubles down on the less interesting angle of Krebs's drama in ways that make its ending play as more of an exhausted shrug than a satisfying, if tragic, conclusion...The drama, for the most part, is riveting, especially with Pelletier commanding our attention as Blixen...As a character study of an irresistibly eccentric and elusive artist, 'The Baroness' leaves a lasting impression long after the details of this particular affair have dissolved." Full Review

Village Voice

"Both Pelletier and Ardelius are ideally cast in their roles...But there is an imbalance here in the writing. The first act lasts for an hour and a half, and so all the scenes where Blixen is yelling at or manipulating Bjørnvig get tiring...Yet this look at Blixen’s last great platonic love affair is studded with some of the best observations from her stories and interviews, and these lines, as delivered by Pelletier, have a romantic force that lingers." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"A strange work...Anyone expecting the subtitle with the word 'Affair' to indicate some hot sex between an older woman and the young poet and writer will not find any such thing depicted...Under the direction of Hegland, Pelletier gives a go-for-broke performance that dominates the stage...The play would gain from shortening (it is two hours plus an intermission), but the performances hold attention, especially that of Pelletier in what amounts to a showcase role for her." Full Review

Woman Around Town

"A compelling, if lead-driven play. Blixen is consistently intriguing, the story credible. History is deftly embedded rather than crammed in as exposition...One of the ugliest, most inappropriate sets I’ve ever seen...Hegland splendidly manifests his Baroness in all respects...Acting is a mixed bag...Pelletier’s embodiment of the Baroness is pithy. Her invaluable decisions about Blixen serve voice, posture, timing, and attitude creating an intense, cohesive woman." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"The poetry and the artistic ideas are there...but much is lost in this overly long play, trapped in a whirlwind of repetitive dramatics and themes, and weighed down by a bland portrayal of a handsome poet...The real magic of this piece lies with Pelletier...The stage is only alive and vibrating when she is on...Some more carving and sculpturing might be required to create a truly mesmerizing and emotionally powerful portrait of this captivating woman." Full Review

The Reviews Hub

“The production telegraphs the sinister nature of this relationship, and spells out the Greek inevitability of the poet’s fall...Ardelius plays a mannerly, almost wooden Adonis, hoping to get his groove back. Pelletier is a smokey-eyed necromancer, gliding through a script that wanders while trying to connect the historical dots...The play is a series of conversations that explore what it takes to be an artist, and what a lifetime of creativity yields." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"'The Baroness: Isak Dinesen’s Final Affair' is showcasing a performance so dazzling as to bring to mind all the splendid actresses who played Amanda Wingfield. This is a tour de force for Dee Pelletier...The work is abstruse, the first act seemingly endless. Although there are verbal fireworks, there is little warmth. We are not drawn to the characters, none of whom is admirable. They evoke neither empathy nor sympathy." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“Biographical plays about writers and their ideas on and problems with writing rarely make great theatre…The dialogue is wooden, the situations artificial, and the inspiration commonplace. Thorkild comes off more as an earnest cipher…than a three-dimensional person. She…is…reminiscent of Gloria Swanson's more egregious moments in 'Sunset Boulevard'…'The Baroness' doesn't shed additional light on Isak Dinesen's writing…As theatre, it's rather dull stuff and could use a growling lion or two.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"A bizarre hybrid of highfalutin book chat, gossipy revelations, and sexual intrigues. It isn't good, but it certainly is a camp...'The Baroness' is weighed down by loads of pretentious dialogue and an inability to render its central situation in any kind of believable way...Pelletier is a fine actress, and her excesses here are surely in the service of her director and the script. At least she keeps things lively, as opposed to Ardelius, whose Bjørnvig is a doltish and passive male ingenue." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"That she’s a mad woman, in Krebs’s dramatic estimation, gets increasingly clearer, and don’t you know there are those plays when viewers get to musing about why the character confronting such off-putting behavior doesn’t just leave? The answer to the question is usually that the playwright won’t allow it for fear of then having no play left...Pelletier, Ardelius and what they can with the hyper-roles. Director Henning Hedland should take much of the credit for that." Full Review


"The production's three actors make the most of the flat characters they've been given...The tale of obsession Krebs has fabricated from odds and ends of the historical record isn't likely to send playgoers in search of Dinesen's literary works. Bereft of the elegance, humor, and suspense that characterize the Baroness's own fiction, Krebs' drama offers only a couple of scenes of engaging dialogue before devolving into ponderous chatter about sad, ugly events." Full Review

Ambitious, Must see, Intelligent

See it if you'd like to see an interesting contemporary play about an absolutely fascinating and groundbreaking woman.

Don't see it if only like large bombastic Disney-like shows.

Clever, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy good acting and good writing

Don't see it if You don't care for romance

Entertaining, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Informative

See it if You are interested in learning about Isak Dinesen's fascinating life. Well acted, truthfully brought to life on an interesting stage.

Don't see it if You don't care who Isak Dinesen was. Don't care to see an older woman's charisma at work. You don't believe in magic.

Absorbing, Enchanting, Entertaining, Delightful, Ambitious

See it if Like period plays, base on A true story, and love, to see someone that's really good at their craft. She was Superb.

Don't see it if Don't like older women trying to seduce younger men.

Also The actress that played the Baroness, was absolutely phenomenal. She r... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great staging, Great writing, Good acting

See it if This well written play captures the influence of the aging outstanding storyteller Dinesen, on the young poet Bjørnvig’s career.

Don't see it if you do not like biographical material in any form

Also They sealed a “pact” of friendship, which lasted only four years due t... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Masterful

See it if you enjoy dramas about deep, complex relationships.

Don't see it if you don't appreciate good theater!

Also I was entranced by the storytelling in this play. Based on a real writ... Read more Read less

Marvelous, tragic, absorbing

See it if You want to be fascinated by a hypnotic, wise and glamorous woman, hurtling towards tragedy.

Don't see it if You have no interest in Karen Blixen. The fact that Act I coud benefit from an additional intermission would make you restive.

Also The tufted sofas represent the age and modesty of the family property,... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Entertaining, Intelligent

See it if You enjoy great word play and clever repartee.

Don't see it if you are expecting a romance.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Slow, Intense

See it if Fine character study of a complex and compelling woman/artist struggling against the inevitable. An exceptional performance by the lead.

Don't see it if You don't like to be so close to a dark, uncomfortable relationship doomed to disaster.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Great acting

See it if You like intense drama about complex relationships; are intrigued about Dinesen's life

Don't see it if Small casts and simple sets can't hold your attention.

Great acting, Absorbing, Intelligent

See it if You enjoy great acting and biographical dramas, especially if you are interested in Isak Dinesen.

Don't see it if You are looking for an action-packed experience. This is a bit slow, but subtlety engaging.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting

See it if You loved "Out of Africa" and are interested in the author

Don't see it if You do not enjoy intelligent dialogue

Great acting, Entertaining, Clever, Thought-provoking, Intelligent

See it if You enjoy plots that have underlying meanings, indirect story lines, w/good acting and unique staging

Don't see it if You enjoy light plays

Confusing, Disappointing, Great acting, Slow, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to see a great performance by Broadway's Dee Pelletier. If you've wondered what happened to Karen Blixen after "Out of Africa."

Don't see it if You're allergic to smoke or have health issues exacerbated by smoke.Way too much unnecessary smoking. What's wrong with e-cig?Needs editing!

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Slow, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to see a well acted drama based on the story of Isak Dinesen and her last mentee. Keep count of the end of scene glasses.

Don't see it if you don't like drama and you don't like smelling incense that is substituted for cigarette smoke during the show.

Great acting, Profound, Slow

See it if A complex play about Karen Blixen involving themes of love, loss and commitment. A bit slow with the first act lasting 90 min.

Don't see it if If you enjoy light musicals or dramas with a simple message.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Exquisite, Hilarious

See it if You want to see good acting with a biography based plot with lots of details. Think Mrs Robinson meets Denmark.

Don't see it if You don't like women seducing younger men.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Rich, Curious staging

See it if You want to see a drama, fully developed with rich characters, great acting, lovely costumes and interesting set and lighting.

Don't see it if You want a light fast paced evening.

Generally enjoyable, But not engaging

See it if You are interested in Isak Dinesen and enjoy biographical plays. The lead was quite good, but some of the other acting was rather uneven.

Don't see it if You don't enjoy historical plays, or plays which incorporate poetry into the scenes.

Absorbing, Great acting, Disappointing

See it if you like Isak Dinesen's work. Complex study of her as a mentor to a younger writer.

Don't see it if you aren't a fan of Blixen and historical drama

Ponderous, Arch, Blixen a la cadaverous glenn close sunset blvd, Precious, Self important

See it if You like mannered, larger than life exaggerated central characters. Lovely staging. Slow but I liked the timing. 130 minutes.

Don't see it if the invocation of magic and demons with an omnipotent, omnipresent lead fails to appeal. Very stylized, not much actually happens.

Also I did give it a 75. This 2 plus hours did not feel as long as Charolai... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Imaginitive, Charming, Great staging, Quirky

See it if you're game to be lulled into an intriguing mentor-mentee relationship story; if you like inventive use of music (original & Chopin mix).

Don't see it if you're uncomfie with dynamic (not always believable) of forceful older woman & naive, younger man; you loathe those herbal cigarettes.

Also I didn't know anything about Dinesen beyond seeing Out of Africa film ... Read more Read less

Intelligent, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You like small cast dramas, psychological and dramatic plays

Don't see it if You are looking for something light or comedic

Absorbing, Great acting, Profound, Thought-provoking, Intense

See it if You enjoy fictional accounts of real people; you enjoy plays that are conducive to discussion and analysis.

Don't see it if You prefer light comedy or musicals.

Also A fictional exploration of the symbiotic relationship between the olde... Read more Read less

Great acting, Intelligent, Slow, Thought-provoking, Disappointing

See it if you are curious about writers' process, relationship of writer and his muse, and what happened to Karen Blixen after Kenya (Out of Africa).

Don't see it if you crave more action or music than talk, or are not interested in poetry, writing poetry or fiction for publication, or historical drama