Even in this age of celebrity sex tapes and nude snapshots on Twitter, watching Carey Mulligan in “Through a Glass Darkly” feels like a major invasion of privacy. Portraying a young woman sliding into insanity in Jenny Worton’s stage adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s 1961 film, which opened on Monday night at the New York Theater Workshop, Ms. Mulligan creates the illusion of someone who has no idea that she’s being observed.
There are moments when this extraordinary actress behaves with an ugliness and ungainliness that people reserve for those moments when they’re sure they’re alone. On other occasions she is lovely and ingratiating company, at least on the surface. Karin, Ms. Mulligan’s character, is on vacation with the members of her family, and she wants more than anything for all of them to get along.
But as hard as she tries, Karin can’t stop feeling the pull of the shadow world inside her, a world that starts to seem more real than any external existence. Ms. Mulligan makes sure that we, too, feel that gravitational force, and it is not an easy sensation. But if you want to experience the shock of illumination that acting, at its best, can achieve — and only occasionally does — you need to see Ms. Mulligan’s performance.