Monday, April 27, 2015

Review: Longing for Language: A Performance Smorgasbord

A little of this, a little of that, all seen in a walk through a large room in South Philadelphia in "Longing with Language." Inquirer theater critic Howard Shapiro reviews from the Live Arts Festival/Philly Fringe.

Review: Longing for Language: A Performance Smorgasbord

By Howard Shapiro

The subject is longing -- a theme that came to theater artists David O'Connor, Kittson O'Neill and Miriam White. So they decked out an airless room in an unused space on 21st Street in South Philadelphia, with a bed, some chairs here and there, a microphone, a wall-projection of videos with people telling you what they long for ("good Mexican food," "making use of my life," "more" and the like) and snack all around. I myself had a soda and a Snickers bar.

It's a little theatrical experiment with little theatrics, not essential but interesting and surely Fringe-worthy. We enter and for the first few minutes -- parts of the show change daily, so what I saw you might not see -- assess the room, the sign that announces "Office of Interior and Exterior ID, Open," the actors reading prepared pieces on the nature of longing, a magician (Harrison Lampert) doing tricks with cards and foam balls. 

Then comes about 35 minutes of performance, four or five little pieces, that the audience stands around to witness.  One of these, from Bi Jean Ngo, was a bittersweet bit about her mom and Viet Nam, another was a dance by Ruby MacDougall in which she was Feifferesque in her movement and look. Amanda Schoonover performed a pleasant piece about a bride's overreaching, by the local playwright Jacqueline Goldfinger, and it all ended with Lauren Feldman's playlet, The Seven Lovers of Bluehat Whistletop. All these pieces very subtly considered the idea of longing -- the theme is not pushed in your face -- and were short. The show's three creatiors call it a smorgasbord, but instead of big plates to pick from, its a selection of performance tapas. 

Longing with Language: $10. 8 p.m. Sept. 14, 15 and 16; 2 and 5 p.m. Sept. 17.

About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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