Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review: MARRIAGE (an utterly improbable occurrence in two acts)

Plot isn't the point, but style is,Toby Zinman wrote, and the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium's production carries "Marriage," Gogol's 19th century Russian farce, off with considerable ridiculopathy.

Review: MARRIAGE (an utterly improbable occurrence in two acts)


By Toby Zinman

Nikalai Gogol, the 19th century Russian writer with a strong sense of the ridiculopathy of life — after all, he wrote a story about a nose -- would seem to be a perfect fit for the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, a theater company specializing in Theater of the Absurd, though Gogol’s play Marriage (an utterly improbably occurrence in two acts) isn’t really absurdist drama — it’s a farce, complete with loud voices,  many doors (and a significant window).

Under Tina Brock’s direction, everything is farcically exaggerated: costumes (Erica Hoeschler) and a nifty set (Anna Kiraly) on which all the much-discussed furnishings are flat, painted images, with flat, painted trees outside. It’s all amusing, in that broad, 19th century Russian way.

“There are such bloody awful names in Russian — they make you want to spit and cross yourself.”  That being the case, it’s quite possible that I’ll mis-identify some of these actors, since it’s nearly impossible to keep their characters’ names straight. But here goes:

A young woman, Agafya Tikhonovna Kuperdyagina (see what I mean?), played by Kristen Egermeier, needs a husband. Her ditsy mother, Arina Panteleimonovna (Sonja Robson), agrees. Enter a matchmaker, Fyokla Feklusha Ivanovna (Tina Brock), who has six candidates — one handsome, one fat, twin peasants, a young gentleman, a retired naval officer -- lined up for her to choose among. This is a predictable occasion for class insults. Meanwhile, one of the eligibles is being hounded by his friend to hurry up and marry (motive unclear unless it’s simply that misery loves company).

The guys — John D’Alonzo, David Stanger, Ethan Lipkin, Joe Matyas, Michael Dura and Tomas Dura -- are all good, although Brian McCann as the old deaf lecher is outstanding.

There is much balking at the gate; first the groom, then the bride, then the groom again, then the bride again until finally …. Well, it hardly matters. Plot isn’t the point, but style is, and the IRC production carries Marriage off with considerable ridiculopathy.

At the Walnut Street Theatre's Studio 5, 9th & Walnut Streets. Through Feb.26. Tickets: $20. Information: or 215.285.0472


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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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