Friday, September 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Review: THE COUNTRY

By Toby Zinman

Review: THE COUNTRY

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By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

 

 

 

Forget Kate and Petruchio. Forget George and Martha. If you want really ferocious marital torment, watch  Richard and Corinne quietly, icily go at it in Martin Crimp’s The Country, which opened Wednesday night in Tiny Dynamite’s elegant production at the Walnut Studio 5.

“That’s not what this is about.”

“Then what is it about?”

Good question.

Crimp’s play is a study in ambiguity: elusive, elliptical, mysterious, The Country keeps us trying to figure out what is happening or what has happened. Some of what we know is that Richard (Carl Granieri) and Corinne (Emma Gibson) have moved, with their two children, to the country; their house, what we see of it—a wooden table and chairs, a breakfront—seems to be located inside a cave (an unsettling visual effect created by Zachery Limbert). 

Richard is a physician, and his partner, Maurice,  a doctor we know only from phone calls, has lied about some medical event—perhaps a patient’s death--for which Richard seems to have been to blame. Maurice’s interest in Corinne is problematic.

But nevermind that. There is a young woman, Rebecca (Laura Michelle Edoff) who is Richard’s lover, who has attempted to leave him by moving from the city to the country, and the family’s move has been his attempt to follow her.(“Her body became the city; he could unfold her like a map.”) One night he brings her, unconscious, into the house and puts her to bed. Confrontations ensue. Although the scenes seem to be sequential, things happen, or are implied to have happened, but which we don’t see or haven’t seen.

David O’Connor’s fine direction creates a sense of urgent foreboding, and watching these skillful actors is unnerving and disquieting. Carl Granieri has one of those dimples that makes it impossible to read what his face is saying, while Emma Gibson is both nervewrackingly serene and unglued. As Rebecca, Laura Michelle Edoff creates an utterly postmodern personality—vicious and needy, intellectual and mocking.

Virgil, the Latin poet, is invoked several times, as though to comment on the deterioration of the pastoral tradition, a vulgar lament for the land, the countryside, laking the sheep and shepherds.

Deeply in Pinter’s debt, Crimp uses language and silence like a surgeon, although it is hard to tell whether the patient has been saved or murdered by his operation;  as one character says, “There is a limit to what the two of us can say in words.”  

 

Tiny Dynamite Productions at Walnut Street Theatre Studio 5, 9th & Walnut Sts. Through July 1. Tickets $15-20. Information: www.tinydynamite.org or 800-838-3006.

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


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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