Thursday, August 21, 2014
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FringeArts Dance Theater: Review

Three overly-caffeinated Frenchmen are horrified and mystified to discover a used tea bag in their coffee shop. War ensues.

FringeArts Dance Theater: Review

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By Merilyn Jackson

For The Inquirer

A friend told me that the best coffee in Colombia is called Perfect Love. In The Society, by Norwegian choreographer/theater director/playwright Jo Strømgren, Philippe, one of a trio of French coffee lovers, is served a cup by Louis and a third gum-chewing pal. Philippe overwhelms them by correctly identifying it is as Colombian -- Esperanza to be exact -- another specialty grower. Save for a key word in English or French, the dialogue is entirely gibberish and the plot unfolds through outrageously exaggerated dreamlike dancing, innuendo and inflection.

In its second FringeArts appearance, Jo Strømgren Kompani exploded on the Painted Bride Friday night. A teabag turns up, injecting caffeinoia into their smug little café world. How did it get there? Who brought it? When chopsticks and a likeness of Chairman Mao appear, they’re soon torturing each other like Norwegian-style Three Stooges to get at the truth.

The actor/dancers, Bartek Kaminski, John Fjeinseth Brungot, and Trond Fausa Aurvâg, gesticulate in universally recognizable ways and spew their lines without understanding a word of Strømgren’s invented languages, making the company’s work accessible to any audience in the world.

Lighting and sound effects intensify the tea/coffee dichotomy and amplify it as metaphor for the differences between the East and the West. As hilarious savagery ensues, it becomes clear that politics, war and domination are at the heart of this society, where hope and love cannot be found in a cup of coffee.

Painted Bride 230 Vine St.  Sept. 7, 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. Sept. 8 2 p.m. 65 mins., FringeArts.com

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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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