Sunday, February 14, 2016


By Toby Zinman



By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

Ibsen's The Lady from the Sea is not nearly as famous nor as frequently performed as A Doll's House or Hedda Gabler.But it does take up the same enduring and fascinating questions: is marriage a viable social institution? Are women free to exercise their will within the bourgeois confines of being a wife? Is it possible for men and women to understand each other? But in Lady from the Sea, EgoPo's second installment in their Ibsen season, the master goes beyond these societal issues and deals with the depths of the psyche, exploring the profound pull of sexual "terror" that both repels and attracts.

The Lady in question is Ellida (Genevieve Perrier), second wife to Dr. Wangel (Ed Swidey). They live with his two daughters, Bolette (K.O. DelMarcelle) and Hilde (Lee Minora) in a stultifying landscape; Ellida, a lighthouse keeper's daughter, longs to live by the sea, as she always had before she married. An emblematic painting described in the first moments of the play shows a dying mermaid who cannot "acclimatize" to land.

There are a bunch of subplots involving an elderly teacher (Ross Beschler who is too young for the role) and a sickly sculptor (Kevin Chick). A mysterious central figure is called The Stranger, a seductive sailor who has haunted Ellida's life.  We should initially doubt the reality of his existence—he should come and go like magic. But Robert Carlton's portrayal is all too stolid; he neither looks nor moves like a life-wrecking, irresistible man.

It's telling that the EgoPo's program does not acknowledge a translator; somebody has changed Ibsen's script and made nonsense of the conclusion by adding a scene which distorts two characters and shifts the focus from the lady from the sea to her young stepdaughter. If you're going to spend a season on an iconic playwright, show him some respect.

Directed by Brenda Geffers, Perrier, Swidey and Minora give natural, engaging performances; everybody else seems stuck in a stiff delivery, just as they seem stuck in costumes (Robin Shane) that are clearly not their own clothes.  The set, designed by Dan Soule, makes lovely use of the big, airy space, and Matt Sharp's lighting adds meaning and charm to this engrossing production.


EgoPo Classic Theater at Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American St. Through March 2. Tickets $22-35. Information: 215-273-1414 or

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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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