Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Review: "Lincoln Luck"

Abe Lincoln had an irksome dream that he'd be assassinated just two weeks before he actually was. Dancer Lindsay Browning and her father, actor David Browning, collaborated in a dance theater work they called Lincoln Luck that evoked a dreamlike atmosphere while not treating it as a narrative. It premiered at the Painted Bride over Lincoln's birthday weekend. Critic Merilyn Jackson describes.

Review: "Lincoln Luck"


By Merilyn Jackson

Abe Lincoln had an irksome dream that he’d be assassinated just two weeks before he actually was. Dancer Lindsay Browning and her father, actor David Browning, collaborated in a dance theater work they called Lincoln Luck that evoked a dreamlike atmosphere while not treating it as a narrative. It premiered at the Painted Bride over Lincoln’s birthday weekend.

The audience entered through the café with David Browning, bearded and in Lincoln dress, inviting us to follow him into the theater. Of course -- the theater, where Lincoln goes to meet his end.

Lindsay Browning  is there waiting for us onstage, in a harness and hoop skirt with three long white trains trailing out in different directions. With one red-gloved hand, she waves the air before her, writhing within these confines like a woman possessed. She’s soon set herself free and dances to Thomas Wave’s sitar, guitar and organic sound environment.

The set consisted of three long rectangles for the poetic video projections by Gaetan Spurgin. Tommy Burkel is the youngster in one of the videos and Myra Bazell dances in another. 

The lighting by Madison Cario infused the work with a mournful aura that also helped to create the work's ambiguity. This moody atmosphere sometimes overwhelmed the piece, becoming more dominant than the meaning, which was hard to decipher. We were supposed to be viewing Lincoln as a 217-year-old man, dancing with his daughter in 2026, thought that didn’t come through for me.. Nevertheless, if you took it as a mystical dream and just went with it, it had its moments of clarity and beauty.

When John Luna joined Lindsay Browning in a duet, each swung a gold pocket watch on a chain. Luna took a walk to and fro, still swinging his watch by its fob, but it pulled him in the opposite direction each time. Is time tugging him back?   

David Browning’s soliloquies were lovely, notably the one where Lincoln speculates on what would have happened if he’d had a daughter, rather than four sons: “A girl would’ve changed us,” he says, “to dance while bullets rang out.” He was most charming when he carried in a birthday balloon and blew out the candles on what looked like his birthday pie. The candles read 87, bringing us back from the future to the present. And the lights went out.





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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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