Saturday, August 29, 2015

Review: Play

When dance legend Pina Bausch suggested that and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Shantala Shivalingappa work together, she unleashed a fount of joy for the artists and their audiences, says Lisa Kraus in her review of "Play."

Review: Play


By Lisa Kraus

When dance legend Pina Bausch suggested that and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Shantala Shivalingappa work together, she unleashed a fount of joy for the artists and their audiences. These two virtuosos – he in the kind of contemporary dance that fluidly traverses the space between air and floor, and she a stellar exemplar of Indian Kuchipudi dance -- delightedly push each other and their musician counterparts into passages of extreme beauty, speed and refinement.

Unfolding on a set of mobile platforms with a grid of moving panels for a backdrop, Play is a digest of game structures and cultural exchanges. While trying on each other’s forms, Shivalingappa gamely tumbles to the floor, rocking see-saw-like on her knees, and Cherkaoui does a creditable job of echoing her complex stamping rhythms and elegant hand mudras. The terrific musicians bring in strains of medieval plainsong, flamenco, and taiko drumming, and frequently all the performers join each other in singing.

Most exquisite were Cherkaoui’s marionette-master manipulations of Shivalingappa’s head and hands and the way this scene and many of Play’s other images recur at the end in a dense, layered flashback.

The one missing collaborator was a dramaturg; Play’s episodic quality undercuts the power of its materials and performers. Still, it’s a ‘do not miss.’

The artists will also take part in Saturday’s free symposium: ‘Conversations on Cross Cultural Identity in 21st Century Performance.’

$25-30. 8 p.m. 9/16 & 17. Prince Music Theatre, 1412 Chestnut St. The Prince also is the site of a free symposium, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 9/17. 

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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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