Wednesday, February 10, 2016

POSTED: Wednesday, January 27, 2016, 11:25 PM

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

Harvey, a genial, old-fashioned comedy, is currently providing gentle, old-fashioned entertainment at the Walnut Street Theatre. There are lots of wink/wink, nudge/nudge sexual innuendos, while the tiptop cast made up of some of Philadelphia's favorite actors—all masters of the double-take—is hamming it up under Bob Carlton's broad direction.

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POSTED: Wednesday, January 20, 2016, 11:32 PM

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

Oscar Wilde: From the Depths, is a bio-drama about the author of some of the most delightfully witty social comedies ever written. Lantern Theater Company is presenting the world premiere of Charles McMahon's play where delight, wit, social comedy and general theatrical joy are in very short supply. This is Wilde in earnest mode, sloshing around in self-pity and sentimentality, reciting long passages from Wilde's books as though they were conversation. The play's subtitle is the English version of De Profundis, Wilde's long letter to his lover, Bosie, which he wrote while in prison for "gross indecency."

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POSTED: Sunday, January 17, 2016, 11:16 PM

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

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POSTED: Friday, January 15, 2016, 5:06 PM

How to remain objective when writing about a company you love, with a choreographer you adore and a dancer you’ve admired since you first saw him? If you’ve got a pulse, it’s not easy. Especially if the company is Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, which opened NextMove’s [cq] 2016 spring season at the Prince Theater Wednesday night.

BJM performed here in 2004 and 2012 and Artistic director Louis Robitaille continues to fill his roster with impeccable dancers. They sizzled to Rodrigo Pederneiras’ Rouge, featuring the stellar company with Mark Francis Caserta, dancing to his hometown audience with a luxuriantly sensual vengeance.

Pederneiras (e família) founded another beloved dance company of mine, São Paulo’s Grupo Corpo and I worried the Montreal dancers would not be up to his arduous, whiplash style. How foolish of me. The formidable BJM  forces stormed the stage in black ankle boots, simple shifts and armbands to music composed by Canada’s Les Freres Grand, an homage to traditional Amerindian music. Pederneiras’ movement influences range from indigenous to industrial, with signature phrases that include head-snapping, knee-and-heel rocking, C-curving torsos, and tight-fisted arm swings, often in unison. The dancers eddy off into duets and trios that reform into the larger pool flooding the space with an ever-percolating flow of reverse skipping, sliding and slithering along each other’s bodies. Brother Gabriel  Pederneiras’ cathedral-like crimson shafts of light flooded the work.

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POSTED: Friday, January 15, 2016, 7:50 AM

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

A Moon for the Misbegotten,  Eugene O'Neill's last mighty play, is at the Independence Studio at the Walnut Street Theatre, about to start a fifteen-city tour. It is an exhausting play to watch (so long, so sad, so much blather about pigs, so many lies), so I can only imagine how exhausting it must be to perform. Even moreso if you are just recovering from a leg amputation, as Michael Toner is, after a hit-and-run accident seven months ago. He is a superb actor, and he plays Hogan with such twinkly charm, such authenticity and such a tasty Irish accent, that the performance would be a triumph without admiring his strength of will to return to the stage.

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POSTED: Thursday, January 14, 2016, 7:49 AM

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

Last month playwright Tom Stoppard, author of The Hard Problem, and David Chalmers, the philosopher who coined the phrase "The Hard Problem," appeared on the Wilma stage to discuss, muse upon, and debate the nature of consciousness. What, Stoppard wondered aloud, is the connection between consciousness and value,  "undemonstrable, undefinable, but necessary value."  Chalmers quipped that "consciousness is that annoying time between naps."

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POSTED: Sunday, January 10, 2016, 7:06 PM

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

Martin McDonagh, eat your heart out. The Changeling, written in 1622 by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, out-gruesomes contemporary blood-letting onstage by adding steamy sex instead of stupidity to the mix.  In a terrific production by Red Bull Theater, a company specializing in Jacobean plays, this drama of love and loathing is given a fine and very enjoyable revival. Director Jesse Berger has managed the essential trick: avoid the slightest whiff of parody, and play it to the hilt.

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POSTED: Saturday, January 9, 2016, 8:44 PM

by Toby Zinman

for the Inquirer

This magnificent  Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof is guaranteed to leave you farklempt (the Yiddish word means choked with emotion). "Tradition" the show's opening song sung by the superb Danny Burstein with his big, warm baritone, sets the stage and the theme. And it's not just the tradition of the shtetl, where Poppa was boss and women were obedient, but the tradition of the great old Broadway musicals, shows with depth of character and complexity of plot that will move you in a dozen different ways. And when the Fiddler (Jesse Kovarsky) flies across the night sky with his violin, he seems to have flown out of a Chagall painting, honoring another traditional image of romantic Yiddishkeit.

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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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