Saturday, February 13, 2016

POSTED: Friday, September 4, 2015, 4:52 PM

By Wendy Rosenfield

for the Inquirer

It’s important to note that Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s staging of Ingmar Bergman’s films After the Rehearsal (1984) and Persona (1966), as reimagined by the acclaimed Dutch director Ivo Van Hove, relies solely on Bergman’s script as source material, and not his cinematic vision. He’s done it before, with variations on Cries and Whispers and Scenes from a Marriage. 
It seems a perverse approach, but then again, it makes perfect sense; Bergman said exactly what he wanted to say on film. His words, however, in this setting, might reveal new angles, particularly since both works deal with life on and offstage.
After the Rehearsal doesn’t match Persona’s emotional impact. The former is a study of Hendrik Vogler, a director grappling with Strindberg, his dead actress lover Rachel and her alluring actress daughter Anna. It’s mostly straightforward, and the novel perspective Van Hove contributes to the piece lies in shifting the power dynamic between Vogler and his women. 
Gijs Scholten van Aschat makes for a more virile Vogler than the film’s Erland Josephson, Marieke Heebink’s Rachel and Gaite Jansen’s Anna hold their heads high as contemporary women with confidence they lacked in the original. Bergman framed Rachel in beastly close-ups, a maudlin, ugly portrait. Here, in full view (Van Hove has Hendrik film Anna’s face and project it on a wall, but aside from highlighting her youth and beauty, it’s an unnecessary, distracting gesture), they’re charming, fighters who see right through Hendrik, desperately blasting dated, once-hip music, romancing a past version of himself.
Persona, a Bergman masterwork, examines the psychological breakdown of Elisabeth Vogler (Heebink), an actress who fell silent shortly after a performance of Electra and hasn’t spoken since, and the nurse, Alma (Jansen) tasked with caring for her. Of course, 40 years of discussions remain inconclusive on the question of whether or not this is actually Elisabeth’s or Alma’s breakdown, and Van Hove appears to pick a side, but more important, the second half of this diptych really belongs to Jan Versweyveld’s set. A raised grey concrete slab in a vast pool of water, surrounded by a creeping carpet of fog that matches their increasing confusion, the women’s island retreat takes on a new coldness and desperation. 
Van Hove likes to work with classics, proven entities, but while his insights into Bergman’s scripts merit discussion, one wishes he’d taken them farther. The overlapping themes of these pieces--aging, theater, taboo sex, abortion, motherhood gone awry--copy more than they compliment one another. 
Playing at: 23rd St. Armory, 22 S. 23rd St. Through Sat., Sept. 5. Tickets: $15 to $35. Information: 215-413-1318 or
Wendy Rosenfield @ 4:52 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, September 4, 2015, 12:32 AM

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

You can see the temptation: in 1926, the entire cast of The Captive was arrested, and the American production closed; the content was judged scandalous because the plot centered on a lesbian. It's always interesting to know what was shocking a hundred years ago, but anthropology isn't theater, and there is nothing at all shocking about The Captive now.

Toby Zinman @ 12:32 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, September 3, 2015, 2:27 PM
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Dance at Fringe: Lucinda Childs looks forward and back

Merilyn Jackson, For The Inquirer

Posted: Sunday, August 30, 2015, 3:01 AM

BERLIN - Approaching 75, choreographer Lucinda Childs carries her dancer's body regally. Her high cheekbones and upturned collars reinforce the queenly effect. But though she's a grand dame of American dance across Europe, her work has been more or less on hiatus in the United States until recently.

Merilyn Jackson @ 2:27 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, September 3, 2015, 12:51 AM

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

The "exit" referred to in the title is The Big Exit, and this play, Exit the King by Ionesco is a ninety minute meditation on dying. The central metaphor is that the King's death is echoed by the crumbling of his kingdom, and given recent news of buildings falling into sinkholes, Alaska melting, uncontrolled wildfires, and general ecological mayhem, Exit the King seems to be what is called in sleazeland, "ripped from the headlines."

Toby Zinman @ 12:51 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, August 24, 2015, 11:03 AM

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

"Tell me a scary story," Jenny (Hong Chau) asks her boyfriend Elias (Christopher Abbott).  And he does—or at least starts to—but like many of the stories in Annie Baker's fascinating new play, John, and like the play itself, his story remains unfinished, inconclusive and just a little bit menacing. When it ended abruptly (if a play 3 ¼ hours long can be said to end abruptly), I actually said outloud, "Oh, no!" wanting the mysteries solved, and wanting the theatrical magic to continue.

Toby Zinman @ 11:03 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, August 13, 2015, 9:38 AM

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

Like most critics, I never read reviews before I've written mine, but it was impossible to miss the buzz, the rave headlines, the Sondheim praise, and the line of hopeful returned-ticket buyers on a Wednesday morning. And now I've finally seen Hamilton on Broadway and all I can do is say this was one of the most thrilling theatre experiences I've ever had.

Toby Zinman @ 9:38 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Saturday, August 1, 2015, 10:34 AM

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

 Heathers: the Musical was adapted by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O'Keefe  from the 1988 mean girls cult movie. Now, Vulcan Lyric, formerly known as the Center City Opera Theater, launches their Summer Festival with this rock musical and three operas running  in rep through mid-August.   And although Vucan Lyric's announced mission is to develop "new works with contemporary resonance," Heathers: the Musical has already had an off-Broadway run.  

Toby Zinman @ 10:34 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, July 21, 2015, 9:13 PM
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Posted: Tuesday, July 21, 2015, 3:01 AM

A wide range of styles typifies the annual Come Together Festival, opening Wednesday at Suzanne Roberts Theatre.

The brainchild of Roni Koresh and brother Alon, the festival began in 2013 and has expanded rapidly, jumping from 26 companies presented last year to 33 this year. That includes a few out-of-towners: 10 Hairy Legs (Highland Park, N.J.), Ballet Inc. (New York), and Donald Byrd's Seattle-based Spectrum Dance Theater. Byrd has achieved international visibility for his creation of the Harlem Nutcracker and his choreography for the Broadway smash The Color Purple.

Merilyn Jackson @ 9:13 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
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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