Partners: McKellon And Mirren In “Dance Of Death”
miss these two great British stars in top form, Ian McKellen and
Helen Mirren as Edgar and Alice, in August Strindberg’s Dance
of Death. However, be prepared for some surprises. Director
Sean Mathias’ production at the Broadhurst brings out the light
notes in this renowned dark drama. Written in 1901, Strindberg’s
play is famous as the inspiration for such marriage-on-the-rocks
dramas as Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Who’s Afraid
of Virginia Woolf?
McKellen and Mirren always are thoroughly captivating to watch,
this production punches up the play’s dark and deadly humor but
rarely reveals it’s underlying anguish. The skilled actors draw
the audience into their mordant world, verbally thrusting and
parrying with great dexterity and wit. McKellen’s Edgar is also
particularly well portrayed through intricate body language. In
one stellar moment, he dances a jig falling perhaps dead to the
floor. Alice’s “Hurrah!” here fosters laughter.
In a nutshell: Life has left these two behind; Edgar’s army captain
has never been promoted from his post on a small isolated island
where he despises everyone. “Bottom feeders,” is what he calls
them in American playwright Richard Greenberg’s new hip adaptation.
Alice, too, has shattered dreams. She was a young actress with
a promising career before she married Edgar, who forced her to
give it up. Now she constantly reminds her husband what she sacrificed
for him. His answer? A protracted yawn. Throughout the first act,
they approach their silver anniversary with new assaults to rub
into old wounds. Their only visitor, Alice’s cousin Kurt, is played
by David Strathairn who is too bland in the part.
Edgar’s other sparring partner is death, but he prefers to ignore
it. His spiritual awakening at the end of the play, when he realizes
that the answer to life’s disappointments and death’s inevitability
is forgiveness not vengeance, is this production’s most moving
moment. “Let’s move on,” he says, taking Alice’s hand.
Mathias’ plays up the drama’s spooky dimension with distant foghorns,
mysterious mists and flickering candlelight. Santo Loquasto’s
set is a tilting fortress with an overpowering white tower. The
play’s last performance will be January 13, 2002. #
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