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October 21, 2014:

The Dance of Death reviewed by Rob Stevens

Edward Albee’s George and Martha must be genetically linked to August Strindberg’s Edgar and Alice or at the very least it’s a tip of the hat from one playwright to another. About 60 years separates Albee’s battling husband and wife from Strindberg’s combative couple but they are so very alike. Pasadena’s Classical Theatre, A Noise Within, is presenting Strindberg’s The Dance of Death in a new translation by modern Irish playwright Conor McPherson. McPherson has made the dialogue more of today’s vernacular and induced additional laughs into the proceedings but he hasn’t dulled the bitter battle of the sexes as first put forth by Swedish playwright Strindberg in 1900.

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(all photos by Craig Schwartz)

Edgar (Geoff Elliott) is a Captain in the military but his temperament and drinking have kept him from advancement. Now he is in virtual exile on an island off the coast of Denmark. His home is the former jail, his living room the former site of hangings. His partner in exile is his younger wife, Alice (Susan Angelo), an embittered ex-actress and a bitter foe who bemoans their lack of money and status in the military community. They yell insults and devour each other’s souls instead of eating since they can’t afford much food on Edgar’s pittance of an allowance. They have alienated all their family and comrades and even the servants have fled this house of bitterness.

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Into the war zone comes unsuspecting Kurt (Eric Curtis Johnson), Alice’s cousin who actually was instrumental in matchmaking the couple 25 years earlier. He is soon used as a weapon by both sides as lies pile upon lies until no one is sure what the truth is anymore. As Kurt flees their madness, all the unhappily married couple can do is wait for that eventual dance of death to free them. Another day, another battle; life as it is continues.

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Geoff Elliott & Julia Rodriguez-Elliott have directed the acidic wordplay and the physical thrusts and parrying with a knife’s edge sharpness. The trio of actors perfectly essays their characters with Angelo’s mercurial rants a special highlight. Angela Balogh Calin has designed an appropriately dim and moody playing space and provided the period costumes. Ken Booth’s lighting is an added plus.

A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena. Ends Nov. 23. 626-356-3100 ext. 1 or www.anoisewithin.org.

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