THE OLD WOMAN
June 26, 2014
There's no mistaking who's who in Robert Wilson’s adaptation of Danii Kharms’ The Old Women now playing at BAM. Imbued in grace, Mikhail Baryshnikov moves devoid of effort while Willem Dafoe’s lean body weightily stalks the perimeter. High pitched and sweeter, Baryshnikov’s uttering’s curve around syllables snapping from Dafoe’s Mick Jagger out-sized mouth sharply hitting their mark. A perfect vehicle for creator Robert Wilson, the surrealist production mixes a bit of “Waiting for Godot” and Gogol with music hall slapstick guided by two consummate physical actors.
In the airy, bright white light, the odd couple wanders the space through--what are now, iconic Wilson images—white floor, outsidezed suspended swing, high backed chair, shadow puppet cut out foliage, floating toy plane and lighting cues that change saturated colors according to shifting scenes and emotions.
The point is not necessarily to understand, as to visually feel. The sound of wood blocks slap together punctuating scenes animated by the two men in total white face, eyes circled in black, and clothed in shabby tuxedoes. Gruesome text describes women--too curious--falling out of windows and other nightmarish stuff that sounds ridiculous when spoken out loud.
Perfectly in sync, Baryshnikov and Dafoe navigate the dark humor into a stream of consciousness narrative that gurgles in its 1939 Soviet –era cubist despair.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis