fbpx

A Noise Within’s revival of The Dance of Death, August Strindberg’s unsparing, 1901 depiction of marriage as a connubial knife fight, comes as a scabrously funny reminder of the debt owed the Swedish dramatist by the last century’s playwrights.

Because in the still-startling ferocity of its language (freshened by Conor McPherson’s streamlined 2012 adaptation) and the malignancy of its relationships, The Dance of Death packs a proto-Beckettian blend of comically grotesque bathos and absurdity that echoes throughout the modern canon, perhaps most explicitly in Edward Albee's homage Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

]

As in Albee, Edgar (Geoff Elliott), an aging, alcoholic military officer, and his embittered ex-actress wife, Alice (Susan Angelo), while away Edgar’s dead-end posting to a provincial garrison in a stalemate of mutual contempt. Their deadlock is broken by the arrival of Alice’s cousin Kurt (Eric Curtis Johnson), who quickly becomes the main course in a splenetic feeding frenzy of callous emotional manipulation and sexual betrayal.

Johnson’s straight-man transit from vulnerability to full psychic fracture proves an effective springboard for Angelo and Elliott to reach the play’s grim register of mordant comedy. With a more rigorously anchored staging, directors Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott might also have sharpened those laughs with a keener edge of Strindbergian despair.

A Noise Within, 3352 E Foothill Blvd., Pasadena; through Nov. 22. (626) 356-3100, anoisewithin.org.


Public Spectacle, L.A. Weekly's arts & culture blog, on Facebook and Twitter:

LA Weekly