Category Archive for: ‘Jo Tomalin’

TheOldWoman7 Credit Courtesy

Robert Wilson’s The Old Woman with Baryshnikov & Dafoe

above: THE OLD WOMAN Pictured: (r) Mikhail Baryshnikov and (l) Willem Dafoe star in Robert Wilson’s The Old Woman, Friday & Saturday, November 21 & 22, 2014 and Sunday, November 23, 2014 in Zellerbach Hall.  PHOTOS: Courtesy of Cal Performances

Review by Jo Tomalin

Breathtaking Abstract Theatre

THE OLD WOMAN Pictured: (r) Mikhail Baryshnikov and (l) Willem Dafoe star in Robert Wilson’s The Old Woman, Friday & Saturday, November 21 & 22, 2014 and Sunday, November 23, 2014 in Zellerbach Hall.  PHOTOS: Courtesy of Cal Performances

The collaboration of three extraordinary creative artists – Robert Wilson, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe offers a breathtakingly precise and visually stunning evening of absurdist theatre. Based on the 1930s political novella by Daniil Kharm and adapted by Darryl Pinckney, The Old Woman is a black comedy about a disillusioned writer and a visitor – playing November 21 – 23, 2014 in Zellerbach Hall through Cal Performances.

THE OLD WOMAN Pictured: (r) Mikhail Baryshnikov and (l) Willem Dafoe star in Robert Wilson’s The Old Woman (PHOTOS: Courtesy of Cal Performances)

Brilliantly conceived and Directed by Robert Wilson, the renowned experimental theatre director who brought his acclaimed Einstein on the Beach to Cal Performances in 2012, this visually sensory production sweeps the audience up on an evocative wave of stark, rich, geometric, melodic, abstract – yet always fascinating – encounters, superbly performed by legendary performer Mikhail Baryshnikov and stage and screen actor Willem Dafoe. There’s never a dull moment as Baryshnikov and Dafoe expertly interact together, with snappy dialogue, precise movement and emotive monologues taking the audience on a journey – somewhere!

THE OLD WOMAN Pictured: (r) Mikhail Baryshnikov and (l) Willem Dafoe star in Robert Wilson’s The Old Woman in Zellerbach Hall.  (PHOTOS: Courtesy of Cal Performances)

Baryshnikov and Dafoe seem like magicians at first, mysterious with only their faces lit against a black stage. Both are dressed in identical debonair black suits and white dress shirts (Costume Design by Jacques Reynaud), full white face clown makeup (Makeup by Marielle Loubet and Natalia Leniartek), and dark gray hair. Each is distinguished by a large curved quiff of hair (curving up to Baryshnikov’s left who wears a black tie, and curving up to Dafoe’s right who wears a black bow tie), appearing next to each other each is half of a whole. In fact, they complete eachother’s sentences, repeat eachother’s text and movements with strange reactions all underscored by an eclectic range of ethereal to jazzy music including selections by Tom Waits and Arvo Pärt (Music by Hal Willner) or dramatic sounds (Sound Design by Marco Olivieri).

THE OLD WOMAN Pictured: Mikhail Baryshnikov in Robert Wilson’s The Old Woman in Zellerbach Hall.  (PHOTOS: Courtesy of Cal Performances)

There’s humor in this piece, too, with a charming touch of vaudeville, eccentric dancing, switching characterizations, playing female characters, Baryshnikov’s singing, all evoking a sweet genteel spirit in their idiosyncratic universe.

Undoubtedly the set and lighting are as astonishing as the two performers in this piece with bold quirky Set Design and an exquisite Lighting Concept by Robert Wilson with Light Design by A.J. Weissbard.

THE OLD WOMAN Pictured: Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe star in Robert Wilson’s The Old Woman in Zellerbach Hall.  (PHOTOS: Courtesy of Cal Performances)

I wonder how long we will wait until another production comes along that is so remarkable. If you missed it, try to find it – it’s well worth it!

More Information:


Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance, Theatre & Physical Theatre Performances
More Reviews by Jo Tomalin
TWITTER @JoTomalin
www.forallevents.com  Arts & Travel Reviews

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