The Old Woman OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Ruby Washington
  • NY TIMES

  • NY POST

  • S & C

  • TM

  • TIME OUT

Opening Night:
June 22, 2014
Closing:
June 29, 2014

Theater: BAM Howard Gilman Opera House / 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11217

Synopsis: 

Oscar-nominated actor and founding member of The Wooster Group Willem Dafoe and legendary performer Mikhail Baryshnikov are a dapper odd couple, forced to deal with the most inconsiderate—and inanimate—of houseguests, in this surreal marriage of absurdism, pitch-black comedy, and vaudeville from director Robert Wilson. Based on the recently rediscovered writings of Russian avant-garde author Daniil Kharms—a master of Beckettian and Kafkaesque nonsensical drama—and adapted by Darryl Pinckney, Wilson’s meticulously designed production riffs ingeniously on Kharms’ warped, disorienting world. Exquisitely lit sets flicker between flatness and depth, repeated gestures and phrases become deliriously strange, and Baryshnikov and Dafoe dazzle as two sides of the same corkscrewed mind, tending darkly to their unknown visitor.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF The Old Woman

    A Duo, Dynamism and a Dead Body
    ‘The Old Woman,’ With Willem Dafoe and Mikhail Baryshnikov

    Ben Brantley

    June 24, 2014: And now let’s raise a cold one — a double vodka, I think — to the wackiest bromance in summer comedy. No, not Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in 22 Jump Street. That’s kid stuff. I mean Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe. In The Old Woman, a two-man vaudeville extravaganza whipped up by that smiling surrealist Robert Wilson, Mr. Baryshnikov and Mr. Dafoe are performing with the kind of synchronicity associated with Stan and Ollie, the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, and even Fred and Ginger. In the process, they’re giving unsettling resonance to the premise that comedy isn’t easy. That’s not just because Mr. Baryshnikov and Mr. Dafoe — who opened on Sunday night at the Howard Gilman Opera House at the Brooklyn Academy of Music for a nine-performance engagement — may well be the hardest-working couple in showbiz at the moment. (Sorry, Jay Z and Beyoncé.)

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  • NEW YORK POST REVIEW OF The Old Woman

    Mikhail Baryshnikov, Willem Dafoe are live-action Itchy and Scratchy in ‘The Old Woman’

    Elisabeth Vincentelli

    June 23, 2014: The Old Woman is pretty much a live-action version of “The Itchy & Scratchy Show” starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe. This new theatrical piece has all the vaudevillian shtick — oversize props, funny voices, shrill sound effects — of the fictional animated series. There’s even a cardboard-cutout gun and an exploding box, as well as a similar quasi-S&M relationship between the principals, here clad in tight, shiny black suits and dramatic black-and-white makeup. But since we’re at BAM and not watching The Simpsons in our pajamas, the pedigree is high-brow chic. International-festival darling Robert Wilson (Einstein on the Beach) handled staging, sets and lighting, and the score — part demonic circus music, part recycled spirituals — was put together by the inventive Hal Willner.

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  • STAGE AND CINEMA REVIEW OF The Old Woman

    Off-Broadway Theater Review: THE OLD WOMAN (starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe at BAM)

    Dmitry Zvonkov

    June 24, 2014: Delightful wouldn’t be a word I’d expect to use when describing a Robert Wilson show. But The Old Woman, adapted by Darryl Pinckney from an absurdist story by Daniil Kharms, and performed by Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe, is just that. Whimsical, darkly funny, and disquieting throughout, Wilson’s striking spectacle is more poem than play, told in his unique language of light, shape, color, and movement; watching it is like entering someone else’s dream and the experience is exhilarating. I hesitate to assert precisely what The Old Woman is about; for one thing, the narrative is deeply hidden in Pinckney’s daring and effective dramatization, into which he incorporates excerpts from Kharms’ other writings. And thematically speaking, the entire show is open to interpretation. I can say that this wholly surreal creation has flashes of vaudeville and Soviet avant-garde, as well as folklore, both Russian and American. These are not so much solid elements but more akin to bits of images that seep through the subconscious and are only vaguely recalled upon waking.

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  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF The Old Woman

    The Old Woman Review

    Zachary Stewart

    June 24, 2014: On February 2, 1942, avant-garde Russian author Daniil Kharms starved to death in a mental hospital in Leningrad while that city was under siege by the Nazis. Chillingly, writer Darryl Pinckney and director Robert Wilson open their disorienting stage adaptation of Kharms' novella The Old Woman with an unrelated Kharms poem about hunger:

    This is how hunger begins:
    The morning you wake, feeling lively,
    Then begins the weakness,
    Then begins the boredom;
    Then comes the loss
    Of the power of quick reason,
    Then comes the calmness
    And then begins the horror.

    As Wilson is wont to do with his texts, this poem is repeated ad nauseam by the show's only two actors, Willem Dafoe and Mikhail Baryshnikov, who are now performing in the U.S. premiere at BAM's Howard Gilman Opera House. It becomes unforgettable, a permanent theatrical memory implanted by unrelenting form and content. The specter of the author haunts the stage throughout.

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  • TIME OUT NEW YORK REVIEW OF The Old Woman

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