THERE (Wilma): 2019 Fringe review

Photo by Joanna Austin.

Photo by Joanna Austin.

With its hefty subtitle, “In the Light and the Darkness of the Self and of the Other,” There is a rare bird: contemporary poetry on stage. Making rarefied language solid and visceral is Wilma’s HotHouse company, and the result is visually arresting and aurally haunting.

But if you go to the theater for plot or character or conventional dialogue, this is not the show for you.

The words spoken by the eight actors and sung by the four singers were written by Etel Adnan, a Lebanese-American poet and philosopher. They are about identity and love and war and the birth and death of civilization. Blanka Zizka (who also directed) co-created this performance piece with visual artist Rosa Barba who created a stunning sculptural set of two swooping ramps. The dramatic lighting, designed by Thom Weaver, creates a world of brilliance and shadows.

[The Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad Street] September 11–22, 2019; fringearts.com/event/there

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About the author

Toby Zinman

Toby Zinman is a recently retired professor of English at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was a Fulbright professor at Tel Aviv University and a visiting professor in China. She publishes widely and lectures internationally on American drama. Her fifth book, Replay: Classic Modern Drama Reimagined, was published by Methuen, and she published the essay, "Visions of Tragedy in Contemporary American Drama," in 2017. Zinman is also the chief theater critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. She was named by American Theatre magazine as, “one of the 12 most influential critics in America.” Her travel writing has taken her all over the world, from dogsledding in the Yukon to hiking across England.