Solo performer Irina Andreeva was a supernatural sight in Teatr Novogo Fronta's "Dybbuk" at the Atlas Performing Arts Center Saturday night. With her powerful thighs and striking bald head, Andreeva was explosive and slightly otherworldly as a troubled, mischievous spirit taking gleeful possession of another body.
Founded in Russia and now based in Prague, TNF's movement-oriented, non-verbal methods wouldn't have surprised audiences who have followed the local Synetic Theater (themselves Georgian expats). This kinetic, nonverbal "Dybbuk" layered the Yiddish folk tale in high seriousness, low light and an overpowering soundscape -- a useful framework for a performance that exploited elements of gymnastics, modern dance and silent film.
Barely dressed in boy shorts, a thin tank top and sneakers, Andreeva was an athletic centerpiece. She was introduced as a spectral head gradually materializing out of the darkness, but soon enough she was slithering up a chair, legs lifted behind her like a floating tail. (This seemed to be the possession scene -- the dreamy storytelling often willfully eluded literal interpretation.) As the spirit took over the body, Andreeva erupted, donning a red wig and pulsing about the stage.
Her technique wasn't jaw-dropping, but her dramatic instinct was sure, even within the abstraction. And for a 50-minute show, Andreeva and director Ales Janak (TNF's co-founders) certainly got in their share of intriguing images. Fish fell from the sky, Andreeva surprisingly rose from a pile of smoldering leaves shortly after exiting stage left, and a shrunken head was unexpectedly revealed on empty robes, looking like the parasitic Voldemort in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." And then this respectable, icy, anticlimactic "Dybbuk" was gone, its flitting pictures evaporating like mist in the sun.
-- Nelson Pressley
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
The Baltimore Symphony's "Symphony With a Twist" series tries to freshen the traditional concert formula by adding a spoken-word element between pieces, as it did on Friday evening at Strathmore Hall with an all-Czech program dubbed "Tales and Legends." Of course, narrated concerts have been around for decades, usually just adding one more formal element to an already stodgy format.
But urbane storyteller Jon Spelman did some lovely work recounting the quirky, often grisly Czech folk tales that inspired the scores on the program.
Dvorak's tone poem "The Wood Dove," the "Sarka" and "Moldau" movements from Smetana's "Ma Vlast," and a suite of orchestral music drawn from Janacek's opera "The Cunning Little Vixen" are all splendidly atmospheric scores that hardly need the additional advocacy of spoken text. But Spelman's preambles focused welcome attention on the composers' skills in evoking, say, an army of female warriors drinking the blood of misogynistic opponents or a graveside dove driving a murderous widow to guilt-induced suicide.