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Stephanie Berger

Mark Morris Dance Group 2019: “Sport”

July 12, 2019

The world premiere “Sport,” choreographed to more than twenty bits and pieces by Erik Satie, appropriately named “Sports et divertissements” (played by the brilliant pianist Colin Fowler), was a not very exciting examination of every competitive sport from golf to sailing to swimming to running to tennis to etc. Dressed in Elizabeth Kurtzman’s colorful one-piece overalls, the cast of twelve imitated in both exaggerated and subtle ways these activities, sometimes in silence and sometimes to the Satie music. Morris is imaginative enough to turn athletics into dance, but the work was simply too episodic and disjointed even with his use of repeated motifs—like dancers being dragged across the stage on large swaths of cloth—to give the work some unity and form. The end result was more of beautifully crafted mime than a full-fledged ballet. [more]

Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise

July 3, 2019

Sometimes you don’t need a long, complex story — or even an engaging one — to hook an audience. At the showing of "Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise" at The Shed that I attended, audiences clapped and hooted for heroes and villains alike, despite being given no logical reason to do so. The heroes and villains possessed no distinguishing character traits, other than differing accents, and they voiced no discernible reasons to be fighting. The fighting was just that awesome.The visual bombast and fight choreography of "Dragon Spring," a world premiere Shed commission, are thrilling enough to recommend the show as an expensive diversion, at the very least. There are moments when the show’s production elements come together so spectacularly that they almost lift the rest of the show with them. Almost. [more]

The Lehman Trilogy

April 10, 2019

A three and half hour play with only three actors spanning 163 years might not be your idea of entertainment, but the National Theatre’s production of "The Lehman Trilogy" is one of the most exciting theatrical events to be seen in New York in over 50 years. Making its North American premiere at the Park Avenue Armory, Sam Mendes’ swiftly paced production of Stefano Massini’s play features Simon Russell Beale (often called the finest classical actor of his generation), Ben Miles (Cromwell in the Royal Shakespeare’s production of "Wolf Hall"), and Adam Godley (Broadway’s 2002 "Private Lives" and 2011 "Anything Goes"), three of the most versatile British actors alive today. While "The Lehman Trilogy" tells the story of the three brothers who founded the family institution that eventually became one of the leading financial firms on Wall Street and later precipitated the crash of 2008, it also recounts the story of the rise of modern banking with the financial history of the last 150 years. [more]

Fall for Dance – Program E

October 23, 2017

The highlight of the program was watching the world-renowned premier danseur David Hallberg perform a work specially commissioned for him by Fall for Dance.  Mark Morris, the equally famous and respected choreographer, chose Benjamin Britten’s “Twelve Variations for Piano” as his score for the coyly humorous “Twelve of ‘Em.” The tone was set by Isaac Mizrahi’s wry costumes for both Mr. Hallberg and the adroit pianist Colin Fowler who was totally in synch with Morris’ tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.  Both wore ancient Greek-like flowing tunics over t-shirts and jeans.  [more]

Fall for Dance 2017

October 10, 2017

Michelle Dorrance, this troupe’s director, has become a force in tap dance because she understands both its legacy and its future. She played Pied Piper to a large troupe of very talented dancers who were all given opportunities to shine and create moods that varied from sexy to flirtatious to hilarious and sad. With additional choreographic contributions by Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie and Matthew “Megawatt” West—fine soloists—“Myelination” ebbed and flowed as soloists floated out of groupings of the twelve dancers to express themselves in brilliant bits that combined tap with modern dance, jazz, break dancing and even a touch of ballet. [more]

Jewels (Lincoln Center Festival)

July 25, 2017

The three-part ballet is considered Balanchine’s tribute to the three major artistic influences in his professional life:  the French school, the Russian school and, of course, his own American style of classical ballet as taught in his School of American Ballet in Lincoln Center.  Therefore, it was not just logical, but inspired, that the Paris Opera troupe would dance the dreamy “Emeralds” to Gabriel Fauré, the New York City Ballet, the fresh and jazzy “Rubies” to Igor Stravinsky, and the Russian troupe the very classical “Diamonds” to Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. [more]

Vespers of 1610 (Handel + Haydn Society Orchestra and Chorus)

April 17, 2017

"Vespers of 1610" is a big and oddly sprawling work. It makes no liturgical sense, and, in terms of texts, has little programmatic unity beyond a consistent Marian devotion. But it is a coherent whole of musical and spiritual experience. It gives the impression of limitlessness, as though there were no end to what Monteverdi could have kept on telling us, precisely because the sacredness and meaning of God’s sacred words are infinite. [more]

Takarazuka in “Chicago”

July 30, 2016

This Japanese version lacks the passion and darkness necessary to make this morality tale pop. The two leading ladies, Wataru Kozuki as Velma and Hikaru Asami as Roxie looked too wide-eyed and innocent to portray such trampy characters, but they moved and sang well. Keaki Mori as Matron “Mama” Morton, in her high, curly wig, totally missed the seamier sexual ambiguity of the character while Chihiro Isono as the put-upon Amos was a tad too low key. Asato Shizuki was slick, but not seamy or sexually provocative as the lawyer, Billy Flynn. [more]

King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Plays

April 20, 2016

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s "King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings" is a magnificent achievement and a fitting tribute in this 400th anniversary of the bard’s death. Not only are the four plays an accessible presentation of what is often confusing for Americans unversed in British history, but taken together they are a very great study in the use and abuse of power and authority in this year of our own contentious political wranglings. Gregory Doran’s unfussy and intelligible productions set a bench mark by which others will be measured and offers star performances that should become legendary. [more]

The Cherry Orchard

February 25, 2016

The focus too often strays from Chekhov and his darkly comic portrait of a Russia to a piece of silly business or a maladroit placement of rows of audience members, breaking the fourth wall. He has the working class upstart Lopakhin sing “My Way,” the Frank Sinatra classic, to celebrate his buying the cherry orchard—a jarringly farcical bit. [more]

The City of Conversation

May 21, 2014

The City of Conversation is very rewarding theater whatever your political persuasion may be. The use of the social and political climate of the last 30 years is astutely delineated and always part of the fabric of the play, rather than a history lesson. [more]