If there's a moral to the story of August Strindberg's The Dance of Death, it's "beware of house guests." The notes for the Kinetic Theatre Co. production of the 1900 dark classic reveals that Strindberg based his vicious married couple on his own dear sister and her hubby, for the crime of taking him in during a long illness. While he did indeed discuss death long into the night with his brother-in-law — himself ill — the playwright took, ahem, liberties in portraying the pair's lively relationship.
OK, that's a bit facile. One can also say the moral is "house guests, beware." The plot, after all, is about the mutual-hatred society of husband and wife turning their venom on a seemingly innocent visitor. (Why, yes, it does sound like a forerunner of Edward Albee's 1962 hit, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but without the cusswords).
Most of all, though, Dance is distinctly amoral, if not actually immoral. This 2013 adaptation by Conor McPherson is also very funny, and creepy, as directed by Andrew S. Paul, Kinetic's producing artistic director. Much of the vaulting interior of the New Hazlett Theater is filled with shrouded bits of furniture, denoting perhaps a funeral or the absence of the family. The theater seats are covered as well, with the play and the audience crowded on the stage.
- Sam Tsoutsouvas and Helena Ruoti in The Dance of Death, at Kinetic Theatre Co.
A stellar cast rips each other to shreds with elegant depravity. Helena Ruoti reigns as Alice, virago, succubus and thwarted beauty. As Edgar, her husband and a military man, Sam Tsoutsouvas moves from spiteful calumny to vulnerability in a blink. He's very much the man both used to control and totally out of control. And sometimes of his mind. It might take two to tango but this "dance" is better with three. Mark D. Staley valiantly keeps up his credibility as old family friend/cousin Kurt, but we know that Edgar and Alice will, like harpies, feast on his bowels.
The design/tech team adds another wealth of talent. This Dance of Death is a gorgeous must-see, if not for the faint-hearted.