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Jane Enkin

Two corpses Go Dancing Fringe Review

by Jane Enkin,July 25, 2012

What if you died and were then brought back to life, your soul once again animating your briefly resurrected body?  And what if you didn't know that you had died?

This is the “what if” that the two corpses in Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story, Two Corpses Dancing, experience.  The story, from Singer's book The Seance, has been skillfully adapted as a visually fascinating Fringe play by play wright Andrew Taylor and musician Donovan Scheirer.

The play opens with a narrator, (Scheirer), talking in grand terms about the many who live deadened, empty lives as they work in the big city.  Lines from Singer's text are smoothly interwoven with rhyming lyrics set to Scheirer's melodies, which, with their simple guitar accompaniment, give astrong flavour of Eastern Europe to the play.

Gradually, the narrator reveals himself as a demon (not a dybbuk, more of a Devil character), who reanimates the dead, perhaps with mysterious plans in mind, and perhaps, as he suggests, mostly for fun.  He tells about the sad-sack Itche, in the grave for a year, and then dramatically brings him back to life.

We follow Itche's fortunes for a while, coping with the shambles of his old life.  Then Finkle, a widow who died three months before, is brought to life as well, to become Itche's basherte, his destined bride.

The play includes eery moments, black humour, and some interesting discussion of will and meaning.  We seethe irony in a demon trying to convince Itche that there is no Hell as well as no Heaven, no judgement, no reason at all for moral behaviour.  We watch as all the characters, living and undead, respond to the demon's manipulations.  And we see the real pain the characters confront.

Itche, played by Taylor, undergoes the greatest transformation in the story – under the demon's guidance, this neglected nobody becomes, in his new life, “A Man”, with wealth, power, friends, and, until the final crisis, no scruples. Taylor is wonderful at prat falls and expressions of shocked innocence and outrage.

Finkle clings to the past, never letting go of her resentment and bitter feelings.  Danielle Roy, with twisted body and pained voice and gesture, is completely gripping throughout the play.   For me, the most fascinating dynamic in theplay is the relationship between Finkle and her niece, Gosia, played with deep tenderness and beauty by Miranda Hughes.  When people who know that Itche is dead see him, they run away at the sight of a ghost.  For most of the story, he builds a new life among strangers. Finkle comes home to Gosia, who accepts her and tries to keep her calm.  Hughes communicates beautifully the confusion, sadness and need for courage that are the lot of many caregivers.

Hughes, Roy, Chris Donlevy and Brandon Murray also sang, moved and acted well in several smaller roles, working with simple costumes and a bare stage to suggest the taverns, houses and market shops of the lower-class neighbourhood of the story.  The costumes suggested clear character types, such as Hughes“Lady” of easy virtue and Taylor's top-hatted rich man.  All the actors wore disturbing make up that brought home the opening and closing image, that there are many corpses among the living.

Scheirer's demon, a bit blustery and pompous for my taste, is matched by a very laid back angelic figure played by Murray.  Although I didn't find this relationship very clear as it was played,

I was intrigued by the questions Singer posed, with layers of control and motivation as the final fates of Itche and Finkle were revealed.  Who was manipulating whom, and to what ends?  What power remains within the control of human souls?

Two Corpses Go Dancing

Winnipeg Art Gallery   Muriel Richardson Auditorium

Thu July 26, 8:45 PM

FriJuly 27, 12:00 PM

Sun July 29, 4:45 PM

Two Unruly Gentlemen
Adapted by Andrew Taylor from the short story 'Two Corpses Go Dancing' by Isaac Bashevis Singer

Director: Stephan Montalbetti

Based on the short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Recommended For: Mature Audience
Length:75 min
Tickets: $10
Discount Tickets: $7 for Students, Seniors, Fringe performers

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