When She Danced has been open for just over a week now and with sold-out houses every night, already nearly 500 of you have seen the show!
Many of Chicago’s professional theater critics have weighed in on When She Danced (read what they have to say at our Web site …), but now’s your chance. Share your own review, comments or questions about the production below.
Mark Richard as Luciano… Mark was wonderfully funny. As a TimeLine subscriber I have seen Mark play many different roles, non-comic. I read “When She Danced” before seeing it. When I saw the casting, I wondered how he would do the part. What’s next? Second City or SNL?
We loved the acting. It was worth the price of a ticket just to see the lady playing Isadora. What a character study of a passionate, independent, renegade, avant-garde artist. She was so committed to her vision (albeit a dofficult one to sell – she was so far ahead of her time) and had such tragedy in her personal life, not the least of which was having to work so hard at making a living. The lesser characters were all played by strong actors, as we have become accostomed to seeing at TimeLine. The production values were top drawer. I marvel at how you do it on your budget. We should all strive to provide more resources. Just imagine what you could do with a few more dollars! Bravo! Brava!
I saw When She Danced and was very dissapointed, since generally,you do very fine work especially The History Boys. I thought the play was entirely boring and unforgivingly over acted. I was cemented to actors trying very hard to act as opposed to any real sense of the character. I will, however, return. Marshall Marcus Chicago
well staged,good acting; a little too “farcical”; would have liked more of the “history” of why Duncan was so entranced with Russian
culture written into the script; will continue to be a loyal patron;
maybe because History Boys was so outstanding in every sense … this paled a bit in comparison ….
My comments could not be squeezed into this space. It is nice to read that so many of your visitors enjoyed the show.This was almost the first show in my life that I almost walked out of. “She” was way too loud with just one dynamic (louder), the story was poorly written and poorly directed and lacked the timing and dynamics we always look forward to. I noted that some visitors enjoyed the “dark” comedy but come on, this was not artistic nor enlightening, it was just fluffy thoughts dragged on and on and on.Ordinarily, i would not post these comments and change ruining it for those of your paid audience who have not yet seen it…but since so many of the visitors seemed to enjoy this stuffing, my minority view will not prevent enjoyment by others. But, IMHO this was way below the quality of what we have come to expect from all your talents.
Five of us walked out at intermission. We felt “When she danced” had very little merit. There was no dialogue and very little of interest to hold our attention. We were all very disappointed.
Hi folks! Looks like “When She Danced” is garnering both “love it” and “hate it” responses. Isadora Duncan causes yet another stir!
We know not everyone will enjoy every play TimeLine produces. But we are excited to receive all kinds of feedback and look forward to a continuing dialogue in this thread about Isadora, “When She Danced” and TimeLine’s work.
Keep the comments coming!
I felt all the supporting characters were very strong but that the lead actress was not quite up to the role. When I saw that Vanessa Redgrave had played the role in London, I felt that an actress of her caliber could probably do an excellent job with the role. I felt that your lead actress was more histrionic than anything.
I did feel some of the others were very good–the Italian who came to dinner, the pianist, the Russian interpreter. Those are the ones who come to mind first.
I have to agree with Marshall, Ruth L, Alden and Ruth S above though I stayed to the end.
I felt that the cast was overacting (with the exception of Janet’s portrayal of Miss Belzer) and I didn’t get the genius of Isadora Duncan from the lead. Duncan had a fascinating and avant garde life, but in defense of the cast, I didn’t feel that this one day in the life really captured her particular magic. I did like the set design, costumes and piano playing.
I am a loyal subscriber, but I was really disappointed in this choice of play.
I can appreciate the negatives, as that is where I started out; but it grew on me as the play went on. Belzer, of course, stole the show for me. I find myself returning to it in the days since, so maybe it is continuing to grow. Hard to capture Duncan in a day-in-the-life-of capsule.
There were 8 of us, 6 being long time subscribers, and we all agreed that we were bored. This is the first play in several years of being subscribers in which we walked out at intermission. I did not expect such overacting on the part of the lady who played Isadora, nor did I expect the play to concentrate on just the one aspect of her life, that of one day. It really did not give one a feeling of who Isadora Duncan really was.
“When She Danced” was beautifully done by all members of the cast. A stage filled with talent. Kudos to all the foreign language speakers. Superbly done. On Friday evening, it was as if we the audience sat on our hands, especially after the magnicicent playing of Chopin by Alejandro Cordoba. Perhaps we were so mesmerized we didn’t know how to respond. I felt badly for not leading the well deserved applause he should have recieved. Belzer was excellent.I am quite aware of many aspects of Isadora Duncan’s life, and this brief encounter only provides a glimpse of her character. I realize that this play may not appeal to everyone, but I did enjoy it very much.
Based on the above posts, it’s true what they say about opinions! I, too toyed with departing at intermission, but as a subscriber I felt obligated to give TimeLine every chance to redeem itself. It didn’t.
The characters had so little chemistry among them that I couldn’t muster any empathy, let alone fondness, for any of them, save the pianist. His frequent barbs about his feelings, or lack (“I would not care if he was run over by a bus in the rain”?) summed up my own feelings, and I delighted in each blurt of honesty. Belzer’s poignant lines — the soliloquy!- were well delivered, but I would not have cared. . . well, you get the idea.
I am not giving up. Onward to 2010.
Ralph & Edith Reichert
‘when she danced
Ralph enjoyed all the action, use of languages and “body-language but wished there was more of a plot and some “dance” scenes. Her simply deploring that young girl’s attempt to imitate Isadora’s style, was not enough.
Edith did not favor this as one of your better plays, but was very impressed with the cast’s ability to quickly learn and use new languages. Ralph.
We were disappointed with the show. We felt that the title character came across as pathetic rather than strong. This is the first show that we’ve seen at Timeline that we did not like. We are looking forward to the next one.
I have subscribed to TimeLine for several years and will continue to do so. While the play was well done, I am curious why this particular work was chosen, given that the main character was not historically significant in my opinion.
Sorry Timeline Friends, this play just did NOT work for me and the two people who came with me. I thought it was a very superficial look at a woman whose life was very rich, intense and innovative….but we didn’t get any of that in this play. I found out way more about Duncan’s Russian husband (who quickly became a bore)than I wanted to know – at the expense of understanding her marvelous creativity and fascinating life. We got a lot of untranslated language which quickly became old schtick, the farcical scene near the end was totally unnecessary, and really the entire play was just boring and a real disapppointment. You have done so many other really really good pieces…this was so out of character for you!
Certainly not one of our favorites – didn’t really care about any of the characters, except the interpreter.
But it was interesting to learn, three days later at the TimeLine open house, that the actor who played the pianist had had only one year of lessons – at age 8! He learned the Chopin pieces in time to do them really well. I also got to hear about how hard it is to work with actors speaking 5 or 6 languages – that they don’t know! But my solution – pick another play!
phil and judy kirk
Sorry, Timeline. We agreed with so many of the negatives posted above on this play that almost didn’t include ours. So, read the poor reviews and give us a ditto. You know, you try to many things at this theater and succeed trmendously so much of the time. You are bound to, on occasion, do something few like. This was it.
History Boys was amazing. This production, my first at Timeline, brought me back to All My Sons, which convinced me to subscribe. When She Danced was most disappointing. One day in the life of an artist, without ANY clue about how she performed her art–what’s this?? Perhaps over-acting was the only thing the director and actors knew to do with this “play.” Janet Mroczek
I was blown away by the amazing talent of the actors playing their parts in six different languages – quite an accomplishment. And the young actor who played the piano proves that practice makes perfect – he delivered a very convincing performance, not having played since he was 8 years old!!! Reading the other reviews, I realize that not everyone enjoyed the play, but I felt “When She Danced” gave us a glimpse of Isadora Duncan’s strange and sad life! Another great performance by TimeLine – I look forward to the new season . . .
I have come to expect Timeline to present high quality, interesting, well acted, and well staged productions, and When She Danced did not disappoint. I came away with a greater understanding of Isadora Duncan and the life she led, and I enjoyed all of the characters (and they were characters). That several of them did not speak English was an interesting twist–a difficult play to pull off, but I thought it was well done and enjoyed it very much .
I have attended many TimeLine productions and while I didn’t leave at intermission, I really didn’t like this play at all. I didn’t understand what it was about Isadora that made her so appealing and I especially didn’t get the appeal of the Russian. He was awful!! His boyish appeal and artistic genius were completely lacking, at least to my way of thinking. I liked Miss Belzer – a refreshing note of sanity and non-hysteria.
This was the first TimeLine play that I cannot recommend on any level to anyone.
I totally agree with Alden Cohen. This is one of the poorest productions that I have seen in a long time. I do think the cast was having an “off day”(Sat. matinee 12/5)but it’s hard to imagine that it would get much better.
Superbly mounted and acted (we’ve come to expect no less from TimeLine) production of a rather spotty play. The play is entitled to ask questions, even to leave questions — but it ought to decide what the questions are. Instead, it told us less about Isadora the teacher/impresario/iconoclast than we wanted to know (tantalizing bits, but disconnected and almost random), and as a result left us with a catalog of her oddities which seemed to go nowhere in particular. I had the feeling there was a central core to her — but no one, especially the playwright, got to it. So it was frustrating for us.
For example, her reaction to the Swedish kid practically begged for further exploration. But instead one had the impression that she was just cranky and selfishly (even cruelly) self-indulgent. I strongly suspect that’s not accurate. As I said earlier, I don’t think this is the actors’ fault. I think they did as well as could be done with a play that didn’t deserve it.
First, full disclosure: I edit the Backstory material, lobby panels and program for TimeLine. After doing all that, I have nothing to read—but still a lot to learn as I watch each play. For example, I knew there would be a lot of languages during the play. But I was not prepared for the effect of this on the play, and on me.
I’ve read the comments and disagree with most of them. I saw the play differently than most of the commenters—and that, of course, is the beauty and genius of theater, of any art form, particularly live ones such as dance and theater. And, also, to my mind, what made the comments of several of the characters as they struggled (or didn’t) to express what they saw when they saw Isadora dance so poignant and logical. Each of us processes and interprets differently, so we may have seen the same play at the same performance—yet not seen the same play per our interpretation of it and what we individually bring to the watching. Plus, our ability to articulate what we have seen often is difficult.
To address some of the comments that struck me the most—which also speaks to “What I Saw.” This is my version of what’s in my mind’s eye as I remember the performance of Thursday, Dec. 03:
—No, there was no chemistry between the characters (other than the sexual one between Isadora and Sergei), but might not that have been one the playwright’s points? Most of the characters operated in their own spheres, touching other characters almost accidentally, even though they spent much of a day together. Actually, I thought of them as a bunch of bumper cars, glancing off each other. Another analogy would be: Each was his or her own sun, blazing, with the others orbiting around. (This would make for an interesting piece of dance, no?) There were, though, brief sympathies and connections during that day, when language (and self-interest) was not a barrier because common ground was found through emotion, which needs no words.
—Per the preceding: For me, the number of languages (six) during that day precluded any chemistry/connection. There were all very different people, with very different and often-competing agendas. What a cacophony of words there was, bombarding them—and us, the audience. If you can’t connect via language, can there be chemistry/connection? Yes, through art. (Might that be another of the playwright’s points?) In this case, it was Isadora’s dancing: There can be communication, and there was–that’s the thread that connects most of the characters.
—But, remember , these reminiscences are in the past tense. They are remembering her dancing and what they felt as they watched, not what they see now. The communication/connection is more an internal one. As they didn’t see the same performance, they can’t compare notes—only their emotions are comparable, and the inarticulation all feel/exhibit to some degree. But what there also is when you can’t communicate through words is frustration. I thought it most telling in the scene with the young dancer, attempting to dance as Isadora did. She was, in essence, mimicking what she was taught, which was second (or third) hand from seeing Isadora dance. Hence, the jerkiness and the static feel of the “dance.” It’s her interpretation—from her memory, her mind’s eye—of what she was taught. So, of course, it bore very little resemblance to Isadora’s fluidity and feeling and freedom. She learned the movements, but not the freedom of expressing them.
—Yes, it was loud and louder. But isn’t that what many people do, when they don’t understand someone, or gt frustrated at not being understood (whether talking a different language or not)? They talk louder. (A side note: Russians often converse at full voice, so Sergei’s passionate loudness didn’t bother me.) So, for me, the loudness of most of the characters didn’t distract. Also, Isadora and Sergei, according to the playwright, are passionate people, and passionate people often are larger than life. And this translates to how they speak, too—with a lot of exclamation points!!!!! Yet, recall, too, that Isadora sometimes is sotto voce—in her asides to herself. And the characters trying to articulate why they were so moved and still remember (and always will) how they felt on seeing Isadora dance—they weren’t loud, just trying to explain the ephemeral quality of dance (also: acting)—quietly passionate, if not always 100 percent articulate. Speaking to us, but also to themselves. I can give examples of fine dancing and acting and how it makes me feel, but I sometimes cannot find the words to explain why I think this or how it was achieved.
—I don’t think Isadora has to be an appealing character; you don’t have to like her. Many artists are self-centered when it comes to their art. It often comes before anything, which leads to tension when they interact with others. They are right, all the others are wrong. They’re manipulative, childish, stubborn, calculating, despairing—all at once. I thought the play “explained” her one-track mind quite well. If I had seen Isadora dance, I would have been capable of being equally overwhelmed by her spirit and her performance and, after meeting her, though in awe, repelled by her selfishness and insensitivity to others.
So, yes, I liked the play and TimeLine’s production of it. Bottom line? It spoke to me of what I often cannot speak of articulately when I see a painting, hear a piece of music, see a dance or watch a play. I may know I like it, but finding those words often can be frustratingly hard.
I also thought the scenic design was to the point and the cast stellar, particularly re having to learn their lines in another language and “act” accordingly.
I, too, found it interesting that the actor playing the Greek pianist essentially learned to play the piano to play the Chopin—amazing! I learned in the post-show discussion that the script has only the original languages the various characters speak, so TimeLine had to get it all translated first so the actors would know what they were saying before they started to learn their lines in their language. Just another layer (barrier?) of frustration via the playwright, re how one interprets things?
I read many, perhaps most, of the comments (it’s 2:30 a.m. so I rushed a bit) and though I enjoyed the play, I understand why some, including my husband, did not (although he warmly praised the acting.) I loved the multiple languages and need for translation and, as the poem showed, the impossibility of perfect translation. For me, as a writer, that underlined the fact that the wordless arts — music, dance, and painting–are the only means of expressing what cannot be fully expressed in words. They go beyond language–even poetry–to touch directly a part of ourselves that responds just as wordlessly, (as the Russian translator tried to tell us.) It felt good, though bittersweet, to see that portrayed on stage. I think Isadora Duncan was one who heard that unspoken language and tried to pass it on to us and to teach it to children. I did not see the play as a farce, and didn’t find that much to laugh at (because, I suspect, Duncan’s dead children haunted her story and me)but I laughed enough and felt enough to be satisfied.
After reading all of the other comments, I find it interesting that I agree with many of the points others make but not with many of the conclusions they draw. In fact I think many of the perceived “negatives” were intentional and part of the reason I found the play so appealing. For example, I think it was critical that we didn’t see Ms Duncan dance, or indeed more of her historical career in general. This was not a play about her art, but a play about the effect her art had on others – and no actress could give a performance that would give a modern audience the reactions that the pianist’s mother or the translator had; attempting to do so would have diminished those characters substantially. And while the cast “lacked chemistry” I think it was clear that this was a deliberate choice on the part of both playwright and director, symbolized by their varying languages. Each character was an island of sorts, struggling to find their own relationship to the others (and to the art) and to be heard amidst the chaos. And if Isadora Duncan and her Russian mate were “overdone” – well, wasn’t that a huge part of what the real Isadora Duncan was all about?
My wife and I have seen each of Nick Bowling’s shows since 2007, including Fiorello and History Boys, and while we have loved his work in general we both thought this was the most complete and most compelling piece we’ve seen at Timeline. We are both artists ourselves, so perhaps that was part of the appeal; but after leaving the theatre we spent days contemplating and discussing the role of the artist, the relationship between art and ego, and the relativistic nature and permanence of art. We were also blown away by the characters, each so beautifully sculpted and brilliantly performed. This was a challenging show to be sure, and a risky one, but I am very glad Timeline took it on and feel very strongly they lived up to the challenge.
Hi again everyone. This “share your comments” entry has rapidly become our favorite blog post ever! Yes, it’s tough to read the sometimes negative comments, but we so appreciate the thoughtful and honest reactions. You’ll definitely be seeing this kind of forum for providing your thoughts after a show for future productions.
Wanted to call your attention to a couple other posts that have been published on the blog that may be of interest to those reading this thread:
• Artistic Director PJ Powers weighs in “on feedback” in this post …
• For those of you looking for some insight into why TimeLine is presenting this piece and our perspective on the story, we’ve posted the behind-the-scenes video of When She Danced that has been playing in our lobby here …
On feedback « Behind the ‘Line :: TimeLine Theatre Company Blog
[…] through all of those avenues, we listen. And genuinely appreciate your feedback. Reading some of the comments posted here about When She Danced, it’s quite the mixed bag, ranging from the show being someone’s favorite TimeLine play […]
Having lived in NYC much of our lives, we continue to be amazed at the quality of theater in Chicago and “When She Danced” was no exception. Isadora was a somewhat strange and very unique woman, way ahead of her time, and the play made her character even more interesting via it distinctiveness, e.g. use of multiple languages, piano playing and very clever, yet bizarre happenings throughout. Maybe somewhat over-acted and the plot needed further development, but most enjoyable.
Glad to read the different opinions of people who like good theater. If cultured goers enjoyed what most people like, we would only go to vampire movies. Keep up the great work.
We were very disappointed in this production. It focused on such a narrow aspect of Ms. Duncan’s life, and yet seemed to lack clarity. Had we not read the playbill prior to the performance we would have had very little idea what this play was about. Although there were strong acting moments, overall we found the characters unlikeable and tiresome. This production was one of the weaker ones we have seen during our years as season subscribers. But as always, we look forward to future TimeLine productions.
I enjoyed the play from the Belle Epoque set to the beautiful music, including Alejandro Cordoba’s great piano work. Nick Bowling succeeds in making dialogue flow like music. And it’s to the cast’s great credit that even when the words are foreign, the meaning within them shines through. Miss Brooks is outstanding in her role as Miss Belzer who, in addition to providing translation and some of the comic relief, stands in as it were for the audience with her marvelous reactions to some of the activities with which she is surrounded. This play is a thoughtful meditation on the difficulty of communicating art, dance in particular, and you do get some perspective on what it meant for Isadora even though she does not dance a single step. Thanks for another wonderful evening of theater.
I don’t think “When She Danced” had the same import as most of the other productions I have seen at Timeline over the past nine years. I have always been struck by the eerie way in which the historical pieces speak so precisely to a major current event or situation. “When She Danced”, although well-acted, interesting, and very entertaining (I loved the last scene) was more of a story about a particular individual with no far-reaching themes.
I luved the show. It was more of a “fun” show than serious, historical. I liked the edginess and envelope-pushing. Alejandro’s conjured accent was great, very funny, and obviously intended that way. All the people around us had big smiles after the show, so apparently most people “got it” that it was supposed to be “fun”.
I’ve subscribed on and off for the past couple of years and find the shows at Timeline really very. I’m rarely in the middle, either loving them (ALL MY SONS, HISTORY BOYS) or hating them. I stayed for the whole play because I was impressed with the supporting roles (the pianist, the russian poet, the french maid, Miss Belzer). I thought Isadora’s manager was way over the top and not in the same play as the rest of the cast. What was a great shame was that the actress who played Isadora was never really acting with the rest of the cast. I don’t know how many times I caught her looking at the audience during the show instead of looking at and reacting to the other actors on stage.
But the bigger question is, why these plays? Once again, I left knowing little more about Isadora Duncan than when I came and most of that was from reading program notes and the displays in the lobby. It was like last year’s play about Sophie Treadwell which was a crashing bore. I spent the whole time going, “Why not just produce Machinal”? If you’re going to present a piece about an historical figure, let the audience learn more about their lives and themselves as human beings.
Ditto to many of the negative comments — too farsical, over-acted, needlessly loud (in spite of the Backstory author’s comments), etc. And, I did tire of Engstrom’s one-note dramatic pose – pointing her face upward and stroking her neck. Enough of the neck. All in all, we did stay for it all, but it wasn’t our favorite. Even so, we’ll be back. The other plays have been great.
I connected “When She Danced.” But I must say, sometimes a play or playwright leaves me disappointed or unfulfilled while others are in rhapsody. David Mamet…back in the 1970’s when Gregory Mosher, then Goodman’s artistic director, introduced me to Mamet, I didn’t connect. Today (Jan 2, 2010), I saw “America Buffalo.” I stayed for the post show discussion; there were theater lovers with some very thoughtful comments and were connecting. But in spite of Tracy Letts strong acting, I’m wasn’t connecting. Only a Pollyanna connects or loves everything they see. But we don’t give up seeing plays because we may or may not connect.