Review: Odyssey Theatre’s ‘Dance of Death’: Perfecting the art of the fight over 25 years of marriage

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A dysfunctional relationship that continues over time signals complicity on both sides — a destructive cycle illuminated in Odyssey Theatre’s revival of “The Dance of Death,” August Strindberg’s harrowing chronicle of marital quicksand.

Written in 1900 — the same year as the publication of Sigmund Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams” — the play stands at the intersection of modern psychology and theatrical realism.

In a remote military garrison, within the claustrophobic confines of their gloomy home (symbol alert, a former prison), the aging Capt. Edgar (Darrell Larson) and his once-glamorous actress wife, Alice (Lizzy Kimball), go at each other with targeted rage perfected over 25 years of marriage.


Their tortured rounds of domination and emotional sabotage are often cited as the template for the couple at the center of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” given Edgar’s failed ambitions, Alice’s vengeful infidelity and their fiercely articulate sparring. Edgar and Alice even find time for a game of Get the Guest — in this case, her hapless cousin Kurt (Jeff LeBeau), the man who first introduced them and will now pay dearly for it.

“The Dance of Death” has enjoyed something of a resurgence thanks to Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s 2012 adaptation, which streamlined the character set, vernacular and stilted dialogue of previous translations from the original Swedish. In this staging, Odyssey Artistic Director Ron Sossi wrings every drop of black humor from McPherson’s sharp-edged verbal assaults. Larson and Kimball frequently draw laughs with their perfectly-inflected insults. The disintegrating civility of LeBeau’s Kurt in the face of Edgar’s needling and Alice’s seduction is particularly well-focused.

The bitter savagery is well-rendered by the performers, but they fall short in revealing the characters’ complexities. Larson’s Edgar is suitably petty and vindictive, but there’s no hint of the promise that Alice must once have seen in him. This is no lion in winter. He’s a housecat. Kimball could expose more of Alice’s lost dreams amid her self-pity at the prospect of doing housework without servants. Nevertheless, the characters’ mounting demonic furies are skillfully resolved with exactly the right unsentimental emotional tone in an all-too realistic finale.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

‘The Dance of Death’

Where: Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; ends Nov. 19. Additional performances 8 p.m. Oct. 18, Oct. 26 and Nov. 1. Ends Nov. 19

Tickets: $25-$34

Info: (310) 477-2055 or

Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes



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