Magazine article Dance Magazine

Two Cigarettes in the Dark

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Two Cigarettes in the Dark

Article excerpt

Tanztheater Wuppertal, directed by Pina Bausch, marked its twentieth anniversary in 1993. Among the works revived to celebrate the milestone was Two Cigarettes in the Dark, a two-act piece Bausch created in 1985. Advertising copy termed this Bausch's "lightest," "funniest," "most emotionally satisfying," and "most accessible" work. As someone who has gone from being bewildered to being mesmerized by Bausch's art, I cannot say I found any of these superlatives accurate.

With its cast of six women and five men frequently isolated as solo or duo units, Two Cigarettes plays out rather like a chamber work. The large white room (designed by Peter Pabst) that frames these individuals provides a grand but austere environment. Each of three expansive walls has a picture window: one is filled with aquariums of live fish; a second reveals a terrarium that looks like a lush Henri Rousseau forest; and the third has sand planted with large cacti. The men and women who inhabit this interior, sometimes appearing in the water or in the flora behind the windows, either wear evening dress or are stripped to bathing suits and underwear.

Deep-voiced and robust Mechthild Grossmann cavorts in striking contrast to the wan, reedy-voiced Helena Pikon. The first act of goings-on in this pristine space has moments of theatrical interest, but much of the time Bausch seems to have relinquished her keen directorial control to her performers' own whims. As a put-upon character, Dominique Mercy gives a performance more tedious than comic. …

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