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                                            By R. Pikser


The Connelly Theater occupies an old orphanage on East Fourth Street near Avenue B.  There are two theaters on the site, but the one in which Shadows is presented is an actual gem:  Above the intimate stage with its wide golden proscenium are bright golden heads of satyrs flanking someone, perhaps Apollo, also painted bright gold.


Shadows is meant as a gothic love story, an entertainment.  A modern woman wants to sell her ballerina great-grandmother’s apartment, said to be haunted.  The woman and her realtor fall into an affair as the ghosts of the ballerina, her lover, her husband, and the wife of the lover throw things, come and go, and dance around and about the new lovers. 


There is much that is witty in the book by Randall David Cook and in the lyrics by Edison Woods and Karen Bishko.   They use many of the songs as internal monologs, which is interesting and adds to the other-worldly quality of the play, as the other person in the scene remains frozen, clearly not party to the thoughts of the singer.  Mr. Cook’s co-creator on Shadows, Joey McKneely also directed and choreographed the show.  He, too, has found witty manners in which to use the ideas of ghosts, shadows, and unseen forces to move what is basically a static story of two people in bed.  The idea of enriching the story via dance is intriguing and merits further exploration.


The wittiness of the lyrics unfortunately is undercut by the rhythmical similarity of the music, so that the songs eventually seem the same. However, Janine Divita as the woman finds variation and subtlety in her interpretations, which she delivers with charm, warmth, and energy.  Her partner in sin, John Arthur Greene, is quite competent, if not so sure of himself.  Both, however, would do well to project when they speak, especially at the ends of lines.   


Other, more serious problems, exist.  In this day and age, is cheating on one’s spouse so terrible?  Perhaps we might understand the lovers’ stated angst, if we knew what they were risking, but we never really get to know them or what drives them, so we don’t care if they are cheating.  Their anguish does not touch us.  Another problem is the choreography, especially that of the ballerina’s husband and the lover’s wife.  Dramatic choreography, whether telling a story or revealing character, is a special skill.  Mr. McKneely’s staging ideas are inventive; his choreography is not.  We don’t mind so much when the two ghost lovers are dancing, because they are merely doing abstract and lovely ballet.  But if we have to understand what is going on inside the characters, as is the case with the spouses, more evocative movements must be found.  A deeper choreography could also help advance the plot.



But with all its problems, this show is more than worth seeing.  Irina Dvorovenko, formerly of American Ballet Theater, and before that, of the national opera Ballet of Kiev, is a pure energy not to be missed.  It is hard to describe such a talent and presence in this day when all the superlative words have been appropriated and mean nothing.  This reviewer does not like much, but Ms. Dvorovenko provokes amazement and awe in the ancient meanings of the words.  It is fitting that she dance on a stage, tiny though it be, under the heads of the gods.  Somehow, she manages to find in the abstract balletic movements something so internal to herself that we accept each gesture as important to ourselves, too.  Ms. Dvorovenko’s partner, Waldemar Quiñones-Villanueva is a good partner, but one cannot take one’s eyes off her.  Seeing her dance is an experience not to be missed. 


Shadows, a Dance Musical

November 29th-December 15th, 2018

Connelly Theater

220 East Fourth Street

New York, NY

Tickets $40