New York Fringe Festival Report: 'The Spider'
by Scott Heller
For Martin (Penko Gospodinov) and Martha (Anastassia Liutova) it’s the night before the big morning: Tomorrow these conjoined twins, linked back-to-back at the shoulder but emotionally connected at their very marrow, are due for surgery that will separate them for the first time. In the tumultuous hour that makes up “The Spider,” a Bulgarian play that completed its North American premiere run, they reminisce, bicker, bemoan their fates and wonder out loud about what may come. Always at stake: will being apart offer release, or make them that much more ordinary?
“We are what many couples in love dream of being,” Martin insists. “I’d rather choose the dangers of the free world than the safety of a prison,” Martha answers.
Existential echoes of Beckett and Sartre are in the air, and political metaphors likely, too. But “The Spider,” written and directed by Dimitar Dimitrov and Yordan Slaveykov, works outstandingly on its own terms. Though it’s not specified in the script, the production largely confines the two characters to one tight bathtub, where Mr. Gospodinov (in a bathing cap) and Ms. Liutova (topless) manage astonishing variations on the love-me-or-leave-me theme while pretty much unable to look each other in the eyes.
We can’t look away, though, thanks to the impassioned performances (the well-translated Bulgarian dialogue is projected on a wall behind the actors), eerie musical underscoring (by Alexander Kalanov and Yordan Borisov) and effective lighting (by Cindy Shumsey). Credit to the Drama League, too, for helping to sprinkle some Eastern European tragicomedy in a Fringe program filled with lighter fare.
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