Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews




picture - Kaspar HauserTheater Review

by Harvey Perr

published March 6, 2009


Kaspar Hauser: A Foundling’s Opera

now playing Off Broadway at The Flea

through March 28


Ah, I said to myself, during the first twenty minutes of Kaspar Hauser: A Foundling’s Opera, I am back in the theater. Out of the cold and basking in the warmth created by John McDermott’s lovely wooden set in a cramped area that reminded one instantly of the golden age of Off Off Broadway theater, lit to a fare-thee-well by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew first in amber, then in a fascinating array of colors crisscrossing the wide (though still cramped) playing area, a feeling of well-being permeated the room. And Elizabeth Swados’ score filled the space with a richness of sound - and just the right amount of sting to it - and, after a long duet, the cast rolled out and, with an air of joyous playfulness, sang and danced themselves into a choral frenzy that ended in a freeze-frame that was evocative and thrilling. It was exciting to see Swados, with the aid of movement director Mimi Quillin, bringing her strong dramatic sense to the proceedings. And I haven’t even mentioned the gorgeous costumes Normandy Sherwood has provided the actors who seemed to be having such a good time wearing them. When you talk about atmosphere, you couldn’t come up with a better example of it than what one felt during those first twenty minutes at the Flea Theater.


picture - Kaspar HauserBut how fleeting such thrills can be. Swados may have an ear for the dramatic effectiveness of music, but melody seems to elude her, and it doesn’t take long for a certain numbing monotony to settle in. And nothing gets more wearying than seeing the same dramatic effects used over and over again: after a while, all those freeze-frame images become a blur of faces. And, before you know it, you’re beginning to wonder why Ms. Swados (and her co-author Erin Courtney), in telling the story of Kaspar Hauser, the wild child found a century ago in Nurnberg and whose life, lived first in the wilderness and then in society, has intrigued and inspired artists and scientists ever since, should turn the story into a fairy tale, of all things, and then decide to eliminate the one moment - a reunion scene between Kaspar and the mother who thought he had been killed - that might have validated her choice.


To be sure, there are wonderful voices and some deliciously arch play-acting and the spirit of Kaspar is perfectly embodied in Preston Martin’s eternally innocent performance. And, in the midst of so much talent, one wants desperately for everything to come up triumphant. But Kaspar Hauser, in want of melody and in greater want of dramatic variety, wears out its welcome all too soon and ends up something of an exasperating bore.


harveyperr @


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