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Bob Goepfert Reviews "Stockholm"

Stageworks in Hudson has a reputation for producing cutting-edge theater.  Their current offering,-the American premiere of “Stockholm,” - elevates that reputation for creating provocative and disturbing theater.

This production of “Stockholm” is an amazing production of a play that is exciting, bold, beautiful and erotic.  It’s not a play or a production suited for everyone’s taste, but if you like daring theatre that will make you think and feel it should not be missed.

“Stockholm” is about a young married couple, Todd and Kali who are about to leave on a holiday to Stockholm.   They have everything – a beautiful apartment, successful careers, loyal friends and what appears to be a solid relationship.

However, their life is all about appearances.  It soon becomes evident that the “Stockholm” title is not about a place, but refers to the Stockholm Syndrome, which bonds a victim to his abuser.   It is probably best known in reference to the Patty Hearst kidnapping and is often used to explain the behavior of battered wives who stay in a brutal relationship.

In this case it is Todd who is Kali’s victim.  She is a woman who is as disturbed as she is beautiful.  She has manipulated Todd so he is isolated from family and friends to the point she is the sole focus of his life and a willing victim for her attacks of verbal and physical violence - which always ends with intense sexual intercourse. Though there are moments of extreme sensuality and language there is no nudity or gratuitous behavior.

This is an alluringly beautiful presentation in which almost every movement is choreographed.   The fight scenes are astoundingly physical and the love-making moments are breathtakingly sensitive. These extremes reflect the minds of the characters and hint (without justifying) at why they indulge in such dysfunctional behavior.

The performances are perfection as they feature two of the bravest performance actors can offer.  Jason Babinsky plays Todd as a victim about whom we care without forgiving his willingness to stay in a toxic and doomed relationship.   Babinsky is able to create a complicated man while expertly handling the extreme physical demands of the script.

Emily Gardner Hall is a compelling Kali.  She is a dangerous, deceptive, mentally-disturbed woman who knows her sexual hold over Todd.  Hall is lithe, graceful and extremely sexual as she creates a character that is hypnotic in her sensuality. As much as you are repelled by her emotional and physical cruelty and you find yourself understanding Todd’s attraction to her.   

The cognitive dissonance between beauty and repulsion is what makes the play so compelling. The production is almost visceral in it beauty and its insights on addictive behavior are scary.  

Enriching the experience is way the play works on so many intellectual levels.

The fact that the characters are able to stand outside themselves offering narration on the situation indicates their awareness about what is happening to them.  The locations inside their home (attic, main floor and basement) can be metaphors for the Id,. Ego and Super-Ego that bring a richer psychological resonance to the work.  The fact that Kali is also the name of the Hindu Goddess of Death and Destruction adds a mythical element to the material.

Stockholm is 75-minute s of intense theater.  Though not an easy play to embrace, it is a magnificent theatrical experience.

Bryony Lavery has written a dense, threatening and beautiful piece of theater.  Director Laura Margolis and choreographer Jennifer Weber bring it to vivid life at Stageworks in Hudson.

“Stockholm” at Stageworks, 41-A Cross Street, Hudson   Through Sept. 1. Peformances  7:30 p.m. Wednesdays,Thursdays, and Sundays. 8 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays.  Matinees 2 p.m. Saturdays & Sundays.

Bob Goepfert is the arts editor for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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