New York | 1h 55m | Already closed

The Dance of Death

From 23 critic and 97 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Funny, Great staging, Absorbing, Entertaining

About the show

Classic Stage Company presents Strindberg's celebrated drama, a bleak examination of marriage and the social institutions governing it. More…

Retired military man Edgar and his wife Alice have given up on any semblance of civility toward each other on the threshold of their 25th wedding anniversary. Due to their isolation, however, they are as codependent as they are hateful. Seething with cruelty, and punctuated by absurdity and humor, Strindberg’s electrifying play was ages ahead of its time in its bleak examination of marriage and the social institutions governing it.

"The Dance of Death" will be performed in repertory with "Mies Julie."

1h 55m | Already closed | Classic Stage Company (East Village)


“In spite of being 119 years-old, ‘The Dance of Death’ still has astonishing good skin tone under the direction of Clark...The production is bolstered by the excellent acting of the cast...The creative team make splendid use of the small performing space...It surely packs a big emotional punch.” Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

“’Dance of Death’, is the story is about a man Edgar and wife Alice who hate each other and are brutally and ferociously vicious towards each other with words and deeds...Clark lets us feel the hellish torture of this unfilled union. She has directed her excellent cast with aplomb...Topol as Edgar is arrogant, droll, devious...Beck is as just as sly and as shrewd...Innvar, is the perfect man caught between these feeding feral creatures.” Full Review

Off Off Online

"Conor McPherson has done a sterling job putting juice back into August Strindberg’s 'The Dance of Death'...Using McPherson’s lively refurbishment, one that is rife with gallows humor, director Victoria Clark has delivered an inspired and beautifully acted production...As the unhappy couple, Richard Topol and Cassie Beck are terrific. They find the nuances in the advances and retreats of their constant battle." Full Review


"Director Clark has provided a very CSC-ish staging. That means she relies mostly on text and performance, and just enough props to accommodate the action...McConnor's concept plays out like a real boxing match...Topol's physical performance is particularly impressive...No matter how smart and mordantly funny the dialogue and the actors' delivery, Strindberg is never easy." Full Review

Time Out New York

"It's a treat that director Victoria Clark...leans into the bleak humor in this depiction of a husband and wife so scarily destructive they make the central couple in 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf' seem cozy...Subtle it's not, and at times the performances teeter on the edge of overdone. But if Strindberg's observations about class and gender get buried under the broadness, the dark comedy of codependence shines through." Full Review

Front Row Center

"Set in the round, the actors in continuous movement, the play trots along but the movement is forced, staged. These are all damn fine actors but something is missing; connection, ensemble. They are not in step...One of Strindberg’s most daring plays and was way beyond its time when first staged in 1905 and McPherson’s adaptation is modern and wildly gratifying, so let's hope that as the production continues it can solidify this most interesting of takes on marriage." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Victoria Clark's staging of 'The Dance of Death,' Strindberg's bilious view of marriage as an extreme sport, bubbles with acid comedy...McPherson's version draws its bitter humor from characters who aren't afraid to bare the bald facts of their claustrophobic marital antagonism...Under Clark's spirited direction, every drop of this cyanide-laced cocktail delivers an appalling kick...'The Dance of Death' is a canonical work, but not an entirely satisfying one." Full Review


"Strindberg's 1900 darkly comic drama...accenting the mannered language of over a hundred years ago with flippant moments of contemporary vernacular...While 'The Dance of Death' is certainly not the strongest of Strindberg's plays, its vision of a storybook marriage gone sour remains relatable, and, from a distance, perversely entertaining." Full Review

The Wall Street Journal

"The performances are generally good, but Mr. Topol’s Edgar comes off rather like a goofy sitcom character, which can’t be right. Overall, the results don’t quite measure up to Writers Theatre’s 2014 U.S. premiere of Mr. McPherson’s adaptation...If, however, 'The Dance of Death' is new to you, this staging—and Mr. McPherson’s adaptation—will give you a clear and mostly satisfying idea of what it’s all about." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Bold images like these make us appreciate Victoria Clark interpretation of August Strindberg’s 'Dance of Death'...Scathing language is delivered with unnerving smiles on Alice and the Captain’s faces, in the new version by Conor McPherson. It’s as though a secret, inside of Alice and Edgar, produces levity in an otherwise chilly environment. Pass after pass, the hidden bit of humor gives way to surprise, making 'Dance of Death' a fascinating watch." Full Review

Theater Life

"This new translation by Conor McPherson mines the contemporary spirit of Strindberg’s marriage play, its bleak pessimism, and absurdity. Written at the turn of the 20th century, Strindberg’s black comedy was well ahead of its time...The production moves briskly, with an effecting sense of the brutality in Edgar and Alice’s 25-year marital interment. As Edgar, Richard Topol embodies the misanthropic husband who makes Alice’s every moment unbearable." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"Directed with agility and commitment by the phenomenal musical stage star, Victoria Clark...Even though the 'Dance' sometimes feels forced, overly structured, and not entirely in sync with one another, the essence of the still walking and breathing corpses screaming into the cold air resonate...This 'Dance,' one that lasts 110 minutes, is a bit of a slog, something right out of 'They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?' when it didn’t have to be." Full Review

The New York Times

"Seems to take place entirely at room temperature...Provides an accessible and assimilable introduction to a complex and uncomfortable world. Cautious theatergoers unacquainted with Strindberg may dip their toes into his work without being blistered...The virtue of such underplaying is that, when what the performers are saying so calmly fully registers, your jaw drops in wonder at the harshness of it...The disadvantage is that while Alice and Edgar are sometimes funny, they’re never scary." Full Review


"I actually quite like Conor McPherson’s new translation, which manages to be both bitingly contemporary yet somehow still period. I just wish director Victoria Clark had staged the play accordingly. Her safe, perfectly respectful and respectable production is very much solely in 19th century mode, as is the acting, which unfortunately diffuses the unsettling, viscous aggression." Full Review


"Clark has chosen to direct the play as though it were drawing room comedy…There is the suggestion that for Edgar and Alice this is all a series of games...Whether this is the fault of the new translation or the belief that modern audiences unfamiliar with Strindberg's psychological nightmares would have trouble sitting through this disturbing ritual, the effect is to make 'The Dance of Death' seem very superficial, as though Neil Simon had chosen to rewrite an O'Neill tragedy simply for humor." Full Review

Stage Left

“While today’s audiences know Albee’s George and Martha, Strindberg gave us Edgar and Alice in 1900—another unhappily married couple who engage in a dangerous round of party games with an unwitting guest. McPherson keeps the play as a period piece in turn of the century Sweden, but brushes up the language. Under director Victoria Clark, the performances are unsatisfying and overly colorful, undermining the more serious portrait of a marriage that is at work underneath." Full Review


"'The Dance of Death' is a nuclear standoff that is all too often more tiresome than taut..It's an appropriately joyless display, and Topol delivers a perfectly head-spinning performance as a compulsive liar and drunkard who, like his marriage, is constantly on the brink of death...But even McPherson, a playwright with an aptitude for building drama in confined spaces, can't lift 'The Dance of Death' out of its monotony." Full Review

The Wrap

"McPherson has adapted Strindberg’s play in plain-spoken English which makes the most of the play’s barbed Scandinavian wit. But the challenge for director Victoria Clark is the same that has plagued all who tackle this tricky story: Do you play it for tragedy or comedy, melodrama or farce?...Clark’s cast leans toward naturalism. This deprives the play of some of its comedic power...Despite their best efforts, Clark and her talented cast aren’t able to resolve this play’s many contradictions." Full Review

Stage and Cinema

"Dynamic modern 'new version' of August Strindberg’s darkly-comic masterpiece...Despite its arguably grim title, the play itself is delightful, full of humor and insight. As for Victoria Clark’s staging, if I could write a three-word review of the show, I would say, 'It was fine.' The experience is akin to watching a play on TV — all the info is there but the emotional connection is lacking." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"As Alice and Edgar, the warring couple at the center of 'The Dance of Death,' Beck and Topol don’t hit the same fierce pitch as their young counterparts in 'Mies Julie'...This 'Dance of Death' never fully finds either its horror or its humor. Director Victoria Clark keeps her actors talking quickly but without much variety...Clark is unaided by McPherson’s translation, which feels ungrounded in a strong vernacular and more than a little phoned in." Full Review

Broadway Blog

"The best revivals mix comedy with the cruelty. Laughs, though, are infrequent in…Clark's monotonous CSC revival…Even with McPherson's adaptation, no one makes 'The Dance of Death' seem other than a boring ballet of marital hell…Topol and Beck lack the appeal to make their tiffs anything other than exponentially irritating. His shuffling movements and sloppy appearance bely Edgar's job title, while his growling voice and scenery chewing suggest an audition for 'Marat/Sade.'" Full Review

New York Stage Review

"Although director Victoria Clark...may see humor here, she doesn’t pursue it...How many times do assaulted viewers want to see Edgar and Alice spew verbal and physical venom at each other only to reconcile, et cetera? Pulling Kurt into the spiteful vortex only exacerbates things...Maybe next time, an adventurous director might try mounting the classic(?) play as an out-and-out laff fest." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"McPherson’s adaptation is fluent, but this production does not nearly do it justice. Witnessed at a preview a week ago, the performances seemed flat. Perhaps they simply had yet to jell by then...The set, costume, lighting, and sound designs likewise are comparably natural. One wonders whether taking a more stylized approach to the play would strengthen its comedic aspects, or at least generate a weird electricity that might enliven this rather spiritless event." Full Review

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Masterful, Intelligent

See it if like great acting and great direction. This was an unexpected delight. I absolutely loved it. Victoria Clark has done excellent work! Go!!

Don't see it if you don't like Strindberg, I guess - but that's not fair, maybe you SHOULD see it if you don't like Strindberg. It will reset your barometer

Clever, Great acting, Dizzying, Masterful, Intense

See it if you are a fan of August Strindberg or simply want to see an extremely well done show all around

Don't see it if you are bothered by people laughing at inappropriate situations or physical violence

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if to see a less popular Strindberg dark comedy in which a dissatisfied couple, trapped in a miserable 25 year marriage, trade barbs & torments

Don't see it if you seek sentimentality, romance, light-hearted humor & happy endings.

Also This play, with which I was not previously familiar, is a clear influe... Read more Read less


See it if u like Strindberg, good direction, want to c a precursor to Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolfe/an interesting adaptation by Conor McPherson

Don't see it if if are in an impossible marriage u will never leave/ do not feel like being depressed

Also i felt lead actress was miscast.

Absorbing, Clever, Intelligent, Romantic, Quirky

See it if Strindberg is an acquired taste, but this translation brings out the humor in a truly dysfunctional marriage

Don't see it if You have a low attention span or like your plays to be clearly comedy or drama . ..not both

Humorous, Entertaining, Quirky, Slow, Disappointing

See it if a darkly funny story of a miserable marriage (on the eve of the 25th anniversary) where the spouses trade vicious barbs;

Don't see it if you want to be emotionally moved - either concerned or frightened or on the edge of your seat; some acting over the top; drags at 110 mins.

Funny, Great acting, Great staging, Intense, Exhausting

See it if you can steel yourself for an evening with the most unpleasant people you have probably ever met. It is certainly never boring!

Don't see it if you like light, uplifting fare with a happy ending.

Slow, Thought-provoking, Intense, Disappointing, Resonant

See it if It's McPherson's dark Irish humor in adapt that provides most interest in this fitful revival Actors tend to lean into sit-com territory

Don't see it if Drama frustrated by Clark's lackluster comic-centric direction Couple's danger & desperation never really reaches Stindbergian heights

Great acting, Quirky, Raunchy, Great staging

See it if If you Are A Strindberg admirer and enjoy a reimagining of a familiar story

Don't see it if You want to see a story told in the mindset of the playwright and don't want to sit through almost two hours of people sniping at each other

Ambitious, Entertaining

See it if you enjoy a small cast and a story of a failing toxic marriage.

Don't see it if you don't like intimate theater spaces. If you don't enjoy Who's Afriad of Virginia Woolf type shows.

Banal, Confusing, Excruciating, Indulgent, Overrated

See it if a tepid take of Strindberg suits your preferences

Don't see it if morbid depressing stories amplified by a monotone cast and dramatized by a gory playwright are abhorrent to you


See it if You want to have a laugh at the expense of a classic play.

Don't see it if You value truth in acting or directing.

During previews
Riveting, thought-provoking, well-acted,amusing, well-acted

See it if You appreciate a thought-provoking,well-acted, amusing, and totally absorbing evening

Don't see it if You have a total bias against Strindberg's conceit about the challenges of marriage and Mcpherson's wonderful translation and update

During previews
Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Masterful, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to experience exquisite acting by all. Great writing, interesting staging. Wonderfully Disturbing, intense BDSM in your face.

Don't see it if You are easily disturbed by raw emotions. Don’t see it if you didn’t like Virginia Wolf.

Also The ending requires a stiff drink while you ponder what you just exper... Read more Read less

During previews
Entertaining, Great acting, Intelligent, Hilarious, Great directing

See it if The love/hate continuum acted and directed brilliantly is on display here. It certainly can’t be classed as a comedy but parts are hilarious

Don't see it if Emotions portrayed with equal parts sarcasm and passion are of no interest to you. You don’t like Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” !

During previews
Absorbing, Funny, Great acting, Great staging, Intense

See it if Love and hate relationship, they are at each other the whole time. Sometime it funny.

Don't see it if A relationship that is serious misfunction.

Also The acting was great. They fought and said things to hurt each.

During previews
Entertaining, Funny, Great acting, Masterful

See it if You're in the mood for a laugh, you appreciate when period shows aren't dated, you're in it for good acting

Don't see it if You can't make it 110 minutes without an intermission

During previews
Hilarious, witty, beautifully-acted portrait of vicious and deluded married couple

See it if You like smart vicious dialogue, great acting, and a knife-edge sharp portrait of a nasty co-dependent couple

Don't see it if You like your plays heart-warming, with elaborate staging and plot

During previews
Great acting, Quirky, Riveting, Darkly funny, Entertaining

See it if What a twisted delight! Like a Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf and No Exit mashup. I was on the edge of my seat laughing and cringing.

Don't see it if You dislike adaptations that take liberty with source material or you can't see how marital strike could be used as the basis of dark comedy

During previews
Great acting, Absorbing, Intelligent, Intense, Resonant

See it if a living, breathing, well acted (part. Richard Topol -- wow) production of a classic. the contemporizing adapation is refreshing.

Don't see it if you want a slavishly faithful production of this classic, you want a real set (which is actually important according to Strindberg.)

Also Much better than the other accounts here would lead me to believe. The... Read more Read less

During previews
Absorbing, Clever, Great staging, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You love brilliant dialogue that is both tragic and funny.

Don't see it if You don't like arguing. Or it will bother you to hear about a fight.

During previews
Funny, Farcical, Very well played, Dynamically staged, Deadly accurate

See it if you'd like to experience a version of a modern classic play that mines it for its truths about how ridiculous human conduct can be.

Don't see it if for you Strindberg's original text is too sacred to be tampered with.

Also This is a model adaptation & a very strong production. The team has mi... Read more Read less

During previews
Brilliant direction, Fab mcpherson adaptation, Great acting & staging, Wickedly funny, Theatre of cruelty

See it if love McPherson's style, want to laugh a lot at the absurdity, want wicked funny & great stylized acting, directing, & movement sequences,

Don't see it if hate conflict, need total realism, don't want to be reminded of life you may have at home, need tragedy masks on your Strindberg

During previews
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Profound, Relevant

See it if you enjoyed "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf" and like plays showing the reality of some marriages

Don't see it if you don't like dark humor and don't like to see married couples bicker on stage.

Also The play worked for me.

During previews
Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Director did a great job, Costuming + sound design + sci-fi effects were great

See it if you somehow missed this Strindberg play; you adore superb acting + masterful directing; a surreal, macabre view of marriage interests you

Don't see it if you're not interested in all the ways marital discord & deceit can actually be laugh-out-loud funny; you avoid 19th century plays;

Also The cast is great - especially Rich Topol as Edgar, whose physicality ... Read more Read less

Cast & Creatives (11)