It might invoke the Kabbalah more frequently than even Madonna/Esther does, but the soul of I. B. Singer’s “Teibele and Her Demon” belongs as much to the kind of ironic yarn favored by Ambrose Bierce or O. Henry. The impoverished scholar Alchonon (Kirk Anderson) succeeds in wooing the unattainable Teibele (dado) in the guise of a demon; as a husband, he’s a fatal disappointment to her. Zeljko Djukic’s director’s note to European Repertory Company’s production of “Teibele,” at the Atheneum, makes the play’s essential conundrum clear: how do you reconcile the creaky folk-tale schematism of Singer’s plot with the realistic inheritance of contemporary theatre? Unfortunately, the answer in this case seems to be, you don’t. While Nikita Tkachuk and Keith Parham’s set and lighting design create an intriguing abstract space of infernal pits and shadowy appearances, the production as a whole seems suffused with a dreamy lethargy, as though vampires, not demons, assail the actors. Inexplicably long pauses led me to wonder, repeatedly, why Teibele couldn’t recognize the demon as the scholar, even given his wily sleight of removing his glasses. Such admittedly pedestrian thoughts keep the play’s questions about sex, damnation, and self-knowledge from becoming more than abstract talking points from another place and time. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.