Theater Review: The Overcoat

A blend of superbly executed physicality, clowning, mime, and movement theater, Amit Lahav's production is a beautiful sketch without emotion.

June 6, 2010 22:10
1 minute read.
Scenes from 'The Overcoat.'

The Overcoat 311. (photo credit: Richard Haughton)

The Israel Festival
The Overcoat
Directed by Amit Lahav
Gecko Theater, UK
June 2

Performed in whiteface, Amit Lahav’s The Overcoat is 70 minutes of virtuoso visual razzle-dazzlery that tries to show what goes on inside the story, but falls short.

Gogol’s classic tells the tale of a friendless, grey and minor government copy-clerk, Akakki (Lahav), whose overcoat is so shabby it must be replaced. When he finally gets the overcoat, thieves steal it from off his back after only one day. Broken-hearted, he falls ill and dies and his ghost haunts the streets looking for his coat.

Lahav’s version is pretty close to the original, except that here the coat is a prize for productivity and Akakki’s drab daily round is exacerbated by a hopeless passion for a pretty clerk around whom he spins erotic fantasies. When a fellow clerk – Dai Tabuchi in a tour-de-force Kabuki turn – wins the coveted prize, poor Akakki breaks.

Ti Green’s brilliant, mobile and multi-level set lends a Gogol-via-Kafka resonance to office, streets and lonely lodging.

A blend of superbly executed physicality, clowning, mime, and movement theater, the striking visuals are complemented by chatter in gibberish and other languages – as if Lahav sensed that he’s missing something. The missing something is emotional content. This Overcoat is neither fish nor fowl because Lahav seems more concerned with exterior than interior. He doesn’t show Akakki’s longing for love and life, he sketches it.

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