Kharmful Charms of Daniil Kharms

cabaret & variety · artel · Ages 16+ · United States

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June 09, 2014 original article

My overall impression

The Kharmful Charms of Daniil Kharms
By Brian Sonia-Wallace
This review first appeared on

If this production were to play a verb, it would be, “to tickle the audience”. An intricate European clown show descending into punk chaos, this production is a parade of ever-sillier characters marinating in the irrationality of their early 20th Century Russian world. I did want to know more about the life and times of Daniil Kharms, the absurdist short story author whose stories the play is based on, and felt that an understanding of where he was writing from would deepen my appreciation of the piece. As much as I enjoyed the production, I felt like I must have missed out on a lot from lack of context. The show is at its strongest when it embraces how bittersweet the absurdist chaos it celebrates can be – highlights include a world-weary fairy godmother, an obsessive letter-writer, portraits of historical figures one-upping each other, and a whole chorus of dusty grandmothers. Some of the sketches in this patchwork show work better than others, and it could use some pruning. I wanted the moments of sentimentality and beauty, so revealing of the common thread of the show, to happen much sooner. But when those moments come – like the grandmother in the snow, literally physically falling apart – they are gorgeous and violent and sad. The central premise, it seems to me, is ‘shit happens’. For sheer craftsmanship and force of performance, this play gets a ‘go’ in my book.

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