Nijinsky Speaks | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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Long before Baryshnikov or Nureyev, Vaslav Nijinsky (1889-1950) defined the Russian male dancer at his most dramatic and charismatic--the artist as superstar sex symbol. Tragically, he also epitomized the link between genius and madness, spending most of his life in a mental institution after a brief but blazing turn in the spotlight. Today we know Nijinsky mostly from photographs, wearing the exotic costumes of Michel Fokine's Le spectre de la rose, Sheherazade, and Petrushka and his own shocker L'apres-midi d'un faune, appearing strange and magical but also odd and archaic. Actor-dancer Leonard Crofoot reclaims Nijinsky from that distant legend in his one-man show Nijinsky Speaks. Looking like an accountant on his lunch hour in trousers, white shirt, and necktie, Crofoot portrays his subject as a middle-aged asylum inmate playing "my greatest role, Nijinsky the lunatic." Ruminating about his life and the people in it, Crofoot's Nijinsky shares mischievous intimacies about his lover, the domineering impresario Sergey Diaghilev, along with sometimes triumphant, sometimes anguished accounts of key episodes in his pathbreaking career, including the riot that greeted the 1913 premiere of Le sacre du printemps (audiences traded blows over which they hated more, Nijinsky's choreography or Igor Stravinsky's score). The graceful and powerful Crofoot--whose credits range from the Bolshoi to Broadway--ingeniously fuses monologue and dance to illuminate Nijinsky's inner state and to reinterpret his art in contemporary terms. Take his startling rendition of the climax of the 1912 L'apres-midi d'un faune. Revivals of the dance today can seem a little silly: Nijinsky, a satyr, sniffed, stroked, tasted, and finally humped the scarf dropped by a shy nymph. Substituting his necktie for the scarf, Crofoot reminds us of the work's jolting eroticism--and of Nijinsky's own emotional tumult. Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 Campbell, Arlington Heights, 847-577-2121. April 12-13: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM. $30.

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