In solo-show, A Time to Dance, Libby Skala channels her quirky great-aunt Elizabeth (Lisl) Polk and tells the story of her life. Through Skala, we see Lisl grow from remarkable little girl to self-assured old lady and learn about her life and accomplishments along the way. From a childhood in Vienna, a move to New York, a relocation back to Denmark and then Austria after Hitler's invasion, followed by a final transfer back to the States, its clear that Lisl's energy and spirit guided a pretty incredible life.
Skala got the idea for this show after interviewing Lisl for a play she was writing on her grandmother (Lisl's sister), actress Lilia Skala. According to the program notes, Lisl just wanted to talk about herself during the interviews and after reviewing the tapes, Skala realized she had a pretty great story as well.
The biggest strength in A Time to Dance is the charismatic connectedness Skala offers the audience. As the show is about a woman's love for dance, Skala flits around the stage and makes movement paramount to the show's message. The action on stage is interesting from the minute it begins and I personally never lost interest in Lisl's story. It seemed like those around me were also pretty engrossed.
Now, I think most people have quirky relatives with great stories, particularly those who survived the world wars and lived to tell about it. Lisl's life is fascinating but I was also interested in the subject matter beyond the character. Lisl's modern dance background and work as a notable dance therapist really fascinated me and to be honest, I was hoping to learn more about those facets of her life. A Time to Dance doesn't really delve into the technical side of Lisl's life in dance. It's really just the story of this phenomenal person's joie de vie, and certainly one worth telling.
(A Time to Dance plays at the Theatres on 45 Bleecker, 45 Bleecker Street. Performances are Tuesday 8/18 at 8pm, Thursday 8/20 at 9:45pm, Friday 8/21 at 3pm and Monday 8/24 at 9:45pm. For tickets and show info visit libbyskala.com and for more FringeNYC info visit fringenyc.org.)