Pollyanna Meets the Nazis. Photo by Damon Calderwood.

Libby Skala has a great haircut. That, and her big bright eyes, are the saving graces of A Time to Dance, the 70-minute Fringe show that would run a much more comfortable 50 minutes if someone could convince her to stop repeating her best lines three times each.

Her lilting voice smeared with an Austrian accent, Skala takes the role of her great-aunt Elizabeth Polk, a pioneering dance therapist who died at 99 in 2001. Born two months premature in Vienna, Lisl, as she was called, lived out a picaresque sequence of events that largely fall into a “fortunately—unfortunately” rhythm, each crisis resolving into some magical salvation. During World War II she emigrated to New York. She lived a long time and accomplished a great deal, most of it out of the public eye, and seems to have been an indomitable spirit.

Skala narrates this story in a handsome black ensemble, accessorized with a salmon-colored shawl, a tambourine, maracas and a drum. She dances around, stopping to tell us her great-aunt’s anecdotes about surviving two world wars and the economic collapse of her country, not to mention a difficult marriage she enters into because she loves the guy’s bathroom. She punctuates her tales with recorded music, most arrestingly a number I eventually managed to identify as the theme from Tetris.

Working from taped interviews originally sought as background material for her other show about Lisl’s older sister, the actress Lilia Skala, the Berkeley-based perfomer-author has done the best she can with what is basically a pretty thin story. Besides the really exasperating habit of repeating the same remarks over and over, she has a leisurely delivery that left me on the edge of sleep on more than one occasion. But the house was full and she seemed to have the rest of the audience in the palm of her hand.

A Time To Dance
Lafayette Theater
45 Bleecker Street
866.468.7619; $15
Thursday and Monday at 9:45 PM; Friday at 3PM; Through August 24th
For more info: Fringe NYC

Elizabeth Zimmer

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