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: On Broadway and Off  ( 15993 )
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« : October 10, 2008, 10:45:14 AM »

Terry Teachout has a very good review of the current Broadway production of A Man For All Seasons. I say it's a good review because I saw the show two weeks ago, and I can heartily endorse everything Mr. Teachout says:

Quote
New York

In 1961, Robert Bolt's "A Man for All Seasons" opened on Broadway and ran for a year and a half -- an impressive run by any standard, and altogether astonishing for an intellectually demanding history play set in the 16th century. Now "A Man for All Seasons" is back on Broadway for the first time in 45 years. Why the long wait? Two words: the movie. Fred Zinnemann's 1966 film version preserves Paul Scofield's famous stage performance as Thomas More, who got his head chopped off in 1535 for opposing the illegal divorce and remarriage of King Henry VIII and was canonized 400 years later. It's one of the best movies ever made from a play, and it brought home six Oscars, one of them for Scofield and all well deserved. Small wonder that nobody dared to revive the play until now.

Why, then, is the Roundabout Theatre Company bucking such long odds? Because it has an ace in the hole: Frank Langella. He hit the jackpot last year with his eerily evocative interpretation of Richard Nixon in "Frost/Nixon," and is returning to Broadway in an equally meaty role. From disgraced president to martyred saint -- how can you lose? Nor does he. Mr. Langella's version of St. Thomas is all his own: urbane, world-weary, more public than that of his great predecessor, which makes it all the more moving when he collapses in fear and desperation midway through the second act, knowing that he may be about to lose his life over a matter of conscience. Better than Scofield? No -- but just as good.

It goes without saying that Langella knocks his big speeches out of the park, especially the oft-quoted one in which he warns his daughter's overzealous boyfriend of the unknowable dangers of "cutting a great road through the law" in order to pursue short-term justice: "And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you -- where would you hide, the laws all being flat?" Who would have thought that one of the great moments of 20th-century theater would turn out to be a speech about the law of unintended consequences?

Patrick Page, an old Broadway hand who dazzled me a few months ago in "The Pleasure of His Company" at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, makes a formidable impression in his brief but potent star turn as the mercurial Henry. He's scary in just the right way -- first charming, then threatening, and you never know when he's going to switch from one to the other. Going up against Mr. Langella is like sticking your head into the business end of a cannon, but Mr. Page emerges in one piece.

Mr. Langella and Mr. Page are by far the best things about Doug Hughes's staging, which takes significant liberties with Bolt's original script that go unmentioned in the program. Mr. Hughes has eliminated the character of the Common Man, distributing his various parts among several actors and cutting his sardonic epilogue (the play now ends with a blackout as St. Thomas ascends to the scaffold). The purpose of these changes, I assume, is to make "A Man for All Seasons" feel less like a play and more like a movie, but the result has been to make it more conventional in dramaturgical effect. It doesn't help that most of the supporting parts are played competently but unmemorably.

Taken on its own terms, though, the Roundabout's "Man for All Seasons" is an excellent and persuasive piece of work, in large part because the play itself is so masterly a piece of storytelling. Bolt took a knotty subject, the rule of law, and turned it into an intensely theatrical battle between two stiff-necked giants, one a man of principle, the other a man of passion and power. The result, if perhaps not quite a great play, is at the very least an extraordinarily good one. Rarely has a history lesson been taught so painlessly -- or intelligently.

A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS
Roundabout Theatre Company,
American Airlines Theatre,
227 W. 42nd St., New York
($66.50-$111.50),
212-719-1300, closes Dec.

Teachout's video review, with clips from the show, is here (after a commercial):
http://online.wsj.com/video/a-man-for-all-seasons/C9D5AA19-5CFA-4C36-9334-3036DC8089B5.html



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« #1 : October 10, 2008, 11:51:00 AM »

Rockin'. I so wish I could see this. Thanks so much for posting.

« : October 10, 2008, 11:55:25 AM Groggy »


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« #2 : October 12, 2008, 12:10:46 PM »

Went to see Kristin Scott Thomas in The Seagull yesterday. Robert McNeil was in the audience. I thought the performance was quite good, but the theater, the Walter Kerr, is a joke. Not only are the seats cramped and uncomfortable, the left side of the orchestra opens almost directly onto 48th St. which means everytime an emergency vehicle goes by the siren drowns out the actors. This happened three separate times during the matinee I saw. Anyway, here's TT's review (I liked it a bit better than he did, apparently):

Quote
OCTOBER 3, 2008

A Noisy 'Seagull,'
By TERRY TEACHOUT

New York

It's been eight years since any play by Anton Chekhov was last seen on Broadway, and 15 since Tony Randall's National Actors Theatre performed "The Seagull" there. So the arrival in town of the Royal Court Theatre's highly praised production of 2007, in which Kristin Scott Thomas ("The English Patient") plays Arkadina, ought to be cause for celebration. Sure enough, Ian Rickson has given us a carefully considered staging, one that makes sense on paper -- yet I never managed to warm up to it, or felt myself drawn into Chekhov's world, in which comedy and tragedy are tied together so tightly that you can't tell them apart.

Not until well into the second act did I figure out what was bothering me. Especially in Christopher Hampton's new English-language version, this is a very British "Seagull," but not in the pale, old-fashioned way: I've never seen a production of "The Seagull" that was played so successfully, even relentlessly, for laughs. Up to a point this is as it should be, but Mr. Rickson's staging is overemphatic and overly detailed, often to the point of outright fussiness. Nobody throws anything away -- every moment is made to register -- and much of the play's poignancy, at least for me, got lost in the resulting clutter. Compared with the Classic Stage Company's recent Off-Broadway "Seagull," which was as intimate as it was immediate, this production struck me as both too big and (so to speak) too noisy.

Three of the performances, however, are decidedly worth seeing. As Arkadina, the great actress who has no room in her life for her less-talented son, Konstantin (Mackenzie Crook), Ms. Thomas is every inch the diva, imperious and always "on." Carey Mulligan is burningly intense as Nina, the stage-struck girl from the provinces who steals Arkadina's lover, then loses him again. And Zoe Kazan, the most interesting young actress in New York, gives us a fearsomely high-strung Masha whose obsessive love for Konstantin is all too believable. I only wish that Mr. Rickson's production had supplied a more convincing context for the work of these artists -- especially Ms. Kazan, who has it in her to become a name-above-the-title stage star.

Again, I didn't think the production was "noisy." 48th Street, though, was noisy.



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« #3 : October 12, 2008, 02:13:13 PM »

Kristin Scott Thomas? :o You lucky bastard. If you got to meet her after the show I'll have to kill you.



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« #4 : April 24, 2009, 07:59:59 AM »

Two great productions on Broadway I've seen recently get nice write-ups in today's WSJ:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124052769963750221.html

I'm basically vouching for what Teachout says for both productions. I can't help adding a few thoughts of my own, however.

Quote
"Mary Stuart" is very good and also reminded me of Shakespeare. Except Schiller and his translator(s) aren't sure, it seems to me, what they want the play to say. Mary is supposed to be the noble figure, Elizabeth the schemer. Why, then, is Elizabeth the more interesting character? It can't just be because the very talented Harriet Walter is in the role. Surely, the Mary part is underwritten. The big confrontation scene--the ahistorical encounter between Mary and Elizabeth that seemed to be Schiller's raison d'etre for the play--doesn't really amount to much. Mary herself comes off as something of a schizophrenic, seeking advantage at one moment, resigning herself to her fate the next. I guess it's human nature, but it seems unremarkable. The calculating Elizabeth, on the other hand, never quite reveals what's going on in her mind (if I recall correctly, she has no soliliquies, only speeches to other players which may or may not reflect her true feelings). Which means, not clear about her motivations, our thoughts are more often trained upon her. So what if she's supposed to be the villain: Macbeth is the only interesting character in "Macbeth", also. At the end of "Mary Stuart" Elizabeth is presented on stage alone; she's banished or killed those about her, and others have fled from her court. She's supposed, I guess, to be a portrait of woman has caused her own self-isolation. But how does that square with the historical record? And the one thing we know about monarchs: they can always get a court if they want one. So Schiller's playing a bit fast and loose with the facts; still, it's an entertaining play, and this current production is a good one. TT is right, though: it's all mind and no heart.



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« #5 : May 27, 2009, 11:57:09 AM »

In today's NY Post:
Quote
JACKMAN, CRAIG TO TAKE B'WAY BY STORM

By MICHAEL RIEDEL

May 27, 2009 --

Here come the hunks!

Daniel Craig, a k a James Bond, and Hugh Jackman, aka Wolverine, will team up in a new play this fall on Broadway, The Post has learned.

The drama, "A Steady Rain" by Keith Huff, is about two Chicago cops whose lifelong friendship is put to the test when they become involved in a domestic dispute in a poor neighborhood.

MORE: Theater Blog

Craig, whose Bond movies "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace" are among the highest grossing films of all time, will be making his New York stage debut. He started off in the theater in London, playing bit parts, but he has not appeared in a play in several years.

Jackman won a Tony Award in 2004 for his role as Peter Allen in "The Boy From Oz."

Although the musical received mixed reviews, Jackman became a box-office sensation, shaking a pair of maracas and flouncing around the stage in tight leopard pants.

"The Boy From Oz" regularly grossed more than $1 million a week. Jackman became the most sought-after leading man in the theater, though he's turned down every offer to star in another show until now.

"Everybody wanted him to do a musical, but he wanted to do a serious play," a theater source says.

Barbara Broccoli, who oversees the James Bond movie franchise, is producing "A Steady Rain." She arrives in New York from Europe this weekend to scout out Broadway theaters, sources said.

The daughter of legendary James Bond producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, Barbara Broccoli produced "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" on Broadway in 2005.

It was a $10 million flop.

She should do better this time around.

Theater sources say Craig and Jackman have the potential to match Broadway's biggest box- office champ, Julia Roberts, who sold over $10 million worth of tickets in just 12 weeks in the play "Three Days of Rain" in 2006.

Although "A Steady Rain" is harsh and harrowing, one Broadway wag pre dicted that even those theatergoers whose tastes run to splashy musicals will want to see it.

Said the wag: "Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman in police uniforms? All the boys will be there!"

michael.riedel@nypost.com



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« #6 : June 19, 2009, 05:34:40 PM »

I saw the Broadway run of this last winter; I'm sorry I won't have a chance to go to Hartford before it closes there.

Quote
JUNE 19, 2009

Improving on Perfection

By TERRY TEACHOUT



Hartford, Conn.

You can’t be sure how good a work of art is until you’ve seen it more than once. I saw Horton Foote’s “Dividing the Estate” for the third time last week, and it looked better than ever—though I have no doubt that a good-sized chunk of the credit this time around goes to Lois Smith. Ms. Smith, whose performance in the Signature Theatre Company’s unforgettable 2005 Off-Broadway revival of Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” was a high-water mark in my playgoing life, has taken over Elizabeth Ashley’s role in Hartford Stage’s production of “Dividing the Estate,” which is otherwise a straight transfer of the Lincoln Center Theater staging seen on Broadway last winter. Ms. Ashley is, of course, a tough act to follow, but Ms. Smith does so triumphantly. In fact, she might just be better than her celebrated predecessor—and that’s saying plenty.

More about Ms. Smith in a moment. But first a word about the play, a black comedy about a quarreling small-town family whose aged matriarch (Ms. Smith) obstinately refuses to sell the Texas farm on which she lives and divide the proceeds among her grasping children. Foote, who died in March at the age of 92, didn’t go in for straight comedy any more than did Chekhov, his master, and the laughs in “Dividing the Estate,” of which there are more than I can count, do nothing to conceal the play’s essential seriousness. It’s a hard-headed tale of the corrosive effects of disappointment on the human soul, and my guess is that it will be remembered a century from now as a classic of American theater.

It’s been 13 years since Lois Smith last appeared on Broadway (“The Trip to Bountiful” was supposed to transfer there, but no theater was available at the time). That alone is reason enough to go to Hartford to see her. She seasons the role of Stella with a savory pinch of mischief—you can tell that she enjoys toying with her offspring—that heightens the pathos of her character’s imminent rendezvous with death. Her Stella is neither Gothic nor grotesque, merely human, and the relish with which she clings to what remains of her long life is unutterably poignant.

The other members of the ensemble cast have been working together since this production first opened Off Broadway in 2007, yet they show no signs of ennui. If anything, they’ve managed to improve on what I previously thought couldn’t be bettered. It’s no surprise that Hallie Foote, the playwright’s daughter, is masterly as Mary Jo, the pinch-faced child who has been pickled in the brine of greed, but everyone else in the cast is up to the formidably high standards set by Ms. Foote and Ms. Smith. Though I hesitate to single anyone out for individual praise—they all deserve it—I can’t pass over Arthur French, who makes something very special indeed out of the seemingly ungrateful role of Doug, the nonagenarian servant who longs to be buried in an expensive coffin.

In order to make use of the set designed by Jeff Cowie for the show’s Broadway run, Hartford Stage has installed a temporary proscenium stage inside its shallow thrust-stage auditorium, thereby putting much of the audience unusually close to the performers. The added intimacy of this arrangement makes it easier to relish the fine detail of Michael Wilson’s immaculate direction. No doubt future directors will think of other ways to stage “Dividing the Estate” that will be just as good, but I doubt that I’ll ever see the play again—and I expect to see it many times in years to come—without remembering this wonderful production.



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« #7 : September 06, 2009, 08:48:05 PM »

Hmmm: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/theater/06lyal.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2



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« #8 : October 02, 2009, 11:22:56 AM »

In today's WSJ:
Quote
Serious Entertainment, Chicago-Style

    *
      By TERRY TEACHOUT


New York

Chicago has come to Broadway—with a great big bang. Two new plays by Chicago-based writers, Keith Huff's "A Steady Rain" and Tracy Letts's "Superior Donuts," opened across the street from one another this week. Not only are both shows set to become box-office hits, but both are characteristic of Chicagoland theater at its gritty, no-nonsense best. The difference is that while "Superior Donuts" is a straight Chicago-to-New York transfer of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company production, "A Steady Rain" is a made-for-Broadway remounting that features two movie stars, Daniel Craig ("Quantum of Solace") and Hugh Jackman ("X-Men"), whose real-life accents are unmistakably un-American.

Why does this matter? Because Messrs. Craig and Jackman are playing a pair of beat cops from the South Side of Chicago, the first slightly bent and the second crooked as a twice-bought pol, who talk the spiky talk of the streets where they grew up ("I known the guy since kinnygarten"). In a two-man play, especially one written by a sharp-eared Chicago author whose father-in-law and brother-in-law were policemen, American audiences have a right to expect the actors to sound like the characters they're playing. Mr. Craig, a British actor with classical training and a wide variety of stage experience, manages this tricky task with cool aplomb, tunnelling so far inside his part that it's easy to forget who's playing it. Mr. Jackman does his damnedest to keep up, but Australian vowels occasionally peep through the nasal snarl of his ersatz Chicago accent, and though he gives a strong, satisfying performance, you're always aware that it is a performance.

Not that this diminishes the gut-level impact of "A Steady Rain," an irresistibly forceful exercise in noir-style tandem storytelling in which the hushed audience watches Mr. Jackman's character hurtle headlong toward the abyss of self-destruction, seemingly unable to stop himself from doing all the wrong things at all the wrong times. Mr. Craig, who plays his softer-spoken partner, makes the most out of what appears on paper to be the less flashy of the two roles. I wouldn't exactly say that he steals the show from Mr. Jackman, but I bet he's the one you'll be thinking about on the way home from the theater.

John Crowley ("The Pillowman") has staged "A Steady Rain" with a crisp, curt directness that sits somewhat awkwardly alongside Scott Pask's overelaborate set and Mark Bennett's self-consciously brooding incidental music. No doubt "A Steady Rain" will be taken up by regional theaters across America, and I wouldn't be surprised if most of them present it less expensively—and more effectively. Me, I'd rather watch it performed on a small-house thrust stage with no set and no music, but don't let that quibble stop you from coming to see "A Steady Rain" on Broadway. Mr. Craig's performance is devastatingly credible, and Mr. Jackman isn't all that far behind.



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« #9 : October 10, 2009, 09:49:32 AM »

On the Jude Law Hamlet:
Quote
OCTOBER 9, 2009

A 'Hamlet' With Few Surprises

By TERRY TEACHOUT

New York

Another "Hamlet," another movie star. When Shakespeare's best-known tragedy was last seen on Broadway, Ralph Fiennes played the title role and the production was a transfer from London. Fourteen years later, Jude Law is playing the title role and the production is a transfer from London. Few Broadway producers would dream of putting cash into a home-grown Shakespeare staging: They'd rather buy British, and they won't even do that without a Hollywood-issued flop-insurance policy.

So what are the backers of Mr. Law's "Hamlet" getting for their money? A perfectly respectable, perfectly predictable modern-dress version whose been-there-seen-this minimalist décor, created by Christopher Oram, is the theatrical equivalent of a little black dress: Everybody has one and they all look alike. The whole cast, in fact, is dressed in black (except for Ophelia, who is black). Black leather jackets, black pea jackets, black shirts and ties . . . you get the idea. The set is an abstract castle whose sole ornament is a pair of proscenium-high doors that slide open and shut at frequent intervals, much like the elevators in a high-rise office building, and the mist-filled stage is illuminated by narrow shafts of chilly bluish-white light.

It would be inordinately difficult to make anything surprising happen in this enervatingly familiar space. Michael Grandage, who directed the Donmar Warehouse premiere of "Frost/Nixon" that came to Broadway two years ago, barely even tries. A few new touches pop up here and there, some smart (the killing of Polonius is seen from his point of view) and some silly (snowflakes fall on the sorrowful Dane as he delivers his soliloquy on suicide). For the most part, though, Mr. Grandage rings the standard changes on "Hamlet," and his competent actors stick no less carefully to the middle of the Shakespearean road. Only Peter Eyre, who plays the ghost of Hamlet's father and the Player King, makes you sit up and pay attention, speaking his lines in a cadaverous bass voice so ripe and resonant that you can almost feel it in the soles of your feet.

Mr. Law, a well-trained actor with extensive stage experience, gives a performance that struck me as a polished first draft, full of bright glints of wit and lithe physicality (he is a superlative swordsman) but lacking in vocal variety. If I'd seen him playing his first Hamlet on a regional stage, I would have thought myself lucky and marked him down for good things in the future, and I suspect that he would also have made a much stronger impression in a more interesting production.

The audience at Sunday's matinée showed every outward sign of loving everything about this "Hamlet." They sat in rapt silence and laughed in all the right places. Indeed, it was evident that many of the people who had been lured to the Broadhurst Theatre by the prospect of seeing Mr. Law in the flesh were also seeing the play for the first time. Good for them—and good for him. I can think of worse ways to make the acquaintance of so sublime a work of art. If, on the other hand, you've already been around the track with "Hamlet," I doubt that this comfy canter will tell you anything you don't already know.

OTOH, a colleague of mine saw it a week ago and said it was the first production of Hamlet that had brought him to tears. Perhaps Mr. Teachout, as a well-seasoned critic, has become a bit jaded. I guess I'll have to see for myself . . .



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« #10 : October 10, 2009, 10:02:28 AM »

Quote
They'd rather buy British, and they won't even do that without a Hollywood-issued flop-insurance policy.

Americans and Shakespeare are pretty hit-or-miss, from my view, if Branaugh's films proved nothing else. Can't say I have a problem with that.



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« #11 : November 26, 2009, 10:53:02 AM »

Went to see Jude Law's Hamlet yesterday and enjoyed it pretty much. It wasn't overwhelmingly good, nor bad, either. I enjoyed this write-up of the production better, though. It's by Kevin D. Williamson and appears in the November issue of The New Criterion:

Quote
T. S. Eliot called Hamlet the “Mona Lisa of literature,” and he suspected that “more people have thought Hamlet a work of art because they found it interesting than have found it interesting because it is a work of art.” In his brief notes on the play, “Hamlet and His Problems,” Eliot argued that the great temptation is to take Hamlet the character, rather than Hamlet the play, as the relevant question at hand. Which is to say, Eliot saw Hamlet endure into the age of psychology.

Shakespeare had no language for psychology and, having art at his disposal, needed none; in our own leaden times psychology has largely supplanted art and religion, and so the temptation to treat Hamlet as an exercise in psychoanalysis—one that marginalizes the remainder of the drama—is near irresistible. Every performance of Hamlet ends up being directed by Sigmund Freud, with Hamlet reduced to a bag of neuroses. It is easy to imagine any number of theatrical strategies for mitigating that modern problem and grounding Hamlet more firmly in the world of Hamlet; one might, for instance, lay some emphasis on those underlying aspects of the play that Shakespeare inherited from earlier versions of it, which were straightforward revenge dramas in which there was no doubt that Hamlet’s madness is a ruse and nothing else. One might, through careful casting and direction, enlarge Gertrude, Claudius, and Polonius, establishing a fuller human context in which to examine Hamlet’s paralysis. Or you could say, “To hell with all that” and produce a profitable mediocrity with a thermonuclear-grade movie star in the title role.

Beginning and ending with Jude Law alone on stage, Donmar’s Hamlet may be the Hamlettiest Hamlet you will see (short of Guy Roberts’s current production at Houston’s Classical Theatre Company, which reduces the tragedy to a one-man show). Hamlet is, famously, Shakespeare’s longest role, at about 1,400 lines, and the Depressive Dane’s melancholy mug is all over the action at Elsinore. Nobody ever thought there wasn’t enough Hamlet in Hamlet, but the director Michael Grandage apparently thought there was room to shoehorn in a little bit more Jude Law, and so this version, unlike Shakespeare’s, opens with Hamlet, alone and brooding, on a set illuminated by a single beam of light. In effect, Mr. Law makes a celebrity cameo appearance at the beginning of his own play, as though the audience couldn’t be kept waiting until Scene 2 for his arrival. He doesn’t say anything, of course—Shakespeare left no words for this fleeting prologue—but it’s a pretty good advertisement for what you’re going to get: This isn’t Hamlet, it’s Jude Law in Hamlet.

Which isn’t so bad. Mr. Law is not incompetent, but casting him probably was an artistic mistake, even if it was a commercial coup. The play already is unbalanced—for that, blame Shakespeare—but the troupe of workaday tragedians surrounding Mr. Law are annihilated utterly in the black hole of his celebrity, which warps the stage and everything emanating from it. Mr. Law might have been balanced by stronger casting in the other roles; consider how cockeyed a play God of Carnage might have been if the cable mafioso James Gandolfini had not been balanced by Jeff Daniels and Hope Davis. (And if we must have movie people in Shakespeare, bring back Bill Murray as Polonius!) As one astute observer put it, this Hamlet sees Mr. Law surrounded by nothing but interchangeable Rosencrantzes and Guildensterns. And so Mr. Law is left to carry Hamlet by himself, but his shoulders are too slender for the task. His Dane is not so much melancholy as manic-depressive: Manic in action—skipping about the stage, up, down, over, under, shouting, hooting, and howling—but depressive in content.

Put plainly: Jude Law is a damned weepy Hamlet, practically a Juliet. This is a shame. His face is a machine built for sneering; its planes are an architecture of contempt. In his films, he has shown himself something of a virtuoso in communicating very fine shades of disgust. Promising stuff for a Hamlet, who is an engine fueled by loathing. And Mr. Law is very fine when he avails himself of that talent, as in Hamlet’s “play me like a pipe” rejoinder to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. But mostly Mr. Law cries like a little girl. He blubbers. He caterwauls. He gets a little misty. Polonius starts to look like Conan the Barbarian by comparison. As a man contemplating murder—regicide of his stepfather-uncle, no less—Mr. Law’s Hamlet is difficult to credit. (Somebody teach him to fence!) And since this production offers us little else but Jude Law in Hamlet, Mr. Law’s failure must be Hamlet’s failure.

Happily, Mr. Grandage’s ambitions apparently began and ended with securing a movie star for the title role. Having made a prince out of his star, he’s shown himself content to put on a mostly dramatically defensible performance. The confrontation between Hamlet and his mother is highly sexualized in the customary postmodern fashion—tedious Dr. Freud!—but there are no gross accretions, no removal to the Jim Crow South or lesbian wheelchair races or whatnot. Hamlet is Hamlet and, if that sounds like damning with faint praise, have a look at what’s been done to poor Romeo and Juliet over the past twenty years—and the Houston production mentioned above places Hamlet as a patient in a mental hospital. Though Mr. Law may be a little fuzzy on Act I, Scene 1, he’s not entirely out of his tree when he describes the play: “No modern additions. Undiluted Shakespeare.” A few edits here and there aside, that’s fair enough.

Mr. Law also shares this observation: “When he wrote Hamlet, Shakespeare was at his height in editing the narrative, in pushing the story forward cleanly and crisply.” And that’s the sort of thing, along with some of his line readings, that makes one wonder whether Mr. Law is paying attention at all. Clean and crisp narrative structure? In Hamlet? The same Hamlet in which the leading character is bundled away in Act IV to be executed in England, only to make his daring escape during an ill-explained but conveniently timed off-stage attack by pirates who turn out to be strangely humanitarian corsairs who, accepting the promise that Hamlet someday will do them a good turn, not only set him free, sans ransom, but get him back to Denmark ricky-tick, just in time for Ophelia’s funeral? The Hamlet in which Gertrude’s death comes about as the result of a plot contrivance worthy of Gilligan’s Island? “Morn in russet mantle clad” Hamlet? Not exactly high and tight, even by Shakespeare’s liberal standards of plot framing. (Shakespeare’s genius is that none of that much matters.) That looseness is why simply casting a celebrity in the lead role is an insufficient approach to Hamlet: The material is wildly uneven, with extraneous scenes and inconsistent characters. Putting Jude Law in last year’s Prada and making it snow in the Broadhurst Theatre isn’t enough: Hamlet demands intelligence.

Or maybe it doesn’t. The audience at the Broadhurst was enraptured. Far from experiencing buyers’ remorse, these remorseless buyers were snapping up whatever Jude Law wanted to sell them. They hadn’t come to see Hamlet; they’d come to see Jude Law. I suspect he might have juggled to their great satisfaction. But to the extent that Broadway makes a purely commercial calculation in these matters, it is fair to judge them on purely commercial grounds: and there are few, if any, $100 tickets on Broadway that will provide as satisfactory a return on one’s investment as any number of $20 seats across town.

Williamson is a bit mean here. Jude Law wasn't quite the whole show, the other actors did well (especially Kevin R. McNally as Claudius), and the killing of Polonius was staged in a way I'd never seen before (the audience is with him behind the arras, watching Hamlet and his mother through the opaque material; the arras then collapses when Polonius is stabbed). But Williamson's experience with the audience is pretty much what I observed--a lot of starf*ckers and potential starf*ckers.



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« #12 : December 22, 2009, 04:43:05 PM »

Am going to this tomorrow. Sounds like it's gonna be great:

Quote
    * FEBRUARY 27, 2009

The Genius of David Cromer

    *
      By TERRY TEACHOUT

New York

What are the true classics of American theater, the shows that have decisively survived the test of time and now look to be of permanent significance? While I can think of a fair number of plays that are credible candidates for the top-five list, only two, Tennessee Williams's "The Glass Menagerie" and Thornton Wilder's "Our Town," strike me as absolutely inevitable. That David Cromer should have directed both of these plays in close succession might well seem presumptuous, but Mr. Cromer appears to have the imaginative wherewithal to put his stamp on any number of classics. Like the haunting "Glass Menagerie" that he staged in January for Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Mr. Cromer's rethinking of Wilder's 1938 masterpiece, which has opened Off Broadway after a much-praised run in Chicago, is a re-creative landmark, at once arrestingly original and essentially faithful in its approach to the author's well-loved text.

As usual with Mr. Cromer, most of what happens in this production is pretty much what the author had in mind, only more so. Wilder's purpose in writing a play without scenery, as he explained in 1939, was to stimulate "the cooperative imagination of the audience" by offering it a deeper, more poetic realism, one not dependent on the old-fashioned traditions of naturalistic stage design. Accordingly, Mr. Cromer and Michele Spadaro, his set designer, have rebuilt the interior of the Barrow Street Theatre as a three-quarter-round performance space with aisles wide enough to allow the performers to pass among the spectators. (The original Broadway production was performed in a conventional proscenium-stage theater.) The "stage" is the floor, the "set" eight chairs and a pair of wooden tables that look as though they'd been pilfered from the basement of a small-town church. No attempt of any kind is made to suggest the outward appearance of Grover's Corners, the turn-of-the-century New Hampshire village where "Our Town" is set. Even the "costumes" worn by the cast are nondescript modern-day street clothes identical to those worn by the members of the audience.

The result is a performance that doesn't feel like a performance at all. It's as though the actors were simply showing us the play, an illusion underlined by the fact that Mr. Cromer has cast himself as the Stage Manager who narrates "Our Town." He speaks his lines in an unsentimental, utterly matter-of-fact way, thereby giving the impression that he is not playing a character but merely being himself. (I actually saw him strolling through the lobby before Monday's preview, wearing the same outfit that he wears onstage.) Mr. Cromer's seemingly artless anti-acting is central to the effect of this production, in which the wall that separates illusion from reality becomes as porous as the one that separates the actors from their audience.

The other actors follow Mr. Cromer's lead effortlessly. All are unaffected and natural, and all give the equally uncanny impression of being not trained performers but ordinary folks that one might meet on the street. Yet their characterizations are sharply detailed and often unexpected: Jennifer Grace, for instance, plays Emily not as a radiant angel but as a pigtailed prig who is slow to grow up and slower to grow wise. I could single out other members of the cast for special mention -- Lori Myers and James McMenamin are exceptionally fine -- but each one is worthy of high and particular praise, not least because none of them resorts to the too-easy charm that can turn Wilder's tough-minded realism into soft-hearted nostalgia.

Mr. Cromer and Ms. Spadaro have inserted a head-turning surprise into the last act, one that I have no intention of spoiling. All I'll say is that they've deliberately departed from Wilder's stage directions in a radical way of which I think he would have unhesitatingly approved, one that heightens to an almost painful pitch Emily's climactic revelation that human beings lack the power to "realize life while they live it . . . every, every minute." Never before have those oft-quoted words had so jolting an effect on me as they did at the end of Mr. Cromer's production of "Our Town."

I don't use the word "genius" casually, but David Cromer may fill the bill. To have made something so new out of so familiar a play is remarkable enough. To have brought off such a feat without doing violence to the original is a sure sign of something more than mere talent. I don't know a more gifted stage director, or one who, at the age of 44, holds out the promise of still greater things to come.



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« #13 : April 18, 2014, 11:22:32 AM »

The reviews are in for Act One, the play based on playwright Moss Hart's acclaimed autobiography. The play officially opened, at Lincoln Center, on April 17th; DJ and I saw it on April 9th (my first play ever, on Broadway or off).

Here they are: http://www.playbill.com/news/article/190151-The-Verdict-Critics-Review-Act-One-Starring-Tony-Shalhoub-Santino-Fontana-and-Andrea-Martin

Most of the reviews are negative. Of the 14 reviews there posted by Playbill thus far, I believe that only around 5 are positive.

One opinion that is shared by almost every critic is that Tony Shalhoub - who plays three roles - is awesome in his role as George S. Kaufman.

« : April 18, 2014, 12:07:30 PM drinkanddestroy »

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« #14 : April 18, 2014, 12:33:00 PM »

Yeah, Shalhoub as Kaufman was good. Of course, it was very similar to the portrayal of his Monk character . . .



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