Blithe Spirit

October 7, 2013

It was so much fun. Clever, lovely, seemingly light-as-air (like Elvira), but with a heart…

I do think in the same way I loved the Romantics and now find them stilted, I’ve gotten over the drawing room comedy. Perfectly entertaining as it is, and this one was perfectly presented, it’s stuffed full, where I yearn for spareness. I can love the wit of Wilde and Coward, but I may just be done going to see them.

A quick read may be a different story…I love that these couples fight in their smart, fiery way, and still so clearly love each other so much. Shades of Beatrice and Benedick…with a clever mid-century twist.

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Waiting for Godot

September 7, 2013

This may have been the most perfect piece of theatre I’ve ever seen.

The acting was stunning. Tom Rooney and Stephen Ouimette were fabulously balanced; Brian Dennehy was, well, Brian Dennehy; Randy Hughson was heartbreaking and terrifying as Lucky (what a name!) and even the boy(s?) stood their test well.

In the program the director talks about silence and space, and these things are all, inĀ Waiting. How to pass the time while waiting leads to the question of how to exist in time and space when you don’t have any effect…on anything…even to the extent of not knowing where one was the day before.

And what to say about Beckett? It’s as though, in its spareness, the play contains multitudes. The other line to strike me from the program was that “Godot is a comedy whose actions take place in the field of tragedy.” I think this is what we were getting at at intermission as we discussed cruelty/evil in the play. Pozzo’s treatment of Lucky is a scandal, as Vladimir exclaims, but he may not be innately cruel. The world they live in has treated all of them very cruelly, though (if Vladimir and Estragon were to “drop” Godot, he’d punish them, Didi says).

It’s levels upon levels upon levels. There’s the social/class commentary of Pozzo/Lucky and the situation of V. and E., tied up in postwar concerns. There’s meta-theatrical commentary (“But nothing happens!”). These lead to the existential problem — the centre cannot hold; how to find meaning in a world in stasis, with no reaction to (and barely any memory of) your presence.

It’s so spare that every line is endowed with an incredible amount of meaning. And the people who brought it to life were masters, all.

It was understudy day at Tommy (from Captain Walker on down), and I’m amazed at how many of the players were making their Stratford debuts (all the way up to Robert Markus, Tommy himself), but Pete and Des’ show is resilient and vivid.

Everything’s been consolidated and condensed from the album and from Russell’s sprawling movie. With a few decades’ distance and the partnership of Des, Townshend’s vague story comes into focus. The relationships between the 40s, 50s and 60s, and between celebrity and spirituality, get more clear.

The direction and choreography, and lots of McAnuff’s team, are from the Broadway run in the 1990s. New to this production are some incredible visual effects, including the use of live video shot by cast members (and yes, Des directed that 2009 Macbeth with those stunning videos!).

I think the best gig I’ve ever seen on a Stratford stage is riding a spinning, bumping, sparking, flaming pinball machine.

Mary Stuart

May 18, 2013

Lucy Peacock and Seana McKenna were absolutely fantastic together as Mary and Elizabeth. Seana, especially, in turns strong and terrifying and isolated and paranoid.

And a great supporting cast. Ben Carlson and Geraint Wyn-Davies as Mary’s prosecutor and her lover; but not all bad and good. We’d take Burleigh’s straightforward nature over Leicester’s two-faced power grab any time. At least neither loses his head.

Brian Dennehy as Shrewsbury says he lacks the necessary “flexibility” to be a part of Elizabeth’s court. But while the threat from Mary herself may not warrant Elizabeth’s actions, the play leaves it an open question: lonely is the head that wears the crown, especially in such a time of turmoil. The acting brought moments of great subtlety to the question. I’m interested to read if the written play is more subtle than, at times, it seemed.