Archive for March, 2013

Cooper’s London

March 17, 2013







The Importance of Being Wilde:
Judas Kiss

I saw the original production of The Judas Kiss in 1998, was fascinated by the performances of Liam Neeson as Oscar Wilde and Tom Hollander as Bosie (Lord Alfred Douglas), and couldn’t quite understand why the play was not more highly regarded. With this current revivaljudas kiss1 in London (originally at the innovative Hampstead Theatre and now in the West End for a limited time), the David Hare play seems, at last, to be reaping the appreciation it deserves both as a well-made text and as a strong evening of theatre. It’s completely convincing in its presentation of Wilde, Robbie Robb, and the ineffable Lord Alfred (Bosie) Douglas.

The great success of the production must be attributed to the directing by Neil Armfeld who gets from his performers completely committed performances all of which deserve notice. But there is no doubt that for most people the triumph judas kiss everettof the evening is the performance of Rupert Everett as the older Oscar Wilde. In Act One he is about to be arrested but cannot leave the love of his life, Bosie, to escape to the Continent, though everyone is urging him to do so and even leaving him enough time for an escape. In Act Two, he is living with Bosie after his years in jail and receives, definitively from his lover, what everyone has been predicting, that Judas kiss. That he recognizes its probability himself and yet keeps hoping it will not be so is one of the strengths of this nuanced performance.

Displaying sardonic wit at every turn (with quips mostly made up by Hare but completely in character with what we know about Wilde’s repartee), yet heartbreaking in his pathos and degradation, Everett makes us understand the character as well as the argument of the play. His passivity, his searing intelligence, his self-destructive hubris, and his fatigue are all very strongly conveyed; but mostly we come to know of his commitment to an unconditional love of Bosie, even as he recognizes the young man’s mendacity, hypocrisy, self-delusion, and betrayal. Everett ‘s is simply one of the best performances in the West End at the moment, and for that alone you should try to see this production. Cal MacAninch is moving as the faithful Robbie; and the young judas kiss 2Robert Fox, a petulant yet oddly appealing Bosie (convincing himself constantly of his own sincerity that everyone can see through), is impressive and a worthy stage partner for the other two. The play is haunting, sad, touching, and as England finally passes its laws in favour of gay marriage, remarkably topical and thought-provoking.

At the Duke of York’s Theatre
104 St Martin’s Lane, London WC2
until 6 April 2013.

Cogito: John Branch

March 11, 2013

JB photo-painting by RC 2


Fearless Predictions
Bedlam at the Access and More

Hamlet and Saint Joan (in alternation through April 7, Bedlam, Manhattan): Last spring, one of New York theater’s nifty little trick questions was to ask friends if they’d heard about the small-cast Saint Joan running on Broadway. The explanation lay in bedlam theatrethe location of the Access Theater, where the Bedlam company performs—it’s on lower Broadway. The production was no gimmick: it vivified Shaw’s historical drama in an unconventional staging that used only four actors and placed scenes on the stage, in the seats, and even in the lobby. (See my review at St. Joan.) Now Bedlam is reviving that show and also tackling Hamlet with the same four actors. Though I haven’t attended yet, it’s a good bet that the same bedlam hamletcommitted and imaginative rethinking that burnishedShaw has been applied to Shakespeare.!tickets

Hamlet (March 15–April 13, Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven): yale hamletPaul Giamatti, a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, returns to New Haven to play the melancholy Dane. The American film complex turns many actors of broad ability into narrowly defined commodities—“pigeonholing” is the term—but it hasn’t done that with Giamatti. He’s virtually a chameleon, so there’s no telling what he’ll do with this role. Giamatti, now in his mid-40s, probably won’t be the youngest Hamlet you’ve seen, which may make the prince’s recent studies in Wittenberg problematic, but different editors and even different editions differ on how old the character is. As with Juliet and others, anyone who’s the right age may be too immature for the role. Sarah Bernhardt, who ignored gender as well as age when she took the part, may have overreached, but at least she knew that playing Hamlet didn’t depend on externalia.

Pierrot Lunaire(March 28–30, Yale Cabaret, New Haven): Yale Cabaret shows are single-weekend productions created by Yale School of Drama grad students, not to be confused with the longer runs and mixed student/professional creative teams used in other shows at the school or at Yale Rep. This event will present a theatrical staging of Arnold Schönberg’s song cycle, which is currently enjoying a handful of performances in honor of its centenary year. It can be argued that the entire 19th century was decisively killed off during the second decade of the 20th by events as varied as the Great War, the sinking of the Titanic, and the immense cultural ferment in Vienna, which produced Pierrot Lunaire. It’s a groundbreaking piece for solo voice and small ensemble that employs Sprechstimme (a cross between speech and song) and abandons traditional Western tonality, though without adopting the full rigors of serialism, which Schönberg developed later. Bonus: the Yale Cabaret, true to its name, always offers food and drink.

Silkwood (March 20, Signature Theatre, Manhattan): One of three films written, in part or in full, by the late Nora Ephron that are being presented in the Signature Cinema series this spring. Silkwood dramatizes the story of Karen Silkwood, a factory worker who met a mysterious death after trying to call attention to problems at a Kerr-McGee plutonium-processing plant. Superficially akin to Norma Rae and The Insider, it differs from both in taking a more ambiguous viewSilkwood3--www-bfi-org-uk-photo-credit of its central character, which makes it more admirable in my book. It was mostly shot near Dallas, Texas, rather under the radar, to keep Kerr-McGee from catching wind of it and trying to shut it down; surprisingly for anything that involved director Mike Nichols (not to nicholsmention Cher, or Meryl Streep, though she wasn’t then the monument she has become), the tactic seems to have worked. Personal note: I worked on the shoot as an extra and appeared in a short but crucial moment. Signature Theatre tickets

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