Posts Tagged ‘Adaptations’

Apollo’s Girl

July 24, 2017

Theatre/Film

Measure for Measure
(Dir.: Simon Godwin)
Theatre for a New Audience/Polonsky
Shakespeare Center
Since TFANA’s move to Brooklyn to inaugurate its new theater with Julie Taymor’s magical production of Midsummer Night’s Dream https://apollosgirl.wordpress.com/2014/11/14/apollos-girl-54/, it has been emphasizing the director’s art, seeking new takes on the classics for its new audiences. Simon Godwin’s recent view of Measure for Measure was no exception. Godwin arrived from London with a formidable portfolio of reviews and awards, keen to reveal his solutions to this “problem play” and how to update an Elizabethan plot and setting so its relevance was underscored, yet its original context respected. 
Solutions: keep the city (Vienna) and its period styles, but modernize the costumes of some of the characters; here, the less-humane wear post-WW II business attire to indicate their administrative functions. Also, think of the subtext (which would have been familiar to London audiences in 1604): the conflict between the Catholic Church and the Church of England; it had driven Henry VIII to close the monasteries and convents, and fears of STDs and plague had also caused closings of the theaters and brothels as well, banishing them to the outskirts of town.

Vienna, a Catholic city, was known for its strict morality. Leave it to Shakespeare to marry the two geographies to make his points. And leave it to Shakespeare to focus on the elasticity of his characters’ interpretation and behavior as they confront that morality. They are marvelous at arguing their positions (you can always count on a good argument, and Measure for Measure doesn’t stint on chastity vs. promiscuity, or justice vs. corruption), and marvelously flexible at justifying their frequent changes of heart and mind. You will spot some thought-provoking parallels to 21st-century dilemmas. And of course there will be marriages in the end, following many reversals and equal measures of comedy and bloodshed. What would Shakespeare be without them?

A particularly confident and appealing cast included outstanding work from Jonathan Cake, Thomas Jay Ryan and the wondrous Cara Ricketts, who took no prisoners and gave the language and ideas their due in every scene. As a special treat, Godwin created a labyrinthine brothel to lead us into the theater; its dim lighting, erotic paraphernalia and actors energetically miming some of its featured activities were a way to get us in the mood for the play that followed. Expanding on that theme, Act Two opened in a nightclub run by Mariana (Merritt Janson) who sang a modern version of “Take, oh take, those lips away…” It was not altogether logical, but Ms. Janson was definitely one terrific singer!

Speaking of new audiences, one of TFANA’s recent coups was their double bill of Strindberg’s The Father and Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, brilliantly directed by Arin Arbus and brilliantly double cast with Maggie Lacey and John Douglas Thompson, who played to the rapt and discerning crowds filling the house for the marathon. In general, TFANA’s audiences are enthusiastic, but this time there were a lot of New York actors who came to learn from the fun, and ticket-holders from London, Berlin and California who had flown in to experience a theatrical summit. http://www.tfana.org/about/production-history/dolls-house-father/overview#Media

The 2017-2018 season will bring new productions and outreach programs for those who truly relish theatre and are smart enough to plan in advance. Stay tuned for details and tickets: www.tfana.org.

The Fencer (Dir.: Klaus Häro. Writer: Anna Heinämaa)
NYC Angelika; Lincoln Plaza
National: http://www.cafilm.org/thefencer/

The reasons for The Fencer’s presence on the 2016 Oscar shortlist for Best Foreign Film will be immediately apparent from its cinematography (Tuomo Hutri); design (Jaagup Roomet) and flawless editing (Ueli Christen/Tambet Tasuji). Director Klaus Häro has made an excellently paced film that flows effortlessly; its cast (especially Märt Avandi in the title role), from supporting to bit players, is alive in every moment of the story. And if elements of the story seem familiar, the beauty of the production and the truth of its emotions and settings will keep you engaged.

What is not familiar to Americans is the reality of the complex politics that prevailed throughout most of the 20th century elsewhere, especially the impact of successive occupations by Nazis and Soviets in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states (The Fencer is based on a true story that takes place in Estonia). It imposed an explosive climate that ruined many lives and twisted the natural civic order for decades, laying waste cultures and traditions that recovered only slowly after the double blows of World War II and the Cold War. Millions were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and had to reinvent themselves in order to survive.

The Fencer makes this landscape clear in the swift progression of its tale, yet enriches every chapter and location with the tiny details that add a real sense of place and character and what it was like to be there; so you feel part of the story, rather than a bystander watching it unfold. The film’s perfect balance between issues and textures is extraordinary, like the positions, the moves and the concentration required to excel at the sport that gives the film its title. In the end, the sheer grace of the production and level of art and craft it exhibits make it a standout.

 

Kékszakállú (Dir.: Gastón Solnicki)
NYC Elinor Bunin Munro Center
Argentina seems to produce some of the most interesting (and puzzling) films around, and Kékszakállú is both. Gastón Solnicki claims it was inspired by Béla Bartók’s 1918 opera, Bluebeard’s Castle; a haunting work whose origins lie in Perrault’s French fairytales, or earlier (in real life) in Brittany. In every version there is darkness and mystery. Yet Kékszakállú is more often full of light and always full of water.

The wealthy young women whose repose and aimlessness Solnicki captures are on the verge of adulthood. They find themselves on diving boards in public pools, paddling in hidden gardens, swimming in the ocean, and resting in front of pipes billowing steam in a sausage plant. There is little dialogue; from time to time, excerpts from Bartok accompany their action. It’s something of a social commentary (though an elliptical one), with the foreshadowing of socioeconomic difficulties to come. Yet Solnicki’s saturated images and the music create a sense of dread that gradually and subtly intensifies. The last frames reveal one of the women standing on a ferry with her suitcase, relocating, perhaps to a better life. But has she (or any of the other women) grown up? That’s for you to decide. If you like very elegantly filmed mysteries, this one’s for you to solve.

 

                                                                                                *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

There’s good news and bad news…

The good news: Damian Woetzel has been appointed the new President of Juilliard.

 

The bad news: our Commander-in-Chief is draining the swamp and creating a tar pit.

 

 

Cooper’s London

January 17, 2016

Books

Mel snapshot 19Don Carlos’ Dad:
Father of Spain

 Imprudent King: A New Life of Philip II.
(Geoffrey Parker, Yale University Press)

Anyone interested in Schiller’s play schiller_fDon verdiCarlos, or in the great Verdi opera based upon it, must be curious about the real historic background to these two major works of art. Anyone interested in the era of the Tudors or Spain’s years of developing an empire, will know of the huge shadow this man cast. There is no shortage of decent biographies of Philip II and also no shortage of his appearances in the biographies of Mary I or Elizabeth I of England, or in books about several of his contemporaries. But this new and parker 2013aextremely scholarly biography by Geoffrey Parker is now my “go-to” book for anyone who wants to know about this troubling, difficult monarch. And, if you weren’t interested in the subject previously, it’s easy to get hooked.

Prize-winning historian Parker has had access to a recent, astonishing archival discovery3,000 documents in the vaults of the Hispanic Society of America in New York City that have mostly not been read since the time of Philip II himself. Many of the documents confirm what is already the widely accepted interpretation of the of this king’s personality and also of his reign; but some require significant adjustments to our understanding of the man and his times. Dealing with Philip’s relationship to his own father, the Emperor Charles V, and ending with this religious king’s supposed ascent into heaven after his death, the book is a very well-written and compelling story.

The Don Carlo story is, of course, only an episode in the tale of Philip II; Carlos’ birth, his upbringing, his erratic behaviour, his arrest and horrifying demise are all thereand are very different from the ways Schiller (and thus Verdi) portrayed them. However, the book manages to examine and reveal Philip’s personality believeably, his likes, his dislikes and his psychological issues; it develops cogently and convincingly and is therefore the perfect place to find out the truth behind the myths and romanticizations. Of course, neither Schiller nor Verdi had access to most of the material that ParkerPhilip_II deals with and were also closer to the gossip and the distortions. Yet perhaps the most exciting thing about Imprudent King for those coming to it from the play and/or opera is that, even if they wildly romanticize the historical details of the man’s life and his relationship with his son, one also comes away from this book convinced that both dramatists instinctively understood the man’ himself.

The authoritarian self-belief, the religious narrowness and bigotry, and the immense loneliness and pain that you find in Verdi’s music and Schiller’s drama are all given greater credence here. Philip micro-managed everything, trusted no one, and wasted too much time on trivia in periods of real crisis when what he really needed was an understanding of the bigger issues and some real breadth and depth of vision. Also, of course, this book gives you the background to the Posa/King Philip friendship and so much more: Charles V’s abdication, the marriage to Mary Tudor, the various wars (including the troubles in the Netherlands), the wooing of Queen Elizabeth I, the terrible religious conflicts of this era which are now often perceived as the protracted and very bloody dawning of modernism; the Imperialism and stretch of Spain’s ambitions; the Armada. All of it is impeccably researched and Parker’s conclusions and understanding are strongly supported. It’s a rich and complex tale that and does require attention to detail. (Note to filmmakers: there is material here for three or four epic films..)

imprudent kingA friend of mine (to whom I gave the book because of his love of Verdi’s opera) complained to me that this wasn’t an easy read. It is meticulous in detailing Philip’s religious attitudes, the background of the period, and the administrative problems of his obsessive control of his empire. And it sets everything in scholarly context. But in the end my friend said it was worth the effort, even though he had previously preferred Alison Weir or Philippa Gregory for learning about the era’s history.

Personally, I felt the scholarship was immensely important in convincing me about the character of this somewhat dour but also sad monarch. There is material here for a long Freudian analysis in addition to the three or four films!

If you want a quick fix on the background of Philip’s life, there are no doubt easier and briefer ways to get it. I would have liked to have more in the book about his zeal for collecting and commissioning art and his use of it for propaganda; and I would have appreciated even more information about the Inquisition. But if you want really to understand the man, his nurture, his nature and the background thinking and conflicts of a time when the intellectual foundations of the Enlightenment were being laid down, this is likely to remain the definitive study for some time to come.

Philip was isolated, tormented and, at times, very imprudent as well as wilfully narrow; this book makes it all clear. It also clarifies the great dramatized scene of Philip’s relationship with the Grand Inquisitor, so powerful in both the play and the opera. I recommend it very highly for anyone willing to take the trouble. And before you heave a sigh of satisfaction at the end, go back and see what Schiller and Verdi made of Philip, and their insights into his soul through their art.

Cooper’s London

September 27, 2015

Opera/Film/DVD

Mel snapshot 19

This Boat Still Floats

The San Francisco Opera production of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Show Boat (filmed live on the stage) has just been released on EuroArts DVD 2059688 and BluRay. The cast includes: Heidi Stober, Michael Todd Simpson, Bill Irwin, Patricia Racette, Morris Robinson, Angela Renee Simpson cap'n andyand Harriet Harris. The stage director is Francesca Zambello and the conductor is John DeMain.

Over two decades ago I was fortunate enough to see the Show Boat done by Opera North in collaboration with the RSC that docked at the Palladium and toured the UK.
It was impeccably cast; the pit band was amplified and was using the brilliant original orchestrations by
Robert Russell Bennet; it not only restored material that had not been heard since the 1928 Broadway version, it interpolated numbers from later revivals, including the novelty number “Ah Still Suits Me” robeson and mcdaninelwritten for Paul Robeson and Hattie MacDaniel to sing in the 1936 film. I have yet to see anything to equal it for justifying Show Boat’s reputation as the true grandfather of American music theatre—until now. Essentially, the new EuroArts DVD and BluRay from the San Francisco Opera production (also acclaimed in Chicago and Houston) is both iconic and also a vivid record of a greatly theatrical, entertaining and moving performance. Director zambelloFrancesca Zambello has achieved pretty nearly what Ian Judge and his team did in that legendary production from Leeds to enflame a new generation of theatregoers.

The cast is a mixture of operatically trained singers who can act and Broadway hoofers or comedians who can belt, with chorus and the dancers really pitching in. The acting is sometimes suitably tongue-in-cheek, early-20th-century “mellerdrammer”, at other times straightforward and moving. Every musical number carries the weight it should, advances the plot or our understanding of character, and appeals directly to our stober and simpsonemotions. When Heidi Stober as Magnolia and Michael Todd Simpson as Gaylord Ravenal sing “You Are Love”, you believe it with all your heart. When Morris Robinson sings “Ol’ Man River” and is joined by the chorus of men who tote those barges and heave those bales, you feel their pain, how limited their lives and opportunities are and cannot avoid thinking about the whole history of slavery and its aftermath old man riverin the United States. Those are big claims, perhaps; but it is a big, varied and allusive show and the music is so superb that one has to be careful not be so overwhelmed by it that Oscar Hammerstein II gets the credit he deserves for his strong book and lyrics.

By and large, Zambello avoids the sentimentality that often mars Show Boat revivals and goes for real feeling and serious engagement with a plot that involves addiction to gambling and alcohol, miscegenation in a racist and bigoted society, sexual harassment and bullying, and the abandonment of a wife and child. She also understands the humour, not least in the lovely number “Life Upon the Wicked Stage”. She also appreciates the sheer gut reactions demanded by the big moments and big numbers. Her approach is both superbly intelligent and responsive to all the nuances of the piece.

showboatThis Show Boat is big also in terms of production values, achieving the spectacle that perhaps only an opera company with enough resources to field two chorus and dance groups (one African-American, the other Caucasian)—can in these financially constrained days. The stories of the various couples balance and echo each other, and every opportunity for cheeky humour is grasped as firmly as all the opportunities for the music to engage and lift your emotions.

Heidi Stober manages to convey both Magnolia’s innocence and the ultimate inner strength that will enable her to bring up her child as a single mother and become a major star. Her voice is very beautiful; she always remains in character and builds her development into a strong, no longer innocent middle-aged woman with great skill. Michael Todd Simpson conveys both Gay’s charm and his character flaws and also has the vocal chops to do full justice to Jerome Kern’s music. Show-Boat_SFO_4PosterPatricia Racette’s Julie La Verne makes you see why the role made a star of Helen Morgan and was also one of the most appealing that Ava Gardner ever undertook. Angela Renée Simpson is outstanding as Queenie and has had restored to her character “Mis’ry’s Comin’ Aroun’” and “Hey, Fellah!”, both of which are important to the drama. The voice and demeanour of Morris Robinson as Joe have real gravitas (he’s excellent in his comic moments, too); and the roles of Ellie Mae Chipley and Frank Schultz sparkle convincingly with the talents of Kirsten Wyatt and John Bolton. It only remains to beirwinsaid that Bill Irwin is immensely
appealing as Cap’n Andy Hawks and that
Harriet Harris’s Parthy Ann Hawks is a treasure, offering real balance to the singing parts. Michele Lynch has created time-sensitive choreography that takes you from the vaudeville turns of 1887 to the jazzy Charleston of 1927 as the story traverses forty years of American history; the set design by Peter J. Davison and Costume Design by Paul Tazewell are just as apt and evocative.

kern-hammersteinIn sum, this is about as perfectly realized a version of the iconic Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II landmark as could be desired, and I am not even prepared to quibble about which other numbers should have been included. John DeMain has been a long-time champion of this and of Porgy and Bess for fully committed performances by opera companies, and his mastery of and sympathy with every nuance of the lyricism and wit of the score is a constant pleasure. The show has been beautifully filmed by Frank Zamacona for the screen.

In my opinion this is, therefore, a DVD that you need to have in your collection to enjoy again and again. If you love music theatre, it will confirm your addiction; and if you are not sure about this genre, this staging, this cast and this team of people on and off the stage will definitely convince you.

This Show Boat also makes a powerful case for how well top-level productions filmed from the stage not only work as entertainment but also convey the sense of occasion and preserve what otherwise would be an ephemeral event. We are very fortunate these days, I think, to see fine performances from anywhere in the world that otherwise we would only know from hearsay or still photographs.


Finally, let us all be grateful to
Edna Ferber ferberfor realizing in 1927 that the story of the showboats of the Mississippi and the transformation of American culture was one that should be preserved; and to Kern and Hammerstein for honouring the novel and its background with an interpretation that looks at the whole phenomenon of entertainment and American society with real acuity, some irony and profound empathy 
for its showboat novelcomplexities. They were pioneers.

Apollo’s Girl

March 9, 2015

Film

apollo and lyre

 

 

Another Rendezvous, with Surprises...

There’s always a bit rendezvousof mystery with Rendezvous, and this year there are three of them really worth seeing and being absorbed by. All three are based on real stories, are stylish (they’re French, after all), and sui generis.


la frenchFirst, Cedric Jiminez’ The Connection (La French), a close relative of the classic
French Connection, William Friedkin’s 1971 tougher-than-nails take on the Marseilles drug trade. The Connection reflects the original in a trans-Atlantic mirror that gives us a smart, fast 35mm policier whose period details are highlighted by the pleasures of  Jean Dujardin’s flawless turn as a tough magistrate who cannot be bought, cannot be frightened, and won’t give up. The Artist’s leading man still has a heart of gold, but proves here he can turn it into steel if required.

sk12Next up, SK1—a case that transfixed France from 1981 to 1997, when serial killer/rapist Guy Georges (Adama Niane) attacked seven women. He is defended by attorney Natalie Bye sk1and relentlessly tracked by Frank Magne (Raphaël Personnaz, seen earlier as the political neophyte in The Prime Minister). Georges’ backstory, revealed almost accidentally, describes the creation of a monster by  childhood abuse. Nianne makes him human, and director Frédérique Tellier crafts a first-rate thriller out of facts and emotions.

Next Time, I’ll Aim for the Heart (Cédric Anger) is a real honey (if one can so describe its next time1silky-smooth spider web of mounting tension and serious creep factor). Last seen at Rendezvous riding an underdog steeplechase winner in Jappeloup, and frequently referred to as a rising international actor, writer and director, Guillaume Canet hypnotizes as a truly scary rogue cop. But don’t hold his hunk quotient against him—the movie fits him like a glove. You can see him in person in discussion with Variety critic Scott Foundas; admission free (Tuesday, March 10, 5:30pm, Elinor Bunin Munroe amphitheater).

Fidelio, Alice’s Odyssey (Lucie Bourleteau): this boat floats for many reasons: its cast fidelio(the luminous Ariane Labed; Melvil Poupaud (who has aged well out of his adolescent self-absorption in A Summer’s Tale), and the welcome reappearance of Anders Danielsen (Oslo, August 31). Then there is the freshness of the setting—a rusted tramp steamer kept chugging by Chief Engineer Lebed, the only woman among a polyglot (and randy) crew. There’s plenty of steam in the engine room and the quarters, a story with surprising turns and some fascinating (and realistic) glimpses of life at sea. Dive in—the water’s fine.

My Friend Victoria (Jean-Paul Civeyrac, based my friend victoriaon a story by Doris Lessing.) A quiet, complex and layered film that gives voice to France’s changing attitudes toward race and money through its portrait of a young woman who learns her life lessons by default and an innate sense of honor. Victoria makes its points in unexpected ways, and involves you before you’re even aware of how deep its graceful scenes can cut.

Miss The Smallest Apartment in Paris (Hėlèna Villovitch) at your peril. Villovitch is a smart, adept and smallestprofoundly witty filmmaker who packs civilization and its many discontents into 16 square meters of living space in 15 minutes. This is the last, hilarious word on the urban housing crisis and should be required viewing for every developer in town. For complete Rendezvous schedule: films and tickets

Cooper’s London

July 20, 2014

Theatre

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Coming Up in London:
Summer 2014

A friend of mine just said, “There are so many many things I want to see in London right now,” and that’s likely to be true right through the summer and beyond, though many of them won’t be in the dead center of the West End, where the “same old, same old” shows continue to draw in the tourists.

lansburyThere’s nothing wrong with seeing Mama Mia or Les Mis for the first time or even yet again, and there are revivals one would expect, like Blithe Spirit to show off the undoubted and wonderful talents of Angela Lansburythe most iconic performer in London at the moment. However, there are some very interesting brave arrivals which I want to see, starting especially with a new regents-park-open-air-theatre-logo-1397058250production of the Gershwin opera, Porgy and Bess, at the Regent’s Park Theatre (17 July to 23 August). Timothy Sheader, Regent Park’s Artistic Director will direct, and that surely bodes well. His recent take on Arthur Miller’s All My Sons was a hit, and he’s also done some terrific new productions of major musicals in the past few years that benefited from his great eye and ear for casting. This time, he’s drawing porgy and besson talent from both sides of the Atlantic; Rufus Bonds, Jr. and Nicola Hughes take the title roles. I’ve been deeply impressed by Nicola Hughes in shows ranging from Lola in Damn Yankees (with Jerry Lewis), to Velma Kelly in Chicago, through one of the company in Fosse, and I expect her to be a definitive Bess. During her last time around in the role (2006-07) she was nominated for an Olivier Award.

And if you ‘re a Miller fan, there is a new production of The Crucible on at the Old Vic (24 June to 13 September).
yaelYaël Farber
is the director. I’ve been following her work for about ten years and she’s emerged as one of the most innovative, sensitive and totally reliable directors of our time. She’s always had a strong political interest and The Crucible, with its implications of and parallels to political witch hunting in our own times, is a perfect vehicle for her considerable talents. How many remember her play Amajuba (2007 Drama Desk award)? Or her recent Edinburgh Festival Awards winner Miss Julie (2012)? Farber is, for me, the draw for this one. electraAnother heads-up: Kristin  Scott Thomas will be following The Crucible into that theatre with Electra in a new version by Frank McGuinness (20 September to 20 December). I would go see Kristin Scott Thomas reading the proverbial phone book!

Director Nadia Fall, who is beginning to make a name for herself at the National Theatre, was in charge of the Harold Brighouse play Hobson’s Choice, rarely seen these days (played in Regent’s Park from 12 June to 12 July). With Mark Benton as Hobson, this was a real treat too. Let’s hope the weather holds for this summer’s open air eventsthe operas in Holland Park, but most especially Shakespeares’s Globe Theatre which has a very interesting season this year. The highlight for me so far was Antony and Cleopatra with the ever-wonderful Eve Best as Egypt’s fascinating queen and Clive Wood, who is one of the most memorable, powerful and intelligent Shakespeare actors in the UK, as Antony.

The highly recommendable National Theatre Production of The Curious Incident of curous incident the Dog in the Night Time is reopening July 21 at the Gielgud Theatre. Hugely successful and award-winning, this is the play where the roof literally fell in on its audience at the Apollo in Shaftesbury Avenue not so long ago. It’s a very strong translation of the Mark Haddon novel to the stage with a uniformly praiseworthy cast and a thought-provoking and emotionally moving story.

The new and stunning production of Julian Mitchell’s 1981 play Another Country at Trafalgar Studios 1 had an impressive cast and an equally impressive director (Jeremy Herrin). Richard III moved in with Martin Freeman and Gina McGee when Country moved on, and has been totally selling out. But you can try for August…

An old musical being given a new look is Richard Adler and Jerry Ross’s The Pajama Game. Already critically acclaimed during its run in Chichester, it’s directed by Richard Eyre, known for doing a fine line in musical comedy (his was the famous Guys and Dolls at the National Theatre and beyond!). pajama-game-2-05-14-shaftesbury-theatre-222
In an age of austerity and various financial problems, this musical about a strike in a pajama factory (from a novel by Richard Bissell, Seven and a Half Cents) as well as the nefarious dealings of a corrupt management is topical again. With a brilliant score that makes it one of the best musicals of the golden era of the 1950s on Broadway, I’m excited about it because it also stars Joanna Riding, one of the most consistently brilliant West End musicals performers (she was a superb Julie in Carousel and a totally convincing Eliza in My Fair Lady).

pajama gameIn the role of Babe, made famous first by Janis Paige on stage and then by Doris Day in the film, I’m betting she’ll live up to that standard with no trouble at all. The role of Sid is played by the very talented Michael Xavier. Both these performers would most likely have been huge stars in an age when musicals were written for the likes of Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, or Howard Keel. Indeed, I hope that seeing them on stage in a classic setting will inspire some young composer to do something original for them now. (The show runs until 13 September at the Shaftesbury Theatre.)

Weirdly, as one who usually cannot stand stage adaptations of movies, I am looking forward to seeing what they will do with Shakespeare in Love. I like the look of the cast, the director and the fact that the writer is Lee Hall of Billy Elliot fame. Now in previews at the Noel Coward Theatre. How will it stack up compared to the film? Stay tuned…

With things like The Scottsboro Boys transferring to the Garrick Theatre in the West End in October and a full, interesting season for the ROH and the ENO plus the usual range of world class concerts, there’s plenty of culture coming up on offer in London. And then there’s all the amazing stuff in Edinburgh for the Festival, and all around the UK. So go online, but don’t get a horse – get a car!

Fearless Predictions

June 2, 2012

Uncle Vanya (June 7–July 15, Soho Rep): Chekhov’s 1897 play is being presented in a “new version,” adapted by Annie Baker. Baker is in the unusual position of having shared an Obie award with herself, for two plays produced in New York in 2009: Circle Mirror Transformation and The Aliens. The director who helped shape her work in those plays, Sam Gold, is staging this one. Baker’s widely praised skills with natural dialogue and lost-soul characters make this a good bet. Incidentally, in Uncle Vanya Chekhov illustrates his oft-repeated maxim: “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired” (though in this case it’s fired even later). Information on the production and related events here http://sohorep.org/uncle-vanya 
(‘Tis the season for Vanya productions—one earlier this spring by Target Margin preceded Soho Rep’s. And there’s more.)

Uncle Vanya,  Sydney Theatre Company (July 19–28),
Lincoln Center Festival):
In midsummer, yet another will arrive, delivered by the Sydney Theatre Company, with co-Artistic Directors Cate Blanchett and her husband, Andrew Upton. Here, an adaptation by Upton is performed by a cast that includes Blanchett as well as Hugo Weaving. The production won acclaim when it played at the Kennedy Center last August. Tickets are now on sale; but be warned that this is the kind of show that sells out. http://www.lincolncenterfestival.org/index.php/2012-uncle-vanya.

The Lathe of Heaven (June 6–30, Untitled Theatre Company #61, 3LD): Ursula K. Le Guin, author of the SF novella about a man whose dreams can change reality, has authorized this stage adaptation by Edward Einhorn, which the UTC61 website suggests will contrast Western and Taoist themes. The novel does much the same, and Le Guin’s title nods to a Chinese Taoist who fashioned the conundrum of the butterfly dream. conundrum

Maybe we don’t need a third version, after WNET’s in 1980 and a less-successful one by A&E of 2002? Ah, but we always need reminders of the uses and abuses of power, which is one way of viewing Le Guin’s story. 6_The_Lathe_of_Heaven.html                                                           —JEB

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