19 April 2006

please read this with an english accent, slightly northern, starting with paragraph 2

i know psychiatric diagnoses are nothing to joke about, but the last two days i have been stricken with the most intense case of ADD. fidgety and distractable and generally off. tv helps. sleep helps. potato chips, not so much help. amazing theatre also helps, as i'll get to in a minute. it's mostly work-centric - maybe the complete and utter lack of air circulation and resulting stuffiness of the last few days? - but there hasn't been much non-work, or at-home, time lately, so who knows. and i'm still able to get things done at work - though putting together a mailing is about 100 times easier than reading a script. busy work vs. focus. or maybe it's antsiness about the iffy job-two-ness of the weekend, which i won't write about here, because if there was ever a job to fire you for blogging about it, it's probably this one.*

anywho, amazing theatre. i think my favorite thing to hear from john is 'what are you doing tomorrow night?' because it is almost always followed with an offer of a free ticket to a broadway show. and last night, perhaps best ever in the history of john, it was the history boys.** (take a minute to follow that link and drool. it's okay. they're legal.)

i don't know if i'm an anglophile in my own right, or if james is just that contagious, but it was two-and-a-half hours of british a-level heaven. (also some of the fastest theatre time ever - when we got to the subway it was 10:50, but i'd've believed you if you'd said it was 8:50. i don't think i've ever been in a play that flew like that, and without a split-second of boredom or wandering mind. and this is me with ADD.)

i talk a lot of smack about liking weird and out-there theatre, but i guess just give me some really well-written characters, and i'm as happy as, um... as-- as my dad at all shook up.*** there was nothing edgy or avant garde about this. nothing even adventurous about the story-line - it's nothing shocking, and you see it coming seven miles away. and the time before the plot really starts, when you're seeing it off in the distance but it hasn't at all started to happen, is extensive. and i loved every of the very many seconds.

of course, it doesn't hurt that the characters are charming and so well-written, and it's a truly top-level cast. (except for the weirdly cartoonish headmaster - a character and performance from a different, not-nearly-as-good play.) other than the headmaster (and the four poor actors who are basically extras in two peripheral scenes), there are three adults and the eight students. two thirds of the adults are, for us heathens who don't know them from their extensive work on the london stage, a veritable harry potter reunion - mr. dursley and madame maxine.**** the third is stephen campbell moore - and you could probably hear my little gasp all the way on-stage when i realized this - of my beloved bright young things.*****

and then, the boys. all probably in their very early 20s right now. and all fucking wonderful. funny and charming and seriously good actors. and one of them played dickon in the movie of the secret garden.****** and now, for the record, he looks like a hobbit. so, among the boys, there's the hot one, the fat one, the glasses one, the gay one, the hobbitty one, the jock - that's six - and then the two students of color who were sort of short-changed in the lines&character department - though we could, if you'd like to differentiate and be proper and fair, call them the circumcised one and the uncircumcised one.******* the hobbitty one was also short-changed, but was distinctive in his hobbittiness. the fat one was generically clever and jolly and fat. and the hot one was really fricking hot.

but the whole thing was wonderful. the story was nothing surprising or innovative, not surprising in the big, world-of-theatre, sense of things, or in terms of the play. but i guess it was the details of it, the characters and interactions, the clever lines and interesting moments of ideas. when i talk about doubt, i say somewhat disparagingly that it's 'a very good play.' the implication (and understanding) is that a great play is more than just a good play, and i don't mean just because 'great' means 'very good.' a great play does more, is more, is more than good at being a play as we expect a play to be. (see: pillowman.) it's that sense of breaking out of the neat little box. i mean, there's nothing about pillowman that's redefining actually what a play is. but it's more. it's something new, not just newly written. doubt feels like it could be thirty years old. pillowman doesn't. as for the history boys, i don't know. i did love it more that doubt, and i do think it's better. but why? (aside from my raging anglophilia.) it's less plot-driven - maybe that's it. everything about doubt is about the story, the events, the drive of what happens. did he or didn't he, will she or won't she. in the history boys, you have an idea of what's going to happen miles in advance - yes, i'd read the times article on alan bennett this weekend, but it gave almost nothing away, and nothing at all that you don't get in the first ten minutes. so you're never wondering what's going to happen, at least not in terms of big events. so if you wonder, you wonder how people will react, about the minutiae - someone touching someone else's shoulder is one of the biggest "events" of the play, in that way. it's almost like you're freed of the roller coaster of plot, so you're able to live it like life - someone's upset, how will the others react? how will one person deal with another's affection? - rather than waiting for the big answer or twist. james always says he likes movies/books/plays where nothing happens. this seems like the next best thing to that, the next closest. things happen, but bennett's managed, in what is probably a very british way, to make them somehow secondary, subordinate. but to what? to the heart of the play? to the characters? or has he just made them less important, and what rises to the surface is everything else.

or maybe it's just that electric wheelchairs can be really funny.


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*there is another, maybe obvious, possible source for all this distractatory crap that i won't get into - another not-for-the-blog. well, there are two possible reasons left, but it's not pms. vote: is pms for-the-blog, or not?

**not to give john all the credit, michael'd sent me a text message over the weekend: "you positively absolutely no questions asked have to see history boys!"

***i'm not kidding. he loved it. right after he burned my adoption papers so i'd never learn the truth.

****i know it's not really a reunion, since they're in no scenes together, and actually not even in the same movies. didja realize that, smartypants?

*****look how cute he is!!

******the real movie (it's wick as you or i!), not the weird tv fuck-up version, where mary and colin come back to the garden as young grown-ups, and since dickon's been killed in wwi, the cousins decide to marry.

*******it's told, not shown.

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