07 November 2006

Playing Catch-Up

You ever do that thing where you check in with your bank account online (because checkbooks are so passe, especially since you haven't written a paper check in two years) and it's, shall we say, not what you were expecting? I really need to be, A, less retarded, and B, better paid. Well, either one alone would pretty much fix things. But only one is actually even possibly going to happen. And let's just say this has put a slight damper on my mood of indomitable workplace productivity and planned penetratingly insightful blogging on this past weekend's theatre and stuff. So if you feel like I'm just going through the motions, make your checks out to Surplus Blog LLC, or just send me cash. Or fresh vegetables, which I probably won't be able to buy for another month.

The Fortune Teller at Here Arts (have I mentioned enough how I love what they do?), through December 23rd. See that? "Through December 23rd"? That means it's been extended, which means you should go. This is a truly inspired piece of theatre. I really love good puppetry, and this is great. (The puppeteers, or marionetters, when they come out for their curtain call, are also hot. Guys, call me.) The marionettes are gorgeously made, and the whole production is just brilliantly designed. If you loved Shockheaded Peter this is likely to be especially up your alley - I know that not everyone will, like me, walk out of a macabre marionette show about the seven deadly sins with their cheeks hurting from smiling so much, but I think more of you will than you might expect. It's a completely delightful (in that Victorian grotesque way) hour of theatre. (Caveat: Make sure to sit as close to the front as possible - the details in the design are extensive, and you might not catch all of the nuances of the puppets from farther back. The far sides are better than the far back.)

an oak tree. Jeremy's actually got a great write-up of his visit here, doing a better job than I was going to be able to of explaining the thing. It's a lovely piece, beautifully written, and so interesting to watch. The night I went (by no accident), the guest actor was James Urbaniak. In some ways it becomes a demonstration of the guest actor's process. As they go along, not knowing the story they're acting in, you get to see how they work - do they make strong choices right out of the gate, conjure some sense memory to get in an emotional place, or go along neutrally, sort of Meisner-style, waiting to find where they're moved? Although I don't think it was actually the same technique, James Urbaniak's performance felt like a Meisner demonstration - almost neutral (or do we call him deadpan?) line readings that, as the play went on, gave way ( but not entirely) to more emotive moments. It didn't undermine the impact of the play - just made it different. The writing carried more weight, as did the intellectual parsing of the structure (and Tim Crouch's skillfully interlaced parallels). I'd love to go back to see it again, with someone more emotive, to see what a different play it becomes. I think Laila Robbins did a night during the New York previews, and Christopher Eccleston did it in London - I'd love to see someone like them, an actor with that sort of intense emotional presence. They do 'wounded gravitas.' I don't know if that's making any sense. (Caveat: Whether you go for a deadpanner or on-cue-cryer, make sure the actor you're seeing is good. Not always easy to predict, but do a little research if you can. Ask around, see what they've done. It completely changes the show, and I imagine that with a bad or mediocre actor, it would suck. In other words, maybe don't go just cause you love the guy on "Queer as Folk." Por ejemplo.)

Borat. I laughed so hard. I was horrified and delighted. Sacha Baron Cohen is a sexy man. I would love to know if anyone knows (or has a theory) why the censorship bar was employed as it was, rather inconsistently.

The Coast of Utopia, part one: Voyage. So fucking good. Possibly the fastest three hours of my life. I don't even know where to begin. I guess I'll admit that I know shamefully little Stoppard. I saw (and loved, and didn't entirely get) Jumpers on Broadway. I've read (and acted in a scene from) Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead. And I think that's it. No Travesties, no The Real Thing, no Arcadia. I should have my membership in whatever-it-is revoked. But from what I've heard about those plays, this isn't quite your usual Stoppard intellectual mindfuck. (Not yet.) The characters are mostly still neophytes, knowing what they want to do (something big) but not having a philosophy of their own yet, nor a real investment in or even, maybe, understanding of, the foreign philosophies they're reading. But something is simmering, starting to happen, and that's where the excitement is.

And the production is brilliant (in the sense of so, so smart, and also radiant and bright). At one point I thought about how it contrasts with Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice at Yale - how in that production, you saw the playwright, you felt her presence in the language, the shape of the story, the world. In this case, it's all folded into the play (into the story?). It changes how you (I) experience the play - I feel more immersed, more like reading a novel. I don't think this is a realism/not-realism thing, and neither style is better than the other. (Tony Kushner is in the Sarah Ruhl camp, and I don't know if Stoppard always works this way.) It's just a new way for me to look at my experience of a play. (It basically means I've decided Tom Stoppard is the A.S. Byatt of theatre.*) The whole production is stunning. All of the design is breathtaking. And the acting - did you know Billy Crudup is a character actor? I didn't. But goddamn! Brilliant! And Kellie Overbey, whom I don't think I've ever seen before - amazing! And Jason Butler Harner was in a play and I didn't see anyone's penis! (But maybe that's made up for by the fact that I'd just come from Borat.) It was a really wonderful piece of theatre, and I can't wait for parts 2 and 3. (Remember what I said about donations?) If nothing else (but there's obviously much else), it had probably the best curtain call I've ever seen. Yes, there's an advantage when you have eight million actors on stage, but still - a curtain call, exhilarating? Yes! Like the end of a freaking symphony. The exhilarating kind.

It was a good weekend. Good thing, too, cause I'll never be able to afford anything like that again. ($20, $15, $11, $30. So, so sad.) Sticking to 'suggested donation' museums for the next little while.

*Do you think they know each other? Death feud? Friends? ... Separated at birth?I like to think so.


jennster said...

i am way too anal with my money and checkbook- i'm always on top of things. lol

Adam said...

I think in borat the size of the censorship bar placed over borat's genetalia is an additional joke.

Jaime said...

Adam: Indeed. I couldn't decide if I actually wanted to see him entirely naked or not.