05 May 2008

In Which I Run Out of Adjectives

This morning when I was getting dressed, I had a beautifully-worded intro to this blog post, tying together seeing Top Girls last night to my recent experience of The Sound and the Fury, the common thread being remarkably clear, lucid presentations of what could otherwise be really obtuse, disjointed work.

But of course I didn't write it down. So let's jump right in with some Top Girls adjectives:

Awesome, funny, fun, engaging, beautiful, powerful, timely, compelling, honest, great, awesome, great, really really good.

Yeah, I liked it.

As I've been telling people that today, I've been getting a lot of, "Really? I heard it was bad." Which I have trouble comprehending. Not because I liked it - my liking something doesn't at all mean that I expect anyone else to agree. But I found this production so damn winning that I can't see how the first act wouldn't be hilarious and delightful, that the last scene wouldn't be riveting and moving, and that the whole of this masterful production wouldn't carry just about anyone along.

Just like with Faulkner, I've always known about Top Girls as a "difficult" play. It's disjointed, it jumps around, for fuck's sake, it's Caryl Churchill, right? And because I was a delinquent theatre student, I never actually read the play. (Even when I did a scene from it - a cut-up of Act 3 - in a class.) So I knew the premise, the idea behind the Act 1/Acts 2 &3 split, but that's it.

And I found the whole thing to be utterly wonderful. As I said, the first act is absolutely delightful. It's not light or fluffy, but it's funny (bordering on silly quite a few wonderful times) and impeccably directed. Actors who have sometimes annoyed me are so perfectly cast that their irksome habits are put to proper use. And actors who are usually good are fantastic. The pace and energy in this first act alone left me grinning with delight when the lights went down.

The rest of the play is less whimsical, but no less captivating. Tom Pye's set was astonishingly beautiful and inventive. I gasped multiple times. And the performances and direction were just masterful. The unity of the whole piece, the sense of a cumulative effect, of a point being made, isn't something I always look for or need in a play, but to feel it so powerfully in such a potentially disjointed script is amazing. Director James MacDonald gets this play, made all of us (the whole audience sounded to be as into it as I was) get it and go there with him, too.

It must be said that because I live under a rock or something, I'd never seen Elizabeth Marvel in a play before. And I don't know that expectations could be set higher for an actor. Doesn't everyone always say she's, like, the best off-Broadway actor, period, full stop? Do I know a casting director who's said that she's, like, the best actor maybe even without the off-Broadway qualification aside? The bravest, most emotionally available - something like that. My memory is fuzzy, but I was expecting great things, and she did not disappoint. I give James MacDonald a lot of credit for the play's unity and momentum, but her (again, this word) masterful performance, especially in the last scene, was... masterful.

The rest of the cast is wonderful, too. Marisa Tomei is almost unbearably adorable (in a good way, in a Scottish way) in the first act, and goes on to be heartrending and honest and just so damn good. The whole cast is excellent. (And you can see them in sexy smoky eyeshadow in the artwork for the show here. A great piece of show art, in my opinion - it doesn't tell you what the show's about - not that any artwork could, for this play - but like my beloved poster for The Little Dog Laughed it conveys a definite sense of tone that I think really matches the play and production. If you find the poster intriguing, you will very likely like the show. Or you were just looking for some hot chicks, which, yes, there are, but in silly clothing.)

I'm getting very gushy about the show. Obvs. I just found it exciting, this difficult play made not only effortless and engaging, but beautiful and relevant and funny, in a gorgeous production that uses words and physical space and stuff in the way that's sort of the whole point of theatre.

So yeah, I recommend that you see this. I'm 99% sure that MTC's 30 Under 30 Club discounts apply to their Broadway productions at the Biltmore. So if you're under 30, go here and sign up. If you're a student, Top Girls has rush tickets available day-of for $26.50 starting when the box office opens (10am?). For old non-students, you can get discounty ($65) tickets here, if you buy before Wednesday.

I have to point out that MTC currently has three wonderful shows running - Top Girls on Broadway, and The Four of Us and From Up Here off-Broadway at City Center. For an institution often derided for catering to 70-year-old subscribers and other icons of stodginess, these three beautiful, challenging, fresh plays are really exciting. Any theatre would be proud to be producing this sort of work. So congrats to everyone over there. And thank you.


Anonymous said...

"Actors who have sometimes annoyed me are so perfectly cast that their irksome habits are put to proper use."

whoEVER could you mean?!

Anonymous said...

Brantley will be taking on Top Girls next. Check out what he thought at www.didhelikeit.com!

Mac said...

I saw it last night and agree totally.