Apr. 9th, 2017

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March 26 - Midwestern Gothic, Signature Theatre

That was a thing. That we shared as an audience. Still have no idea how I feel about what I saw. New work from the guy who did The Adding Machine, and it has some resonance with Fargo and Martin McDonagh's work, but it's lacking the beating heart that makes McDonagh the chronicler of rural stagnation. It's more thinky than emotional. Some interesting work happening in the music - it starts weird, discordant, reminiscent of la Chiusa in Marie Christine and gets more "normal" as the story gets more out there. Cast is doing heroic work. There's a lot of analysis going on. Some of it does land darkly comic. It has a distinct point of view that I respect and appreciate - it's decidedly a vision - but I don't feel an emotional core to it. It's just kind there.

March 31 - Blood Knot, Mosaic Theater Company

Very early Athol Fugard two-hander directed by Joy Zinoman, who introduced me to Fugard in the first place with Road to Mecca at Studio about 8 or 9 years ago. The piece starts naturalistic as an exploration of two brothers - one light enough to pass as white - in an exploration of the meaning of race in South Africa in the 1960s. But it kinda veers into a more existential key that put me wholly in mind of Ballyturk. Two men, trapped in a repetitive existence, marked by rituals conducted according to the clock, and the only way out is not going to be good. Here, the break in ritual happens with a little playacting - what if they find a penpal from a newspaper advert so they can at least dream about a woman since they can't afford to date anyone? And Morrie picks from the wrong section, so they're accidentally writing to a white girl, who says, "I can come see you!", and since Morrie looks white, they play towards pulling this off. At which point it really is an examination of what makes a white man, since it isn't skin colour. What does passing mean? And how easy is it to throw contempt on your own brother when taking on the guise of "white"? Luckily, the girl doesn't come, but the relationship is shattered just by playacting, because even if Morrie keeps collapsing to his knees in horror at what he's just said to Zach, it was so easy for those things to come out in the first place. It's wonderfully done. But I still desperately want Ballyturk.

April 1 - A King and No King, Brave Spirits

Part of their Incest Rep, this is the comedy! A young king of mercurial temperament has been away leading his people at war for a number of years and is now victorious. He has just captured the leader of his foes, and promises to end his captivity if he marries the king's sister. So they return to the capital and the king falls in love with his own sister, who went through puberty during the years he was gone, and is weirdly encouraged in this by his first minister. This won't do for a peace treaty - or civilisation - at all. The captured king is also in love with her, but his girlfriend came along and told the princess that she can't marry this captured king because he's already engaged. So much rivalry! And after loads of angst about how the king and the princess can't be together, the first minister finally drops the bombshell news: the king is actually his own son, loaned to the queen as a newborn when at one point she had to save herself by claiming to be pregnant, and then later she did get actually pregnant by her elderly husband and thus the rightful heir is the princess. Who is of no relation. Yay wedding! WTF is this script? the comic subplot features a soldier who is a cowardly braggart who I'm convinced is Jayne from Firefly. the way he talks about his exploits and has no morals whatsoever (sure, I'll bring your sister to your bed - anything else you want?), I strongly suspect there's an unearned statue to him in some town he accidentally saved the one time he tried to retreat the wrong direction and ended up having to fight. It's loads of fun, but what the hell is this thing?

April 3 - Picasso at the Lapin Agile, reading, Shakespeare Theatre Company at National Academy of the Sciences

Sam Ludwig as Einstein, Jesse Perez chewing all the scenery (there is no scenery) as Picasso, and just so much ridiculous fun about art, science, creation, and sexual attraction.

April 5 - A Raisin in the Sun, Arena Stage

Went for Dawn Ursula as Ruth, was most impressed with Lizan Mitchell as Lena. It is such a strong cast, with fantastic central performances from Dawn, Lizan, and Will Cobb. the generational difference that has Lena at odds with her son is dignity: for her, that's survival without violence, but since he was able to grow up without that constant violence, he has the luxury of trying to demand respect, not merely life. And it's heartbreaking.

April 6 - Brighton Beach Memoirs, Theater J

Cole Sitilides is adorable as Eugene and I swear I would have had such a crush on him in high school. I feel like the script solves some problems a bit too neatly in the end, but it's a delightful play, and when you consider what the news was, it was kind of the right time to be sitting in a theatre watching a play about people for whom taking in refugees is simply a given, no consideration needed.

April 7 - Back to Methuselah: As Far as Thought Can Reach

Last part of Shaw's speculative fiction about how to improve the human race. This one really showcases his hangups: he's gotten rid of sex and other bodily functions, sped up development, and basically condensed life for most people into about a 4 year span in which most will just die while the world is actually run by the "Ancients" who take a very long view of existence but would really rather survive forever as mere thought, with no interest in physical sensations or really anything concrete. It's very weird and though presented as a positive, it's rather dystopic. He spends a lot of time banging on about how artists are really just children playing with dolls, but he can't conceive of a non-representational art (George apparently hated cubism and symbolism). His sculptor characters move from making idealised human forms to carving craggy portrait busts of Ancients to giving up art entirely because it cannot compete with thought, and I'm going "but this is precisely the point at which thought as art has taken over, where representation of form is entirely gone. Cubism really exploded between 1910 and 1912 with one wing quickly moving away from the representation of the Bracque/Picasso mold, and the symbolists of a generation earlier were representing images that weren't weren't at all what the painting was about. The play cycle is Shaw's response to the cataclysm of WWI, and so was Dada. I certainly don't expect that he could predict abstract expressionism, but the idea that art must be centred in forms from nature is some regressionary bullshit for the period, because Shaw is such a philistine. It's a weird play, with more of his id spewing out than over the rest of the cycle, and I'm sorry the audience was about 10 people because it really is an audacious work, well performed. But it is admittedly straight up weird.


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Mme Bahorel

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