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I'm behind. Like whoa.

17 - A Human Being Died that Night, Mosaic Theater Company

The other half of the South Africa rep, this is a two-hander adapted from Pumla ­Gobodo-Madikizela's memoir about her interviews with Eugene de Kock, an Afrikaaner sentenced to multiple life sentences for his role in violently upholding the apartheid regime as a state functionary. He was one of the guys actually performing the torture, the extrajudicial killings, blackmailing activists to turn them into spies, and even conducting paramilitary raids across the border. What's interesting about de Kock, and what compelled Godobo-Madikizela, a psychologist affiliated with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to conduct so many interviews even after her contract ended, is that he admits his guilt, has apologized to victims in a manner that feels legitimate, and argues that his sentence is only excessive because the people who ordered him to perform these actions, and white South African society in general, are not being punished at all. He's compelling because he's right. He performed actions that society wanted, and then he got hung out to dry. Are the men who pulled the trigger more guilty than the man who ordered them to do it? The man who hedged his orders before an operation but not his praise after? He's not arguing that he was innocent, just caught up in a system of violence: he's arguing that the men who kept the system running are just as guilty as he is and the punishments should be equivalent.

It's a fascinating script about structures and shared guilt, and it is a tour de force from Chris Genebach as de Kock, who spends nearly the whole play chained to the floor, sitting in a chair, explaining his case. Which isn't to say that Erica Chamblee, as Pumla, isn't doing fantastic work, but this show is very much a showcase for de Kock, of what Truth and Reconciliation means when truth is terrible and justice isn't being served. De Kock has no glib answers for his role: he was hired for a job and found he did it well. He believed at the time that he was battling for the soul of his Africa, and he has come to understand since that it was a false ideal, and he cannot bring back the dead. The whole thing is under 2 hours and it remains intensely compelling.

(also, it being Monday, it was We Happy Few night at the theatre - ran into Kiernan and Raven and Hannah! Hannah was in town! Always happy when Hannah's home for a bit.)

18 - Fun Home, National Tour, National Theatre

This is a better cast in a lot of ways - it's a little quieter, more lived in. I adore Kate Shindle's line readings - she's a little snarkier, I think, than Beth, and as much as I am in love with Beth, I'm in love with Kate, too. Abby Corrigan is darling as Middle Allison, and I feel her in very particular ways (largely because Karen Eilbacher is insanely hot and cool and I want to melt into the ground when she says hi to me at the stage door because I am not cool enough to be seen by Karen Eilbacher). Ali Baldacchino is a fabulous Small Allison - I feel her when she defaults to "sullen" after her father has rushed past her yet again. Central to how this cast works, though, is Robert Petkoff as Bruce, and I don't say that because I'm friends with Robert (though I've known Robert for, dear god, fifteen years now). For Bruce to have the life he has had - for the family to have survived in small town Pennsylvania, Cerveris is a little much. As Robert said, "no one is getting in a car alone at night with Michael Cerveris". It's true. I don't mean Cerveris was over the top - I was surprised and please he wasn't as creepy as I feared - just that he's a little much. This cast is more livable, more relatably your neighbours. I am very, very happy with this tour cast. (Kids are leaving after DC! John is so goddamned cute OMG. Next set better be equally cute.)

21 - Ragtime, Ford's Theatre

Back to Ragtime because they're my friends :) (really because I'm earning my keep as an usher and I certainly don't mind when I get this quality - and to see my actorfriends killing it - for free.)

22 - Henry V, We Happy Few

Back to this for one more time - I wanted to see some of the fight scenes and all from a different angle, since I couldn't see a number of Henry and King of France reactions the first time around. It was worth seeing from a couple different perspectives. And to hang out a bit after.

28 - Macbeth, Shakespeare Theatre Company

Liesl Tommy directing, so this was exciting as hell when first announced; especially when the concept came out: modern dress, third-world country, the witches are the only white people and are constructed as CIA operatives. And this part works. Visceral stage pictures. Macbeth is a weird play in a lot of ways - it's a deliberately kinda provocative work about the foreign country from which our brand new king has come. Scotland is a foreign country, known to be "warlike", with a long history of civil wars in addition to their raiding expeditions against the north of England. And this new monarch is a strong believer in witchcraft. It's a short, violent, deeply odd play exploring how guilt erodes power. (also, it's turned out to be ahistorical - the Stewart line aren't descended from Banquo, so the line of kings that Macbeth sees is an illusion in a couple senses, and that's kinda fantastic to play with from a modern perspective.) the audience at the time was watching an "exotic" culture they believe steeped in violence to be acting violently, plus witches. Are the witches prophesying only, or are the interfering? Does knowing a prophecy bring it into being? They speak around things a lot, then Macbeth infers something and they seem to confirm it. Tommy does some nice playing around with this - Macbeth is seeing things that the witches aren't deliberately putting out there, and that is what brings his doom on himself faster than they had perhaps expected. Macbeth keeps moving faster than they expected - they didn't really plan on him killing Duncan in this version and they're kinda scrambling to keep ahead of events. They're not counting on Lennox and Macduff successfully running to get Malcolm from exile. The conceit helps put some of the headlong action of the play in perspective.

Where this production falls apart for me is in the deaths of the central characters. Jesse Perez's Macbeth isn't sympathetic, but then, Macbeth is a hardbitten warrior who has earned Duncan's trust through his bloody deeds in battle and then goes along with his wife's idea to murder the king. the guilt eats at him later, and Tommy has much of this played as PTSD - Macbeth is always on edge, reacting to shadows, not just because of guilt, but because he's always on edge, reacting to shadows because death has been lurking in those shadows for so long. Nelson Pressley said it seems as if this Macbeth has been watching too many action movies and thinks his lines are quips. He thinks of that as a bad thing, but I totally see where's that coming from and didn't mind that part. Jesse's Macbeth is very attuned to what power should look like, and if he's using street thugs with machetes to go after Banquo in the woods because that's precisely what power doesn't look like and is thus deniable, of course his sense of power and appearance is media driven. Why wouldn't it be? His coronation is marked by him and his wife showing up in a luxury car (that may have been previously used for Robert Falls' Balkan Mafia King Lear - another modern dress adaptation that played on audience understanding of what power looks like). the problem here comes when he doesn't have the emotional core to make "tomorrow and tomorrow" what it ought to be. And his death feels meaningless. Different problem with Lady Macbeth. Nikkole Salter is fantastic and is carrying this thing until she has to die, and the staging feels off. We start seeing her moping around the palace in a ratty Harvard t-shirt, debating over how many antidepressants to take (and washing them down with wine) after the death of her child. Macbeth's text of "hey, guess who's now Thane of Cawdor?" perks her right up and gives her new reason to put on real clothes and give a fuck. She has a purpose. And she's great with a purpose. Which means her track downward doesn't work so well, though her sleepwalking scene is pretty good. Still, she doesn't seem to get to suicidal, and anyway, we've been set up with booze and pills. It's like Chekhov's gun - the booze and pills were introduced, so they better come to something. Instead, we get a servant bringing in the Harvard t-shirt, soaked in blood. I have no idea what happened. The scream in the text has to make sense, except it's just "a cry of women" - her women, finding her body.

This is a problem because the more minor deaths are deeply moving. Banquo defending his son - a teenager in school blazer - and when the assassins flee, Fleance creeps back to sob over his father's corpse. The same street thugs (one male, one female, both very young) necklacing Lady Macduff, after which one of the witches smothers the Macduff child (this time, a girl). Siward mourning over his daughter's body at the end, her valiant death in battle against the tyrant. These land emotionally. The Macbeths' don't.

I still enjoyed the production and am grateful it was done at all. Especially with a near parity in gender distribution regendering most of the characters: Queen Duncan, Malcolm's sister Donalbain, female Lennox and Ross, female actor playing the Porter (in a rather androgynous fashion) and the Doctor, Macduff's daughter, and one of the assassins. And every single one of them a woman of colour doing a damned good job with verse and fight choreography that they don't get as many chances to use as they should. It was really nice to see that distribution on the major stage of Shakespeare Theatre Company when it's starting to become more common on smaller stages. Let this not be the last time I see this many women in major roles at Shakespeare. (As a company, they're pretty good at hiring non-white male actors, but they're less good at hiring women. Shakespeare had to make a deliberate choice to make characters female; many of his default male, particularly supporting, characters have no personal references or even direct power relationships that mark them as male. Just the cultural default. More work needs to be done at the Equity level to open up these opportunities.)

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Mme Bahorel

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