Once again, I am too lazy to write individual posts for these plays so I decided to lump them together. We are all better off for it.
Through a Glass Darkly is a stage adaptation of a 1962 Ingmar Bergman film. Cheery, it ain’t. But Carey Mulligan, who was so good in An Eduction, gives such a powerful and convincing performance as a woman who is descending into mental illness, that I’m actually quite worried for her. I don’t know how she can put herself through that wringer eight times a week for eight weeks and come out the other side undamaged. When I left the theater, I was actually upset and had to phone Mrs. Wife so she could talk me down.
Part of what makes this so effective is that it’s playing in a small, off-Broadway venue in the East Village and everything is RIGHT IN YOUR FACE. You don’t feel the detached protection that a big Broadway house offers. Not to be missed but not for the meek.
What to say about Spider-man: Turn off the Dark? It is not good. The friend I went with saw an early preview and he said that it has improved insofar as it now has a coherent plot (albeit the same tired Spider-Man story I’ve been reading since I was a kid). Apparently, prior to being shut down, it was a confused mess of junk.
Some of it was quite stunning to look at from a design standpoint and the costumes were fantastic. Julie Taymor’s influences were pretty obvious. The actors wanted it to work so bad but it didn’t. And I’ll tell you whose fault it is:
Those guys should stay the hell off Broadway. The music was AWFUL. Each song was one boring funeral dirge after another that dragged the show down. Songs would start and I couldn’t wait until they were over. That’s a major problem if you’re trying to stage a musical. 2:35 long and there were exactly two—that’s TWO—songs that didn’t work like a 50-pound stone strapped to the actors’ backs. And, yet, the crowd gave a standing ovation. I don’t get it.
Mark Ryalnce is the current man of the hour in New York theater. What a tough, funny performance. Jerusalem is three hours of pure adrenalin rush. There was some concern that this London transplant was too “British” for a U.S. stage. (Whatever the hell that means. Shakespeare is pretty British and he does just fine.) Rylance is Johnny Byron, local seducer of disenfranchised youth. Firmly anti-establishment and not one to respect the rules, he pays for his rebellion in a most violent way. My toes curled back to my heels. Hope they perform a snippet of the torture sequence on the Tony Awards this Sunday.
Check all your razors and your guns
We gonna be rasslin’ when the wagon comes
I wanna pigfoot and a bottle of beer
Gimme a reefer and a gang o’ gin
Slay me ’cause I’m in my sin
Slay me ’cause I’m full of gin
Needless to say, I won’t be bringing the daughter to see this one. The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith is less play and more musical review. There are some brief biographical interludes but it’s mostly one great blues song after another. A sax. A stand-up bass. An upright piano and one strong voice belting out songs from the early blues era about love and sex and cheating and drinking. Kind of like country music today.
Robin William was great for two reasons. First of all, he wasn’t Robin Williams. He altered his voice, look, posture and body movements to become someone who isn’t quite so recognizable. I dispensed with the preconceived notions within a few minutes. Second, he’s being used as bait. His name is above the title but he is not the lead. More like the third or fourth, actually. The actors who drive the show are committed, believable characters. So people are drawn in to see Robin Williams and what they end up with are solid performances by actors who otherwise wouldn’t get this kind of exposure. And that’s a beautiful thing. The play is rough stuff. Lots of war and blood and mysticism and ghosts and talking to God. I liked it a lot.
Oh, let’s see Play Dead! It’ll be a funny, spooky night out in Greenwich Village. Ha ha. So fun! It’s just a magic show!
Okay. There were a couple of moments in this show that were so genuinely frightening that if the lights had been on, I’d have run screaming out of the theater like a little girl. Creepy old Todd Robbins got together with the magician Teller and created a show that is definitely for adults only. In more than one segment they turn out the lights. They somehow received permission from the City of New York to also turn out the exit sign lights, so that you are plunged into a pitch-black darkness. The he starts telling gory stories.
You’ve been warned.