Overture/ Curtain, lights/ This is it/ The night of nights…

I saw tough son-of-a-bitch Ed Harris with his equally powerful real-life wife Amy Madigan in a creepy, funny, contemporary Southern Gothic horror-fest called The Jacksonian. It’s written by Beth Henley, she of the Pulitzer Prize. Also in the cast, Bill Pullman as a demented bartender with a ridiculous Elvis pompadour and Glenne Headly as a waitress looking for love.

Here’s a still from the production with Harris and Madigan. I stared at this thinking I’ve seen it somewhere before.

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And then it came to me. This is an Edward Hopper painting.

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Hopper painted lonely people trying to make an emotional connection with someone. Such was this case with The Jacksonian.

It’s performed in a small off-Broadway theater. (I don’t think it’d work in a mainstream house. The story is too dark.) Some of it is quite violent and uncomfortable to watch and the nearness of the stage and the actors ratchets-up the tension.

No happy ending here, kids. Harris plays a dentist slipping into a drug and alcohol-fueled meltdown. Headly’s character winds up permanently brain-addled from a nitrous oxide overdose. But it’s got loads of laughs! I don’t know how the actors can put themselves through this meat grinder of a play seven times a week. The show’s literature warns, “May be inappropriate for 14 and younger.” Now, THERE’S truth in advertising.

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I needed a laugh and this still made me laugh so hard that I’ve temporarily turned it into my screen saver.

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It’s from the brilliant and hysterical all-male British import of Twelfth Night. Here, Mark Ryalnce’s Olivia is mortified by the unwanted advances of Stephen Fry’s Malvolio. The look on Olivia’s face is priceless. I’ve seen that look many times while out on a date.

It’s a traditional staging and back then, women weren’t permitted to act, so the female roles are played by dudes. Patrons are encouraged to arrive early. Before the play, as in Shakespeare’s day, the cast gets dressed on stage in front of the audience. There’s some seating on stage as well to simulate the groundlings at the original Globe Theater. At the performance I attended, someone in the on-stage gallery fell asleep in full view of the audience. It happens!

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I saw Harold Pintner’s Betrayal with real-life husband/wife team Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz. It’s a husband/wife epidemic! The toughest part of the play was trying to believe the Daniel Craig could be cuckolded. That’s the problem with seeing a named actor in a play. They arrive with a lot of preconceived notions and baggage. I enjoyed it but was confused because the audience was laughing riotously at things that I’m not entirely convinced were supposed to be funny. The run was completely sold out before it even opened, so they’re having the last laugh.

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Orlando Bloom made a hell of a stage entrance as Romeo. He came roaring in on a motorcycle and screeched to a halt at the front of the stage. You can see skid marks on the boards from the previous performances. He was wearing a helmet with a faceplate and when he removed it and ran his hand through his curly brown locks, there was an audible swoon in the theater. It was like a slow-motion shampoo commercial.

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The guy is good. He can handle Shakespearian dialogue. His co-star? Not so much. Condola Rashad, an otherwise fine actor, recited Juliet’s dialogue with little feeling or heart. Apparently, the ticket-buying public agrees because they’re closing the show in December, earlier than scheduled, on account of unenthusiastic ticket sales.

[Bonus material.]

I learned something new. “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” is NOT, Where are you, Romeo?, as I’d always assumed. Her intent is, it makes no difference if your name is Romeo or Montague, “The name of my enemy…”. I’d still love you. She follows this with:

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;”

She further extrapolates on the uselessness of names:

“So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.”

Old dog learns new trick. Woof.

Cover your eyes! Oh, the humanity!

I’m just a traditional guy with traditional tastes. I don’t mind a bit of experimentation now and then but when you do THIS to Shakespeare, I have to take exception. I saw the now mercifully closed Peter Sellers production of Othello with Philip Seymour Hoffman.

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In it:

  • The actors spoke Shakespearean dialog into cell phones. Sometimes, while standing right next to one another. You know how I feel about cell phones.
  • Iago wore street clothes. He had a green shirt because he was, you know, jealous.
  • It was FOUR HOURS LONG with only one :15 minute intermission, which is completely unnecessary for that play.
  • A lot of action took place on a bed made of TVs. And some folding chairs.

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  • Montano, a soldier of Cyprus, was played by a woman. In the barroom brawl scene, Othello’s Lieutenant, Cassio, doesn’t beat her up. That would be adhering to the original text. Instead, he graphically rapes Montano on the TV bed.
Philip Seymour Hoffman had a few scenes of utter brilliance but the rest of the cast was just burned out and didn’t connect with the characters at all. Maybe I’m just superficially swayed by celebrity. Probably.A friend described Othello as an oaf who allows himself to be easily fooled by a henchman. It’s his least favorite Shakespeare play. It’s a pretty accurate assessment so that kind of ruined it as well.I have tickets to see Jude Law in Hamlet. He’d better not fuck it up or I’m through with The Bard. I can’t take another evening like that. It’ll kill me.