Monday, December 3, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W48: Pretty Woman, Julius Caesar, Once On This Island

11/28/18: Pretty Woman
What: A musical adaptation of the beloved '90s romcom.
And? Really boring. Almost none of the dialog worked (even that lifted straight from the film), most of the songs paused the story rather than furthered it, and even quality performers came off as awkward and uninteresting. The most embarrassing sequence was the opera sequence, where Edward's milquetoast falling-in-love song sounded so crude and clumsy when thrown into relief against the exquisitely emotional arias in Verdi's La Traviata (and I don't even like opera!). Standout was Tommy Bracco as Giulio the Porter.

Eric Anderson and Tommy Bracco as Mr. Thompson and Giulio, and company.
Photo by Matthew Murphy.

11/30/18: Julius Caesar
What: Hamlet Isn't Dead's latest, about the rise and fall of both Julius Caesar and his assassins.
And? Full review here.

Mia Isabella Aguirre as Marcus Brutus (with Noah Ruff as Cassius).
Photo by Mia Isabella Photography.

12/02/18: Once On This Island
a farewell visit, as they've posted their closing date for January. I cried through half the show (as is right)

Margin Notes: Julius Caesar

Mia Isabella Aguirre as Marcus Brutus (with Noah Ruff as Cassius).
Photo by Mia Isabella Photography.

Seen on: Friday, 11/30/18.
My grade: B+

Plot and Background
Hamlet Isn't Dead's latest venture, about the rise and fall of both Julius Caesar and his assassins.

What I Knew Beforehand
I've reviewed and enjoyed HID's productions over the last several years, and I've seen a few productions of Caesar as well.


Play: Director Emily Jackson inverts the Balcony Theater so that the audience is seated in the pit, looking up at a stepped space, allowing for dynamic (and literal) level-playing, as well as facilitating the many side-conference schemes that happen throughout. The stage pictures created against this are clear and interesting, with the audience leaning forward, leaning in, part of the crowd and unseen witness to inner turmoils. Part of the flavor of a HID production, aside from the live music, is the playful approach to the text by the performers, tossing in sotto voce (or simply voce) asides during each other's speeches. In the comedies, this usually works fairly well, and adds to the enjoyment of the story unfolding; but somehow here, perhaps because it's a weightier story, it undercuts (at least for me), some of the moments of rhetoric for which this play is known.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W47: Thom Pain (based on nothing), To Kill a Mockingbird, Network, Torch Song, The Lifespan of a Fact, The Ferryman, The Hard Problem, Apologia

11/19/18: Thom Pain (based on nothing)
What: Signature's revival of Will Eno's stream of consciousness monologue play, with Michael C. Hall.
And? I remember reading the script years ago and being completely befuddled by it, but I'd heard that it was amazing live; I also thought Michael C. Hall did excellent work in the Broadway run of Eno's The Realistic Joneses, so I was excited to see this. It's still weird, and confusing, but a bit easier to track than when you're just reading it on the page. Compelling and strange.

Michael C. Hall as Thom Pain. Photo by Joan Marcus.

11/20/18: To Kill a Mockingbird
What: Aaron Sorkin's adaptation of Harper Lee's classic novel about the importance of principles and goodness, in a small southern town with a black man on trial for a crime he didn't commit.
And? While I don't think this can eclipse the book or film, which are pretty perfect executions, this is adequately done. Knowing both the source material and Sorkin's style well, it's kind of fun to watch and think "That's Harper Lee's line. That's a Sorkin move. Lee. Sorkin." While I have a few complaints about choices which I think weaken the arc (including Scout's growth), it's largely a powerful piece of theater with a deep bench of talented performers.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W46: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, The Play That Goes Wrong

11/16/18: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
What: CSC/John Doyle's new production of Bertolt Brecht's play about the rise of a gangster in Chicago in, of all things, the produce market. Also it's an allegory for the rise of Hitler. And in this case, it bears ominous shadows of America's current political situation.
And? Brecht is never going to be a favorite playwright of mine, but Doyle's style is a good fit for his work. The cast is fantastic, especially my favorite (Raul Esparza) as Ui, Christopher Gurr as Dogsborough, and Thom Sesma as Givola.

Raul Esparza as Arturo Ui with the cast. Photo by Joan Marcus.

11/17/18: The Play That Goes Wrong
a repeat visit (family in town)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W45: Super Awesome World, The Niceties

11/05/18: Super Awesome World
What: Part of the United Solo Theatre Festival, Amy Conway's piece uses her love of classic video games as a lens to explore her struggles with depression.
And? Delightful and powerful. Full review here.

Playwright/star Amy Conway.

11/06/18: The Niceties

What: Playwright Eleanor Burgess's new play at MTC, about a clash of ideasand ideologiesbetween a white history professor and her black student that leads to unexpectedly viral complications for both women. Inspired by a real-life incident at Yale in 2015.
And? A contemporary revisioning of Mamet's Oleanna, where the conflict may no longer be about gender, but it most assuredly is still rooted in the flipping of power. I find it interesting that this is the second play I've seen this year (the first being JC Lee's Relevance at MCC) to feature an older white woman, who fought and won her own crusade for gender equality in academia, being challenged for her unexamined and internalized presumptions about race by a younger black woman joining her field. While I think Relevance stumbled into permanent imbalance by having the older woman at last use the N-word (and thus turn irredeemable), Burgess's work here is subtler and more elegant. She challenges the audience to think, but she doesn't instruct the audience what to think. Both women are right; both women are wrong. The degree of wrongness, or the category of wrongness, spans the gamut from basic ideologies to blind spots to intersectionality to the tenets of solid and professional scholarship (to say nothing of how to examine revolutions, both moderate and radical, and the fallout and recovery from sudden unwanted media attention). Both women say things that are hard for me to forgive, but both women also have a point (and before I forget, both are perfectly performed by Lisa Banes as the professor Janine and Jordan Boatman as the student Zoe).

Lisa Banes and Jordan Boatman as Janine and Zoe.
Photo by T. Charles Erickson. (note: photo does
not reflect final costume or scenic design)