Monday, July 23, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W29: The Boys in the Band, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, As You Like It, The Damned

7/16/18: The Boys in the Band
What: Fifty years after its Off-Broadway premiere, Mart Crowley's groundbreaking play about the homosexual lifestyle in the 1960s makes its Broadway debut. Michael and his friends throw a birthday party for Michael's frenemy, Harold, but the party is crashed by Michael's straight and conservative college roommate, Alan. Alcohol flows freely, and resentments and jealousies rise to the surface.
And? At the time of its initial production, this play went a long way toward building empathy for the gay community from the larger heteronormative world. Today, it is more of a time capsule, especially when we consider just how much this lifestyle was demolished by the AIDS crisis less than twenty years later (five the original cast members, as well as the director and one of the producers, died during the crisis). The cast is excellent, with Robin de Jesus as a particular standout (when isn't he?), and the humor is biting and funny, but it's also got a caustic and unpleasant edge to it, and it's very hard to get past some of the slurs the characters toss off carelessly. I get it, and I know people talked (and still talk) this way, but it's hard for me to maintain empathy for someone who calls his friend the N word multiple times.

Robin de Jesus, Michael Benjamin Washington, Andrew Rannells, and
Jim Parsons as Emory, Bernard, Larry, and Michael. Photo by Joan Marcus.

7/18/18: On A Clear Day You Can See Forever
What: Irish Repertory's revival of Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner's 1966 musical about Daisy, a young woman with a slight case of ESP who, under hypnosis, becomes Melinda, an elegant and romantic woman in 18th century England. Dr. Bruckner, her psychiatrist/hypnotist becomes infatuated with Melinda, while Daisy develops a crush of her own.
And? Talk about a show not aging well. The romance in this story, such as it is, is unpleasant, unearned, and ethically gross. And because it's an Alan Jay Lerner show, the male lead has a monologue bemoaning the irrationality of women. I have to wonder how palatable this was in the 60s, because it sure wasn't palatable to me when I saw it, lovely music or no. I read online that there was a revised production seven years back, which I missed, that split Daisy/Melinda into David and Melinda (casting a man as David, a woman as Melinda). This sounds interesting, and perhaps a cool touch to add the queer bent to it, though it means losing the virtuosity of the Daisy/Melinda doubling, which I imagine was the primary charm of the original production, with Barbara Harris in the role. As for Daisy/Melinda, Melissa Errico is delightful, on another level from the rest of the company. There's a definite pleasure in hearing the cast sing the score sans mic (and they sound terrific), but the acting is inconsistent otherwise.

Stephen Bogardus and Melissa Errico as Dr. Mark Bruckner and Daisy
Gamble. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

7/21/18: As You Like It
What: Hamlet Isn't Dead's latest installment, an all-female/gender nonconforming production of Shakespeare's comedy about getting lost in the Forest of Arden, and finding yourself there.
And? Absolutely charming. Full review here.

Rachel Caplan and Tay Bass as Orlando and Rosalind. Photo by Andy Ingalls.

7/2118: The Damned
What: For an extremely limited run, Park Avenue Armory hosts the Comedie-Francaise/Ivo Van Hove adaptation of the 1969 Italian film of the same name, about a steel manufacturing family in Germany whose monstrous side emerges as it becomes entangled with the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich. Inspired by the Krupp dynasty.
And? Van Hove is an epic director, and the Armory is the perfect venue for the scale of his productions. Between the monstrous nature of the story and the deliberate assaulting techniques in the stagecraft and storytelling, this was a difficult show to watch, but an incredibly powerful piece of theater. At times, especially in the beginning, it was hard to keep all the characters and threads straight (between the live camera feed, the physical bodies in the space, the supertitles - it's in French - and character slates, to say nothing of the different schemes in simultaneous play), but that becomes easier as the bodies start dropping. I was grateful for the live camera feed, though: even in this expansive space where, even in Row H I felt far away, it gave us intimate insight to characters' inner lives.

Loic Corbery, Adeline d'Hermy, Guillaume Gallienne, Denis Podalydes,
Eric Genovese, Elsa Lepoivre, and Didier Sandre as Herbert Thallman,
Elisabeth Thallman, Friedrich Bruckmann, Baron Konstantin von
Essenbeck, Baronne Sophie von Essenbeck, and Baron Joaquim von
Essenbeck. Photo by Christophe Raynaud de Lage.

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