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.

11/21/18: Network
What: Ivo van Hove strikes again, with an adaptation of the film Network, about a newscaster's on-air mental breakdown which goes viral.
And? He's an excellent director of scope and spectacle, and he certainly delivers here, though I can't tell if the play's intent is to try to galvanize the audience into being likewise "mad as hell," or if it is only to manipulate the audience into that state for the purpose of mocking that impotent rage (as Howard Beale's prophetizing makes increasingly little sense).

Bryan Cranston as Howard Beale. Photo by Jan Versweyveld.

11/22/18: Torch Song
a repeat visit (family in town)

11/23/18: The Lifespan of a Fact
What: Based on the essay/book by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal, where an essayist with an ear for poetry and a penchant for emotional truth(iness) over the precision of fact goes against a fact checker who understands that a chink in the armor of accuracy can endanger the credibility of the entire piece.
And? It's so refreshing, after a year too full of theater that was only okay or--worse--was dull, to see such a competent and engaging play. This three-hander, which features three actors who know not only how to lead a play but also how to share a play (Cherry Jones, Bobby Cannavale, and Daniel Radcliffe), all directed by Leigh Silverman, is tight, funny, and compelling, and deals with its subject matter in an exciting and surprising manner. I admit to being worried, when I saw this play had three playwrights (Jeremy Kareken & David Murrell and Gordon Farrell), but this was marvelous, and a breath of fresh air.

Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones, and Bobby Cannavale as Jim, Emily, and
John. Photo by Peter Cunningham.

11/24/18: The Ferryman
What: Jez Butterworth's new epic about a farming family in Northern Ireland come together for the harvest, when an old pain--and an old enemy--arrive at the door.
And? Hot damn. Just. This is so good, you guys. This is theater. This is epic and joyous and angry and aching and funny and this is everything. I felt echoes of August: Osage County in the shape of it, the sprawl of the family, and the nursed grudges come to call, and in the fact that each act's conclusion left me breathless. Along with Lifespan of a Fact, it was a relief to see some really good theater this week.

Niall Wright, Matilda Lawler, Justin Edwards, Mark Lambert, Fra Fee, and
Willow McCarthy as James Joseph Carney, Honor Carney, Tom Kettle,
Uncle Patrick Carney, Michael Carney, and Mercy Carney. Photo by Joan Marcus.

11/24/18: The Hard Problem
What: Tom Stoppard's new (to New York) play about morality, how the mind works, and coincidences? I guess?
And? I saw the NTLive broadcast of this a few years ago and was bored by it. It's sacrilege to say, because Stoppard has written some of my favorite plays, but he also wrote this, and it's boring and trying (and failing) to make connections, and the coincidences are too much for me--I don't believe them.

Karoline Xu and Adelaide Clemens as Bo and Hilary. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

11/25/18: Apologia
What: Activist and art historian Kristin Miller is having her birthday party, and all her chickens (and both of her resentful and neglected adult sons) are coming home to roost.
And? Not for me. I was pretty disengaged for most of the play.

Megalyn Echikunwoke, John Tillinger, Talene Monahon, Hugh Dancy, and
Stockard Channing as Claire, Hugh, Trudi, Peter, and Kristin. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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