Monday, April 15, 2019

Weekly Margin 2019, W15: [King Lear], Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma!, What the Constitution Means to Me

4/09/19: [King Lear]
What: Glenda Jackson stars in and Sam Gold directs a new production of Shakespeare's tragedy
And? Oh boy, what a mess. Glenda Jackson is great, but the rest ... what a mess. There's no unity in performance style (or consistent scansion), the designers don't seem to have been in any kind of conversation with each other (or maybe the sound designer just never noticed how the sound bounced off the walls of the gilt box set), the costume designer seems to have some beef with Elizabeth Marvel because what was that cut and color palate, and if there was any unifying vision for the production or any specific story being told, I couldn't find it. I'm starting to think Sam Gold is the latest naked emperor, that Annie Baker's John and the musical Fun Home were good despite his influence, because between this and his nonsense production of Glass Menagerie, I don't really see a coherent storyteller. And I am so extremely tired of putting up with directors who don't take into account all sightlines. We were in the extreme side seating, yes, and the Cort Theatre is a notorious beast for its side seats, but you know what? Rebecca Taichman's production of Indecent didn't neglect any of those seats. It can be done. So I'm done with directors who are too lazy to figure out how. There were entire scenes that took place along the side wall of the box set that I couldn't see. I checked my ticket. Nowhere was it stamped with the phrase "Partial View." The whole thing felt like a waste of everyone's time, energy, and money.

Glenda Jackson as King Lear. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.

4/11/19: Fiddler on the Roof
What: The new production of Shraga Friedman's Yiddish translation of Fiddler transfers to Stage 42 after a celebrated and sold out run at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
And? Guys, please don't be scared off by the not-in-English aspect (for one, there's supertitles; for two, the performances are so honest and clear, you'll get it anyway). This is hands down the best production of Fiddler I have ever seen. I have never been so moved, so invested in the story of Anatevke, and of Tevye and his family, as I was here. Every moment, every choice, was so specific and honest and personal, from Tevye's wry but loyal regard for Der Fidler (the personification of "Traditsye"), to his trusting but injured relationship with God, to his deeply-felt love for every member of his family (honestly, this is the first time I've ever seen how much Tevye needs to know the answer when he asks Golde if she loves him). I was quietly crying for much of the show, at the love in these characters, at the ache, at the banked fear, and with the grim knowledge of how much worse is to come. But I'll tell you something else: I often think of the tone of the finale as one of grim acceptance and quiet despair; here for the first time I saw a new tone in tandem with these: the will to survive. This will not be the end for these people--they won't let it be. They will not be erased.

Steven Skybell, center, as Tevye with the cast.
Photo by Victor Nechay/ProperPix.

4/12/19: Oklahoma!
a repeat visit

4/13/19: What the Constitution Means to Me
a repeat visit

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