Monday, July 29, 2019

Weekly Margin 2019, W30: Hamilton, The Woman in Black, Rutherford and Son, Witness for the Prosecution, Present Laughter, Whodunnit [Unrehearsed], The Lehman Trilogy, The Bridges of Madison County, Henry V, or Harry England

London Week Continues!

7/22/19: Hamilton
What: The London run of a super obscure Broadway musical that you probably haven't heard of.
And? My seventh time (yes, I deserve to be hated). I am pleased to report that this show remains absolutely wonderful, though it gets fewer laughs throughout in the UK than in the US (except King George, whom they adore). The cast was great (especially Tarinn Callender, officially my favorite Hercules Mulligan), and the production is tight, high energy, and as thrilling and heartbreaking as one could want. King George's question to America, "Do you know how hard it is to lead?" felt very uh well ... apropos, if we look at where we are.

Jason Pennycooke as Thomas Jefferson with the cast. Photo by Matthew

7/2319: The Woman in Black
What: The long-running two hander adaptation of Susan Hill's novel, about an aging man who enlists the help of a young actor to tell the story of his haunted past.
And? Sure I've seen it like six times. What's your point? Scariest time I've had in a theater, and I adore the amazing storytelling achieved by just two actors and a wicker chest full of props.

Matthew Spencer and Stuart Fox. Photo source (no photographer given).

7/23/19: Rutherford and Son
What: A National Theatre production of Githa Sowerby's 1912 play about a domineering man who rules over his northern town's glassmaking factory and his three adult children with an
uncompromising cruelty, but a seeming integrity at running a productive and profitable company. However, when his children's various attempts at rebellion reveal an unforseen betrayal, his unscrupulous revenge reveals the hollowness of his character.
And? The first half of the play was less engaging for me, though I did find myself leaning in during the second half. I found the two young women (Rutherford's embittered spinster daughter Janet and his quietly intelligent daughter-in-law Mary) the most interesting and sympathetic in this unhappy and broken family, and was ultimately disappointed that some of the threads on this seemed to be dropped. It's a pretty ugly story and probably not a play I'll revisit, but it was a dramatic production with some great design choices.

Justine Mitchell as Janet Rutherford. Photo by Johan Persson.

7/24/19: Witness for the Prosecution
What: A site-specific staging (in London's County Hall) of Agatha Christie's coutroom mystery.
And? I've often bragged about West End box offices: how sometimes we've arrived to claim our tickets, and see the box office agent look at our seats, react, then find us better seats at no cost. It's just something they do that New York commercial theater generally doesn't. With Witness, Mom and I arrived early at County Hall to scope it out (as we'd never been). After we greeted the box office desk and confirmed what time the lobby would open, they asked us where we were seated ... and then upgraded us to the Jury Box (a £47 upgrade)! Absolutely wonderful production, and a one of a kind experience (plus we got to take away a souvenir of our jury notebooks).

Photo source.
7/25/19: Present Laughter
What: The Old Vic presents Noel Coward's classic about Garry Essendine, an A-list theater star in the midst of a farce-shaped crisis, starring Andrew Scott.
And? Good Noel Coward productions should sparkle like crystal. They should surprise and delight. I hadn't realized how much the Kevin Kline revival of this same play had disappointed me until I saw The Old Vic's sparkling, surprising, and hilarious rendition. An absolute and perfect delight, with a truly marvelous Andrew Scott at the center (and oh my goodness, Indira Varma and Sophie Thompson, what wondrous gems). One of the highlights of our London week (plus a bonus talkback with Andrew Scott post-show!) Of note: this production changes Joanna to Joe (and Henry to Helen), which allows them to explore a more sexually fluid Garry, hopefully more in keeping with Coward's uncensored intents.

Enzo Cilenti, Kitty Archer, Joshua Hill, Andrew Scott, Liza Sadovy, Luke
Thallon, Indira Varma, and Sophie Thompson as Joe Lyppiatt, Daphne
Stillington, Fred, Garry Essendine, Lady Saltburn, Roland Maule, Liz
Essendine, and Monica Reed. Photo source.

7/26/19: Whodunnit [Unrehearsed]
What: Park Theatre presents a comic mystery, with each performance featuring a new celebrity inspector, unrehearsed and with no access to a script, their lines fed to them via an earpiece during performance.
And? Our celebrity inspector was Ruby Wax, unfortunately someone neither of us had heard of. This was fun and silly, as expected.

The cast with the inspector obscured. Photo source.

7/26/19: The Lehman Trilogy
What: The West End transfer of the National Theatre/Neal Street Productions's play by Stefano Massini/Ben Power, about the history of Lehman Brothers, from the original three immigrant brothers, through to the 2008 collapse.
And? Extraordinary. Absolutely extraordinary. The three men (Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley, and Ben Miles) begin by playing the three original brothers (Henry, Mayer, and Emmanuel), but also everyone who follows, narrating and enacting. It's hard to summarize or even capture what this performance is--three men telling us a story from within a rotating glass box, a horizon of grey projections, stacks of file boxes--but it's extraordinary theater and joins Present Laughter as one of my visit's true highlights.

Ben Miles, Simon Russell Beale, and Adam Godley. Photo by Stephanie

7/27/19: The Bridges of Madison County
What: Menier Chocolate Factory's production of the Marsha Norman/Jason Robert Brown musical adaptation of Robert James Waller's novel about a brief but intense romance between a traveling photographer and an Italian immigrant housewife in the American midwest. Directed by Trevor Nunn.
And? The story still makes me mad. The score still makes me cry. Excellent performance from Jenna Russell.

Jenna Russell and Edward Baker-Duly as
Francesca and Robert. Photo by Johan Persson.

7/27/19: Henry V, or Harry England
What: Shakespeare's Globe presents one of his most popular histories, about England's young new king who decides to reclaim land which he believes belongs to England and not France.
And? And so we ended our London week as we began it: with a small-cast Shakespeare under the stars. Excellent and playful.

Sarah Amankwah as Henry. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

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