Friday, September 1, 2017

The Final Four of a Half Year of Theatregoing

Lincoln Center, Friday night June 20, 2017.  Photo Credit Me.
June ended for me with Oslo by J.T. Rogers at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center.  The play was briskly intellectual, cleverly interesting, occasionally quite funny (people are), its characters were passionate in different ways — and yet the play was not.  Oslo was about the unlikely yet true secret meetings leading up to the Oslo Accords and the Arab-Israeli Peace Process back in the 1990s.  The production, directed by Bartlett Sher, was excellent, with great performances by all, particularly those who played more than one role.  But something seemed to be missing for me, perhaps because I know that all this passion, manipulation, energy and sincere effort led merely, after all that, to a temporary success.

Not to mention I’d been overwhelmed by Indecent less than a week before….
Jennifer Ehle and Jefferson Mays in OSLO

On the day before Independence Day I saw 1984 at the Hudson Theatre.  Alas it was all for show.  Lots of shock value, with lighting effects that may be detrimental to people subject to migraines or epilepsy.  Reed Birney was excellent.  The play may be of possible interest to anyone who did not read the book in school — now that’s a dreadful thought leading to feelings of hopelessness. Simply put, the play was not good. 

Read the book.

Then after Independence Day, more Shakespeare with Hamlet at the Anspacher Theater at the Public Theater in its downtown headquarters.  Director Sam Gold’s production was innovative and exhilarating, playing in four hours that felt like two.  Oscar Isaac is a splendid Hamlet, clever and soft, the boy next door with a secret.  He is an actor with a technical mastery of the language that makes it all sound utterly spontaneous.  The very small cast wove in and out of multiple characters.  Standouts were Gayle Rankin as a quirky, golden-voiced Ophelia, Ritchie Coster as Claudius, Anatol Yusef as Laertes, and Peter Friedman as Polonius.  Unfortunately, this limited run closes Sunday.  (Yes, that’s this Sunday, 3 September.)

Isaac as Hamlet with Rankin as Ophelia.  Photo by Sara Krulwich

A couple weeks after loving Sam Gold’s production of Hamlet, I saw his production of A Doll’s House Part 2 at the John Golden Theatre.  At best, it was annoying. The play runs a four-act structure in 90 minutes, with mostly two-person scenes beyond which playwright Lucas Hnath must grow.  For no good reason at all, Jayne Houdyshell’s character suddenly started swearing right and left.  I felt it was probably so that Chris Cooper, the sole male in the cast, wouldn’t be the only character using foul language.  And much as I typically like Laurie Metcalf, her Nora made me think of Roseanne, which is not pleasant for me.  Condola Rashad was oddly intriguing as Nora and Torvald’s grown daughter. Director Sam Gold may have received accolades for this one, but I cannot agree this time. 

Jayne Houdyshell and Laurie Metcalf. (Photo by Brigitte Lacombe)


In closing, it was a lively half year of theatre for me.  When I look over my notes scribbled after these performances, one theme repeated.  “Smartphones.”  This bane of civilized discourse creates annoying addicts too self-centered to turn off their "phones" when requested, too insecure to get through intermission without them.  It should be noted that this rude behavior is not limited to one generation.  What a world.  But that’s for another musing.

~ Molly Matera, signing off to enjoy Labor Day Weekend with friends and family.  Be safe and have fun.