The Playgoer: Some Round-Ups

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Some Round-Ups

Things will probably slow down here at Playgoer between now and New Years as I take some downtime. But meanwhile, in lieu of my own year-end round-up, I'll leave you with some others'!

There's the Times, of course. (Both Brantley and Isherwood.) Also Eric Grode in the Sun. And Mr. McCarter in NY Magazine.

Feel free to post links to others'. Or give us your Best and/or Worst of '07!

As for my own lists, I may indulge this year (or in January), if for nothing else but the opportunity to finally write about some shows I never mentioned here.

1 comment:

utc61 said...

I have a Sisyphean search for perfection in theater, and of course that is almost impossible to find. But I can point out the two most near-perfect shows I saw this year, plus a lot of perfect moments:

The shows:

Romeo & Juliet at Shakespeare in the Park

Talking of Sisyphean--I had begun to view hoping for a good production in Central Park as a Sisyphean endeavor. So maybe the fact that I was stunned not to be bored and angered by actors who did did not completely understand what they're saying and another set looking like an imitation of Ming Cho Lee's set of twenty years earlier. But this year's R&J was revelatory to me--a production that really made me hear the words anew, and above all, entertained me from start to finish. Every actor onstage had a command of the language, the set was innovative and effective, and director Michael Grief was full of idead that enhanced the text, instead of fighting against it. One small flaw in this diamond--he cut the "Bite my thumb" dialogue. I love that bit.

Madama Butterfly at the Met

The Metropolitan Opera's work has become truly exciting recently, and Madama Butterfly was, to me, a shining example--it was gorgeous. As my friend commented, it didn't miss a moment of opportunity for beauty. Anthony Minghella's work as director was incredible and, I felt, oddly downplayed in siome reviews. And the puppetry work was incredible--too often recently puppetry is used as affect, without an understanding of the form. Not this time.

The moments:

Black Watch was not perfect, but it did have two perfect moments for me--the history of the Black Watch, basically told through choreographed costume change, and the ending--what worked so well for me there is that I felt, as an audience member, that even though I had just seen a play showing me (as I already knew) the horrors of this war, I wanted to be out there, in formation with them. They accessed something primal, in the basic lure of the miltary march and the military formation. Is it because I am male? Would a woman feel the same way? I'm not sure. But I was definitely swept up by it.

The way Eve Best held her body, especially her arm, especially her hand, while sitting in a chair talking to Raul Esparza (Lenny) in the current (surprisingly good, though still imperfect) Broadway revival of the Homecoming. That pose--perfect.

John Moran and Saori gave a performance of "John Mopran and his Neighbor, Saori", at CUNY this September. I had never seen John's work before (I later saw Saori's birthday at PS 122), but for those who haven't seen it, it'd a composition in which all sound, from music to footspes to dialogue, is put on tape, and than a dancer (recently, Saori has been his muse) performs the actions correlating to those sounds. Saori's conversation on the telephone in Japanese, repeated over in variations perfectly by Saori each time, was amazing.

And finally, two moments from people I know and am close to--but I still think the moments deserve mentioning:

My friend Ian W. Hill did his World Gone Wrong at The Brick again. He too, has pre-recorded dialogue and lip synch in this show, but what it gets perfectly is the look and sound of film noir--partially because much of the found text is tiny excerpts from film noir movies, put together. The background stills with the shadows of the actors over them, and in one scene, with the background shadow of a sax...perfectly captured that feeling.

And, I also have to mention another production at the Brick--Secrets History Remembers. This was done by Tanya Khordoc and Barry Weil, the members of the Evolve Company, a puppet company I often work with. I also often sleep with Tanya--she's my girlfriend. But I don't think I've thrown objectivity out the window when I say that the moment the main puppet, a seven foor tall Victorian woman, converted into a gramaphone, was a stunning visual moment. Really the best moment in pure puppetry I've seen for a long time.

The lighting designer put photos on his web site, http://www.solweisbard.com/. The middle photo of the series about that show is the moment I'm talking about.

Edward Einhorn