The Playgoer: Brecht & Streep together again, on film!

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Brecht & Streep together again, on film!

B.B. as badboy. Berlin, 1920s.

Not that anyone's asking, but I do recommend the new doc, "Theatre of War," which I caught at Tribeca Film Fest earlier in the year. It's now at Film Forum thru January 6. If you're away for the holidays or can't fight the crowds to cram into the tiny Film Forum space, it'll make a fine rental, too.

First, it gives all those who didn't wait hours on line for the 2006 Delacorte Theatre "Mother Courage" a chance to finally see some choice bits of it. But while it purports--or at least teases--to be a voyeuristic backstage look at that production, it's actually much more valuable as a primer and teaching tool about Brecht in general--including some snippets of amazing archival footage.

Also--it actually forced me to reconsider my original appraisal of Meryl Streep's lead performance, which, on stage. I considered oddly muted. The camera shows us, though, how complex and powerful some of her moments were, especially in song. (In his Voice review of the film, James C. Taylor is led by one scene to proclaim, "Meryl Streep is arguably America's greatest living musical-theater actress." Something to that.)

But rather than recant my review entirely, I actually think this only reinforces what I've always thought the fundamental different between great stage actors and great film actors: the latter always play in a close-up.

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