The Playgoer: Good Night "Twelfth Night"

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Good Night "Twelfth Night"

Dear Public Theatre:

I cannot go see your Twelfth Night in the park this summer.

Over the years I have been subjected to two Twelfth Night's already at the Delacorte dominated by celebrity stunt casting. I've suffered through Michelle Pfeiffer and Julia Styles. And now you ask me to wait in line for hours to see Anne Hathaway???

It doesn't help of course that I am sick of this play. Isn't this the most frequently performed Shakespeare? Which is a shame since out of all his works it's the one that seems to deliver fewer and fewer rewards upon repeated viewings. Or maybe that's just the fault of the shallow directors that constantly strain to prove to me how funny grabbing your crotch while singing "hold thy peace" can be.

Most unfortunate of all is how the role of Viola has been deemed the Shakespearean role most suitable for a limited pretty starlet to prove her stage chops in. (Too bad it's the most difficult and richest part in the play.) Not only did we have the unintentionally deadpan stylings of Ms. Styles, but don't forget how Helen Hunt singlehandedly brought down an otherwise beautiful production by Nicholas Hytner at Lincoln Center ten years ago. While Dan Sullivan, helming this summer's production, is a fine director, not even he can tempt me to sit through yet another evening with an amateur ingenue and the lame "antics" of Sir Toby Belch & co.

It all seems just so, so...tired.

14 comments:

Julian said...

Yeah, but Garrett...Anne Hathaway.

SigLNY said...

If I never see another Twelth Night, I will shed no tears. I have never seen a Viola I found satisfying, Stiles being the worst of all. I doubt Hathaway, (though I usually love her work) will change this pattern. The best production was at the Globe in London; an all-male cast starring an astounding, and I mean astounding, Mark Rylance as Olivia. Simon Russell Beale was a near definitive Malvolio in Sam Mendes' Donmar production and Michael Stuhlbarg as Andrew in the Public's last, unfortunate production simply mopped the floor. He acted circles around the whole cast, especially the catatonic Stiles and incoherent Christopher Lloyd (though David Harbour was also impressive).

Monica said...

I'm actually not too sure if Twelfth Night is or if Hamlet is the most frequently done Shakespeare.

But I wouldn't wait in line for Twelfth Night regardless of who was in it.

A. Scott said...

I don't want to sit through another TWELFTH NIGHT any time soon, having seen the LCT revival 10 years ago, but I must say that I very much enjoyed Anne Hathaway on stage at City Center in their Encores! staging of CARNIVAL.

I think this young lady is not just a limited starlet. Too bad they can't find a better vehicle for her.

Anonymous said...

When Shakespeare Santa Cruz announced A MIdsummer Night's Dream in their upcoming season I had a similar reaction. The Dream is, I suspect, the most performed Shakespeare (if you include amateur and community theatre productions). However, I began to question my reaction for two reasons. One, just because I'm tired of the play doesn't mean someone new to it will be. Two, it's not the play, it's the production. I can't comment on Hathaway, having never seen her work--although her name sounds familiar. Has she learned to read yet? ;)

Abigail Katz said...

Amen

Julian said...

To understand the play's appeal as a romantic comedy, I think you have to put the emphasis on the word "romantic" rather than "comedy".

Anonymous said...

Don't underestimate Anne Hathaway. Yeah, she's been in a whole lot of movies, and some of them are cheesy, but she comes from a theater background (as much as a young actor can), and she has chops.
As for another Twelfth Night-- Personally, I love the play, and I'll grant that the last two big productions in New York have been disappointing-- the Helen Hunt version and the Julia Stiles version. Michael Stuhlbarg and David Harbor notwithstanding. Wouldn't mind it if they actually did one that was good-- but frankly, I wouldn't mind it if they made some theater in this town that actually WAS good. Feel like that doesn't happen much anymore either.

The Playgoer said...

Points well taken here, all of them.

Absolutely, my own 12th Night fatigue syndrome is my own problem. And that doesn't mean others can't come to the play for the first time and enjoy it thoroughly. And perhaps Ms Hathaway's presence may indeed attract many first-timers. So I guess that's a good thing.

Also, to be fair to the Public, I will say that the other Delacorte offering--Joanne Akalaitis' "Bacchae"--is hardly safe summer fare. And that's one I AM looking forward to!

Comment of the day, tho, has to go to one Mike Mariano whose Delicious.com riposte I traced through my statcounter: "I hate when writers cast their spouses."

If you don't get that at first, think about it. (And, if that fails, then google Shakespeare + Anne Hathaway.)

Anonymous said...

There is no longer any desire to do good Shakespeare in the park. Stars are surrounded by mediocrity - and the stars are usually astonishingly inept. The actors run around shouting, even though they are all wearing wireless mikes.

Shakespeare, after 400 years, remains the best playwright the world has ever produced.

Shakespeare in the Park does him no justice. Its like hearing the Westchester Symphony play Mahler in the Park thru an amplified sound system. Whats the point.

And its not a populist thing either. Exposing the masses to bad art is worse than no art at all.

Anonymous said...

"Thou art sick with self love!" I just saw the show and Anne H. is a revelation. The show is both full of romance and a comedy (as well as cruelity, sex, grief, forgiveness, familial love and probably every other act and emotion that makes us all human). Your loss if you choose not to see it...

Anonymous said...

How long is this production?

Anonymous said...

The show gallops along nicely and comes in under 2.5 hours I think. It started a few minutes late due to stragglers at the gate, then there was a 15-20 minute rain delay (The rain it raineth every day...), add in a 15-20 minute intermission and I still got out of there around 11:00 pm (whistling the fine closing tune, and with a strong sense that everything in the world could work out okay – and love and/or laughter were everywhere in this great city of ours. It must of been a great production to leave me in such a state...

Anonymous said...

weh weh wehh.