Category Archives: theater

No Man’s Land @ the A.R.T.

The only thing the current ART production has going for it is a pretty good performance by Max Wright as Spponer, and that Paul Benedict is in it. It didn’t do much to change my opinion of Pinter as a third-rate playwright. It’s like watching something written by someone who’s trying to copy a Beckett play who’s only read reviews of Beckett plays, with a great big plate of pretense to start. There were two nice touches in the A.R.T. production: the very nice stage sunlight that streams through the window in one scene, and the way that a little mist cloud could be seen when bottles of champagne were opened.

And thus ends our subscription. After how disappointing this season was, I don’t think we’ll be subscribing again next year. Some people have framed the departure of the artistic director as a conflict between “the bottom line” and artistic integrity. But this is just silly. Woodruff sucked. His idea of being edgy consisted of sticking an electric guitar in someone’s hands (Orpheus, Britannicus) and sticking an “x” at the end of the title. At The Onion Cellar, they handed out a marketing survey. Did Peter Brook hand out marketing surveys?

Sealing the deal, next season, they’re doing a stage production of Donnie Darko. Donnie fucking Darko. Remind me to rant about how bad Donnie Darko is sometime. Considering how they slaughtered a good movie earlier this year, I want no part of this.

(Cranky cranky cranky. Sorry, it’s hot outside!)

Anyway, the upside is that next year, maybe we’ll try to take in some less overblown, more indie theater productions.

On Actors

by Marco:

I went to my friend Sykes’ surprise birthday party last night. Me and about 20 people sat in the darkened theater until they walked in. “Shhhhh” says Webster. “What’s my motivation?” somebody whispers. “To shut the hell up” I think to myself. Actors.

Brittanicus @ the A.R.T.

Well, we finally made it to an A.R.T. production this year that was not a disappointment, Britannicus. I was a little bit worried that it would be a ham-fistedly political update of the 17-th century play, when we came in to a spare set with a huge banner behind it that said “Empire creates its own reality” in enormous letters. This was not the case, though. The plot was highly centered around more personally-motivated court intrigues, and despite its size and omnipresence, the banner’s relevance to the action was actually highly subtle, and could be interpreted in several ways.

I don’t have a ton to say about it that would be relevant if you hadn’t seen it, and now that it’s closed, there’s no point in encouraging people to go. But it was refreshing to finally have an ART show have enough going for it that it managed to provide enough to chew on conversationally through dinner after the show. The last couple of shows haven’t really lasted us much past the lobby.

The Onion Cellar @ the ART

As suspected, it was a Dresden Dolls show interrupted by bits of sort-of-theater. Next time, I’m just going to an actual Dresden Dolls show.

I had a litany of complaints about how bad some of the theater bits were, but who wants to read that? Especially since I got the sense that some of the people involved knew how bad it was, and were doing what they could with the material. I sympathize. I’ve been there. (I’m thinking “Andy”, Marco. At least people didn’t pay to see that (did they?)). And at least there was a cash bar open through the performance. I suspect Amanda agrees, too.

So, the music was great at least. (Yeah, I’ve never gotten around to seeing them live before, shame on me. The albums sound so close to live, though, and do I really want to wade through a sea of sensitive arty suburban teenagers in pancake makeup just to get the live experience? Not especially.) Amanda’s voice sounded shot at times. They also seemed to be trying to see if they could throw each other off. Sometimes, unfortunately, it worked, and someone would crack up, or yell at the other one. But a lot of times it created a really great tension, like where they’d really stretch out the empty spaces (one of the reasons they’re great musicians is that they really know how to play with the empty spaces). I was not too surprised to read in todays DD email to hear that they’re taking a “band break” and Brian now has his own MySpace page (Amanda has had hers for a while). Oh, oh.

Daily Dispatch, 10 Jan 2007

  • I finally wrote about the Bazaar Bizarre at the Rainy Planet Press Blog, and have started a Rainy Planet Etsy store, and have some pictures of some of the stuff that we were selling.
  • The excellent Weekly Dig is losing its editor-in-chief. There are two even better write-ups of it in the excellent Boston Globe (yes, I just used those three words in that order) Brainiac blog (the blog for the Sunday Ideas section) here and here. The second of those mentions Jeff Lawrence, the owner and cofounder who I met at the Bazaar Bizarre (you already read about that in the Rainy Planet blog entry, though, didn’t you?); it was a highlight of the Bazaar to get to tell him in person what a dismal, boring waste of trees the Phoenix is, and to thank him for the Dig. It felt good. Readers of this blog will attest that I have been ranting about this at every opportunity and wasn’t just kissing up. And if I needed further vindication, the week following the Bazaar, the Phoenix ran a big picture of Jim Fucking Morrison on the cover. Jim Morrison! I can’t make that up.
  • Tomorrow night we’re going to the Onion Cellar at the ART. From the reviews, I get the idea that it’s not great theater; more like the “Mamma Mia” of the Dresden Dolls, except if ABBA were actually in “Mamma Mia”, so I guess it’s like the Billy Joel musical that he apparently was actually in. At any rate, I’m hoping it’s not an atrocity like the Bob Dylan musical. (Warning, you may have to take a shower if you actually watch this video).

Wings of Desire @ the A.R.T

I haven’t written about it, because it unfortunately did sort of did live down to expectations.

As mentioned in the comments of an earlier post, a lot of the film’s success rides on it being a film, and it just didn’t translate well to the stage.

There were some nice touches:

  • Local NPR host Robin Young was featured actually reading the day’s news. (Nevermind that they played the intro to some other newscast, and the fact that hers is not actually a news show). It was also thematically serendipitous that her show is called “Here and Now”. It was a nice touch, but still not sufficient give a real sense of place, not the film was so rooted in Berlin.
  • Right from the beginning, these giant, thin, underlit streams of falling sand fell from above the stage onto the floor (specifically onto some kind of lighting unit), all the way through more or less the whole show. At first, I couldn’t tell what it was, but it looked like clouds flying past from an airplane window (if your airplane were going straight up, or if you were, say, an angel). And then, of course, they started to look like big hourglasses as the sand piled up. Clever.

I’ll not rant about every little thing, so here are my biggest gripes. The angels seemed very earthbound, and were upstaged by the actual trapeze artist. They were also much more buttoned down than Bruno Ganz in the film (whose look I have come to realize is a rip-off of Cary Grant’s look in The Bishop’s Wife, which I had not seen when I first saw Wings of Desire). Their seeming a little too uptight and cold and removed is actually somewhat necessary for the story to work. The actor who played Damiel in particular was way too laid back and physical from the start. The actor who played Cassiel, on the other hand, though scruffy, was actually quite good. He watched the mortals in a way that you could really see that he was watching them, and brooding; that’s hard to do on stage, because it can’t really be done with words or large gestures.

It wasn’t time wasted, but it probably would have been better to just rent the film again. (Have I mentioned how much I love the film? Go see it if you haven’t).