About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 theatre Pt 1

Haven't spoken about theatre much on the blog, other than discussing Pinter a week or so ago. 

And have to say, a good play seems much harder to fund than a good book, a good movie, a good comic book. 

There was A Life in the Theatre, an old David Mamet play revived as a vehicle for the wonderful Patrick Stewart (sf community knows him best as Captain Picard of STTNG) and TR Knight of Grey's Anatomy who is not familiar to me. Yikes!  What was this doing on Broadway?  The two play an old actor and a younger doing rep theatre in a small way in a backwards place, no surprise that the younger actor will end up overtaking the older. It is very small. The bad theatre jokes -- think props that don't work or flash back to Miss Piggy in Veterinarian's Hospital -- are wan. It's beneath great acting. Its limited Broadway run ended early as audiences steered clear. No surprise there, that some critics gave mixed or even favorable reviews does. 

Mamet's newer and better play Race also had a star-studded cast, with Richard Thomas of the Waltons and Denmis Haysbert of 24 and Allstate commercials in the cast when I saw. This was better. Law office takes on a possible sexual assault case with racial overtones, which intertwines with the possibility that a young attorney in the office was hired on because of her race. There are some interesting questions about race in society, but it doesn't cohere as completely as Mamet's best work sometimes can. 

Sondheim on Sondheim is a tribute show to one of the great talents of Amerian musical theater mixing biographical pics and info on Sondheim with some of his songs. If you like Sondheim, and I do, this was the cat's meow.  At the same time, it reminds of Sondheim's weakness, which is the vast quantity of great music that Sondheim has put in the service of shows that just aren't as good. Bad concepts, difficult concepts, bad "books," as the speaking parts of a musical are known. And then blessed with brilliant songs that aren't hummable. In The Sound of Music or Annie, you can go away humming almost the entire score, and sometimes sing entire songs from heart. Sondheim, you can hum a few bars from the best songs and cherish listening to them on the cast album for years and decades afterward. While equally virtuous in different ways, only one of those two options provides compensatory pleasures while actually sitting in the theatre. Anything less than a brilliant production and Follies is torture to sit through. Sweeney Todd and Assassins are among the best Sondheim shows and work brilliantly on many levels but one is about people who kill cats for meat pies and the other people who kill US Presidents.  Company has one of Sondheim's most intricate and delightful scores for the long haul in a show about a very cerebral exploration of marriage in a certain upper class kind of milieu. Sondheim wasn't entirely delighted with his experience providing lyrics only for West Side Story, but it's a more thoroughly successful experience than most of what Sondheim did when more fully in control. Called Sondheim on Sondheim because the musical numbers are interspersed with videotaped recollections and reminiscences by Sondheim and archival photos and the like. Its a fascinating glimpse into the man, full of great songs. But it does have this bittersweet aspect. As I said at the top, great theatre is hard work, maybe because it does require so much collaboration unlike the more solitary act of composing a great book or great song..

Dusk Rings a Bell at the Atlantic Stage 2 by Stephen Belber is a play I can hardly remember a few months out. During the parts of it I was awake for, I was more interested in wondering what was on the t-shirt the female lead was wearing undeneath her top than anything else. You know it has to be something because there is a costume designer so the shirt isn't being thrown on, but why then have a top over it? This mystery was solved by the end of the play, and for all my wondering during the solution has faded like most of the rest ot the play.

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