Friday, November 04, 2011

Giving Regards to Broadway

Yes I know, it’s been a very quiet couple of weeks here and once again I only have myself to blame. Actually, I have the cast of “The West Wing” to blame, because I bought the DVDs and have officially become addicted to that show. Even as the clock ticks 1am I hear myself saying, “just one more episode” and next thing I know the alarm is going off to herald another work day. Oi vey.

But when I’m not watching DVDs or going to work in a zombie-like trance, what have I been doing? I know you didn’t ask, but you were thinking it...

Well, Broadway beckoned a couple of times during my blogging hiatus. I dragged myself to a Sunday matinee to see Samuel L Jackson & Angela Bassett star in the production of “The Mountaintop”. I thought the play was fantastic, but after an amazing run in London it has been getting quite mixed reviews. You can read a synopsis of the play here.

My seat was almost in the back row of the theatre, but by happenstance I was sitting with a bunch of African-Americans and I could see a white family across the aisle from me. I don’t know why, but the white family didn’t find the play half as funny as I did. Sure the play touches on racial tensions, but they are the racial tensions of Dr King’s time. The characters debate about “what should be done about the whites” but it’s light-hearted and conversational and not at all intended to inflame white audience members. I mean how could it? Dr King was all about peacefully acknowledging the sameness of people, not violently magnifying their differences. Anyway for what it’s worth I thought Jackson & Bassett gave really powerful performances and I have been recommending the play left and right. It was just such a different interpretation of what happened at The Lorraine Hotel, the night before Dr King was assassinated.

A week or so later I went along to see “Venus in Fur” (again, with synopsis here). Starring the adorable Hugh Dancy – aka Mr Clare Danes – and the amazing Nina Arianda, the play is promoted as being quite erotic. Maybe I am just not sure what that word means, but for me the play was a smart study in human psychology, with a bit of Greek mythology and mysticism thrown in. The production was all about power plays (not exclusively sexual), and examines whether you actively or passively surrender your power to another person. I mean, how much control do you really have over your own emotions – or over somebody else’s? Sure it’s a sexy play (Nina rocks a bustier and stockings for a fair amount of it), but I thought it was so cleverly written and wonderfully acted that the sexy part was secondary to the intellectual battle raging between the characters. The oldies around us in the audience squirmed in their seats and coughed uncomfortably when the action on stage took a more, um “intimate” turn, but let’s face it, that just adds to the humour really.

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