Friday, February 09, 2007

The Cost of Utopia

(or: Serf’s Up!)

Last weekend we saw part one of Coast of Utopia (Voyage) by Tom Stoppard. Maybe for background I should say that reading R&GaD in high school was formative, I think Invention of Love is hypergreat and Arcadia is one of the best things I’ve ever read in my life; I’ve read twelve of his plays (that’s a lot, right? I don’t think I’ve read twelve things of many (any?) other authors, except maybe Edward Packard, Choose Your Own Adventure stizz, and maybe Shakespeare and those weren’t even all voluntary) plus that book of interviews with him, and my favorite exchange in Brazil, which is full of favorite exchanges...

Sam: How are the twins?
Jack: Triplets.
Sam: My God, how time flies.

...not only was his line, but he fought for its inclusion when Gilliam didn't understand it. He fought the director for the inclusion of my favorite line. For me.

But this play, in performance, was just kind of only OK: I had read it a couple of times last week in anticipation of seeing it, and it was infinitely more subtle and nuanced and, um, better? In my head? Because all the perfect little throwaway lines were rendered non-perfect, because they were all undefenestrated.

I posit: the director was worried we wouldn’t be able to remember all the characters due to their quantity and our television-shortened attention spans and their being Russian and our being American and/or our not being Tom Stoppard, and so he made all the actors find One Defining Emotion, crank it to eleven, and keep it there for three hours, so we’d be able to remember everyone; so we could go, oh, there’s the erratic, effeminate shouty one; right, that’s the sad, shouty one. Oh, there’s the nervous, shouty one.

But I brought my A Game: I read it twice; I wikipediad every-one (ok, it was my B+ Game); I recognized that Act II's doubling of Act I's timeline was just a dumb Hegel joke; I avoided reviews; &c. And so to see every actor overselling everything (we were in the back, so I’m not sure who they were pitching to/at; is the point of the play that Russians had to be loud so you could hear them over all those serfs?) made for an increasingly disheartening night; lines that I knew were key lines were kind of smothered by the fact that all the lines were said the same way — there were a couple of exceptions (David Cromwell, maybe), but Amy Irving: Really Bad; Jennifer Ehle: not bad (my brain won't allow her to be bad), but a near-one-note performance; Ethan Hawke: Worst Thing Ever (at least he has fiction to fall back on); Billy Crudup: almost embarrassingly hard to watch in his exaggerated hysteria, but still not as bad as Hawke and I guess eventually he forces his rhythm on the audience in a way that you finally just accept it, but no, you know what? He blows his late-in-the-play scene with Cromwell, so I’m still putting him in the bad column.

(I don’t go to the theatre that much anymore; are we going through an acting style phase where everything is presentational like this?)

Regardless:
Dinner for two....................$130
Two tickets to the play........$200
Car service home.................$30
7 hours of babysitting..........$84
Car home for Babysitter.......$20
--------------------------------------
Total (For Part I).............$464

Patrick: I guess I’ll just read parts two and three and
use the extra $928 to bribe preschool admissions people.

The Ginger Cat: Of course.

EXEUNT

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