Thursday, June 7, 2012

Catch Up (All over)

Just to show how very far behind I am, and maybe to shame myself into writing more…  I bring you the catch up blog.  These are some of the shows I have yet to blog about.  Some will become longer blogs in the future (hopefully).
Cock (NYC):  I loved the staging the most.  They have built a circular riser set out of plywood that the audience sits on and looks down at the show; it gives the whole audience the air of being at a cockfight – great choice.  Also great choices by the director in staging and theatrical realism.  Excellent acting to execute those ideas.  To be honest though, I self identified pretty strongly with some of the ideas of this play, so much so it made my heart hurt.  I will prob not be blogging about this show until/if I can work my way through that.
Lyons (NYC):  This is a solid show with solid acting a solid script and solid directing.  The show def made me laugh, but it didn’t blow my socks off.  It was…  yep, solid.
Venus in Furs (NYC):  All I can say is wow!  I am in love with Nina Arianda.  She does an amazing job in what can only be described as character gymnastics, easily passing between different characters, sometimes even in the middle of words, without ever losing who she is in relation to the show, and never letting the audience be confused as to who she is in the moment either. Quite an impressive feat.
Clybounre Park (NYC):  I liked this show on a very intellectual level.  The show is about racism and the cycle of racism, PC-ness, and gentrification.  I saw the show the week before Obama came out as pro-gay-marriage and it made me relate the whole show to the idea of prejudice in all it’s shapes, colors in beliefs in my mind – though, particularly to gay marriage being, hopefully, the next big civil rights movement.  Because of my intrinsic link to those ideas, not sure if this one will become a blog because of how very political I think it would be.
NYC Ballet, Contemporary Choreographers:  Man I missed the ballet.  This night was lovely!  (Also, holy crap the Lincoln Center Ballet Theatre Is awesome!  It has a super cool balcony, perfect for a date - anyway, you should go).  What I love about goo ballet is the storytelling through movement.   I love how each dancer is insanely committed to each movement, and the specificity of each movement through even the tiniest finger.  This night, I saw 3 contemporary choreographers works.  I loved them all, but my favorite was the first one called Two Hearts, which had its world premier the night I saw it, and was choreographed by Benjamin Millepied (otherwise known as Mr Natalie Portman).  I can’t even really tell you why I loved it the most, and I think that’s why I missed ballet so much.  Because, at least for me, there isn’t a definable why, just the way it makes you feel.  I love the things in life that don’t make sense but just are.  They remind me to listen to my heart above my head, always, because it knows best and will lead to the place to be truly happy.  (Although, with the way I spell choreographer so badly I confuse spell check… this may or may not become an actual blog :p )

Interrupted Man (Houston):  Interesting idea of a show.  The show is two inter-weaving monologues of two people on a train.  The man is a famous writer who sometimes thinks of the woman, but is mostly thinking about himself.  The woman is a fan of the writer who happens to be reading the writers latest book and is trying to figure out weather to bring the book out in the train car to read it.  Now, I tell you all this to mention, again, that it is two inter0weaving monologues.  As in the dialogue of the script is only, really, in the last 10 mins of a 90 mins play.  They spend most of the time telling the audience their thoughts.  Interesting idea in concept.  The show was set on a revolve so the actors moved around the circle slowly as the show progressed without ever leaving their train seat.  There is something I didn’t quite like about this production that I am still trying to put my finger on though.
Kreutzer Sonata (NYC):  Speaking of trains…  This is the most haunting piece I’ve seen in a long time.  Also set on a train, the narrator speaks to the audience as if we are a passenger in his car, and his story must be told.  I loved the necessary-ness of the show.  How vital it was for him to tell his story.  I loved that it felt intimate, like there were only a few people in the train car, in my case, me and my date, even though the house was full.  And I LOVED the use of the scrim as memory.  The faded background of his mind being lit in shadows for us to see.  Amazing!
Rainbow’s End (NYC):  Um, yea.  No but really, GO SEE THIS NOW.  Pretty much blew my socks off. 
Being Shakespeare (NYC):  Loved the use of narrative as history lesson.  Loved the talk back even more. 
Big Meal (NYC):  Again, solid.  But I didn’t love it.  Loved the use of 8 actors as like 10 generations of people.  So there were the kids, the teenagers, the middle aged, and the elderly and the same actors played all the roles of that age group.  Pretty cool idea that turned out well in practice.  Overall though, didn’t blow my socks off.
Tribes (NYC): I don’t know what I have to say about this really.  I neither loved it nor hated it.  There was some really strong work being done on stage, and everyone was connected to it.  It made me feel, I was attached to the characters and the story, and yet…
The Columnist (NYC): I wanted to like this WAY more than I did as I LOVE John Litgow.  However, I didn’t.  I thought, at least the night I saw it, it fell kind of flat and was only meh for me.  It was hard for me to get involved in a show about a man who the world is clearly moving on without because I never felt compelled to not move on without him.  I don’t know that that made sense. 
The Best Man (NYC):  Pre-warning, I saw the show VERY early on in the run, like maybe opening or second night.  I say this because I has sense talked to several people who saw it later in the run who said that the problem I saw has been fixed.  The problem, it has an incredible cast who, individually, have incredible performances, but as a unit didn’t play so much.  It was kind of like watching an MVP game.  The MVP team is never as good as the individual teams.  Again, appt later on in the run, as they are now, it has gotten it’s groove back.  I would be interested to see it again.
I’m sure there are more, but that’s it for today.  What would you like to see turned into a longer blog?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Title and Deed (NYC)

I went to see Signature Theatre’s Title and Deed last week.  All I can say is WOAH!  The more I see there, the more I love that theatre…  I wonder if they are looking for artistic interns…
Anyway, this show.  I want to talk about a couple of things that really stood out to me.  One of which I rarely, if ever, talk about – plot/theme.  The other, acting.
I mostly don’t talk about plot or theme in this blog for the simple reasons that the blog is mostly for expanding my theatrical palette/tool box, to have a better definition of what I like and why I like it – ultimately, so I can reproduce what I like on stage myself, while setting aside the things I don’t like, making sure they do not reach my stage.  And with that in mind, mostly, plot and theme are incidental to that learning curve, because the things I will use may or may not be part of the same theme or plot.  In more general terms, this blog is like learning algebra.  I rarely talk about specific equations because the purpose is to learn how to manipulate the “x” when I need to, not how to manipulate this “x”.
Except in this show, one of the things that has drawn me to it so much is this show, these words, this idea, presented in this way.  Part of it is that it is, I think, a damn good script.  Part of it is because the show itself is about the universality of humanity, about how even when we’re different, we’re really the same.  And that appeals to me as both a human and a theatre practitioner – because that is, I think, one of the main purpose of theatre to remind us of that fact.  And we do it through the very universal method of story telling. 
Will Eno’s (a playwright I now want to read EVERYTHING by) show touched on ideas of “home” and “words” and the relation between the two.  It spoke of communication between people and about ideas that are larger than human speech allows for.  The writing of the show stayed with me, sparking my imagination like only good writing does – bouncing around the walls in my head painting slapdash colors of thoughts, new colors that I have never used before mixed with old colors that are familiar friends, and an occasional enemy.
One of the ideas that stayed with me the longest is: Every moment is a eulogy.  And I loved that idea.  Because it’s true, and we never think of things along those lines.  Because everything is ending before it even begins.  Every moment honors the moments that have died to create the present.  And that isn’t a pessimistic attitude.  In fact, for me, it is quiet optimistic and freeing.  Because it means that the mistakes I make are ending, as are the good things.  It means that everything changes and everything ends and everything begins again.  In yoga we use the phrase “This too shall pass”.  And it is used for everything.  I feel like this is the same idea.  Everything moves on.  And that too is human, that too is universal, that too is real and true. 
Tie great writing, and great thoughts in  with great acting, and you have a pretty great show.  Conor Lovett does not disappoint.  His gentle Irish accent reminding the audience that he is “un-homed” as it were.  Of course, the accent is faint enough that it is easy to forget that it is Irish, easy to make it an accent of somewhere that is not here – and yet, is not tied to anyone place at all. 
Moreover, and those who read this blog lots will know how I normally feel about one man shows…  I didn’t hate this one.  In fact, it was a great format for it.  His character had called a meeting, and, more importantly, Lovett was alive and aware of us on stage.  Lovett talked to me, not to the space above my head.  He made eye contact with me (and many others in the audience) responding in real time with what he saw on my face.  At no time did I feel like he forgot that any of us were there, taking his speech to both the orchestra and the balcony. 
Most importantly to me, the show, and Lovett’s performance of it, had an air of improvisation.  There were moments that I held my breath, wondering if he knew what he was going to say next or if he would lose his place in his train of thoughts.  I have never before witnessed an actor be that much in the moment.  So lost in the moment of aliveness that it seemed as if he was not speaking from a script, but instead was making it up as he went.  In short, it was what acting is supposed to be.  (Well, at least forms of realism). 
So, what did I learn?  Well, what I saw was something to strive for.  For a theatrical realism that seemed neither forced nor false.  For moments that were magic simply because they did not exist before and will not exist again.  I saw ideas presented un-pretentiously, honestly, real-ly.  I saw what I want in my own work.  A sense that I was staring at truth – not realism nor naturalism -  not even theatrical realism – but truth.  Pure and simple truth.  The human condition.  Each moment giving birth to the next as it itself passes on.  Just like a good eulogy.