13 May 2009

I threw up the sponge instead of throwing down the gauntlet.

It's not every day you get to see something on Broadway that you could recite from end to end. Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit" was part of my brief, fleeting career in high school drama (fun fact: I understudied regular commenter Elizabeth) and it all came rushing back last weekend when I saw Rupert Everett, Christine Ebersole and Angela Lansbury perform in it on Broadway last weekend. If I was laughing at slightly different moments than the rest of the audience -- well, that's old age for you.

"Blithe Spirit" is a fun play, but I wouldn't put it up there with my favorites. (Not even sure where my scrawled-over copy is at this point, although I'm sure I kept it.) The small collection of plays I own are the ones I read over and over without them losing their resonance. Some sparked my interest when I first read them, like when I was assigned Lorca's "As Five Years Pass"; others, like "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," I found after seeing a particularly memorable performance. ("Cat" was my go-to book one summer to such an extent that if anyone else picked up my copy it would probably burst into flames.)

If you have a favorite play, how did you find it?


Elizabeth said...

A bit over a year after I was in "A Month in the Country", I picked up a copy (it was actually Will's copy: we were supposed to be working on our Cold War newspaper for Doc Smith, which meant that Will spent an hour fiddling with the margins while I read "A Month in the Country") and thought it was hilarious, even though I certainly hadn't thought so when I was rehearsing it every day. I guess sometimes you just need some perspective.

Similarily, a few weeks ago I saw a performance of "The Cherry Orchard" (which we had rehearsed ad nauseum in ninth grade drama), and while I wouldn't go so far as to say that it was an ingenious play, I did understand it much more than when I had been rehearsing it.

When I was in Chicago, I saw the Court Theatre's production of "The Importance of Being Earnest" and really liked it. They brought back the same cast for a performance of Tom Stoppard's "Travesties" later that season, and a good thing, too: if I hadn't seen "Earnest" with the same cast, I really would have no idea what was going on in "Travesties".

But I think my favorite play is "Cymbeline". I've seen it performed twice, and neither performance lived up to my imagination. I first read it because it was included in the same volume as "The Winter's Tale" that I bought for my third quarter of humanities, and because the Court was at the same time doing a production of "Perseus" and "Cymbeline", and I figured that if I wanted to understand what was going on, I had better read the plays ahead of time. I didn't really understand "Perseus" when I read it, so when the stage production brought the story to life it greatly exceeded my expectations. I guess the opposite happened with "Cymbeline".

Ellen said...

I saw a very moving production of "The Cherry Orchard" this year which made me understand what I couldn't when I originally read the play. That, plus an adaptation of "Uncle Vanya" I saw this year, have made me think that Chekhov perhaps isn't meant to be read, but those are the only two I have seen so it's an incomplete study.

I've never heard of "Travesties" but it sounds incredibly interesting. I've yet to see any Tom Stoppard onstage, which ought to be rectified one of these days. And "Earnest" I really fell in love with because of the 2002 film, but I saw it off-Broadway earlier this year and had a great time.

Nonickname said...

This may sound a bit quaint in comparison to Broadway productions, but the 4th and 5th graders at my daughter's elementary school put on a truly spectacular performance of "The Emperor's New Clothes" last Fall. The kids worked very hard for about six weeks almost everyday after school and it showed. The school also hired an outside agency to put on the production, so the roles were cast well. I can see some careers in drama forming...Broadway, here we come!

Elizabeth said...

I meant "Pericles", not "Perseus", of course. Oops.

Elizabeth said...

"Travesties" was great fun, but like "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead", unless you're intimately familiar with the antecedent, it's hard to get the jokes or even the plot.

I've also seen Stoppard's "The Real Thing" performed by Knock 'Em Dead, a now apparently defunct theater group at the University of Chicago composed of medical and college students, and enjoyed it.

Wade Garrett said...

"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" is clever but exactly the sort of play that sort of drove me crazy about all things having to do with the english department; the sort of assignmend to which that A Reader's Manifesto was written in response.

Ellen said...

I never had to write a paper on "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern," just watch the movie -- which probably made me enjoy it much more than if we had close read it like "Hamlet."