Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wallace Shawn at Noho

He was ambling toward the door wearing the same green hunter’s jacket that he wore at the beginning of Vanya On 42nd Street and without thinking, both arms went up, There he is, I said, the God of theatre!
, he said, appearing to grow several inches in height as he came closer to the table.
You are Wallace Shawn?
For now, I was regretting only slightly, my tendency toward NOT curbing my enthusiasm…
I am.
I love your work.
You do?
And so on…not something I engage in as a rule, but who could resist? And I really am a huge fan, not only of his roles, but as a playwright himself (Designated Mourner...). In any case, now I know that Mr. Shawn will have two plays in the new year, one an opera actually, an opera that he said he had written with his brother when he was very young and no one would do, which had been heartbreaking and devastating, but now it seemed someone would in fact do it. An opera about piano lessons, where it will run I have forgotten (unlike Capote I do not have 94% recall…), but 42ndish I think. It’s not something Brecht would like, he said, twirling slightly on his heels. Shawn has also recently translated Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, which will run at the same time.

So of course, I watched Vanya again and enjoyed it, as I always do. I love the bleeding of life into performance—clearly no stretch where Shawn is concerned. I love the translation, Mamet’s adaptation, the direction, the space and the movement of the actors. I love how Chekhov segues in and out of monologues, how he orchestrates his characters, unbelievably deft. Actually, it made me think spatially. I mean I thought that rather than post text I wanted to photograph the actors' feet, the shadows, wood, light…makes little sense I’m sure, but that was my instinct.

Not that I am a great lover of such high realism in theatre, but Chekhov! And the play seems so relevant—urgent, in fact. That may have something to do with the production of course, and the acting. My God, the acting is perfect. On the other hand, the play’s sexism bothered me. Poor Sonia! And in some senses, poor Yelena. The women are either reviled, Mother, Yelena, or overly romanticized, Nanny. Hmmmm…how much has that changed??

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