Posts Tagged ‘theater’
July 9, 2012 | by Belinda McKeon
Sit in a theater for a Tom Murphy play and I can guarantee you one thing: you will come out of that theater rattled, and throttled, and staggered, in the best of all possible ways. It might take a long moment, afterwards, to catch your breath; use that moment to listen to the torrent of marvelous language that will still be surging through your head. That tussle of starkness and poetry. Murphy doesn’t give us lyricism the way that Irish writers, apparently, are meant to do; he gives us blunt and beautiful rhythm. He doesn’t give us laughter in that way either, though audiences will inevitably seek it out, and connect, in the sting of that laughter falling wrongly, with the defiantly dark intelligence of Murphy’s vision: guffaw at all the drinking scenes, if you will, but these are broken lives, and there’s no joking that away.
Tom Murphy is Ireland’s greatest living dramatist. We say things like that in Ireland—Ireland’s greatest this, Ireland’s greatest that—as though it means anything in the greater scheme of things. Who cares what Ireland thinks is great? Tom Murphy doesn’t. But it’s true of him, that accolade, I promise you. Read More »
May 23, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
From the 92nd Street Y Poetry Center’s archives.
February 14, 2012 | by Emily Stokes
In one of Robert Walser’s Berlin Stories, “In The Electric Tram,” the narrator describes the feeling of well-being that comes with sitting in a moving vehicle on a rainy afternoon: the joy of lighting a cigarette, the satisfaction of composing a tune in his head, the urge to strike up a conversation with the reticent conductor. His gaze takes in the other passengers: “the drooping mustaches, the face of a weary, elderly woman, a pair of youthfully mischievous eyes belonging to a girl,” before happily settling on his footwear. “I must say,” he confesses to his reader, “I have achieved a certain technical mastery in the art of staring straight ahead.”
The German industrial city of Wuppertal still has a functioning electric tram, which hangs from long beams like an aerial camera and which travels through Wim Wender’s new 3-D dance movie, Pina, an homage to the German choreographer Pina Bausch. It is a running joke, appearing during the movie’s opening titles as the audience grapples with their 3-D glasses and cropping up in different scenes throughout the film—suspended above two dancers performing a duet on a roundabout, or situated below a dancer who, sitting on the tram’s old fretwork, shoves his legs around as they pop up like disobedient wooden beams. Later, in the tram’s car, a male dancer wearing cardboard cut-out Spock ears takes a seat in the back row and stares straight ahead, apparently oblivious to his appendages—and to the female dancer boarding the vehicle, whose dark hair is entirely hiding her face. She heaves along with her a white pillow as if it were a live thing, making squelching sound effects, before reassuming her anonymity and sitting down. This is Bausch’s world—a little like ours, but stranger: perhaps more like Walser’s Berlin of 1905, a city of would-be actors and artists, voyeurs and dilettantes, and elderly women with lipstick on their teeth. Pina reminds us of the ways we are all performing to one another and pretending to ignore others’ performances, and it’s one of the most blissful things I’ve ever seen on a rainy afternoon. Read More »
June 9, 2011 | by Kevin Berger
Theater director Peter Sellars has never seen a great work of art that didn’t reflect the madness of modern life. Which for years has driven critics around the bend, who have accused Sellars of dragging classic operas and plays through the mud of topical politics. This Friday at the venerable Ojai Music Festival, Sellars will stage The Winds of Destiny, a recent work by renowned composer George Crumb, to evoke the U.S. war in Afghanistan. I recently caught up with Sellars in New York, and again on the phone, when he was in Brussels directing Desdemona, a new theater work by Toni Morrison. His exuberance as a director carries over to his conversations, where his infectious high spirits never flag, even when addressing criticisms of his work.
In the The Winds of Destiny, Crumb recasts Civil War folk songs, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” in a blistering setting of percussion and female voices. Why did you choose this piece for the Ojai festival?
Because the sense of being at war with one’s own country, and the violence of that, is so intense, and has left such a deep scar in the life of our country, that it has not only not healed, it is being reopened in our lifetime. Certain people in America now are trying to rewrite the social contract of this country to exclude a huge segment of the population from prosperity and the pursuit of happiness. We’ve returned to the same issues of the Civil War, where the future of America is about whether we’re going to allow people who are not white to be treated equally. And George Crumb has set the music in a strange, haunted universe of memory, of regret, and those memories contain an enormous amount of violence. That’s by definition post-traumatic stress disorder: things being replayed again and again; strange rattling and rustling and sleeplessness. This is music that really cuts deep.
July 19, 2010 | by Elif Batuman
10:35 P.M. I spot Amelia and Anne in the crowd walking back to the ferry. Amelia thinks that Stepan Trofimovich must really have been supposed to look like Marx: when he was dying in Varvara Petrovna’s arms, that was nascent Marxism being stifled in the embrace of the serf-based order. Heat lightning flashes above the bay. J. points out the roof of the Merrill Lynch building where he once interned for a twenty-three-year-old investment banker and realized that the corporate world was not for him. We are joined by The New York Post writer, who knows J. from journalism school. She has already submitted her six-inch article via cell phone.
10:45 P.M. Inside the ferry, it’s incredibly hot and stuffy. As in some strange dream, the actors are there too, sitting on benches along the walls. Some of them no longer resemble their characters, while others appear virtually unchanged. Stepan Trofimovich still has a wild black beard and wild white hair. Maybe he was born that way. His presence, I realize, makes me vaguely uneasy—as if part of me fears that he might start coughing and dying again.
10:55 P.M. In the past ten minutes, the ferry hasn’t gotten any less hot, stuffy, or stationary. “Maybe they have to dismantle the set before the boat can start,” J. suggests, producing a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
11:00 P.M. “You know what I’m really craving now, is breakfast cereal,” J. remarks.
“Oh, really?” I reply. “I’m craving an enormous glass of Scotch.”
“Well, sure, that would be OK too. But just picture a big bowl of raisin bran, with cold milk. Doesn’t it sound fantastic?”
I give the matter some thought. “It sounds totally irrelevant to my life and problems,” I confess.
11:05 P.M. J. introduces me to the Post reporter. “I saw you in the audience,” she tells me. “You were writing the whole entire time!” I explain that I was taking notes for a minute-by-minute account, designed for the insatiably curious readers of The Paris Review website. “Now I have to go home and write it up,” I say, in tones that came out sounding more despondent than I had intended.
“Next time you shouldn’t take so many notes,” she says. “The more notes you take, the more notes you have to read later. You’re just creating more work for yourself.”
I give this advice some thought. “Thanks for the tip,” I say. Read More »
July 16, 2010 | by Elif Batuman
The final installment of a four-part review.
5:56 P.M. Another break. As sometimes happens with people under duress, our biological systems have warped into synch and pretty much all 400-odd culture lovers seem to have to pee this time. “Five-minute call!” I’m still in line on the trailer steps, where a faint but palpable ripple of panic passes through the crowd.
6:02 P.M. Back in the theater, I ask the LA Times critic how he is doing. “So-so,” he says. “Hanging in there.” He asks me whether anyone has ever tried to stage the dramatic poem written by Stepan Trofimovich in the first part of Demons. I don’t know that they have, but what a marvelous idea! The description of this lyrical drama is one of my favorite passages in Dostoevsky’s novel:
It is some sort of allegory, in lyrical-dramatic form, resembling the second part of Faust. The scene opens with a chorus of women, then a chorus of men, then of some powers, and it all ends with a chorus of souls that have not lived yet but would very much like to live a little… Then suddenly the scene changes and some sort of “Festival of Life” begins, in which even insects sing, a turtle appears with some sort of sacramental Latin words, and, if I remember, a mineral—that is, an altogether inanimate object—also gets to sing about something… Finally, the scene changes again, and a wild place appears, where a civilized young man wanders among the rocks picking and sucking at some wild herbs, and when a fairy asks him why he is sucking these herbs, he responds that he feels an overabundance of life in himself, is seeking oblivion, and finds it in the juice of these herbs, but that his greatest desire is to lose his reason as quickly as possible (a perhaps superfluous desire).
I am filled with a desire to see a turtle uttering sacramental the Latin words, and a mineral that somehow gets to sing about something. It strikes me as criminal that Peter Stein didn’t include these highlights in his performance. What excuse did he possibly have—there hadn’t been enough time?
6:05 P.M. I count seven empty seats behind me, and eleven to my right.
6:18 P.M. Nikolai has gone to confess to a monk that he once seduced a fourteen-year-old girl and drove her to suicide. This chapter was omitted from the first editions of Dostoevsky’s novels.
6:23 P.M. Nikolai confesses to the monk that he really did secretly marry the pretty retarded lame girl. The monk totally has Nikolai’s number. I hadn’t realized before how much this conversation resembles the exchange between Raskolnikov and the detective in Crime and Punishment.
6:40 P.M. Still confessing. “On my conscience is a premeditated poisoning that no one knows about.”
6:47 P.M. The confession shows no sign of ending. If this was a plane we would be in France by now. I glance at the program notes to see what else has to happen before the dinner break. The mayor has to explode in a fit of jealousy. I wonder how long that will take.
6:48 P.M. Nikolai is weeping in the monk’s lap. Read More »