Posts Tagged ‘alan cumming’

Art review – Robert Wilson, Portraits – Palazzo Madama, Turin

November 8, 2012

While this blog is mostly about my theater visits, I mix in some ballet and opera, but I have other interests. I’ve had a few gardening posts: today I’m going to write about art. The inspiration: a trip to the Palazzo Madama in Turin, where I discovered an exhibit by Robert Wilson tucked amidst the Medieval sculpture and Baroque gew gaws. This makes 2012 the Year of Bob for me, since I’ve been to both his Walking exhibit and seen Einstein on the Beach.

Now, Bob wasn’t what drew me to the Palazzo: frankly, it’s a bit hard to ignore, what with it sitting smack dab in a huge open space in the middle of the historic center of Turin. And it’s a fascinating hodge podge, all medieval-looking from the back, but with a frothy white front that matches the rest of the public facing buildings. The mixed history of this building is what drew me to it, as I am frequently turned off by Baroque architecture – sometimes I can get lost in all of the curly wurly hurly burly, but more frequently I just find it all as indigestible as an all-icing cake. I saw it and went, “Hey, now that is cool looking building, nice and ancient looking in back, yet curiously modernized! What in the world is going on here?”

As it turns out, the building not only has its own fascinating history (I’ll let you read up on it on your own, it goes back to Roman times) but is an icon of Turin’s glory days. Inside it is housed a museum of art as well as the semi-preserved apartments of “Madames” Christine Marie and Marie Jeanne (which I was much less interested in than the art). I had actually planned on blowing through the upstairs altogether (baroque furnishings, bleh), but downstairs, amidst all of the fantastic gothicky wooden carvings and lovely paintings of the saints, there were all sorts of little reminders that there was an exhibit of portraiture upstairs which was in some way responding to the art in the (very old feeling) basement.

Let me talk a little bit about the art in the basement. The first room was a painted altarpiece, a ceiling moved from a demolished building, and the most amazing choir stalls, carved with the freakish creatures (mermen, chimera, something that was mostly a head) that bubbled out of the imagination of a team of 16th century French sculptors. The amount of detail was amazing – even some of the seat backs had little scenes in them. I had a hard time leaving the room.

The next room, the largest in the basement, was divided into several areas, each filled almost to bursting with excellent examples of medieval and renaissance art. The most celebrated painting was Portrait of a Man by Antonello da Messina; but I was entranced by the many lovely things, including a bone casket with Limoges medallions, a sculpted “life of Mary Magdalene” where every personage was grinning like a loon, and a fascinating Renaissance allegory painting (called, I believe, “The Game”) in which Venus appeared to be playing chess with Mars. I could barely leave.

When I finally ascended the stairs (after a long visit with a coffin featuring the adventures of Perseus carved in alabaster), I made it into a room that was white to the point of glowing, with sculptures of pairs of women curled on a ledge under the ceiling. They seemed wise and a bit amused, and while they were, apparently, representations of the various provinces of Savoy (if I recall correctly), I read them as an older woman’s assertion of confidence and sense of self. These statues were lit, in turn, by the glow from the numerous video screens in the room, which were somewhat muted by an unusual arrangement: in the center of the (white) room, there was a roofless box (of white), pierced by four entryways, each gap partially blocked by a (white) panel. On exploration, the panels held video screens that faced toward the cube; they were best seen by entering the cube itself, which was covered by numerous glowing panels with polka-dotted backgrounds and a snowy owl. The effect was, looking up, COLOR COLOR OWL CHAOS smiling female statue. Fascinating! Each of the panels had a video screen of a different animal, chosen (seemingly) for their own color (or lack thereof): a black panther; a pile of skunks; a porcupine; a clearly manipulated (so as to be rainbow colored) frog. The effect of the mostly black and white palate made the occasional motion of the animals even more heightened – and with the women looking over us, it felt like somehow we were having a joke played on us. It was, to be sure, playful, and gorgeous, and very fun.

The next room I went in was full of the kind of gewgaws and trinkets that, while the height of baroque artisanship, are so overwrought that, when clustered together, I tend to tune them out. Cabinets with beautiful inlaid marquetry/stonework; statues; silver salt cellars; ridiculous clocks. I would have normally blown by them, but now they fought against the slightly moving and equally vibrant modern video portraits scattered among them. The effect was to make the regular collections more digestible, to convince me to spend a bit more time with them just as I was needing to spend more time looking at the Wilson pieces to see them evolve through their storylines (each of them had a bit of motion in them).

The next two rooms were large and mostly empty, and the pixelated pictures stood as equals (yet leaning towards having more energy what with occasional music) amongst other portraits. The rooms led to a pretty circular room covered with tiny portraits, vying with a large picture of Brad Pitt being rained on (which seemed to attract rather a lot of attention, what with his being in his boxer shorts). I got the feeling that I was in Hogwarts, with the old portraits on the walls all but talking to me. It was very striking, the effect being of the world of art gone by standing up to greet its newest incarnation. Delightfully, from this corner (where I spent rather a while, waiting to see just what he was going to do with his gun) I was able to sneak down a hall to a lovely, naturally-lit room and enjoy a lovely hot chocolate. All pleasures were being catered to at the Palazzo Madama!

While there was even more palace and even more art to be seen, I’ll end my review here. I was impressed at the way the portraits – which in a different environment I might have considered banal, celebrity-focused, unnecessarily obsessed with technology, and forgettable – actually engaged strikingly with their environment in a way that enhanced both the form and contents of the Palazzo and Robert Wilson’s otherwise gimmicky product. They added light, sound, and motion to a dusty static world, and the effect was positive for both of them. I’m really pleased I had a chance to see this installation, and I have to applaud the forward thinking museum directors who made this exhibit happen.

(This review is for an exhibit I saw on Sunday, October 28th, 2012. It continues through January 6th, 2012.)

Review – Alan Cumming’s one man Macbeth – Tramway, Glasgow (then Lincoln Center)

June 24, 2012

While I tend to avoid the cult of celebrity where theater is concerned (aided by my horrible inability to remember names), I have a few exceptions to this. Top of the list of Yes I Will See You In Anything As Long As You Are Breathing is Alan Cumming. I’m not going to be dishonest about it: the man is my idea of Sex On A Stick and the fact that I can pay mere money for the opportunity to be in the same room he is is a wonderful, wonderful thing – though the opportunities to do so to date have been limited (one concert, one Greek tragedy). It’s a crush that’s been going strong since I got a copy of the photobook of Cabaret back in 2003 or so – I never got to see him in it, but, man, the pictures permanently altered my brain chemistry. So when I heard that he was going to be doing a one man Macbeth, I went completely mad and booked tickets to Glasgow so I could see it.

“What?” you say. “This is an outrage, a complete slap in the face to the entire idea of ‘Life in the Cheap Seats!’ You can’t legitimately call your blog that – and rant about the cost of travel to shows outside London – while gallivanting off to Glasgow for an Alan Cumming jolly! You’re abandoning your roots! Next you’re going to be taking freebies to promote ‘Dreamboats and Petticoats’ and putting sponsored ads on your site! Backslider! Quitter! CHEATER!”

Well, er, yes. But it was my birthday weekend. And it was Alan Cumming. And the play itself was only 20 quid! And, you know, whatever. I WENT AND SAW ALAN CUMMING IN MACBETH WOOOO!

Right, um, so I thought I should review it, and warn you in advance that I really like Alan Cumming in a slightly, um, inappropriate way, so the things I liked may have little to do what any normal person would like. Still, though, I brought my critical eyes with me – but you have been forewarned.

First, the Tramway – to my horror, it’s a place that still does unreserved seating. Now maybe this does a lot to keep prices down, but to me a queue worthy of Easyjet snaking through the lobby thirty minutes before a show is not my idea of how to handle crowd control – and it placed an unreasonable pressure on us to get there early, ultimately meaning that dinner consisted of some biscuits in my bag (we got lost on the way). Still, it’s a nice sized theater, I was in the middle section, and for the price I knew I’d scored a bargain.

The set was a mental hospital, complete with green tile walls, observation windows, security code entrance locks, and … um … a giant bathtub. I thought this would give the opportunity for a nice comparison with the Martin Sheen “Hamlet” at the Young Vic and wondered (again) if there’s an industry doing Shakespearean shows as set in asylums … I’ve sure seen it a few times. And, per the program, this was NOT to be a “one person” Macbeth, for there were two other actors credited in the program! Was Myra McFadyen to be Lady Macbeth? What about Ali Craig, was he to be Banquo, Macduff, and the rest? How disappointing! This was not what I was promised! It said one man and I wanted one man! But then the show started, and Craig and McFadyen, in nursing uniforms, stripped the beaten and bloody Cumming down, placing his clothing in evidence bags and taking swabs from his cuts and from under his fingernails, and then … left.

Well, I thought, I think that will qualify it as a one man show, if they’re just window dressing for the opening scene. He screamed at them as they headed up the door, “When shall we three meet again?” and they paused, looked, then locked the door behind them.

The concept, I think, is that the Cumming character has been checked into an asylum after suffering some kind of critical attack, and is now reliving the trauma, characterized as Macbeth, on a daily basis. He talks to the security cameras (and a doll and a sweater), he calls for the guards, he is disturbed by the noises outside his room, he occasionally needs to be sedated. He is watched and notes are taken on his activities, which are occasionally broadcast by the TV screens at the top of the stage. He is brought tea, he is occasionally ignored …

and he is mostly left free to perform a version of Macbeth that is stripped down to about 1:50, a darn good trick but one which I will argue leaves too much detail in it. He warms up to it performing as the three sisters, all screaming at us through the TV monitors (this done live, while Cumming has his back to us), then proceeds to discuss, as Macbeth and Banquo, the content of the witches’ speech, what with the promises of kinghood for one and a line of kings for the other.

The show gets stronger as the Thane of Cawdor ponders his quickly changing circumstances, a thread strong enough to hold the story together as Cumming speaks King Duncan’s lines in accents I recognized as “plummy.” It helps that he goes from a true Scottish accent (his own?) to Posh English at this point – Macbeth seems to be mocking Duncan’s weath and sense of entitlement to his crown. Throughout this show, it had a distinctly more Scottish feel than any other Macbeth I had seen – a nice touch, I think.

Then, well, it was time for the bathtub, and the emergence of Lady Macbeth, whom Cumming portrayed reading her husband’s letter as she bathed. (Yes, he takes all of his clothes off, though full frontal is avoided through careful use of a towel.) Now, I see NO place for a bathtub in a home for the mentally disturbed, but this wasn’t my play, and, truth be told, I was happy to have it there. Cumming seamlessly translated from male into female, purring and sensuous and power hungry, clearly sexually excited by the opportunities she anticipated. And I was sucked in my her lust-mad eyes, pulled beyond the actor and into the character. Was this an insane woman? Oh yes it was.

The intensity is cranked up to its very peak when Lady Macbeth argues with her vacillating husband as Duncan sleeps within their home. As Lady, Cumming pins the (invisible) Thane to the bed, and speaks of horrible savagery that she would have him do, and which she would do herself; as Macbeth, Cumming squirms and despairs beneath her … finally convinced by her words and her seduction, flipping so that he is now the dominant one, ready to commit the murder that will have him be the king. This scene, surely, was the highlight of the play, dripping with sex and madness, violence and power. I was lost in the haze of Shakespeare, unaware of my surroundings. I was watching evil unfold before me and it was amazing.

However, at some point after this scene, the weight of the too-many characters in this adaptation began to pull down the production. Some things were handled well – one of the ghosts truly surprised me, though later reliance on inserted ghosts in the video screens above the stage were irritating (I want flesh and blood, or maybe shadows, but not acting that’s been pre-recorded). I’m sure the death of Lady Macduff and the grieving of Mr. Macduff must have been irresistible to play; but the jumping back and forth began to make things feel cluttered and caused me to pull back from the story. Then, finally, we came to the scenes where Craig and McFadyen are actually pulled in to read lines, and, I have to say, I was disappointed. They were part of the scenery or they were part of the story – I wasn’t willing to let them be both.

In the end, I felt myself a bit worn out by the whole thing. Cumming has to get bonuses for the energy required of this endeavor, but I think it needs to be pared more to take best advantage of what he is capable of, and stick to being true to its vision and less true to the text. We don’t need it; we know the story well enough and the characters call fall away and just leave us with the bare bones of the story and the incredible conflicts within it, the most powerful of which are those that take place inside of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s minds, and between the two of them as they wrestle with themselves and with fate. The audience at the Tramway gave it a standing ovation, but I think it just wasn’t quite there – a good night, a great performer, but a show which didn’t quite hit the mark. Still, Cumming tussling on the bed with himself – there’s something that will be burned in my mind forever.

(This review is for a performance that took place at 7:30 on Saturday, June 23rd. It was an awesome birthday present to me. It will be happening in New York soon at the Lincoln Center. And, who knows, maybe it will transfer to London! For a very nice interview with Alan Cumming, see this article in the Guardian.)

Theater deal: “A Life in 3 Acts” (Soho Theater) for £5 & writing contest

January 13, 2010

Last night I read about this contest the Evening Standard is running in conjunction with the Soho Theater and its production of “A Life in Three Acts” (with Bette Bourne and Mark Ravenhill). Basically you write your life up in one of a variety of formats, then have it performed on stage for one special evening! (It says you pick an actor of your choice, but seriously, I don’t think Nick Garrison or Alan Cumming are likely to play me no matter how hard I ask – if they were even available.)

In addition, the play itself sounds really interesting – there was an article about it in the paper. I’d never heard of “Bette Bourne, Soho legend and pioneer of gay theatre,” but I want to find out, and to make it sweeter, the night they’re showing the play written by the audience (10th February), they’ve got £5 tickets. I just booked mine (call the Soho Theatre box office – 0207 478 0100 – and ask for the “Evening Standard.” Limit of 2 tickets per booking) – what a deal.

I know not all of you can enter this contest, but I am fascinated and will be doing it. (Here’s the link if you want to see it on the website.) I think a lot of you might find it fun to do just for the heck of it.

“London Artists Projects and the Evening Standard celebrate the opening of A Life in Three Acts with Bette Bourne and Mark Ravenhill by giving you the chance to have your life performed in a hundred words or less by an actor of your choice.

To be in the running, send us your story, script, or even a poem, in a hundred words or less and name the living actor you’d most like to play you.

A Life in Three Acts – your chance to have your life performed by an actor of your choice

London Artists Projects and the Evening Standard celebrate the opening of A Life in Three Acts with Bette Bourne and Mark Ravenhill by giving you the chance to have your life performed in a hundred words or less by an actor of your choice.

To be in the running, send us your story, script, or even a poem, in a hundred words or less and name the living actor you’d most like to play you.

We will then do our best to cast your chosen actor to perform your story as part of a Standard Readers’ Night on Wednesday 10 February at 7pm at Soho Theatre, to be followed by a performance of A Life in Three Acts at 7:30pm.

A Life in Three Acts is the award-winning show on the life of legendary actor and drag queen Bette Bourne as told on stage by Bette himself and the playwright Mark Ravenhill. The story moves from a post-war East End childhood, through to Soho in the swinging 60s, gay lib in the 70s, and on to the immortal Bloolips Theatre Company in the 80s and 90s in London and New York. The piece marks a different series of events in Bette’s life to reveal a portrait of an amazing individual and celebration of the momentous struggles and achievements of gay liberation.

Entries are open until 23.59 on 31 January and will be judged by playwright Mark Ravenhill, Fiona Hughes – Arts Editor for the Evening Standard, writer and journalist Paul Burston, and Artistic Director of Soho Theatre Lisa Goldman.

To book your £5 tickets to the Standard Readers’ Night on 10th February, call Soho Theatre box office on 0207 478 0100 and quote Evening Standard at the time of booking (limit of 2 tickets per booking). You don’t need to enter the competition to attend the Readers’ Night but it’s a lot more fun if you do!

A Life in Three Acts is a London Artists Projects production in association with Soho Theatre

Review – The Comedians – Lyric Hammersmith

October 15, 2009

It was with some trepidation that I headed to the Lyric Hammersmith to see The Comedians. A three hour running time has become a considerable burden to me on a school night and when I’d initially booked the tickets I hadn’t realized seeing the show was likely to wreck me for work the next day. In fact, I didn’t know anything about it at all, and really didn’t right up until I sat in my seat and looked at the program; I was there because the West End Whingers were going, and they tend to have a magical ability to sniff out good shows. In fact, if it hadn’t been for them, I’d never have managed to get in to see Enron. They’re also great company, though I’d brought my own posse along with me (admittedly in part so my American visitor Irene could meet Andrew and Phil). But, well, the Lyric has this thing where the first week of a show (usually) they do tickets at £10, so I figured, hey, if it’s bad, I’ll leave at the interval, and, gosh, I even have two different intervals to pick from! I also knew in my heart of hearts that if the show was good I wouldn’t regret the lost sleep.

First interval came around and I was still a bit on the fence. The show is about six men who have been going to night school to learn how to be comedians. I saw in the set up a bit of “The Pitman Painters,” with a lovable teacher (Matthew Kelly) who just wants to pass on a bit of his learning to a roomful of “characters,” with likely life lessons to follow at the end to send us all home with a smile. I figured the story would be mostly playing off of the comedy of the various “types” in the class, with a bunch of laughs in the middle during the “now we show our stuff at the comedy club” act before the heartwarming finale. (No, I didn’t read the program.) But I was wholly confused by what the types were supposed to be, as the accents were completely meaningless to me. I wasn’t able to tell the Northern Irish guy from the Republic of Ireland guy or actually from … well, any of the other guys except for the one who was supposed to be Jewish (and what was funny about that also passed me by). Being American was really working against me, and I wasn’t getting their casual jokes at all. I felt at a complete cultural loss. I was also kind of irritated by the overacting of Gethin Price, who as “teacher’s pet” David Dawson kept forgetting to interact with the other characters and instead kept acting toward the fourth wall. (“Hello​! You’re very sexy in an Alan Cumming kind of way, but would you please stop acting like you know we’re all out here and get on with being in the play? It ruins my developing fascination with you.”)

The one thing I did understand, and that got me back in the door after the end of first interval, in the face of the exhaustion I’d have to face the following day, was the drama that developed when the judge for the performances (Bert Challoner) appeared just after it was revealed that he and the teacher were arch rivals who had completely different ideas of how to be funny. Suddenly the students, who all wanted professional careers, were faced with failing their real test: getting a job. After getting a speech from him about what a comedian’s approach ought to be, suddenly it became clear that every one of them was going to try to fix his routine to better please the judge.

This conflict made me quite enthused to see Act Two, in which the students one by one (well, and once by two) went up on stage and did their best to wow the judge. This is when it finally became clear to me that I was watching an extremely good group of actors, because they were actors, not standup comedians, and yet for each of their acts I totally bought into what they were doing and the tension they were feeling. The best of the acts for me was the two-man routine Reece Shearsmith (as Phil Murray) and Mark Benton (as Ged Murray) did, when suddenly Phil, who’d been “the one who wasn’t funny” earlier, turned on his brother Ged and insisted he tell a racist joke that went completely against the philosophy of their professor – but that he felt sure would amuse the judge. The power of the moment when his jovial, gentle brother turned to him and said, “No, YOU tell the joke” and then physically moved him to a place where he would have to … words fail me. It was pure theater. I completely bought the characters and the situation. Admittedly, at the very beginning of the act, all I thought about was how pretty Michael Dylan’s blue eyes were, which wasn’t really about getting into his character so much as getting into him, but grab your pleasures where you will, I say. Anyway, by this act I was sold on the play, and the whole question of how to get a decent night’s sleep was moot; I was making the Ultimate Sacrifice and was going to call a cab after the show.

During the second intermission, I had a long conversation with an old guy who’s seen the show in its original incarnation in the 70s. According to him, the jokes the guys tell during the second act actually just aren’t funny, and people back them knew it. He said he was really surprised that people were laughing during the performance. I was, too, but I was confused because to me they almost all of the jokes seemed really offensive – I don’t see where being Irish or Catholic or Jewish is a comedy item and there’s no laughs for me in a joke about beating your wife up in a bar. But per Old Guy, this kind of humor was actually standard standup material in those days, especially up north (where this play was set), so the format itself was unsurprising – only the jokes were really flat. Of course there’s the question of the act the teacher’s pet performed, about which I’ll say little other than I thought about it during the De Frutos catastrophe the next night, but that had to be its own special moment.

Act three was, well, really not the heartwarming huggy-feely takeaway I was expecting and a lot more of the “this is going to get dark” my husband anticipated. There is a bit of a message about artistic integrity, but the whole thing is couched in a rather nauseating story that ends in a Nazi death camp, so any chance of a “feel good” is blown out of the water. Still, as we all walked out, a bit dazed and blasted, my thought was: what an amazing ensemble cast I just saw perform. Nearly three straight hours and I didn’t begrudge them a minute; once act two started I was bought in all the way. While I was too culturally confused to be able to see it in the big stars and lights the West End Whingers did, I’d definitely say this is a show worth catching.

(This review is for a preview performance that took place on Monday, October 11th, 2009. It continues through November 14th. I ate at Akash Tandoor beforehand and can highly recommend their 20 quid two person combo plate.)

Review – Alan Cumming’s “I Bought a Blue Car Today” – Vaudeville Theatre

September 1, 2009

Tonight I went with J and Jess to see the opening performance of Alan Cumming’s one man show, “I Bought A Blue Car Today.” Despite this show having had runs in NYC and Australia, I hadn’t read any of the reviews and knew little of it other than it was Alan Cumming doing whatever he felt like. This suited me fine (though somehow I’d got it in my head that this was a stand-up comedy evening). While I can rarely be convinced to see a show based on one performer (I frequently can’t remember actors’ names and am nearly wholly immune to the clut of celebrity), fact of the matter is that Mr. Cumming is my #1 favorite stage actor and probably the only performer of stage or screen that I teenishly fangrrl over. I’m not saying I follow him online or have a poster of him on my wall or was waiting in line to get an autograph tonight; but I do think he’s painfully sexy on top of being a great actor and a good singer.

“I Bought A Blue Car Today” has actually very little in the way of narrative about Alan’s life in America, though he does explain why he went for citizenship (to overturn our previous fascist regime) and a little bit about some cultural confusion (no worse than mine here except for not understanding why being on Saturday Night Live was such a big deal). Instead, it’s full of fun and occasionally rude anecdotes about his life in showbiz, ranging from dancing with Walter Cronkite (at Cabaret) to riding a motorcycle up 5th Avenue while high. The anecdotes fill time between songs, which are really the heart of the show (available on the CD they’ll be happy to sell you in the lobby). They ranged from a Dolly Parton/Mika mashup to “Mein Herr” and on to some lovely original songs. Mostly the music was rather on the fluffy side, but really gave Mr. Cumming a chance to show of his pipes. It’s no surprise that he’s really quite a good singer; what’s a real shame is that with all of his movie roles, he so rarely gets to sing on stage, which is, in my mind, where he ought to be. The best of the night was “Where I Want to Be” from Chess; I’ve never seen it but with the 7 (?) piece band backing him, with extra trumpet, it really rocked the house and showed a lot of passion.

For any Alan Cumming fan, this was an unmissable evening, especially if you’d managed to pull 15 quid second row seats, and the audience was quite enthusiastic. But the guy has really got a good voice, and while I think he could have chosen better material, if you’re looking to catch a Broadway/West End performer at the peak of his performing career – unlike Liza, whose performances this last year showed a star faded almost to black – then this show would be worth the effort to see. As it is, it’s given me a host of dirty jokes to tell people (like the one about Anne Miller and Eyes Wide Shut) and I consider it a great start to the West End’s fall season.

Note: Alan Cumming also announced from his stage that he and his pianist were going to be doing a late night fundraising show on Thursday, so if you can’t get enough of either or both of them you’ve got another shot to load up while they’re in town. Here’s the email I just got from Nimax Theater’s about it: “Notes Unleashed! The Music of Lance Horne, will take to the stage at the Vaudeville Theatre on the Strand at 11.00pm on Thursday 3 September 2009, in a special one-night only event following Alan Cumming’s solo show at the Vaudeville that evening. It marks the London première of songs written by the Emmy Award winning composer, Lance Horne, with the composer at the piano.

“Olivier and Tony Award winner Alan Cumming will join West End stars Julie Atherton (Avenue Q), Aneurin Barnard (Spring Awakening), Simon Burke (La Cage Aux Folles), Alexandra Silber (Carousel), Hannah Waddingham (Spamalot, A Little Night Music) and Emma Williams (Zorro) in Notes Unleashed! The Music of Lance Horne, the inaugural edition of a late-night strand of the West End’s Notes from New York series at the Vaudeville Theatre on Thursday 3 September at 11.00pm. Book Online or call the Box Office on 0844 412 4663.”

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, September 1st. “I Bought a Blue Car Today” runs through Sunday, September 6th. And since someone asked about nudity, the answer is, no, Alan does not take his clothes off. *sniff*)

Review – The Bacchae (with Alan Cumming!) – Lyric Hammersmith

September 6, 2007

Work, work, work. After a day like today, it’s really hard to get cheered up for a show. But, hey, it was Alan Cumming in the Bacchae, at the Lyric Hammersmith (just up the street from my job) – so there was some sort of light at the end of the long tunnel.

The production values were really good, Alan Cumming was convincing as a sexy, arrogant, gold-lame-kilt wearing god, and the themes of “we must control the women’s sexuality” and “there are times when you need to move beyond society’s limits” resonated with me. But … the songs the women sang did didn’t make sense (they didn’t add enough to make it worth the effort, even if their voices were good), and the entire, painful, endless 20 or so minutes after “the mom” appeared with her son’s head just … sapped my will to live. Okay, really, it wasn’t that painful, but when you start doing your budget in your head and you’re at a live show, something’s going wrong. I like Greek exposition (“I went offstage and saw this thing we can’t possibly show due to our limited budget!”), but I just … well, Grampa just stumbled through his lines without a bit of love, and the fact of the matter is

ONCE THE DUDE IS DEAD THE STORY IS OVER.

Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. That said, it’s not even 2 hours long (no intermission), so if you rock on Alan Cumming and you’re clear that you’re going to see a Greek tragedy, and you’re still interested, well, by all means, go. Otherwise, please go see Venus as a Boy just right away because I was NOT doing my budget in my head while I was watching that show at all.

(This review is for a performance that took place on September 6th, 2007.)


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