Mini-review – Desire Under the Elms – Lyric Hammersmith

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It’s been nearly a week since I shuffled out of the Lyric Hammersmith’s production of Desire Under the Elms and I’ve been having a hard time getting motivated to write a review. The play is impossible to believe at any point: cartoon characters (the two half brothers are right out of Loony Toons, Yosemite Sam and Sandy), laughable dialogue (“Nature … makes ye grow bigger–like a tree,” said while “new ma” Abbie writhes on the ground with her legs open, OH GOD WHAT COULD SHE BE IMPLYING), a plot that seems better suited to a soap opera .. the whole thing was just so overwrought I couldn’t take it seriously, like a bad high school production of a Greek tragedy. I watched the characters with nearly physical pain, wondering just what in the hell Eugene O’Neill thought he was doing – creating characters he couldn’t understand enough to write words for and putting them in a situation he thought would mirror some drama by Sophocles “but in an American setting.” It was all just so horrible after the genius of Long Day’s Journey into Night.

I made it to the interval, checked my clock, and saw that I could make it through to the end with only 45 more minutes, so dragged myself back like a dog waiting for a whuppin’. Fortunately almost 10 minutes was taken up with a comic dance routine, and the end rolled around quite quickly, but not once did I ever feel a bit of sympathy for any of the characters. They were all impossible to believe in and thus impossible to care about.

And then it was over. Hurray. And now I’ve written my review and I can get on to talking about some excellent theater that is much more worth seeing than this farce. Lungs, a part of the Paines’ Plough/National Theater season at Shoreditch Town Hall, blew me out of the room. Do not miss it. It may be a day or two more before I’ve got my review up, but YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED – buy your ticket now.

(This review is for a preview performance seen on October 4th, 2012. It runs through November 10th. Lungs has its last performance on Saturday October 27th and is superior in every way.)

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