Posts Tagged ‘great plays on now in London’

Review – A Doll’s House – Donmar Warehouse

June 23, 2009

Just when you think social media is just a bunch of garbage, you get a tweet from the Donmar Warehouse letting you know that a show you failed to book before it sold out (two months before it opened) has had some seats released. SWEET! And that is how I managed to make it to A Doll’s House last night. I feel like a fool that I wasn’t able to commit to £15 tickets much earlier than I did, but after reading the West End Whinger’s review, I realized I’d made a mistake I was likely to regret for a long time and needed to remedy it – yet without stooping to day standing seats (a sure recipe for three days of aching feet). Saved by Twitter – who’da thunk it?

Because this show is so very sold out (though it’s running for three more weeks), there seems little point in providing an extensive review. I loved that the new version (by Zinnie Harris) is set in England with politicians instead of in Norway with bankers; the painful freshness of being dragged through the papers for some pecadillo and just what you could expect to happen to your reputation if you were accused of fraud added a lot of energy to the text and, I think, led to far more laughs (and tensions) that you often get with Ibsen. And it sharply emphasized the shortcomings of David Hare’s Gesthemane – politicians can make for interesting plays, but the focus needs to be on human relations and timeless concerns, not on some flash-in-the-pan scandal everyone will have forgotten in two months. Of course, Ibsen is a master of social ties, and creates characters who are so real you can pretty well imagine what they were doing before the play started and even twenty years later – not really Hare’s forte but one which makes the question of how will Nora’s husband respond? a matter of vital importance to the theatrical audience. This is expecially impressive given that, well, I knew exactly how he would respond … and it still hurt to see it. Ouch!

Gillian Andersen (Nora) was gorgeous and a bit fluffy as Nora -for some reason, it seemed to me that she had a bit of Marilyn Monroe in her portrayal. She was, however, absolutely convincing as a woman whose husband was vitally sexually interested in her and as someone who could have lived the coddled life she’d had quite happily for a decade. Toby Stephens “Thomas,” Nora’s husband, I couldn’t help but call him Torvald when discussing the play later) had a bit of work trying to portray someone who’s an unbelievable prig and rather unsympathetic … but he generally handled the twists and turns (of self-deception) well, and actually managed to be completely pathetic at the end. And, gosh, Tara Fitzgerald (Nora’s friend Christine Lyle) and Christopher Eccleston (Kelmer) actually made what I thought was a throwaway plot point when I read the script ages ago seem extremely vital (I kind of want to re-read it to see how Ibsen had originally developed it – and surely Christine wasn’t such a socialist?). Actually, the cast was just really good, as was the show – which means – maybe you ought to break down and go for the day seats, and as for me, I think I’m going to gloat a bit for getting to see this gorgeous show in this lovely, intimate space. Yay Team Donmar!

(This review is for a performance that took place on June 22nd, 2009. A Doll’s House continues through July 18th at the Donmar.

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“Dealer’s Choice” at Trafalgar Studios

March 11, 2008

Last Tuesday we went to Trafalgar Studios to see “Dealer’s Choice,” following a fine review from the West End Whingers. I dragged along my usual co-conspirator J. as well as Wechsler, figuring a play about poker would be a guaranteed win for an occasionally less-than-enthusiastic theatrical attendee. (J was of course as excited about going as I was.)

Dealer’s Choice is a perfect boy/girl date show, much like the movie Grosse Pointe Blank. The normal “ooh, ick, we’re in the theater” is overcome by the macho atmosphere of poker playing. Well, that’s a fair description, because what this is is, simply, a great play. Set half in the kitchen and dining room of a restaurant and half in its basement (where the after the interval poker game takes place), Dealer’s Choice is an on-the-edge-of-your-seat story with a really interesting cast of characters (a la Ocean’s Eleven). I have to give credit to the great cast and the great writing – there were no minor characters in this play (a real contrast to another “all men” drama, Glengarry Glen Ross, in which every character seemed to talk in the same voice). The poker game becomes a power play between the different characters, and watching them attempt to psyche each other out and figure out each other’s weaknesses sucked me right in, even though my knowledge of gambling is paltry. (Amusingly, the cards played during the show matched exactly what the characters said they’d been dealt – quite a feat of stagecraft in my book.)

At any rate, at £21 per ticket (easily available at half price if you buy online), Dealer’s Choice was a great play and a great night out. I highly recommend it.