Posts Tagged ‘Samantha Spiro’

Mini-review – Filumena – Almeida Theater

April 4, 2012

It’s been nearly a week since I saw Filumena at the Almeida Theater and, as I’ve suspected, I’ve nearly entirely forgotten about it already. Why this 1946 play would be revived is a mystery to me, especially in the watery translation we were provided. I found the language so profoundly filtered through English culture that the Neapolitan was washed right out, except for the scene where Filumena (Samantha Spiro) threatened to kill her long time lover Domenico (Clive Wood) if he reveals her big secret; in that moment of potent violence, right before intermission, I hoped some of the heat of Italy would wash over the bizarre fake Cockney and upper clash posho accents pollluting the entire show like Pimms and cream scones and actually show us the a real flavor of Naples; but it was not to be. Instead we continued on with our friendly, Mary Poppins-esque token old folks Rosalia (Sheila Reed) and Alfredo (Geoffrey Freshwater), both cute and essentially anonymous, good actors wasted in a duff play, and the unfolding of a bit of surprise drama that left me thinking I’d been seriously short-changed at the end of the night. The acting was probably fine. The script is as comforting as a re-run of a favorite sit-com, bland and revealing everything we want to believe about human nature. I’ll take Strindberg, Pinter, and La Bute, thanks.

(This review is for a performance seen on Tuesday, March 27th, 2012. I attended thanks to the Almeida’s friendly invitation to certain bloggers to join them on Press Night. The show continues through May 12th.)

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Review – Chicken Soup with Barley – Royal Court

June 7, 2011

For once, the Royal Court is doing, not a new show, but a revival, of Chicken Soup with Barley. This play, first performed in 1958, is about an East London Jewish family riding the wave from optimistic socialism to Pollyanna-ism. And based on the fact that this show has been revived and thus not to be given the slack I accord to new works, I ask, what was the point of this ill-natured, tedious show? There is actually some interest for me in watching people discuss socialism with stars in their eyes over a meal; but as this family and their friends goes from one rally to another, from proselytizing on a chair to motivating union members, I found myself wishing I could have left their party and gone to one where a conversation I was interested was happening. Maybe it was my fourth row seat; I really did feel like I was there, and I wanted to get away but was trapped by the feeling that something really interesting might happen that I’d miss if I snuck out early. More fool me.

To make it more miserable, this family really seemed to hate each other. Sarah Kahn (Samantha Spiro) spends most of the play tearing apart her good-for-nothing husband Harry (Danny Webb), and I found it painful to watch. It’s a profound lesson for her to teach her kids, Ada (Jenna Augen) and Ronnie (Tom Rosenthal), and later they jump right on the “dad is a waste of breathing room” bandwagon, telling him what he can and cannot do as if he is a child and deriding him as useless right at the dinner table. No wonder he just wants to sit alone and smoke a cigarette. I’ll give props to Spiro for her performance; she seemed very believable in her enthusiasm and unwillingness to confront harsh facts. However, Rosenthal flubbed his final scene, seemingly not able to handle the emotional transition (maybe this will clear up as the run progresses), while Augen didn’t seem very well rounded and was just silly in her first scene. Webb, however, was just astounding in a “performance of the year” kind of way as the gradually degrading Harry Kahn; but watching him erode in front of my eyes was a truly painful experience. I could not wait to see the last of the lot of them.

At the end of the evening, when I was praying for each scene to be the last, I was reminded of that Tolstoy chestnut about happy families. Sure, it’s the unhappy ones that are more interesting, but this particular brand of misery was just not my cup of tea (or bowl of soup). Give me Imelda Staunton and her accordion any day of the week; Chicken Soup with Barley is just to bitter to be enjoyable.

(This review is for a performance that took place on June 6th, 2011. It continues through July 9th.)