Friday, November 27, 2015

Misery on Stage

I want to give a huge ovation to Laurie Metcalf for jumping into a role made so memorable on film by the award-winning Kathy Bates. Ms. Metcalf said while preparing to take on the role of Annie Wilkes in the Broadway production of Misery, she did not watch the film again to keep it out of her memory. She has truly created her own take on this crazed fan who will go to any limits to care for her favorite author. For almost 100 minutes, she rides the highs and lows of Annie Wilkes - carrying the tone of the show on her very capable shoulders. I am a huge fan of hers from film, TV and stage and think without her, this Broadway production would not have received any of the kudos that some have given it. 

If you read the Stephen King novel, you would know that Paul Sheldon is a novelist who after being in a car wreck finds himself being cared for by his number one fan. Rob Reiner directed the film version which starred Ms. Bates with James Caan and was full of thrills and yet still some humor mixed in. The screenplay and the stage adaptation were both penned by William Goldman, but stage director Will Frears has a tougher time conveying things that a film could do with a simple close-up. So instead of thrills and chills, this version is big on laughs. And the audience laughs...a lot. Even at times when one can't understand WHY they are laughing. 

One could say people laugh when they are uncomfortable and truly, you don't know how to take the craziness that is Ms. Metcalf...even though she is 100% committed to her role. So perhaps that's where some of the laughter comes from. There is original music used in the play to help set the tone so that we are to know it IS a drama. The incredible set and lighting are like another character in this play and between that and Ms. Metcalf, it's well worth the price of admission. 

This adaptation is basically two people (along with the local police played by Leon Addison Brown seen in a few scenes). The problem with this production is that Ms. Metcalf hasn't been given a co-star that matches her on stage. I've read many reviews that say it's because her role is so much bigger than the role of the famous novelist, but that's giving film actor Bruce Willis a pass that he doesn't deserve. It has been many years since Mr. Willis has played off-Broadway in Fool for Love in 1984 and he has gone on to shine in many films. 

But with his Broadway debut in this play, either he didn't fully understand the drama involved or his director couldn't get him to where he needed to be. Many reviews have called his performance low-key, but I will go further and say it is all one note. There is no fear, angst, grief - nothing from a man that is being held against his will week after week by this woman. He plays everything as if he already knows the ending and is not concerned with what she may or may not do to him. We need to feel what he is feeling in order to be pulled into his hell, but that never happens. This made me very sad for Ms. Metcalf. I realize Mr. Willis is bringing in audiences to see this show, but shame on the producers for not giving her a better acting partner to share the stage. 

All of this said, if you are a fan of this story - it is well worth seeing (it was on TKTS tonight). Her performance is amazing, the set rotates so that Willis can make his way through the house, and there are some pretty great effects as well. All-in-all...it's an interesting way to spend an intermission-less evening...even as we head into the holidays. A creepy winter's tale - with some laughs supplied by audience members sitting around you.




Saturday, November 7, 2015

The King is On Broadway

I have never been one of those crazy Americans wrapped up in everything the royal family does. Sure, I watched Charles and Diana get married and I visited Buckingham Palace when I was in London, but I don't make a habit of knowing everything going on with them. When I heard the play King Charles III was coming to Broadway, I thought it could be interesting (and my other half who DOES follow the royal family wanted to see it). Last season I had seen The Audience which showed us the Queen and her weekly visits with the Prime Minister which gave us a great glimpse into the life of the reigning monarch. Then I discovered that much of this new play written by Mike Bartlett and coined "A Future History Play" was written in iambic pentameter and I was frightened to sit through the 2 hour and 40 minute play. As frightened as I sometimes am when seeing Shakespeare.

Boy was I wrong.

What a brilliantly written and conceived theatrical piece. Mr. Bartlett may write some in verse, but it is so modern that it trips off their tongues quite easily. I am so impressed with the nod to Shakespeare with the themes of royalty, betrayal, greed, and family. The play is set in the 'not too distant future' when Queen Elizabeth has passed and Charles must take over the throne. However instead of signing off on what Parliament and the Prime Minister has deemed as new laws, he challenges the political system with his own thoughts of how the country should run and sets the show in motion.

As an American, you can't help but think about the checks and balance in our own government. Still, it is amazing to think that a Prime Minister must run items past the royal family due to the tradition of that country. Tradition plays a huge part in this futuristic play. How does one hold on to tradition and yet change with the times? Mr. Bartlett has laid these issues out so well and Rupert Goold has directed it as if he is directing a piece by Shakespeare written centuries ago. The set by Tom Scutt is very effective and Jocelyn Pook's original music adds greatly to the overall tone of the evening. The entire show starts with a Requiem for the Queen which is moving and powerful.

It is this amazing cast that helps to vividly propel this evening along and takes us on a journey. Acting as an ensemble, they each have their moments to shine. We may not know the real Macbeths and Richard the IIs when we see a Shakespearean piece, but you come into this feeling you know Charles, William, Kate, and Camilla. Each of these performers are wonderful, but I must give a shout out to Tim Pigott-Smith in the title role who had me feeling for Charles in this mammoth role. He intensely attacks this role as if he is playing Othello or King Lear...and makes one think years from now, people will view this royal family in the same manner.

I stopped to think that it's funny that so far this season, my favorite Broadway shows have both dealt with history (Hamilton and King Charles III)...even if one is future history. 

Get your tickets now to this limited run so you can witness the entire London cast that has lived these lives for a while before it ever transferred to Broadway.


Friday, November 6, 2015

The New World of Choosing a President

We are a year away from choosing the next president of the United States and I for one am already exhausted. I find myself getting more upset than in years past. Previously, I will admit to being a one issue type of voter. But let me make it clear - that issue was built around my rights as an American. When someone tells me I don't have the right to be equal, you're not getting my vote. But this time around, I'm truly attempting to listen to the multitude of candidates and what they are saying.

However - they're not saying much.

Issues are always pushed aside. It's blaming the other side for whatever state the country is in. Only this time, it completely feels like we're part of the reality tv competition era and the most obnoxious, outlandish, most-twitter-followers person gets the attention. Just like on reality TV when someone flips a table, builds an alliance, or plots to take down a show.

This is not the country I remember growing up in. What has happened? The media attempts to ask questions and report to us so we can understand what candidates are about. (I'll admit, even that seems built around ratings.) However, the candidates get upset with everything the media does. But it's the media MAKING them the reality stars they are becoming. They are out there on book tours, hosting SNL, seeing how many shows they can get on...and then complaining the moment someone questions them about their past, something they've said or done, or....vetting them for the country so we can learn about the two dozen people running.

In the past, it was mud-slinging among candidates. Now it's screaming just for the sake of screaming. I'm truly frightened for our country. This was never how I saw us choosing a president...where we would continue to vote different people off the island until the last man or woman is standing. 

It's going to be a long year and I just hope that the field will narrow down enough where we can truly hear about true issues that affect us as a society and not strange and asinine comments that are simply meant to get more airtime.