Because of our conflicting work schedules and insufficient funds, we don't get to go out and see plays as much as we'd like to. This past week, however, we had a couple of evenings off, and we took full advantage of them. We broke our rut of catching bad shows recently by hitting the mark with two out of the three.
“A wizard and a muggle in the parallel universe of Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe and Richard Griffiths reunite in Peter Shaffer's classic play about the effort to heal a troubled young man” was the first thing I read on playbill.com in discovery that there would be a revival of Equus on Broadway. I am quite a big fan of both Equus and Harry Potter, but being also a fan of artistic morality, I was very concerned.
Then I started seeing an irritated Peter Shaffer being quoted all over the Internet: “I was irritated that people talked on and on about it. It was so infantile. In the papers, I was always reading about how Harry Potter is 'waving his other wand,” “There is a great deal more going on in the play, you know. I'm not writing porn, for God's sake!”
But then, and quite to my surprise, I must admit, I started seeing Daniel Radcliffe all over the Internet – defending himself and the play in a rather articulate manner: “Offended mothers were calling up and saying I shouldn't be doing this, that they weren't going to go see it. OK, don't see it,” “They're treating it like it's pornography and it's not. It's only seven minutes at the end of the play when I'm naked, and I'm 19 now.”
I was impressed, and started searching out more interviews with Mr. Radcliffe, hoping for more insight on submerging himself into both the play and Broadway. And I was pleasantly surprised at what I found (which mostly has, strangely and sadly enough, disappeared from the internet – oh what a fickle little thing it is!). Daniel was excited about the play, and the theater, and so took to practicing the Alexander Technique, working on his voice, doing scene study…
Obviously, by this point, I had to see it.
His hard work and dedication to the craft certainly showed. This was no Harry Potter. This was no British teenage millionaire. This was a working actor. This was Alan Strang, the boy who I believed blinded six horses out of a lustful fear.
Perhaps the best part for me was watching when Dan would catch himself in a bad habit, take a moment, breathe, and drop right back in to keep churning through the mental labyrinth that is Alan Strang. I was proud of him – proud to be watching another actor taking his work so seriously and loving every minute of it. And he has yet to miss a performance.
This is a production, and more importantly a performance, no one else should miss, either.
Congratulations, Daniel Radcliffe.
WOMEN BEWARE WOMEN
If there was one play I definitely wanted to catch this month, it was Women Beware Women. Even though the only Red Bull project I have seen was a dynamic reading of The Cenci, I've always been attracted to their ambitious mission statement and I adore the charming space they occupy at St. Clements. I could go on indefinitely about the successes of this production: the song and dance spectacles, the colorful characters, the sexy classic-contemporary combinations...but that's what the reviews are for, and unfortunately, it closes on Friday anyway. Still, there's something else about this piece that I have my mind on, which is...
Thank you, Jesse Berger, for including an intimate and informative director's note in the program. One that took care not to reveal plot points, but to give just enough information about the characters that the reader was drooling with anticipation. I mention this with such excitement because it is so often that I leave a play highly satisfied, but lacking any knowledge of why that play was chosen to be produced. Of course, the derived meaning or relevance of a play is often subjective, but it's nice to be able to use the director's thoughts to compare with, elaborate on, and enhance my own reactions.
Berger's note was a welcomed introduction into a world that the profound but empty scenery was beckoning me towards. In reading the note before the show began, I was able to see very clearly that Berger had a great understanding of the piece and made very specific and conscious decisions with his production. He celebrates the idiosyncrasies of the play, but presents an extremely cohesive piece. Also, it was refreshing to find the excitement and pride between the lines of his note. Berger truly loves each and every character in Women and it is evident that he had the time of his life adapting and directing it. Finally, he reminded us to be aware of the human qualities of the characters, no matter how theatrical the performance got, and regard the staged society in the light of our own. Here's to directors who know what they want, why they want it, and tell us about it.