Hi, guys! Sorry this is late. I’m sure you’ve all been apprised of the situation we’re facing here in Florida. As of right now, neither A nor I have any idea which of us will get the brunt or if we’ll both share equally in this shit show. (Frankly, there’s more chance I’ll get the shit, so… sorry, A, but I’m hoping for the sharing.) But we’re both as prepared as one can be for a Cat 4/5 storm, so… that’s that. And I will get the hell outta dodge if it looks like I’m getting the brunt of it.
Floridians tend to be a bit cavalier about hurricanes, but when it gets this bad, we know what we’re about. I remember Andrew. This is looking like Andrew.
I should probably buy more soup…
Anyway. Let’s finish up with the reviews. I apologize in advance if my reviews aren’t as technical as A’s; she’s the theater insider, after all, with far more technical knowledge of how these things work than I possess. But hopefully, I prove an acceptable substitute and don’t disappoint you too much.
Now… let’s begin with Romeo and Juliet.
You all know how A and I feel about Romeo and Juliet. We didn’t write our novel because we were huge fans of the play, after all.
Well. Stratford had something to say about that. And, frankly, this was the finest performance of this play I have ever seen. Ever. At no point did I hate either Romeo or Juliet, and that says a lot. The only negative either A or I had was a breathing choice by Antoine Yared (who played Romeo), and that only because it proved just a tad distracting. He was meant to be breathing like someone who was sobbing (you know, that inward breath that makes a sound because you’re not actually bringing in enough air?) and it wasn’t bad… it just went on a tad too long.
Like. That was it. That was our only note. And we had to really think about it. Romeo and Juliet? And only one note? Hot damn, Stratford.
The reason we loved it so much was because this production played down the idiotic teenagers killing themselves (and four other people) for love and made their deaths a tragic consequence of their parents’ strife. It’s there in the text, of course, and always has been, but very few productions go that route. Romeo is exiled from his home, his family, his life… and Juliet’s death is just the last straw. Juliet is being forced to marry Paris, traded like a piece of chattel to a man she doesn’t love (not to mention committing a huge sin in the process) and a life she has no control over. Taking her own life is the one thing she can do that gives her control. It’s my favorite interpretation–the only one worth loving, in my opinion–and Stratford did it so beautifully.
It’s hard to choose standouts in such an amazing cast, but Antoine Yared and Sarah Farb as the star-crossed lovers steal the show. Juliet’s short-tempered shrieking gave me flashbacks to my teenage years (I mean… we all did it, right?) and Romeo had an almost Hamlet-like quality with his sensitive brooding. Together, they were adorable. Yeah. I used the word adorable. Fight me. Evan Buliung (yeah, Sky Masterson was in Shakespeare, too) as Mercutio was an especial delight (you know how we love Mercutio here at Nerd Cactus; in fact, we practically judge a production on the strength of the Queen Mab speech), perfect in his hyper-masculinity and exuberance. And given my love of Benvolio (aka Batvolio), I would have been disappointed if the performance wasn’t good, but Jamie Mac was wonderful.
For the record, A preferred Juliet. I, as ever, loved Romeo.
On to The Madwoman of Chaillot.
I can safely say that I will be sending a lot of terrible people into a deep hole for a while. Oh, how it would be amazing if we could just take all the horrible things and send them into a pit from which they will never escape. Rainbows, beautiful flowers, and flying pigeons sound like a wonderful world.
This wins–for me, anyway–the award for the single most charming production of the year. In it, the world is ugly but, through the efforts of the strange and the wonderful, it is made beautiful again. And oh were the strange and the wonderful… wonderful to behold. Like Guys and Dolls, this production was directed by Donne Feore, and… if the day comes that I have a play of mine put on in Stratford, she has my pick. Just saying.
The set and costumes were so colorful and whimsical, so characteristic of the characters and the world as seen by Aurélie, the eponymous madwoman. It’s a play about the Paris of artists and street singers and jugglers, the bright and beautiful, the people who make the world bright and beautiful with their existence. And, ultimately, it’s about those people fighting back against the Presidents and CEOs and oil prospectors who don’t care about beauty or music except as a way to make money. In short, it’s the world all of us wish we could have. And when all these villainous sonsofbitches disappear down a pit never to escape, I know I had my Arya Stark list made up within five minutes.
Seana McKenna as Aurélie is who I want to be when I grow up. Seriously. Without any exaggeration at all, I have officially found my goal in life. But she isn’t the only performer who deserves a shoutout. Scott Wentworth as The Ragman is particularly engrossing, especially when he’s mounting his defense for the wicked during the trial, embodying all the horrible greed and destruction of the capitalists of the world. And Mikaela Davies shouting at the end (Aurélie is pretending to be deaf; it’s very silly) almost made me laugh hard enough to forget her character’s name was Irma, which was… unfortunate given the, you know…
Really. I think I need to get more soup. One can never have enough canned goods during a hurricane.
Maybe I should just get out of town. Probably.
Anyway. Everyone was spectacular. It really is hard to choose. Although I need to commend Antoine Yared for his stint as an unconscious man. A was really impressed by his bodily control. Apparently, she once got thrown over a chair while playing a dead body, so she notices these things. Yup.
Last one! And the award for the most Trump insults/references in the span of five minutes goes to… Tartuffe! (Yes… they even solved the eternal mystery of what a covfefe is. Apparently, it’s a hypocritical religious imposter who tries to sleep with married women. So the original tweet was self-referential.)
You all know how much we love Tom Rooney as a comedic actor. Well, the talent extends to when he’s doing a Russian accent. Which, given our collective amusement at the “New York” accents during Guys and Dolls, was a nice touch. And Mr. Rooney didn’t outclass the entire joint, either; everyone was just so good, it took the the production to new heights of hilarity and entertainment. (A says I jinxed Maev Beaty and made her fall by asking what happens when people trip. I was asking about dance numbers. It wasn’t my fault, I swear. It was scripted, right? Yes? Of course.) In fact, it was my favorite play of the entire year (tied with Guys and Dolls), and the best way to end the trip.
Unlike last year’s The Hypochondriac, this year’s Molière was very modern. The script was updated (with Mariane and Valère yelling at for each to unfollow the other), though it maintained the rhyme scheme, which allowed for ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ to make appearances. (Did I mention how many Trump references there were?) In the end, the King facetimed in while his representative arrested Tartuffe, and French club music blared between scenes. It was, all in all, truly perfect. My only note was that some of the actors fell too easily into the rhythm of the rhyme scheme (you know duh dum duh dum, etc), which made them sound like they were reciting poetry. But considering as the audience got about two seconds of music before they were clapping in time like lemmings, I understand the draw.
As I said, Tom Rooney was absolutely hilarious as Tartuffe, but I actually found Graham Abbey’s Orgon funnier. There’s nothing quite like a big dude hiding under a poof chair while a Russian religious fraud is risrobing to ravish the man’s wife. And the scene with the pillows (oh the scene with the pillows), where Tartuffe is castigating himself while simultaneously passing pillows to Orgon, who then threw them at Damis (his son) was a piece of physical perfection. Maev Beaty’s Elmire trying to simultaneously get Tartuffe to incriminate himself and not actually have to sleep with him was delightful (also, sorry for making you fall). Watching Anusree Roy’s Dorine dancing around as she tried to keep her mouth shut (it was like basically the ‘pee-pee dance’ of being quiet) and bouncing around taunting Tartuffe was a piece of hilarity. And E.B. Smith throwing around terms like bigly and tremendousness was anything but sad (exlamation point). Actually, A and I started cackling about half a beat before everyone else at the ‘sad’ because we both have a habit of calling things sad now (I also do the hand gesture).
It was good to end on such a high note.
OK. I think I’ve written enough. That’s all the shows we saw and all the things we thought about them. With the exception of Bakkhai, we loved everything.
And, as ever, we’ve already tenatively booked with the B&B for next year. I’m already counting down the days!