Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Stuff Happens

I saw it happen yesterday at the Public Theater. It wasn't as exciting as Ben Brantley said but it was highly riveting. A mostly excellent cast in an extremely well directed production (by Daniel Sullivan) of what can only be described as preaching to the choir deluxe. I agree with the drama critic of New York Magazine that the play in the end does not add up to that much. I expected something more Shakesperean, less preachy. I expected more substance to the characters, particularly to the Colin Powell one, because according to Mr. Brantley, who saw the London production, in the one here it was almost like watching some kind of Shakesperean tragic hero. Not quite. Peter Francis James, who plays Colin Powell, has the voice and the looks and it's not entirely his fault that he plays a man whose power and stature diminish as the play progresses, until he's almost a zero. We never understand why he agrees to such tremendous humiliation. In fact we never understand why the meanies (Wolfie, Rummy, Cheney) are as they are. We all know the drill in reality: oil money, private interests, conservatism, the arrogance of power. But if a playwright chooses to make them into dramatic figures, I would hope he would imbue them with more humanity, whether noble or despicable, beyond his political outrage. A playwright as prestigious as Mr. Hare has the opportunity to delve into their characters, to suppose, to imagine their fears and fantasies, and this he does very little of. I know it's a stretch, and Hare is constrained by the fact that these guys are all alive right now, blundering about as we speak, but Shakespeare created characters out of real historical figures that were probably more interesting on stage than in real life. Perhaps Hare thinks these people do not deserve the honor. It doesn't help the play that they are so one-dimensional. Not surprisingly, the only one who seems to have more emotional meat to his part is Tony Blair, excellently played by Byron Jennings. Jay O Saunders channels Bush quite well without resorting to outright caricature (a tall order given that the guy IS a joke). Jeffrey De Munn is excellent as Rummy, but his part is wasted and so is Cheney's. Someone like Powell, like Condi, it could be quite interesting to try to fathom them dramatically speaking. But the play works better as a condensed version of events, that seen like that, feel painfully avoidable now.

No comments:

Post a Comment