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Entries in Shakespeare (18)

Thursday
Aug142014

Stage Door: "King Lear" in the Park

Shakespeare in the Park shutters for another year this Sunday August 17th, so you only have a couple more chances to see King Lear. I can't claim that King Lear is one of my favorite plays and as far as interpretations of it go, nobody is ever going to beat Akira Kurosawa's Ran (1985), you know?

The Bening and John Lithgow star in "King Lear" in Central Park

John Lithgow headlines and is quite strong as the rapidly declining hot-tempered looneytunes King who stupidly gives everything away to his two eldest daughters (Annette Bening and Jessica Hecht) while shunning the youngest who truly loves him. Lithgow is having a good year; I urge all of you to see his excellent work in Love is Strange when it opens later this month. I had entirely forgotten about the B story in King Lear which is like a reflection of the A story, in which another father is (literally) blinded when it comes to his sons. I didn't fully love this production where much of it was good but few things excellent. Oddly, I was most drawn to the actors I was least familiar with like Jessica Collins as Cordelia, Eric Sheffer Stevens as Edmund, and Steven Boyer as Fool. Most disappointing for me was The Bening. You know that she is my beloved but her lines were spoken without a lot of discernable emotional content (one review claimed "learned phonetically" which I thought was terribly mean but it's not her finest hour). She does memorably fire up in the final act once her loins are ah stirred by the bastard troublemaker Edmund. 

I love the tradition of Shakespeare in the Park but I wish they would go back to the time when they did more non-Shakespeare things in this summer event series like Mother Courage and Hair and Into the Woods and whatnot. This summer they only did the Bard. You know what play would be excellent to see outdoors? Tennessee Williams' Night of the Iguana.

WHAT OTHER PLAYS DO YOU THINK WOULD BE GREAT IN AN OUTDOOR SETTING?

P.S. What about Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert in The Maids?

You're probably wondering why I haven't written about "The Maids" starring Huppert, Blanchett and rising actress Elizabeth Debicki (remember that wonderful first impression she made in The Great Gatsby?) and that's because I didn't get tickets. Above my price range but Shakespeare in the Park is free which is definitely within my price range! Here's a collection of reviews to read if you're interested. I've talked to two friends who've seen it and they both felt exactly the same: Debicki was best in show. How's that for a surprise... and a career-maker, at least on stage.

Friday
May162014

Lukewarm Off Presses: Danish Girls, True Americans, Murderous Scots

Three stories we didn't get around to posting about this past week or so when they were newer. Giving them but one sentence each in a link roundup seemed somehow inadequate. 

01 MACBETH POSTERS
Do we love these posters because they're good designs or merely because we love Fassy & Marion?  The internet doesn't know the difference. But those faces are mesmerizing onscreen and the opportunities to see these two play-act the violent ambitious Scotsman and his manipulative Lady (who seems to be sporting Princess Leia buns) are the draw. Is it just me or does this Michael pictured almost look like a Shannon rather than a Fassbender? Maybe it's the haircut and the camera angle. [True Confession: whenever I see a male actor with war-paint on, I shudder, fearing worldwide bloodlust adulation of Braveheart style machismo rather than any sort of interest connection to the drama or themes to come. Love of violent men seems ever insatiable.]

02 TRUE AMERICAN 
Speaking of machismo, Kathryn Bigelow's latest violent testosterone fueled drama will be based on the non-fiction book "True American: Murder & Mercy in Texas." Tom Hardy headlines as Mark Stroman, a man who attempts to kill three immigrant after 9/11 and the other Raisuddin Bhuiyan, a former Bangladesh Air Force officer, his only surviving victim, who wants to visit Stroman on Death Row. No word yet on who plays Bhuiyan but it's a big potentially Oscar friendly role so expect everyone to pretend whoever plays him is supporting for Oscar purposes ;) 

03 THE DANISH GIRL 
This movie, based on the novel by David Ebershoff which was itself inspired by the true story of Danish painter Einar Wegener (who would later become Lili... predating the famous sex change procedure of Christine Jorgensen) and his relationship to his wife through the transition was once going to be headlined by not one but two huge female movie stars (Theron & Kidman). The project vanished from the "upcoming film" conversation a couple of years ago. It's baaa-aaack. Only this time it's a rising male star who is headlining, charismatic ginger Eddie Redmayne.

 

 

But here's the problem. In the intervening years there has been an inarguable rise in consciousness about transgender issues and the trans community has gotten a lot more politically brave and some might say strident. Note, if you will, all the criticisms LGBT champion RuPaul has received for his continued enjoyment of words like tranny and she-male that other LGBT citizens would like to give up. There was a lot of anger about Hollywood going with a straight male actor (Jared Leto) for a trans role last year (Dallas Buyers Club) when there are actual trans actors around. I've never liked to hem actors in this way -- actors, by their very craft and nature, are not meant to only play what they are --  so Jared Leto had a point when he said as much. The problem with his point is that it isn't the strict truth. Hollywood doesn't cast people like him for such distinct roles because they're "the right person for the job" but because they're a name and Hollywood is risk averse. It's the same reason they used to not let black actors play black characters (think Showboat) fearing loss of revenue and the same reason they keep white washing Asian roles when the time comes to cast them. But with the somewhat steady rise in actual trans celebrity (Alexis Arquette, Chaz Bono, Candis Cayne, etcetera) and the recent rise of gifted actress Laverne Cox on Orange is the New Black (a trans woman playing a trans woman, and beautifully which is the important point when it comes to acting) it has started to seem a little suspect that very few trans roles go to trans actors.

Like Leto, I don't like to see actors pinned down into one kind of character, but if more people were cast true to their ethnicity, sexuality, abilities, and gender identification, I think people would probably be okay with it when an actor played something so removed from him or herself. If there was more balance "being right for it" wouldn't sound like a copout and might actually be accepted as the truth.

Redmayne is a fine actor but expect this noise to continue and get very loud WHEN the media calls him "brave" for playing it (they're such suckers for that word which is seemingly always used offensively, as if to imply the actor is slumming by playing someone "gay" or "trans" or "disabled" or whatnot) and IF he starts winning prizes for it.

Wednesday
Apr232014

Tribeca: Spacey, Shakespeare, and Sightseeing

Tribeca Film Festival Coverage continues. Here's abstew on a Kevin Spacey doc

"That's why the film is called 'Now', it's not just the first word spoken at the beginning of the play, but it was meant to evoke that immediacy of live theatre. It's happening right now, in front of you," director Jeremy Whelehan said to a packed audience at the world premiere of his documentary film Now: In the Wings on a World Stage.

The film chronicles The Bridge Project, a transatlantic theatre company that was a collaboration of the British Old Vic (which for the past 10 years has had two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey at the helm as Artistic Director) and New York's BAM, and the last production the company performed, Richard III. The documentary (which Spacey also produced) goes behind the scenes of director Sam Mendes' production of the Shakespeare work about the deformed, power-hungry king and the year long, globe-spanning journey of its company of players. Spacey and the entire cast were on hand to introduce the film and stayed afterward for a discussion moderated by legendary anchorman Charlie Rose. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Friday
Apr042014

Heath Ledger: A Celebration

Here's abstew with a tribute to an actor we lost too soon.

Today, April 4th, 2014, would have been Oscar winner Heath Ledger's 35th Birthday. Tragically, the talented young actor's career was all too brief. (It's crazy to think that 2 of the 5 Best Actor nominees from 2005 are no longer with us.) But let's not dwell on the sadness, but celebrate the life and work of this amazing Aussie.

This past week marked the 15th anniversary of the film that brought Heath to movie-goers' attention, 10 Things I Hate About You. (No, the Fox show Roar does not count as his breakthrough. Even though it co-starred TV's Felicity and I do actually remember watching it.) 

At the time, 10 Things seemed like just another late 90s teen movie based on a Shakespeare play. (You'd be surprised how much that was a thing back then. And they all starred Julia Stiles.) But there was something about Heath's charismatic turn in the film that made you just know he was destined for better things. (It would take us a little longer to realize this about co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt.) Perhaps because Heath, even while playing a teenager, seemed to already be a leading man, carrying a maturity and a masculinity rarely found in one so young. 

My favorite scene in the film has to be when Heath serenades Julia Stiles' Kat with a rendition of "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" by Frank Valli, complete with marching band back-up:

Heath had actually auditioned for the part of Christian in Moulin Rouge! but was deemed too young to play Nicole's love interest. Imagine how great he would have been in a movie musical. Perhaps playing one of the princes in the upcoming film version of Into the Woods?

At the time of his death, he had also started to explore different aspects of his artistic career, directing some music videos and expressing a wish to do a documentary about singer Nick Drake. Having already worked with such great directors as Ang Lee, Todd Haynes, and Terry Gilliam, I'm sure he learned a thing or two from watching them on set.

What might have been?
What other directors would you have loved to have seen Heath work with? What roles do you think he would have tackled? Let's celebrate Heath in the comments

Tuesday
Mar182014

Linkomaniac Pt. 1

The Daily Beast talks to Uma Thurman about Lars von Trier and gender politics
Five Thirty Eight parses Shakespeare and finds that Romeo & Juliet have a relationship that's not totally based on getting to know one another. Duh!
The Wire reviews Doll & Em, a new miniseries starring Emily Mortimer 

Playbill Katharine McPhee has landed a series lead gig in a CBS show called Scorpion. (I guess they never saw Smash?)
Salon on the eve of the release of Divergent, a reminder that not every YA best-seller aiming for Hunger Games phenom status succeeds: Beautiful Creatures, City of Ember, The Host and more...
The Guardian Brittany Murphy's final film, Something Wicked, is completed four years after her death
Vulture 294 "issues" Glee has addressed in its first 99 episodes
Variety they went really young casting Peter Pan for that self proclaimed "international" and "diverse" Pan film which keeps casting white people in all the roles (so I guess what they mean by diverse is international and all ages). The boy's name is Levi Miller

Today's Long Read
The complete short story "The Birds" which inspired Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 classic and will inspire the remake (argh) which might star Naomi Watts and be directed by Diederik Van Rooijen -- which I keep hoping will be cancelled -- is available online if you've never read it. It's from Daphne du Maurier who Hitchcock obviously liked as she also wrote Rebecca. (Thanks to Sasha for pointing it out.)