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May 26th, 2010

Russians and Frenchmen and Dancers, Oh, My!

This is a brief twofer, because (as everybody who has been following my whingeing knows), I'm UNDER DEADLINE and it's COMING FOR ME!

OK, I got that out of my system.

Because we get the bends if we don't go to the theatre from time to time, and because The Forest was probably leaving town before too long, and because the New York City ballet almost never shows up on TDF, I dragged myself away from the endlessly fascinating contemplation of my navel novel to accompany Ellen to the Classic Theatre Company's production of Alexander Nikoyaevich Ostrovsky's The Forest (on Wednesday) and a program of shortish ballets (Saturday).

Long story short:  The ballet was prime.  The Forest was an interesting historical artifact.

The Classic Stage Company does fascinating work.  That's where we saw our beloved Venus in Fur and the Heywood/Shakespeare mashup of Age of IronThe Forest was similarly well-staged and thought-out, but I didn't like the play all that much, and some of the directing choices were puzzling.  Why, oh, why did the Comic Old Serf Karp have to sound like a comic half-wit?  And why did the excellent Dianne Wiest, as the miserly and hypocritical Madame Raisa, have the body-language of a girl half her age?  I know she's supposed to be in love with a man in his 20's, but give the poor woman a little dignity, why couldn't you?  It was bad enough to have her wandering around clutching her money box to her bosom all the time without having her sit on tables kicking her legs and simpering.  John Douglas Thompson as her bad-boy nephew Gennady was lots of fun to watch chewing the scenery.  And his comic sidekick Arkady, played by Tony Torn, was wonderful.  But the play itself was kind of sub-Chekovian parody, which I probably would have enjoyed a lot more if I'd been familiar with the classic Russian melodrama it was so clearly sending up. 

The program at the City Ballet was Symphony in Three Movements by Stravinsky and Balanchine, Fancy Free by Bernstein and Robbins, and a newly commissioned piece called Why am I not where you are, with music by Thierry Escaich and choreography by Benjamin Millepied (which is a great name for a dancer/choreographer, btw).  The Balanchine was clean, abstract, complicated, and oddly playful.  The Robbins was good, old-fashioned American whimsy.  The new piece was gorgeous, quirky, and All About the Clothes--very French.  TDF coughed up stellar seats, five rows back and not very far to the side.  Ellen chatted during one intermission with a couple from LA, in town for their biannual New York Theatre Jaunt.  During the other, we shared a glass of champagne and watched the new Lincoln Plaza fountain go through its complexly choreographed water ballet.  It was a lovely, lovely evening.


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