Theater Notes for New Yorkers: Looking Forward and Back

My head is in two places right now. One hemisphere is still in New York City living my bustling, art-centric life. The other is slowly getting used to the sound of the waves. But before I left, I picked up the mail one last time, and some residual impulse made me take fliers for two upcoming plays that look amazing.

The first is Present Laughter starring Victor Garber, which follows on the heels of the delightful Noel Coward revival the Roundabout Theater put on earlier, Blithe Spirit. Coward is light and his humor translates to contemporary thought instantly. The second is A View From the Bridge, an Arthur Miller play starring Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johannson at the Cort Theater. I would be very interested to see how Johannson fares on stage.
As you might have noticed, I love the classics. They’re classics for a reason, right? I’ve seen some great classic plays this past Fall in New York. I reviewed the production of Hamlet with Jude Law, and found it adequate, even good, if stringently traditional. I also saw Jude Law’s ex-girlfriend Sienna Miller as Miss Julie in Henrik Ibsen’s classic After Miss Julie. That is a great production that reset Ibsen’s story of class struggle in post-WWII England. The only weakness was, disappointingly, Miller’s acting which seemed to lack range on stage. Her character was high-pitched throughout, without any moments of quiet vulnerability that would make a breakdown more plausible. The set and the rest of the cast was excellent, even if her acting kept the ending from coalescing into a true high point.
I was very lucky to see A Streetcar Named Desire the week before I left. Put on BAM by the Sidney Theater Company, this traditional rendition of Tennesee Williams most famous play rose beyond what you might remember of the Marlon Brando film (though you might remember it to be quite good). I will confess, I admired Cate Blachet, who plays Blanche, unduly before the performance. She lived up to my expectations here, even if her Blanche was more muscular and vivid than I generally give the character credit for. I had wanted to give this excellent production its own review, but by now it’s short New York run is over and it is not so fresh in my mind.
But let me just say that Liv Ullman, the director of this production, introduces this stellar production by describing Tennessee William’s state as he wrote his most famous play:

While writing, he thought he was dying, but kept on writing and the song he listened to through those weeks was The Ink Spot’s ‘If I Didn’t Care.’

The show opens with the tune and it wafts back periodically, at once reminding us of romance, New Orleans, and the Blues. Cate Blanchett, known better for her film roles such as Elizabeth, might be expected to show more strength than one is used to, but I was equally delighted to see how she handled the brittle side of her nature. Blanchett’s voice ought to be commended highly here—she maintained a beautiful Southern accent without overplaying it, all the while conveying the hysteria and desperation of her character. She is the star of the play, but Joel Edgerton as Stanley and Robin McLeavy as Stella are the supports that make her performance possible. They do so with a naturalness that is charming. Edergton contends with the overwhelming memory of Marlon Brando very well—by not competing with him. His cry of “Stella” is broken rather than resounding to the roof. Aside from the one moment, I did not compare the two.
On the homefront, the boyfriend sweet talked the woman at the internet company, and a technician came out to the apartment this morning. We should be up and running soon.

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