Friday, June 27, 2008

Broadway Review

Of the three plays I saw this week, Thurgood was the most engaging. Which is surprising: it's a one-man show and essentially a history lesson of the legal efforts of black Americans to end segregation, but the writing, direction, and compelling performance by Laurence Fishburn kept us on the edge of our seats. We laughed; we cried; we applauded supreme court decisions. For me, it was the perfect theater experience: interesting, memorable and very entertaining.

The Country Girl
This play, starring Morgan Freeman, Frances McDormand and Peter Gallagher, got very iffy reviews. In particular, reviewers thought the text was too slight and there was no chemistry between Freeman and McDormand (husband and wife in the play). I disagreed: the play is delightful, with snappy 50s repartee and a really insightful look into a dysfunctional marriage. I think the strange chemistry in the relationship was a deliberate invention of director Mike Nichol (and some reviewers assumed that the play should be just like the 1954 movie version of the play). The only kiss in this version was an extramarital smooch between McDormand and Gallagher. When McDormand and Freeman embrace, it's just a hug. They're very much the old couple whose fire has gone out. That makes a lot of sense as the onion is unpeeled and their core problems are exposed.

Still, it didn't completely work for me, and the problem was the casting of Morgan Freeman. He looked so much older than the other two, and he played the character as almost totally powerless: I didn't believe that he was the charismatic actor that his character was supposed to be, and without that they all just seemed a little too much like losers.

Boeing Boeing
Of my three forays onto Broadway this week, this was the most disappointing for me. It was very good. Mark Rylance definitely stole the show. Christine Baranski, Kathryn Hahn, Gina Gershon and Mary McCormack were all very good. (Kathryn Hahn, who plays a mousy counsellor on TV's Crossing Jordan, is here a wild American bombshell and very funny.)

Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for a sex comedy. Bradley Whitford did all the right stuff, and a lot of surprising physical comedy (including the splits), but his character just didn't work for me - he wasn't up to the same level as the rest of the cast.


No comments: