Search Results for "wilson"

Jun 27 2011

Robert Wilson’s Brecht: color me skeptical

Published by under Uncategorized

It’s an impressive trailer, for sure.

But I have seen a fair amount of Robert Wilson’s work: Black Rider, Time Machine, Alice in Bed, Dr Faustus Lights the Lights and Hamlet, are the ones I can recall off the top of my head. I have watched Wilson conduct rehearsals for Alice in Bed and for a production of Madame Butterfly at the Paris Opera. They are always visually impressive, although you are left with a distinct sense that he does have a formula that he applies: a cyc lit up with a carefully chosen, very saturated color, and some geometric, minimal set pieces. Add slow motion and actors’ bodies making baroque shapes, and you got the quintessence of Wilsonism.

I don’t see him delivering on the earthy humor, sensuality and vitality that runs through Brecht’s writing. Maybe the Berliner Ensemble will be bringing that to the table, maybe not. But I sort of think that even if they did bring it to the table, he might quash it. I imagine this production will make it’s way to LA one day, and perhaps I’ll be proven wrong.

A Brecht character says in one play: “I love people who have miscalculated.” Wilson calculates all too well, methinks.

Perhaps you’ll be getting a taste of what my Brecht is like as well, at some point not too far in the future. Stay tuned.

Comments Off on Robert Wilson’s Brecht: color me skeptical

Apr 17 2014

Duchess Revivals

Published by under Uncategorized

BOSOLA. What would I do, were this to do again? (4.2.26)

The Duchess of Malfi was an instant hit with London audiences. The King’s Men (Shakespeare’s theatre company) debuted the play at their indoor theatre, the Blackfriars. The play quickly became part of their stock, frequently revived both at Blackfriars and at the Globe. The Civil War saw the general closing of the theatres, but the play was revived with the Restoration of Charles II. The play still resonated with the theatre-loving Cavaliers that made up Charles’s court, and it proved popular in the 1660s and 70s. By the late seventeenth century, companies had started liberally to adapt the play to align better with “modern” sensibilities. The eighteenth century never saw the play professionally revived with its original script, and even its literary offspring, adaptations such as The Fatal Secret, suffered decreasing popularity.

Samuel Phelps at Sadler’s Wells brought the play back in the mid-nineteenth century, its enormous success demonstrating that the piece could still be commercially viable. The production participated in an ongoing trend for “authentic” revivals of Shakespeare and his peers, but the scripts were still heavily altered. In 1892, William Poehl and the Independent Theatre Society delivered a production that adhered much more closely to the original script, but even this was bowdlerized, many of the play’s most shocking moments taking place offstage. The Duchess was seen as simply too much for the modern stage. The full text only found its niche in the ‘Little Theatre’ movement, the early twentieth-century development of an art theatre separate from the commercial West End. These amateur and semi-professional productions opened to mixed reviews; even as critics celebrated Webster’s poetry for its continued relevance, they saw the play’s staging conventions as grotesque and rooted in an irretrievable historical moment.

The landmark production of the twentieth century came when George Rylands directed Peggy Ashcroft and John Gielgud at the Haymarket Theatre in 1945. As Edmund Wilson suggests in his “Notes on London at the End of the War,” much of the play’s success arose from a sense that it spoke feelingly to a community reeling from its confrontation with man’s inhumanity:

“And they somehow get the emotion of wartime into…The Duchess: the speeding up of crime and horror, the cumulative obsession with grievance and revenge…One sees… in The Duchess of Malfi, the scene where her doom is announced to the Duchess amidst the driveling of the liberated madmen, at the moment of the exposé of the German Concentration camps.”

Since 1945, the play has been a staple “classic,” continually revived in both amateur and professional productions.

Peggy Ashcroft as the Duchess (1940s)

— Megan Smith, dramaturg

Comments Off on Duchess Revivals

Nov 30 2011

who could have predicted?

Published by under Uncategorized

Oh, that’s right. I did.

Me, last June, discussing a trailer for Robert Wilson’s production of The Threepenny Opera at the Berliner Ensemble, coming to the Brooklyn Academy of Music:

I don’t see [Robert Wilson] delivering on the earthy humor, sensuality and vitality that runs through Brecht’s writing. Maybe the Berliner Ensemble will be bringing that to the table, maybe not. But I sort of think that even if they did bring it to the table, he might quash it.

Ben Brantley in the New York Times, yesterday, in a review of said production:

This allows for some grimly gorgeous scenic moments, but not for the nose-thumbing vitality that was said to have energized Berlin audiences of the late 1920s. And be warned: There are longueurs, especially in the seemingly interminable, two-hour first act

When I’m right, I’m right.

Comments Off on who could have predicted?