Monday, November 11, 2013

Shakespeare without feeling at St. Ann's Warehouse Nov.9, 2013

I have neglected this blog for too long. And, hope that I won't, again. Sometimes, I feel that I have too much to say. And, feel overwhelmed and lose focus on what is important in the moment. The other night I went to see the final performance of a well received an all-female production of Julius Caesar at St. Ann's Warehouse in New York. I like this theater, which focuses on many imported productions, and productions that have an unusual perspective. I always admire the English, regardless of whether I like what they do, because their energy, commitment, and skill is admirable and professional. This production was a version of Shakespeare's play, set in a prison. I often like the initial images of English productions. Though, I often feel that they never follow through on the promise of their beginning. This was true this time, too. So much of what was said and done seemed disconnected from the text. And, more specifically, the context of the character's lives. It is well presented, but without one iota of feeling. For years I have said that one can go to any National Theater in the world, and hear actors screaming. And that, whenever you do, you know that they have no idea of what they are saying or doing. Lots of excited movement and action, without any sense. Forget reality. Except for moments with Harriet Walter,  a very good actress who plays Brutus. She speaks well and clearly, with a human voice, not an actors voice. She makes sense out of her text, as opposed to the rest, who tend to recite their lines. Though, with a lot of energy. But, general energy is no substitute for real feeling. Despite my criticism, I would tell people to see it, as it is a very professional evening. I just prefer theater that has a little more feeling and reality, where I am moved and educated by the production revealing something about how human beings behave. To me, that is the least to expect from any production of a Shakespeare play.

I think it is my generations failure, speaking of American acting, not to have carried on the artistic movement that comes from the Group Theater and the Actors Studio, into classical plays. I have seen glimpses of work that I would call a truly American way of interpreting Shakespeare, with a deeply personal involvement and physical life that is one of the qualities that define the best of American acting. That we haven't done this is why I recommend seeing productions like this one. So, that one can dream of what else is possible.