Thursday, January 9, 2014

Twelfth Night, Mark Rylance, and other thoughts

I saw the production of Twelfth Night with Mark Rylance last week, and enjoyed it immensely. From the moment I entered the Belasco Theater, one of my favorites, the night was a success. The theater, which has a long history, being home to the Group Theater in the 30's, has been beautifully restored. Unfortunately, they are also allowing the audience to bring drinks into the theater. I guess it's a compromise with an audience that is more used to going to movies than theater. However, watching the actors dress and makeup, and Mr Rylance warm up, in particular, is wonderful theater. Fortunately, it continues throughout the play itself. Watching a wonderful actor warm up is a treat, and a lesson in concentration and how they use themselves. Mr Rylance is no exception. My only regret is that he isn't American, as I said that he was in my last blog. He was raised in the US, and his first exposure to theater is here. But, he is English. There is still something particular about his spirit that comes closer to what American acting at its best could be. Imagine if Marlon Brando, or Robert DeNiro had done the work that he has done: Had the dedication to acting that he has. What would they have done with some of Shakespeare's characters?

I want to make it clear that when I write about a play I've seen, it's not my intention to write a review. I could. I know what each artist's contribution to the whole is. But, this blog isn't just about what plays I've seen. So, I want it clear, as those of you who follow this blog know, that I use this blog to write about all kinds of subjects. Because, as Shakespeare said, "All the world's a stage..."

The night we went to the play was the day after the snowstorm, whose name I have already forgotten. There was so much talk about people staying home, because it was dangerous to be outside. that the talk made me check to see whether the show was on, or not. Honestly, while there is a need for caution, the panic created by all the warnings before the storm comes, means that even if the storm doesn't happen, it has already done a lot of damage. Grocery stores were emptied of products, as though it was the end of the world. I am not used to Americans behaving with such fear. It seems Un-American to me. We are a nation of immigrants. And, pioneers. Fear of life is not part of our history. Until now. I find it very sad. I, actually, like storms. I feel normal. For years, I have thought of my inner life as a micro weather system. When I was younger, I'd go jog in Central Park during a snowstorm. It was beautiful. I'd like to be like that now. I should get back in shape.

Several blogs back, I wrote about Waiting for Godot, and Beckett. And, said that Beckett was the most modern writer that theater has. You may wonder why? One has to read the plays to discover that. How can a character talk about a toothbrush, in so few words, and be talking about life? That happens in Happy Days. Beckett is very difficult to read. You have to read the stage directions, or you don't understand what he is doing. For me, reading Beckett is the most difficult of all playwrights. It is so essential, and so poetic. As all great playwrights are poets in disguise. Their words go from the superficial to the profound, reverberating through layers of reality. And, the more modern the playwright, the fewer words are needed. It is what we mean when we say, Modern Theater. For to me, theater is the art of the spoken word. Not to say the word well spoken, but spoken with profoundly simple, human, truth.