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July 08, 2009


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I think I know the answer to the question I'm about to ask, but did you see 2002's movie adaptation? Probably not, but there's no harm in... BONG!!!... owww(darn frying pan)... asking.

As for tragedy tonight, until then, how about comedy tonight?

You know, I can watch things that are not that good if the costumes are fabulous. that's the only reason I have a DVD of The Fifth Element.

Marilee... That's pretty much the reason why I own the DVD of 1997's Wild Wild West.

This really was a good production, folks. But farces do not hold up well to repeated viewings. The humor works better when it's unexpected. This is why I will (for example) never again go to see Noises Off. It worked fabulously for me...once. Second time, it was a disaster. And once you're at the point where you can mouth the best lines along with the actors, it just doesn't work. I only did that once at this performance (the infamous over-dressed/over-educated line, which is a personal favorite of mine), but I remembered the plot so well that I had a lot of time to nit-pick details. For someone not as familiar with the show, it would be much less of a problem. I went mostly to see Bedford's Lady Bracknell, and was not at all disappointed.

No, of course I didn't see the movie adaptation. Why see a movie when I can see it live?

Susan... Why see a movie when I can see it live?

Maybe to compare their interpretation to those you are familiar with. That being said, I didn't like the movie version much, in spite of Rupert Everett being in it. I much prefered him in the other Wilde-inspired movie, The Ideal Husband.

Comedy was the night before; Wednesday was "tragedy tomorrow" day. But yes, that's the reference I was making. Good catch. That's also a good example of why I wouldn't bother with a movie when there's theater to be had. What a sad, drab, static version of that song! Why are they all just standing there? It looks like they may have made the dire mistake of trying to make it realistic-looking.

Here is Nathan Lane and the B'way cast from about 10-12 years ago on what I think is a late-night evening show doing the show-opening version of the song.

And just for the heck of it -- Serge shouldn't get all the fun of free-associating Youtube links -- here is a different cast doing the same song on a different evening show in 1976. Not remotely sad, drab, or static.

Yeah, that's much better than the clip Serge linked to. Forum is really a cartoon. Realism is fatal.

This is one of those cases where I really have to disagree. Those other clips are funny, but the one I posted is perfect, in the context of the movie. Most of the film's pace is best described as souped-up frantic, with, not long before the finale, a chariot chase around the Roman countryside that would belong in a Buster Keaton movie, and yes that IS Buster as the old man in the final moment. Thus, it felt right for them to just stand there.

I admire much about the movie of FORUM, but I laughed harder at a college production I saw in the 70s with Gil Christner (who did local radio ads and such for a while before moving to California and having somewhat of a career there) as Hysterium.

Similarly, my favorite EARNEST was a reading given at CNU not long before we moved from Virginia, with my favorite director, George Hillow, taking the cake as Lady B. Coincidentally, the last thing he directed me in on stage (there was one reader's theater bit after that) was "Where's Charley?", where I attempted to seduce a man who was dressed as a woman. For the big comedy scene, George had the prop department cobble together a pouffe -- a circular sofa -- which was able to revolve. I could begin to describe the gags we got out of that, all directly due to that singular inspiration. Once the thing started going around, the audience was in stitches. When the wheels broke, it was even funnier. We could not lose.

Is there a grand traditional of male Lady Bracknells that I had somehow failed to be aware of, or do you two just happen to both know odd actor-directors?

It's a good question, and I don't know the answer. It was, as I say, a reading, with the cast in street clothes. George was dressed in his usual casual garb, bearded and bald. His delivery slew everyone. My pictures, unfortunately, were taken from a distance in ambient light and serve mainly to ignite my memories of the performance.

There is something of a tradition of it at Stratford, where the late, great William Hutt played the role several times. That must have been amusing to see, since he was quite tall.

I don't think it's just Stratford, but can't cite any other examples right off the top of my head.

This is one of those cases where I really have to disagree. Those other clips are funny, but the one I posted is perfect, in the context of the movie. Most of the film's pace is best described as souped-up frantic, with, not long before the finale, a chariot chase around the Roman countryside

Ah, I see. They broke the show, which was specifically designed to adhere to the classical unities, starting with unity of place (all the action taking place in a single, unchanging location, which does not allow for chariot chases around the countryside), that being part of the elaborate intellectual joke of the show that probably goes over most people's heads, and therefore had to further break the ending to make up for it. So that ending is like a crutch.

Um, okay.

I can't really see even a good crutch (and that clip does not convince me that it's any good) as being superior to simply not breaking the show in the first place.

Susan... Movies based on plays seldom stick to the original's single set because, I think, the whole thing feels static and the audience feels cheated. "12 Angry Men" was all set in a single room and had more action in that one room than the latest mega-blockbuster. Even then though, it had a brief intro in the court room, and the wrapup just outside the Hall of Justice.

To take another example of how theater and movies are a different experience... I've never seen Thorton Wilder's Our Town on stage, but I did see the 1940 movie. Wilder was involved in scripting the movie, but they had him change one very important thing at the end. He agreed to it because, in this case, the camera gave so much immediacy to what was happening that, had they stuck to the stage's original version, the ending would have been absolutely crushing.

I'm aware that movies can't manage things that work well on stage, but when the goal of a show is to make an extended, complex musical joke about classical Roman theater, and you take that joke away, you're left with nothing more than a piece of sexist, stereotyped silliness.

Susan... True. Still, I wasn't aware of the stage version's point being a joke on classical Roman theater, so I took it as a spoof of the kind of plots found in comedies by the likes of Molière, about the family's servant conniving for his own purposes while helping his young master. (My understanding is that Molière was a frustrated drama author. That's what he wanted to write, but the public wanted him to make them laugh. There was a French miniseries about him in the 1970s, titled "Molière: pour rire et pour pleurer", or "Molière: For Laughing and For Crying".)

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