Whoops! OGIC just reminded me that I forgot to post the Friday teaser for my Wall Street Journal drama column. So here goes: I wrote in this morning’s Journal about my recent visit to Chicago,where I saw Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Rose Rage, a five-and-a-half-hour-long adaptation by Edward Hall of all three parts of Shakespeare’s Henry VI, and the Steppenwolf Theater Company’s production of Man From Nebraska, a new play by Tracy Letts.
Rose Rage I liked, with some qualifications:
Of course there’s more to “Henry VI” than this–four hours more, to be exact–but Mr. Hall’s own ruthless cutting of the original text, combined with the cartoony conceptualism of his production style, stuffs Shakespeare into a straitjacket. At first I found the results tricky and exasperating, but theater is an empirical art whose practitioners make their own rules, and well before the dinner break arrived, I realized that I had gotten completely caught up in the ferocious sweep of “Rose Rage.” Mr. Hall may suffer from tunnel vision, but at least his tunnel goes someplace interesting: The comic scenes bristle with vitality, the battles are angry and clamorous, and when the long evening is finally over, you’ll find it hard to shake off the dark spell cast by this sometimes over-clever but nonetheless thrilling show….
Man From Nebraska I loathed:
Ken Carpenter (Rick Snyder), a Baptist family man from Lincoln, Neb., awakes one morning to find he has lost his faith. He thereupon embarks on a pilgrimage to London, where he falls in with Tamyra (Karen Aldridge), an arty bartender, and Harry (Michael Shannon), a mediocre sculptor. These enlightened folk introduce the benighted Ken to the Religion of Art, and he returns to Lincoln a fully fledged member of the herd of independent minds, there to renounce fundamentalism, fast food and small-town narrowness. Such smug little exercises in cross-cultural condescension are par for the course in the capital of Blue America, but I wasn’t expecting to stumble across one in the City of the Big Shoulders. I guess there’s no hate like self-hate: Mr. Letts, a member of the Steppenwolf ensemble, was born and raised in Oklahoma….
No link, hell and death, so to read the whole thing, march to your friendly neighborhood newsstand, lay down one cold hard dollar, buy a Friday Journal, turn to the “Weekend Journal” section, and feast yourself on all sorts of other good stuff (including the book review that supplied me with today’s almanac entry).