Friday again, and time for my Wall Street Journal drama-column teaser (posted by the grace of Our Girl–I’m down in Alabama, sans computer). Allow me, if you will, to dangle in front of your nose tantalizingly brief excerpts from my reviews of three shows.
First, Alan Ayckbourn’s Private Fears in Public Places, now playing at 59E59 Theaters:
Mr. Ayckbourn’s entry in the “Brits Off Broadway” festival currently underway at 59E59 Theaters is a more or less typical piece of Ayckbournian plot-juggling in which the lives of six lonely Londoners are made to intersect in a variety of unpredictable ways, some funny and others desperately sad. I can’t come any closer to describing the effect of “Private Fears in Public Places” than to say that it suggests Terence Rattigan revised by David Ives. Written in 54 crisp scenes (some of them wordless) and acted on a small stage divided into five playing areas, it moves with whirligig speed, glittering craftsmanship and an exhilarating dash of craziness…
Second, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Euripides’ Hecuba, playing through Sunday at Brooklyn’s BAM Opera House:
Tony Harrison, the translator, decided that Euripides’ ever-modern Trojan War tale of slavery and vengeance was in need of updating. I bet you can see the punch line coming: He’s set the whole thing in Iraq, jerking around the original Greek in order to make it more “relevant.” (Among other overbearingly vulgar touches, he’s rendered “the army of Hellas” as “the coalition force.”) The set consists of five tiers of olive-drab American-style tents, the enslaved Trojan women are dressed in Muslim-style garb and sing Arabic-style chants, the sound effects…oh, the hell with it.
Last but not least, Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan, now playing at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C.:
If the actors would tighten up the screws a half-turn and knock five minutes off the running time, I wouldn’t have a single nit to pick. Dixie Carter is devastatingly sexy as Mrs. Erlynne, the Lady in Red whose deep, dark secret sets the plot in motion, and everyone else in the almost-all-American cast supports her with the utmost aplomb, flinging epigrams into the breeze like lit firecrackers….
Guess what? The Journal has posted a free link to this week’s column! It’s an experiment–the powers-that-be have decided to try making selected drama columns available from time to time and see what happens. To read the whole thing on line, go to the Online Journal’s Today’s Free Features page and click on the appropriate link (it’ll be obvious).
As always, you’re welcome to pick up a copy of today’s Journal at your corner newsstand, or go here to subscribe to the Online Journal. You’ll be glad you did.
UPDATE: Here’s a permalink to my review.