My drama column in today’s Wall Street Journal is a tripleheader. First is Primo, Sir Anthony Sher’s one-man stage version of Primo Levi’s Auschwitz memoir:
“Primo” is a very great piece of theater, but the tale, not the teller, is what matters most, and it is to their credit that Sir Anthony and Richard Wilson, his director, have opted for stark simplicity in presenting “If This Is a Man” (originally published in the U.S. as “Survival in Auschwitz”). The set, designed by Hildegard Bechtler, consists of a few concrete walls, a shovelful of gravel and a single wooden chair. Into this cold, bare space walks the bespectacled Sir Anthony, wearing an old cardigan. “It was my good fortune,” he says matter-of-factly, “to be deported to Auschwitz only in 1944…I was 24, with little wisdom, no experience, and a tendency–encouraged by the life of segregation forced on me by the racial laws–to live in an unrealistic world of my own.” Then, without further ado, he flings you into the bowels of hell….
Next up, the Mint Theater’s wonderful revival of The Skin Game:
Despite the TV versions of “The Forsyte Saga,” John Galsworthy is no longer widely remembered in this country as a novelist, much less a playwright, though he used to be world-famous in both capacities (he actually won the 1932 Nobel Prize for literature). None of his 27 plays has been seen on Broadway since 1931. Now the Mint Theater Company, a tiny off-Broadway troupe with a justly admired knack for exhuming what it calls “buried theatrical treasures,” has revived “The Skin Game,” a 1920 melodrama about the limits of upward mobility in England, and it proves to be a rattling good show indeed….
Lastly, Shakespeare in the Park:
After a dismaying string of fair-to-middling Shakespeare in the Park offerings, the Public Theater has brought a winner to its outdoor home, Central Park’s Delacorte Theater. Mark Lamos’s production of “As You Like It” is a summery romp played out on a giant map of the cosmos, with the trees of the park (and Belvedere Castle just beyond) supplying a lovely backdrop for romantic hijinks in the Forest of Arden….
My column for this week is one of the stories in Friday’s Journal that’s being made available on line in its entirety as part of the Journal‘s “Today’s Free Features” Web page. To read the whole thing, of which there’s far more, go here. If you’re a blogger, link away!
As usual, you can also read the column on paper by shelling out a dollar for today’s Journal or (better yet) going here to subscribe to the Online Journal, Web-based journalism’s best deal ever.
UPDATE: The original London production of Primo was telecast and will be released on DVD in the U.S. next month by Kultur. To place an advance order, go here.