On Wednesday Mrs. T and I took the Acela Express to Washington, D.C., picked up a rental car at the train station, and drove to Arlington, Virginia, to see Signature Theatre’s production of Giant, the new Michael John LaChiusa-Sybille Pearson musical version of Edna Ferber’s 1952 novel. My Wall Street Journal review, unlike most of the others that I’ve seen to date, was strongly positive. I think Giant is a show of the first importance, and I wish I’d had time to see it twice, something I almost never get to do.
The next day we strolled from our hotel to the Phillips Collection to see Morandi: Master of Modern Still Life, an exhibition of sixty paintings and etchings to which I’ve been looking forward ever since it was announced last year. (The Phillips, not incidentally, happens to own one of my favorite Morandis, a 1953 still life that is one of the finest pieces in the show, which is up through May 24.) I’ve written a fair amount about Morandi in this space, most recently in connection with the Metropolitan Museum’s 2008 retrospective, a once-in-a-lifetime event that nonetheless disappointed me, not because the paintings weren’t beautiful but because they were presented in a way that I found problematic. Not so the Phillips show, which gets everything right. The size of the show is ideal–large enough to suggest Morandi’s range without blunting your perception of the individual pieces–and though the galleries were fairly full of spectators, everyone was properly quiet and attentive.
Afterward we had dinner at the home of Megan McArdle, who bills herself as “the world’s tallest female econoblogger,” and her boyfriend Peter Suderman, a comparably classy writer. I love to eat out on the road, but it’s always nicer to dine in a friend’s backyard garden, and Megan, in addition to being very tall and very smart, is also a terrific cook, so a good time was had by all.
The four of us then went to the Folger Theatre to see Aaron Posner’s revival of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, a play that is close to my heart. My review hasn’t run yet, so you’ll have to wait to find out what I thought of the production (Peter Marks of the Washington Post gave it a hat-in-the-air rave). Instead, I’ll reprint part of what I wrote about Arcadia when I last saw it performed by Chicago’s Court Theatre two seasons ago:
In theory Arcadia, a highbrow whodunit whose plot charges back and forth between 1809 and the present, ought to be hard to unravel. On stage it plays like a high-speed boulevard comedy heavily salted with wicked punchlines. Yet for all its fizzing fun, Arcadia is also a deeply serious meditation on what it means to live in the shadow of modernity, and the climactic scene, in which a fey child prodigy and her tutor reflect on man’s fate, is hauntingly hopeful: “When we have found all the mysteries and lost all the meaning, we will be alone, on an empty shore.” “Then we will dance. Is this a waltz?”
I wish I’d written that.
(To be continued)
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Here’s a video about “Morandi: Master of Modern Still Life”: