Friday, October 9, 2009
All's Very Well
What a difference a few months can make! In June (the day Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett died, no less) my colleague and all-around pal David and I caught Phedre, the first show in the National Theatre's new initiative to broadcast plays via satellite to move theaters around the world. There were journalists and press agents galore, a reception for VIP patrons (we were not among them) and a line of regular ticket buyer stretching down the block.
Of course, it was that was the project's debut and production starred Helen Mirren, but somehow I expected more fanfare for the second screening, All's Well That Ends Well, even though there were no above-the-title names in the cast (although Clare Higgns and Conleth Hill have been on Broadway and Oliver Ford Davies is a familiar face to PBS junkies like myself).
But the theater (City Cinema 123) was barely half full (or half empty if you're an optimist) for the three- hour screening, and what a shame! It was a visually splendid, thoroughly enchanting production of one of the few (only?) Shakespeare plays in which a woman (Helena) drives the plot. (During the pre-show and intermission coverage director Marianne Elliott and designer Rae Smith explained their fairy tale concept of the show.)
It's certainly worth checking out if you can get to one of the theaters where it's yet to be shown, including the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at NYU tonight. It could be just what's needed to chase away any ghosts left over from Peter Sellars' ill-received Othello.
I also saw that production with the aforementioned David, who said that the way an actor delivered one of play's final lines reminded him of a line delivery from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 classic Teenagers from Outer Space. That's when you know it's time to go home and get some sleep.