Friday, October 22, 2010

Arthur and MacArthur

Earlier this week a Facebook friend announced that "In my head all day, Richard Harris has been whining about a cake." This of course sent me to my iTunes library because I suddenly had to hear his full seven-and-a-half minute rendition of "MacArthur Park," with that wonderful lyric about the the consequences of not writing down the recipe to a favorite pastry. It was actually one of the first MP3s I illegally downloaded from Napster in the day (growing up, we had the 45 single at home). But, I soon realized, the only thing that could possibly be better than listening to him try to sing the words would be watching him put his whole body and soul into the number.

And wouldn't you know, there happens to be a YouTube video of Harris singing "MacArthur Park." Not the whole song, unfortunately, but some nifty clips, along with a report on the how he came to record the song. His ex-wife is even featured as a commentator.

What makes his rendition of the song so great is that he acts-sings it as if it were a musical theater number -- fitting since he played King Arthur in the movie of Camelot and later on the Broadway stage. And wouldn't you know, YouTube also has a clip of Harris performing the title song in an early-'80s revival, which was taped for HBO.

In my family's pre-VCR days I can remember going through our local TV Guide and circling all the times it scheduled to air, so I could watch it again and again. If I watched the whole show again today, I fear my critical response wouldn't be quite so kind, but it's delightful seeing Richard Harris put all he's got into this number. Unfortunately, it's not possible to embed it here, so you'll just have to go to here to watch it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Van Hove Effect

Christopher Evan Welch and Elizabeth Marvel in The Little Foxes.

I'm a relatively new convert to avant-garde downtown theater scene, and when I see shows as captivating as director Ivo van Hove's Little Foxes, I wonder what took me so long. He certainly seems to command the respect and admiration of the actors he works with, including Christopher Evan Welch, who won an Obie for a van Hove-directed Streetcar Named Desire and reunited with him to play Horace in Little Foxes. During our interview, Welch spoke of van Hove with the fervor of a true believer.

And I'd just like to add that I love the trailer that New York Theatre Workshop has assembled for the show. It captures the dark mood and almost creepy Dark Shadows atmosphere of the production.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Plath Plus Film Minus Poetry

Elisabeth Gray in Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath.

Someday I'm going to write a play about a fictional meeting between Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, and see if Charles Busch is available to play Sexton. (If she hadn't committed suicide in her 40s, Elaine Stritch would be a good choice to play her in her later years.) Sexton may not have been as great a poet as Plath, but she was a volatile drunk and mother who had an affair with the shrink treating her for depression, and I think her she'd be a great subject for a bioplay.

Which brings me to my review of Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath, a new Off-Broadway play that arrives in New York via the Edinburgh Fringe. The funny and subversive production has a lot going for it -- a capable star and nicely integrated film clips -- but her life unfolds as if it were a Lifetime movie (minus the happy ending).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wonderful Will

Playwright Will Eno

Among the fun things I've gotten to do in recent weeks is interview the wonderful Will Eno, whose new play, Middletown, which arrives Off-Broadway at the Vineyard next week, is very good. If The New York Times called him "a Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation" for Thom Pain (based on nothing), I think this show will make him a rock star.

I haven't stepped on the amateur stage in years, but reading his work makes me want to come out of retirement. The language is so sublime, his sentences are poetic and beautiful, yet they seem almost ordinary and effortlessly constructed. Somehow you feel the urge to say them as you read them. Sample (from Middletown): "You get the mail, it's a clothes catalog. Maybe you leaf through it, maybe think, 'Hey, I could buy those pants.' Then you think, 'But then it'd just be me, again, in a different pair of pants.' "