The Unbearable Banishment: Cover your eyes! Oh, the humanity!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cover your eyes! Oh, the humanity!

I’m just a traditional guy with traditional tastes. I don’t mind a bit of experimentation now and then but when you do THIS to Shakespeare, I have to take exception. I saw the now mercifully closed Peter Sellers production of Othello with Philip Seymour Hoffman.

In it:
  • The actors spoke Shakespearean dialog into cell phones. Sometimes, while standing right next to one another. You know how I feel about cell phones.
  • Iago wore street clothes. He had a green shirt because he was, you know, jealous.
  • It was FOUR HOURS LONG with only one :15 minute intermission, which is completely unnecessary for that play.
  • A lot of action took place on a bed made of TVs. And some folding chairs.

  • Montano, a soldier of Cyprus, was played by a woman. In the barroom brawl scene, Othello’s Lieutenant, Cassio, doesn’t beat her up. That would be adhering to the original text. Instead, he graphically rapes Montano on the TV bed.
Philip Seymour Hoffman had a few scenes of utter brilliance but the rest of the cast was just burned out and didn’t connect with the characters at all. Maybe I’m just superficially swayed by celebrity. Probably.

A friend described Othello as an oaf who allows himself to be easily fooled by a henchman. It’s his least favorite Shakespeare play. It’s a pretty accurate assessment so that kind of ruined it as well.

I have tickets to see Jude Law in Hamlet. He'd better not fuck it up or I'm through with The Bard. I can't take another evening like that. It'll kill me.



Blogger Sid said...

A love scene on TVs? Really? I get that they're trying to modernize the play but who in real life has sex on TVs?

October 8, 2009 at 2:01 AM  
OpenID daisyfae said...

you stayed for the entire production? i'm not sure i could have... would have been hard not to laugh/cry/scream on the way out the door...

October 8, 2009 at 6:28 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Sid: Initially, I thought it might be a clever contrivance, but they never really did anything with the images being projected. It turned out to be a distraction.

Daisy: Half the audience cleared out at intermission. I read that that was the case at most of the performances. A+ for effort. D- for results.

October 8, 2009 at 8:01 AM  
OpenID tomeoftheunknownblogger said...

It's not the Bard, per se. It's the attempt at modern interpretation blended with the need to convey a modern times "message".

The use of many video screens in the set is, undoubtedly, meant to be a statement of some sort. Although I'm not sure what, other than the damned things are ubiquitous.

October 8, 2009 at 9:05 AM  
OpenID anniegirl1138 said...

I don't understand the need to translate Shakespeare so literally for the modern era. His themes are timeless and recognizable.

Othello is not my favorite because it does seem as though he is a delibrately tragic hero. There is no point at which he can save himself because Shakespeare boxed him in tightly.

I have read that Law's Hamlet is good. Is it the long or short version?

October 8, 2009 at 4:49 PM  
Blogger Tennyson ee Hemingway said...

FOUR HOURS LONG? I mean, I love the theatre but, seriously?

October 8, 2009 at 9:45 PM  
Blogger mut_nugget said...

Im not much for plays anyway...but post modern or semi-post modern or kinda modern-ish stuff is just way over my head.

I'd rather stay home and kill brain cells with TV. Cheaper, and will probably accomplish the same thing.

October 11, 2009 at 3:12 AM  

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