The Unbearable Banishment: Very Bad Theater

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Very Bad Theater

What a train wreck. My heart bled for those poor actors. I did something that I can only recall doing on one other occasion; I left the theater at the intermission and kept on walking.

Last night, CB and I saw a production of Ibsen’s The Master Builder at the Irish Rep.

It had a great pedigree and all the signs pointed to a satisfying evening of theater. The Irish Rep is sure-fire. It’s an elegant, intimate off-Broadway venue. Not like one of those crappy, uncomfortable black boxes. The director, Cirán O’Reilly, has directed a TON of really great plays there. It certainly looked more interesting than going home to watch the dreary old debates.

The lead was played by James Naughton, who’s a pretty big deal in the theater community. He’s had some prominent roles on Broadway, including the original Billy Flynn in the revival of Chicago, and some amusing TV paycheck-jobs like The Planet of the Apes (the series) and The Birds II. Ibsen is, well, Ibsen. He wrote Hedda Gabler and An Enemy of the People, for cryin’ out loud! How could it go wrong?

Well, it did. The story seems comically dated. What passed for high drama in 1892 now seems like overwrought melodrama and, in CB’s words, “A cheap soap opera.” The entire cast was stiff. They displayed the same depth and emotion that you would expect to see at the first table read of the script. When intermission came, CB said, “I don’t think I want to stay for the second act,” which was fine by me. It’s still in previews so perhaps they can salvage it by opening night. It’ll be interesting to read the reviews. Ironically, the only other time I can recall walking out on a play was also with CB (and Mrs. Wife), many years ago. It was an off-Broadway production of a Sam Sheppard play starring Vincent d’Onofrio. That was pretty awful, as well.

I always stay for the entire show out of respect for the actors. Can you imagine walking back on stage after the interval, looking out at the house and seeing empty seats that just :10 minutes earlier had patrons in them? Ugh. I’d never get over it.

* * *

CB is just back from his annual business trip to New Zealand. He writes for a fashion trade publication. If there’s a fashion week somewhere on the planet, he’s usually there to cover it. He has somehow managed to achieve B-list celebrity status in the Auckland fashion community. He’s, like, been on TV and stuff. During this most recent trip, while at an evening fête, a college student nervously approached him and said, “Excuse me. Are you CB?” He admitted he was. “Look, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to bother you but, could I please have my picture taken with you? My friends will just die that I got to meet you.”

Oh, brother. Are you kidding me? I’m so jealous. Naturally, he wants to move there. Who wouldn’t?

* * *

R.I.P. Iceland.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, you are friends with someone who is somewhat of a celebrity in another country. That's actually kinda cool.

He should probably only move there if perks were involved.

You go to the theatre a lot. I don't think I could sit still so often. Oh, and I remember James Mc. from Planet of the Apes. It was one of my favorite shows when I was a kid. His brother was the Dr. Pepper guy.

October 16, 2008 at 4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey even I'm a celebrity in new zealand :-)

October 17, 2008 at 8:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leonard Pinth Garnell, wasn't it?

October 23, 2008 at 8:48 PM  

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