The Unbearable Banishment: Po, po pitiful me. (With apologies to Mr. Zevon.)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Po, po pitiful me. (With apologies to Mr. Zevon.)

Self-pity is one of, if not the, least attractive all human traits. As soon as I catch myself wallowing in the throws of it (which is pretty often) I make an effort to grind it down to a fine powder. It’s downright unmanly.

What helped snap me out of my recent funk (although I had good reasons this time) was the theater, which will come as no surprise to regular readers. I am moved by a live performance the same way others are moved by a piece of music or literature or a gourmet meal.

Who in their right mind would sit through a play about a woman dying of cancer? Sounds like an awful night out. But it isn't! When WIT opened off-Broadway in 1999, there was talk of moving it to a Broadway house. But the bean counters decided that nobody would go. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and there have been countless regional productions.

It’s finally about to open on Broadway with Cynthia Nixon. She’s on stage dying of ovarian cancer for the entire 1:45 with no intermission. It was a tough, superb performance and an exceptional piece of writing.

They mess with your emotions by loading the script with heaping helpings of sharp humor. Laughs abound. But they can’t fool me. They only do that for juxtaposition. They get you laughing so that when she’s crying in pain it seems all the more horrific. It’s the oldest trick on the book but it works. There was a lot of weeping in the house.

If anything, I suppose the play can be accused of being highly manipulative. But I dare anyone to not surrender to Nixon’s performance. I can’t imagine the critics saying anything negative about her or her excellent cast mates. (Although, you never know, with those bitter old queens.) In the last scene, in a final act of heroism, Nixon stands in a bright, white spotlight, arms stretched upwards, completely naked. Not that her nakedness was the primary focus of the moment. But I did notice.



Anonymous daisyfae said...

this was staged by an amateur local troupe last fall - to critical acclaim and good box office numbers.

i didn't make it. and regret it. don't think the total nudity at the end happened though, but i'm curious enough to ask around...

January 13, 2012 at 5:11 PM  
Blogger Ellie said...

A show that is manipulative is doing what it set out to do, isn't it? I suppose it's just more unabashed about soliciting the emotional reaction than we like our shows to be?

January 13, 2012 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Daisy: I've been wondering about the nudity thing. I know there have been a TON of local productions but I don't recall hearing about nakedness. I would have seen it sooner.

Ellie: It's great for perspective, that's for sure. Knowing that people actually go through that made me feel like a big whiner.

January 13, 2012 at 5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if this will come to Sydney again. It was on in 2010 but I didn't see it, the cast didn't look very inspiring. Now if Cate Blanchett took it on.....

January 13, 2012 at 7:07 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

nurse: Ohhh... Good call. That'd be great. CB and Hugo Weaving are doing Uncle Vanya here in NY in a few months.

January 13, 2012 at 7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CB and HW doing Uncle Vanya? Cynthia Nixon naked on a stage? You just take this all for granted, don't you? #sigh

January 14, 2012 at 1:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry. That wasn't anonymous. It was me. (PS my word verificatin is titchypo. Seriously. I think the interwebs has a sense of humour).

January 14, 2012 at 5:42 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

dolce: Nay, I have *never* taken NYC for granted. I've always held onto a tourist's sense of wonder even though I've been a resident for many years.

January 14, 2012 at 8:24 AM  
Blogger sukipoet said...

I saw the movie. You know, I too love live theater and find it very moving, though i also find movies that way, yet i seldom attend theater. Hmm. no, that's not self-pity, it's not.

January 14, 2012 at 8:27 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

suki: I had completely forgotten there was a movie adaptation until you mentioned it. I don't suppose Emma Thompson is nude, is she? Does she fein an American accent?

January 14, 2012 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger savannah said...


there are so many things that i miss about living in a big city...

(i think we should have a world wide 1 hour pity party and alljust sit together at the same time and sigh, sugar! i think it would be very helpful for us all) ;~)

January 14, 2012 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger savannah said...

and then, blog about it!

xoxoxox ;~)

January 14, 2012 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger SJF said...

I was utterly and profoundly moved by this production of "Wit" and by Cythina Nixon's performance. I've seen several productions of this play and the subject has a special resonance for me. This was an amazing and moving night of theater.

January 16, 2012 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Sav: Listen, the city has some pretty rotten edges. But I only choose to highlight the pretty surface. I'm a regular Marry Poppins.

Sharon: We've had to sit through some real dogs recently. We earned this production.

January 16, 2012 at 3:16 PM  
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June 14, 2013 at 8:52 PM  

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