Wednesday, January 25, 2012

He's Evil, He's Evil, He's Evil

We're not exactly talking "subtle" here . . .

Oh Richard, you bloated spider, you humpbacked scene-stealer you.  When will you ever be part of a play, and not a star turn?

Sigh. Judging by the production currently running at BAM?  Never.

As with every other Dicky Three-Eyes I have ever seen, with the exception of Olivier's movie, if you take away the lead actor from this Bridge Project production, everything falls apart. If a good play is a mountain range, then this is a single mountain towering over a collection of little hills.  A great mountain, but still a mountain, with nothing to contrast itself against.  A one-man show, in other words. 

The beauty of that? You get to see Kevin Spacey go to town. And it's a great town, complete with incredible physical contortions a la Mark Rylance in Jerusalem.  Who’da thunk that the two most memorable male performances on stage in the last year would be a couple of autumn chickens pretzeling their bodies for our enjoyment?  In Spacey’s case, he really makes himself into a human spider, twisting his leg and using a cane to scuttle-walk back and forth across the stage--and then, delightfully, scuttle-march to the beat of kettle drums.   

The major flaw? Because Spacey’s Richard is so blatantly over-the-top evil, everybody else on stage look blind or brain-damaged--so instead of saying to yourself, “Look what he’s getting away with,” you say, “Why are they letting him get away with this?” Which, when you’re doing a three-hour play, is like riding a roller coaster backwards, slowly but surely bringing you further and further away from the fun and excitement, until you’re so distant from the ride that all you can see is the architecture. Plus your back hurts a lot.  (Thank you, Harvey Theatre seats.) 

There are a couple of brilliant first-half multimedia moments, but sadly these are undercut by the interpretation of Richard as an obvious villain. Even the dumbest politico in America knows that you do NOT show rage or frustration on camera. It may get a “look what he’s doing now” laugh, but it’s a laugh that takes you out of the play. But then there isn’t really a play here. Especially in the second half, where even the comic shadings of the first two hours disappear and Spacey does nothing but give a lesson on how to vary your yells over three octaves and 65 minutes.

For the Shakespearean purists at this blog (cough), director Sam Mendes didn't cut a whole hell of a lot, so for the first time ever I actually got to see a couple of the women scenes that usually never get done when this play gets produced.  And now I know why.  And have to ask myself, "Did that EVER WORK?  Even in 1594? Really?  You had four boy actors who were THAT GOOD in 1594 that you wrote a lo-o-o-o-ong scene for them?  Wow, Bill.  Cocky in your thirties, weren't you?”

This is also the final Bridge Project presentation, which is odd for two reasons: because the last two projects have had two plays in repertory, and because those plays have had more than one star.  Or more than one  mountain (See above).  But it’s not up to the level of the last two, and not least because it feels like the bus and truck Richard (or as we used to say, referring to Transylvania, the angry peasant and pitchfork tour).

Bottom line: it  makes me want to live long enough to see someone play Richard like a male femme fatale. 


1 comment:

Ellyn Stern said...

Instead of turning me off, you actually made me want to see this Dickey Three Eyes production! Kevin Spacey is so damn interesting to of those whom I'd watch reading a phone book. Actors...we follow a great performance. Jealous that I'm not in NY and can't see it. Will have to settle for your viscerally tempting posts.