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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Wallenstein at STC


This is one of the best productions by STC I have seen and partially changed me opinion about Coriolanus. No wonder the Coriolanus production focused less on family and more on the politics. Paired together, the two plays made interesting observations about history, war, machismo, and politics.

Still Wallenstein is the better production in the pair. I discovered afterward that it was directed by Michael Kahn, which might be part of the basis of the success. The clarity and irony of the play are more evident, and the acting is better organized.

The politics in both plays are universal and topical, and particularly suited to audience in this political town. People laugh at all the right places. I'm not familiar with Friedrich Schiller's original play, but there are little touches in Robert Pinsky's "free" adaptation that remind people, with a light hand, that politics has not changed. A New York or London critic might be annoyed at such commentary, but a Washington audience is perfectly placed to appreciate them.

Kahn said as far as he knew "Wallenstein" had never been staged in the US. What a shame. Perhaps the very German length of the original play (10 acts!) is too intimidating. The adaptation is only 2.5 hours and absolutely fantastic. By the end I was weeping, mostly for the reason that our time is not fundamentally different from history, and people have hardly changed.

Those Germans. They have no regard for length, size, and people's attention span. I bet if a German filmmaker were to adapt Game of Thrones, he would make a week-long version of the entire serial, including the yet-to-be-written parts!

The questions posed by Schiller are not much different from those by GRRM: What is the nature of power and influence? Why does one person do another's bidding, sometimes at odds to his own interest? What is the nature of leadership and legitimacy? What's loyalty and betrayal?

There are two young characters in Wallenstein, Max Palladini and Thekla Wallenstein. They sort of provide a contrast to all the conniving, corrupt older characters --- the whole lot of them --- in the play. They are pure at heart and idealistic. They have morals and principles. They still want what is good and right. Pain and suffering come from the conflicts between reality and hope and between the true humanity and a simplified, distorted, unrealistic version conjured by our insufficient mind, and between the real, inadequate, flawed, foolish people who happen to be parents and their children's wishful perception of them as gods.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

七十年代豪华公寓

我们住的出租公寓背后有座高坡,高坡上有好几套四五十年旧的出售公寓 (condominiums),其中一套取名为“众议员”或者“代表们”,我一直好奇里面住的都是什么人,会不会真是政客之类。最近开始看房子买套公寓,今天在房产经纪的带领下混进这家公寓参观了一间。哇哈哈,比我想象中更加典型。

一楼是宽广豪华的大厅,大理石地板和柱子,墙上和门上嵌了雕花木板,刷成七十年代流行的 harvest gold 色,仿佛电影里的布景,"All the President's Men" 那样的,自大严肃而沉闷庸俗的气派跟首都政客颇吻合。 公寓只有一房一厅却有两个门,一个是正门,旁边一个是直通厨房的偏门,为厨子女仆进出。一进厨房我狂笑出声:里面的设施都是原版,冰箱和柜橱都是类似厚痰的绿色,据说是另一个七十年代特别流行的 avacado green 色。没有微波炉,倒有两个烤箱!让我产生“走入Mad Men”的幻觉。

客厅超巨,由两半组成,一半是放大的饭厅,另一半又深又宽,大得象山洞,墙之两角故意修成圆弧,简直象旧片老电影里搭出来的布景,Faye Dunaway 随时可以身穿长裙出现。

公寓内各种从未见过的设施,如洗脸池旁挖在墙里的一个洞,一转180度转出个杯子来,金属壳子还镀成闪闪的金色,差点被它晃瞎。浴室中不规则黑纹大理石砌的墙和台面,经纪笑着说早就过时。修进墙里的梳妆台,台下两边的柜门一打开,一边是抽屉,一边是可以翻出来的垃圾桶,罕见的繁复层次。别处的楼或许更旧,但内部早已更新,这样的古旧装饰几乎没有留存。

住在这里,我大概会忍不住穿起喇叭裤与花衬衫,留起齐腰长发,戴一副黑框眼镜,穿越到尼克松的白宫里去了。

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Franco 的文笔

这两天 James Franco 炒作出来的新闻是他在 Huffington Post 上写了一篇猛吹 Ryan Gosling 如何美貌如何迷人的文章。

我对他的炒作没有什么立场,不过他的文章再次证明了我对他的文笔的印象。前两年他出版了一本短篇小说集,我出于好奇心站在书店里翻了翻,印象是:写得好烂啊!不用同学爆料都能推断出他号称上四所大学的文学系(包括耶鲁)都是TMD混文凭。当然大家仍然不知道为什么他这么喜欢毫无必要地混文凭。

这篇狂向 Gosling 示爱的文章 --- 且不管目的是为了炒作自己还是讨好女影迷 --- 文笔十分幼稚,也就高中生水平。我这个什么文学文凭都没有的人,都可以自信地断言比他写得好,我之所以能毫不羞耻地这么说是因为 it's really not saying much。

海明威与女人

读了一些早期的短篇,能感受到他对女人的态度。乞力马扎罗之雪可能是最直白最明显的一个。不耐烦,嫌她烦,但同时又自责,颇为典型的青春期男娃的别扭劲儿。可以推断年轻时的海明威被母性强的女人吸引,但是进入了关系之后又讨厌她,急于反叛和逃离。冷峻精简的字里行间中流露出对“妇人”(ie, "mother")的厌恶和怜悯。

如果他只是单纯的 misogyny 倒算了,但是他写得都很真,非常典型,女人之软弱与焦虑确实是如此,常常转移为对周围环境尤其是亲近男性的关注和唠叨。并且他的反感含有等同程度的自省,对自己跟对女人一样残忍,所以并不让我讨厌。只是作为儿子的角度,看女人流于抽象化程式化,并不会把她当作复杂的人来探索。他仍保留了一定程度的幼儿的自恋,故事中最细腻最复杂最深入的人物毕竟是他自己。对别人对环境有极其尖锐的观察,但说到底都不如对自己的关注。不过这并不是坏事,所谓 the more specific the more universal。

HBO 前阵子制作的 Hemingway and Gelhorn 没看,不知道拍得好不好。感觉 Gelhorn 不是 Hemingway 会本能地喜欢的那种类型,她跟他一样自恋,并没有太多母性。

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sondheim's Passion @CSC


I don't regret seeing this production directed by John Doyle, which I think is inferior to Jame's Lapine's original Broadway version (available on YT). My instinctive diagnosis of the problem is that this production is too rushed. All characters hurried on and off the stage to get through all the dialogs and songs. Everyone talks and walks too fast (and almost sings too fast). There is hardly any transitions from scene to scene. Shortcuts were taken that do not make sense, such as openly recycling a couple of actors/characters for different roles and having a mustachioed officer pretend to be Fosca's aunt in flashback scenes for bizarre comic effects. As a result the more emotional scenes lack the punch they deserve. Nevertheless nothing can replace the pleasure of hearing Sondheim's music sung in live theater. Some complain the score is too repetitive, but I love it, the entire breathless song that goes from the start to finish.

At the center of the play is Judy Kuhn who plays Fosca, the obsessive, manipulative, hystrionic woman who asserts her mad love for the leading man. She is reasonably OK but pales in comparison with Donna Murphy in the original version. Kuhn was too restrained. She looks and sounds more English than Italian. This character --- and the story --- cannot work without the Italian backdrop. She is more like Jane Eyre than Fosca Ricci. She is too weak and not fervent enough, not grotesque enough.

The male lead, Giogio, is difficult to play to begin with, because he is such a passive character. He sort of represents the audience's perspective and takes us through a wild journey. It would take a very strong actor to pull off the transformation. Unfortunately Ryan Silverman is not much of an actor and his overall performance is not convincing. Worse, it adds to the suspicion that he is just going through the motions as described in the script without feeling it himself. However, Silverman is blessed with a beautiful singing voice. Smooth and velvety, it's like a scoop of gelato on the verge of melting. Gelato has a better texture than ice cream because it is softer and melts more readily on the tongue. He is much better to listen to on the sound recording than to see on stage. The original production's Jere Shea's voice is not nearly as perfect as Silverman's but his acting is a lot better.

A sample of Silverman's silvery voice (bad pun, I know, couldn't resist) can be heard on YT in a studio recording here.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

正在读: Ernest Hemingway Complete Short Stories

过去没正经读过海明威,倒也不遗憾,未经世事的粉红女孩子不会喜欢的。中年的现在拿起来正好,很喜欢。

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