Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Poor Itch and The Four of Us

I saw three shows in two days this weekend! Aren't I just a little fireball of theatrical energy?

Friday was American Globe Theatre's The Winter's Tale, Saturday matinee was Itamar Moses' The Four of Us at MTC, and Saturday night was the unfinished The Poor Itch by the late John Belluso. Winter's Tale was nice, my friend Christina Shipp was a fantastic Perdita, but I don't see enough Shakespeare to blog well about it, so I will skip to the other two show:

The Poor Itch by John Belluso is a fascinating production of an unfinished play. This is the play that John was writing when he died unexpectedly of heart failure in 2006. The director, Lisa Peterson, and the cast pulled together drafts and John's notes to fully stage the final draft he was working on at the time of his death. Knowing that gave an already powerful narrative an almost overwhelmly melancholy weight. Increasingly in the second act, the actors would step forward and read a synopsis of a scene John had sketched out in prose and end the description by saying "scene unwritten." That was one of the most painful conventions I have ever experienced in the theater. The story centers around an American soldier (Ian, played by a wonderfully conflcited and complicated Christopher Thornton) who was shot in the spine while fighting in Iraq and is now adjusting to life in a wheelchair in his blue-collar hometown. Deirdre O'Connell did a lovely job as his mother Coral, and Michael Chernus was outstanding as his loser friend Curt. All around, the casting for this was exceptionally good. It was a very gripping story and I hope the play goes on to more productions (like, at the Taper, maybe??). Big kudos to the director and cast. It must have been a very challenging project, and they pulled it off very beautifully.

Play two was Itamar Moses' The Four of Us at MTC. I am HUGE Bach at Leipzig fan, but this one was didn't hit the same level for me. The story is a two-person play about a playwright who has a good friend who is a novelist. The novelist sells his first novel for a $2 million royalty advance / film rights package and the resulting stress on their friendship propels the action of the play forward. About a third of the play takes place in flashbacks. I really, really wanted to like this and was prepared to worship Itamar Moses as a god-- but there were not any pretty Bach-era costumes, so the post of god is still open. (NOTE: I had a little more posted about this earlier, but decided to take down some of it. It was just more snarky than I intended-- really there are good points to the play and I don't really want to discourage people from attending or spoil ploy elements).

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