Just when I thought the season was dull come some pulse racing events:
August Wilson’s THE PIANO LESSON, Ivo van Hove’s ROMAN TRAGEDIES, Steven Spielberg’s LINCOLN and Joe Wright’s ANNA KARENINA.
Classics all, at least two, and possibly three of them are based on classics, Wilson’s play having achieved, with this fine production, that rank too. A play that illustrates Toni Morrison’s principles in PLAYING IN THE DARK, the Signature production features fine ensemble acting, a ghost or two as actors, and the stunning family collaboration of Berenice and Boy Willie in exorcizing the past.
ROMAN TRAGEDIES is a once in a lifetime event: 6 hours of Shakespeare, in Dutch that manages to lucidly present CORIOLANUS, JULIUS CAESAR, and ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, defamiliarizing them through the necessary (it’s in Dutch!) use of ample video screens and audiences on the set to the tune of hundreds who come and go, as characters do, as the histories unroll.
One can only second widespread admiration for Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln: the role of a lifetime in a history lesson that comes alive through Tony Kushner’s lucid and affecting screenplay. ANNA KARENINA got some bad reviews but trust this Tolstoy lover when she says that this a great, visually stunning adaptation of a big baggy monster of a novel that allows the complexity of the male characters to come through, though it opts to make Anna a woman in love for whom love means self-immolation; she’s a woman who breaks the rules, knowingly and willingly but then lacks the strength to face the consequences.
Sub theme throughout: strong women, not least of whom are Cleopatra, Mary Todd Lincoln (I know her problems… but she’s a power), and Doris Kearns Goodwin who toughed out a minor scandal to inspire LINCOLN, the triumphant film.