In his lifetime, James Joyce considered the possibility of having Ulysses adapted into a movie—and even met once with Sergei Eisenstein about it.  After his death, two attempts were made in English: Joseph Strick’s 1967 Ulysses and Sean Walsh’s 2003 Bloom, both of which—like Marleen Gorris’ 1997 Mrs. Dalloway—sacrifice the spirit of the great novel in favor of narrative fidelity; a ridiculous decision for anyone familiar with a book that largely takes place in its protagonist’s head.  Why bother to follow Poldy around Dublin without translating Joyce’s innovations to their cinematic equivalents?  A bowel movement, a quick “frig” on the beach, and bedtime thoughts are not particularly interesting when viewed from the outside.  Mounting a stage version poses even more difficulties, since techniques like flashbacks, voiceovers, and rapid scene changes do not prove so easy.  And while Joyce considered theater the pinnacle of artistic creativity, he was not much of a playwright himself.  His one attempt, Exiles, is easily the weakest of his major works. Continue reading “Yes”


Under His Thumb

People who are a little smart and a lot insecure love to associate with lesser minds.  They will make allusions with the sole intention of being asked to explain them and they will quietly correct others’ mistakes—only doing so quietly so they can repeat the corrections louder, all the while pretending it’s no big deal.  They use their intelligence as a weapon, even though the kind of fights they engage in are less like battles and more like poking unarmed children with forks. Continue reading “Under His Thumb”

Procure My Rise

It is a forgivable mistake to read The Comedy of Errors as an unadulterated comedy, even though it opens with the threat of execution: if Egeon (Jonathan Hadary), a merchant from Syracuse, cannot raise his ransom by five o’clock, he will be killed in accordance with the law of Ephesus, which does not allow her Syracusean neighbors within her city.  In 1938, underlining the dread of this first scene, Theodore Komisarjevsky staged a production in Stratford-upon-Avon in which a giant clock constantly reminded the audience of the potential tragedy.  But readers and viewers of The Comedy of Errors can hardly be faulted for ignoring this dread; what follows is (apart from some parallel investigations into the relationship between master and slave and husband and wife) a parade of silliness: two sets of twins, mistaken identities, phenomenal verbal juggling, and an ending that leaves nearly all involved content. Continue reading “Procure My Rise”

Starving on Dissonances

“Thank you for coming,” an old man says.  “For using your presence as a vote, if you will, that before we are dead in the ground, being in a room together is valuable.  I won’t say important—there’s no need to be ridiculous—but valuable.”  The man is the modernist composer Charles Ives (Henry Stram), and it’s a sweet, unassuming opening to a sweet, unassuming play.  Jessica Dickey’s Charles Ives Take Me Home runs for little over an hour and chronicles the relationship between John Starr (Drew McVety), a frustrated violinist, and his daughter, Coach Laura Starr (Kate Nowlin), a tall, lanky girl with “basketball knees” whose passion for the sport rivals her father’s for his own vocation—but, of course, John cannot respect basketball just as his father before him could not respect classical music, even though Laura, listening to him play, is able to mimic his rhythm with her dribbling.   Charles Ives, long dead, once taught John at Julliard and proves the avuncular, ghostly intermediary between two family members who are constantly misunderstanding each other. Continue reading “Starving on Dissonances”