Nothing Says You Have to Like Yourself

The first act of Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine takes place in 1879, as colonial administrator Clive (Clarke Thorell) attempts to control a mild uprising by the indigenous population.  His wife Betty (Chris Perfetti) struggles with her attraction to the explorer Harry Bagley (John Sanders), who is himself harboring conflicted feelings about his homosexuality, though this does not prevent him from having sex both with Clive’s young son Edward (Brooke Bloom) and his “boy” Joshua (Sean Dugan).  Joshua is, according to Ms. Churchill, “played by a white man because he wants to be what whites want him to be” and Betty is “payed by a man because she wants to be what men want her to be.”  Likewise, Edward, who would rather “mind” dolls than ride horses, is played by a woman. Continue reading “Nothing Says You Have to Like Yourself”

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None of the Horses Are Loose

You didn’t have to see Sam Shepard’s last play, A Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations), to know his theatrical roots stretch back to the Greeks.  Fool for Love, which first opened in 1983, unfolds as two half-siblings, Eddie (Sam Rockwell) and May (Nina Arianda), spend seventy-five minutes in a motel trying to break an attraction that has plagued them for fifteen years.  “We’ll always be connected,” he tells her.  “That was decided a long time ago.”  Lear said that the gods kill us for sport, but Mr. Shepard counters that inexplicably falling in love may be worse.  This classical fatalism, as indicated by the title, is given a country-and-western twang—indeed, “Fool for Love” could be a song by Hank Williams. Continue reading “None of the Horses Are Loose”

I Wondered What Robert Newton Would Think of This

Clive Owen drapes both hands over the arms of his chair. With a taut stillness that could be mistaken for calm, he looks exactly like a lion in the moments before it will pounce. One gets the feeling he could rape or murder without mussing up his suit or disheveling his thickly gelled hair. His movements are precisely charted, but charted, like the lion’s, less by consciousness and more by nature, by an instinct for blood. His speech is crisp, jokey, and often menacing because it is jokey.  In other words, he is the ideal actor for Harold Pinter, a writer who continually returned to human viciousness but always refrained from depicting the moment of the kill. Instead, his characters circle each other, trading gentilities laced with poison, and emerge victorious only after language has justified the violence. Continue reading “I Wondered What Robert Newton Would Think of This”

There’s a Big Dark Town, It’s a Place I’ve Found

James Thiérrée is the director, set designer, and choreographer behind the dance-drama Tabac Rouge.  The grandson of Charlie Chaplin, his production is a bit like a silent movie with sound—that is, while none of the characters speak, and while almost all story is communicated visually, he still relies on a series of sound effects, largely mechanical in nature.  In fact, this could be Modern Times by way of Fritz Lang, the Tramp’s whimsical assembly line replaced with an industrial inferno. Continue reading “There’s a Big Dark Town, It’s a Place I’ve Found”