Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Send In The Stringers...

So the Glass Menagerie got the stringers this time around. I guess the chiefs were too busy trying to catch some skin over at the New Rep and the South African Festival is going on as well.

Sandy Macdonald in the Globe didn't like the set or the Laura, and she hated the miking effects...

"In antithesis, Engel's worst move is miking Amanda (Nancy E. Carroll) and Laura (Emily Sophia Knapp) in order to give certain lines an echo-chamber effect, akin to sonic italicizing. The effect is disruptive, and the wiring -- all too obvious in the Lyric's intimate space -- makes the two women look as if
they're ready to rip into a song from "Rent."

Her observation about the miking is valid, it is a strange effect, and it kind of just stops being employed about half way through the play. However, I was sitting fairly close and only one time did I notice the mike wires. In fact, the first time the effect kicked in, I immediately scanned the actresses for the wires and it took a little bit to find them. Ms. McDonald is guilty of too much snarkiness in this instance.

She doesn't care much for the miming either, (it is a bit sloppy,) but unfortunately that type of rushed miming is what we get in a culture that disdains the idea of serious dramatic training and the repertory company system. Movement, Mime and Mask are so ridiculed that they are completely lacking in some courses of instruction, and actors usually rush through the motions on stage as if they just want to get them over with.

The Herald sent Bob Nesti over to Clarendon street, but he didn't like the fire escape...

"Yet what is haunting the current production at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston isn't the ghost of Williams' troubled past, but the desire to rethink a classic. Some plays benefit from such treatment; others, such as this one, do not."

There are definitely issues with the production's minimalist staging, but
strangely, Nesti's main complaint consists of the fact that he has to use his imagination:

"Eric C. Engel's production features that fire escape; in fact, there's little else on the stage. This is a stripped-down ``Menagerie'' with no set decoration or even props. Even the glass figurines of the title need to be imagined; and the dining room table where the dinner for the Gentleman Caller takes place is represented by the fire-escape landing. ...There is no picture of Amanda's
absent husband in the living room because there is no living room."

Bill Marx, reviewing the New Churchill Play in New York, had this to say about his fellow Boston theatre critics,

"It doesn't help that reviewers often flinch at Churchill's demand that they think. Underdog Stage's recent Boston premiere production of her 1977 play "Traps" was generally greeted with incomprehension. Faced with different moments of time co-existing on stage and characters who might either be talking or
thinking their dialogue, some critics crumpled."

Nesti also exaggerates a little too much on the props. There are a few set decorations and props. There is even a nice bit of subtle lighting when the imaginary candles on the candelabra are lit.

However, the main distinction in the reviews is a strikingly different assessment of Elizabeth Knapp's Laura and the Gentleman Caller.

While the Herald praises:

"Emily Sophia Knapp plays the crippled Laura with conviction, and Lewis Wheeler makes a model Gentleman Caller. Their candle-lighted scene together is the production's high point..."

The Globe had this to say:

'Knapp's approach is more problematic, even puzzling. We've been prepped throughout the play on how "very, very, terribly shy" Laura is, but come the pivotal scene with the gentleman caller (Lewis Wheeler, miscast in a part that calls for physical robustness and mental density), she speaks right up, in the kind of voice that would go with a firm handshake. She's downright brash, more autistic than timid (that would be another story), a tomboy rather than a wallflower. Thus, there's no room for gradual blossoming as Laura lets this blundering stranger into her fragile little world."

In the end, it's all opinion, really.

Both Reviewers go out of their way to mention the staging of that scene as problematic for the audience. On a raised stage the scene would be in the perfect place, but the Lyric is a sunken thrust and the scene is more than likely lost to many people higher up.

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