Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Dreaming of Providence…

Can you smell that in the air? It is the sweet smell of nostalgia.

Apparently, the Trinity Repertory production of Homebody/Kabul lingers in the mind long after its lights have dimmed. Both of the major ink spillers released their Chief Guard Dogs on the Boston Theatreworks production of Homebody/Kabul.

Ed Siegel and Terry Byrne both have a lingering fondness of the Trinity production last year, but is that fondness clouding their ability to see this production in a fresh light? Or is their using of a previous, and in their view, more successful interpretation doing an actual justice to the work?

Being a playwright, there is a part of me that feels somewhat comforted by the readiness of critics to understand and decipher a work and to judge a production on its truthfulness to author’s intentions. Indeed, I have often directed my own plays, or have allowed somebody I trust deeply to direct it.

I think Ed Siegel’s review of the Boston Theatreworks production is, well, unfair and unsurpassed in its snarkiness. And , strangely, there is a main point of the review I agree with wholeheartedly.

Nancy Carroll gives and outstanding performance as the Homebody of the play’s title. Larry Stark was moved enough to embrace the actress after the astonishing portrayal. However, Ed Siegel points something out which I found to be my experience from having read the play before I had seen it.

Siegel first praises,

"Nancy Carroll's performance under Jason Southerland's direction as the Homebody is remarkable. She is elegantly coiffed, smartly cynical, and disarmingly self-assured."

But then he goes on to criticize,

"But the Homebody should be none of those things."

I have to agree with Mr. Siegel. When one reads the monologue of the Homebody the flights of language and the coziness leap off of the page with excitement. It is apparent, even in reading, that the mood ofdepression should be what seeps into the text here and there and not the predominant feeling. Director Southerland’s choice is almost the exact opposite, with the overall feeling being that of depression, and only occasionally will flights of fancy enter, and they are muted at that.

But Mr. Siegel goes on to condemn the whole enterprise mentioning time and again other productions whether they be real or imaginary,

"It's a shame that neither the Huntington Theatre Company nor the American Repertory Theatre, with their far greater resources, chose to do the play or at least to bring the Trinity production northward. 'Homebody/Kabul' deserves to
be seen under optimal circumstances, and that's a far cry from what's onstage here."

This is incredibly unfair to Theatrework’s incredibly professional, and at times stunning production. All of the acting is first rate, and this would be a show to catch for anybody looking for an intense and thought provoking night at the theatre.

Terry Byrne in the Herald is a lot kinder to the actors and the production although she also is haunted by the Providence production. She concludes, "Homebody/Kabul remains a fascinating excursion, but this production doesn't quite take us there."

I think what I was most struck by in reading the Globe review was just how much power Ed Seigel weilds. Criticism should not be cheerleading, I would think. But neither should it be condemning though should it? I find myself, even days afterward, thinking about the play. I know that my wife and I have highly recommended it.

This all leads me to ask the question…What does Ed Siegel think when the ART maligns the intentions and Text of some of the greatest works of Western Drama? Does he condemn the enterprise? Does he suggest people wait for a more sensitive interpretation? Anybody who follows theatre in this city knows that these questions are rhetorical. In fact, he goes on to help them drive their subscriptions up.

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