Friday, July 17, 2009

Mary Stuart

Sunday was my monthly dinner-and-a-show outing with my grandmother--although this time around we daringly mixed things up and made it lunch and a show. We ate at a Greek restaurant on 42nd that had delicious food. More specifically, good baklava (just so my priorities are clear here).

The acting in Mary Stuart was of that stylish, stylized British variety where the audience gets to sit and watch the actors declaim--beautifully, of course--from the stage. It's a sort of acting that I sometimes like and often dislike, but it works quite well when the focal point of the play is a conflict between two of western history's most famous queens. And it's elegantly written and crafted and feels like it should be so much more powerful than it actually is.

Mary Stuart is about any number of things--power, appearances, penance--but one thing it's not about is history. Which isn't a bad thing or a good thing, per se, but I often feel wary of work that seems intent on using history to speak to the present day. And the modern ambitions of Mary Stuart--or at least this production--seem evident in everything from the set (stark, black brick, wooden benches) to the costumes (the men are dressed in the suits of today, although the women are in Elizabethan-style dresses). Yet for all that the show attempts to drag these characters into the present day, the production isn't doing anything innovative or daring and perhaps as a result it feels stranded between the two eras.

In the end though, I'm not sure if my inability to feel anything more than a kind of detached admiration is based entirely on the play itself of if the book reading ennui I wrote about earlier is in fact a more generalized entertainment ennui. That would be too bad.

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