What better way to spend election night than with prominent politicians, Democrat Anthony “I Was Hacked” Weiner, Republican Mark “Appalachian Trail” Sanford, Republican Larry “Wide Stance” Craig, and Republican Mark “Underage Page” Foley.
In the back of my mind was the thought that some of the bozos being elected might appear in the play’s second edition. Because of course, there will be more.
Is this yet another depiction of the brutality and cruelty of rulers who, so full of themselves, wreak havoc on anyone who doesn’t bow down? Not quite. It’s an early anti-war play. Plus ça change.
Except, when John Douglas Thompson is the evil guy, you are drawn by his brilliant performance as well as fascination at what makes this real 14th-century character tick and why those around him succumb. (The play was inspired by the life of Central Asian emperor, Timur “the lame”. Or Tamerlane. But plenty of others followed.) And at the fact that Christopher Marlow wrote this in the 16th century. Not much progress in half a millennium.
A major problem with this production of British playwright Tom Stoppard’s play about infidelity is that the unfaithful pair don’t seem very hot, at least not with each other. Annie, an actress (Maggie Gyllenhaal), is married to Max, an actor (Josh Hamilton). Henry, a playwright (Ewen McGregor), is married to Charlotte, an actress (Cynthia Nixon). Henry is obviously a stand-in for Stoppard.
Max/Hamilton and Charlotte/Nixon are both rather bland. Lots of talk and no sparks. Nixon is cool, hard-faced, flat. But then, so are Annie/Gyllenhaal and Henry/McGregor when they get together. Gyllenhaal as Annie is hot, but she makes no connection to her paramour.
Whatever playwright Susan-Lori Parks turns her hand to is bound to be surprising and memorable. Her latest work, the first of three parts, is a brave Brechtian drama about slaves during the time of the Civil War. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem. It’s a commentary about blacks today who sell out their people for, what? (Can we put Clarence Thomas in this equation?) And a powerful feminist commentary.