SHOWING : July 10, 2003 - August 10, 2003
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
Directed by Nancy Keystone
In rotating repertory July 10 - August 10
Shakespeare's most fantastical romance has it all: a heroine, an evil stepmother, kidnapped children, a jealous lover, kings and villians. This roller coaster ride of betrayal and forgiveness, seperation and reunion, and personal transformation, celebrates life, luck and love.
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
Archetypes and Dreams|
Monday, July 14, 2003 ||
GSF’s production of “Cymbeline” was an odd experience, a play set in a mythical wonderland where ancient fairy-tale archetypes and historical legends and modern psychological pseudo-truths intersect in an oddly convincing and finally moving tale of love and betrayal and loyalty and music.|
The play opens on a white-canvas wall of curtained chambers, suggesting a hallway in some vaguely medical (or mental) institution. The characters are discovered in their own rooms and quickly described – a prudent choice since this mostly-unknown play would otherwise need a scorecard to keep track of the plot. The first act is performed mostly in front of this wall, giving a vaguely claustrophobic feeling and helping us focus on these characters.
And what characters! You could go down a checklist of fairy-tale archetypes – wicked step-mother, deceived king, parted lovers, churlish half-brother, stolen children, banished noble, deceitful friend – and they’d all be here. And the heroic battles are the stuff of legend – half-wild brothers rousing the faltering Britons to defeat the Roman Empire, performed in dreamlike choreography of slow motion and symbolism. Toss in dream imagery, aboriginal musical tropes (including Australian motifs ??!!), modern/ancient costume hybrids, and you have a formula that should spell theatrical disaster – a sort of jigsaw puzzle in which none of the pieces should fit.
The exciting thing about this production is that they do fit. When the set opens up and the action shifts to the forests of Wales, the show comes alive – what is essentially a bare stage becomes filled with broad battles, surreal dreams, and great emotions. The final reunion scene is profoundly moving, then goes into a laugh-inducing near-parody of what-else-could-go-right plot thread resolutions. It was as if the set became a literal canvas where the director and cast “painted” a story grounded more in the fantastical reality of the sub-conscious than the more mundane reality of our waking experience.
And it works!
Strangely enough, I can see how the production could have engendered the criticisms made by “Troyhill” on this site – the critical difference may have been the performances. Joe Knezevich and Courtney Patterson captured the pathos of the young lovers from the very beginning, drawing me into the story. I can see how an off-night performance could have made my attention wander, making all the disparate elements unmesh and seem vaguely silly. But I saw an “on-night” – and that seems to have been everything. This production will bring out a huge variance of reaction. Since the director is dealing with symbols and fleeting suggestions, there is no “what does it all mean” key to unlock this show – if it touches you emotionally, you’ll like it, if it doesn’t, you won’t. In other words, “Troyhill” is absolutely correct in what he says – if the piece misses your dreams. It didn’t miss mine.
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Friday, July 11, 2003 ||
I am nearly at a loss to describe my experience at the preview performance of "The Tale of Cymbeline". Having only read the play and never seen it staged, I was excited at this opportunity. That excitement was tempered with a mild dose of anxiety, as others have expressed, having already been disappointed by the other two shows this summer and being aware of GSF's penchant for runaway design/conceptualization. |
There it was...canvas fabric covering every inch of the stage. At first, I liked the effect of the set with its individually lighted, curtained entrances. Later, I will ponder how nightmarish it must've been to light the entire thing. There is also an odd pipe descending from the catwalk stage right that would seem to empty into a clear bowl containing red liquid, which sits atop a pedestal. The prologue is very nice, with each character introduced to the audience, occupying one of those entrances like toys in the little Christmas advent calendars. However, as the play progresses, the vast expanse of all that light-colored cloth wears on the eyes, sending them to that odd pipe wondering when some liquid will spill into the bowl elsewhere or forcing the eyes to wander elsewhere...
...like to the musician's area. Live music accompanies the performance, and is generated from a visible downstage left area just next to the audience. It all sounds interesting and seems like a good idea, until you realize that the music is almost always there and, quite often, distracting. Klimchak (sp?), the solo orchestra, is quite talented. His skill with the seemingly endless stream of non-traditional instruments and the mallet-operated sounding board is impressive. The playing of them is a performance unto itself. One instrument he played by swinging it above his head in a move reminiscent of a certain biblical giant slayer. At times, the sounds themselves invade the scene so completely, that one cannot help but look over to see how they are made. In the midst of one scene, characters from other scenes step out with long white tubes which they place in bowls and later pound with rubber mallets to create rhythmic beats. So, I often found myself watching the performance of the instruments and completely tuning out the activity onstage.
The characters are all suited in black, grey or other muted, dark, non-descript tones. The patriarchs were ankle length coats a la Neo or Morpheus. The costumer draws further attention to his or her work, perhaps unintentionally, in the particularly ridiculous trappings of the Italian invaders in Act Two. It's like "Rollerball" meets one of those low-budget futuristic movies like "Starship Troopers" or something (and the direction or choreography of the fights doesn't help), an odd assortment of baseball pads, ill-fitting helmets, feathers (?) etc. All in the requisite black of course. The soldiers are accompanied by a an old dream interpreter whose outrageous white wig and beard make him look like he belongs in "The Lion King" or worse..."Cats". So, I chuckle to myself and once again turn to watch the music corner, stealing a glance at that bowl on the pedestal again.
It was a preview, but virtually all of the actors seemed to be struggling—lines forgotten, words without meaning. Knezevich does not live up to the challenge of playing both Cloten and Posthumus, and it’s not a requirement of the script. The one physical action he gives Cloten, while at least an attempt at differentiation, finds its way into Posthumus as well. The Posthumus/Cloten monologues were prime time to zone out and check on that bowl again. “Are they even going to use that?” Rob Cleveland is a nice, funny fellow and I have enjoyed his performances in other houses, but he never seems comfortable with the language of classical text. Jupiter is just plain painful, but that’s not entirely his fault. The contraption they put him in seems to have been lifted directly from a remount of “The Wizard of Oz” and evokes a laugh at its appearance. Even Festival favorites like Carolyn Cook, Chris Kayser and Daniel May give wandering performances, which draws attention to...
...the direction is a train wreck. I’ve mentioned the odd chase scenes that left me asking, “Is this a farce now?” Watch the heavy hand present in the Italian spa when Iachimo returns to claim his winnings. Pray for more efficient blocking. Pray that the aforementioned hanging deer isn’t left to dangle through quite so many unrelated scenes. With the over-the-top performances of some, choices like the hanging deer, and oddly mixed costumes, you might well wonder if you’re watching a spoof of Shakespeare. I imagine Nancy Keystone heard a great many more laughs than she might have expected. Then again, maybe laughs were the goal, and I just didn’t get the concept (again). In any event, the net effect of so many of these moments was an ending devoid of any emotional investment in the story, and the feeling that actors are one-upping each other in their attempts to deliver the next punch line.
So, maybe this is all attributable to the text itself? It does play like an odd collage of Shakespeare snippets, maybe a bad “Best of” compendium. Maybe Shakespeare didn’t even write it. Maybe someone raided his dustbins for many years. I don’t know. However, I am hesitant to write it off outright and remain optimistic that in other hands, it could work.
PS...Here’s a note to the mountain exiles: A smallish deer old enough to have antlers would probably weigh at least 250 pounds. If it takes two people to carry the dead deer in, it should probably take at least two (not one) to lift it up off the ground by the haunches and hang it on a hook. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
| || If you are watching the bowl drip... by t-bone|
| It seems to me that you have an axe to grind with the GSF. Perhaps you have not been cast in anything there. Could this have some thing to do with your level of vitriol. Granted, Cymbeline will not be for everyone, but the night I saw it, the audience was very engaged in the story and the actors seemed to all be having a great show. And please give me a break about the deer. I suppose Bat Boy really has fangs, too!|
| || "nearly at a loss to describe"? by Splunge|
| I am curious about a few things.|
Assuming you are a theatrical artist, what is your opinion regarding critics who print reviews of preview performances rather than waiting to see and critique the finished production?
If GSF productions put you into such a pre-show state of anxiety and post-show state of disappointment, why do you go to the productions?
Are GSF productions the only one's you see or the only one's you review? Perhaps a review or two of another venue would help you appear less of a wanker... that is, person with a vendetta.
Speaking of which... Do you know fellow Festivalphobe reviewer Michelle? If not, you guys should really get together. At least you'd have a good time at intermission.
PS... I "remain optimistic" that the next GSF show will leave you completely "at a loss to describe".
| || Now, now. by TheaterReview|
| Let's not begrudge someone their opinion. |
This review was not the 2 line, "this show sucks, don't go see it" sort (which is the only sort of review that raises my hackles) (and I don't even know what hackles are) (nor care). It was a detailed evaluation of a show. The reviewer wrote specifically what he/she didn't like about it, and even acknowledged that he/she was seeing a preview.
A detailed review, whether positive or negative, is valuable. It helps other people decide whether a show would be worth spending precious cash and time on.
Some folks may read a negative review and decide they'd like to see the show. Let's say, for instance, a reviewer didn't like a production of Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple (Female Version)" because it was highly stylized and they believe that Neil Simon's work should only be done the way the author intended. A reader may decide to see it because they LIKE highly stylized pieces and could care less what Neil wants. In short, 'tsall good.
It is my hope to get TR.com to a point where each show garners many reviews, so that we may see a nice breadth of opinion. Somewhere in the maelstrom of insight we will find echoes of our own likes and dislikes and choose a show or two (or 37, if you're BK Rudy)to see from the hundreds available in Atlanta. Until that day...
ps. Okay, I did care:
hack·le n. 1. Any of the long, slender, often glossy feathers on the neck of a bird, especially a male domestic fowl. 2. The erectile hairs along the back of the neck of an animal, especially of a dog.
| || Unfortunately not unexpected by troyhill|
| First, let me thank “Dedalus” for his contrasting review. I am glad to know that someone else who peruses these boards understands artistic discussion without the rhetoric.|
Now, to the other two…This is no defense, for I need no defending. I simply point to this as one of the great weaknesses of Atlanta’s theater community -- that one can rarely give one's opinion, especially if it contains any criticism, without being branded a heretic and a vendetta-wielding maniac. It makes honest discussion seem so very unlikely. Though I am new to this site, I do patronize other theaters (of course Bat Boy's fangs were real. I saw the effect they had on everyone around him). I hope to have the opportunity to review other productions soon. In the meantime, I suggest you see Hedwig before it is too late.
I do not run in Atlanta's social theater circles, but I have seen this sort of thing before in other cities with small/moderate sized theater communities. Self-congratulation expounds upon itself as the only acceptable form of theater-speak, and honest criticism must be whispered in dark rooms to people who take a blood oath not to tell anyone else what you really thought, or it must be snuffed out entirely. While it is admirable to defend one's mates, yours have not been attacked. I mentioned at least twice that the production I witnessed was a "preview". To answer someone's question about what I think of reviewing previews, I suppose one sees the show that one sees. If it is not to be seen, then by all means sell no tickets, let no one see it and eliminate any opinion at all.
I have offered an opinion grounded in my own observations, discussing in some detail my view of the production itself. Do you have anything worthwhile to offer with discussion of the production, design, direction and performances as “Dedalus” does from a contrasting and interesting point of view? No. You further demonstrate the void of open artistic discussion by attacking me personally and name-calling as though this is just some playground. Perhaps, to you, that is just what it is. You even imply that I should not put my money into the community at all and stay home, which is a dangerously fascinating suggestion and one that the theaters of the world are unlikely to support. Do you also suggest that you have been raptured away by every production you have ever seen in Atlanta, or just that you wouldn't tell anyone if you weren't? You only allow people who throw flowers and laud you with standing ovations to view your productions and pay for your tickets? Of course, everyone is free to do what they like as their inherent bias leads them. And so am I.
| || Go Troyhill by jeanine|
| Good for you! Why can't we agree to disagree in this town. By the way, I saw the show on opening night and I agree with a lot of what you said. However, even if I didn't, I wouldn't have disrespected you personally. Keep writing!|
| || To Troyhill by Splunge|
| I am not adverse to negative reviews. They are obviously useful. And I have no objection to your review of the production itself. I found it funny and informative.|
However, when the only 2 reviews you post are scathingly negative ones and in the review you state that the theater company in general leaves you disappointed (paraphrasing); yes, that does come off as a personal vendetta. You say your intent is to promote honest discussion. Yet the tone of both your reviews is sarcastic and the words are inflammatory. Perhaps you mistook incite for insightful? Yes, that was sarcastic and inflammatory as well. But since you seem to be comfortable communicating in that fashion, I chose to do so as well. If you took offense at what I said - perhaps you should reread your review. For most of my comments/questions were taken directly from your review. OK - not wanker. But I did not call you a wanker. I said that if you did not want to appear to be a wanker, then you should post reviews of other theater groups. You state that you will. So, please do it. Yes, Hedwig is a great show. It has been open for over a month and up until today no one has reviewed that show.
For the record:
You say I attacked you. So - asking you questions that were based on comments you made in your review is an attack? Are you that sensitive? If you don’t want people to communicate with you in a sarcastic fashion, then I suggest you temper your critical style. You then go on to accuse me of many things that I never stated or even implied. Where do you get that I only allow “people who throw flowers and laud you with standing ovations to view your productions”. Was it when I was demonstrating “the void of open artistic discussion”?
No, I don’t review shows. My opinions would not be objective, so I do not post them.
(So forget what I said about Hedwig.)
No, I do not believe that a preview should be reviewed. That has, up until recently, been theater etiquette. Previews have traditionally been used for the director and actors to get feedback from a live audience so that the show can be tweaked before it opens. Please note that the feedback desired is from a live audience, not a printed review. And yes, just like on Broadway, they charge money for those preview tickets because the actors and technicians doing the show need to be paid. Please give me the courtesy to disagree with you on the matter of reviewing previews.
Yes, if you hate the shows so much, stay home. Because your going to see shows you know you are going to dislike and then writing about them so that other people won’t see them is definitely not something the theaters of the world are likely to support. And I did not in my first response say “stay home”. I asked you why you went to productions that make you anxious and that you believe will disappoint you. You don’t have to stay home. You can go to another theater. Or a movie, if you like. My point now is, spend your money at theaters that fit your personal taste. I know you said that going to GSF shows only gave you a “mild” case of anxiety. Still, your bias in the review shows. You don’t like that kind of theater. Fine.
All that being said, please continue to review shows. I actually enjoyed reading the review and appreciate your answers to my questions. It was the first review that actually made me wonder why you said the things you said. It seemed very odd to me that someone as opinionated as you had not posted any other reviews. Given the first follow up post, it seems at least one other also thought it odd. So again, my point was: write some more reviews. My new point is: Don't alter your style and don't be so damn sensitive. (Yes, I know that I previously suggested you temper your style. But that was sarcasm.)
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]