Tag: Review

Human beings reveal their character most clearly by what they find ridiculous. – Goethe Quote

The first time I read “Elective Affinities” was in college, when it appeared on the syllabus of a class that I swiftly dropped. The teacher pronounced “Goethe” with enthusiastic violence, making it sound like a noise someone would make when using the toilet. I read the book on my own time and strip-mined it for insights on marriage, fashion and virtue. (“Human beings reveal their character most clearly by what they find ridiculous.”)

It wasn’t until revisiting the book five years later that I saw what I had missed — and, contrarily, probably missed a lot of what I’d understood the first time. The novel is about an aristocratic married couple, Charlotte and Eduard, who fall in love with other people. They work through their rift by exchanging stiff philosophical dialogues about fate, domesticity, nature, freedom, transgression — you know, all the fun stuff. Aphorisms everywhere.

There’s a piece in The American Scholar in which Alberto Manguel describes Goethe as never merely narrating, but always injecting theories into his prose, with those theories permeating each section “like the smell of fried onions.” It remains the only novel I’ve read that feels like the work of a scientist (author) guiding lab rats (characters) through a maze (plot). It was published in 1809 to widespread bafflement.

Wind, Of Course, Goethe and Shame Our critic recommends old and new books.
Molly Young
NYTIMES

Hamlet and Radiohead – Fat Ham Review – NYTIMES

…James Ijames’s outstanding transformation of Shakespeare’s tragedy into a play about Black masculinity and queerness, both echoes “Hamlet” and finds a language beyond it.

So I’ll start with a scene that especially evokes this production’s charms: In the middle of a backyard barbecue, a group of family members and friends sitting around a table covered with plates of ribs, corn on the cob and biscuits is suddenly bathed in a blue spotlight. They break out into an impressionistic dance (choreographed by Darrell Grand Moultrie), curling forward and arching backward in slow motion, arms fanning out, then they slump down into their seats and begin headbanging. All the while, our hero, Juicy (Marcel Spears), whom Ijames characterizes in his script as “a kinda Hamlet,” mournfully croons along to Radiohead’s “Creep.”

This is Ijames’s tongue-in-cheek style of wit: Of course the melancholy prince would have sung “Creep” had Thom Yorke and his band been around in 17th-century England. Without undermining its drama, “Fat Ham” pokes fun at the theatricality of Hamlet’s anguish.

‘Fat Ham’ Review: Dismantling Shakespeare to Liberate a Gay Black ‘Hamlet’
James Ijames’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, set at a Southern barbecue, gets its first in-person production at the Public Theater.
Maya Phillips

How I Learned to Drive – NYTIMES Review

It’s rare to encounter the kind of breathless silence I experienced during an unnerving hotel room scene in the unforgettable revival of Paula Vogel’s “How I Learned to Drive.”

On the night I saw the production, hundreds of audience members listened with rapt attention — I didn’t hear anyone unwrap a mint or fumble for a tissue. I didn’t even hear a whisper break the stillness in the air. There was just the steady buzz of the lights, suddenly deafeningly loud, as if they were performing their own monologue.

If I could direct a scene representing why I love theater, it would look something like this: Mary-Louise Parker and David Morse delivering crushing performances — both sentimental and horrific, utterly complex — of a Pulitzer Prize-winning play to an enthralled audience.

‘How I Learned to Drive’ Review: Many Miles to Go Before a Reckoning
Mary-Louise Parker and David Morse have returned to Paula Vogel’s 1997 Pulitzer-winning play about sexual abuse for its Broadway debut.
Maya Phillips