Time yaps at the heels of comedy. Tragedy marches inexorably on. In comedy the present turns immediately to the past, this is why the pace must be fast. Private Lives tries to talk about serious things rapidly. It does not stop and consider. The past is a repetition of the future, not the other way around. This is why the characters circle endlessly. You might call it the rhythm of life, or in a darker comedy, the dance of death. There is plenty of life left in Private Lives. Its relentless wit continues to charm. The couple who fight best seem to love best. Only fine actors can repeat themselves. Shakespeare and Company’s production of Noel Coward’s play had the requisite energy. David Joseph, in particular, seemed inexhaustible, time yapping at his heels. Dana Harrison also commanded the speed and flavor of imperious time, sometimes by trying to slow it ever so slightly. One wonders if these two even remembered their last fight. Scene following after scene seemed like newborn battles. But energy is all in this, and they had it. Adam Huff and Annie Considine formed the other couple. A stodgy fellow and a clueless girl they were. It would be easy to say that comedy is wasted on the young, who have no past. But then, they have hope. Considine had belief and delight in every word she spoke. Huff made stuffiness likable Coward leaves us, brilliantly, wondering if this stuffy young man and innocent young woman can get off the burning wheel of comedy. Their last scene together is a battle.
There is a strange beauty in a quirky device that Coward introduces late in the play. The fighting couple, either one of them, may say an agreed upon word, and this commands a short silence. It is the most truthful event in the play. Here a show that is nothing but talk is silenced. In these two or three moments, Mr. Coward makes time obey. Throughout the performance the great song,”The Way You Look Tonight” made the audience think backward and think forward, made the audience remember, hoisted battle against the demands of quick, sharp language,which is another kind of time. It did not win, but it was heard. This well-played show gave me these things to consider: time and love. and how they battle.
There were shining things in John Hadden’s and Ava Roy’s production of King Lear at Hubbard Hall. Edgar, a crucial and inscrutable role, woven throughout the play, was given a performance by James Udom that made more sense to me than any other assumption I have seen. The role is all over the place: pathetic, comic, possibly even cruel to the aged Gloucester, his father, at the cliffs of Dover. James made a through-line of these things. I don’t know how he did it. Much of it was his voice. The minute this young man began to speak, the room changed. One hung on his every word. He didn’t overdo the grotesque aspects of the role. It wasn’t acting he gave us, It was heart. It was simply impossible not to listen. This was one of the best performances I have seen in years, anywhere.
Ava Roy’s Cordelia was also arrestingly vocal, a round and beautiful voice which caught the music of reticence deftly. She also played the Fool, as was probably done in Shakespeare’s own company, and shadowed Lear physically so lyrically that her movements became as important as the words she spoke.
John Hadden’s Lear was true to itself in its consistent depiction of a real old man, not a titanic literary icon. Sometimes I found this a bit meagre, especially in the storm. At other times, when he was reunited with Cordelia for example, one saw a real father and a real daughter, not two mythic types. Again the consistency was admirable.
Digby Baker-Porazinski delivered his few lines with resonance and naturalness. I was impressed.
Do go to your bookstore and buy Vivien Shotwell’s “Vienna Nocturne.” Full disclosure: Vivien is a dear friend of mine. She is also a great singer. And in this book, which largely concerns itself with the relationship between Mozart and his favorite soprano, the Englishwoman Anna (Nancy) Storace, who sang Susanna in the premiere of Le nozze di Figaro, you will find some of the most honest writing about singing there is. She writes uninhibitedly about the physical nature of singing, the erotic extension of that physicality. This is a novel written by somebody who knows what she is talking about. Page after page has inside moments any singer will connect with. You think it was scary for Evel Knievel to jump his motorcycle over twenty cars? Try singing in front of a couple thousand people. There is seriousness in Vivien’s book, but there is also sweetness. There is nothing pretentious in the way she writes. Indeed it is often what I would call clean. The authors razor edged identification with the art of singing is really a demonstration of her passionate faith in its beauty. She shows why it is the most fundamental human expression of all.