Paul Reid as Gar in Public. Photo by Johan Persson.

Philadelphia, Here I Come! By Brian Friel at Donmar Warehouse

The old sod. No one ever asked for Delta blues to be any sadder or Irish drama to be any more Irish. As art it feels totally transparent. You get the impression that the scripts are achieved by walking down any Dublin street with a tape recorder, and the casts tumble out of a city bus at the back door of the next theater. This naturalness has the effect, strange as it sounds, of making the whole audience feel Irish by intermission. I thought I heard people around me saying “boyo,” “mammy,” and “What are you blatherin’ on about?”

Schiller’s “Luise Miller” at the Donmar Warehouse, London

Star-crossed Geliebte. The trouble with taking Shakespeare as your model is that you can’t hide it and you will always be in his shadow. In 1784, writing his third play, Friedrich Schiller remixed the ingredients of Romeo and Juliet to concoct his perfervid tragedy, Luise Miller. Two lovers die by drinking poison at the end, and there are contending fathers, anguished partings, and extravagant avowals of undying passion (“undying” seems to be an automatic death sentence in the theater). Without the poetry, Shakespeare loses an immeasurable amount, but the twenty-four-year-old Schiller was left with a template for doomed romance. He made extraordinary use of it, and although Luise Miller contains no Mercutio, emotions get so capriciously out of hand that it can seem as if everyone on stage is a Mercutio.

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