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prusik ([personal profile] prusik) wrote2012-10-29 07:21 pm

The Mystery of Virginia Woolf, or Who's Afraid of Edwin Drood

It seems every other trip I plan to NYC in the fall somehow involves a hurricane. The previous one was ok. The one before coincided with Irene (and so I bailed). This one turned out to be just before Sandy. The logistics of the trip actually worked out smoothly. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf in the afternoon, followed by The Mystery of Edwin Drood. I ended up leaving NYC about half an hour earlier than normal. The 10:15pm bus was so late, that I got to Port Authority maybe 10 minutes before it started boarding.

I knew, more or less, what happened in Virginia Woolf, but I'd never seen the movie, read the entire play, or seen a production of the play until now. Tracy Letts and Amy Morton were an amazing George and Martha. They sparred back and forth incisively and gave full measure to the subtext without seeming forced. Their heightened emotions never failed to feel natural and inevitable. These are difficult roles to navigate and they handled each twist and turn with ease.

Nick and Honey are also difficult roles, although for different reasons. In some ways, I think they are as difficult as George and Martha.

Nick has to hold his own in scenes against both George and Martha. The play asks him to be the hero quarterback, a great boxer, the genius who finished grad school when he was nineteen, the serious researcher, the nurturing husband, the philanderer, the guy who is in control and the guy who is very much out of his depth. Madison Dirks, amazingly, manages all of these various turns with ease and a consistent characterization.

Part of it is that he is exactly the physical type the part needs and he has Nick's body language nailed. He's this tall, broad-shouldered, handsome guy. His movements are languid and assured. He holds these relax but definite positions. That's the sort of confidence that ought to go with anyone who is as accomplished as Nick is supposed to be. Part of it is that Madison Dirks, like the rest of the cast, has mined the subtext and gets across what's really going on with ease.

Honey is difficult because the part is so under-written. I'm not sure what you're supposed to do with the part besides get drunk really quickly and have good comic timing. Carrie Coon does just that. Again, she manages the twists and turns of the part without every seeming arbitrary. (I imagine that's an easy trap to fall into with this part, or Nick for that matter.)

Once the inevitable ending arrives (and part of its power for me is seeing it build over the acts), it is devastating. It's hard for me to imagine that I'll ever see a production of the play better than this one.

From the sublime to the ridiculous (in a good way), I saw Drood that night. My friend, Jon, who suggested this ordering, in part, because seeing Virginia Woolf second would have just been weird.

Drood, of course, is utterly and intentionally frivolous. The plot of the Dickens novel is staged as a musical within a show put on in an English music hall. This gives the show all sorts of opportunities to do all sorts of extra things and it exploits those opportunities shamelessly. There's probably the spine of a "straight" Drood musical in the songs "No Good Can Come From Bad" and "The Name of Love." However, this is a musical that revels in its deliberately awful jokes and its vaudevillian turns.

This production doesn't flinch from a single groaner. The result is a really good time. The cast is uniformly wonderful. I'm honestly not sure why someone thought Drood was worth reviving, but Roundabout did, it was a lot of fun and I'm hoping for a cast album. (They've made changes since the original production. This production honors those changes and made other changes on top of them. It'd be nice to have all of this preserved for posterity, especially since the cast is so good.)

If I had a quibble, is that we as the audience chose Rosa Bud as the murderer. By coincidence, the only other time I saw the show (a local production in Buffalo, NY), we also chose Rosa Bud as the murderer. I was hoping to see a different confession. However, Betsy Wolfe is outstanding as Rosa Bud, even in a cast full of excellent performances. I can see why we as a whole chose her and by a healthy margin. (They post the vote tally so you can check it out on the way out of the theater.)

So that was lots of fun. Coming up next, Chinglish at Lyric Stage. (This was the show I would have seen on Broadway but for Irene. Of course, I couldn't get back to NYC before Chinglish closed.) Then, assuming ART lets me exchange my ticket, Pippin. (I bought my ticket then found out yesterday that the schedule for my improv class has changed. Since I'm already missing a class for WFC, I can't miss a second one. *sigh*)