Tuesday, October 20, 2009

But When We Get To The End, He Wants To Start All Over Again

This past Saturday was New York University's Parent's Day, and so I was able to spend time this weekend with my visiting mother and grandmother. While they were here, we attended a Saturday night performance of God of Carnage on Broadway, which recently won Best Play at the 2009 Tony Awards. The play, written by Yasmina Reza and directed by Best Director Tony winner Matthew Warchus (who also helmed Alan Ayckbourn's brilliant trilogy The Norman Conquests on Broadway recently), is a fascinating look at an evening gathering between two married couples that quickly breaks out into absolute chaos. Although the synopsis calls to mind Edward Albee's revolutionary Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Warchus' play is far funnier and lighthearted, and an incredible pleasure to watch. But make no mistake - the laughs sting, and the social commentary isn't lost in the very dark humor.

The original Broadway cast ends their incredible run on November 14th, and although I am sure the replacement cast will be spectacular as well, the four original actors are a delight to watch in God of Carnage. Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden are simply extraordinary (Mrs. Harden won the Tony award for Best Actress).

After the performance, I was lucky enough to travel backstage of the Bernard Jacobs Theatre and meet Mrs. Harden, who is a Texas native and a graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. She is, quite simply, a terrific actress and a wonderful person. As part of the ongoing curtain call for the great actors, I waited outside of the theater after going backstage so that the rest of the cast could sign my God of Carnage poster. It was truly a Broadway experience I will never forget.

On Sunday afternoon, my mother, grandmother and I attended a matinee of William Shakespeare's Hamlet at the Broadhurst Theatre, directed by Michael Grandage and starring actor Jude Law in the titular role. Clocking in at nearly four hours, there is not a boring moment of this production of Hamlet - Law is truly memorable as the tortured hero, and a brilliant cast of British character actors join him onstage.

Hamlet never fails to fascinate me, more so than any other Shakespeare play, because it is ultimately a play about a man accused of insanity in a world where everybody else breaks the rules and twists the moral fabrics of society to their own liking and, tragically, gets away with it. Ironically, Hamlet is really the only sane character in the kingdom of Denmark, and those surrounding him are so afraid to admit that he is right that, eventually, Hamlet is driven to extreme measures in order to expose the lies on which this new kingdom is built. He fights endlessly for the truth, only to be met by enemies who were once friends, and a family that turns their backs on him because of his necessarily bizarre behavior. It's a Shakespearean tragedy that is played out daily by common men as much as by princes and kings.

Last Thursday evening, I attended a free screening of F. Gary Gray's new film Law Abiding Citizen at the Cantor Film Center. Producer Alan Siegel held a Q&A after the movie, which stars Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler in a plot almost too convoluted to explain. Roger Ebert hits it on the head in his review of the movie, when he writes that Law Abiding Citizen is "one of those movies you like more at the time than in retrospect." I had fun, but I forgot about the movie within an hour or two, which may be due to the fact that afterward I quickly headed uptown to the AMC Loews 34th Street IMAX theater with a group of excited film freshmen to catch the midnight showing of Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are.

Where the Wild Things Are is a difficult movie to write about, because the movie plays subtly on so many emotions without words. I have an enormous amount of respect for the movie, and when I say I was deeply moved, I truly mean it. There are those proclaiming the film as the best movie of the year, a claim with which I would strongly disagree, but the movie is quite an achievement nonetheless. I want to see it again.

On both Sunday evening and yesterday evening, I got to see my good friend Mitchell Stephens, who is a senior this year at Austin High School, as he was visiting New York City to look at colleges, among them New York University and Fordham University. He and I starred in many productions together with The Red Dragon Players at Austin High School (among them Major Barbara, Over the River and Through the Woods, Willy Wonka, Radio Eyes, Urinetown: The Musical, The Diary of Anne Frank and Into the Woods), and I am certain he will be a highly sought-after candidate for many top theatre schools. If he winds up going to college and studying acting in New York, I will be very excited. I had dinner with him, my mother and grandmother Sunday evening at Tavern on Jane Street, owned by Horton Foote Jr., the son of brilliant playwright Horton Foote, and yesterday I was able to show him around the Tisch building at 721 Broadway.

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