Joho the Blog » Shakespeare, Stoppard, Branagh, etc.

Shakespeare, Stoppard, Branagh, etc.

Edward Rothstein of the NY Times reviews Shakespeare & Co.’s Antony & Cleopatra alongside their production of Tom Stoppard’s Rough Crossing. I saw both and think Edward works too hard to find a Big Picture analogy between the two. Yes, the Stoppard play cleverly relies on a character mistaking a performance for life, but the play and the characters were too slight to make anything metaphysical of it. And while A&C is obviously about the political and the personal — and, as my sister-in-law Meredith Sue Willis points out, also about the personal struggling to become mythic — I just didn’t believe it. Or much enjoy it.

I blogged about A&C here. Meredith Sue Willis just blogged about Rough Crossing; look for the August 25 post. She’s a poet, novelist, teacher, and a hell of a writer.

I hate to say it, but I also wasn’t bowled over by the new Kenneth Branagh “As You Like It” being shown on HBO.

I’m a big fan of Branagh’s Shakespearean movies, yes, including “Love’s Labour Lost.” But this one was weird, and not because it was set in Japan for no apparent reason. (Oh, there were some nicely framed indoor shots, but I didn’t think it was worth the distraction.) The first hour of this two-hour abbreviated version seems to be setting us up for tragedy. Touchstone — enjoyably played with exuberance by Alfred Molina — is the sole source of levity in this half, making him feel like the clown in a tragedy. Perhaps Branagh was thinking that he needed to deepen the drama so that the romance would be deepened, and the acting is indeed so good that I was touched by the love of the lovers. But the plot contrivance of this play is so outrageous that it can’t really handle much drama. (A boy plays a girl playing a boy playing a girl, although now of course we have a girl playing a girl playing a boy playing a girl.) And Branagh cut much of Rosalind’s part, so we don’t get a sense of her — an odd choice.

Still, there’s lots to like about the production, starting with the acting. Branagh finds a lot in the relationship of Orlando and his brother, Oliver. The play looks great, even though a forest in the UK plays a forest in Japan playing a forest in the UK, so to speak. And we want Branagh to do more Shakespeare plays. So, go out and buy the action figures and eat the Wheaties with Rosalind on the box. [Tags: shakespeare as_you_like_it antony_and_cleopatra reviews kenneth_branagh tom_stoppard rough_crossing hbo meredith_sue_willis ]

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