Posts Tagged ‘gerry leonard’

Performance diary: Suzanne Vega and “The Pride”

February 1, 2010

I continue to be haunted by A View from the Bridge. I think one thing that makes this production so compelling is the strong relationship between Eddie and the lawyer Alfieri. Sometimes that aspect of the play feels overly symbolic, a plot convenience, but as played by Liev Schreiber and Michael Cristofer, there’s a powerful father-son flavor to their connection. Eddie really trusts this guy, looks up to him, speaks his heart, and listens carefully. And Alfieri speaks hard truths to him in a loving way. The more I think about it, the more I admire Cristofer’s performance.

I also admire the way Miller folds in the inevitability that is a key feature of Greek tragedy. It’s Eddie, after all, who spells out for Catherine the clan’s code of ethics toward squealers who drop a dime on undocumented immigrants. It’s no accident that John Lee Beatty’s set features a pay phone that’s visible from the first moment of the play. Miller wrote the play in the midst of the McCarthy era, when turning people in and naming names was not in the slightest bit hypothetical. Today, this aspect of the play conjures the Homeland Security motto, “If you see something, say something.” I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds those subway posters creepy, knowing that such “protective” measures are more often used to divide and persecute the citizenry rather than offer true protection.

January 28 – At the American Songbook series, Suzanne Vega offered what amounted to a retrospective of her career. It certainly made me happy that she opened with three of my favorites: “Marlene on the Wall,” “Small Blue Thing,” and “Caramel.” (The first has generated a persistent, not unpleasant earworm: “Marlene watches from the wall/Her mocking smile says it all/As she records the rise and fall of every man who’s been here/But the only one here now is me/I’m fighting things I cannot see/I think it’s called my destiny/That I am changing changing changing….”) There were songs that I’d forgotten that I loved, like “Left of Center” and “Gypsy” (which she wrote when she was 17! At summer camp! With its extraordinary line about “night is the cathedral”). Stephen and I remember seeing Suzanne Vega at Folk City in 1984 before she even had a record deal (actually, Stephen’s review was instrumental in getting her a record deal), and Andy is way into more recent albums, especially Beauty and Crime. So we all dug the show, especially when the encore was the remix version of “Tom’s Diner.” She had a hot band – a cute and terrific bass played named Michael Visceglia (“Left of Center” was just the two of them) and a fantastic guitarist named Gerry Leonard who was a wizard with pedals and playbacks. A string quartet also accompanied several numbers. Suzanne looked elegant and amazingly youthful, though for some reason she commented a couple of times that she was surprised at how “well-behaved” the audience was. She expected what, catcalls? Flung jockey shorts? Premature requests for “Luka”?

January 30 – Alexi Kaye Campbell’s The Pride, produced by MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel, gives us two versions of a trio named Oliver, Philip, and Sylvia (played by Ben Whishaw, Hugh Dancy, and Andrea Riseborough). In 1958 Oliver is a modestly successful children’s book writer, Sylvia is his somewhat mentally unstable illustrator, and Philip is her realtor husband who has an affair with Oliver that sends him into aversion therapy. In 2008 Oliver is a sexually compulsive magazine writer, Philip is the photographer boyfriend who just left him, and Sylvia is the fag hag who wants to get them back together. As a first play, it’s obviously indebted to Caryl Churchill’s Cloud 9 (which premiered in New York at the same theater, come to think of it), though Campbell intersperses his eras throughout the play. It’s a flashy showcase for actors, directed by Joe Mantello, but I found the play ludicrous, a kind of sensationalistic soap opera.

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