I'm back in my hometown of Phoenix for a high-school reunion, won't be seeing any theater here. Been a little buried in finishing up the Brian Cox piece—he's an infinite subject, it seems, with a career that spans everything from Titus Andronicus to the X-Men to this (if you're even remotely familiar with his work, you won't regret checking this out).
I have to say the man was definitive in Stoppard's Rock 'N' Roll, and I confess I was somehow both left cold and blown away by the play, an ambitious but very singular reckoning of the author's prickly entente with the Western left—at least that segment of it, represented by Cox's character, Max, an unreconstructed Marxist don at Cambridge, which apologized for the Soviet Empire and dismissed its dissidents as distractions at best, traitors at worst. Largely due to Cox's conviction in the role, Max holds his own. And there's something about Stoppard's intellect that seems to repel direct emotional involvement, that somehow creates the expectation that he's working on a Shavian level of discourse and we're not supposed to feel for his characters, when in fact that's just a front, a mask, worn as much by the characters as by the playwright. What dawns on you, particularly upon later reflection—and this is a play I hope comes to New York, so I can see it again—is that for all its highbrow chatter, this is sweeping, old-fashioned, deeply emotional storytelling. For some reason I thought of Spielberg, an artist who's tried to trade up from his popcorn showman's origins, with results that have similarly both stirred and confounded our responses; under his literate trappings, Stoppard is essentially as much a ripping good showman. Reportedly Mick Jagger has the film rights to the play. If they don't get Milos Forman, Mr. E.T. would make a fantastic choice.