Sep 12, 2007

Classics Dept.

The weight of this sad time we must obey,
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest have borne most; we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

The final quatrain of King Lear rang with particular resonance last night, on the 6th anniversary of 9/11, and not least because the actor playing Edgar in the RSC production at BAM, Ben Meyjes, is among the few apart from the show's billed star, Sir Ian McKellen, to stand out in Trevor Nunn's otherwise rather dreary, exasperating production. As for Sir Ian, I was thrilled to see him take on the role, but I felt none of the role's tragic heft. It's a very physical, very watchable, yet somehow hollow performance, in a production that has formidable scale but very little theatrical life.

I'm afraid I was also underwhelmed by Chuck Mee's Iphigenia 2.0 at Signature Theatre Company. I like Mee's aesthetic in principle, and in practice I loved his Berlin Circle (later staged as Full Circle) and Big Love. But I felt, with the stakes and passions as high--as Greek--as they're pitched in Iphigenia, where's the language? So much of the dialogue is pedestrian, serviceable, or, as is Mee's wont, "found" text, and it's just not up to the task, frankly. Director Tina Landau hosts a good, jagged party, and Kate Mulgrew wrings a lot out of the very little she has. But why put an actor as good as Rocco Sisto in a military outfit and give him nothing particularly penetrating to say, and no obstacles to push against? And does anything Tom Nelis' Agamemnon say or do after his stirring opening speech make a lick of sense? Iphigenia 2.0 is a short jaunt next to Lear's long drag, but it felt similarly tedious.

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