Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Jack O'Brien on Utopia

This is excerpted from a 2003 interview with Jack O'Brien, who will be directing The Coast of Utopia.

Q: Why are you interested in Tom Stoppard's play, Coast of Utopia, which deals with a subject and characters that most of us know nothing about.

JG: And the history is unknown. I think in England, as well. Jack, does this worry you at all in making it accessible to an audience?

JO: Yes, it does. In other words(and that's what I said) it's my job. And it's Tom's job. And we have to find a way to awaken an immediate sense of excitement and accessibility to you. There are a lot of characters in theater you don't know when you walk in the door. You think you do, but you don't. And, quite frankly, if they're not rendered in three dimensions, they don't grab you. There are other productions of this play itself that could be intolerable to you if you saw them not properly handled. And so I have to believe, as I inevitably do, in the quality of the writing. And when a writer, like Shakespeare, Stoppard, or Mr. Guare, takes their pen up, if it's interesting to them, I can't imagine it isn't going to be interesting to me. So I immediately put the onus on myself. It's my problem. But when I first read The Coast of Utopia, particularly the first play, I suddenly thought I'm seeing the essence of what Chekhov was doing but in a uniquely English rhythm. But it made me laugh. I thought it was deft. I thought it was witty. I thought it was sexy. I understood it. I had the great advantage of having people like Richard Eyre and Trevor Nunn do the initial productions. And I look at them and I think, mm, gee, that's not too good, is it? And I think, God, what would I have done if it were my assignment? I have the great advantage of learning these things again. And I'm hoping what happens is just that.

Speaking of Utopia, Modern Fabulosity blasphemes excitedly at the thought of the play's "unbelievable, civilization-rocking cast" and warns that "tickets will be impossible to get, so plan your mode of attack now".

Not that much on Macbeth. Adi Zukerman saw the rain show and imagines Macbeth-meets-X-Men. At Hawleyblog the play's found to be a bit of a downer despite Mr Schreiber's hotness. Meanwhile, there's some sort of controversy over at All That Chat about the rewrites of some parts of Macbeth.

Tomorrow is the official opening of the play so no doubt the press as well as the Summer Gala bigwigs will be in attendance. All the best to the company - we wish them fine weather and enthusiastic critics!

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