Last night I saw the first play, Voyage, in Tom Stoppard's trilogy The Coast of Utopia at Lincoln Center. As per usual at Lincoln Center, I sat in a sea (a sea) of the pale and aged. They even make a special announcement about turning off hearing aids at the beginning. And did they? Of course not. And you know why? Because they're old, and they've lived so long that they no longer need to honor society with good behavior. They've paid their dues. And, because they're ancient, we shouldn't dare confront them. They're our elders.
Well, last night, my elders pissed the hell out of me. I shushed the woman next to me about forty times. She kept turning to her husband and saying, at normal talking volume, "I hope the second half's better," and "What movie was he in?" And then she got out some candies and it took about five years to unwrap it, sending that horribly loud crinkling sound throughout the entire mezzanine. I was feeling positively murderous.
Oh, and the coughing. The coughing! I've never heard so much coughing in a theatre before in my life. I know the weather's changing and it was raining and freezing, but come on, folks. At least try and stifle it, with your hand or your sleeve or your program or your companion. Many of the characters in the play, being Russian revolutionaries, had seizing coughs, and they met their match with the thousand invalids at Lincoln Center last night. Big whooping coughs, small staccato coughs, rattling juicy coughs, piercing dry coughs; you name the bodily fluid, it was coughed up last night. I could hardly concentrate on the play.
Speaking of the play, it's hard for me to comment at the moment because I feel like I haven't seen all of it. Even though Stoppard said in his program notes that he wants the plays to stand alone, it felt to me like the first act of a three-act play. It's staged beautifully by Jack O'Brien and designed within an inch of its life -- the opening of the play is the most spectacular series of visual moments I've ever seen on a stage. I can't even describe it. It has a great cast, too: good performances (so far) from Martha Plimpton, Billy Crudup, and Jason Butler Harner. Ethan Hawke got a lot better throughout the evening (and I think he's a great stage actor), and so did Jennifer Ehle. Amy Irving had little else to do but beat her serfs, and Brian F. O'Byrne's accent distracted me. His character is the central one, however, and becomes more prominent in the remaining plays, so my thoughts will probably change.
Lincoln Center provided fantastic synopses in the program, and it was fun at intermission to walk out into the lobby and see everybody sitting on the stairs, the railings, chairs, leaning against the walls, studiously reading the dramaturg's notes.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
He Who Laughs has written about seeing Voyage, and about some frustrations in the audience too!