Well I've been looking forward to The Coast of Utopia since I started to hear rumblings of its coming to Lincoln Center during this time last year. The show opened in London in 2002 and I know a whole host of people who must be so excited it's finally here. (Probably the same people who can't wait until 2008 for Billy Elliott) I tell you, after seeing Voyage, part 1 of the three-part series, I was not disappointed! Tom Stoppard has embarked upon a momentous story - and it comes through so very well on stage.
The buzz about the show is about how big of an undertaking it is. This triology will be performed at Lincoln Center over the next six months and will feature 44 actors, playing 70 roles, and covering three decades of Russian life, history, art, culture, and ideals. The cast includes such great names as Billy Crudup (Pillowman, anyone?), Richard Easton, Jennifer Ehle (A&E's Pride and Prejudice), Josh Hamilton, David Harbour (Who's Afraid of VA Woolf?), Jason Butler Harner, Ethan Hawke, Amy Irving, Brían F. O’Byrne, and Martha Plimpton. There are even "marathon" performances in which the actors perform all three parts in one day - 9 hours of theatre! I must say I was a little intimidated - but I think it could be an exhilerating experience.
It's such a hard story to explain in terms of plot (all of those Russian names), so I think I'll borrow from the website a bit: "The first part of the trilogy, Voyage, is Stoppard’s nod to Chekhov set at the grand Russian countryside estate of the Bakunin family. Four eligible sisters are under the sway of their charismatic brother, Michael (Hawke), who interferes in their lives, while fervently seeking a greater purpose in his own. As his political and philosophical journey unfolds, Bakunin’s compatriots will include Vissarion Belinsky (Crudup), George Herwegh, Karl Marx, Nicholas Ogarev, Nicholas Stankevich, Ivan Turgenev and, of particular note, the visionary leader Alexander Herzen (O'Byrne)."
So as you can see, Voyage is mostly about Michael's journey and largely focuses around his family and their estate. It's invigorating to listen to the dialogue about Russian idealism and literature as it's battered back and forth between the actors. For the three hours I sat watching the show - I was literally enthralled by what I was seeing. I immediately bought the Lincoln Center Theater Review and can't get enough of the information I found inside.
Now all I can say is....the second part, Shipwreck, can't come soon enough....Stay tuned!
just came back from the first part of The Coast of Utopia, which was very good for anybody interested in seeing it, and Ethan Hawke's role is very large in this part, as is Billy Crudup's (although I've just found out he's not in the third part, probably because he's dying of consumption). Anyway, I've realized I'm writing my own play series, and while not as grandiose as Coast of Utopia, with its cast of like 30, or even Angels in America with its cast of 7, it's becoming its own little world. [...]
I have a friend at work that is just about as movie nuts as I am. The only things he and I disagree on are horror movies as he’s not into them at all. But his first love is the British mini-series. And of those, his absolute favorite, and I mean hands down the best ever, was 1995’s Pride and Prejudice. He’s a huge Jane Austin fan, and to tell you the truth, I can’t blame him. One of my favorites is still Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility.
Anyhow, I hadn’t ever seen the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, so when it was announced that Arts & Entertainment was going to be releasing a 10th Anniversary edition of the 5 hour mini-series, he and I were both stoked. When it came in, he must have asked me every day for two weeks, “Have you watched it yet? Have you watched it yet?” It wasn’t until a few days ago I was finally able to tell him I had and could see why he thought it was so great.
The BBC version of Pride and Prejudice has to be one of the finest versions of any of Austin’s books. The lengthy running time allows the story to unfold in a slow and deliberate manner, eschewing any need to rush it along. It allows the story to be savored, and if you are a lover of the English language and how well it can be used in the art of sarcasm as I am, then you will find yourself giddy with glee over the verbal battles thrown about. The performances are astonishingly good, most notably from the leads, Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. The way their underlying feelings simmer just below the surface of their constant aggravation of each other’s company is as well played better than I have ever seen in any other film.
The production is also graced with gorgeous costumes (people really knew how to dress back then as opposed to the appalling apparel you see nowadays) and breathtaking locations. I lost count of the houses I would love to live in. My friend mentioned to me that the first time he ever saw this version on DVD, he watched it twice in one night. I’m not that obsessed, but even I have to admit that the length of the mini-series was never an issue. Though it moved slowly, it did not drag. It felt like it went by much faster than it did, that’s how lost in the story I was.
A&E went all out with this new 10th Anniversary release. I was first stricken by the sheer size of the set. While it only holds three discs, they opted to create a case that looked like an old fashioned ledger. The case holds the discs and a 120 page “Making of” booklet. The book is full of information and photographs detailing the production, but so much as to make it impossible to read in one sitting. My only complaint about the case was that the discs were held in slots cut into the cardboard. This would have been enough to hold them, but they also placed center hubs to further hold the discs in place. When you pull a disc out, it is very difficult not to run the surface across the hub. Personally I would have left the hub off.
There is no commentary or extras on the discs with the mini-series itself, but the third disc holds quite a few. There is an our long documentary that serves as a companion piece to the book and offers a multitude of interviews with most of the cast and crew, though I thought it was odd that there were no video interviews with Firth or Ehle. There is also an episode of “Biography” which features the life of Jane Austin. Finally, you’ll find a short featurette where actors Adrian Lukis and Lucy Briers ang out and reminisce about the production in one of the house that was used. It’s quite informal and funny.
Pride and Prejudice is an outstanding piece of work, but it will only appeal to those who appreciate dialogue over explosions and great acting over car chases. This set belongs in any collection that has any style at all.