Friday, September 29, 2006

Pot luck (part the nth)

Bring on the 17th already! For now, some good old random links:

  • Daily Trojan reviews the new collector's edition of Pride and Prejudice. Verdict:

    Aside from that, the "Pride and Prejudice: 10th Anniversary Limited Collector's Edition" is an example of what collector's DVD sets should be, and should be a part of any fan's of the series DVD collection.

  • Brief wrap of the same at Michael's Myspace.

    Shot on location in the castles and countryside of England, this A&E/BBC co-production offers up the definitive interpretation of Jane Austen's classic with a grandly handsome look that sets off but never upstages the story. Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle headline the smartly scripted production, and the generous running time (about 5 hours) allows plenty of time for character development and side stories to play out at a strolling pace. Firth's brittle, brooding performance made him the quintessential Darcy and he was rightly celebrated in Bridget Jones' Diary. Details: Color, 300 mins, A&E, Widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1. Supplements: 10th Anniversary Limited Edition Collector's Set; Gold embossed green fabric slipcase; Newly remastered widescreen print; Bonus Disc Features:; Jane Austen Biography episode; An exclusive new retrospective documentary about the making of the classic series; A 120 page deluxe companion book The Making Of Pride and Prejudice with photos, illustrations, and interviews with cast and crew. Audio: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo). Optional subtitles.

  • On the blogs, there are squillions of "saw P&P, loved it" sort of posts, but Kirk's comment is cuter than most:

    Colin Firth as Mr Darcy was perfect casting and Jennifer Ehle as Lizzie gave me a new level of woman to watch out for. She was perfect and Mr Darcy comes off as not perfect which makes his journey back to redemption that much sweeter.

  • Alpha Male review over at Habitus by Peter Malone:

    For such a macho title, this film offers very laid back alpha males. This is the kind of drama that is associated with more up-market television channels, something of an old-fashioned British upper-class portrait.

    The structure of the film is meant to keep reminding us of how the past has its effect on the future, as it moves from the present back nine years and keeps cutting to and fro, sometimes suggesting that the memories are those of different members of the family though that is not always clear.

    The gist of the matter is that two well-loved, somewhat spoilt, children experience the death of their father which has dire traumatic effect on each of them emotionally and mentally. While we can accept that the death of a parent can affect a child, it is hard to see that these two have the right to be so adversely affected or why it has such effect, especially on the girl.

    Danny Huston is very sympathetic as the father who is a successful businessman (making cartons for a variety of goods), who has great pride in his son and pampers his daughter (even suddenly getting her a treehouse overnight for her birthday – and trying to read her to sleep with a financial report). He dies. Jennifer Ehle (looking remarkably like Meryl Streep) is his wife.

    The present time is a weekend for the son’s 21st birthday. He has not been home for three years. His sister mopes around the house. The mother has re-married but the son has not been able to accept this. The mother’s sister, with whom she fell out, is invited – and is offered a gift of a cheque for a million pounds. Things go much as you would expect, especially in such an affluent setting with such generally reserved British manners.

  • And another, at Regal Picturehouses:

    ALPHA MALE is a perceptive and emotionally wrought story of family life that sensitively deals with the force of personality, family politics, repressed emotions, great love and devastating loss. When Jim Ferris (Huston, THE PROPOSITION) dies, leaving behind a family fractured by his absence, his young son Jack is prematurely burdened with the responsibility of looking after the family. When Jim's widow Alice (Ehle, POSSESSION) meets and marries a new man (Baladi, The Office), a firm wedge comes between Jack and the rest of the family. It is another eleven years before the rifts can even begin to heal as they all come together again for Jack's (Mark Wells, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA) 21st birthday weekend. Beautifully performed by a fine ensemble cast (Ehle especially sparkles), this is a film that is unafraid to tackle some of life's bigger questions.

    Note Paula's message in the tagboard about the film being one of British Airways' in-flight selections for US to UK crossings this month. Thanks for the heads-up!

  • Over at Martha Plimpton's, word is that Voyage rehearsals are going well and they're past the complete and utter panic stage. Sweet. Speaking of Utopia, the LCT folks have replied thusly about student rush tix:

    Generally, there will be rush tickets available for The Coast of Utopia, but we never guarantee that rush tickets will be available for any specific performance. Please visit the LCT box office up to two hour before a performance to purchase $30 rush tickets (subject to availability) and be sure to have your valid student ID to show the box office agent.
  • Wednesday, September 27, 2006

    Interview with Tom Stoppard

    From the LCT website.
    Tom Stoppard's work, from "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead" (1967), to "Rock 'n Roll," which premiered earlier this year in London, has earned popular and critical acclaim. Brendan Lemon, the American theater critic for the Financial Times, caught up with Stoppard after a recent Lincoln Center Theater rehearsal for the American premiere of "The Coast of Utopia," his three-parter about 19th-century Russian radicals.

    Brendan Lemon: What do you learn in the rehearsal process?

    Tom Stoppard: I try to learn how to work with the minimum necessary. The first draft is always far too long and you go through a period where you don't know what to do about it because everything seems necessary. The closer you get to having an audience, the more material you find that you can do without, and then audiences tell you more.

    When we did The Coast of Utopia in London, at the National Theatre, we didn't really have enough time to step back and look at it. I didn't look back at it for a year or two after that run. There is something in my nature which puts these things off until it's almost too late. Two weeks before we started rehearsal here in New York, I took another look at the text, mostly to see if the narrative intentions where clear enough. And now I no longer refer to it as my nine-hour trilogy but as my eight-and-a-half-hour trilogy.

    For New York, I've also added a few lines to give the audience more information, to make something clearer. In life, one very rarely has to spell things out. Context usually makes plain the subject of a conversation. You might say that that's also true in the theater, but only if everything is working and the audience is super-alert.

    BL: What did you work on during the period just after the run at the National? Was it your latest play, "Rock 'n Roll," which opened this year successfully in London, and is still running in the West End?

    TS: Not immediately. I began thinking about that play, but then I did some film work which didn't come to anything.

    BL: Is it fair to say that no project you've done required as much immersion in source material as Coast of Utopia?

    TS: Yes. I was reading for about four years. I had a background interest in a later period of Russian history. But the play was inspired by reading Isaiah Berlin's Russian Thinkers, and becoming fascinated by some of the people he wrote about. The first person was Belinsky, not Herzen. I had absolutely no idea when I started that I would be writing three parts. Still less that the first part would be mostly about the family of Michael Bakunin. The name Bakunin wasn't on my mind until later down the road.

    I'd been working for a good year before being tempted by the idea of a trilogy. That happened because one day I made a skeleton of everything I wanted to include for the play. And I could see that I was deluding myself to think that everything would be possible in one evening.

    BL: Why do the great characters in 19th-century Russian fiction, as well as these real-life characters from the period, absorb us so intensely?

    TS: Their idealism and their optimism were very attractive. There's also the fact that they're Russian, and Russian-ness appeals to many people; certainly it does to me. One of the characters in The Coast of Utopia says that a great writer can represent Russia more than any formal institution can. Because of the very existence of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Gorky, Chekhov, not to mention the composers and poets, Russians could feel pride in being Russians, and non-Russians could feel respect for Russians and for Russia.

    BL: The first character you took up was Belinsky, not Bakunin or Herzen. And in the trilogy's second part, Shipwreck, Belinsky has an indelible final speech. But once he's gone, I miss his passion. Does that concern you, for part three?

    TS: I think Herzen is equally passionate in his way. In London, the actor playing Belinksy moved into the third play, too. But it seems right and proper that that actor shouldn't come back. So that's what we're doing in New York. I don't think Belinsky was a genius, but I think that in his own way that Herzen was. There is something heartbreaking about Belinsky's utter integrity, his fight with himself to be true to things, his willingness to admit when he was wrong. He lived for literature. His job was to find artists and encourage them. His was a combination of a noble calling and a pointless one. Whether people can find great artists without the help of any critic I don't know. In any event, that kind of discovery was his role as he saw it.

    BL: The cast is of a size we don't often see in New York, which helps contribute to the excitement of putting on The Coast of Utopia here. Does the number of bodies onstage make it a challenge for this trilogy to have subsequent productions?

    TS: One has to be grateful to any theater for undertaking a play of this scale. That said, this has to be treated like any play. Our director, Jack O'Brien, is very conscious right now of the need to keep in mind parts two and three while we're deep in part one.

    BL: Herzen's exhortation for us to live in the present moment seems very much like something a person of the theater would say. For example, Stephen Sondheim always says what matters to him is less the record of a musical on film or video than its performance in the living moment.

    TS: He's right. I don't mean to be mean-spirited about it, but I'm slightly unenthusiastic about the idea of preserving theater on video. First of all, you can't, really, capture the spirit of a play. It's just the technical record of what occurs. Rather selfishly, I like the idea of theater being ephemeral: you're there or you're not there. If you're not there, you missed it. In a way, this is what theater's got going for it.

    BL: Do you find audiences in New York for your work are much different from audiences in London?

    TS: I've never felt that there was any difference of any significance. The difference between England and America has to do with membership or subscription audiences. Which we don't really have much of in England. With a subscription audience, there's an element of people coming because they trust the theater rather than because they have any particular desire to see a particular play.

    BL: In Moscow, The Coast of Utopia is being done at the National Youth Theater, isn't it?

    TS: The name of the building where the play will be put on has got the word "youth" in it, but it is not in fact a Youth Theater. In the Stalin years, it was used as a youth theater. It's a shabby 19th-century theater building, but with wonderful atmosphere.

    BL: What is the performance schedule for the Moscow production?

    TS: They haven't got one. They haven't even got an opening date. It's a country where artists are on salary from the state. They start working on a play, and at a certain point they think about an opening date. The Coast of Utopia started rehearsing this year in January. Not every day. Now it's in a more intense period of rehearsal. The last I heard, it might open in January but it could be later.

    BL: Which of your plays have had the most productions?

    TS: Because of schools and universities, probably Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and The Real Inspector Hound. The latter is an 80-minute play, which lends itself to many uses. Nowadays, Arcadia is also done a lot.

    BL: Last question: Do you see Herzen's political thought as relevant at all to the present moment?

    TS: I think pluralism, which is part of Herzen's philosophy, is something that strikes a chord now. The insistence that we didn't get cut out by the same cookie cutter. That differences have to be fitted together as differences, not wished away. Society should be a contest of generosity. That's the only hope, I think.

    The P&P DVD Boxset is available as of yesterday in the US.
    "Pride and Prejudice" — To mark its 10th anniversary, the lush BBC adaptation of Jane Austen's classic, starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, returns in a lavish boxed set. Along with the five-hour miniseries, the three-disc set has an A&E "Biography" installment on Austen and a 120-page book about the making of the show. Not rated.

    Monday, September 25, 2006

    "Divinely accessible"

    Thanks to VP for e-mailing this tip! Tis a review of the collector's edition Pride and Prejudice set from the September 29th Entertainment Weekly, scanned at Sammie323's Effluvia. Warm praise for the mini, rather more tepid for this edition. Click on the pic to enlarge.

    Valium high

    Mike Davies on Alpha Male, 21 September 2006, Birmingham Post.


    Drifting serenely through the film as if on a Valium high, Jennifer Ehle plays Alice, a Home Counties wife and mother of two who inherits millions when her volatile but loving husband (Danny Huston) dies of cancer.

    At bereavement counselling she meets amiable bearded artist Clive (Patrick Baladi) and a new romance blooms.

    However, this sits badly with adolescent son Jack (Arthur Duncan) who takes exception to this interloper who's usurped what he now regards as his position as dominant male.

    Jack turns into a spiteful little brat while younger sister Elyssa (Katie Knight) becomes withdrawn and weird. Ten years later, both (now Mark Wells and Amelia Warner) have got worse, Jack's not been home in three years and is barely on speaking terms while Elyssa's heading for a breakdown.

    Hoping to reunite her dysfunctional family, Alice throws her estranged son a 21st party.

    Things start off frosty and proceed to get worse as flashbacks detail the prickly atmosphere around the house and reveal the reason behind Elyssa's long harboured resentment of her aunt (Trudie Styler) while the present day serves up an array of home truths and betrayals.

    While more effective at presenting the frigid polite appearances than the turbulence under the surface, and frustratingly vague in regard to the behaviour of several characters, there's still much to hold the attention in this insightful is detached portrait of repressed British middle-class family and social relationships.

    Sunday, September 24, 2006

    DFL Stuff

    Because there isn't much news till the start of Coast of Utopia, here's some stuff on an oldie: Design for Living.

    From NY Daily News:
    There is a coolness to Jennifer Ehle's Gilda, suggesting that her actions stem from calculation rather than helpless spontaneity.

    From Equinox News:
    I don't know why more people don't go see straight plays. Everyone's hot for a musical these days and producers of musicals are raking in the big bucks. To the audiences of these million dollar musicals I say "You're missing out." Design for Living, which recently opened at the American Airlines Theatre at 42nd street and Broadway, is not only funny but timely, provocative and delightgful.
    The script, written by turn of the century playwright Noel Coward, is both witty and fast-paced and tells the story of a bizarre love triangle. Often we see stories of two men in love with the same woman but rarely is she in love with both men and never do the men also love each other. Alan Cumming (Cabaret) plays Otto, a struggling painter in Paris and the live in boyfriend of Gilda (Jennifer Ehle, Wilde, Pride and Prejudice). The play opens on Ernest (John Cunningham, Titanic), an old friend of trio, visiting Gilda on the eve of Otto's return from a painting sojourn. Gilda expresses feelings of helplessness and being trapped but is vague as to the source. Enter Otto who is warmly welcomed and pleased to hear news that the third of their group, Leo (Dominic West, De La Guarda, A Midsummer Night's Dream), has recently returned from America where his new play is extremely successful. From here, the relationships become twisted, tangled and irrevocably intertwined as we move from Otto's apartment in Paris, to Leo's in London a year and a half later and finally to Ernest's in New York two years after that. In the end, we learn that some things are just meant to be. Says Gilda, "Some things are just too strong to fight."
    My highest praises and more should be heaped upon this remarkably talented cast. Cumming is charming, delightful, playful and endearing. West is both brash and sensitive. Ehle emotes the conflict within Gilda to the point of reality. All three are highly comedically talented and fill the show with laughs galore. Honorable mention should be given to Jenny Sterlin (Seagulls) who played Miss Hodge, Leo's flighty housekeeper, with brilliance. If you follow my reviews closely, you may notice a fondness for the set designs of Robert Brill and this show is no different. Brill creates amazing environments in every show. This time he managed to pull off a miniscule apartment with working slanted windows as a ceiling, a lavish apartment full of roses and chandeliers and a modern apartment with working floor-to-ceiling curtains, a spiral staricase of the same height and the façade of a working elevator. Kudos to Brill and his team of designers.
    Coward was a playwright far ahead of his time. Design for Living may have been written almost seventy years ago but it translates flawlessly to the new millenium and seems more appropriate for our time than it does for his. This play is heartwarming, genuine and riotously funny. Tickets are hard to come by but well worth it at any price.

    Saturday, September 23, 2006

    "A very fine movie"

    Is the verdict of the Leicester Mercury on Alpha Male.

    Dan Wilde's tale of love and loss, set in a very nice house indeed.

    The melancholy Alpha Male is a beautifully understated directorial debut from Daniel Wilde, who also wrote the subdued but succinct screenplay.

    It's a poignant story about family life. Rich family life, that is: The characters who people Wilde's elegant movie have a house that makes your place look like a shed. And yet the underlying themes will have a resonance for anyone who's seen death or divorce reshape their family.

    The film flits forward and backward in time like a restless butterfly.

    Danny Huston plays Jim, the alpha male of the title. He's warm, charismatic, ambitious and successful, and soon dead, leaving a gaping hole in the lives of his wife Alice (Jennifer Ehle) and his children, Jack and Elyssa.

    Jack (played by Arthur Duncan as a kid, and Mark Wells as a grown-up) becomes the man of the house, and takes his new role seriously. The sensitive Elyssa (Katie Ann Knight then Amelia Warner), meanwhile, becomes increasingly withdrawn, save for eruptions of anger at her aunt Brede (Trudie Styler), who she once saw make a play for her dad.

    The cast is very strong, but Huston isn't in it long enough. Alpha Male is a very fine movie.

    Oops, we haven't been keeping an eye on Press 53. Looks like the On the Same Page event honouring John Ehle was quite a success. Some photos up at Sheryl Monk's page. Mr Ehle also attended the 25th Appalachian Literary Festival at Emory & Henry College, according to the Times Dispatch, as well as the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival, says the Asheville Citizen-Times. There's a report at Press 53 too.

    Friday, September 22, 2006

    Feed your inner nerd

    We heart Martha Plimpton. There's another long and illuminating post on The Coast of Utopia preparations at her blog. She asks the timeless question
    "How do you speak words so well considered without SOUNDING like you thought of it all three days ago and wrote your dissertation and now you're telling everyone about it over tea?"

    and talks about other deep stuff like humans' hankering for arrivals and gigantic cosmic cats. Go forth and read.

    That's not the nerdy bit though. This is: background reading on The Coast of Utopia.

  • National Theatre education workpack (PDF), an overview of the plays with highlights of some of the key themes. Highly recommended. There's a whole page on the character Ms Ehle's playing in Salvage, feminist teacher Malwida von Meysenbug.
  • Walter Moss' "narrative history of Russia in the Age of Alexander II, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky". This is nice and novelistic. It mentions many key characters though is probably more relevant to the latter two plays. The same author has also just written a review of a biography on Bakunin for The Moscow Times.
  • Russian history on Wikipedia.
  • Biographies on Herzen, Bakunin and Belinsky.
  • Wikipedia on Philosophy of history.
  • German idealism at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Wikipedia.
  • BBC panel discussion on the 2002 production. More of a critique of the plays than background.

    Books-wise, Isaiah Berlin's Russian Thinkers is surprisingly page-turny. Dr Manheim recommends E.H. Carr's The Romantic Exiles and Herzen's autobiography Out of My Past and Thoughts (translations of the title differ).
  • Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    Pride and Prejudice 10th Anniversary Reviews

    On Amazon (UK), 38 customer reviews have been written about the 10th Anniversary Edition of Pride and Prejudice. The average customer rating is 4 1/2 stars of 5. These are some of the stand out quotes:
    "The casting of the leads is absolutely perfect for this movie: Ehle and Firth are nothing short of amazing. Both are witty, smart, and a bit snotty in their own ways. Firth's Darcy is a selfish man who gradually becomes warm and kind, while Ehle's Lizzie is strong, independent, and Darcy's equal in every way. And neither will marry for anything but true love.
    This edition has a bunch of extras for the rabid Austenite -- a "making of" book, documentaries about Austen and the miniseries itself, and interviews with the people responsible. It's a nicely-rounded addition that will take a look at how both the book and movies came to be."

    "Also, this film is brilliantly cast. Jennifer Ehle is stunning and her wit and classical training come through on screen. Her expressive eyes are telling and express emotion without the necessity of dialogue."

    Tuesday, September 19, 2006

    Michael Clayton release rumours

    At IMDB, there seem to be several possible release dates for this film. Dates include the end of the year, early 2007, or September 2007 (apparently an autumn release means there's Oscars buzz for the film).

    Happy birthday, Rosemary Harris!

    Monday, September 18, 2006

    Vanity Fair photo

    Kudos to LY for spotting and Ann for scanner-wrangling! Click on the photo to enlarge.

    Also got the full page but automatic resizing made it a bit small.

    Pride and Prejudice collector's DVD review

    DVD Talk has a nice and detailed review of the three-disc collector's edition of Pride and Prejudice. Here's the final verdict, but clicky to read the blow-by-blow.

    This bookshelf-worthy anniversary DVD of A&E's "Pride and Prejudice" has a rabid built-in buyership ready to snatch it up. More casual fans who already have the earlier edition may not feel like buying it again.

    While nothing has been added to the main program -- no commentary tracks, no improvement of a picture that always looked (perhaps intentionally) overexposed and bleachy -- the new extras are fun and enriching. The top two stars are absent, but the actors who are interviewed prove to be a funny bunch. Crispin Bonham Carter, whose Bingley is Darcy's ever-polite best friend, gets in a naughty little dig about the difference between his and Colin Firth's pants. Jane Austen would probably chuckle.

    Over at IMDB there's a Firthite fan's-eye view of the features, also quite detailed. Here's the naughty bit and verdict:

    Crispin was shown walking through the original church where the wedding scene was filmed. They showed the scene and he said he was continually asked by the director to "adjust his breeches" and "you can see why!" He also said Colin was annoyed that HE didn't have to adjust his breeches! (I guess no one noticed Colin's breeches during the hunting through London for Wickham scene!)
    It cost around $42 for the set including postage, it is beautifully packaged. The 3 discs are in a hardcover glossy book type cover with Colin on the cover, and that, along with the Making of P&P book are slipped inside a hard dark green gold-embossed slipcover.

    I did really enjoy the "extras" but I can't really say it was worth $42. For someone who doesn't already own the Making of P&P, it might be more worth it.
    I just watched the Biography episode of Jane Austen included on the disc, and it was wonderful. Some P&P footage and commentary on Colin as Darcy by some "Jane-ites," and as that episode alone sells for $24.95 at the A and E site, perhaps $42 for the 10th anniversary package isn't such a bad deal after all.

    Too bad you can't buy just the third disc, though, as most of us already have the Making of P&P book and the quality of the other discs is no better than the other A&E editions."

    From Froogle, looks like Echelon has the best deal at $36.99.

    By the way, here are the results for the "Which are you most looking forwards to" poll:

    Alpha Male 33% (34)
    Road to the Sky (Kerala) 8% (8)
    Pride and Glory 28% (29)
    Michael Clayton 7% (7)
    The Coast of Utopia 16% (16)
    Macbeth 8% (8)

    Sunday, September 17, 2006

    Ponder This

    More things to ponder about the Coast of Utopia, from Zacko's Myspace.
    Some helpful quotes that get me through The Coast of Utopia

    "Our emotional-Psychological makeup is such that our only response to an order to think or feel anything is rebellion. Think of the times someone suggested you "Cheer up," of the perfect young person your friends wanted to fix you up with, of the director who suggested you"relax". The response to an emotional demand is antagonism and rebellion. there is no exception. if one were truly able to comand one's consious thoughts, to summon emotion at will, there would be no neurosis, no psychosis, no psychoanaysis, no sadness."

    -David Mamet

    "Before you build a wall, know what your walling out."

    -Robert Frost

    Friday, September 15, 2006

    A+ jugglers

    PS. The LCT blog's been updated to say that proper blogging will begin the week of Oct 16th, when previews for Voyage start.

    This interview with Jack O'Brien about The Coast of Utopia is by Robert Feldberg from North

    It's not easy to go where few directors have gone before, but it's certainly exhilarating, said Jack O'Brien.

    The veteran director is the most versatile man on Broadway, having in recent years staged such hit musicals as "Hairspray" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" as well as a superb revival of Shakespeare's "Henry IV."

    Now he has taken on the task of directing overlapping productions of the trio of three-hour plays that make up Tom Stoppard's epic, "The Coast of Utopia."

    "It's overwhelming," O'Brien said, "but it's a thrilling thing to do."

    The productions, which will run at Lincoln Center from mid-October through mid-March, seem almost as much a challenge in logistics as of art.

    The actors -- an impressive cast of 30 that includes Ethan Hawke, Billy Crudup, Brian F. O'Byrne, Amy Irving, Josh Hamilton, Jennifer Ehle and Richard Easton -- will be performing one show while rehearsing the next, and, ultimately, will be doing all three plays in sequence.

    "First, we'll be juggling two balls in the air, then all three," said O'Brien. "But the actors love it."

    More of an issue to him is the chaos that might ensue backstage, where scenery pieces and props for three shows will have to be manipulated.

    "That's really problematic," said O'Brien. "What happens where?"

    And then there's the possibility of having understudies who will be inadequately prepared. "There's no time for them to rehearse with the cast -- that's brutal."

    But O'Brien seemed a lot more excited than dismayed by the project, which examines the stirrings of rebellion in 19th-century Russia.

    "This is a healthy thing to do," he said. "Most of the world's great plays were done in repertory; they were always played that way. They were not meant to be played night after night, the way we do shows on Broadway."

    Stoppard, whose many plays include "The Real Thing" and "Arcadia," is always up to something unusual.

    And in "The Coast of Utopia" -- first presented in London in 2002 -- he has created a panoramic view of the lives of five real men, including the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin and novelist Ivan Turgenev, who questioned the role of the czar and their own responsibilities in Russian society.

    "This is really the back story of the Russian Revolution," said O'Brien. "This was a society founded on slavery; the serfs were property. The elite, the intelligentsia -- that's when the word was first used -- were trying to transform an antiquated society from within."

    The first play is "Voyage," the second "Shipwreck" and the third "Salvage," and they span the years from 1833 to 1865, moving from Russia to Paris, Dresden, Nice, London and Geneva.

    In the final three weeks of the run, the plays will be performed in sequence, and on three Saturdays they will be presented in all-day marathons beginning at 11 a.m.

    As the project was being developed, O'Brien said, he realized he would need a strong company of actors, and went to Andre Bishop and Bernard Gersten, the artistic director and executive producer of Lincoln Center Theater.

    "I told them, 'I don't know how to do this with the B team,' and they gave me the A-Plus team," he said. "It was an act of blind faith. There are no guarantees, but I hope we'll be able to look back and be proud."

    A minor mention of the plays in this Toronto Star interview with Ethan Hawke as well.

    People who understand what "Source 4s" and "lekos" are might be interested in this Google groups post by an electrician/front light operator describing the technical preparations for The Coast of Utopia. Here's a bit that's sort of comprehensible:

    The scenery is designed by Bob Crowley. The most interesting part is
    the large turntable with multiple traps and elevators. Don't know any specifics about the sound package. The Beaumont has the largest backstage on Broadway, though it has only 1100 seats. It is also the only full sized Broadway house with a thrust stage.

    He's offering backstage tours for high school techie groups.

    Wednesday, September 13, 2006

    Ebay + River King review

    Here's something from e-bay for the very obsessed (pictured).

    Complimentary River King review from Blockbuster (UK)
    Edward Burns stars in this gripping thriller based on the best selling novel by Alice Hoffman. The body of a boy from a local boarding school is found lying frozen in a lake. Abel Grey is sent to investigate, the school insists that the boy’s death was suicide however Abel insists foul play. Tensions mount as Abel breaks with his Police Department’s position and goes out on his own to prove that the boy’s death was murder.

    Many movies these days – particularly Hollywood ones, are very formulaic with a certain number of action and CGI scenes. The River King is refreshing – there are no explosions, no CGI scenes and it wasn’t based on a comic book; this is just simply a great story with compelling acting, effective plot twists and a wonderful soundtrack. A murder mystery that you will remember long after the credits roll.

    The film has a double story running through it with Able Grey trying to understand a family tragedy that he had blacked out for years while at the same time, working to solve the mystery of the boy’s suicide and convince everyone that this death was indeed murder. Both stories interweave with scenes from the case that remind Able of what happened all those years ago and launching a flashback that puts us one step closer to the truth.

    (Edward Burns) films are usually watchable but rarely are they quite so compelling. Burns’ quickly connects with the viewer and soon his quest for the truth becomes our quest. It is he that makes The River King more than a run of the mill murder mystery and it is great to see him in such a character role. This is acting at it’s best and a thoughtful and intriguing mystery that will keep you gripped all the way through. Add to your list now!

    Monday, September 11, 2006

    NYT critic: "Squeee!"

    Ok not really, but close enough. Ben Brantley previews The Coast of Utopia:

    ... Now Mr. Stoppard alone bids fair to make this the most dynamically verbal theater season since Shaw was a young thing of 70. (Shaw, incidentally, is fittingly represented by “Heartbreak House,” his rueful but energetic meditation on a social class paralyzed by world-annihilating war, in a revival from the Roundabout Theater Company.)

    In “The Coast of Utopia,” the first installment of which, “Voyage,” begins performances on Oct. 17 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, Mr. Stoppard has filled not one but three plays with the lives of the intellectual forebears of the Russian Revolution. Their discussions and arguments, which span three decades of the 19th century and consume roughly nine hours of stage time, concern mind-quaking subjects like the dialectic of history, the path of nations, the impact of literature and even the limitations of their favorite weapons, words themselves.

    When the trilogy was first produced at the National Theater of London, this talk teemed with such passion that I left (to my surprise) more energized than depleted. The New York version is directed by Jack O’Brien, who propitiously proved his mastery of epic scope and towering language in the first-rate Lincoln Center Theater production of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV.”

    With “Utopia,” whose three parts will open sequentially, Mr. O’Brien will be overseeing (gulp!) more than 40 actors in 70 roles. The ensemble includes Billy Crudup, Richard Easton, Jennifer Ehle, Josh Hamilton, Ethan Hawke, Amy Irving, Brian F. O’Byrne and Martha Plimpton, none of whom is likely to lapse into the automatic rhythms of “yadda yadda yadda.”

    There's also an audio slide show of Mr Brantley narrating/squeeing, with photos from the 2002 production and some of the LCT actors. More subdued is a preview of the entire season by George Hunka. There are heaps more previews that don't really differ in content.

    Check out this cracking post at Martha Plimpton's blog about Utopia thematic discussions and Tom Stoppard mixing his metaphors bigtime. Refer back to the interview with director Jack O'Brien which kindasorta elucidates this. Look for the bit that begins "That's very Stoppardian...".

    Sunday, September 10, 2006

    Coast of Utopia Tickets

    A reminder that tickets for Coast of Utopia go on sale today.

    And over at the BroadwayWorld forums, they're discussing buying tickets for the marathon.

    Friday, September 08, 2006

    Coast of Utopia blog updated

    The latest post from the blog:

    First Rehearsal Day
    Posted September 6, 2006

    "When you think of nights in the theater that impress you," said Tom Stoppard, at yesterday's first rehearsal day for Coast of Utopia, "you tend to bring back fragments rather than the whole." As the cast of 36 (with eight children to come) took their chairs in a large basement rehearsal room at Lincoln Center, to undertake something that is, as LCT's Artistic Director, André Bishop, said in his remarks to the assembled, "on a scale unlike anything in New York theater in years," there were many fragments to come away with.

    There was the size of the rectangle table set around which playwright, director, designers, assistants, cast, and various chroniclers sat. It was on a scale suggestive of a state dinner lit by torch lamps or perhaps the fixtures prominent in one of the production's stunning stage designs, which director Jack O'Brien unveiled: chandeliers.

    There was the fact that the kick-off of rehearsals coincided with the first academic day in New York, imparting to the enterprise a true back-to-school flavor. But lest anyone think that the play's subject matter, 19th-century Russian radicalism, was going to give off the whiff of the seminar room, O'Brien made it clear that the play's characters were driven not by didacticism but by passion. "Fired thought," is the quality he said he was looking for. And Stoppard echoed both the romantic and the Romantic subtext of the play by pointing out that of the twenty scenes in the first part, Voyage, seventeen are about love.

    Finally, O'Brien gave some very practical advice to everyone embarking on this seven-month enterprise: "Get enough sleep - and try not to get sick."

    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    Mother Courage photo

    Josie is a legend! Click to see the large version of the Mother Courage premiere pic posted earlier.

    In her latest post, Martha Plimpton says that Coast of Utopia rehearsals started today. And a reminder, tickets to the show go on sale this Sunday, September 10, though AmEx cardholders can beat the rush and buy tix now.

    At last some news about Road to the Sky. Akhila Krishnamurthy's subscription-only article in India Today says that post-prod for the film has been completed.

    Sivan shot to fame nationally with Ratnam's Roja. He has recently wrapped up the post-production work for his English film, Road to the Sky, which brings to light the dilemma of people who straddle two worlds. Like the cameraman. "I worked in Bride and Prejudice and Mistress of Spices to understand the filmmaking process of Hollywood," explains Sivan. "The objective was to put in elements from both worlds," he says.

    On IMDB, the Dutch release date for Pride and Glory is said to be September 20, 2007.

    The UK Film Council site has box office stats on Alpha Male. It opened at 26th on the ladder and is currently 58th, grossing £19,781 after three weeks. Rotten Tomatoes has rental stats for The River King - it peaked at 22nd. There are some new reviews of the film at Amazon, some rather complimentary to Ms Ehle:

    "This film has the saving grace of Jennifer Ehle, whose beauty and grace shine far beyond her role. There is something magical about this actress and the film is worth seeing if only to watch her. Another of her films, "Possession," is similarly lit by her performance."

    "This movie has a lot going for it: good actors (Jennifer Ehle is fantastic), good cinematography, and good music."

    "In "The River King," Ed Burns conveys an understated intensity and passion, as does Jennifer Ehle, which requires few words. The silences between them express far more than any words they do exchange. "

    Tuesday, September 05, 2006

    Micky Love DVD

    Micky Love was recently rated by the BBFC which suggested that it was due to come out on DVD. Can't find it separately but looks like it's going to be part of the Rick Mayall Presents - The Complete Series package.

    Head over chez Martha Plimpton to see some snaps and updates about her "research" trip to Russia with some of the Coast of Utopia guys.

    Monday, September 04, 2006


    Baldness. Cancer patient. Pride and Glory. It's starting to make sense now. This is an article about Vera Farmiga by Lynn Hirschberg in the NYT (use Bugmenot).

    “There are only four or five studio projects that I like,” she said as we left the trailer. “And two of them Rachel Weisz is doing.” One non-Weisz part intrigued her. It was in a script called “Pride and Glory” about an Irish-American clan of cops; Farmiga would play a woman stricken with cancer. Earlier that same day, she refused a cookie because she said she felt that a woman undergoing chemotherapy would be noticeably concave. Farmiga didn’t have the part yet, but she was already dieting. “I want to shave my head,” she said as we sloshed through icy puddles on the way to her car. Mentally, imaginatively, she was somewhere else, probably in America, maybe in a hospital gown, with a terminal disease. “Bald caps never look right,” she continued. “There are imperfections in the scalp that they don’t capture. And you want the imperfections. Without those, there’s no character.”
    Farmiga did not get the role of the cancer patient in “Pride and Glory” — it went to an English actress named Jennifer Ehle.

    (English - oy vey)

    There's a discussion about the lack of strong parts for women, though Ms Ehle's answer from El Interview Ginormo (q37, Part I) is more interesting than the studio economics rah rah in the lengthy article, imho.

    This is such a complicated question; and I am having trouble distilling my thoughts on it down to anything concise. I think that in our culture we are simply not used to having our myths and stories told through the woman — so that stories which do have female protagonists are usually relegated to being about being female, rather than being human. Most of the women in our stories are devices which enable the (usually) male protagonist’s tale to be told; and so, we usually watch the women, rather than see through their eyes.

    Sunday, September 03, 2006

    P&P Collector's Set

    Pride and Prejudice is now out as a collector's set on DVD.

    *The 5-hour adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel, starring Colin Firth (Bridget Jones’ Diary) and Jennifer Ehle (Possession) on 2 DVDs.
    *A 3rd bonus DVD featuring a new documentary on Jane Austen from the Emmy Award-winning BIOGRAPHY series and an exclusive 10-year retrospective documentary about the making-of the classic production.
    *The Making of Pride and Prejudice 120-page companion book detailing the 18-month journey from original concept to broadcast with full color photos, lavish illustrations, and interviews with the cast and crew.

    Beautiful gold-embossed green fabric slipcase; New bonus disc featuring a Jane AUsten BIOGRAPHY episode and an exclusive new retrospective documentary; A 120 page deluxe companion book The Making of Pride and Prejudice"

    There is a give away you can enter on the website to win a free copy.

    Friday, September 01, 2006

    Self Catering caps

    The result of a slow news day and a dearth of Self Catering photos on the fansite.

  • A new game
  • Birds
  • Catching ball
  • Etiquette
  • Footprint
  • Perv
  • Puffed
  • Sleep
  • Watching Jane

    Join the library to see this movie.
  • Utopia book delayed

    Word from Abbey's Bookshop is that the publication of the new paperback omnibus edition of The Coast of Utopia has been pushed back to March 2007. Previously it was said to be due in June 2006. Still can buy the old hardcover edition though.

    Over at what's good/what blows, Rocco nerds out further about Utopia:

    Nothing makes me feel nerdier than admitting that I'm actually excited for Lincoln Center's upcoming THE COAST OF UTOPIA, the nine hour, 3 part, epic Tom Stoppard play that will take over the Vivian Beaumont Theatre this season. Especially now that the entire cast has been announced. I can't wait to bury myself in a theatre for hours and hours and just forget about everything else. If I can swing (afford) the all-in-one-day package on Feb. 24, March 3 or March 10, I'm totally gonna do it.

    The play is described thus: THE COAST OF UTOPIA is centered on the political and philosophical idealism and debates of mid-nineteenth-century Russia, examining the movements that excited artists and thinkers in those days.

    Have you ever heard of anything with the potential to be more boring? Probably not. I have faith though. But who are all these artists and thinkers of mid-nineteenth-century Russia? And more importantly, who's playing them??

    He proceeds with photos and commentary about the characters and players.