Sunday, December 4, 2011

Saturday in review (12/03/2011): Once / Sons of the Prophet

We took a quick two-show (day) trip to New York yesterday. I was excited to see Once at the New York Theatre Workshop for the second time, and to share it with hubby and Lisa. We're all completely in love with the show. The music is great, of course, which everyone who has seen the movie knows. And the story is simple and lovely. So I knew that the magical trio of Enda Walsh, Steven Hoggett, and John Tiffany would make the transition from screen to stage incisive, artistic, and haunting--and distinctly theatrical. (As usual, I am right.)

On the way out, we bought tickets to see it again in January (their second time, plus we'll be bringing our excellent hosts from Chez Church Korner with us). I already have a ticket for next weekend, so that group outing will be my fourth time seeing Once at NYTW. I can only assume it will transfer and get a Broadway cast recording later, and I'm sure I'll wear out that CD because the new arrangements are lush. Lisa and I disagree about how well Once will do in a larger space. She's wrong: It'll be awesome. But go see this gorgeous show with this crazy-talented cast it in this intimate theater with this charming set design while you have a chance. Not a bad seat in the tiny house.

TIP: Take a $20 bill to the NYTW box office immediately and buy yourself a ticket to any Sunday evening performance between now and Jan. 15 (if the show extends, it would only be one additional week). $20 gets you a great seat to any Sunday evening performance. In advance. (Cash only.)

Then we had another repeat show, of sorts. FINALLY, we saw the New York transfer of Sons of the Prophet at Roundabout's Laura Pels, which we had all loved at the Huntington in Boston. The play is much, much stronger but a bit less satisfying. A very unnecessary plotline has been removed, and it's been shortened to 1:45 with no intermission. Joanna Gleason's character is kind of charmingly daffy in a way that it's much easier to sympathize with now, making her much more real in a funny-but-heartbreaking/charming-but-infuriating way. I found her to be so grating in the earlier production, so this part of the rewrite is the most exciting of the changes. I laughed out loud less often at this incarnation, which is fine, but I also cared a bit less about the Douahiy family and what would happen to them, which is not so good. But the paring down has made the connections between characters make so much more sense, especially between the reporter and the older brother, Joseph, who is the heart of the show.

Since they've narrowed the story to fewer conflicts, I wish they'd hit those that are left a bit harder. For example, in the wake of current examinations of society's obsession with football culture, and the ways its stars are treated preferentially, I wish that the pivotal event of the car accident and the controversy surrounding the high school student's delayed punishment were explored more. And with our current economic woes, it's also a great opportunity to look more at issues of "personal responsibility" and the intersections of race and class. (I wish it also touched a bit on the intersection of sexual orientation and class.) Yes, I realize that would get rid of some of the streamlining that makes the current production so much better than its previous version. And, really, the script is SO much stronger now. But maybe it's time to go back in and messy things up a bit. I hope playwright Stephen Karam and director Peter DuBois will continue to refine the play before gets produced regionally. (I assume this play will start popping up EVERYWHERE next season.)

Sons of the Prophet is closing January 1, and I am trying to find a way to see it again before it does. And you should go see it, too.

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