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Reworking Rom-Com for Fun and Philosophy: Post #5 - Laura Wise

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May 15th, 2015

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12:38 pm - Reworking Rom-Com for Fun and Philosophy: Post #5
Thought the First: Man and Superman at the National was just enormously good, with a light modern updating not doing much to harm or help the play but with amazing attention to text and with smashing performances. The NT Live viewing was good, too, with only a few glitches with microphones to break the spell.

Thought the Second: The production was anchored by Ralph Fiennes as John (usually referred to as Jack) Tanner, a champagne socialist who has written an incendiary socio-cultural critique but who is occupied through most of the play by his relationship to his 'ward' Ann Whitefield. (Spoiler: they end up together.) The role is one of the longest in English theatre -- even with cuts! -- and it absolutely requires someone of Fiennes's gifts, most notably the ability to talk veryveryveryfast and veryveryveryclearly whilst working some wild rhetorical flourishes. He is a powerhouse indeed. (Shallow note: he's also still an extremely good-looking fella, and in one scene wears clothes that remind one pleasantly of his beauty in The English Patient.)

However, this production also convinced me that the play works as a romantic comedy -- which, btw, it needn't be -- only if the actor playing Ann is as strong as the actor playing Jack. Indira Varma, who plays Ann in this production, was FABULOUS and every bit a match for Fiennes, which makes the rom-com just sing. Varma is unbelievably beautiful, yes, but the thing is that she beautifully plays Shaw's stage directions that Ann is "vital" but also "perfectly self-controlled." She can be passionate, and passionate in her anger at Jack (WHO ALWAYS DESERVES IT), but she's smarter, more of a realist, and more detached than he is.

Thought the Third: And that last point is why this production made sense of the romance for me, by allowing Jack to come across as an extremely clever man who is extremely stupid about women and about most other people; he gets that Ann uses respectability to achieve her own purposes, for example, but he doesn't get *why* she's doing it. Jack is wrong-footed at every turn, which for me makes the misogynist elements of Shaw's text tolerable: Jack, who's spouting Shavian philosophy, is something of a fool, and we get to laugh at him. But he's not entirely a fool: he's also passionate about his principles, and there's something thrilling about his Act One conversation with Ann where he talks about being a man meaning having moral intelligence.

There's a running joke that Jack will become a politician because he talks so well (he finds this annoying), but by the end of the play I believe he probably will become a good one -- because he has Ann, who has the political and social nous he lacks but who doesn't want to have to openly challenge the status quo. Jack will be happy to make that challenge, and she'll keep him from showing his ass every five seconds. I love their complementarity. (Also, they're pretty much hot like burning.)

Thought the Fourth: Tim McMullen, playing Hector Mendoza and (in the dream-sequence "Don Juan in Hell") the Devil, was FAB.U.LOUS.

Anyway, I'm glad I went. :)

Hope your Friday is full of good thoughts!

(6 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:May 15th, 2015 08:36 pm (UTC)
I'm glad it was a good production:)
[User Picture]
Date:May 16th, 2015 12:35 am (UTC)
It was! [beams]

Hugs and a great weekend ahead, mate.
Date:May 16th, 2015 01:27 am (UTC)
Sounds like a terrific production!
[User Picture]
Date:May 16th, 2015 12:12 pm (UTC)
It really was! :)

Hugs and a good day, gwynnega.
[User Picture]
Date:May 17th, 2015 03:25 pm (UTC)
It sounds like a blast!! So glad you went. The Fiennes goodness must have been...good. :)

Hugs on Sunday!
[User Picture]
Date:May 17th, 2015 08:01 pm (UTC)
I'm glad I went too, although I've been tired since then. (Well, and doing yard work, so that might explain the tiredness too.)

Cheers and hugs!

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