Ivan Bellman is Blimey McEngland!
I wanted to hate the play. I dont know why. I just did. Maybe its because I am on currently on a Baby Tour of London (Bellmans British Baby Blitzkrieg was the alternate title of this hit). So I am not really kicking my normal theater binge styley. But I could not resist a relatively new play called BLACKBIRD playing in the West End . . . y’know, with Adam Rapp having penned a play of the same title and all.
To further the cowinkeydink, both plays are two-handers concerned with a relationship between a grown man and a minor. Rapps play ran here in London Town a few years back. It starred his former muse, the beguling Elizabeth Reaser, who, by all accounts, blew the doors off the theater with her work. I got to see the New York production, directed by the playwright himself, which was dominated not by the female roll but by Paul Sparks performance.
Now Mr. Sparks is just finishing up LANSCAPE OF THE BODY, playing somewhere near Roanoke, New Jersey (Thats a joke. Its technically Bway . . . its just really far west for those of us who take public transport.) Before leaving Manhattan, Rocky and myself bumped into Paul smoking outside the West Bank with Dallas Roberts. I know both these blokes from around the way but seeing them together was newly interesting. They represent the new-garde of what I can only compare to the Actors Studio before Brando and Newman blew-up or Sinise and Malkovich became subsumed by alternate media. (Portia and Liza Colón-Zayas of the LAByrinth have the female frontier of stage acting covered like the President does your phone lines. Marin Ireland can also break ground when given the opportunity.)
When I commented that Paul’s cheeks were a bit gaunt, he attested to having just shot the film version of BLACKBIRD, which I believe Rapp again directed. I wonder if Liz Reaser played opposite Sparks in the film??? Hmmmm. Me thinks this combo would be explosive but perhaps totally impossible. Unlikely not because of the former romantic chaos between actress and writer/director but more improbable due to Elizabeth losing out on the lead roll in the film WINTER PASSING to Zooey Dachanelle.
Dont you like reading screenplays? Paul coyly posed to Dallas in regards to the TriBeCa Film Festival reading series of which he was soon to partake.
Sure. I like reading screenplays. I just dont like reading screenplays and then having them cast someone from The OC.
But I digress . . . back to the play (and city) of the moment. As I sit in the Royal Circle of the Albery Theatre (formerly for the rich, now coach class for low-fliers cum myself) I begin to seethe looking over the dormant set for an entirely different BLACKBIRD. (Heres a link: www.blackbird.com) It looked like a bad David Korins design. Dont get me wrong . . . Korins has cornered the market on hyper-real or even American Expressionism. His designs are a lot like what they say about pizza and sex: “When its good, its really good… When its bad, its still pretty good.” However, the latter does not go all the way. Bad is when household products look fresh from the store. Or when the toothbrushes are color coded by gender but have obviously never been used. Ergo, my sensibilities find offence in the fast food detritus some unfed P.A. had barely distressed. And, thusly, my panties have begun to collect into a wad.
(Allow me one more small tangent… Rapp, Korins and his wife Carolyn Cantor comprise the Edge Theater Company which just finished its run of LIVING ROOM IN AFRICA. There is obvious potential in this consortium. Ms. Cantor, who I think of as a talented version of Jo Bonney, can surprise you with her skill. Unfortunately, usually against my own hopes and desires for Edges work, I walk away thinking, “Who gives a shit about these bitchy white people?”)
Like I said . . . I wanted to hate it . . . the way the British love plays about how retarded Americans can be . . . the way theater fags loathe it when they see film versions of plays with none of the original stage cast . . . the way you really, deep in your heart, do NOT want your Exs new relationship to work out, not because you want them back but . . . well . . . you know what I mean . . .
I gather Mr. Roboto would like me to provide this site with informative, less opinionated, more frequent, shorter hits. So Im not going to babble on about this production of BLACKBIRD. I will say that, in the middle viewing said piece, I had a minor panic attack. This was not because of the plays finely woven dementia of a man and woman who still harbor their illegal love for one another some twenty years after their transgression. Nor was it the brilliant direction of Peter Stein who might be the last of last centurys European Theater Titans . . .
What alarmed me was that a production like this could never occur Stateside. There is a slim chance that the play might transfer to New York or even be remounted on a smaller scale. However, sadly, owing to the plays morally ambiguous content combined with the Master Directors subtle yet Expressionistic touch, the spectacle culminates into an objective vantage on the human condition of which I seriously doubt Americans are capable. Writers have also been conditioned into neurotic freaks who rarely relinquish control of their work.
Sad but true . . . Where are we? How did we get here?