Sunday, August 30, 2009

West Side Story, Forum, and Zastrozzi

I should really do a post on each one, but my time is limited and well, I wanted to talk about them all.

For those who haven't been following, I've been at the Stratford Festival this weekend. Saw three wonderful shows, ate mostly great food, including a wonderful dinner at Down the Street, a great lunch at Fellini's and unfortunately, the worst eggs Benedict it has been my misfortune to eat at a restuarant I will not name because they cook everything else well. Their hollandaise sauce looked like they hadn't bothered putting in egg and tasted worse. Blech!

Enough about that, though. On with the plays:

I cannot say enough good things about this production. Absolutely amazing, Great dancing, great singing, well-staged and excellent fight choreography. The actors were vibrant and drove the plot forward. Extra points to the girl playing Maria for letting herself be that vulnerable on stage. Amazing.

My one quibble was the inclusion of a boy as an observer type. He also sang "A Place for Us" in Act 2. Now, I don't know if this was part of the original show, or if it was something the director pasted on. Either way, didn't work. The boy playing the part carried himself quite well, but the concept didn't work.

Interestingly, the songs "Officer Krupky" and "Cool" are reversed in the play from where they were in the movie. This is a change they made for the film, and was very effective, as "Officer Krupky" seems out of place in the grimness of act 2.

Overall, brilliant.

This was done exactly as it was meant to be: stupid fun. Lots of gags, lots of laughs, lot of cheap jokes, and I am pretty sure that the actors were working hard to crack each other up as well as the audience. In other words, comedy at it's best.

The woman who played Maria played Philea in Forum. She was brilliantly funny. This was some of the best comic staging I have seen in a good while. The actors were given great direction, and they ran with it.

What can you say about Zastrozzi? I have done this play. And watching them doing this play, I can say that they did a very good job with it. Because Zastrozzi is a very hard play to do right. There's something about it that doesn't ring true, and too often it is done by earnest young actors finding deep meaning in it (I was one of them). It's a fun play, with sword fights and sex and laughs and brutal violence. But it isn't an easy play.

A friend of mine heard me ruminating about this piece and did some research on it. Apparently it is based on a novel written by Percy B. Shelley when he was a teenager. Explains a lot about the angst in the piece, but doesn't explain what George F. Walker did with it. In his notes, George F. Walker does mention that he only had the time to do two drafts of the piece. It shows. Unfortunately, Zastrozzi became an iconic piece of Canadian Theatre before he had time to do a third draft. Too bad.

The actors took the parts and ran with. All of them did great jobs on a hard piece. Good work.

And now I am home, and back to editing. It was a good weekend.

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