Sunday, July 22, 2007

Speaking too soon

I really should have kept my big trap shut: The first three shows I saw at Lincoln Festival 2007 were excellent, but the next two…maybe I jinxed myself.

The nadir was De Monstruos y Prodigios. This Mexican production about the history of castrati was one of the worst things I've seen in the past few years. It was the worst combination possible: Jorge Kuri's amateurish text regurgitated facts and anecdotes, while director Claudio Valdès Kuri threw every pseudo-avant gimmick he had at us. Why was Napoleon riding circles on a horse (a real one)? The play's title obviously comes from Dr. Ambroise Paré 16th-century book Des monstres et prodiges, which dealt with "monsters" such as siamese twins, but was it a reason to make him half of the pair of siamese twins that narrates the story? Add to that a lead castrato played by what sounded suspiciously like a tenor singing in falsetto as opposed to a real countertenor, resulting in hideous screeching. (The fact that the woman sitting behind me had thought it'd be a great idea to cover her forearms with jingly-jangly bracelets added even more aggravation to the evening.) Life is just too short for this nonsense.

I did not care much for Heisei Nakamura-za's Hokaibo because the piece's broad humor felt at odd with kabuki aesthetics and formal vocabulary. The production felt jarring to me, but I'm far from being an expect in that theatrical particular tradition. I just don't find jokes about James Bond and ham-handed audience interaction that funny. Only at sporadic intervals (a pose frozen in cross-eyed ferocity, for instance) did the show hint at what could have been—and what was when Heisei Nakamura-za last hit town, three years ago.

Ah well, you can't win every time—something also demonstrated by my ongoing catching-up with The Wire on DVD. Contrary to the prevailing critical winds, the third season has failed to impress so far. Too many characters means that they don't get the kind of in-depth treatment the less-crowded first and second seasons allowed.

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