Seen at the Movies: I can think of one word to describe director Kar Wai Wong’s 2046--disappointing. I would love to tell you what happens in 2046, but I’m not sure I know. The long and short of it involves Chow, a writer who stays in a rundown hotel in Hong Kong where he has a number of affairs with various women while he writes for the local paper as well as dabbling in science fiction. Or does he? There are scenes of a futuristic world on a train ala Tron that might be one of Chow’s creations. Or not. The audience never knows. But you know it’s science fiction due to the funky haircuts and costumes, not to mention the computer rendered train. DPs Christopher Doyle, Kwan Pun Leung, Yiu-Fai Lai did a superb job of not moving the story along at all. Most of the action takes place indoors, at the aforementioned hotel and I’m curious as to how it took three DPs to create a world that essentially looks like a television adaptation of a stage play since the static set never changed much at all. William Chang did the production design and costume duties and if he was looking for a 1960s, Japanese, dumpy, and rundown feel, mission accomplished. This movie has gotten quite a number of accolades from mainstream critics but by the time the movie was over, I was more than ready to bid ciao to Chow and escape into the daylight where I knew what was going on.
Seen Off-Broadway: The latest potential cult off-Broadway musical to open at Dodger Stages is The Great American Trailer Park Musical that joins other cult classic neighbors Altar Boyz and The Musical of Musicals. However, unlike the previous two, the music in Trailer Park by David Nehls (who also wrote the lyrics) is severely lacking with only the first act finale making an impression, mainly because it is a tongue-in-cheek ode to the disco classic It’s Raining Men. The book writing duties are by Betsy Kelso, who also directed the show in a swift, easy-going manner that works well with the subject matter. There is probably no need to go into the details of the story other than to say the denizens of Armadillo Acres trailer park in Starke, Florida seem pretty happy with their lot in life on "this side of the tracks" as the opening song goes. The cast is winning, most notably Shuler Hensley as Norbert, the toll booth clerk torn between his agoraphobic wife Jeannie (Kaitlin Hopkins) and the new girl in town, a stripper named Pippi (Orfeh). The crown jewel of the cast, however, is without a doubt Linda Hart who plays Betty, Armadillo Acres' owner and general busybody. Hart belts her songs with gusto usually reserved for divas of the highest order. The lighting by Don Holder was perfect and added a nice dose of action to the static set by Derek McLane who admitted that real trailer parks are much nicer than what he created for the show. Luckily for the audience, McLane drew on trailers from the middle of the 20th century rather than the modern double-wides so that the show looks flashy, trashy, and colorful, just like its characters. Peter Fitzgerald’s sound design does the country/rock/gospel score proud and the costumes by Markas Henry look off-the-rack from the local Wal-Mart, not Target, Wal-Mart and that fits the show like stretch pants. More Hee Haw than Greater Tuna, The Great American Trailer Park Musical should appeal to a lot of theatre patrons who think those of us from south of the Mason-Dixon line are really like that, as well as to those of us who are from down South who know many people like the residents of Armadillo Acres. You might not like all the neighbors in this swampy corner of heaven, but you can always hitch up your house and hit the road! --Mark A. Newman
Seen at Lincoln Center: I didn’t really know what to expect when I went to see New York City Opera’s production of Capriccio, subtitled "A Conversation Piece for Music." Actually the subtitle sums up the subject matter for the opera: With music written by Richard Strauss, and libretto (sung in German) by Clemens Krauss and the composer, the plot deals with an intellectual war between words and music. A young composer and a young poet compete for the love of a beautiful countess who cannot choose between the two. She laments that to choose one would be to lose all (one has to imagine she enjoys the courtship and flattery of the two competing lovers). She is in love with the idea of love itself. The action is set in an empty theatre where the poet and the composer are working on an opera as part of the countess’s birthday celebrations (hence the presence of two foppish Italian opera singers) organized by the theatrical director, La Roche, who is also directing a play written by the poet. The opera they are writing is based on their own experiences and cannot have an ending until he countess chooses one lover or the other. It’s a complicated story line with the love motif as the center note.
The set, designed by Ashley Martin-Davis, evokes a theatrical world. At first, rows of red, gilt-edged chairs are covered by black cloth, and the poet and the composer are each hard at work on raised platforms of exposed wood. A small proscenium sits along the back of the set, also covered by a black scrim, until later in the opera when the black fabric is all removed and the chairs moved about from scene to scene. The black scrim in front of the small gilt-edged proscenium opens as well. Eventually the proscenium moves forward, creating a stage upon a stage, where the countess plays her harp and laments her state of indecision. Martin-Davis also designed the costumes, which have the look of the 1940s, when the opera was written (complete with Germans in Paris!) The lighting by Pat Collins has some very beautiful moments, such as the harp scene, while at other moments the stage seemed a little dark with odd shadows, especially on the singers’ faces. Also, there is some fun choreography by Sean Curran (with the lovely ballet dancer Ashley Bouder in the cast) but the dancers’ feet were pretty much in the dark. There was quite a bit of lighting equipment visible in the theatre especially in the side boxes but not all of it seemed to be used during this production. A highlight of the second act is a scene with the servants, who are relieved that everyone has gone off to Paris, except the Countess, so they have the evening off from their duties and serve themselves the champagne left by the guests. Capriccio is an interesting opera and I wouldn’t mind seeing it next time updated to the 21st century with a contemporary debate between words and music. It is also interesting that Strauss’s final opera ends with a question mark: will the Countess eventually choose one over the other. She leaves us wondering. --Ellen Lampert-Gréaux