Sunday, March 4, 2018

Three on Broadway

Had a nice long weekend in New York and saw three shows--Admissions, Come From Away, and Farinelli and the King. All were worth seeing. 

Admissions is at the Mitzi Newhouse under the Vivian Beaumont in Lincoln Center. Drama by Joshua Harmon, who wrote the excellent and very funny Bad Jews which we saw here in DC a couple of years ago. This one has a director of admissions, the wife, at an elite New England private school where the head is her husband. She's big on diversity but then she is hit with it seeming to work against her son's applying to elite institutions.

This play raises good issues of hypocrisy and values. They are well presented by the players, although the burden here to me always rests on the playwright to make it work. I think it does, although I wasn't always sure we had been given enough about each character to make us accept everything that follows. 

Come From Away is a musical--the current style which is steady music all through but which sounds basically the same. I liked it as a show--it moved, the cast was energetic, and they made the concept of the mob of air travellers who were stuck in Gander, Newfoundland, after September 11 work. The theme is the encounters between the air passengers and the locals. Lots of laughs and enjoyable, although, as noted, the music did not strike me as especially interesting.

Farinelli and the King was a more complicated affair altogether. A famed castrato singing Handel's opera in London is recruited to come to Spain to raise the spirits and cure the ailments of the reigning king, Philippe V. The play, her first, was written by Claire van Kampen, who is married to Mark Rylance, who plays the king, and, incidentally, is probably the finest working actor in the world today. There's some good dramatic tension because Rylance and the two performers who play the singer--one delivers the lines as an actor and another, a countertenor, sings the singing parts, which are arias from Handel's operas. Two countertenors share this part, apparently each singing every other performance.

There's been some commentary saying that the play is no big deal but Rylance is always worth seeing. I thought the play was fine and that the two title characters (Rylance (the King) and the singer) play off each other well. Rylance has the biggest part and is always a delight to behold. Supporting characters are good--the institutional figures pressuring each of the lead: in the case of the King, his chief minister, and in the case of Farinelli, his producer/manager in London who wants him back there. There's also another good character, the Queen, who comes from a fine Italian family and understands all. 

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