Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Adaptations good and bad

My Japanese friend H has been in town for a quick visit. As ever, it's been chock full of theater (she's an actress and director who now runs a performing arts center). All the ones I'd picked were winners: "Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson," "Brief Encounter" and "Penelope," the new play by an Irish playwright whose work we've enjoyed before, Enda Walsh. We also went to see the new musical "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," which one of her colleagues was involved in: A. Big. Flop. Chock full of stars and effects, it was tedious from the first note. Between yawns I found myself thinking (perhaps because of the performers stuck in this mire), "bad! no, sad." It was like watching the Titanic go down. There was less life in the crazy ladies of this ersatz Almodovar than in the four doomed men, marooned in an empty swimming pool, of Enda Walsh's dark, poetic comedy-tragedy (below).
It wasn't by design, but three of the four plays were adaptations - "Brief Encounter" and "Women on the Verge" are explicit adaptations of films, and "Penelope" is a Beckettian adaptation of Homer's "Odyssey." But H thought it wasn't a coincidence - considering the economically unsettled times in which we live - any more than it was an accident that all four involved elements of farce, music hall, burlesque.

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