Farce is all about whose pants you’re trying to get into and whom you’re trying to keep from knowing it. To the sex-driven and increasingly manic chasing around of the genre, Mark Shanahan, in adapting a play by Georges Feydeau, has added a clever dash of wizardry. Feydeau’s Le Dindon (1896) involves the usual deceptions and mistaken identities and unlucky accidents—the woman Pontagnac has been chasing turns out to be the wife of his best friend, while the woman Vatelin had dallied with in Rome has turned up here in Paris—and it takes place among a sizable group of 17 named characters plus miscellaneous others. Shanahan—whose version is called The Dingdong, now running at the Pearl Theatre Company—has thrown the whole lot into a pot and stirred in a reducing potion, so that the entire menagerie is performed by a cast of only five. Continue reading
A recent New York Times report on the Tribeca Film Festival’s Virtual Arcade, which offered 18 films exploring various aspects of virtual reality, included this paragraph:
The sheer experimentalism in the room is exhilarating. You can feel the various content creators exploring what can be done in the medium, whether educationally, artistically (“Ashes,” a dance film by Jessica Kantor is an example) or in terms of storytelling. What kinds of tales can be told, and from what perspectives? With the potential to now pull viewers inside of the film, will there be pressure to turn the story over to the viewer entirely, so that V.R. becomes just a more sophisticated selfie?
Three noteworthy developments:
(1) New York City Opera emerged from bankruptcy in January and, in an event I managed to miss, announced its return with a new production of Tosca, the work with which the company had begun, in 1944. A recent email declares that NYCO is “once again on solid financial ground,” promises an announcement soon about a six-opera schedule for the 2016–17 season, and includes links for two events this spring. You should be able to read the text of that email here. NYCO’s main website is here.
From a commentary on the “leadership industry” in the 2/29/16 New Yorker, by Joshua Rothman:
“Crises of leadership are the order of the day at the beginning of the twenty-first century,” Elizabeth Samet writes, in the introduction to “Leadership: Essential Writings by Our Greatest Thinkers” (Norton). “If we live in a world of crisis,” she continues, “we also live in a world that romanticizes crisis—that finds in it fodder for an addiction to the twenty-four-hour news cycle, multiple information streams, and constant stimulation.” Samet believes that our growing addiction to the narrative of crisis has gone hand in hand with an increasing veneration of leadership—a veneration that leaves us vulnerable to “the false prophets, the smooth operators, the gangsters, and the demagogues” who say they can save us. She quotes John Adams, who suggested, in a letter to a friend, that there was something both undemocratic and unwise in the lionization of leadership. The country won’t improve, Adams wrote, until the people begin to “consider themselves as the fountain of power.” He went on, “They must be taught to reverence themselves, instead of adoring their servants, their generals, admirals, bishops, and statesmen.” It can be dangerous to decide that you need to be led.
Last week, the Economist website’s Prospero blog, which provides cultural commentary, brought news of a play that’s been bouncing around Belgium and France since December 2014. It’s called Djihad, and it’s about the quest of three young Belgian Muslims to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State. But it’s not what you might think: “Despite the serious subject, the hit Brussels play is a comedy, poking fun at the characters’ racism, anti-Semitism and ignorance.” The post is here.
Does writer’s block exist? In 1950, according to a recent New Yorker website post, a psychoanalyst who had studied the issue published a paper under that very title. He concluded that it does. But there’s a potential difficulty with disorders of the mind, which the Western world’s materialist science has more or less left behind in cases of somatic (that is, bodily) disorders: we can’t literally see what’s wrong, because we have no direct access to the area in question. Besides, some disorders seem to be culturally conditioned and/or psychologically conditioned. Among other things, this means that—odd as it sounds—the illnesses we can come down with may depend on where and when we’re living, or on beliefs we hold about ourselves.
Literally and figuratively, Shakespeare’s Pericles is all over the place. Like a very leisurely travel package, it visits six different Mediterranean locations—Antioch! Pentapolis! Mytilene!—and ranges across more than 16 years of time. It has a tour guide—I mean a narrator—and frequent outbreaks of song, dance, and mime. It features a princess protected by a riddle, an assassin, a shipwreck, fishermen on a beach, a jousting tournament, a storm at sea, pirates, a bordello, a dream sequence, and more than one unexpected reunion. It has reminders of other Shakespearean works going all the way back to The Comedy of Errors and looking ahead to pieces he hadn’t written yet, such as The Winter’s Tale. And parts of it may not have been written by Shakespeare at all.