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Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney
by Sam Norkin.

London, 2003: Something new, something blue,and all those old musicals and endless long-runs

By Glenn Loney

[1] Why does West End Theater Seem a Xerox Copy of Broadway? Or is it the other way around?
[2] Institutional Theatre Amazements
[3] At the Globe Theatre

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Why does West-End Theater seem a xerox copy of Broadway? Or is it the other way around?

There was a time when real theater fans would make annual pilgrimages to London to see handsome productions of interesting new plays that they feared would never make it to Broadway. They also went to see novel British musicals which were so very UK that they'd never make it on the Great White Way. That has all changed. The theater bill-of-fare now looks much the same on both sides of the Atlantic. You can see "Phantom of the Opera" and "The Lion King" either in London and New York.

Andrew Lloyd Webber may be running out of creative stream, but "Phantom" has not-on either side of the Atlantic. Willy Russell's "Blood Brothers" seems set to run forever in London. "My Fair Lady" has just closed a popular run at the Drury Lane, to be followed mid-month by the National Theater's production of Cole Porter's "Anything Goes", with a new book by Tim Crouse and John Weidman.

Were it not for major institutional theaters like the Royal National Theatre and Stratford's Royal Shakespeare Company-which no longer has a London venue at the Barbican-West End commercial managers would have a very difficult time keeping their stages occupied. The Theatre Royal Haymarket just closed a transfer of Henrik Ibsen's "Brand", starring Ralph Fiennes. No commercial management would have mounted this early and difficult drama. Nor would anyone have transferred it without Fiennes' obvious star-power.

This challenging production was immediately followed at the Haymarket by a stylish revival of Oscar Wilde's "A Woman of No Importance", staged by Adrian Noble, who won his spurs as a director at the RSC and the National. This seldom-produced social drama is of special interest for Wilde's portrait of a young American woman, out of her native element. But what will surely pull in the audiences is the casting, featuring Rupert Graves, Prunella Scales, Joanne Pierce, and Samantha Bond.

So desperate are theater managers for new plays-or even better, old ones by Brand-Name Playwrights-that Arthur Miller's family-problems pot-boiler,"The Price" has just opened at the Apollo, transferred from the Off-off-West End Tricycle Theatre.

Those culture-hungry Americans who had missed Robert Wilson's colorful and exciting production of "The Temptation of St. Anthony"-in collaboration with Bernice Johnson Reagon-could briefly catch it on tour at Sadler's Wells. Where it was promoted with raves from the "Los Angeles Times", no less!

Obviously, a week-even including matinees on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, special features of London theater-going-would not seem sufficient to see all the new West-End productions. Truth is, however, that few of the stagings not already on view last September were worth paying good money for, as I no longer get press-tickets in London. Or I had already seen these new-to-London shows in New York.

No press-tickets, no press-photos: That is why there are no photos to illustrate this report. And, as London theater programs now cost as much as a good meal at the Stockpot, you won't find many cast-listings below…


In fact, the only major West End productions I chose to see were Franco Zeffirelli's revival of a Pirandello classic-which had the look of a National Theatre transfer, an Alfred Hitchcock film-fantasy transferred from the Royal Court Theatre on Sloane Square, and a fantastic meditation on the life of Jean Rhys, created by the Off-off-off ensemble, Shared Experience. Plus the lavish Bollywood musical, "Bombay Dreams", which was sold out last September. But I could have waited for press-tickets, as it is to open on Broadway in April!

"Bombay Dreams":

If you are a sucker for lavish spectacle and glittering costumes, this is the show for you! It opens, however, in the mouth of a giant sewer-pipe in a Bombay slum, dominated by an immense poster for a Bollywood film. The handsome young hero, Akaash, dreams of becoming a movie-musical star although he is trapped in this sordid ghetto-soon to be torn down by evil developers.

Fortunately, thanks to a eunuch who loves Akaash, he meets the beautiful daughter of the most successful Bollywood producer. Yes, of course he becomes a star, supplanting his Leading Lady in mass-popularity. But he forgets his roots, the poor people who love him, and who expect him to save their sewer from the bulldozers. At the very last minute, he comes to his senses…

The plot is simplistic, thanks to book co-author Thomas Meehan, who gave the world Annie. The distinctive Indian popular music has been composed by A. R. Rahman, but the English lyrics are by Don Black, who has previously collaborated with Andrew Lloyd Webber, the producer of this colorful show.

The smartly-dressed but viciously evil villain escapes, just as in Real Life. Via helicopter, recalling Miss Saigon. Or maybe also Baghdad?

"Bombay Dreams" will begin Broadway previews on 29 March 2004, appropriately enough at the Broadway Theatre. It will surely be a top-price ticket, but it's not cheaply-priced in London at the Apollo Victoria Theatre either.

HOT TIP: If you are a Senior in London, you can ask for a "Concession" ticket on the day of performance. I paid only £15 for my "Bombay Dreams"! The previous September I could not get a seat, as it was sold out for weeks.

"Absolutely {perhaps}"

Seeing Michael Billington's raves posted outside Wyndham's Theatre-"dazzling," he wrote-my curiosity was aroused about this peculiarly-titled drama: "Abolutely {perhaps}" I thought I knew all the Pirandello Canon, but I'd never encountered such a play.

What really decided me on a Senior Concession ticket, however, was the fact that Joan Plowright, Lady Olivier, was in the cast. Plus Gawn Grainger, Anna Carteret, Timothy Bateson, Jud Charlton, Jean Stanley, and Barry Stanton! Also Lolly Susi and Darrell D'Silva!

As is his wont, the octogenarian Zeffirelli not only staged the drama, but also designed the stage-set, with handsome mosaic-wall effects. The moment the curtain rose, I realized this was in fact Pirandello's "Right You Are, If You Think You Are". Over 50 years ago, at UC/Berkeley, I had done the lighting for our Drama Department production in Wheeler Hall. So I found I still knew the play almost by heart, although Martin Sherman-he wrote Bent-has drafted a new version which retains the mystery of the original:

Is the new City Hall secretary mentally afflicted, or is his mother-in-law, Signora Frola? Is the wife he keeps secluded from her actually his first wife-who he insists is dead-or is she his second wife, whom his mother-in-law, insists is in fact her daughter?

Civic busybodies-including the Mayor-want to know the truth of the matter, summoning the old woman first. She says she's humoring her son-in-law to prevent a worse mental delusion. He appears and insists she's the one driven over the line with grief, so he is protecting her by keeping his new wife apart from her.

Pirandello-justly noted for his dramatic presentation of human ambiguities-makes it clear, through his raisonneur, Lamberto Laudisi, that it's really no-one's business as long as the man does his job well. So the leaders of local society are left with no definitive answer: Either he's deluded, or his mother-in-law is…

As this play is now almost a hundred years old, it might seem only a period-piece, a curiosity of Italian small-town life in the early 20th century. But considering the recently attempted impeachment of President Clinton-not for Oval Office blow-jobs, but for lying about them to flawed elected officials-this inquisition still seems topical.

What a play Pirandello could have written about Kenneth Starr and Bill Clinton! But this is not a topic for Arthur Miller. And certainly not for Lanford Wilson.

Joan Plowright was magisterial as Signora Frola: Compassion and Suffering…

"After Mrs Rochester":

At the Edinburgh Festival several seasons ago, playwright Polly Teale and the Shared Experience ensemble scored a big success with her searing adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's "Jane Eyre". This haunting production-with the wraith of the pitiful attic-prisoner, the mad Mrs. Rochester, shadowing Jane everywhere-was also seen in London, on tour, and even in the United States.

Teale and Shared Experience have returned to this mad-woman in rags, revealing both her and Jane Eyre as alter-egos of the passionate writer, Jean Rhys, author of "Wide Sargasso Sea". Like Jane, Rhys became obsessed with the image of Mrs. Rochester, reading and re-reading the novel as an abused child. But, like Mrs. Rochester herself, Jean was a wild-child, growing up on a Caribbean island where her grandfather had been a slave-owner.

The drama begins and ends with Jean's initially abandoned and endlessly neglected daughter trying to get her to open the door to her flat-where she is communing with her Past, Jane Eyre, and Mrs. Rochester. Her despairing daughter has traveled hundreds of miles to see her, the result of a desperate cry for help.

This is an almost surreal production-both in the writing and in the staging. Diana Quick is compelling as Jean Rhys, but at times the accents invite supertitles, especially if this production is to cross the Atlantic. It seems too dense and demanding for Broadway, but it might find a home at Manhattan Theatre Club. Or in a special engagement as BAM…

"Hitchcock Blonde":

This strange entertainment will surely appeal to American Hitchcock fans, but I found it more interesting for the black andwhite decors, images, and videos designed by William Dudley-who gave the Met Opera that wonderful "Billy Budd" production,

A film-studies professor [David Haig] at a provincial university has bought all the Alfred Hitchcock film-footage once held by Gainsborough Films from a Greek collector. Unfortunately, much of the film has since turned to muck. Some frames, however, can be salvaged.

He invites a female student intern [Fiona Glascott] to come to a Greek island with him to sort through the surviving mess. There is more of a mess than both bargained for, and not only in the film-cannisters. He declares his infatuation to her. He's old; she's young. She gives in; she begins to fall for him; he finds he's bored.

This appears to be the narrative frame for their discoveries of frames of a film Hitchcock began, but never completed: "The Uninvited Guest". They also discover Hitchcock's hand-held camera experiments for a potential film never begun. Long, long before anyone had the idea to use a hand-held camera. This could be Big back in Britain: a monograph, a series of lectures at the very least.

But all of this is only framing for an imaginative recreation of an encounter between Hitchcock and an ambitious blonde Janet Leigh "Psycho" body-double [Rosamund Pike]. She stabs and beats her abusive husband to death and then brings his plastic-wrapped corpse to Hitchcock's home. But he's not yet dead! Will Hitchcock make her famous?

Well, you can just imagine the complications! Terry Johnson both wrote and staged this odd play. It could find an audience in America, but the Professor-Student/October-April romance is rather like one of Hitchcock's own McGuffins. Uninteresting, when not downright boring…

In the Lyric Theatre's lobby, in addition to brochures for this show, were also flyers for "The Alfred Hitchcock London Location Walk." Three hours long every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday! You get to compare actual locations with set-designs for "Frenzy", "The Paradine Case", and "The Man Who Knew Too Much".

Institutional Theatre Amazements:

In the 1960s, when the idea of subsidized theatres-long the major producers of plays and operas in Europe-began to surface in both
Britain and America, commercial managements on both sides of the Atlantic were quick to pooh-pooh the concept. And the needless expenditure of good tax-monies as well…

Any play or musical that was any good would surely make money and didn't need to be initially produced-or "work-shopped"-by some regional or provincial theatre. Nor did London's West End or Broadway need state or national theatres to experiment with new and problematic scripts. That was the official position, but now pre-Broadway or London try-outs are the exception, not the rule.

Increasingly, both Britain's and America's commercial managements are profiting from institutional theatres taking the initial risks with new works-and even with unjustly forgotten or neglected plays and musicals.

Indeed, London's Royal National Theatre looks more and more like a West
End try-out house. As does the Royal Court and the RSC…

At the Donmar Warehouse Theatre:"Pacific Overtures":

Now, even the institutional theatres are helping each other mount new productions. The splendid London revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Pacific Overtures" at the Donmar is even an example of Hands Across the Sea! Not the Pacific, but the Atlantic. This is a co-production with the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, which mounted the show originally on the Navy Pier in its new quasi-cockpit theatre.

At the Donmar, a rectangular raised arena stage was flanked on four sides by seating, In the shallow balcony above, seating was only on three sides, with musicians aloft on the fourth side. This was a highly stylized production in which costumes and hand-props provided environmental and situational decors. Visually both Noh and quasi-Kabuki, there was even the effect of a Hanamichi entry upstage. But the image of the infant Meiji Emperor as a puppet was pure Bunkaru…

Gary Griffin staged an outstanding all-male cast in multiple roles. The multi-talented actor/singers included Joseph Anthony Foronda, Kevin Gudahl, Richard Henders, Togo Igawa, Cornell John, Teddy Kempner, Richard Manera, Ian McLarnon, Jerome Pradon, and Mo Zainal.

This excellent production is so well conceived, designed, and played that it deserves to tour widely. With its fusion of Japanese theatrical styles in telling the often sad story of the forcible opening of the Floating Kingdom to the West-and Japan's rapid & radical change from medieval feudal society to major modern power in the Pacific-it provides a very stylish but topical reminder of what can happen when America decides to make changes in other nations.

Neither Broadway audiences or the critics were ready for its innovations at its premiere. Some reviewers complained that Sondheim's lyrics were too clever, too wordy to be easily understood. Most had no idea how ingeniously the creators of "Pacific Overtures" had blended history, culture, and humanity. Boris Aronson's brilliant settings were dismissed by some as cartoon-like. Director Hal Prince had to abandon the intermission when it became apparent in previews that some of the audience were not coming back after the interval. This was a stunning, even heart-breaking, Broadway production, but it did not have either the run or the understanding and appreciation it so richly deserved.

But, on a much smaller and more intimate scale, the Donmar/Chicago Shakespeare production has sensitively and powerfully explored-even rediscovered-this work of genius. It must be more widely seen!

At the Royal National Theatre:

It is worrying enough that commercial theatres are so fearful of new scripts and talents that they are increasingly looking with favor on transfers from institutional theaters. What is even more disturbing is the increasing dependence of subsidized or subscriber-supported ensembles on revivals, rather than exploring new works and experimenting with new ways of presenting them. This has of course been going on a long time in America's so-called Regional Theaters. It must be twenty years ago now, at least, that everyone was doing "Three Men of a Horse", because Broadway had just had a big success with a revival, featuring, among others, Butterfly McQueen.

But what are we to think of London's Royal National Theatre when its major stage, the vast Olivier, is usurped by David Mamet's misanthropic little drama, "Edmond"? This is not exactly a re-discovery, nor an unjustly neglected play. For that matter, it is something of a shock to find a recent Edinburgh Festival Fringe parody, "Jerry Springer-The Opera", receiving an obviously very expensive large-cast production on the big stage of the National's Lyttleton Theatre.

Oddly enough, the new and potentially difficult scripts were on view in the National's small Elizabethan-style cockpit-theatre, the Cottesloe. I missed Nick Dear's "Power" and Kwame Kwei-Armagh's "Elmina's Kitchen", but the world-premiere of Michael Frayn's new political drama more than made up for those missed plays.


One of the National Theatre's most impressive recent transfers was Michael Frayn's "Copenhagen", which moved both to the West End and to Broadway. This despite its special focus on a moment in history and physics in which two famous nuclear scientists took an evening walk that may have changed the course of World War II. This is a three-character drama of such density and intensity that audiences really have to pay attention-even without a degree in nuclear physics. And yet the play fascinated Broadway audiences and is now receiving productions by regional ensembles.

Frayne's new drama, "Democracy", is much more accessible-at least on the level of ideas-but it may not be able to make a successful trans-Atlantic crossing owing to its subject-matter. It is a very skillfully orchestrated exploration of the way an East German Stasi spy insinuated himself into the inner circle of Chancellor Willy Brandt's ministers and advisors in Bonn.

Considering how ill-informed-or not informed at all-most Americans are about their own country, its state capitals, and its history, not to mention its elected and un-elected officials, it would be surprising to find enough Broadway theater-goers who even remember who Willy Brandt was, let alone who know where Bonn is-or what it was before "Die Wende".

Partly because I taught in Germany on and off in the later 1950s-and have visited Bonn several times, including its heyday as capital of the Federal Republic of Germany-I believe I am at least as well-informed about Post-war West and East German politics as most Germans. So this ingenious drama was of especial interest.

Most of the characters I knew already from newspaper headlines and features in "Der Spiegel", Germany's version of "Time" magazine-only more literate and comprehensive. And of course I remembered very well the tremendous scandal caused when the always agreeable, almost invisible, man-of-all-tasks, Günter Guillaume, was exposed as a Stasi plant at the heart of West German government.

But Michael Frayne goes behind the headlines and Op Ed analyses of what went wrong. He humanizes-or at least illuminates the naked ambitions-of some of the men around Brandt. Obvious parallels with the byzantine intrigues of our own political system may, however, make this drama of real interest even to those who know little about Central Europe.

Frayne also shows how much of a Divided Man Brandt was himself, having spent the Nazi years in self-imposed exile in Scandinavia. Not to overlook his fatal flaw of not being able to make up his mind or move decisively on matters of utmost urgency. Or his JFK-like reliance on his immense popular visual appeal-without offering German voters anything of substance. There are certainly contemporary American resonances here.

Most fascinating of all is the way Frayne has developed the character of Guillaume, a modest, even insecure, man who longs to please. Not only his East German Stasi spy-master, but also Chancellor Brandt, whom he comes to admire and like-even though it is clear Brandt never really wanted him around. But Brandt didn't bite the bullet and dismiss Guillaume.

Frayne deftly reveals how little Guillaume really knows about the dark dealings of the East German government, including its stinking slave-trade of selling "political prisoners" and dissidents to the West German government for very large sums of Deutsche Marks. And-despite his apparent mindless dedication to the announced ideals of DDR Socialism-he obviously comes to enjoy life on the western side of the Iron Curtain.

If Guillaume loves-and lives for-anything, it is not the DDR, nor his wife, who is also a Stasi spy and his sometime controller. He adores his young son Pierre, even though he uses their Sunday outings to the airport to watch the planes as a chance to drop state secrets for DDR agents.

Because Frayne has so sensitively explored the contradictions in these two men-Chancellor Willy Brandt and his factotum, Günter Guillaume-this drama may well find a much larger popular audience that can relate to the men themselves and to the crucial situations in which they are involved. And not just as an exercise in recent German Political History.

Frayne's character-studies of Guillaume and Brandt-revealed as the men interact-are certainly more interesting than trying to get inside the heads of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. Not even Arthur Miller would want to write that play!

Michael Blakemore, who was so expert in staging "Copenhagen", has been even more successful with Frayne's "Democracy". But he is blessed with a remarkably able cast. And an ingenious two-level white post-modernist setting by Peter J Davison.

Conleth Hill's Guillaume even looks like the photos of this spy. He is engagingly amusing as he scurries around the Chancellry, trying to ingratiate himself and copy as many documents as he can for his DDR masters.

Roger Allam suggests Brandt's manner in his public appearances, though he's not a look-alike. Nicholas Blane, however, does resemble Dieter Genscher, who eventually became Foreign Minister. Glyn Grain is very interesting as the perpetually frustrated Organization Man, Helmut Schmidt, who longs to become chancellor himself.

He did finally achieve that dignity, wearing a trademark Prinz Heinrich yachting-cap. But who now-outside Germany-remembers Schmidt or Brandt? Who remembers their DDR counterparts like Willi Stoph or Erich Honneker?

Or, for that matter, what American theater-goer remembers Neil Kinnnock? How about Harold Wilson or Clement Atlee? Not to mention Al Landon or Upton Sinclair-not to be confused with Sinclair Lewis…

...and "Jerry Springer-The Opera":

Obviously, most people know who Jerry Springer is, even if they have never seen his horrendously vulgar and violent TV show. Thanks to modern electronic miracles-and a dearth of lowest-common-denominator programming on British television-English audiences also know the man and his entertainment wares.

This X-Rated musical found favor on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe a season or so ago. It moved to London, but it was still a small-scale show. Now, given an all-stops-out large-scale, large-cast mounting on the Lyttleton stage of the National Theatre, it challenges the production-values of any Broadway musical, even including "The Producers" and "Hairspray".

Set-designer Julian Crouch has been most ingenious in his use of scenic and prop tricks and transformations on the Lyttleton stage. Jerry Springer in Hell is something to behold! Costume-designer Leah Arnold must have had to work overtime, for there are a number of full-cast, full-costume changes which must have cost a fortune. In fact, after the curttain-call, there is another full-stage, full-cast musical encore-with everyone wigged, spectacled, and costumed as Jerry Springer.

There are some 32 of these Springer look-alikes, all singing a rock-lyric consisting of repetition of "What the Fuck, What the Fuck, What the Fuck." Other lyrics make specific references to bizarre personal and sexual practices that would have made Caligula blush. Or get an erection.

Adam and Eve are on a segment of this mock Springer show, and even Jesus and the Virgin Mary are rudely mocked. God also has a cameo. Much of this is just tasteless, even if it resembles, rather than parodies, the programming of an actual Springer show. Some of the staged confrontations are simply violent and vulgar, without being witty or amusing. Nonetheless, the sold-out audience at the National Theatre largely roared with laughter.

Obviously, the National is desperate to fill its seats with anything that will pull in a crowd. So much for the classics of drama, formerly staged by Peter Hall at the National. Or the now all-too-tame Theatre of Blood of Peter Brook for the RSC, when it had a London home at the Aldwych.

Considering the money that must have been spent to set and costume this show, a West End transfer was clearly in view. Can a Broadway transfer be far behind? This is, after all, an American TV show.

Speaking of behinds, there is a group of Springerites in diapers whose fondest fantasy is pooping in their pants-with lyrics to match. I would not have believed the viability of this number, had I not actually seen some of these pathetic people on TV, though not on Jerry's show.

Frankly, I still cannot believe some of the objectionable language I heard loudly sung on a stage of the National Theatre. But, thanks to pay-for-view TV, anything may now be permissible. Not to overlook the US Government Printing Office's published transcripts of Kenneth Starr's smut-raking investigations of President Clinton's Oval Office smoke-breaks. The taste-barriers are certainly down at the Royal National Theatre.

Stewart Lee-who also directed dynamically, I must reluctantly admit--co-authored the book and lyrics with Richard Thomas, who composed the resoundingly derivative score. But then this is supposed to be parody, so why complicate matters with really original innovative music?

Dapper David Bedella doubles as Jerry's warm-up talent and Satan himself. He's very good in both roles. Michael Brandon makes an amusing Jerry Springer, taking no responsibility for anything that happens on his show. He's even better when he's been shot and has to confront some of his broadcasting misdeeds. Benjamin Lake played God, but in a parody you don't want type-casting…

The on-stage energy of the principals and chorus could have defeated the London Blackout, which came only a week after that in New York. And shortly after British energy-experts said such a thing could not happen to the power-net…

At the Globe Theatre

Although every summer for years-as the late Sam Wanamaker was valiantly trying to re-create Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on Bankside Thames-I would meet with Sam to report for American readers on the progress of the project, I no longer rate press-tickets for shows in this handsome and very popular venue. Even though I have my very own stone just inside Door Three: GLENN LONEY. One of the staff did photograph me crouching beside it, however.

And the press-office did give me a free £5 standing-room ticket for the virtually sold-out new production of "Taming of the Shrew". I'm now nearly 76 years old, but even at 56, I don't think I could have stood in front of an open stage such as the Globe's for the so-called "two hours' traffic of our stage." Especially in the horrendous heat all of Europe was suffering this summer…

"Taming of the Shrew":

So imagine my surprise at becoming so engrossed in the all-woman production of the new "Shrew" that I not only stood the whole time, but also did not leave my patch of ground-for fear of losing it-at the interval! "Shrew" is one of a now long list of Bardic dramas I believe I have seen far too often in my duties as a critic. Almost as deadly as "Twelfth Night" and "Midsummer Night's Dream". Unless, of course, brilliantly re-imagined and played with absolute passion and belief.

I cannot recall when I have seen a "Shrew" I have enjoyed so much. It was not exactly that magical sensation of seeing a well-known play as though for the first time, but almost as good as that.

Part of the reason for this reaction was the turning of the tables of tradition, in having an all-female cast instead of an all-male cast, as in Shakespeare's time. Some of the women in doublets and hose seemed even more masculine than actors who have essayed these roles. Some, in fact, made very handsome gentlemen indeed.

Best of all was the roistering boisterous Petrucchio of Janet McTeer. Her zest, energy, bravado, and vibrant masculinity should give many a male Petrucchio pause. Quite contrast to Ibsen's Nora, in"Doll's House", for which she won both an Olivier and a Tony. McTeer's Italian stud is just that, not a bull-dyke impersonation of one. Amazing!

And Kathryn Hunter's feisty Katherina was almost a match for this crazy suitor, before he shamed her into submission. This is still a difficult play, and not only because of heightened awareness of Politically Correct Attitudes about Equality of the Sexes. Petrucchio's various subjugation-strategems for Kate-while often wildly comical as farce in this colorful and hyperactive production-are still militantly mysoginist.

Linda Bassett is marvelous as Petrucchio's long-suffering servant, Grumio. She is better than most male comics I've seen in this role, and there is no sense of a woman trying to act like a man. She simply plays the role for all its richly comic possibilities.

As imagined and staged by Phyllida Lloyd, the Master of Play-and dynamically played by her excellent cast-this is "Shrew" is a production which could easily tour. And that certainly should be seen in New York, either at BAM or on Broadway at the New Victory Theatre on 42nd Street.

Even though it is now played against the richly decorated permanent facade of the new "third" Globe Theatre, it needs no scenery or backdrops. A few apertures for entrances and exists are enough. The handsome costumes of Imogen Ross and Jenny Tiramani-especially as animated by this wonderful company of women-players-set the stage and help set the magic of the imagination in motion.

"Richard II":

Obviously borrowing the phrase from that King of Phrase-Makers, Geo. W. Bush, London's Globe Theatre has titled its current programming:
"The Season of Regime Change 2003". Shakespeare's "Richard II" and "Richard III", however, seem more attuned to Shock and Awe, than to Nation-Building. The same can be said of Marlowe's "Edward II", also in the repertory. Especially the red-hot-poker up the anus, which so horribly ended Edward's sad life: Shock & Awe, and then some…

Forget about finding Weapons of Mass Destruction in these three plays. The weak and willful Richard and Edward, as well as the vicious and malevolent Richard Crookback, cause destruction enough.

Having recently seen an unsatisfactory smirking "King Richard II" at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, I found Mark Rylance's almost sweetly self-indulgent and disconnected Richard a revelation.

His sad self-recognition-when he finally realizes that his own poor physical body no longer is at one with the Spiritual Body of the Divinely Annointed King-is truly moving. And his resignation to his loss of power and station is almost saintly. His sudden surge of energy in lashing out at his killers is thus even more befitting the king that he should have been.

Rylance's growth as an actor-while also acting as Artistic Director of the Globe ensemble-has been most impressive. His Cleopatra-which could have been a camp stunt, comically mocking the Elizabethan casting of a brilliant boy-actor in the role-was very persuasive, even deeply touching in her love and loss of Antony and her kingdom.

The Globe "Richard II"-staged by Tim Carroll, with the Globe's White Company-is also a production admirably suited for touring. Why not bring both "Shrew" and "Richard II" across the seas to New York and even beyond? [Loney]

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Copyright © Glenn Loney 2003. No re-publication or broadcast use without proper credit of authorship. Suggested credit line: "Glenn Loney, New York Theatre Wire." Reproduction rights please contact: jslaff@nytheatre-wire.com.

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