Sunday, March 29, 2009

Exit the King, and Keep on Exiting

Another New York item: we caught a preview last week of the new Broadway mounting of Ionesco's Exit the King, and I generally endorse the drift of critical consensus that it is a pretty good show (cf. link, link). But with one big qualification, namely: it's really just one big idea--king doesn't want to die; hilarity ensues.

What saves it are two things. Well, one and a half. The "half" is the script: being totally unfamiliar with the original, I have no idea whether to credit the author or his translator/adapters, but the are quite a few good lines bits of stage business. The "one" is the cast, and in particular Geoffrey Rush, hithterto known to me only as the poor mug who gets his feet cooked by the loan shark in Shakespeare in Love. The Times calls him "a fire-trailing comet," and I won't try to top it. He struts and frets his hour upon the stage as if he wants to add a couple of chapters to the Kubler-Ross catalog of mortality. He gets mostly good support, too, but without him (and some good material), it could have been a lo-o-o-ng afternoon.

Which prompts an inquiry: could it be that this problem is general in modernist theatre or literature--one good idea, strung out to a length that is at least unreasonable, and sometimes impossible? Check the Wiki page on Will Self, for example: under "fiction" you'll find half a dozen or so summaries that read like zinger one-liners, but don't promise much content beyond. I'd say the same about most of Pirandello, asnd (dare one say it?) a good deal of Beckett.

Maybe I' m expecting too much, but I don't remember Shakespeare being this infertile. Or Dickens. Meantime, heaven bless Geoffrey Rush and his gaggle for providing so much diversion.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

re Geoffrey Rush's earlier work: We loved him in Shine--you might like it. Then there's the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise-you would probably find these intolerable.