This was the second time I had seen it - the first was a university production with excellent tech work but where not all of the cast, alas, were strong enough to carry their roles. But the play intrigued me, so I bought the script because I wanted to know what had been said that I hadn't heard.
I fell in love. It really is my favorite play - and I usually have a hard time choosing favorites. I roped a bunch of friends together and we assigned roles and read it to each other, which was a lot of fun. So I was delighted to find out a production was being staged locally.
The interesting thing about live theatre is how productions differ. cjot and I were talking this morning about differences in this staging from our perception of the play when we read it. Some of the stage directions were altered - possibly because of space issues - and the characters across the board were played a bit more broadly and stylized than we were expecting. It worked ok - but as she said to me, the play is written so that you can play everybody straight and still have a damn humorous piece.
One of the things in retrospect that I would have done differently concerned the relationship between Bernard and Hannah. As written they seemed to be academic peers, professional colleagues. The sort of people who snipe at each other constantly, but also help each other academically, and would certainly band together to counter an 'outside' threat. If anything, on paper Hannah is the stronger academic and solid researcher, and Bernard is a slightly junior colleague (but only slightly).
In last nights production, Bernard was overbearing enough to make Hannah seem slightly shrewish and not quite on his level, even though he'd got there by bluster, and she had solid work behind her. The effect was that his words to her obviously struck the mark, but her quoting his words back to him simply rolled off him, causing no reaction. There is a constant imbalance in regard that makes the scene where he asks her to accompany him to London (for the lecture? no, for sex) seem incongruous and out of left field, or alternately that Bernard is just a big letch. Well, yes he is - but it's more subtle than that.
Reading the scene it came across as one of those insta-flings you see happening in the wings of academic conventions and annual meetings - because to scientists, knowledge is sexy. Academics get turned on by the presence of large numbers of peers - people you can actually talk to without having to stop and explain, people who get your funny sub-field jokes, people who find knowledge just as exciting and sexy as you do.
But if he doesn't respect her - and it was fairly clear last night that he didn't - the scene falls oddly flat. To me, at least - I doubt that if you came to the play completely cold you'd even notice a discrepancy in behavior. So in that way it worked. But as a fan of the work, and especially the subtleties of the work, it was a trifle disappointing.
However, my quibbles shouldn't be taken as warning off. On the contrary, it's a damn fine production, very funny and well worth seeing. There are shows for $15 tonight, and Thursday and Friday of next week. Next Saturday is a Gala Finale for $50 that I'm still debating whether I have the time or money to see. Go!