Here’s the bottom line on some of what I’ve seen lately onstage and onscreen:
*This is the last week to see Katori Hall’s SATURDAY NIGHT/ SUNDAY MORNING at the Lyric Stage. It’s an entertaining slice of life set in Memphis during WWII at Miss Mary’s Press n’ Curl, a black beauty shop/boarding house. The shop is at the crossroads of these women’s lives, not only how they wear their hair– what that takes and what it means– but also who they love, who they’ve lost, who they long for. Performances are broad, funny, and vivid; but despite tackling serious and contemporarily relevant subject matter–political, racial, sexual– the play’s approach feels stylistically shopworn, with an uneasy mix of naturalism and magical realism at the climax, and some blunt, cliched characterizations. Through 11/21.
*This is also the last week to see South Africa’s ISANGO ENSEMBLE re-imagine Benjamin Britten’s operatic version of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The production which shortens both Britten and the Bard, begins on a severely raked stage, the actors barefoot and full-throated, singing like one organism vibrating through the Emerson Cutler Majestic. The production is faithful to the tale of beguiled lovers–fairies & mortals– with a bunch of rustics putting on a play in a forest of brooms. Live musicians line the stage and iambic pentameter flows seamlessly between the King’s English and the clicking “Xhosa” tongue. I almost thought I had deciphered it! The performances are vivid, the individual voices mostly strong, though the pace grew tedious. The show reclaimed its initial verve and joy at the end when once again, this vibrant ensemble sang as one. In repertory with Isango’s “U-Carmen” which takes on Bizet’s opera. Through 11/22.
See STEVE JOBS. Who knows if it’s all true the way screenwriter Aaron Sorkin tells it. But his trademark breakneck dialogue, furious pace, and facile conclusions are as persuasive as Michael Fassbender’s uncanny impersonation (though he barely looks like the Apple wizard). It’s worth noting that this feature film which takes us behind the scenes of three product launches, arrives at the same conclusions as did the fine doc “The Man in the Machine,” i.e. that Jobs felt simultaneously abandoned and chosen, a dichotomy which here plays itself out in his contradictory responses to fatherhood and father figures, specifically John Sculley, powerfully portrayed by Jeff Daniels. Kate Winslet is fascinating (despite her disappearing/re-appearing eastern european accent)as Joanna Hoffman, Jobs’ brilliant, fearless gal Friday (and all the other days), and Seth Rogen is just right as the great Woz.
See SPECTRE. The latest Bond film may be Danny Craig’s last outing as 007. This installment elegantly directed by Sam Mendes fleshes out more of the debonair secret agent’s murky past, and features Christoph Waltz as his archest of arch enemies, plus the requisite intrigue, global cavorting, and killer chase sequences. Ralph Fiennes has been given a bit more to do, wish the same were true of the great beauty Monica Bellucci. But Craig’s chemistry with French actress Lea Seydoux (2013 Best Actress at Cannes for “Blue is the Warmest Color”) almost makes us forget Bond’s late, great, dark-haired inamorata, played by the unforgettable Eva Green.