This weekend is a mixed bag and involves Mick Jagger and William Shakespeare. If only they had worked together.
I couldn’t wait to see the THE BURNT ORANGE HERESY a Sony Classics release beginning August 7 at West Newton Theater. For this movie critic/arts reporter, what could be better than an art heist film starring Mick Jagger as a wealthy art dealer living in a gorgeous villa on Lake Como, and a handsome but sleazy art critic (Claes Bang) invited to spend the weekend there with his latest fling (Elizabeth Debicki) tagging along. Throw in a wild-eyed Donald Sutherland as a famous, reclusive painter who inhabits a dilapidated little cottage on the estate and roams freely — and I just couldn’t wait for this to get juicy. Alas, less than half way through, the orange went dry and I got burnt.
Once I’d had enough of the sex and scenery, I was gearing up for the next level of excitement, perhaps a more cerebral experience in the form of a tricky thriller to amp up the adrenaline. The ensemble’s initial dinner table conversation was a real tease with lots of self-consciously clever interplay among the assembled, and Mick immaculately turned out in white jacket, hoisting ancient crystal to his lips, eyes narrowed while making sinister-sounding inquiries but having all the answers before his guests understood what he was insinuating. I was intrigued. Would this art critic be his match? (Given the slipperiness of his first lecture which opens the film, he might be.) Would the old artist shed light on the stories being bandied about? Would Mick have the last louche laugh? And finally, would Elizabeth Debicki–besides being handed around as the object of the art critic’s half-hearted attention, the old artist’s nostalgic fantasies, and the art dealer’s condescension– be given anything to do?
What unfolds is a screenplay with holes leaking the air of inflated dialogue and trite musings about what artists owe posterity, what critics actually know, what art is and what is its value, not to mention the masks people wear: “Is it masks all the way down?” wonders the old artist. All worthy subjects, but not seriously explored here. I should have known this was going nowhere when Mick muttered that old chestnut about confusing the price of something with its value; true, of course, in the way that cliches are true, and maybe especially true relative to the fickleness of the art market. But isn’t it up to filmmakers to create interest by making something old –new again? The film not only breathes a stale air, but is sluggishly directed by Giuseppe Capotondi, and takes little care with the details of its plot which fall apart upon close inspection.
Without giving too much away, I will say that the time frame doesn’t quite work. Few cell phones are in evidence, though a Mac laptop suggests the time is now, but if that’s true, some things would have happened to foil the mystery, and other things could not have happened. The movie also lurches ahead skipping over details of the denouement, which are implied rather than fully worked out by the filmmakers, perhaps in the hopes that the audience wouldn’t bother to think too carefully about what happened either. All in all, THE BURNT ORANGE HERESY is as pretentious as its title, not as clever as it thinks it is, and pretty annoying given the promise of its premise, setting, and cast. It even turned out to be rather sour and cruel in terms of Ms Debicki. I did like seeing Mick onscreen, however, and wish he would do more. He’s a compelling actor– at least within a certain decadent range. He might make a good “Antonio,” the unrepentant, aristocratic betrayer brother in THE TEMPEST.
That brings me to the COMMONWEALTH SHAKESPEARE COMPANY’s valiant attempt to mount Shakespeare’s fantasy play THE TEMPEST on ZOOM instead of on Boston Common. How fitting. This year, the pandemic is the relentless tempest which continues to roil the currents of normal life around the globe, turning our world upside down. The August 6th performance of “The Tempest” was LIVE ONLINE and the first in a FREE 5-day online script-in-hand run to replace its run as this year’s annual offering by CSC on the Common, the production now postponed until summer 2021.
“The Tempest” involves a storm that tosses a shipload of travelers onto the shores of a mysterious island where the lost pieces of all their lives will be newly-assembled and the puzzle restored to a fresh wholesomeness. Destiny, romance, betrayal, and renewal are the stuff of Shakespeare’s play, and this online performance required our focus and imaginations in full force. A splendid cast did its superhuman best to meet the moment and escape the boundaries of geography and digital boxes to convey the magic of Shakespeare’s play: Tony nominee & Elliot
Norton Award winner John Douglas Thompson* leads the cast as Prospero, Miguel Cervantes* in the title role of Hamilton in Chicago and Broadway as Ariel, Maurice Emmanuel Parent* as Sebastian, Siobhan Juanita Brown as Gonzala, Fred Sullivan, Jr.* as Stephano, Remo Airaldi* as Antonio, Nora Eschenheimer* as Miranda, actor/playwright John Kuntz* as Trinculo, Nael Nacer* as Caliban, Richard Noble as Alonso, and Michael Underhill as Ferdinand. Scenic Design is by Tony Award winner Clint Ramos and Jeffrey Petersen, Costume Design by Nancy Leary, Lighting Design by Eric Southern, and Sound Design by David Reiffel.
Steven Maler, the company’s artistic director was visibly moved as he presented the performance, embodying the play’s incipient hope for a world refreshed and a theater season and this production restored–next season! In the meantime see THE TEMPEST online FREE with a suggested $20.00 donation. So far, many have taken that suggestion and run with it.
Watch THE TEMPEST now through Monday, August 10 at 7pm, as a benefit to support CSC’s 2021 production on the Boston Common, with the previously announced cast. The recordings of the audio described and the ASL interpreted performance will be available starting Saturday, August 8 at 7:00 PM at the CSC YouTube channel until Monday, August 10 at 7:00 PM. Pre-Show Audio are available at https://commshakes.org/production/the-tempest/.
WATCH via CSC’s YouTube channel, and can be accessed on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmtiNnQrTw0.
*denotes Member Actors’ Equity Association