Look Back in Anger – 3/5
I took a class in grad school called “Post-War British Masculinity” and lest you think it was just a code-word for “Angry Young Men” we also read some tremendously good books like the Collected Philip Larkin, Brideshead Revisited, and The Jewel in the Crown. This was also one of the books we read, though we mainly talked about the movie, since it starred a very histrionic Richard Burton in full “RAGE, RAGE AGAINST THE DYING OF THE LIGHT” kind of thing. The play was written in the midst of the “angry young men” movement in post-war, welfare state Britain in which the presence of the dole, the loss of the wars, and nothing much doing led to a kind of moral, sexual, and physical indolence. Add that to the addition of rights for women, which began to go beyond the right to vote, but all the various kinds of self-autonomy that came with the reduction of suppression. So this play is a kind of inverse of “No Exit” in which “heaven is other people” because when you are young and married and feel completely trapped by the marriage you feel tricked into, having a potential for your wife’s love (well, someone who might fuck her) and you also have another person you could sleep with possibly, then you get a short reprieve from everything. At the center of the tension is a pregnancy, as happens, which is positioned ironically in this play where so long as there is a potential baby, there’s a reason and excuse to leave. But if something were to happen, you might get trapped forever.
War of the Worlds – 5/5
The myth around Orson Welles’s War of the World is spread yearly by civics teachers everywhere in the US. If you listen to the whole broadcast, not only would it be impossible to think this was a live event, since it involves Orson Welles’s character, long after first contact, trying to move forward with his life. And if this wasn’t enough, he tells you at the end “whoa, what a crazy thing we just did”.
And as a piece of radio drama this really is quite brilliant. The show continually is in the actual guise of a radio program with songs and fake news and other misdirects. There’s not only the constant cutaway to the news of first the atmospheric disturbances on Mars, something we would certainly not get breaking news bulletins about, but then on toward the presence of the Martians, the landing, the encounter and so forth. From there, the constant break-ins etc etc. The original novel is written in first person about a week after everything happened, but the use of the immediacy of the radio in the storytelling is way more groundbreaking and interesting than the fake idea that anyone “fell for it”. Orson Welles is and was just such a pioneer in the way that technology allows for storytelling.
Dr Faustus – 5/5
Marlowe famously was murdered (and he might have deserved it) in a bar when he was 29. He was famous already and had written several hit plays. He also forged his own legend in which some are convinced he could have surpassed Shakespeare in fame and talent. Maybe the first, and partly maybe the second (there’s no real evidence Marlowe could have written brilliant comedies and certainly complex women).
This play, which was even earlier than his most recent hits is still a very interesting foray into his mind. For one, it’s deeply and hilariously precocious (he died at 29 remember) as Faustus is just pissed that he will someday die, and that even the idea of eternal life will not promise even guarantee of greatness. So what does he do? Of course, he summons up a demon who promises him whatever he can want via the power of magic. And of course he must promise his eternal soul. Mostly he just does little party tricks for his friends like summoning the souls of Alexander the Great and then sleeping with Helen of Troy, who may or may not simply be a prostitute. The greatest moment of the whole play is the idea that Beelzebub tells him — wherever I am, there is hell. Eat Shit Faustus.
An interesting sidenote, and I am always interested about this kind of stuff is that Faustus is talked in one of the Canterbury Tales, and of course Goethe wrote his own version of things. Goethe’s version is like 8 hours long and involves Faustus asking for and getting a kind of absolution for his sins. Marlowe’s Faustus is just plain screwed.
Gaslight/Angel Street – 3/5
For all the importance that this play has taken on in the last couple of years, it’s important to note that it’s not very good. The play takes place in the 1880s and our married couple meet on Holiday, quickly get married, and attempt to settle into married life. Soon thereafter the husband starts hinting at some disturbing things. For one, his wife seems to be slipping her memory from time to time. In addition, some jewels go missing. Anyway, the big thing that happens is that the lights in the house go haywire. Gas lights works from a common pool so one light will draw from the power of another. If your light dims, it presumes that another light somewhere else has been lighted. But of course if your lovely husband is telling you that’s impossible, well uh oh.
Gaslighting is of course an important addition to discourse in these days and ages, and like all other important addition to discourses, it’s already been ruined through adulteration and saturation.
Rope – 4/5
In which the stupidest criminals in the world plan the perfect murder. Let’s murder our friend and see if we can get away with it!
Great, so you’re going to like shoot him in the street and push him into the river or something?
Maybe take his wallet so it looks like a mugging?
No! What we’ll do is take him to a show, strangle him, and put him in a trunk which we lock with a padlock.
And then we’ll take him to Oxford and dump his body in an unmarked grave.
We’ll invite all our friends and relatives over to our house first and have dinner with them. Instead of using the table, we’ll serve dinner on the chest that’s holding his body.
Seems pretty dumb.
Well, our really smart uncle who thinks he’s sooooooo smart will be there.
And also we’ll invite our friend’s dad too.
Anway, we’ll keep making pointed references to how smart we are, how murder is not that big a deal, and how this chest sure could hold a body, right?
Yeah, sure, go ahead.
And then! We’ll adamantly deny going to a theater, but will definitely keep a ticket from that theater literally in the middle of the room.
Sleuth – 4/5 Stars
This is a play that my brother and I tried to get ahold of the movie version for a long time. The movie was basically impossible to get for the longest time, and it’s now available, but after the new reboot version with Jude Law and Michael Caine came out and was meh, I lost interest.
I’ve since watched the original movie and it’s kind of bad. But in a good way with both Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine chewing the shit out of the scenery.
The plot is that a detective fiction writer who lives on an old estate has invited a man to the grounds. When they meet it becomes clear that the younger man is involved with the older writer’s wife and wants to marry her. The writer tells him that he can have her because he wants to marry his girlfriend but first he hatches a plan for the younger man to steal the jewelry from the safe so that he and the wife can run off together into the continent while the older man claims the insurance money and they both get paid. Seems solid.
But this is a play of crosses and double-crosses, all of which are both a little silly and funny.
For a movie that’s not great, I bet the play is a riot to see live.