We went to Center Stage tonight and saw The Rivals, featuring the marvelously misspoken Mrs. Malaprop. It was good. It was done in a fairly exaggerated style, typical of Center Stage. Their approach to comedy tends to be broad, sometimes even cartoon-like. Since they almost always have excellent casts and production values, they usually carry it off. I enjoyed tonight, there was much laughter and audience involvement.
The Rivals at Center Stage
One actress had a voice like a buzz saw and SO. BROADLY. OVERACTED, that I have to give this only a B+. I know they were going for the laugh, but listening to her shriek and whine, and watching her pout and grimace, yuk. Luckily, Lydia Languish spent much of her time offstage and didn't interfere with my evening's enjoyment.
I would like to talk to Center Stage's dramaturg sometime and discuss my impressions of Center Stage's theatricality. Years and years ago I saw (one of my favorite plays) She Stoops to Conquer at the Arena Stage in DC. It was done completely naturally, no fake British accents, clothes that looked like real people wore them (admittedly, they were period clothes, but they looked authentic). It was done in the round and was a very intimate experience. The audience was in stitches. I saw the same play at Center Stage some years back. It was a beautiful set and the costumes were brilliant and showy, and the acting was much more theatrical and mannered. It was still hilarious; it's a very funny play. But it had a completely different feel to the Arena Stage show.
Later this season Center Stage is doing A Skull in Connemara, a mystery set in Ireland, we'll see that. I can't decide on our third play. They are doing American Buffalo, which isn't even tempting. I worked on a college production of that, and I sat through that often enough for one lifetime. Mamet, I know there are those who think he's a genius, the voice of American theater. I am not one of them. I don't know anyone who speaks like his characters, that oddly cadenced, staccato timing. It sounds like some kind of spoken word prose poem, and is too stagey and theatrical. Plus, there are never any nice/admirable characters in Mamet's plays, everyone is so unpleasant!
So, should I see Gleam (based on Their Eyes Were Watching God) or Into the Woods, which I saw 20+ years ago in New York? I think Thomas would not love Into the Woods so much, he's not a huge fan of musical theater. Maybe HE should see American Buffalo and I should see Into the Woods!