Monday, February 18, 2013

At Least The Set Is Cool

Part of The New Group's mission statement is to do ambitious work that pushes the boundaries of theater. I applaud this goal, but sometimes taking risks pays off, and sometimes you end up with a pretentious bore, as is the case with the company's latest, Clive.
"One Song Glory" (actually Vincent D'Onofrio and Ethan Hawke); Photo credit: Monique Carboni
Clive is Jonathan Marc Sherman's adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's first play, Baal, but it has been updated to the 1990s. It stars Ethan Hawke, who also directs, as the self-destructive musician Clive surrounded by a rotating cast of characters. Hawke has assembled a strong ensemble--in particular Zoe Kazan is adorably amusing as his innocent lovers and Vincent D'Onofrio is a striking presence as his friend Doc. But aside from fleeting moments of entertainment, it is hard to care about what happens, not that much does. I am all for new interpretations of old works, but there should be a reason for the choices. The 90s are a suitable time period to depict debauchery and drugs, but the show does not say anything new or interesting about Baal or the time period, though you get the feeling that the creative team thinks they are.

At least there is Derek McLane's set of colorful doors and beer cans to look at. The doors are also adorned with instruments which create a musical landscape by GAINES, the duo which also provided a strong soundtrack for Hawke's effective production of A Lie of the Mind. He didn't star in that production, so I would say that perhaps he should stick to directing, but his acting wasn't the problem here either. At least he appears to be enjoying himself, even if most of the audience doesn't.

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