Thursday, February 24, 2011

Now you see ‘em, now you don’t

No, the title isn’t referring to what regular readers may think it’s referring to. Don’t know the whole story, am not expecting to find it out either.

Just as the air is full of anticipation early in January as a flock of new productions is getting set to fly, there is a wee bit of sadness in the air as a bunch of productions are now finishing up. Kudos to those long-running nuns out in Hanover – what an impressive ride it’s been for them. I’m happy that I’m squeezing in a visit to St. Mary’s to see “Godspell;” it would’ve seemed like a sin to miss it.

I hope and expect to see “The BFG” at least once more before it closes. There are a few truly delightful things worth highlighting about this show. First off, this is a show where the direction (by Chase Kniffen) is clearly and enjoyably evident. The affectations of everyone in the Queen’s court, particularly the hilarious interplay between the Queen and her maid, seem a clear translation of a director’s vision. Then there are the eye-popping technical elements – the fabulous giant heads, the luminous lighting, and the impressive rotating set. Even someone who didn’t like the story would have to be a little awed by the stagecraft.

Finally, there are the performances. David Bridgewater makes an absolutely wopsy giant, fleshing out an extreme character who could too easily be turned into a cartoon by a lesser actor. Susan Sanford reaffirms why Richmond is so lucky to have her back with her highly entertaining turn as the Queen. And little Ms. Wilson is just wonderful as Sophie. To see someone so little command the stage so effortlessly is quite amazing.

There are some real challenges to staging a show like BFG. One is competing with the source material because the book is really great. Convincingly evoking giant country – a landscape vividly described in the book – is a real challenge on stage as is projecting any real sense of gigantism. The mangled giant dialogue is also easy to lose track of if you aren’t familiar with it.

But IMHO the Theatre IV production does as good a job as can be expected surmounting these challenges and more than pays them back with the scenes in the Queen’s court that are my favorite. If you go to the show, try and go on a weekend where you can see Sarah Grady’s incredible costumes during the meet-n-greet. As extreme as they may seem on stage, they are even more so when seen up close in the Empire lobby.

One day until “Judas” and then a little hiatus until shows start opening again in mid-to-late March. So go see ‘em while you can!

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