Monday, March 28, 2011

The “National Stage”

So how about VCU, ay? It was pretty amazing having two college basketball teams from Richmond in the Sweet Sixteen but now to have one in the Final Four is, to carry the alliteration to an absurd level, fabulously phenomenal. The buzz in town about this accomplishment is feverish and I only wish I could have gone downtown last night to join in the craziness that was going on.

The phrase “National Stage” always occurs to me at a time like this. You’ll hear commentators saying that VCU has now arrived on the national stage. But what a complex concept that one is. With the democratization of media, I think it’s harder than ever to figure out what the “national stage” is, where it is, who is on it, how you get there, etc. etc. For instance, Rebecca Black exploded on the national stage just a couple of weeks ago but I know there is a big slice of America who still doesn’t know who she is or why they should know her.

To propose another variation on the theme: as Ms. Haubenstock points out in her review of “Almost Maine,” this show that didn’t make much of an impact on the “national stage” (if you consider Broadway to be that place as far as theater goes) has obviously appealed to regional and local theater directors across the country. So the show has gone on to make a nationwide impact of sorts, but not from a position on the national stage.
Anyway, there’s a long rant on perception, reality, quantity vs. quality and the LA/NYC arbiters of “what is important” encapsulated in there but I don’t want to get too deep with it. Too much esoteric thinking is bound to make my head hurt on a Monday. So, instead, I’ll mention that in addition to “Almost Maine,” “Something Intangible” opened this past weekend. I went to opening night, thoroughly enjoyed the show and will post some additional comments about it when my review comes out, which with any luck will be this Wednesday.

In the meantime, have you read any of the reviews of “How to Succeed in Business…” with Daniel Radcliffe? I’ve made it through a few. One thing I think is interesting is how one critic’s reaction can be so much different than another’s even though they both seem to have seen the exact same thing. And by that, I don’t mean just that they saw the same performance but that they picked up something specific about a production but each put a completely different spin on it. For instance, the enthusiastic Entertainment Weekly reviewer says that you could see Radcliffe working hard in his role (“he always lets you see him sweat”) and that this part of the production added to its charm. The grumpy NYTimes review points out the same thing: “You can almost hear an unseen coach’s voice whispering to Mr. Radcliffe, telling him when to do what. [Y]ou… feel the effort and eagerness with which Mr. Radcliffe responds to that voice.” But instead of praising that behavior, condemns it. You can say Brantley is just a curmudgeon and EW is just a frothy entertainment mag and that accounts for the different conclusions. I’d say they were both astute reviewers, just with distinctly different attutudes about what makes a quality production or effective performance. What would you say?

Finally, thanks to everyone who made suggestions for what show I should see on Thursday. After caucusing with my companion for the trip, we have concluded to give Spidey a try. I'm almost embarrassed to have picked morbid curiosity over interest in quality but I do feel like there is some value to have seen the "bad Spidey" if and when a "good Spidey" ever emerges. Of course, I may feel differently around 11pm on Thursday night...

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