Friday, April 20, 2007

Infinite Variety

Tonight was the penultimate show. I came back to see it after being away for nearly a week (the last show I saw was the Sunday matinee). I love coming back this late in the run, to see how many moments have solidified, strengthened, grown. I loved the jaunty bounce in Antony's step as he entered wearing Cleo's robe, and the change that suddenly came over him when he read the scroll that informed him of his wife's death. I loved Eros's flirtations -- how easily he got distracted whenever an Egyptian body part drifted past his periphery. I loved Cleo's struggle to control her tears after Antony has died and Caesar has invaded her monument. I loved the dawning horror with which Iras and Mardias awaited the arrival of "the worm."

And the audience loved it too. I suspect that many of the people there tonight had come with high expectations -- word-of-mouth is a powerful factor at this late point in a run -- and they threw their energy out onto the stage as soon as the lights began to dim. The actors knew what to do with it. It was a rugby game from start to finish. The laughter came freely, generously -- and at all the right times.

It may seem strange to welcome laughter when Antony botches his suicide, or when Agrippa walks in on the final tableau of corpses and says, "How goes it here?" But I think those moments of levity are necessary. They offer much-needed relief for an audience that is suffering along with the characters. Shakespeare knew this was important (consider the Gravedigger in Hamlet, or indeed the Clown/Soothsayer in this play), and I believe he would have approved of the dynamic we've created.

This performance confirmed everything I had hoped for this production. The audience understood, they were engaged and energized, and they were gratified to have been drawn in to so glorious a tale. Not only would Shakespeare have been pleased, but Antony and Cleopatra themselves can look down from their immortal perches and can grace us with applause.

Am I putting myself, or my show, on a pedestal? Perhaps. Just for tonight. Because tomorrow at this time, it will be less than a show. It will go the way of all art in this ephemeral medium ... it will be over.

1 comment:

marsha said...

well, i guess i chose the right night to come and see A&C! i agree that last night was a great performance. kudos to you, your cast, and your crew for a magical show!