Feb 3, 2007

the vertical hour

I love going to plays. It's one of my favorite things to do. And to be honest I haven't taken advantage of the great selection of plays put on in New York. I've only been to one as of a few nights ago (The Odd Couple). But my wife picked up tickets to The Vertical Hour yesterday. I really like plays because the performances can really affect you. Likewise some performances can really let you down. It's amazing to see which actors work well on stage.

The play was presented in the Music Box built by Irving Berlin. The play was directed by Sam Mendes of American Beauty fame and starred Julianne Moore, Bill Nighy, and Andrew Scott. It was a play about the cultural divide between England and America, told using Iraq & politics as the vehicle. The writing was excellent. As an aside the theatre seats in New York are clearly built for the largely thin population here. I don't know how the average American from out of town could squeeze into those narrow seats.

Back to the performances - they were a mile apart. While Julianne Moore has had 4 Oscar nominations it is clear she has a very narrow range. She seemed like everyone else she's ever played. Which was appropriate in one sense as she played the stereotypical American. Slightly boring, monotone, and overly serious. Andrew Scott and to a much greater extent Bill Nighy simply blew her out of the water though. Bill Nighy has to be one of the best actors I've ever seen on stage. He was mindblowingly good. The NY Times agrees completely. It's amazing he's not used for more dramatic things - Pirates of the Caribbean and Love Actually being his big movies.

The play had lots of comedy inherent in the dialogue but it was subtle and required an actor with a comedic physicality to pull it off. This is why Ms. Moore falls flat. She has no body language. Mr. Nighy on the other hand could pull roaring laughter out of simple phrases like, "five [A.M.] is a good time for chardonnay" which aren't inherently that funny. But his little gestures and strange mannerisms and tics just fit the dialogue and his part so well. I really was almost more focused on his performance than the actual play.

Next month is a play with Kevin Spacey. I'm curious to see how he 'plays out' on stage.

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