Richard and I saw this play at BAM on 9/25. But I had a celebrity sighting and we had a celebrity interaction before the show, let me get to that first. My celebrity sighting was the Pope. I left work at 68th and York at 5 PM and needed to get to 63rd and Lexington to catch the F train to go to Brooklyn. It’s usually a 15-minute walk, but 67th Street was blocked off because the Pope was scheduled to drive by. There was no way to cross the street. What an annoyance, and also no sense of how long it was going to last. But after a few minutes I saw a couple cops on motorcycles drive by, which is always a sign that the key person isn’t far away - - and sure enough, there was the Pope in his little black Fiat. I didn’t see him, I just saw his arm. It could have been Emiril in his signature white jacket, for all I know, but I choose to believe it was the Pope.
Richard and I met at DSW, ate a quick dinner at Subway (we don’t need to be fancy when it’s just us), and then walked over in the direction of the theater. We had a little time to waste, so we sat down on a bench outside the Theatre for a New Audience. And who should come sit across from us, but Larry Pine.
ME: Excuse me, are you Larry Pine?
HIM: Yes, I am.
ME: We’re such big admirers of your work. Richard, we saw him in *Casa Valentina*.
RICHARD: Oh yes!
HIM: How do you do.
ME: And *Vanya on 42nd Street* is one of the greatest movies ever made.
HIM: Thank you, that means so much to me.
You might not know Larry Pine, but he is a very gifted actor. I first saw him as the doctor in *Vanya on 42nd Street*, which really is one of the greatest movies ever made - - the play was directed by Andre Gregory, the movie was directed by Louis Malle. It’s a gift to the world, this movie. Also my first exposure to Julianne Moore, and Wallace Shawn in the greatest performance of his career.
He talked with us for about ten minutes, it was wonderful. He told us he was from west Texas and moved to New York (I assume in the 70s) to go to what is now Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. That’s where he met “Andre” and “Wally”. He talked a bit about New York in the old days. He had filmed a bit of *House of Cards* that morning and had an audition for *The Veep*. He was going to see *Isolde* at the Theatre for a New Audience. We went to our show, he went to his - - he shook our hands again, and his handshake was gentle. Not weak, gentle.
*Antigone* is a production from the Barbican in London. The headliner is Juliette Binoche in the title role. I was a little wary of a French actress in a play in English, after what I call “l’affaire Huppert” - - Richard and I saw Isabelle Huppert and Cate Blanchett in *The Maids* at City Center last summer, and you could understand a half to two thirds of what she said, and that is a problem! But we did not have that problem with Binoche. Her accent sounded more English than French, which was interesting.
The production used elements that I often find annoying: lots of video projections, almost constant music, and amplification for the dialogue. But these were all used by director Ivo van Hove in a way that communicated the story and amplified his sure sense of stagecraft. The amplification allowed the actors to speak in a more naturalistic way - - the only time it became a problem was when the actors were shouting, then it became difficult to understand what they were saying. The sound designer should have turned the volume down in those moments.
Binoche was fantastic, totally held the stage. She’s a peerless actor and it was a joy to see her in a play. Kirsty Bushell played her sister, she was very strong. The director did a great job communicating the relationships in the play, especially the family relationships - - the scene between Kreon and his son was the high point. He’s directing the London production of *A View from the Bridge* that’s coming to Broadway, which has been added to my list.
My brother Howard and I saw a few things at the Guthrie in Minneapolis back in the late 80s and early 90s. In 1991 they did a production of *Medea* starring Brenda Wehle and the program notes included an interview with Isabell Monk, who was playing Clytemnestra in a Guthrie-assembled trilogy of plays that feature that character. Monk said that as an actor, you’re trained doing Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen, Shaw, and often in these plays, you’re wearing a mask. Your performance is layered with what the character is saying, working in counterpoint with what the character really wants or feels. She said it was thrilling to do an ancient Greek play, where there is no mask. There’s nothing separating the character from what he/she is feeling. You could see that in *Antigone*.