I saw *Opening Night* at the French Institute on 9/12/19. Somehow I got a mailing from them and am glad I did - - this performance was right up my alley, and I enjoyed it. It was an adaptation of the 1977 John Cassavetes movie, done in French, starring Isabelle Adjani in the Gena Rowlands role.
I think Mademoiselle Adjani might roll her eyes if I told her that I saw her first in *Ishtar.* But I'm sure I'm not alone in that. I've since seen her in *The Story of Adele H,* *Camille Claudel,* *Queen Margot,* and doubtless some other French thing I've forgotten. She's a very compelling film actor.
I've seen the movie *Opening Night,* which I saw because it was a strong influence (one of many) on Almodovar's *All About My Mother.* I was curious to see what a French theatre director would do with the story - - of course the French would be crazy for Cassavetes, with his raw emotion clothed in a chilly presentation. Like steak tartare served on an Hermes dish.
Adjani was a bit of a disappointment. She had two settings: vapid and vacant or drunk and overwrought. It's not fair to compare her to Rowlands, but when you take on a film role, you invite that comparison, non? Adjani had none of the searing intelligence and bone-deep strength of Rowlands, and Adjani didn't bring anything satisfying in exchange. But still, it was a delight to see her onstage (this was her New York stage debut).
The highlight of the show - - actually, call me deep as a dime, but the highlight of the show was walking past Brooke Shields on the stairway before the show. She looked glorious. Anyway, the highlight on STAGE was the work of the director, Cyril Teste. The story is centered around opening night of a play, and the bulk of the stage had the living room set of the play, which cleverly doubled as the living room of the central character. "Backstage" was on the side, mostly out of view. Much of the show was filmed by an onstage camera operator and projected onto a large screen built into the living room set. This video element was somewhat reminiscent of my favorite theatre director right now, Ivo van Hove, but van Hove often uses video in an aggressive way, to heighten the drama and disturb the audience - - Teste uses it in a more lyrical way, to add an extra element or extra layer to the story. Early in the show the camera operator filmed the director and two actors having a conversation in the "backstage" area. Adjani left and walked onto the central living room set, which was behaving as her personal living room in this scene. But the screen on the stage still showed the director and the other actor, not talking to each other, but looking at her. It gave the impression that she was thinking of them thinking about her. There were many multi-layered moments like that, I liked it a lot. I'd love to see Teste direct something else in town, maybe even (dare I say it) an opera?
As an added bonus, the performance I saw was literally opening night.