I saw *The Fountainhead* at BAM on 11/30/17. It hit me at intermission, looking around the audience: a four-hour adaptation of an Ayn Rand novel, directed by Ivo van Hove, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, in Dutch - - this was a meeting of the Cooler Than You Club! Good thing I was dressed for it:
The first half was exciting and fun. Van Hove seemed to revel in the melodrama and camp of Rand. He set it all in a dynamic setting, a workroom with drafting tables (this is a story about architects, after all), video screens here and there, some rumpled bedding on the floor for the violent and disturbing sex scenes, and most delightful of all, a marimba in the background, being played by an actual marimba player! It didn't really have anything to do with the show, but gave it some needed zip.
Somewhere around the third hour the show lost its zip. I think the show could have been pruned more than a little, we don't need all that polemical drivel, it wears you out. At one point I decided to stop reading the supertitles and just let the Dutch language wash over me. I didn't really care what the guy was saying, I was over it. The adaptation was by Koen Techelet, and I suspect that he and van Hove aren't exactly true believers (like Paul Ryan) when it comes to Rand, I think they like the controversy surrounding her and thought they could make some exciting theatre out of the book. Well, they succeeded for a while.
I've seen quite a few productions directed by Van Hove, and will see many more, he's brilliant. But I hope he gets away from using The Checklist so much - - this is a checklist I devised, of things that annoy me in productions of plays. Some of the things on The Checklist were good, some were not.
Do the actors really need to have body mics? In this case, it worked. It gave van Hove much more flexibility in the staging, especially in those disturbing sex scenes - - you can't really have two actors grinding away on the floor, whispering to each other, and hear what they're saying unless they're amplified. Plus I thought it was kinda cute that even though they were completely naked, we could see the little home base of the body mic taped into the small of their backs.
I generally think it's cheap to use video in a staged production - - are we at the theatre or at the movies? *The Fountainhead* used a lot of video, but it was well done. It added a nice bit of spice to the show.
Again, do you need a lot of music in a play, especially canned music? You know how I loved the marimba in this show, that was wonderful, but there was also a great deal of quiet annoying canned music, underscoring scenes, not adding anything to the drama, only adding to my weariness.
4. Make a Mess.
Ah, my least favorite trend of late. Van Hove did this same schtick in *The Crucible,* there was a pivotal moment where the windows opened and all kinds of crap blew onto the stage. Not what I call thoughtful stagecraft. The same damn thing happened in this show, though I guess it was a little different because the explosion came from the other side of the stage.