LONDON — Traveling to London this summer or just curious about the current state of theatrical affairs? Here's my score card of the scene after a week spent scurrying in and around the West End.
"Strange Interlude" at the National Theatre
Eugene O'Neill's sweeping drama about a woman trying to find the thread of her life after the death of her beloved fiancé is notable for the way the characters voice their inner thoughts. Experimental for its time, this 1928
"Sweet Bird of Youth" at the Old Vic
This isn't an easy Tennessee Williams play to pull off. Although it's not one of the playwright's notorious car wrecks, it's an unwieldy piece, top heavy with the bawdy histrionics of the Princess Kosmonopolis (a.k.a. Alexandra Del Lago) and burdened by an elaborate plot in which deadly Southern politics dooms a romance that never really had a chance to begin with. Marianne Elliott's revival is slow in patches but achieves an operatic amplitude in a final stretch that is harrowing if not exactly cathartic. (The decadent desperation of the princess and Chance Wayne, her traveling companion hoping to make a comeback himself with his old hometown sweetheart, constitutes a special case of pathos.) Kim Cattrall acquits herself well as the aging Hollywood actress on the lam from what she assumes is a failed comeback attempt. The performance doesn't maximize the wicked humor that Geraldine Page found in the role, but this is a convincing portrayal of a star writhing in the twilight of her fame like a vampire in sunlight. As Chance, rising American star Seth Numrich doesn't replace the memory of Paul Newman, but he has both the abs and the acting intensity to make this "Sweet Bird" soar when it counts.
"Othello" at the National Theatre
This is the must-see production of the London summer. The smartest thing about
"Merrily We Roll Along" at the Harold Pinter Theatre
This is a revival that I would have preferred to have seen at the Menier Chocolate Factory, where the production originated. One of Stephen Sondheim's problem child musicals, the show no doubt called less attention to its trouble spots in a more intimate house, where proximity to the actors could distract from the occasional clumsiness of
"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" at the Apollo Theatre
This adaptation of Mark Haddon's bestselling novel revolves around a teenage boy with what appears to be
"The Night Alive" at the Donmar Warehouse
Conor McPherson is a playwright blessed with brilliant productions, and his latest play, which he directed himself, is no exception. Ciarán Hinds,
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane
A disappointingly bland stage adaptation of Roald Dahl's novel that sets up invidious comparison not only to the classic 1971 film version starring Gene Wilder but also to the current Dahl stage hit that has taken London and New York by storm, "Matilda the Musical." Full review here.
Peter Nichols' drama was part of a British wave of infidelity dramas that includes Harold Pinter's