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November 06, 2013

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Rob Weinert-Kendt

I'll admit there was some sleight of hand here, and that the we-are-visiting-a-prison-production-of-JC doesn't really hold up to serious, point-by-point examination--the main one being that these are NOT actually prisoners but freaking amazing actors with levels of craft you wouldn't see at your average prison (at least not across the board). But I didn't feel the concept was there to "excuse" the casting; in fact nothing (ok, just about nothing) felt like an excuse or a shortcut. And the overall effect was that the performances in the play, and the play itself, seared with a force and clarity I've seldom seen; I actually felt suspense about the outcome and moved by the bloodless deaths. So yes, I could see that some of the production's choices were, on their face, gimmicks, which you obviously couldn't see past. But for unleashing/containing such a clear, hard-hitting rendition of JC, the frame deserves some credit; I just wasn't expecting to "read" the frame as thoroughly or as literally as you. I was looking at the play IN the frame, and I saw it really, really clearly.

Isaac

I really seriously do not understand what you mean by "clear" in this above comment. I saw a production that was vaguely about "power" and missing all the specifics of the script with a constantly shifting performance and staging style (performed by for the most part extremely talented actors). Can you say more?

Rob Weinert-Kendt

What specifics were missing? There were trims, certainly, but from the second Brutus & Cassius started talking the Shakespeare I clocked every beat of that play, and its back and forth of allegiances and betrayals, like I never have before, just as I rolled with every change-up in the staging here. I've seen lots of productions try to ride that disorienting, dissonant vibe, with limited effect at best; for me, this version actually achieved the intended menace, threat, violence, and variety, and maintained it, more or less, all through the production. There were OFFSTAGE deaths here that I felt I SAW. Yes, some of the ostensible rock 'n' roll moves felt, initially, insane...but they grew on me. As did the performances; I really can't decide which one I liked best, and I can't remember the last play I felt that about.

Emily

Exactly! Thank you Isaac! I talked about my confusion/frustration with this "concept" (Can we call it a concept if it keeps changing points of view?) with a friend who was in the show and she wondered if it all would have been better/clearer if the guards out in the hall set it up for us better. i.e. Told us the prisoners were putting on a show and how to engage with it, in addition to all the other "prison" rules.
Yes, yes, in fact that would have helped me. (I spent MOST of the production trying to figure out what "Rome" was meant to be in the prison world and whether the wives were the characters' prison wives and why did the ladies playing ladies get dresses and what prison in the world would let you have all those guns and stuff and what was going on?!) Knowing at the top that it was all a play wouldn't have solved everything (as you've mentioned here) but it would have helped a LOT.
Great to see your perspective here!

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