Stoppard Goes Electric
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
September 7, 2007
I've always been very fond of Tom Stoppard's work for stage and screen. Many consider him to be among our greatest living playwrights, so it was extremely interesting to see the foundations being laid for his future greatness in the compilation Stoppard Goes Electric.
The night is made up of three short teleplays that Stoppard wrote in the 60s for the BBC that have been adapted for the stage. The first play, Teeth, is a funny little sex farce that proves that the betrayal of trust can take many forms. A dentist becomes aware that one of his patients (and husband to his assistant) is having an affair with his wife. Sure enough the dentist finds a tooth that "needs" to be pulled, so he breaks out his special dentist tool...a pair of pliers. The piece is very well-acted. I especially enjoyed Mac Brydon as the hapless patient/adulterer. However, there are two characters that bookend the play whose purpose I could not figure out. Director Tim Errickson creates a very naturalistic feel for a show that is somewhat tongue-in-cheek and that works well.
The next play, Another Moon Called Earth, is also somewhat farcical but in a more quirky manner. A woman is stuck in bed due to an illness. Her husband is a history buff who has been dissecting history in an attempt to find a pattern. The wife is visited by a young "doctor" who services her in every way. The husband suspects an affair but his head is so buried in the past that he can't see what's right in front of him. His obsession with finding the order in history sort of reminded me of Stoppard's later play Arcadia. I liked this play. I could see the budding of other future Stoppard themes and conventions, such as insightful and moving speeches and unconventional dialogue. The acting in this one is great. Kate Ross is exceptional as the wife Penelope, as is Richard Brundage as the husband. Director Christopher Thomasson creates a bigger, sort of overly dramatic style that works very well for some moments but not all of them.
The final piece is called, A Separate Peace, and is about a man that wants to disconnect from the world by checking himself into a private hospital as if it were a hotel. He pays his bill and is as nice as can be, so the staff allows him to stay and some even take to him. I had the feeling that this play was leading to a bizarre reveal of the man's true nature but it never goes there, leaving me feeling a little dissatisfied. However, overall the play is heart-warming. Bill Green is great as the odd but kind man who just wants to be left to his own, very regimented world. Director Rachel Wood gives us a very honest and warm vision that goes straight to the core.
Set designer Joe Powell provides a very versatile set, allowing the set changes between plays to happen very fast.
This play series was simply fascinating to me because I'm such a fan of Stoppard's work. These plays are not all there yet but you can see the beginnings. The casts are all fantastic; the acting really shines here. So whether you're a Stoppard fan or not I'd catch this show before it closes.