Going Crazy With An Established Text

I saw New York Theatre Workshop’s production of The Little Foxes last month. I thought the cast was terrific and mostly enjoyed the touches of director Ivo van Hove and his production team.

Van Hove’s decision to strip away the Southern accents and period atmosphere worked surprisingly well, making things raw and tense from the beginning. The characters still fell into the traps set by Hellman’s text, even though they’re now in plain sight. The play remained explosive, but was never too over the top.

Some other directorial touches didn’t really work, though, most notably the ritualized spousal abuse and video display. Anytime our attention was directed to the television I just smiled politely and waited for something to happen onstage.

But neither of those things took away from the production—and neither did any damage
I’m fine with a director going crazy with an established text as long as something’s left standing.

Contrast that with Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, which I saw two weeks ago at Classic Stage. Much of the dialogue came via narration that wasn’t too far removed from Woolf’s novel. Despite David Greenspan’s failure to pass the Thriller Test, the play was perhaps not crazy enough. Ruhl and director Rebecca Taichman created some lovely images throughout, but Orlando‘s miniature castle and its ice-covered London didn’t feel as immediate or as memorable to me as, well, Christopher Evan Welch taking his socks off.

I guess that doesn’t sound crazy. But it works.

Bonus Incorrect Opinions: I was happily wrong about everything I said about Special Topics In Calamity Physics. Marisha Pessl has a strong writing style and never once neglected her mystery. It satisfied all my Jessica Fletcher needs!

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