Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Brilliant John Tiffany

I've had good luck with theater lately, seeing a bunch of memorable plays, including being fortunate enough to see the American Repertory Company Production of Pippin that went to Broadway and just won a Tony. I saw it here in Cambridge, where it was developed.

But the three best plays I've seen recently have all been directed by Scottish theater director John Tiffany.

In London, I caught his musical Once, based on the 2006 film. For some reason, I thought because I'd seen the movie that the play would not be able to add anything new. I was completely wrong; this was a mesmerizing, uplifting and faithful version of the movie. With great versions of Glen Hansard's beautiful songs. And John Tiffany just seems to have a knack for knowing when to wow the audience with some theater trickery and when to just let the material speak for itself.

It's the same with his version of The Glass Menagerie, which I caught at the ART in Cambridge. It stars Cherry Jones, Zachary Quinto, and Celia Keenan-Bolger, and it is also going to Broadway this fall. There's some amazing theatrical moments, including a rather magic realist couch, and a set that seems to float in the blackness of the universe. But Tiffany never forgets that the power of the play is in the text, and the actors are all superb.

Last but not least, Charlene and I went to New York City last week to see Alan Cumming in his one-man Macbeth, also directed by Tiffany. Personally, I didn't think it was the greatest Macbeth (Charlene would pay to see Alan Cumming read the phonebook), but I loved the play within the play. Why is this man, who is brought into a psychiatric ward with blood on his suit, compelled to recite Shakespeare's play in its entirety? I found myself mesmerized by this particular storyline, as the lines he recites begin to shed light on his circumstance. Cumming was astounding. It was like watching a great acting performance joined with an athletic one. He commands the stage for three hours.

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