Saturday, October 07, 2006

I Don't Want To Live Where There Is A Place For Me

I went to see the production of Tom Stoppard’s Travesties at A.C.T. last night. It was an okay mounting of a play I don’t think I’ve seen in nearly 30 years. I saw the original production of it during my first trip to New York on my own after years of being accompanied by my grandparents who first took me there in 1964. On that trip I tried to explain to them what Tiny Alice was all about. “It’s about Alice, and Alice is very tiny.”

A.C.T. did a pretty decent job with the play, but the set design and costumes often seemed to upstage what was actually happening on the state. And while the play is still clever some 33 years on, it often had way too many monologues that went on forever. I pulled out my yellowed copy of the first paperback edition of the play, and was startling to see how some of Henry Carr’s speeches went on for a full two to three pages.

But I can’t resist a play in which the lead character considers the number of costume changes for the male lead in The Importance of Being Earnest to be the deciding factor in taking the role. Tristan Tzara is still my favorite character, and I still have moments when I want to react to many life experiences by babbling “da da da da da da da.…”

The passage in the play that I most remember form seeing it 30+ years ago struck me just as strongly last night—

CARR: I don’t think there’ll be a place for Dada in a Communist Society.
TZARA: That’s what we have against this one. There’s a place for us in it.

That’s more or a less another way of saying “I would never want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member.

I also enjoyed seeing Gregory Wallace, the actor who played Tzara, having remembered him from the 1991 “silent” Peter Sellars film The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez. He was the stock broker shot early on by an insane client.

In the end, I don’t know that I came away with that much from the play other than the sets and thinking of the cucumber sandwiches cut ever so thin. And don’t I want to move to a place where there is not a place for me?