Sunday, July 06, 2008

Turner; Bacchae + Rocky Horror

Finally yesterday, a full week into the visit, a bit of kulchur. At the Metropolitan Museum, a large JMW Turner exhibit. I'd never seen so many of his canvases in one place, & was frankly blown away by the mastery, the intensity. I begin to see – as I never really could, judging only by reproductions – what so excited Ruskin in the work.
Then to Lincoln Center, for the National Theatre of Scotland's production of The Bacchae. Alan Cumming is the big draw here (overheard one of the ushers telling a patron, "enjoy Alan!"), the radiantly wry and omnisexual Scottish actor whose reinvention of the Emcee character was one of the highlights of the recent revival of Cabaret. (Other than that, I've only seen him as the null-set villain Saturninus in Julie Taymor's Titus.) As Dionysus, Cumming is resplendent in gold lamé (!) kilt and vest, giving his thick Scots accent full throttle as he leers his way thru the action. (Of course, the character he most resembles here, oddly enough, is Tim Curry's Dr. Frank-N-Furter, from Rocky Horror.)

The Bacchae themselves are 9 gospel singers; they deliver their choruses both in speech & in song, & it's that songs that at times come close to sinking the show. A couple of them are excellent; most are all right, tho less than inspired; a few are instantly forgettable. Worst is when Cumming/Dionysus himself sings, fronting the Bacchae like a late-70s Thin White Duke in a skirt. It's moments like this that require a strong & distinctive set of pipes – Bowie himself, or Luther Vandross, or even Cumming's compatriot (& near contemporary) Chris Connelly – & Cumming just isn't a very good singer at all.

But on the whole it was a fabulous show, bringing the tragedy into the present as far too few contemporary productions of Greek drama do. Makes me hanker for that big 4-volume set of the Grene/Lattimore Greek Tragedies (back in Florida) I splurged on a few weeks ago.
Lunch with Mike Heller & Jane Augustine the other day, a flying moment with them before they're off to their summer digs in Colorado. A nice time – Barney Greengrass is indeed the Sturgeon King, but I'm afraid I'm not enough of a New Yorker to pine for said fish more than once or twice a year; especially at $17 the appetizer plate.

Many projects breathing down my neck; will be good to get the girls back into their day camp tomorrow.

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