Sunday, July 11, 2010
Let’s go, BooseyCo
Conventional wisdom in English-language literature has long dictated that certain “canonical” works are must-read classics for all(Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, e.g.) while others, though arguably brilliant, are GSO — for grad students only (e.g., The Mill on the Floss).
The canonistas dump Dion Boucicault (above-captioned phonetically for your convenience) into the latter category, and unjustly. His shamelessly commercial plays, dating back to the mid- and late 19th century, were immensely popular in English-speaking theaters of their day. In due course their hegemony (!)(sorry, grad school jargon dies hard) got dethroned by none other than our old friend Oscar, whose megahit The Importance of Being Earnest managed to have it every which way with these comedies — he lampooned them, yet honored their methods at the same time.
Dion’s very first hit in a long and storied career was London Assurance (1841), and it’s been enjoying a renaissance in recent years thanks to such theater visionaries as Sam Mendes and, currently, Nicholas Hytner. We can see Mr. Hytner’s National Theatre production this coming, on July 17, thanks to Third Rail Rep’s NT Live presentation. I’m going to the matinee performance (2pm), so please come to that showing so I won’t be all alone. If you can do without my company, however, there’s also a 7pm showing.
If you haven’t been to an NT Live showing before, you’re in for a real treat. These are broadcasts of live National performances -- notable productions that allow you to see excellent London theater without the bother of a transatlantic flight.
And what of London Assurance itself? The character names give you a clue; there are servants named Pert and Cool and a lawyer called Meddle. There’s also an aging fop named Sir Harcourt Courtly (which I think should be my new nom du guerre) and a “horse-riding virago” known as Lady Gay Spanker, who refers to her submissive husband as Dolly (which actually IS one of my many monikers). There are attempts by the older characters to lech off the younger ones, but you may suspect from the start that young lust will prevail in the end — even it takes some saucy gender-bending along the way. Throw in the acting talents of Fiona Shaw and Simon Russell Beale, among other luminaries, and you’ve got yourself a classic — the kind you actually enjoy.
Think of it as grad school, but without the tears and caffeine-laden overnighters, and with all the romantic hijinks. See you there.