Tuesday, June 09, 2009

An End of a Pearl Era

The final production of the season, and the very last forever at Theater 80 by the Pearl Theater Company was Tennessee Williams' Vieux Carre. It's not his most famous, but his most autobiographical. And, as usual, we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

However, I cannot help but think that the reason I enjoy The Pearl so much has to do a lot with the venue. Theater 80 is very intimate. Our seats are front row center, and the only way to sit comfortably is to rest our feet on the edge of the stage, moving them if an actor seems to come to close.

This intimacy is crucial to the enjoyment. Without it, I'm not sure their productions will stand up. When they move uptown to Center Stage II it will be in a normal theater, with a normal size stage and a distance that will be difficult to manage. Their success emanates from the closeness the audience feels to the players. While they are good actors, I am not confident that they are great actors that can command a large stage. Many of them, individually, and amongst a team of strong actors, possibly, but with each production there are usually a couple of weak areas that pull the entire thing down a notch. Their charm was in their "we're putting on a play" attitude. Their charm was that I can always see the imprints on the soles of their shoes.

One case in point. During Vieux Carre, the character of the resident lout gets completely naked. He was standing there, just a foot in front of me so that if his foot was a foot long, it would have been at my nose. Luckily his foot maintained its innocence, so my nose stayed clean, but that moment cannot be replicated. In contrast, in Hair, which I saw recently, there is also a scene of complete nudity, but they are so far away and high up, that you really can't feel the power (or in the case of Hair, the freedom) of the moment. It's distant, and part of an experience you have at arms length, not a nose away, and it's not the same warm, yummy feeling. The most impressive things about Broadway venues is usually the sets and costumes, and sometimes one or two outstanding performances that can shine beyond the glitz.

And finally, just to display my discontent in public, the subscription renewal notice that I received did not mention that they were moving (or if it did it completely bypassed my notice). I sent in my renewal check, excited at seeing how they would put on Dickens next season, and a day later read in a Grieve's blog that they were moving. In a blog. They never told me. While they sent me Christmas cards and pleas for donations, their changing venues to 50 blocks away went unmentioned. I was incensed. I was told I should have been called but likely they didn't get to my name yet (I guess the A's are way down on the list). I was never called.

Should I cancel or stick with them for their uptown debut? I'm having trouble deciding. At least moral dilemmas such as this get my mind off the upcoming college tuition I can't afford.


John M said...

Cancel. That's a bait and switch, and they shouldn't be rewarded for it.

EV Grieve said...

While I want to be supportive... Unless the Pearl comes out with a reasonable explanation and apology ... I'd cancel.