Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Orange chicken and Moliere

Finally, I've made my return to the La Jolla Playhouse! If you've read Crystal Says... in the past, you know that I've frequented this awesome theater arts program at UCSD for years. Since I've moved, I haven't been able to get to the plays, but every once in a while I'll arrange my San Diego-visiting schedule to coincide with a performance. Along with my mom and my Aunt Mary, we go out to dinner--usually Chinese at Peking Palace (where we shared deicious shrimp lo mein, orange chicken, plus beef and broccoli last night), and then scoot off to the gorgeous eucalyptus-lined playhouse. Last night THE MISER, the classic by Moliere, was on. It's about a man who hoards his money and the comic/tragic consequences of his greed. While this was a comedy, it was also very depressing--as a lot of good comedies are.

It's interesting to see what I can learn about writing, presentation, and storytelling from each performance. THE MISER taught me a few things. First, Moliere is always a lesson in clever dialogue that often reveals more when the character is trying *not* to say something than when he is actually saying it. I loved TARTUFFE, also, when the Playhouse put it on, because Moliere's characters are microcosms of humanity while also being highly entertaining. Second, there's pacing. I don't know if this was the fault of the translation that was being used, but although the scenes packed a lot of powerful character study and conflict, there was a lot of repetition--it seemed as if the action went *way* beyond what was needed to be effective. That's always something to keep in mind while writing. Third, the set was highly symbolic and moody, saying just as much as the dialogue. It had to reflect the main character's (Harpagon) "skinflint"edness--it was a crumbling mansion that was once beautiful, but now, instead of a roof, it featured plastic tarp, etc. Most of the characters' costumes faded into the marbled color scheme, making for a sterile tone that befitted the storyline; only a few characters stood out with their color, and that was appropriate. The acting was exceptional, of course--the Playhouse *always* offers great quality.


No comments: