Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday Arts Spectacular

This afternoon, José Rafael Moneo, the architect of the new Chace Center--which will serve as gallery, storage, classroom, administrative, and commercial space for RISD--spoke, with his associate, to RISD students in the Metcalf Auditorium. The house was packed; and Moneo did not disappoint. I didn't take notes so I have no documentation of his brilliance, which is generous and exacting at the same time. The building, which opens officially in an all-day celebration on Saturday, is evidence enough.

I just got back home from seeing the Gamm Theatre's Don Carlos, which, as everyone who pays attention to local theater knows by now, is a loosely adapted and severely abridged version of Friedrich Schiller's six-hour call to revolution. The play is not subtle--one doesn't think of "subtle" and Schiller in the same room--but it is surprisingly swift, and its two and a half hours pass, if not quite nimbly, than at least determinedly. That dogged adverb is appropriate, and signifies the play's only real problem: its plot is all plot and I found myself, too often, untangling its strands instead of enjoying its artistry. Credit must go to artistic director Tony Estrella for having the vision to imagine Don Carlos onstage and for respecting Schiller and his audience enough to leave its relevance to our own era implied, and to the actors for weaving something so fine and precise from material that is, for all of its processing, still rough.

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On Sunday I saw a preview of Trinity Rep's Dreams of Antigone, in several ways the sibling project of Gamm's Don Carlos. Like D.C., it is a liberally interpreted version of a formidable classic with surprising parallels to our contemporary political scene; but Dreams of Antigone (abbreviated, unfortunately, D.O.A.) has been made longer and less incisive than its source material, and the lines that connect its political reality to our own have been traced over with a dark pen. I left feeling that I had been subjected to a book report rather than a tragedy. I'll have a longer review posted soon.

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