Saturday, October 10, 2009

Brief Encounter

This is what the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about the American Conservatory Theater/Kneehigh Theatre production of Noël Coward's Brief Encounter: "Every so often a theater piece comes to town that is so brilliantly conceived and executed, so entertaining on every level, that you want everyone you love or even like just a bit to see it. Brief Encounter ... is that kind of experience."

Couldn't have said it better. It's on until October 17. There is a really cool site including a trailer that doesn't do the piece justice here.

The work is based on Coward's well-known 1939 play Still Life, and there is a better known movie, which of course I haven't seen, called Brief Encounter. The present production melds film, stage, railway, song, movement, and audience into a new, and yet old, retake.

It's about love. There are three love affairs: the central one in which two middle class folks come to the edge of losing their good sense, and two background love affairs among the railroad station cafe staff. The latter are bawdy and humorous; the former is dark and heavy, ultimately unrequited.

All that fun on the stage and I came to want some fulfillment. Coward, of course, would never end the thing in death ... perhaps someone can correct me if I am off-base here ... but there is a little death in the soul-destroying return to the sensible. All the fulfillment is in the bawdy joy of the other two relationships.

The essay in the program pointed out the poignancy of one of the songs ... Room with a View ... because of what it would have represented to the then marginally closeted Coward. He could not have true love because that was denied to homos. He could only have the bawdy slap and tickle stuff, and that only when he kept it quiet enough that it did not "scare the horses." So the contrast between the two bawdy relationships and the furtive and ultimately unfulfilled middle class liaison reverses itself ... the homosexual author lusts after a formal relationship without all the middle class nausea about the sensible.

Enough said. Very enjoyable.

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