a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘cross-dressing’

“Twelfth Night” in the Park, Cast of Thousands an Amiable Mess


Productions of Shakespeare’s perennial gem of a comedy “Twelfth Night Or What You Will” boasts a cast of literally hundreds, who seem like thousands. Is it too much of a muchness? Almost. 

Directors Oskar Eustis and Kwame Kwei-Armah have taken what is the Shakespeare-in-the-Park’s most enduring positive, the audience, and put all and sundry onstage in the guises of many, many community groups from the Tri-State. It’s overwhelming and it almost overwhelms the play, but not quite. It’s Shakespeare’s best, just about, and seems to weather every storm that is tossed its way. In this case, crowds upon crowds of extras, some of them toddlers, some of them house-wives, all dee-lighted to be onstage at the Delacorte instead of just watching, lining up for hours for tickets and clapping madly.Who can resist a cast that also resolutely SIGNS the play, too? The most beautiful, transcendant moment for me was when an unnamed young, bearded, blonde man, got up and singly signed one of Shakespeare’s more poignant song poems. I wish he was given credit for that in the program. 

Also, because it was virtually the only quiet, thoughtful moment in this amiable, crazy-house of a mess.

There was no intermission. It was only 90 mins. and Shaina Taub’s average music did not send me. It made me long for the first time I saw “Twelfth Night” which was in an historic, traditional production at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1969, when I was in college in the Cotswolds, and young Judi Dench played Viola.

“How will this fadge?” I remember her saying til this day, enunciating Viola’s gender confusion. She’s disguised-as-a-boy Cesario, who everyone is falling in love with. Sir Donald Sindon was the wronged Malvolio, and his performance is awfully close to the present Park’s Malvolio, Andrew Kober, who is the only one of the vast ensemble to capture Shakespeare’s tone of comic absurdity just right.

I also enjoyed Nanya-Akuki Goodrich as an amply-figured Olivia, who is so distraught over her beloved brother’s recent death, she is followed around by a New Orleans jazz band, playing a funeral march every time she enters, black handkerchief in hand, copiously weeping. The tiny little high-heeled shoes that costume designer Andrea Hood has provided her with, ankle straps and all, make her teeter-totter between hilarity, despair, love and high fashion.

And Nikki M. James, a past Tony winner for “Book of Mormon” is quite fine as the business-suited Viola/Cesario. She’s not Judi Dench, but she’s owns the character in her own charming, petite way.Twelfth Night Park 5

 

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Glenn Close miraculous in heart-rending “Albert Nobbs”!

Glenn Close, who has never won an Oscar, but been nominated four times is certainly heading for a fifth nomination with her career-best, shocking, moving, heart-breaking portrayal of “Albert Nobbs.” Close also co-produced and co-wrote this beautiful, incredible movie, set in 19th Century Ireland, where most of her countrymen’s aspirations revolve around getting out and going to America. But not Albert Nobbs. Nobbs wants to continue to pass as a man, even though he’s biologically a woman, and to save up enough money to open a tobacconists shop in a nearby Dublin street.

Albert works as a waiter in a high-class hotel. And Close captures the minutiae of this very frightened, up-tight, intense, TENSE,  worried creature.

“Albert Nobbs is a funny little man,” one character says about him, and that he is. He’s just considered an odd duck, but a very, very good waiter. He is an all around excellent dogsbody/servant. Albert Nobbs is the essence of humble, slavish, self-effacing servitude to a fault.

Albert is so good at respectfully, perfectly serving, he gets tips. And he has been saving, super-frugally for all his years in service. And the scenes of him counting his paltry savings by night, which he’s hidden under the floor boards in his nearly empty, poor-as-a-church-mouse room are incredibly moving. He’s got room and board, but very little else.Pinching pennys is hardly describing the self-deprivation that Nobbs has subjected him/herself to all her hard-scrabble life.

Asked to share a room with a gangly, six foot-something house painter by his landlady/boss(the magnificently florid Pauline Collins), Nobbs is terror-stricken at sharing his bed, fearing that this huge, butch man, may find out his “secret.” And inevitably, that happens. In such close, poverty-stricken quarters how could it not?

I don’t want to reveal any more except to applaud the flamboyant star turn of Janet McTeer, who let’s just say, befriends the poor, frightened Nobbs. Nobbs then reveals to his new-found friend and his equally friendly wife that he has fallen in love with another servant, a young woman named Rose Dawson, who is also marvelously played by the up-and-coming Mia Wasikowska.

Close does something here I’ve never seen her do before which is UNDERPLAY everything. And playing such a tense, quiet man is a very difficult task for an actress to set herself. But producer/writer Close has challenged herself on every level imaginable.

The late transvestite Warhol Superstar Candy Darling once said to me about her transgendered life, “The whole trick is in the passing.” Meaning getting away with it. Being convincing as the opposite gender. And Candy certainly was that.

I myself lived an Albert Nobbs-like existance when I was a young protegé of Candy’s, and the hardly passable Jackie Curtis. And I feel that “Albert Nobbs” really NAILS the reality of a transgender who is DESPERATELY trying to pass.

Every moment, every gesture, every vocal intonation must be believable and Glenn Close REALLY pulls this off. Some people may wonder WHY he/she is doing this. But as the film so succinctly and straightforwardly shows, living as a man and getting away with it, is infinitely worth the risk, because men, even of his/her class(working) and a servant, had a much more respectable and decent life than any woman of that time.

“Albert Nobbs” is the absolute pinnacle of Glenn Close’s long and varied career. I certainly hope the Academy will nominate her. And her superb, unforgettable portrait of the most frightened and intense of poor souls, should win her accolades everywhere. At least I hope they do.

This film totally blew me away with its’ beauty, grace and heart-break.

Kudos to Glenn Close for taking on such a risky, gender-confouding role.  Albert Nobbs is a displaced person in his own body. And its’ a tragic, heart-rending tale. It’s one of the best performances of the year in one of the best films of the year.

TIFF ’11 Begins! And the Oscar Race is ON!

Just a quick HALLO from Toronto! Yes! I’m at TIFF 11 my 13th consecutive year here and I always have the time of my life at the Toronto International Film Festival.  You just NEVER know what magic can happen here! And it always does in one way or the other.

VERY hard to top getting Colin Firth and Tom Hooper BANG right out of the box for “The King’s Speech” ON THE VERY FIRST DAY last year! And then having Tom Hooper naming me “The Oscar Messenger!” Hard to surpass that…but there’s lots of buzz on the ground level, particularly surrounding the great Glenn Close for her performances AS A MAN in “Albert Nobbs”! Yes! And as improbable as that sounds, people who have already seen it have responded very enthusiastically. And don’t forget that Hilary Swank WON the first of her two Oscars for playing a cross-dressing man in “Boys Don’t Cry.” Which also started its’ Oscar career here in Toronto, and THAT was deemed REALLY improbable. I’m seeing it “Albert Nobbs” shortly.

I interviewed Glenn, and I’m not making this up, about her WIGS when she was on Broadway a while back(Seems like a lifetime  ago) for the New York Times’ Arts and Leisure section. Yes, I did! I was in Beauty School at the time. YES! I was! And I liked her tremendously. So here we are once again on a collision course. With me do to interview her in New York closer to the opening of the film around Thanksgiving. Just so it’s FRESH in Oscar voters movie-filled mine.

“Albert Nobbs” is set in Ireland, so here, in English Canada, which is Ontario, which is where Toronto is, it’s BOUND to have a good, strong reaction.

Check out Oscar Goddess’ Sasha Stones great posts from Telluride’s Film Festival! She saw it there and loved it. And BOY did she love Telluride and wrote very strongly and movingly about it. http://www.awardsdaily.com  She went there with Jeff Well’s who blogs his brains out on a daily basis at http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com

So that’s TWO views on Telluride that actually differ wildly on the films they both saw.

Another film that was there, and also in Montreal, and is now here, too is the fantabulous French film “The Artist” which I wrote about at awards daily . It’s the B&W silent movie that I think the Academy is going to fall madly in love with.

It’s ABOUT them. Hollywood in  ’20s.

And I’m looking forward to talking about a things Oscar with Anthony Del Col of http://www.killshakespeare.com

Yes, he’s going to be on my show and on my You Tube Channel, too. And of course, you can see MUCH MORE of the Montreal Film Festival at http://www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow

Skies are gray today in TO. But nothing like the wild rain predicted. Not even drizzling. Ooops! Just looked out the window! Yes, it IS raining! Torrential downpour in NYC as I flew out of Newark. THAT was scary! BUT I’M HERE! And TIFF ’11 begins! I always feel like it’s a miracle!

Yes, I do. But it’s real!

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