a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Working Class’

Carey Mulligan Luminous in “Skylight” on Bway

Carey Mulligan 1I come from a long line of school-teachers. My mother was a school teacher. My British grand-mother was a school teacher, but I have never heard an aria, really, an ode to teaching and what it means to be a teacher so beautifully and eloquently expressed and rapturously enacted by Carey Mulligan in the revival of David Hare’s British play from the ’90’s “Skylight.”

I just thought it was an amazing monologue, and Carey Mulligan almost always amazes. I’ve been a fan of Mulligan’s going back to her Oscar nominated performance in “An Education.” And here she is nearly a decade later, clearly a young-looking 30-something named Kyra Hollis, who has left her rather posh bourgeois background to live in the far reaches of North London, and in a council flat(a British housing project) no less, where she commutes to her low-paying job as a teacher of the uber underprivileged in East Ham in the East End.

She admits that her LONNNNG commute to work on Public Transportation is the high-point of her day.

And then in comes Bill Nighy, her ex-lover, Tom Sergeant, an aging Jack-the-Lad, a successful restauranteur, to dynamite her life. For one long, cold night only in her flat that he describes as “Siberia.”

I am so not a fan of Older Man-Younger Woman scenarios on the screen or on the stage. We’ve seen so many of them. It’s trite. To the max. And the un-even writing career of playwright David Hare leaves me with a feeling of trepidation every time I go to see one of his many plays. Will I love it? Or will I hate it, too? And let me tell you the rather interminable mixed match set of Tom and Kyra in the first act left me as cold as their cold-water flat. I nearly left.

But I stayed, and then in the second act, suddenly Kyra shifts into high gear and unleashes on Tom just WHY she has chose to live the way she lives and where she lives and her unforgettable monologue about teaching occurs, and suddenly I felt “Skylight”, reaching as it does for the stars, finally MEANT something. Other than a will-they, won’t-they two-hander.

Oh, and there’s a third character Edward, Jim’s son, played engagingly and comically, by Matthew Beard, doing a very good impersonation of Billy Nighy as a teen-ager. He even looks like him, the same height, the same gestures, everything. He’s the most sympathetic, and also funniest of the three.

But the plays dismal cold council flat setting by the great Bob Crowley is spot-on, and there’s a fully functioning stove and sink(Yes, this is a classic kitchen sink working class British genre drama.) Mulligan prepares a spaghetti diner for Nighy for the entire length of the deadly first act. The tomato sauce and onion aroma wafting into the audience kept my olfactory senses alive, even as the leaden prose deadened my mind.The first act of “Skylight” smells good, then in Act II Carey Mulligan’s barefoot, East End, mother earth goddess takes off into the stratosphere into that sequence about teaching that has already burned itself into my memory and Mulligan into my heart.

Now I understood why my mother and grandmother were teachers.

 

“Hands on a Hard Body” a Warm-hearted Musical Hits Home

I really did enjoy the recently opened “Hands on a Hard Body” the surprising, innovative musical hit that just opened on Broadway starring one of my favorite Bway actor/singers Hunter Foster. Yes, THAT Hunter Foster, who is the very, very talented older brother of the much more famous Sutton Foster, she who has now two Tonys and Hunter doesn’t even have one!

Hunter does however have a Tony nomination for “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Perhaps the super-duper “Hands on a Hard Body” will change all that. Certainly, it COULD. Hunter has the role of his career here playing the much-older-than-he-is, bad-ass, red-neck lead Benny Perkins.

Based on a much-respected but little-seen real-life documentary of the same name, “Hands on a Hard Body” traces the journeys of its’ dozen or so working class Texan characters, who have accepted the daunting challenge of standing with their hands on the hard body of a brand spanking new, gleaming, red as rose Nissan pick-up truck. Whoever can last the longest, in this rather unbelievable, but true competition wins the truck. And hopefully a bigger piece of the American pie, than all of them presently have.

Yes, a cast of have-nots, singing their Country and Western hearts out, to the tune of our sluggish economy and the stagnant social mobility that used be the American Dream.

Contempo, yes, to the max. But I liked that. And I REALLY liked all these characters, and their elucidation musically by Trey Anatasio (of “Phish”) and Amanda Green. And literarily by Pultizer-Prize winning librettist Doug Wright. Who wrote “I Am My Own Wife”. I liked this MUCH better than “Wife”, and was so pleased that there were relatable characters of all ages, sizes and genders singing their hillbilly hearts out.

The way the Musical Numbers are listed in the maddening program, without the names of the characters or actors who are singing them, it’s hard to single out just who sang what. But I found much to my delight(and hopefully yours, too) that every song was a winner.

Hunter Foster really dominates here and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did receive a Tony and/or Drama Desk nomination for his memorable meanie, whose big number was certainly “Hunt with the Big Dogs”, which ended the first act with a BANG! But he also sang many other terrific tunes, too.

Top-tapping music and amazingly interesting choreography by Sergio Trujillo kept “Hard Body” (and the red truck, too!) moving so much that you never noticed its’ seemingly static premise. Kudos are due, too, to its’ sharp director Neil Pepe.

Particularly so during Hawaiian belter Keala Settle’s roof-rasing “Joy of the Lord” which had the larger than life Ms. Settle pounding away on the truck until it turned it into a percussive instrument! Tony/Drama Desk and more nominations are CERTAINLY headed her way for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

Giving her a run for her awards’ money in that category will be Dale Soules, whose Texas rasp, made me feel like she had just wandered in from the Grand Ole Opry, instead of an extensive career in theater.Her big number was “It’s a Fix!”

Also registering powerfully were Jon Rua as born-in-the-USA hispanic kid with a dream who wants to win the truck, so he can sell it and he can go to school and be a veterinarian. His soulful “Born in Loredo” is marvelously moving and mesmerizing. As is the Iraq war vet with PTSS, David Larsen,in his “Alone with Me” solo that also brings down the house. As do they all.

I love that a Broadway musical takes risks like “Hands on a Hard-Body” does. And reaches and fulfills them. I hope audiences find it as enjoyable and moving as I did!

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