Susannah Hoffman unfolds before your eyes from child to woman, onstage at McCarter in Baby Doll, by Tennessee Williams in the Emily Mann version. At the dress rehearsal the mesmerizing happened ‘between the lines.’
In this article, you can see the trailer to the original film, starring Carroll Baker and Eli Wallach.
As Bruce Chadwick’s blog review describes, There is a scene in the play when baby doll, barefoot and in her slip, walks up the stairs, back to the audience very slowly, body shifting to the right, the left, the right, the left, her bottom slowly undulating. I was amazed that the Princeton fire department was not called to put out the blaze from the heat Hoffman generated as she slithered up those stairs.
Writers who see the dress rehearsal aren’t supposed to review a play, but Chadwick’s review — comparing Hoffman to Carroll Baker — did it for me, in more ways than one
Emily Mann, celebrating her 25th year as artistic director of McCarter Theatre, regaled an enthusiastic lunch audience at the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce last week with the toils and tales of creative endeavors. In her case, it was her production of Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra — how her collaborators — scenic, costume, music, choreography — combined their ideas to come up with an experience that the New York Times reviewer labeled “beautifully bold.”
Revealing the secret of the very sensual movement sequence that opens the play, with Nicole Ari Parker and Esau Pritchett having a tumble under the sheets, except there are no sheets, she said it was choreographer Peter Pucci’s idea to have the actors (each happily married) go through the indoctrination for new dancers that Pilobolus uses. Pilobolus dancers are required to grasp each other in places where you aren’t supposed to grasp, so to start them off they must do an exercise where they touch — with the top of their heads — every part of the other person’s body. Makes sense, because skull skin doesn’t many nerves. The result was that Parker represented, as one reviewer said, the embodiment of physical love and desire.
After she finished, anyone who hadn’t seen the play was wishing they had seen the play.
During the Q&A she talked about how she is doing a documentary play on Gloria Steinem, and how she got started doing social justice documentaries or “theatre of testimony”. She was born to to the cloth, to mix religion metaphors. Her father was an eminent professor of American history at the University of Chicago, and the late John Hope Franklin,a pioneer in African American history, was his best friend.
Mann had such a compelling voice and podium presence that I was wishing I could see her on stage as an actress.
My photo shows Emily Mann, left, with Melissa Tenzer, founder and CEO of CareersUSA Princeton and president of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation, which awarded $35,000 to four nonprofits that day.
There’s so much sensuality in the opening scene of Antony & Cleopatra, as staged by Emily Mann at McCarter, that you forget to be intimidated by the language. You are too busy ogling Esau Prichett (what a hunk) and Nicole Ari Parker (hot for him) as they seduce and cavort.
If you read the synopsis in the program, you can follow the plot just fine. The action moves seamlessly between Egypt and Rome, and though the set doesn’t change (Elizabethans performed on a bare stage) you know exactly where you are because the lighting and the score sets the scene — harsh drums for Rome and whispered syncopations for Egypt.
It runs through October 5 in the smaller (Berlind) theater and 45 minutes before curtain time there is an introductory talk.
Full disclosure 1: Though I have never read this play, I was an English major and like Shakespeare.
Full Disclosure 2: You aren’t supposed to review a play in previews (we saw the first preview on 9/5) so this isn’t a review.
But I wanna say it was an edge-of-the-seat evening.
The WIBA Leadership Conference was a delightful success, and on an appropriate day, when Congressional women did an endrun around recalcitrant men to lead-broker a compromise.
From Time magazine:
It’s quite an irony that the U.S. Senate was once known for having the worst vestiges of a private men’s club: unspoken rules, hidden alliances, off-hours socializing and an ethic based at least as much on personal relationships as merit to get things done. That Senate—a fraternal paradise that worked despite all its obvious shortcomings—is long gone. And now the only place the old boys’ network seems to function anymore is among the four Republicans and 16 Democrats who happen to be women.
At the WIBA conference, woman after woman told of battling the old boy networks. “Women can’t direct theatre,” Emily Mann was told, yet McCarter hired her. She knew what she could do. Asked: “Did you ever think you would get a Tony? breathless pause expecting modest no”
Mann’s answer: YES.
I think the operative slogan is: “Never underestimate the power of … ”