Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"The Coast Of Utopia" -- The Reviews

It looks like smooth sailing for "The Coast Of Utopia," Tom Stoppard's massive trilogy that just launched at Lincoln Center. Part One received rave reviews. The NY Daily News was the lone dissenter, decrying the "vast stretches that can be tedious and emotionally frigid." Not exactly suited for quoting in the ads, is it? The Hollywood Reporter was polite but emphasizes that Stoppard demands a lot of work from his audience to enjoy his plays. But what do they care? The New York Times -- still the only review that matters for a show of this sort -- contained a rave by Ben Brantley that called the show "exhilirating." The NY Post's Clive Barnes gave it four stars despite saying it had "more motion and less heat." And Variety has the highest praise of all in an appropriately intellectual review that says the play is "Chekhovian in feeling yet Shavian in its appetite for political argument." (Hard to imagine a sentence that would please a playwright more.) And at the end it says that if the other two parts are just as good, this will rank as a theatrical landmark alongside "Nicholas Nickleby" and "Angels In America." General praise all around for the actors, though I can't help wondering if Ethan Hawke has employed the same approach as his British counterpart. When I first saw the show in one day, I realized the actor playing Bakunin had pitched his performance to unfold over all three plays -- in other words, you had to see all three shows to appreciate the subtle revealing of who Bakunin was. See just part one and you might think the actor was competent and the character a tad one note. See all three parts and his emotional journey is all the more powerful for that initial reserve. If at all possible, see all three plays close together. Mind you, if you don't have tickets yet, you're practically out of luck already.

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