Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thoughts on Two Boys and A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder


Even though I'm coughing up a lung everywhere I go (and maybe someday I should do a post on how my GP won't prescribe antibiotics - does that make me healthier in the long run?  discuss...), I went out last week to see two pieces I had heard a great deal about.  I know next to nothing about opera, but because Craig Lucas wrote the libretto, I was very curious about Two Boys at the Met; and after hearing grand things about the pre-Broadway runs of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, I was really looking forward to seeing it, too!  I'll only offer a few thoughts, since I still know next to nothing about opera and because A Gentleman's Guide is only in the first week of previews... Oh, and another thing these two excursions had in common?  I had tremendously attractive dates for each.  :)

Photo by Ken Howard
Two Boys premiered in London a couple of years ago and was composed by hot young American composer, Nico Muhly.  Coincidentally, Muhly provided the music to the revival I saw last week of The Glass Menagerie.  I remember liking that atmospheric music very much.  I also liked much of Two Boys.  It's almost like an episode of Law and Order, with a dedicated police officer trying to dig deeper to find the truth about a horrible crime.  One boy has been accused of stabbing another boy, so the music is appropriately shadowy and rather lurid.  As the plot unfurls, we see that the boys spent a lot of time online, so much of the opera actually takes place on the internet, in chat rooms. The musical language Muhly has put together for the internet scenes is spectacular.  He has truly created a different sound that actually symbolizes something concrete.  I can't really describe it correctly.  Seeing the large chorus onstage, holding laptops and illuminated only by the lights on the screens, with scenery behind them of projections of online chatter, was fascinating and very exciting.  Unfortunately, I didn't quite find the other sections of music to be as exciting.  It seemed to me (but remember, I know next to nothing about opera) that there was too much recitative.  Even the arias were brief and staccato.  Only the internet sections, and the glorious final scene, really came together as a beautiful musical whole.  For me.  Because Craig Lucas is a masterful storyteller, I was always intrigued in the story and wondered how the plot would play out (I was totally surprised by the ending, and disturbed by it as well), but the music didn't elevate the story all the time.  Again, for me.  But I would definitely recommend seeing this, because I did find some of it amazing, and the physical production is stunning as well.  But take everything I say about opera with a grain of salt.  You've been warned...

Last Sunday, I went with another extremely attractive pal to see A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder - I think it was their third or fourth preview.  We had a very nice, yet cramped, discounted seat in the mezzanine.  But the mezzanine wasn't full, so we moved down at intermission to a closer seat with a little more leg room.  Thumbs up for a little more leg room.  I've followed the story of A Gentleman's Guide for awhile; it's been around, under a different title, and it took a long time to actually get it on its feet.  I'm awfully glad it finally has, though, because it's just a sunny confection that makes you smile pretty much the whole time you're watching it.
Jefferson Mays, who can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned (his performance in I Am My Own Wife is one of the greatest I've ever seen), plays eight different characters in a goofy romp through Edwardian London.  The musical's poverty-stricken hero, Monty Navarro, has found out after his mother's death that he is actually descended from a very well-to-do family.  How he decides to pay the family back for their treatment of his mother, and how he decides to take his place at the head of the family, is all part of the fun.  Navarro is played by Bryce Pinkham, who I very much enjoyed in The Orphans' Home Cycle a few years ago.  He's attractive, sweet, charming, a fine singer and has a rather naughty glint in his eye.  Jefferson Mays plays every member of the family on whom Navarro has sworn revenge and he plays each of them spectacularly.  Each family member is a singular creation and he plays them all with zeal and a light touch.  He is spectacular.   
The whole cast is very good, the physical production is lovely, and the songs are mostly rather fun.  If I thought the lyrics were better than the music, oh well.  I'm sure they're still cutting and trimming (at least I hope they are - the show seems a little long at almost two and a half hours, and it did take a while to get going) since they aren't opening for almost three weeks, so I won't say much more.  I'll just say I had a lot of fun at the show, it's an adorable trifle with some monstrously talented actors having a great time.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  Oh, and seat neighbor-wise, you'll see in the photo on the left, there's a cute little guide to how to behave in the theater.  You'll see in the photo on the right, seat neighbors don't always obey the guides in their Playbills.  Darn. 

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