Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Love in Afghanistan at Arena Stage
Measure for Measure at Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet at the Folger

Was Roya reading Shakespeare in Kabul?  The lead female in Love in Afghanistan seems an obvious  worthy successor to Shakespeare’s Isabelle in Measure for Measure.

A risk taker, one focused on the noblest purposes in life, a woman who a man whether the king of the hip hop world or an Italian Prince would crystal clear know was his life mate.  A woman in short phrase, unlike the rest of women, worthy to stand and speak as equal in mind and spirit.

And--here comes the plot spoiler--both walk away from all that love and praise of which so many aspire.

Roya rejects a spectacular engagement  ring which promises a glamourous life, as well  as  her long hoped for an American visa.

In MfM, what Isabella does at the end when the Prince proposes a union is unwritten and usually staged with ambiguity.  In the Shakespeare  Theater production, it is clear.  She walks not only off stage, but out of the theater.

The comparison struck me because I saw Arena’s Love in Afghanistan and Shakespeare Theater’s Measure for Measure within hours of each other.

Each is set in difficult political times--LiA as the Americans are getting ready to leave Kabul, and MfM re-located to Germany between the two world wars.

At the heart of both is how do we best serve when the price is sacrifice of our personal happiness.

Roya gives up  what seems the easier life of being married to an American star to go back to help the women and girls in her country whose life will be more harsh under Taliban control.  In America, she would be safe.  In Kabul, she risks her life constantly.  She loves the guy but her country women are first.

Isabelle puts life plans to enter a convent on hold to save the life of her brother who has been sentenced to death for immorality.  She confronts the ultimate dilemma: the price for his life is her virginity.

No, the laws in MfM  weren’t enforced by the Taliban.  All ages and societies have had their strand of such strict interpreters of punishment by death for offenses.

I so wanted the lovers together, and not in death like Romeo and Juliet now at the Folger.   On second thought, RaJ is resolved, theatrically at least, as maybe the best possible solution for all the human conflicts surrounding the young couple’s love.   Does not the play say in the beginning, we are born to die.  

 The characters in MfM and LiA get to live, a realistic but sad ending for romantic loves that were at once both possible and impossible.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

After you see  36 Views, you will wonder how many art works  in museums are frauds but you will have no doubt that the Constellation production is the real thing!

.Do not be deceived by the lush images and evocative poetry. There is no one without
guilt in this story.    Behind the beautiful world of art, there lurks intricate layers of  deceitful dealings by artists, art foragers, dealers, curators and scholars, fueled by cravings for money, love, sex  and recognition.

Taking its title from Katsushita Hokusa’s 36  images of Mt. Fuji,  Naiom Iizuka’s play is constructed in 36 intersecting scenes of a complex plot.  Constellation director Allison Arkell Stockman and company explore intersections of commerce and connoisseurship,  with a fine cast  led by Jim Jorgensen, with Sue Jin Song, include Megan Dominy, Ashley Ivey, Tuyet Thi Pham and David Paglin.   Special kudos to Kendra Rai for costume design and Aaron Fisher for projections design

 Far from being a discourse in art history, this is a story like Law & Order, ripped from the headlines. See  the story running in the New York Times on foraging an art market