The rest of the family had other things to do, it was too windy and cold to be going for a long outdoors walk, and I didn’t feel like going to the movies, so this afternoon at the very last minute I went to McCarter Theater to see Translations. It was too late to call friends so I went by myself.
I got to the ticket office at 1:20PM, and was given the choice of either a seat in the upstairs balcony or a front-row orchestra seat. Since the front row has more leg room and the upstairs seats are cramped, I was really really close to the action. I was in my seat by 1:35PM.
The first thing I noticed was the dirt.
The entire floor of the stage is covered with 6″ of dirt, and a 3′ wide section stuck out from under the curtain. I looked at the orchestra floor and it had been swept, so I sat down and hoped that none of the dirt would land on my clothes. The last time I sat that close to the stage was four years ago when we went to see Fortune’s Fool and the entire family got sprayed by Alan Bates’s wet dinner napkin and Frank Lagella’s spit. Except for Langella’s spit, we had a great time.
The curtain went up promptly at 2PM.
I knew nothing about the play, but it’s a story about the Latin-and-Irish-speaking Irish being overtaken by the English-only English. Apparently the 19th century Irish had time to go to night school and study the Classics after spending their days toiling outdoors with the wheat harvest and the livestock. On stage, however, all the Irish speak fluent English and the Latin is translated into English. Once the first Englishman walked on the stage wearing a horse guards uniform it all started to feel like a Monty Python sketch; The character who got her hands blistered from the wheat harvest even smells the potato blight coming.
Since the location is supposed to be by the ocean, the sound effects include the sound of ocean waves reaching the shore.
Unfortunately, I have been falling asleep to that very sound nearly every night for the past two years thanks to my handy-dandy Timex Alarm Clock Radio and CD Player with Nature Sounds. It’s gotten to the point where the sound ellicits a Pavlovian response. I dozed off and missed at least ten minutes of the action. For all I know dirt might have fallen on my clothes and I didn’t notice.
I woke with a start and realized that the man to my left was in a deep sleep, chin over chest, hands on his lap, his chest breathing rythmically to the sounds of the ocean. At least he didn’t snore.
We weren’t alone. During the intermission a friend and her mom asked if I’d been having trouble staying awake, since they had dozed off up in the balcony and were in need of caffeine.
After the intermission the theater was so cold I had to watch the rest of the performance wearing my coat, while on stage a rain machine was working overtime and the actors were performing in soaked clothes, water dripping from their hair. I felt sorry for them. There had been a leak dripping on to the stage and the actors for all of the afternoon, so at least we in the audience found out why. Mercifully the Nature Sounds had been put to rest for the third act.
The acting was very nice, particularly Chandler Williams’s energetic performance as George. However, this was one case when the production values really got in the way.
The Packet had an article about Translations, and here‘s a reviewer who thinks “the play resonates poignantly in light of the Americanization of Iraq”. Must have been that rainy seashore atmosphere and those Latin-speaking local yokels. Thinking of Iraq obviously’s preventing him from thinking of sex all the time.
Translations will be going to Broadway’s Biltmore Theatre Jan. 4, 2007. Let’s hope they lose the nature sounds by then.
(technorati tags McCarter Theater Brian Friel theater entertainment)