Friday, February 08, 2008

M. Butterfly, a review

The current ************ Theatre Company production of M. Butterfly tells an extraordinary and Tony-award winning story, with amazing visual production values. The backdrops are beautiful segmented rings that take on different emotional hues with every sudden change of lighting. Sometimes, too sudden. A little more subtlety might have improved some of the transitions.

But that's the tone of the entire production from the acting perspective as well. The director's notes in the program state that he is no fan of realism and naturalism, scoffing that he can find that just by looking out his window. So his cast attempts no naturalistic acting, with the partial exception of the character Marc, libidinous friend to our protagonist Rene. Butterfly's falsetto makes no attempt to deceive, especially when paired with a rather prominent eyebrow ridge. And the famous five-minute segment where he changes from kimono to business suit and removes his make-up loses the astonishing impact from the original production. This is all by design, and it turns the play into an intellectual discourse on East and West, male and female, reality and fantasy. The audience is not drawn to the characters emotionally. This reviewer felt nothing as the tragedy unfolded, but perhaps I was able to think more about the points brought up during Rene's overlong soliloquy at the conclusion...

-Excuse me, what are you doing?

I'm writing a review. I went to see a play this evening.

-What does any of this have to do with pharma?

Well, nothing I suppose. I just felt like writing, raising a few points I was thinking about...

-But this isn't the place! Leave your intellectual masturbation at the door.

Screw you, its my blog. I can write whatever I want.

-Not if you want people to read it.

This is psychotic. Who the hell are you?

-How about if I guess what you are. A frustrated pharma employee, a wannabe something else, a jerk with a script half-finished on his flash drive...

Screenplay, thanks. So what?

-Oh, wants to be a movie writer? Lemme guess, the story of your pathetic life, made profound somehow. Maybe you can scab during the strike. Who do you have playing you?

Edward Norton, asshole. (Flips through the playbill) Anyway, look here at the benefactor list. GlaxoSmithKline, Shire, Johnson & Johnson...

-Tenuous my friend. Your point?

Well, maybe I don't have one. Or just that pharma money goes everywhere, supports everything.

-We know that already. But Arts are good.

Yeah, I agree. I mean, I actually paid for these tickets, but we've got VPs on boards of various theatre companies, regional symphonies and so on. I've gotten all kinds of free tickets over the years.

-Stadium boxes?

Yeah, but they're harder to come by. At least for me. The sales and marketing guys use them.

-So, whore you've been, whore you'll be again?

I'm not sure if I'm the whore or the pimp. Or which is worse.

-Sounds like you have no self-respect.

Probably not. Neither does a business willing to pony up $650 million in fines, and claim it was just due to a difference in interpretation of Medicaid rules. Totally innocent, of course.

-So how do we end this?

One fine longer to live with dishonor.

-Let's not do anything hasty....

No. Its too late for haste. Good night, my butterfly.