Over the weekend I saw The Pillow Man at Virginia Samford and Henry the 8th at Sloss Furnace.
Pillow Man is a slyly morbid tale about a writer whose work may have inspired horrible crimes, so draconian cops torture him for info. It's a crafty tale that questions artistic culpability and the efficacy of torture. Pretty timely, eh? The production was in a tiny cabaret space, which gave it an intense intimacy. The cast did some really nice things with it; I'm nervous about talking in specifics since I have chums in the cast, but the two leads were really, really on. J. J. who played the writer, and the guy who played his sweet but dangerous child-man brother, were a joy to watch. A few particularly unsettling sequences were done on film rather than live, and I'm kinda iffy about that. I suspect it would have been more effective to do it live as written, but a lot of the audience found it too intense anyway, so doing some of the most horrific sequences live might have had folks fleeing.
As for Henry V, I've never seen or read it (although I'm familiar with the St. Crispin's Day scene, one of the most famous money scenes in Shakespeare) so following the densely packed logic of the political arguments was a bit like reading sophisticated political commentary; I couldn't follow the arguments, but the broad outlines of who's using those arguments to justify what against whom were pretty clear. Sloss is a great outdoor amphitheatre for big loud bands (BTW local band Sunny So Bright was playing, and I really grooved on what I heard (just the last song)) but the acoustics make it rough for actors, even when they project and enunciate really well. There was some inventive staging and sharp characterization (My buddy the Solar Monarch was a standout in the coveted Shakespearean role of guy Who's Force-Fed Onions Near The End, and I'm not saying that because he's my buddy), but the production is working against the basic fact that Sloss Furnace itself doesn't seem to want people to make out the dialogue. It was an exercise in determined listening and watching. I'm glad I went, but I dunno how many people will want to go back for more red-hot Not Being Able To Understand What People Are Saying action. I'll audition for the next production if I get the chance, though. I'd like to grapple with the Bard.
I met a lot of people I know and love at both shows, and it's intriguing that my social life circles around theatre to such an extent. I even got to catch up with folks I haven't seen in years, but who orbited around for Henry V. There's one guy I hadn't seen in years, who always amuses me by getting as much huggy-kissy action with women as he can under the guise of friendly hugging. Someone should write a play about him and let him star in it. (No, it's not me.) I also ran into a recent high-school grad who saw me in The Goat, and around whom hangs a tale which I may tell sometime soon. Anyway, I suspect I pulled in a few more audience members for Fuddy Meers; I hope our show's a hit!