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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Wallenstein at STC

This is one of the best productions by STC I have seen and partially changed me opinion about Coriolanus. No wonder the Coriolanus production focused less on family and more on the politics. Paired together, the two plays made interesting observations about history, war, machismo, and politics.

Still Wallenstein is the better production in the pair. I discovered afterward that it was directed by Michael Kahn, which might be part of the basis of the success. The clarity and irony of the play are more evident, and the acting is better organized.

The politics in both plays are universal and topical, and particularly suited to audience in this political town. People laugh at all the right places. I'm not familiar with Friedrich Schiller's original play, but there are little touches in Robert Pinsky's "free" adaptation that remind people, with a light hand, that politics has not changed. A New York or London critic might be annoyed at such commentary, but a Washington audience is perfectly placed to appreciate them.

Kahn said as far as he knew "Wallenstein" had never been staged in the US. What a shame. Perhaps the very German length of the original play (10 acts!) is too intimidating. The adaptation is only 2.5 hours and absolutely fantastic. By the end I was weeping, mostly for the reason that our time is not fundamentally different from history, and people have hardly changed.

Those Germans. They have no regard for length, size, and people's attention span. I bet if a German filmmaker were to adapt Game of Thrones, he would make a week-long version of the entire serial, including the yet-to-be-written parts!

The questions posed by Schiller are not much different from those by GRRM: What is the nature of power and influence? Why does one person do another's bidding, sometimes at odds to his own interest? What is the nature of leadership and legitimacy? What's loyalty and betrayal?

There are two young characters in Wallenstein, Max Palladini and Thekla Wallenstein. They sort of provide a contrast to all the conniving, corrupt older characters --- the whole lot of them --- in the play. They are pure at heart and idealistic. They have morals and principles. They still want what is good and right. Pain and suffering come from the conflicts between reality and hope and between the true humanity and a simplified, distorted, unrealistic version conjured by our insufficient mind, and between the real, inadequate, flawed, foolish people who happen to be parents and their children's wishful perception of them as gods.

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