There’s exciting news for The Foundry Theatre and Melanie Joseph, the Producing Director: The current Sunday New York Times Arts and Leisure Section, January 17, 2010, has an interview article about Melanie Joseph, with photos of this intensely creative woman, and also of David Greenspan: The Foundry’s current production is David Greenspan’s The Myopia, reviewed right here.
Last Sunday, Charles Isherwood in The New York Times January 12, wrote an excellent review of Greenspan’s The Myopia; there are links to several other excellent reviews of the play, including mine, on The Foundry Theatre’s web site.
It is wonderful — and frankly a great relief (not to confuse medium size things with the most vast, but sort of like when Obama was elected!) — when an off-Broadway theatre that has struggled against huge obstacles to produce the plays it believes in, and to maintain its artistic vision, receives significant public recognition.
David Greenspan has all the characteristics of a fine performer — he’s charming, is an excellent actor, has an expressive voice and body, and is an exceptional impersonator, but what makes what he does essential to see is that he’s so smart. He “gets” everything, just like you do. It’s so satisfying — and validating! You feel in your heart yes, I understand, yes, I know just what you mean. At last!
Whether he’s delivering on the words of Aristotle, or Gertrude Stein or his own Myopia, his subject is that thinking matters and his delivery follows the rhythms of awareness: it’s irresistibly fascinating to watch him do it and share it with you.
In TheMyopia, there’s a stage, a chair, a bottle of water, and David Greenspan. That’s all that’s needed for worlds to open up for you — and the ones he chooses are often preposterous and totally liberating. It’s a varied, exciting cosmos with unexpected events and rich characters evoked through description, “Light illuminates Warren G. Harding, immobile, seated in an easy chair in his room in the La Salle Hotel, Chicago, June 12, 1920,” and through impersonation — you’ll find Carol Channing engaged in vital conversation in The Myopia. You believe he’s who he’s impersonating even though he makes no attempt to look like that person: in a riff, I could have sworn I heard Al Jolsen’s rising tenor.
To the extent that there’s an easily stated subject, TheMyopia is a quest to understand the truth and power of drama and some episodes involve a playwright hiding out in the bathroom (what can one say? — it is hard for writers to get the isolation they need). The play, or maybe it’s a musical, is about how Warren Harding became President on a wave of corrupt politics (How’s that for a musical?). In spite of Herculean efforts on all fronts by the guy with the typewriter in the bathroom, the authorship is in doubt since an electronic orb resembling my roomba (robot vacuum cleaner) named Barclay also claims in his R2d2 voice to be writing it (or is the author Barclay’s father?). I found the orb ridiculous (I even got a little bored with it) but never with the overall stream of brilliant consciousness that is David Greenspan. He overcomes the loneliness that separates humans — a definition and achievement of great art. When it’s over, you’re already looking forward for the next chance you’ll have to share Greenspan’s vision, bridging the impossible — to see another’s inner view outward, through his eyes, his myopia. Congratulations to the Foundry Theatre and Melanie Joseph, Artistic Producer, for bringing us this outstanding writer and performer in an essential event.
It’s not surprising that Greenspan is taken by Aristotle on the art of theater, and Gertrude Stein’s stream of consciousness: in his dramatic readings of their works, you see the writer figuring it out. Weekends during the run of The Myopia, you can see it as a “double feature” in combination with his Plays, a lecture by Gertrude Stein (his earlier production reviewed here February 2009). See both.
The Myopia plays at the Atlantic Stage 2 in Manhattan’s Chelsea, through February 7th.
Setting things off from the rest often makes them beautiful or exceptionally interesting, sometimes unexpectedly. In getting you onto a tour bus, excursion-like, for a ride through NYC’s South Bronx, The Foundry Theatre is trying to bring that heightened awareness to the South Bronx.
There is a theatrical genius among us: David Greenspan. On two Mondays in February this charismatic actor and writer performed Gertrude Stein’s lecture about plays as a monologue, Greenspan/Stein. He characterizes her without imitating her. How? By finding the thought processes that lie behind the words and conveying them through his expressions, rhythms, changes of pace and gestures. The audience concentrates intensely. The effect: Stein’s muddy though purposeful lecture takes on the suspense of an action thriller.
Stein peppers her sentences (to the extent they are sentences) with the creative holy grail of the early 20th century — the search for essence. She’s in harmony with her friends, Picasso and Matisse, and their search for essence but there’s a big difference: they succeeded, expressing the essential through new modes of abstraction. Stein didn’t have the creative capacity herself to do for words what the painters did for the visual arts, though she set a challenge for others.
In the new modern painting, telling a story and expressing essence were totally opposed. In this Lecture, and elsewhere, Gertrude Stein, seeking a comparable purity for her writing, subverts her own narrative. She also gives herself over to a stream of consciousness style that reflects contemporary interest in ongoing process, and in new psychoanalytic ideas. These features make her writing hard to follow, to the ridiculous at times — this is an amusing theater piece — but they’re driven by hot, revolutionary convictions with continued import that Greenspan makes accessible by conveying her thoughts-in-motion.
In contrast to Plato who wrote dialogs, Aristotle wrote his philosophy straight yet recently Greenspan performed a monologue of Aristotle’s writings about theater, from the Poetics, that was as intensely dramatic — and deeply moving — as any play I’ve seen. It was something of a shock. But, yes, intelligence at work to create ideas is drama — that’s what Greenspan reveals.
Watch what this remarkable theater personality does next!
There’s a really terrific gadget from ancient Egypt illustrated in the current issue of Archaeology magazine (Mar/Apr 09, p 38) — a flat, rectangular stone somewhat rounded at the top, and decorated with ears. The idea was you could talk into it though the ears and the gods would hear you, “like an ancient cell phone.” Did the gods give ear? The scientifically minded and result oriented Alexander Graham Bell, as he’s characterized in Part 1 of Telephone, would have been skeptical but Thomas Watson, his collaborator in the great invention, more given to imaginative flights, would have said “I knew it!” Thus playwright Ariana Reines conveys the complementary aspects of successful invention.