Monday, July 20, 2009

What a Kirk Off

I should just be writing about Farragut North, a new political drama in a run at the Geffen Playhouse in LA, but I can't. For instead of discussing how a play can moralize about the amoral, seem part of the headlines and timeless, instead of praising actors much better known for tv and movie roles--Chris "Kirk 2.0" Pine, Chris "Mr. Big" Noth, and Olivia "Juno's BFF" Thirlby--I have to talk about manners.

You see, we tend to go to matinees in LA as the timing just works better--traffic from Santa Barbara to there is almost always easier (and I know I just jinxed my next ride), you can catch an early supper someplace (Father's Office is ever a favorite) and be back home by 9 pm. It's a fun day. But matinees also mean that the theater crowd that tends to skew old anyway shuffles ever further down its aged curve. And I don't mean to be ageist, but old folks at the theater have been mighty crotchety of late. When we saw Oleanna it was post-show discussion day, so we stuck around to see what Pullman and Stiles would say about acting in such a heated show. And while their comments were interesting what was perturbing was one older woman who would interrupt every answer with "you have to speak up" and "What!!"

But she had nothing on the ass at the Geffen Sunday. For this guy shouted out "Louder!" during the play. Several times. During a super-charged scene (the play exists for its two-person scenes in which you never quite know who's zooming who), one that requires shifting dynamics, he shouted "Louder!" several times. Now why someone with him or near him didn't stuff a Playbill in his annoying yap I'll never know. I don't remember if the Geffen laid people off (I know Center Theater Group did)--if they did were they ushers?

So disruptive was he, that Olivia Thirlby turned from Chris Pine to address the man. In a manner so firm and clearly furious that it shrunk my manhood for the rest of the month and I was sitting in the mezzanine and being appropriately quiet, she said, "Don't do that. Stop." Instead the shithead said "Louder!" again, as if betting pot odds on his own shmuckdom. Then Chris Pine told him he should leave. There was a pause, the actors clearly conferring on how to get back into the play, and they re-wound, as it were, and made it to the finish.

Of course, they weren't the only ones cheated. There's nothing like getting drawn in by an hour and forty-five minutes of a play to have someone force the actors to admit to all of we need to wake up from our dream they so artfully constructed.

So, whoever you were, thanks, ass. At least you've reminded us all that it's not just the younger generation that feels its incredibly entitled.

As for the play...Farragut North, we learn, is the Metro stop in DC where you get off when you're a consultant--it might not be the end of the Red Line, but it's the end of the political line for someone who wants to be a true macher, as Stephen Bellamy (Pine) clearly wants to be. He's the hotshot young press secretary to a governor hoping to surprise in the Iowa caucuses, and all similarities to Howard Dean are purely coincidental, having nothing to do with playwright Beau Willimon having worked on that campaign himself. He does seem to have the adrenalin-filled patter perfected--imagine Mamet morphed with Joshua Micah Marshall's evil twin, say.

But, of course, as with any play about politics, it all comes down to who rules who, and Willimon plays those out in a series of clever pas de deux. The most intriguing pair to tango is Bellamy and Molly (Thirlby) a precocious yet innocent 19-year-old intern who might be too much the kind of woman that only exists in plays written by men, but Thirlby manages to make her pretty (word chosen advisedly) believable--at least until some ass makes her break the fourth wall.

Is the message new, that power corrupts, that the rotten stench of our national politics gone bad leaves us all stinky? No, but the force at which Farragut North makes its points is thrilling to watch. It doesn't hurt that Pine, who is on stage for nearly the entire play, is commanding, even as his world begins to fall apart. As probably the only human being who hasn't seen him in Star Trek (I'm a geek in many ways, but know nary a syllable of Klingon), I can't compare the performances, but he never bored, even when acting the only side of a phone call. In fact, during that sequence he risked one enormous pause, a good ten seconds that is eons of theater silence, but then he said, "Yeah, I'm here," and it seemed clear the other person had put him on hold. That should have been Bellamy's hint his world had shifted with this one call--he's the kind that answers the phone and interrupts conversations that need no interruptions or calls Molly the cleaning lady to the person on another phone call (while it seems an insult, and it gets a laugh that the audience then gets to feel bad about, that is also her symbolic role in the play). But that pause, it takes courage. So here's to Chris Pine. He deserves audiences better than ours.



Blogger Smitty said...

Sorry the play got essentially ruined. God that sucks when audience members just can't be rational.

We have a little community theater here besides for the Wharton Center at MSU which picks up the huge national mega-shows. It's called The Boarshead. I don't get there as much as I should, but I have an excuse: very few people outside of family are willing to babysit 3 boys 4 and under. Some day, I can get all cultured again.

Take a gander at the web site. Lemme know if you have seen any of the shows they list. Maybe I can find that sitter...

6:25 AM  
Anonymous The Yellow Menace said...

My goodness, I haven't gotten so riled up reading anything outside the opinion page in a few years.

Perhaps people are too proud to admit they need the listening devices from the lobby.

8:53 AM  
Blogger George said...


Alas I only know the two obvious ones, "Death of a Salesman" and "Wait Until Dark." I can't imagine you graduated from a U.S. high school without reading the Arthur Miller, so I shouldn't have to sell that. "Wait Until Dark" isn't brilliant literature, but it is an exciting evening at the theater probably best known for the film version with Audrey Hepburn.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Lauren said...

Was at the Geffen that day too, and remember the interruption more than the play, sadly. What did you think of the curtain call???

10:42 AM  
Blogger George said...

Well, it was amazing she was still so livid, given she managed to pull off the end of the play.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Lauren said...

Chris Pine still looked pretty angry too, although he hid it better. I wanted to come home chewing on the meaning of the play, and the quality of the acting, but instead just can't get their faces out of my head. Really wish someone had been able to escort Mr. Louder out before he created such a disruption. Well, I suppose that is one matinee I'll never forget!

11:19 AM  

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