Sunday, May 15, 2005

I know your true name, Ditchwater Sal... "Stardust" at TBC

Sometimes I feel like every other person I know is a Neil Gaiman fan. Hell, I'm one too. I love the man, and his work, and his good nature. So we were all surprised and pleased when longstanding, slightly mysterious, recently displaced local company Griffin snagged the rights to his novel "Stardust," which is a delicate sort of adult fairy tale.* I don't know how many of those rights they have, perhaps just Chicago area adaptation non-exclusive for the next 10-years, but I it was a smart move to grab something that could draw Gaiman's fanbase.

I hope Griffin does well with this show. They deserve to. The adaptation- and I've just borrowed a copy of the novel to check it against- struck me as over rather than under-faithful- it didn't jump two-footed into the theatrical of the thing, and so the first act was a bit.. inert. Pinched the dialogue and didn't add much- I could have done with a little ritual or spectacle or whatever. Things pumped up and starting moving- and moving me- in the second act. It ended abruptly.

It's hard to pinpoint the first act's problem- but it was either an adaptation or an acting failing. My theatre-going companion complained that too many things were played as funny. I partially agree- I think it all would have been more effective and funnier if everyone had taken their fairy tale problems more seriously. I felt a certain lack of commitment from the humanoid characters- as if their English accents were just making them uncomfortable and affected, and incapable of getting right inside the story. Perhaps this will improve during the run. It certainly improved during the course of the play.

The Witch queen, however, was excellent all the way through her various transformations. And most of the bit-part actors were great in their more over-the-top, crazy-costume, funny-voice roles. It's just when they were in-between, playing semi-naturalistic characters in a fantasy world, that they had trouble striking the right tone.

The costumes were great- especially for the girls- and they suited the actors well. I was less thrilled with the set, and with the effects and spectacle. So many opportunities to blow me away with some neat trick, and instead we just sort of...understood what happened. But I think I've been spoiled lately.

I mean, this is why we have the phrase 'solid adaptation.' It's easy to nitpick when you already know and are fond of the story, but hell. Anyone off the street could enjoy this show, and there's nothing in it that could possibly anger a fan.

Good night then,

*No Shrek-movie style parodies, just gentle loving tweaks at all the conventions.


Blogger Carl V. Anderson said...

Great review! As a long time fan of Gaiman and a Stardust lover who will not be getting to Chicago any time soon I really appreciate the chance to read an honest review.

Hopefully it will improve as it goes on.

6:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, my name's Rory. I have nothing to do with this website apart from being the creator's roommate, but I feel anyone who may have been refered here by his grace Neil Gaiman's website should come back and visit, because although my roommate is a dumb girl with cooties, she's quite a fine writer, and when the history of early 21st century Chicago theatre is written, what she posts here will be an invaluable resource that you won't want to be without.


11:56 AM  
Blogger Matthew Rossi said...

Hey Reina,

I'm part of a theatre company out here, and I'm glad there's someone other than the Reader reviewing new and off-the-loop shows.

Hope to see you at one.

9:52 AM  
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