Tuesday, October 14, 2008

To Be Or Not To Be

Photo/Joan Marcus

As MTC has stupidly begged the question, the answer, definitively, is "not to be." Nick Whitby's adaptation of the 1942 film To Be Or Not To Be is slow, under-rehearsed, badly staged (Faith Healer meets Gypsy), and unable to establish a tone--as Colonel "Concentration Camp" Erhard (Michael McCarty, one of the few good things about this show) points out at a gestapo soiree, "I've misjudged the tone of the room." Boeing Boeing, for all its flaws, knows that it is a sex farce, and the energy crackles through the play, building and building until take-off; not so for To Be Or Not To Be, which sputters through video clips and recordings that defuse the action. It's also horribly dated: even though "Heil myself!" stems from Lubitsch's original, it now seems like secondhand Brooks. Casey Nicholaw's direction is astoundingly aimless, as if he set out to direct The 39 Steps but wanted all the glitz of The Drowsy Chaperone, too. The space is badly used, and Anna Louizos's set could've taken some cues from Roundabout's revival of Twentieth Century. Erhard comments that Josef Tura, a hammy actor (hammily played by David Rasche, which is a most unkosher choice) did to Shakespeare what Germany has done to Poland; one could go a step further and compare what Germany did to Poland to what MTC has done to this film (and to a wasted Jan Maxwell).

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