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Plenty

Corey Stoll and Rachel Weisz     Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

 

                                            by Eugene Paul

 

 We arrive in timely fashion at the hustle and bustle of the Public Theater, its snack bar front and center busily purveying whatevers, and to one side and another individual giving away tickets.  Hmmm. Later, when weíve thought about it, whatís additionally discomfiting is the conjunction of Public Theaterís Oskar Eustis, the Artistic Director, positioning his letter to his theatergoers right next to the cast listing in the Playbill for Plenty, lavish in its praise, seeking to set up a pleasant, acquiescent audience mind set. Which is doomed from the beginning.  One begins to wonder. Surely he knows his clients better than that. They certainly are polite.  Most of them stayed for the second act.

 

Ken Barnett and Rachel Weisz 

 

The entire production is wrong headed from start to finish. No, thatís not quite right.  The lighting by David Weiner is fine. But thatís it.  Scenery? Mike Britton has designed and executed a ponderous mechanism which appears to be very well made in its elements but fights the flow of David Hareís scenes and the continuity of his play, even its substance, from the beginning.   You cannot pull an audience into accepting that a man is parachuting into a field at night when the walls of the coming play settings are standing right there. Thatís bad enough stagecraft but unfortunately, the details themselves are wrong.  No parachute worked like that.  No accompanying container at a drop was that small. And no night drop was arranged to be met by a single party, in this case, the fetching Rachel Weisz. Sorry, empirical knowledge.

 

 

Regardless of the empirical knowledge, the scene is clumsy, the staging is clumsy and the story telling is clumsy.  And that is just the beginning. David Hareís play chronicling the  psychological deterioration of Susan (Rachel Weisz) a woman who misses the dangerous thrills of her wartime experiences as a spy does not  bind us, enchant us, lure us or entice us into the life she  inhabits after the war. Then, it segues into her sexual powers over men she uses for thrills, even though she marries besotted Raymond Brock (excellent Corey Stoll) a diplomat in the Foreign Office, which still cannot satisfy her need for danger.  Her behavior, forgiven over and over again because of her beauty, becomes more and more unstable.  Her best friend, Alice (Emily Bergl), her enabler, wears down, warier and warier, all of it seems pointless. And between each scene, the ponderous wall swivels, breaking any semblance of illusion.

 

Rachel Weisz and LeRoy McClain

 

Director David Leveaux moves his experienced troupe mechanically, except for his shock scenes, the naked model getting her body painted, slipped in by playwright Hare? -- nothing to do with the play, Raymondís naked body, bloody arm extended, asleep Ė or dead? Ė on the floor, unexplained. And scene after scene with British diplomats, Hare getting off  lovely, lashing, epigrammatic zingers, nothing to do with Susan, unless itís to show her that with diplomats she does not have the upper hand, sex or not. Theyíre in the toils of another mistress, Britain.

 

Of course, almost all the focus is on Rachel Weisz.  Not the character Susan sheís portraying.  And she knows it. She hasnít been able to employ her natural air of vulnerability as a weapon for Susan to use as a predator. She sits, sexy legs compressed, ankles demure, a pose. She projects her voice with British RADA aplomb, she changes costumes to the manner born but never to the manor born.  She works very hard, because David Hare, her playwright, hasnít written her a play and her director, David Leveaux cannot make one out of the material.  It becomes an overdressed British stock company swanning around to impress the British equivalent of the hicks in the sticks. And itís up to us to conjecture that this is all the authorís symbolic interpretation of a collapsing Britain.  Or not.

                                                         

Plenty. At the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street.  Tickets: $95. 2hrs,30 min. Thru Dec 1.