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THE BRIDGE PROJECT: LONG MAY IT SPAN

  

picture - the Bridge ProjectTheater Review

by Harvey Perr

published March 13, 2009

 

The Bridge Project’s first season

 

The dream of a repertory company, right here in New York, comes and goes, never quite blossoming into reality, but when it appears, our hunger for it becomes so palpable that we are willing to heap praise upon the idea rather than damn it, even when the results are less than fully satisfying. And so it goes with The Bridge Project  - which unveiled itself at BAM this season -  in which director Sam Mendes and a nucleus of superb actors from Great Britain and the United States gave us an ambitious first season which featured productions of Anton Chekhov’s great The Cherry Orchard in a new adaptation by Tom Stoppard and William Shakespeare’s difficult and infrequently done late play The Winter’s Tale. We came to swoon and, when the opportunity arose, we did. Unfortunately, the opportunity arose only intermittently, and never more so than in the final moments of Shakespeare’s play when, finally, – the stage lit with shimmering autumnal grace – the illusion of something magical passed before our eyes as the statue of the dead queen Hermione came slowly and magnificently to life. If we wept at the beauty of the moment, we were also weeping, with hope in our hearts, that the Bridge Project might, in time, fulfill its dream.

 

picture - The Winter's TaleI will talk about The Cherry Orchard next week when I discuss the different productions of Chekhov’s plays that dignified some of our theaters this season. Let us just say that it was a less than inspired production that had its highs and lows and kept us at arm’s length from its emotional center without ever falling into downright ineptness.  But The Winter’s Tale was quite inspired, at least in its Sicilia sections – the first half and the last aforementioned scene – and that the company of actors were shown in a more flattering light than they were in the Chekhov and that Simon Russell Beale came into his brilliant own finding his way through the jealousy of King Leontes and the madness that jealousy leads to. Of course, given the limpid and sensual way the bodies of Rebecca Hall (as Hermione) and Josh Hamilton (as Polixenes, King of Bohemia) seemed to melt into each other, who, being in its presence, wouldn’t be driven crazy?

 

The famous stage direction (Exit, pursued by a bear) was not precisely followed but was, instead, handled in a manner that was both strangely frightening and, in its awful way, quite beautiful. But the bucolic shenanigans of the part of the play which take place in Bohemia revealed little but silliness, although it formed the framework for Ethan Hawke’s deliciously funny performance of the rogue Autolycus, a remarkably twisted interweaving of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits that was uniquely and happily perverse, and never untrue to Shakespeare either in letter or spirit.

 

It was in the best moments of The Winter’s Tale that one saw the promise of The Bridge Project most forcefully, and kept our dream of a repertory company, right here in New York, alive.

 

harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com

 

The Winter’s Tale ran at BAM’s Harvey Theater February 10 – March 8

 

 

 

 
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