Saturday, November 28, 2009

London Notes 3

  • Notting Hill  is all that, Bohemian and shabby chic and petite bourgeois and very familiar.  Excellent cup cakes.  Even in the midst of a continual tourist crush, counter help, retailers and restaurant workers have been unfailingly friendly.  I've been encountering little in the way of uber cool anywhere this week.  Refreshing.
  • Leveraging Expedia and mileage points, we've moved to another hotel, the Marble Arch Marriott, just off Edgware Road, at the Hyde Park end.  The lobby bustles with Arabic and middle eastern families and businessmen.  Signs are in English and arabic.  The doormen stand bolt straight, are courteous without smiling, and answer questions in English, Arabic, and French.  The men are serious.  Along Edgware Rd., young men fill cafes, smoking from hookahs and drinking tea.  There are few bars here, in contrast to the west end, with a pub on each corner.  Women walk under variously numbered layers of traditional dress.  Only a few are covered to the eye balls.  I travelled for two weeks through Egypt in 1985, from Cairo to Aswan back to Cairo to Alexandria--part of the way by felucca, an overnight trip involving a night sleeping on the river bank--and had been very comfortable, but yesterday I couldn't help tensing up as we walked down Edgware the first time.  I'm careful, therefore, to track my reactions and considerations, making sure the later remain tethered to my own empirical experience and do not curdle into racist assumptions, which would be possible, given my abiding pro-Israeli stance.  The positive side of being a self-doubting liberal?  Humility in the face of one's own ignorance.
  • Phylicia Rashad and James Earl Jones are wonderful in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF.  Rashad is a very sympathetic, three dimensional Big Mamma, not the cypher of the movie.  Jones is sinuous as well as bold.  He underplays in beautiful counterpoint to both himself and other actors.  Sanaa Lathan's Maggie gives an as-of-yet uncertain, merely serviceable portrayal.  Lathan does not yet recognize that this is Maggie's endgame.  She's not taking hits or coining fresh decisions.  We see the actress getting through the part rather than the character improvising through a minefield.  Adrien Lester's Brick is all he should be, cool and unconsciously sexy.  Lester plays Brick's affection for Big Daddy, but little of the resentment, which is interesting.  I imagined I missed some colors that more father-son antagonism could have brought, but I appreciated the portraiture of father-son affection that the huge Big Daddy-Brick scene did paint.  Nina Sosanya as Mae was wonderful.  A real gem.  Sosanya would have been an excellent Maggie.  Peter de Jersey's Gooper was far more than a cartoon.  I very much enjoyed this cast.  The play also works beautifully with an all-black cast.  At one point, Jones' Big Daddy says "I started out as just a field nigger and worked my way up to foreman... to take over the place," (I'm misquoting a bit, sorry) which is just the right amount of backstory justification to make the story work, and of course, adds poignancy to Big Daddy's love for his plantation, his sacrifices for which we all understand.
  • Tonight:  Blackbeard, the opera.

1 comment:

Harold Phillips said...

David, you sound like you're having a blast - Yes, Notting Hill is truly all it's said to be, isn't it? I'm especially envious of your seeing Cat and Mother Courage - what amazing casting choices!