Friday, April 2, 2010

Brief Bard


Love Is My Sin

Conceived and directed by Peter Brook

Starring Natasha Parry, Michael Pennington

March 25-April 17, 2010

Theatre for a New Audience
The Duke on 42nd Street
229 West 42nd Street

Peter Brook has distilling his art to the essence of simplicity over the years, and lately has put onstage what is willfully untheatrical. Last season brought The Grand Inquisitor, his stillborn adaptation of a section of Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Now, with Love Is My Sin, Brook returns to his biggest love—Shakespeare.

Love Is My Sin, which Brook has conceived, comprises 31 of the 154 sonnets arranged thematically into four sections—Devouring Time, Separation, Jealousy, Time Defied—spoken by two actors who (sort of) act out a lifetime of one couple’s struggles. It’s not a particularly novel conceit, amounting to little more than a cut-and-paste job of grouping several tangentially related sonnets together, but it has its pleasures, foremost among which is hearing Shakespeare’s towering poetry spoken by actors who do it justice.

Both Michael Pennington and Natasha Perry (Brook’s wife), with decades of experience performing Shakespeare, are preeminent readers of these sonnets because they understand the unique rhythms and “music” of his poetry. They speak so clearly, commandingly and sensibly that they make one believe they are simply having a non-scripted conversation, not reciting 14-line Elizabethan poems.

Throughout, they alternate readings until the final sonnet (number 116), in which they alternate each line and break up its final line so he begins and she finishes. Pennington seems more naturally at ease playing his “character” than Perry, who is more formal in her bearing, but together they show how reciting poetry can be artful in its simplicity.

Brook’s staging is likewise simple: a few chairs and tables for his couple to sit on or stand near; they also walk around and react to the other’s lines. Brook also has a musician, Franck Krawczyk, playing the baroque music of French composer Louis Couperin alternately on accordion and keyboard; these brief musical interludes interspersed among the sonnets are nice, but only serve to lengthen the performance to 45 minutes.

If Love Is My Sin breaks no new ground in attempting to dramatize Shakespeare’s sonnets, hearing this immortal poetry spoken by Pennington and Perry is sufficient.

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