April 9, 2007

Stranded on "The Coast of Utopia"

As the lights dimmed at the conclusion of The Coast of Utopia: Salvage you could feel an armada of emotions ripple across the audience at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. There was deep admiration for the artistry and stamina of the actors who gave life to the characters in Tom Stoppard’s epic trilogy covering 30 years of the political and romantic affairs of the 19th century Russians who planted the seeds for what would eventually become the Russian Revolution. There was a certain smugness, too, for being among the select few who had managed to see the theatrical event of the season. There was also a rueful wondering if the nearly eight hour venture had been worth it, if Stoppard couldn’t have had his say in a shorter amount of time. And for me there was a touch of envy. I didn’t want to be in the audience; I wanted to be onstage or even backstage, just part of that incredible ensemble.

After months of rehearsals and performances, the 44 members of the cast appear to have developed a camaraderie that is palpable. They seem to revel in the challenge of the work, in the pleasure of being among others for whom the play is the thing. They look like they are having great fun. And none more so than Ethan Hawke, who plays the high-spirited anarchist Michael Bakunin. At each of the gorgeously choreographed curtain calls I saw, themselves more entertaining than many plays I’ve seen, Hawke seemed to hum with an uncontainable joy. As he walked off the stage, he’d slap a fellow actor on the back, or loop his arm around the shoulder of another, or grin and wink at a third too far away to touch. I don’t know if his exuberance is a genuine reflection of the delight he takes in being part of such a once-in-a-career experience or the residual bonhomie of his character. But it made me smile, even as the third part of the trilogy seemed to run out of steam.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice portrait. That Ethan Hawke seems like a sweetie.