Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Parts 1 & 2)

Noma Dumezweni, Jamie Parker, and Paul Thornley in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

I grew up reading Harry Potter. I can still remember the seismic event that was each new book release. When I demonstrated textual analysis to my students, it was my go-to source text for impromptu examples. So imagine how utterly disappointed I was when reading the text of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and realizing that it is, in fact, bad: sentimental, blunt, and (ironically) unrealistic. And diehard Potterheads hate it for breaking with canon at seemingly every turn. I asked a friend who had seen the show in London whether it fares better on stage, and (there was still hope!) she said it does.

Having finally seen it on Broadway, I can say with certainty that the story is still bad, even though the jokes land better. And yet, I still recommend it, because its presentation of magic is a capital “s” Spectacle.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Another Time, Another Planet: Detroit ‘67

Johnny Ramey and Myxolydia Tyler in Detroit '67. (Photo:  T. Charles Erickson)

Detroit ’67 (at Hartford Stage) is part of Dominique Morriseau’s ambitious trilogy about African American life in Detroit; the others, Paradise Blue and Skeleton Crew, are about, respectively, the jazz scene in the post-war years and the decimation of the auto industry after the economic breakdown of 2008. Detroit ’67, of course, depicts the city at its nadir, during the riots and the police violence that reinforced the racial line and shocked the nation. Morrisseau’s instinct for dramatic material is unerring, but having seen productions of all three plays, I have to say that only one, Skeleton Crew, works. She doesn’t have any feeling for either of the two historical periods she’s chosen for the other two: the characters are two-dimensional and you don’t believe in them as representatives of their eras. The muumuus that the costume designer, Dede M. Ayite, has put on one of the two women in the cast, Nyahale Allie, her Afro wig and the Motown soundtrack tell us this is supposed to be 1967, but I didn’t buy it for a moment.