Monday, August 15, 2022

Revisiting Stratford: The Miser and Girls & Boys

Colm Feore, Lucy Peacock and Qasim Khan star in The Miser, at Canada's Stratford Festival. (Photo: David Hou)

This summer I was able to cross the Canadian border for the first time since COVID, on a trip framed by brief visits to Stratford and Niagara-on-the-Lake, home of the Shaw Festival. Regrettably, my timing at Stratford didn’t allow for the chance to see All’s Well That Ends Well, a problem comedy I love that gets produced only infrequently. But I did manage to check out artistic director Antoni Cimolino’s production of Molière’s 1668 prose comedy The Miser (at the Festival Theatre) in a contemporary adaptation by Ranjit Bolt that has been embellished further with Ontario references. In Bolt’s version Molière’s title character, Harpagon, is called Harper, and his children, Élise and Cléante, who desire to marry the people they love without risking being disinherited by their parsimonious papa, are called Eleanor and Charlie. The director’s note in the program argues that the subject of greed and the generational tensions make The Miser relevant to a 2022 audience. Of course you can make that case for any of Molière’s best satires; human nature, after all, hasn’t changed much through the centuries. I’m not sure, though, that the present-day setting adds anything to the play or sharpens its thrust.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Getting Gerried by Nature: Gerry

Matt Damon and Casey Affleck in Gerry (2002).

This review contains major spoilers for Gus Van Sant's Gerry (2002).

In 2002, Gus Van Sant followed his aggressively mediocre Finding Forrester (2000) with the aggressively experimental Gerry (2002). It doesn’t have opening titles, and for most of its 103 minutes the only two people we see are Matt Damon and Casey Affleck, who both play guys named Gerry. (I’m going to use the actors’ names to avoid confusion.) There’s even a running joke about how the name “Gerry” gets turned into a vague, all-purpose word. (Affleck, Damon, and Van Sant co-wrote as well as co-editing.) A few examples: “I crow’s-nested up here to scout-about the ravine ’cause I thought maybe you gerried the rendezvous”; “We could have just bailed early, you know. There were so many gerrys along the way”; “And then we gerried off to the animal tracks.” The first 20 minutes are just long takes of Matt and Casey driving and then walking in the California semi-desert with minimal dialogue.