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04/19/2007


'Predestination', A Surprising Sci-Fi Noir About Time And Identity: PHOTOS

Predestination


Sxsw_2014In Predestination — a sci-fi mystery based on Robert Heinlein’s short story "All You Zombies—” — Ethan Hawke plays a time-traveling investigator chasing The Fizzle Bomber, a terrorist who killed thousands of New Yorkers during a devastating 1975 attack. Hawke seems doomed to fail until he meets a pessimistic patron in a New York tavern whose past may hold a clue to the Bomber’s true identity.

The film’s tightly constructed plot and amazing narrative twists make it hard to elaborate without spoilers. In fact, if you want to walk into the film completely blind, you should just stop reading now. But if you’re interested in learning just a little more as well as why we’ve included this film in our South By Southwest coverage, read on.

Keep reading and see some film images AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "'Predestination', A Surprising Sci-Fi Noir About Time And Identity: PHOTOS" »


Ethan Hawke Stars In ‘Macbeth’ on Broadway: REVIEW

Macbeth LCT 10-13 162 CAPTIONED

BY NAVEEN KUMAR

A lot of sound but not much fury suffuse director Jack O’Brien’s cacophonous production of Macbeth starring Ethan Hawke in the title role, which opened on Broadway November 21st in a Lincoln Center Theatre production at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre. Only a handful among the mostly misused cast of talented actors escape Hawke’s fate of being dwarfed by the production’s overbearing design and concept.

Macbeth LCT 10-13 062 CAPTIONED A note in the Playbill identifies the ‘Seal of God’s Truth,’ a mandala with origins in the Hebrew Kabala’s system of planetary magic, as inspiration for the circular markings on the stage floor and other elements of O’Brien’s production. Set in what seems like a massive black void accented with expensive-looking set pieces by accomplished designer Scott Pask, the production indeed leans heavily on magic—of the sort conjured by both its designers and its witches.

Another of Shakespeare’s deluded men who leaves a bloody trail on his way to the throne, Macbeth is told early on by three witches that he’ll become king, thus planting seeds of ambition that fuel the rest of the story. O’Brien carves out a more significant role for his witches at nearly every turn, played here in a sort of monstrous drag by the estimable Byron Jennings, Malcolm Gets and John Glover. The three actors double as other characters throughout to make clear that the witches’ magic (and, unfortunately, their magic alone) drives this production forward.

Macbeth LCT 10-13 186 CAPTIONED It’s a compelling idea and one skillfully executed by the three men and Francesca Faridany as Hecate (their queen bee). But it takes the onus off Mr. Hawke (among others) to develop his character’s own place in the story.

While his signature emo charm could be fitting for a somewhat reluctant villain arguably seduced by his wife into murder, Hawke often rushes through his performance without making sense of his lines (or even, at times, speaking them audibly). Far from a stranger to the stage, or to this particular stage where he earned a Tony nomination for his performance in O’Brien’s productions of Tom Stoppard’s Coast of Utopia trilogy in 2007, Hawke even has a knack for characters caught in a downward spiral (he played one Off Broadway in Clive earlier this year)—but his presence shrinks from the production’s looming canvas.

Much acclaimed for her work in the West End, Anne-Marie Duff makes a resonant Broadway debut as Lady Macbeth despite an uneven showing from her sparring partner. In scenes that tend to emphasize her carnal influence over a weak willed husband, Duff brings a vigor and emotional precision to her performance that is refreshing by contrast.

Macbeth LCT 10-13 263a CAPTIONED Shakespeare’s shortest play certainly doesn’t feel it here, and high concept design elements rarely allow a moment of the story to escape without being marked by some blunt, illustrative visual—a stark lighting special, a swelling sound cue, a murderer dressed in blood red.

By the time the witches light up a pipe packed with hallucinogens and pass it over to Macbeth in the play’s second act, some of the production’s manic, expressive energy begins to make a bit of sense—though unfortunately they don’t pack enough for everyone.  

Recent theatre features...
Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar (photos: t. charles erickson)

Ethan Hawke Opens in ‘Clive’ Off Broadway: REVIEW

Clive top

BY NAVEEN KUMAR

Realism bites—and so does reality, for that matter. Before Ethan and Winona, there was Bertolt Brecht, the anti-naturalist whose 1923 play Baal, about the self-propelled downward spiral of a poet-cum-anti-hero, serves as inspiration for Jonathan Marc Sherman’s Clive, which opened Off Broadway last night in a New Group production at the Acorn Theatre.

Ethan & ZoeAppropriately enough, Sherman sets his retelling—directed by and starring frequent New Group collaborator Ethan Hawke—squarely in the Gen-X hunk’s heyday: that angsty, flannel-clad era when grungy rock stars burnt up quickly with unironic rage, the 1990s. It’s a far cry from Brecht’s pre WWII Germany, but the portrait of an artist-as-hedonistic-narcissist is a tale as old as time.

Sherman refashions Brecht’s drunken German poet into a drunken New York City musician named Clive, played by Hawke. Following the basic framework of Brecht’s plot, the play presents a series of disjointed, episodic scenes rather than a clear, conventional storyline. Though increasingly bizarre in style as the play progresses, scenes chronicle the sort of typical bad behavior you might expect from a rocker who looks like Ethan Hawke living in 1990s New York City—plenty of booze, pills, and of course, much womanizing with consequences of varying severity. 

You shouldn’t need to know much about a play’s source material to greet it on its own terms (although the New Group does provide a written insert), but a few minimally nuanced tidbits from Brecht’s Wiki might be helpful here for anyone who didn’t go to drama school.

Clive 3Though Brecht wrote Baal when he was twenty, before fully developing his signature theory and practice of ‘epic theatre’ (and becoming a staunch Marxist), nascent elements of it are on display here. Brecht and his peers were foremost insistent that the audience never get swept up by the action of a play and forget that they’re sitting in a theatre. Actors speak their actions (“I wept, openly!”) often in place of performing them, and frequently address the audience directly, breaking the so-called fourth wall.

Alienation, though not an accepted translation of Brecht's desired effect, can feel pretty accurate in Sherman and Hawke's borrowed aesthetic.

Hawke’s ensemble cast includes Vincent D’Onofrio (Law & Order: Criminal Intent), indie darling Zoe Kazan (Angels in America), comic chameleon Brooks Ashmanskas (Promises, Promises), and the playwright himself, each juggling a variety of characters, most of whom are mistreated by Clive or worse on his way to rock-bottom.

Clive 4The production’s integration of musical effects is both inventive and seamless, thanks in no small part to Derek McLane’s imaginative set design with uncommon instruments built into its doors. Though with both playwright and director busy on stage, Hawke’s staging seems to lack the benefit of an outsider perspective.

Brecht and the distinct style of theatre he pioneered are definitely not for everyone—i.e. if you prefer your theatre served straight-up, complete with empathetic characters and storylines and a slice-of-life for dessert, you'll likely want to fill up elsewhere. Otherwise you might ask your neighbor to nudge you awake three quarters in, so at least you can say you saw Ethan Hawke topless in a 199 seat theatre. 

Clive continues performances Off Broadway at the Acron Theatre through March 9th. 

Recent theatre features...
Martin Moran's 'All The Rage' Opens Off Broadway: REVIEW
Ben Rimalower Is Working Through His 'Patti Issues' At The Duplex: INTERVIEW
'Picnic' Starring Sebastian Stan Opens on Broadway: REVIEW
'The Other Place' Starring Laurie Metcalf Opens On Broadway: REVIEW
Rob Ashford Takes on 'Cat On A Hot Tin Roof' on Broadway: INTERVIEW

Follow Naveen Kumar on Twitter: @Mr_NaveenKumar.


Watch: Ethan Hawke and His Wife Ryan Speak Out for Marriage Equality

Hawke

Ethan Hawke and his wife Ryan are the latest high-profile New Yorkers to record a video urging the state to pass marriage equality.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Watch: Ethan Hawke and His Wife Ryan Speak Out for Marriage Equality" »


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