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November 2009 Archives

November 14, 2009

Hamlet's Law

The Donmar Warehouse production of "Hamlet" has only a few more weeks left to run at the Broadhurst Theater in New York. Although the remainder of the run is probably sold out, it's worth it to try for tickets. Reviews for Jude Law's interpretation of Hamlet have been wildly mixed; some critics have found him kinetic and brilliant, others histrionic and shallow. I side firmly with the former group. The production may be "modern dress" (i.e. the somber clothes worn by the actors are of every era and none), but Law plays Hamlet as an authentic Elizabethan gallant, his extravagant gestures and virulent mood swings reminiscent of those noblemen--such as the Earls of Essex and Southampton--whom Shakespeare knew so well. I have never seen a more brilliantly acted or staged version of the "To Be or Not to Be" monologue: Law, hugging himself in the snow against an endless brick wall (the last a hallmark of the Donmar Warehouse, so I'm told), casts the opening words away from the audience, into the void stretching before him.

Other cast members acquit themselves well, especially Kevin R. McNally as Claudius and Ron Cook as Polonius. If the production has a weak link, it is the usually excellent Geraldine James, who is too passive and reserved as Gertrude. The bedroom scene, one of the most passionate in all drama, is lopsided and somewhat chilly here. The rest of the production, however, burns with a dark fire that that makes the hundred-plus bucks for a mezzanine seat well worth it. Buy one, if you can.

November 15, 2009

Looking Toward Rogers

The personal essay--that most civilized of art forms--has gone somewhat out of fashion in the IT Age, where passionate opinion takes precedence over rational experience. If you look closely in the blogosphere, however, you can find gallant souls who can reflect calmly on topics that have nothing to do with the question of which current public figure is the most ghastly traitor to the United States of America. You can even find bloggers who can write on a wide variety of subjects with elegance and erudition, and even--glory be!--get their facts straight.

Such a blogger is Steven B. Rogers--historian, civil servant, poet and literary scholar--whose blog, Looking Toward Portugal (www.lookingtowardportugal.blogspot.com) is celebrating its first anniversary this month. Rogers has no axes, political or otherwise, to grind; he enjoys reflecting on his life, studies and travels, plumbing them for whatever lesssons and revelations they might present, or sometimes just for the pleasant memories he wants to share.

Like everyone, Rogers has his favorite topics of discussion, though his tend to be wider than is found on most blogs. In one entry, he combined two of his obsessions: the life and works of Thomas Wolfe (he is a former president of the Thomas Wolfe Society) and the state of Maine, which he visits every summer and otherwise as often as he can. His essay on Wolfe's experiences in Maine is a little gem of historical and literary research. Other blog entries have Rogers retracing John Steinbeck's New England travels with Charley; visiting Robert Frost's Mending Wall at Derry Farm in New Hampshire; fishing for grouper in the Gulf of Mexico; remembering the now-vanished pond near his grandparents' farm in Michigan; attending his class reunion at Maine South High School in the Chicago suburbs, which he attended with a bunch of siblings named Rodham (the eldest, of course, was named Hillary); presenting a scholarly paper on the sense of place in Bruce Springsteen's music at the annual Springsteen conference in Asbury Park; or simply expounding on his love of cheese (a two-parter) and that singular Quebecois delicacy, poutine. (His next post, I understand, will be an essay on the history of a unique American dish: the corn dog.)

Looking Toward Portugal boasts impressive graphics and beautiful photography, much of it by Rogers and his wife Sally Ann. (My favorite is a stunning succession of photos of a Maine sunset.) To visit Looking Toward Portugal is to share civilized pleasures with a civilized and wide-ranging mind, which is what reading, after all, is supposed to do. If you like the work of Wolfe and Steinbeck--or E.B. White, Ian Frazier, William Least-Heat Moon, or Ivan Doig--you'll find a lot to like in the blog of Steven B. Rogers.

About November 2009

This page contains all entries posted to MDM in November 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

September 2009 is the previous archive.

January 2010 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.