Getting to London from New York wasn't half the fun, as the old Cunard ad used to promise, but it wasn't bad. In fact, I'm about to do something unusual -- praise an airline other than one that flies to an emirate or to Singapore. We took a relatively new service of British Airways that has made flying to Europe about as painless as it gets nowadays. It was on a 32-passenger, all business-class, fully-flat-seat Airbus 318 that lands at London City Airport. Much closer to center of town, London City Airport is the un-Heathrow. No crowds, no waits, no unpleasantness – it's almost like flying into a private airport.
But the most unusual aspect of the round-trip was the return flight, which left from London City Airport. An hour after departure, the aircraft stops in Shannon, Ireland, for a 45-minute refueling (the departing runway is too short to allow the aircraft to take off with a full fuel load). Now that sounds like a downer, doesn't it -- landing just after you take off? However, there's a silver lining. During the interval on the ground, passengers go through US customs, thus permitting landing at JFK at the domestic terminal. No unpleasant the JFK customs experience, and no long waits for baggage (with only 32 passengers).
|Passion -- Donmar Warehouse -- 2010|
Taking place in mid-19th-century Italy, Passion traces Giorgio as he gradually and improbably shifts his love from Clara, his gorgeous, voluptuous, married mistress, to the sepulchral, sick and obsessive Fosca. Unlikely? Absolutely. But through the magic of the music, lyrics and book, the improbable becomes possible. Giorgio realizes that the only true love is one that is unconditional. Thus he breaks off his romance with the beautiful Clara, who has put conditions on continuing their relationship. Georgio asks Clara
You think that this is love?
Love isn't so convenient.
Love isn't something scheduled in advance,
Not something guaranteed you need
For fear it may pass you by.
You have to take a chance,
You can't just try it out.
What's love unless it's unconditional?
And Fosca asks Georgio
Would Clara give her life for you?
...I would live,
And I would die for you.
And Giorgio, in realization of Fosca's love, tells her
No one has ever loved me
As deeply as you.
No one has truly shown me
What love could be like until now.
We and the rest of the audience watch for an uninterrupted hour forty-five minutes in rapt concentration. No one stirs.
In addition to the terrific cast (Elena Roger, David Thaxton and Scarlett Strallen) and direction (Jamie Lloyd), the emotional impact of the evening is heightened by the fact that this small musical is being performed in the 250-seat Donmar Warehouse, in effect a chamber show in a chamber theater. A perfect match. Sitting a few feet away from the actors, who perform with no microphones and no amplification, the viewer gets a completely different experience from that in the typical large theater, sitting a distance from the stage, and listening to voices emanate from loudspeakers.
Seeing it once just wasn't enough. We changed our plans. Five days later we returned, enjoying it even more the second time.
DEATHTRAP This comedy thriller was written by Ira Levin, a New Yorker whose previous works included the films Rosemary's Baby and The Stepford Wives. On Broadway, Deathtrap ran for 1,793 performances and starred Michael Caine in the leading role. It was also a successful movie. Our main reason for seeing this otherwise modest show was to marvel in the performance of one of the consummate stage actors of our time, Simon Russell Beale. He is a force of nature.
HOUSE OF GAMES Originally a movie by David Mamet, one of our favorite playwrights, screenwriters and directors, this stage version at the Almeida Theatre was only moderately entertaining. But I happen to like plays and movies that involve cons and stings, so I probably enjoyed this more than the work itself or the acting would merit.
LOWER NINTH A short, three-person drama that is set in post-Katrina New Orleans. Played in a tiny theater off-off-West End, the entire action takes place on the roof of a flooded house in the lower ninth ward just days after the storm. It had a short run in New York off-off-Broadway a couple of years ago. Fine acting, emotional, worth seeing.
YES, PRIME MINISTER Based on the very funny 1980s television series, this spoof on British governance was amusing. Yet an hour later, it was out of mind. A pleasant trifle. Perhaps it works better as a half-hour British television series than as a two-hour-plus West End production.
What we didn't catch and wish we had: We saw Hamlet on Broadway last year with Jude Law, and recently re-watched both the Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh films. As a result, we're Hamlet-satiated. So we passed on seeing this new National Theatre modern-dress production of the melancholy Dane. But what we heard from a friend in the theater who saw it last week: "The first act was the finest theater I've seen in 50 years.” Next trip, perhaps.