The Pillow Book takes off from the current vogue of non-consecutive story-telling; everyone wants to emulate the mystification of Pulp Fiction, with its sudden reveals of not only what will happen, but of what did happen. And recently there has been an additional vogue, which I call Cubistic story-telling, in which the characters and their lives turn out multiple ways, without an authoritative single story line. The approaches can also be combined. Such works always make the viewer struggle to follow the conflicting and shuffled storylines, but seldom leave the viewer in the dust. The dust, however, is where Anna Moench’s The Pillow Book will leave you. The more is the pity. Anna Moench writes beautifully, and the acting and directing in this collaboration of two interesting fringe companies is uniformly good. But the conflicting storylines shred each other.
Archive for June 2015
We must have surrendered emotionally to Herman Wouk’s old-fashioned attitudes about war, whatever our intellectual take The Winds of War. How could we not, when the faces of the great leaders were presented to us at the outset of every episode, peering out of the giant letters of the title, set against a background of roiling clouds, while Robert Cobert’s majestic Love Theme rolled in the background and the opening titles rolled with it?
The bulk of Magna Carta deals with concerns of great interest in 1215 but neither very interesting nor very comprehensible eight centuries later: fine adjustments to the relationships among the free peasants, the gentry, the nobility, the Church, and the King; struggles between river fishermen and cities that depended on navigation for trade; debts owed Jewish moneylenders; national relations between England and its semi-vassal lands Wales and Scotland. Even the vocabulary is strange: scutage, and novel disseisin, and wapentake. And most of it you don’t need to know now; time has washed most context away. What remain today are only the most important things: the rule of law and due process, and their inevitable concomitant we now call separation of powers.
There is a kind of magic which will exorcise the problems of Blithe Spirit, and let us not notice them. This production cruises and coasts on the farcical elements and the bickering and Mme. Arcati’s eccentricities, and in so doing it certainly keeps the audience laughing. But it does not dispel the sour taste engendered by Coward’s acerbic view of genteel British marriage lingering at the end.