Thursday, January 13, 2011

"John Gabriel Borkman" at BAM

Last evening, I saw a Henrik Ibsen play. "John Gabriel Borkman" to be precise, playing at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Ireland's Abbey Theater produced the show and the story was brought to life in a new version written by Frank McGuinness. Starring Fiona Shaw, Alan Rickman, and Lindsay Duncan, and boasting James Macdonald's direction, the life of the arrogant power-hungry bank manager and the people inexorably intertwined within his life was showcased wonderfully.
Playing surprising lines to humorous bent, McGuinness' dialogue, coupled with Macdonald's direction brought a refreshing amount of lightness to what could be a very heavy show. Yet the ridiculousness of the characters within the story was showcased blithely with deft pauses and superb emoting, rather than by cheeking side-glances to the audience.

Nuanced, as such, performances by Rickman, Shaw, and Duncan made for an incredible night out, especeiallly when coupled with Tom Pye's minimalist set design and Jean Kalman's stark lighting. Both aspects of the staging brought an isolation and frigid air, perfectly cushioning the self-involved means of the characters parading across the stage. There seemed to be some reverberation of lines, but surely this was no fault of Ian Dickinson's sound as the music weeping softly in the background of this production was a fitting addition. Joan Bergin's costumes, as well, were elegant in the traditional garb for the era, their dark, brooding colors highlighting the social dire straits in which the Borkman name languished.

"John Gabriel Borkman" plays at the Brooklyn Academy of Music through Feb 6, 2011. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30pm, as well as Saturday at 2pm and Sunday at 3pm

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