Another Good Reason to Spend Time at a Movie House [Phedre]
This is not a movie review. It's a live theater review – even though you see the plays in this series at Sierra Cinemas in Grass Valley.
“Phèdre” opens the series of National Theatre Live, broadcast around the world.
The high definition images pop off the big screen. The play runs unedited, as the live audience sees it, with the advantage, you might say, that multiple cameras transmit different angles and zooms.
It's natural to laud the first-rate acting, led by Academy Award winner Helen Mirren in the title role. (She is at least as accomplished for prestigious stage work as she is for doing movies and television.) A play like “Phèdre” demands high class acting, with its mythically proportioned fates seething and flaming. This production from London delivers.
A Greek queen anguishes with disgraceful passion for her stepson. Upheavals to the throne whirl around this core. The tangle of who knows what when unravels through ancient royal equations and ruffled human frailties, with implicated gods nearby.
The stark simplicity of the set contributes stunningly to the effectiveness of the theatre atmosphere. A hard yet rich tone soaks up a feeling of light and distance radiating from offstage. Tragic portent vibrates from rumbling variations in the sound effects.
Unlike the retooling of 3D, the experience of National Theatre Live rises above gimmick in creating new reasons to spend time at a movie house.
The play's the thing. “Phèdre” was a big hit last year in the less widely distributed first season. Starting the second season, this so-called encore performance from the initial broadcast lineup is a fitting way to introduce a remarkable cultural alternative.
Sierra Cinemas is stepping cautiously into this cultural alternative. In addition to “Phèdre” showing once last Thursday evening, it's playing one more time at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 9. Surprise yourself and Sierra Cinemas by encouraging this theatre-at-the-movies concept – even one that starts at 10 a.m.