Saturday, January 20, 2007
Why is The New Group so obsessed with having people on stage prior to curtain? In the past few seasons, we've had Lili Taylor greeting the audience before Aunt Dan and Lemon, Ethan Hawke's unconscious ass hanging out of his boxers as the crowd filed in for Hurlyburly and that scary nun who must've been baking under those lights for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. They have now taken it to a whole new level, inviting ticketholders to walk onto the stage and enjoy a glass of champagne with Wallace Shawn, just before he performs his 90-minute monologue The Fever. I'm not gonna lie: the champagne was nice.
In The Fever, Mr. Shawn (identified only as "The Traveler") sits in the study of a Manhattan apartment and recounts his experiences being ill in a third-world country mired by civil war. Now, I adore Shawn, but this didn't seem like a stimulating afternoon of theatre to me. I was (mostly) wrong; he is rather commanding, using different tones of voice and stunning lighting effects to represent different factions of the narrator's mind. While the play does drag, and comes off as pedantic from time to time, it's certainly not the dull exercise in monotony that you may expect it to be. Shawn may be no Spalding Gray, but he's also no Eve Ensler...he can hold your attention without resorting to cheap theatrics.