I’ve actually seen three shows this past week. One on Sunday I don’t know if I’ll have much to say about, but on Thursday I saw Who’s Your Bagdaddy or How I Started the Iraq War, which after winner the award for Best Show at the DC Fringe Festival extended its run in Woolly Mammoth’s rehearsal hall through to last weekend, and last night I saw a Australian production of Uncle Vanya directed by a Hungarian, which visited the Kennedy Center.
Who’s Your Bagdaddy or How I Started the Iraq War was written by a very young man, and the whole cast was likewise very young(except for the one old guy they got to play David Kay; who was obviously having the time of his life on the stage), which means they are the oldest people who will come to what happened as history, get the story of Curveball and all the lies from the records, and portray it all as narrated by a trio of “Funditz” as more honest version of Pundits who sing and joke and hurl the anvils like only the young can. Still, it resonates, reminding its audience of another time that most of us lived through, complete with a “history museum” just outside the rehearsal hall consisting of a table with collector’s items from 2000-2003 that we saw back when they were in the stores. But could it be performed in a hundred years? It might not work.
Uncle Vanya, meanwhile, at a little over a century in age can still be performed to great effect, I am starting to conclude that the problem with classic plays is that they get dated; like film, it’s so immediate a medium. When Anton Chekov wrote it, it was still considered okay in high culture to portray the woes of the well off as the worst thing in the world and ignore how things were truly dire for those who were not the lucky few. In 2011, that’s not so true anymore. So now Uncle Vanya only works as a comedy, and it’s not written to be a pure one. Still, the cast was talented, as well as famous(Cate Blachett the highest profile name, but Hugo Weaving was present as well, as were a number of actors who have appeared in both Australian movies and Hollywood movies shot in Australia; including Farscape and Star Wars bit players), and in the end their hard work combined with Chekov’s general ability to portray humanity earned a standing ovation. Uncle Vanya remains in the Kennedy Center until the 27th, though I imagine it’s sold out by now.