You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Glenn

The major and most controversial production at this year's Avignon theater festival (40 mainline shows, some 550 fringe events) was Shakespeare's "Henry V, " in a recent and excellent translation by Jean-Michel Deprats.

With:
The Prodigy ..... Paul Dunn The Performer ..... Duncan Ollerenshaw The Perfectionist ..... Rod Beattie The Puritan ..... Richard McMillan In its debut this season at the Stratford Festival, the 1992 Canadian play "Glenn" wins no awards for easy viewing, but it does score high in ambition, vision and intellectual muscle. David Young's play is not a linear biography: It does not detail its subject in a clear voice laced by the author's observations and insights. This is partially due to the density of the play's unique structure, and partially due to the eccentric, mysterious nature of the play's subject, celebrated pianist Glenn Gould. Director Richard Rose does not make the material any easier. His staging on the long Tom Patterson thrust provides an overriding sense of gloom, a muted prism helped by Graeme S. Thomson's dimpled lighting design that suggests the great pianist's loathing of sunlight, and a heaviness lifted by the most exquisite music. Often, as if to focus the audience inward on each note, that music comes to us through the darkness of a blacked-out stage. Young's story is backgrounded by Bach's "Goldberg Variations," which served as bookends for Gould's career. As more than one critic has suggested, listening to both is a journey through maturation into the discovery of blissful perfection. Written as a quartet, "Glenn" uses four actors to play Gould at various stages of his career. "The Puritan," looking back over his life, sets off a chain of memories involving "The Perfectionist," who searches for absolute clarity through the marriage of technology and art; "The Performer," who loathes audience expectations; and "The Prodigy." There is theatrical magic in the marriage of these four, as they weave their way through each segment, often playing multiple characters. But they also spend much of the time in solo abstract musings, often tortured and twisted by the many fears that crippled Gould as a person even as he infused his music with astounding humanity. A rich vein of material derived from Gould's own eccentricities, helps --- and is exploited --- in Rose's production. The artist's hypochondria results in a hilarious sequence with two of the Goulds popping pills together and listing their side effects. But, even this hypochondria --- his refusal to shake hands lest he pick up bacteria, and his wearing a coat, hat and scarf in hot weather to ward off a chill --- lends only occasional character color. There is no getting around the insurmountable barrier of a text that is philosophically --- rather than character --- driven, leaving audiences trying to build a coherent picture out of a fragmented landscape. The performers achieve various levels of success, with Richard McMillan's "Puritan" and Paul Dunn's "Prodigy" the most satisfying. But it's not always enough to steer a direct course through the headiness of Young's writing. A line in the play identifies Canadians as "... a nation of evaluators rather than doers." That accusation of passivity over action serves also to describe a script that ultimately lives more in the brain than on the stage, despite the inherent drama of its subject.

Glenn

Drama; Stratford Festival, Tom Patterson Theater; 496 Seats; C$ 64 ($ 44) Top

Production: A Stratford Festival presentation of a play in two acts by David Young. Directed by Richard Rose.

Creative: Set, lighting, Graeme S. Thomson; costumes, Charlotte Dean; sound, Todd Charlton; choreography, Susan McKenzie; music consultant, Don Horsburgh. Opened and reviewed June 22, 1999. Running time: 2 HOURS, 35 MIN.

Cast: The Prodigy ..... Paul Dunn The Performer ..... Duncan Ollerenshaw The Perfectionist ..... Rod Beattie The Puritan ..... Richard McMillan In its debut this season at the Stratford Festival, the 1992 Canadian play "Glenn" wins no awards for easy viewing, but it does score high in ambition, vision and intellectual muscle. David Young's play is not a linear biography: It does not detail its subject in a clear voice laced by the author's observations and insights. This is partially due to the density of the play's unique structure, and partially due to the eccentric, mysterious nature of the play's subject, celebrated pianist Glenn Gould. Director Richard Rose does not make the material any easier. His staging on the long Tom Patterson thrust provides an overriding sense of gloom, a muted prism helped by Graeme S. Thomson's dimpled lighting design that suggests the great pianist's loathing of sunlight, and a heaviness lifted by the most exquisite music. Often, as if to focus the audience inward on each note, that music comes to us through the darkness of a blacked-out stage. Young's story is backgrounded by Bach's "Goldberg Variations," which served as bookends for Gould's career. As more than one critic has suggested, listening to both is a journey through maturation into the discovery of blissful perfection. Written as a quartet, "Glenn" uses four actors to play Gould at various stages of his career. "The Puritan," looking back over his life, sets off a chain of memories involving "The Perfectionist," who searches for absolute clarity through the marriage of technology and art; "The Performer," who loathes audience expectations; and "The Prodigy." There is theatrical magic in the marriage of these four, as they weave their way through each segment, often playing multiple characters. But they also spend much of the time in solo abstract musings, often tortured and twisted by the many fears that crippled Gould as a person even as he infused his music with astounding humanity. A rich vein of material derived from Gould's own eccentricities, helps --- and is exploited --- in Rose's production. The artist's hypochondria results in a hilarious sequence with two of the Goulds popping pills together and listing their side effects. But, even this hypochondria --- his refusal to shake hands lest he pick up bacteria, and his wearing a coat, hat and scarf in hot weather to ward off a chill --- lends only occasional character color. There is no getting around the insurmountable barrier of a text that is philosophically --- rather than character --- driven, leaving audiences trying to build a coherent picture out of a fragmented landscape. The performers achieve various levels of success, with Richard McMillan's "Puritan" and Paul Dunn's "Prodigy" the most satisfying. But it's not always enough to steer a direct course through the headiness of Young's writing. A line in the play identifies Canadians as "... a nation of evaluators rather than doers." That accusation of passivity over action serves also to describe a script that ultimately lives more in the brain than on the stage, despite the inherent drama of its subject.

More Legit

  • Watch Tom Hanks Vamp on Stage

    Watch Tom Hanks Vamp on Stage to Calm His 'Henry IV' Audience

    UPDATED: A few scenes into Wednesday night’s performance of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV,” Tom Hanks had to go off script. Attempting to entertain the audience while a crowd-member fell ill, the Oscar-winning actor projected, “No intermission brew for you!”  “An audience member became dehydrated and had to be taken out,” Heath Harper, Hanks’ theatrical dialect coach, told Variety. According to a [...]

  • Donald Trump, Robert De Niro

    Trump Punches Back at Robert De Niro: 'A Very Low IQ Individual'

    In response to Robert De Niro’s bleeped out “F– Trump” at the Tony Awards on Sunday night, Trump naturally took to Twitter to punch back. He questioned the “Raging Bull” actor’s intelligence, writing: “Robert De Niro, a very Low IQ individual, has received to many shots to the head by real boxers in movies. I [...]

  • Bruce Springsteen72nd Annual Tony Awards, Show,

    Tony Awards: Everything You Didn't See on TV

    When it comes to award shows, the viewers at home often get the best seats in the house: Their sofas, where presumably no one is as hot or as hungry as the folks in black tie packed into the auditorium. But TV never quite gets the full story — there’s a lot of action offscreen, [...]

  • Tina Fey72nd Annual Tony Awards, Show,

    Tony Awards: The Night’s Biggest Snubs and Surprises

    Ah, how young and foolish we were. It seems like it was just two days ago that Variety — and the rest of the Broadway community — were all so very sure of Tony predictions. But nope: The ceremony for the 2018 Tony Awards gave us plenty of surprises to chatter about after the show. [...]

  • Amy Schumer introduces a performance by

    Tony Awards: Amy Schumer Calls 'My Fair Lady's' Henry Higgins a Mansplainer

    While introducing the first Tony nominee for best revival of a musical, “My Fair Lady,” Amy Schumer paused to throw some general shade at the state of women’s right in America. Not even the show she was speaking about was safe. The musical, based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” is a comedy about class and [...]

  • Robert De Niro gestures while introducing

    Robert De Niro Says 'F--- Trump' at Tony Awards, Gets Standing Ovation

    Robert De Niro had a few choice words for President Donald Trump while the legendary actor was on stage at Sunday’s Tony Awards to introduce Bruce Springsteen’s musical performance. “I’m going to say one thing, F— Trump,” De Niro said while pumping his fists in the air. “It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump.’ It’s f— [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content