Thursday, August 10, 2006

On fidelity

I saw an absolutely fabulous play last night, a real gem: The National Asian American Theatre Company's production of Marivaux's The Dispute (here's the clever blurb from the website: "Long before the Marquis de Sade and reality TV, an enlightened Prince runs an experiment into the nature of sex. Four foundlings are raised in isolated confinement in an artificial Eden. Now it's show time and they will be unleashed. Will the serpent appear in the garden? And if so, will the man, or the woman, be the first to fall?"). So it's sort of even related to my book, though I have to admit that the raised-in-isolation part is incidental to the are-men-or-women-more-unfaithful thing.

But the production's a real gem, just perfect in every particular: witty set, excellent translation (funny and smart but also unobtrusive, no jarring anachronisms and yet perfectly colloquial), and absolutely perfect acting. Jennifer Chang was particularly amazing, but really everyone was perfect: some very good physical comedy, too, I felt the level of attention to bodies as well as, you know, heads was much higher than in anything you usually see. Part of the reason the play works so well is that the raised-in-isolation thing just comically heightens something universal about the reality of being a teenager and having to learn how to deal with sex--I was totally reminded of the best teen TV series, My So-Called Life in particular.

In short, it was completely delightful. I must see more of this company's shows! But more to the point, if you are in New York and you ever do such a thing as go to see a play, please go and see this one, I promise you that you will not regret it--it's hilarious, but also quite adorable. (Also it's barely more than an hour long: I don't know why a short play should seem like better value than a long play, but it does. We've all been to plays, in any case, where you'd pay extra money to be allowed to leave during the intermission, depressing as that is for the actors....) It's only got a very limited run till the 26th of August; tickets are $19, but there seems to be a student discount.

I made a fatal little detour the other day into the public library; I had ten minutes to kill before meeting a student, and I haven't checked a book out of that branch for almost a year. The relevance of that fact is that it's a fairly pitiful little branch with a ludicrously small and off-putting new books section (I do not know how they ever think they are going to cultivate readers this way, if I ever get rich I am going to make a massive donation to the public library and also get more involved there in some sort of ambitious volunteer project, I feel that this is my secret mission in life); you really have to wait six months between serious visits or else it's all things you've either read already or don't want to read at all, and the meaning of the word "new" is certainly stretched to its very limits. However they seemed to have actually got a few things since I last looked in May, and the one I had to read at once was the latest installment in Charlaine Harris's vampire series, Definitely Dead.

Harris has that gift that so few authors have, of writing very widely accessible books that are also incredibly charming--the first-person voice she's got for these books is really incredibly attractive, and the characterization and settings and stuff make the books particularly enjoyable to read. I find it heartening to read a best-seller that really is so much exactly what a book like this should be--this is what you need if you accidentally read a Dan Brown novel on your summer vacation and need to take away the taste. (Even Dan Brown has his virtues, he's got really excellent pacing/storytelling skills, just a very wooden prose style that makes his books not what I would want to read.)

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