Sunday, October 17, 2021

Short Takes - October 2021 II

The Fever; No Time to Die; Diana

The Fever (c) Daniel Rader

Theater: The Fever 
Audible Theater 

Lili Taylor is quite a charming actor on stage, which is why she is the perfect person for the monologue play, “The Fever” by Wallace Shawn. She comes in with all the good will of the audience and by the end, we know we’ve been tricked into listening to a dark and guilt-inducing lecture on the haves and have-nots. Taylor starts by coming in with flowers and coffee, face mask in hand, and tells us about a recent visit to an unnamed country. When the word “execution” is casually dropped, you know we’re in for it. She even tells up front that the show is 90 minutes, which will be a question, she assures us, you will ask yourself as the show progresses (and she was correct). Shawn knows he has a literal captive audience, and he doesn’t tell us stories as much as describe detached, experiences of his narrator who during a feverish night at this unnamed country goes through a conscience crisis. Taylor does her best to keep the audience on her side, but even when I saw Shawn play the part many years ago, I felt intellectually challenged but in no way engaged. 

No Time to Die (c) MGM

Film: No Time to Die 
In Cinemas 

Daniel Craig knows “No Time to Die” is his fifth and last outing as James Bond, and thus he seems to invest Bond with more feelings than in previous movies. He always seemed more like a caveman in a tuxedo (relying on parkour than gadgets) unlike his suave and ironic predecessors. His love for the tragic Vesper has been his only humanizing characteristic. We’ve followed this Bond through some complicated family and work relationships, but here, we go emotionally deeper as he is now with Madeleine Swan (Léa Seydoux) whose own past may endanger our hero (and his heart, awwww). Director Cary Joji Fukunaga is the first American to direct a Bond movie and he does a credible job with the action set pieces, and an excellent job with the drama. The villain as played by Rami Malek is disappointingly weak but he’s almost an afterthought. This is Daniel Craig’s show and it’s quite an enjoyable capper to a terrific run of Bond movies. 

Diana (c) Netflix

Film: Diana 
On Netflix 

“The girl is quite the wow.” That’s how one character describes Lady Diana (Jeanna de Waal), before she becomes the Princess to Prince Charles (Roe Hartrampf). That the speaker is Camilla Parker Bowles (Erin Davie) is only one of many head-scratching choices in a musical that wants to be a sort of “Evita” (without all the embezzlement) but ends up like “Beauty’s Revenge on the Beast.” This Broadway production was in previews in March 2020 but never opened because of the pandemic shutdown, so Netflix decided to film the show without an audience. Now, the musical is making a return to Broadway a month after its Netflix premiere. The score, by Joe DiPietro and Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan (who previously wrote the Tony Award-winning musical, “Memphis”), does have some beautiful melodies but the lyrics are quite inadequate for the subject matter except in the case of the cello song and the James Hewitt introduction when it’s just jaw-dropping. Even with game performances by Davie and the fearless Judy Kaye as the Queen (and Diana’s step-grandmum), this musical never goes deeper than tabloid’s headlines.