Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Basil's exposition

Last weekend's theme was set, at least dramatically: 1590s London meets 1960s London, but in San Diego. Saturday's offering was in North County, at the Poway Center for the Performing Arts -- a magnificent, well-funded building seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I think the arts community in this city has a bit of an inferiority complex when compared to Hollywood, but I admire their enthusiasm. And money.

For one night only, Michael York was here to perform Will and I, a show about his days as a Shakespearean actor on stage and in film. While he doesn't bring up Basil Exposition from Austin Powers, it's evident from his anecdotes that he's a part of that era. And while he doesn't bring up Asher Fleming from Gilmore Girls, he's still very much in literature professor mode.

To some degree the evening went as expected. The actor's clear and calming voice would seamlessly volley between storytelling and performance. Name dropping would be par for the course. Moments of levity would invite much needed laughter, mostly from the older, starstruck patrons. And the whole event would seem very pretentious.

I wished the atmosphere had felt more transporting, and less like a lecture. The actor wore no costumes and brought nothing more decorative than a projected illustration of William Shakespeare. He brought some notes and usually stood at a podium. His voice was a little too clear and calming; sleep became very tempting. To this audience member, seated fourth row center in the balcony, his mere mentions of Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Albert Finney, or Judi Dench were pleasant breaks, and reasons to sit upright. It's obvious he loves the subject matter -- he calls it bardolatry -- and as lectures go, it was good.

But I wonder if this show had to be a lecture at all. Couldn't he have brought a sword or something?

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