Sunday, November 18, 2012

84, Charing Cross Road

Friday night, we took Eryn to her first play at Theatre in the Round.  The last time we were there was almost ten years ago, and my wife was so pregnant we were afraid her water was going to break at the theater.  So it's exciting that Eryn is old enough to go with us now, even if an 8:00 p.m. start time is a little late for her.

We took her to 84, Charing Cross Road which might not have been the best first choice for a non-Children's Theater play for a 9-year old.  Although we used it as an opportunity to prep her for Treasure Island, which is coming later, so she understands how it'll be different than a set-centric production.  The characters in 84, Charing Cross Road don't directly interact, exchanging letters between NY and England bookstores which, in "crossing" the stage, cross the Atlantic. Here's how TRP (Theatre in the Round Players) describes the play:
"A warm and charming dramatization of letters that spans two decades between a young struggling writer in New York and the delightfully dusty staff of an antiquarian book store in London. At first just business, their correspondence becomes much more: in a sense, an exchange of love letters -- about the love of good literature."
It was well done and the audience laughed aloud in several parts.  What struck me was that the relationship between the characters was also a relationship about books, and a relationship with the store and that (spoilers start here, so bail here if necessary) when a character died, so did the store.

Eryn's review was that it was very sad that Helene never met Frank before he died.  Some of the literary references were lost on her.  For example, Peppy's Diary is only funny if you're familiar with the Diary of Samuel Pepys.  My Tudor/Stuart history background courtesy of Stanford Lehmberg helped.  Although I didn't realize until now, that during my undergrad years I'd actually met the uncle of Ben Elton who was my teacher's teacher.  Something new every year, eh?

It was a great play.  I recommend it.  Not fast.  Not lots of action.  But a solid, enjoyable work which worked really well on the TRP circular stage.  The scenery definitely contributed, and I found myself checking out a stack of books that looked like they were published by my company, only to discover they were constructed props.  Very convincing.  I really felt like I was in both a NY book-littered flat and a UK bookstore pre-internet.


Larry Rubinow said...

I was fortunate to see the original production of "84, Charing Cross Road" in London in 1982. It's a wonderful play; glad you guys got to see it. (There's a book the play was based on, which I've never read but probably should.)

Scooter said...

They had a bunch of copies of the book sitting on the table at the show at the end, when she finally makes it to the book shop (Marks & Co) in England for the book signing. They were actual books, not fake ones.