Sound of a Voice / Hotel of Dreams

Jerry Langford weighs in again:

Saw one of the most haunting evenings of theatre ever last night–Woodruff’s production of the Philip Glass/David Henry Hwang chamber operas The Sound of a Voice and Hotel of Dreams.

Two short pieces where Glass compresses his oceanic style into six, mostly Asian-derived instruments and two voices. In the first, a samurai stops and stays in a rural hut where a widow tends to him. In nine long scenes, the arctic crust surrounding their hearts slowly thaws, with heartbreaking, rather than heart-warming, results. In the second, an aging writer finds an urban Japanese brothel where old men are permitted to sneak into bedrooms and lie chastely next to sleeping young girls who are the same age as their widows when the old men first met them.

Who would think that these profound conceits, so insightful about the nature of men and women’s interaction, particularly the self-destructiveness of men, and into both men and women’s relationship to mortality, could have come from the author of Disney’s Tarzan and Flower Drum Song 2.0? And not just that–he wrote these pieces at age 21! Or that Glass could be capable of such simplicity and delicacy?

I always hate hearing people talk of those things “that only theatre can do,” but Voice/Hotel showed those things only opera can do. The almost unbearable climaxes of both pieces could never be attained in spoken theatre. And the fine brushwork by Woodruff and by the scenic designer Bob Israel are nonpareil.

It’s exciting to have seen two truly great pieces in the theatre this year–Foreman’s What to Wear at the REDCAT and Robert’s double bill. Maybe not so exciting that I *don’t* see great theatre that *isn’t* by the same handful of great artists I loved one-half of my lifetime ago. But we have to be grateful for small favors. (To be fair, one other great show this year: Stefan’s Novinski’s O’Neill-like rendering of William Saroyan’s Time of Your Life.)

I recommend sticking with music theatre. That seems to be the one spot where the good stuff happens.

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