Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Reviewing the reviewers...

So I'm going to write a long response to the reviews for my recent adaptation of JANE EYRE, and I've been going over the three we received.

I have noticed in the past that off-off Broadway reviewers are careless about getting the facts straight. I fired off an email to one reviewer of my TAM LIN because he literally got ten points of fact wrong. And the JANE reviewers were almost as bad. Here is example one:

We meet Edward Rochester (Greg Oliver Bodine), a well to do bachelor calling out the name "Jane" without receiving a response.
WRONG. He DOES receive a response. The reviewer starts off by bitching about our technical issues - she came to the very first performance - but that was not a technical problem. When Rochester calls Jane's name, she responds by calling "Where are you." Everybody in the theatre heard it BUT this reviewer.

The same reviewer claimed that nobody during that period wore bangs, as our Jane did. Wrong again.

But reviewers, at least off-off Broadway reviewers, don't give a damn about facts. Clearly they are frustrated fiction authors.

One of the crew had her eye on this reviewer and said she came in to the show looking half awake right from the beginning. Clearly she didn't take her job too seriously.

I will say that the number one problem of reviewers of this particular play is that none of them, whatever else they may claim, has read, or remembered the original novel "Jane Eyre." They don't compare adaptations of "Jane Eyre" to the original work, they compare them to other adaptations. This is especially irritating because in my opinion, so many adaptors just get it wrong.

I saw Polly Teale's stage adaptation, and it was so wrong in so many ways, but primarily because Teale basically changes the meaning of the story by turning Bertha Mason, the crazy wife, into Jane's alter ego. But it's all psycho-drama pseudo-Freudian and the pretentious critics think that's so kewl and cutting edge. Never mind that it has nothing to do with Bronte's vision.

Here's critic and Bronte biographer Lucasta Miller:
When the madwoman is discovered and the wedding between Jane and Rochester broken off, the implication of the Shared Experience production (of Teale's adaptation) is that Jane runs away because she cannot face her own passions. We are left feeling that she should have followed her instinct and united herself with Rochester anyway - that it was only fear and repression that stopped her from becoming his lover. However, this suggests a rather anachronistic view of sex outside marriage. In the original text, Jane's escape from Thornfield is presented not just as tragic self-denial but as an act of empowering self-assertion.
And I won't even get into Teale's staging concepts, like having the actor playing Rochester ride piggyback on the actor playing his horse, while an actor playing Pilot the dog runs around on all fours barking. (shudder) I bet a million bucks Bronte would have been appalled by that.

A major problem of depending on adaptations rather than the original text is the view of Rochester. From Orson Wells on down, Rochester has rarely been portrayed as Bronte wrote him - not even close. The model seems to be more Heathcliff from Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" and so one critic complained that our Rochester wasn't "dark" enough. Well, more on that in my proper essay, hopefully soon...

You can see how over the top Wells portrays Rochester in this clip Joan Fontaine is also so wrong. She's such a huge un-Janian sap.

It's interesting to compare the proposal scene from Wells' version with the recent BBC's version. While Wells does it 1-2-3, boom, lightning, the Beeb's version draws it the hell out. I also think Ruth Wilson is too whiny AND it annoys the hell out of me that she asks "do you think I am a machine" rather than the original "an automaton."

Watch the BBC's version of the proposal scene here.

The reviewers of my production probably wonder where I got the word "automaton,"

Truth be told, I wasn't entirely satisfied with our proposal scene, but that will be taken care for the next production.