Friday, December 22, 2006

Did Critics See Ship Wreck Or Hit?

Did Critics See Ship Wreck Or Hit?

Last evening, Shipwreck -- the second installment of Tom Stoppard's epic trilogy The Coast Of Utopia -- opened at Lincoln Center. After the first "act" opened to mostly enthusiastic reviews, how did this one fare?

Ever effusive in his praise, The New York Times' Ben Brantley positively beams: "The sumptuous Lincoln Center production of Shipwreck, the second part of Mr. Stoppard’s absorbing Coast of Utopia trilogy about Russian idealists errant in the 19th century, is filled with coups de théâtre....[T]he most stunning moment of all arrives when Mr. Stoppard simply pulls the plug on the dense talk that has been buzzing from the stage of the Vivian Beaumont Theater...and asks us to experience a world hitherto defined, above all, by words through the perspective of a deaf child."

Also providing laurels is David Rooney of Variety: "[T]he most unexpected and enriching surprise of Shipwreck...is that its intellectual vigor is equaled, perhaps even surpassed by its enormous emotional vitality. Jack O'Brien's mesmerizing production of part one, Voyage, was a dazzling theatrical achievement. In this Euro-trotting second chapter, the political and personal passions of the play's dreamy-eyed 19th-century Russian revolutionaries ripen with age and experience, making it arguably even better."

Newsday's Linda Winer apparenly concurs: "Jack O'Brien's astonishing, visually stupendous production has further tightened its grip with ever more engrossing tales of the privileged young Russian thinkers who began the sweep of massive social change....We are relieved to find both continuity and new splendors in the masterly creative team -- in sets by Bob Crowley and Scott Pask, costumes by Catherine Zuber and lights by Kenneth Posner."

Calling themoments in Shipwreck "quite extraordinary," the Associated Press' Michael Kuchwara agrees in his glowing review: "[M]ore often than not, it has heart and a deep emotional underpinning. Near the end of Shipwreck, there is a speech by Herzen of such aching beauty that if you are not moved to tears, you must be made of stone."

Offering up a three-and-a-half star review, USA Today's Elysa Gardner notes: "Stoppard's piquant, probing dialogue allows Herzen to expound wittily, and movingly, on intellectual matters and matters of the heart, which are by no means mutually exclusive here. (Jennifer) Ehle makes a convincing soul mate and sparring partner, relaying Natalie's fierce emotions and convictions with a stringent intensity. Other members of Coast's luminous cast get less stage time but shine whenever they're on....Jack O'Brien's robust direction and Bob Crowley and Scott Pask's stunning set design serve everyone well. True, Stoppard's script would sound glorious if recited by students in a dingy classroom, but to see such style and substance merge with spectacle is a rare treat, on Broadway or anywhere."

The Coast Of Utopia has already found it necessary to extend its marathon season beyond its initial sold-out status. These reviews will no doubt make the remaining allotment of tickets extremely difficult to come by. Could another extension be in its future?

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Did Critics Enjoy Voyage's Ride? (November 28, 2006)
Coast Of Utopia Begins Broadway Voyage This Evening (November 27, 2006)

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