Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Did Critics Enjoy Voyage's Ride?

Did Critics Enjoy Voyage's Ride?

Last evening, Voyage -- the first leg of Tom Stoppard's epic trilogy The Coast Of Utopia -- opened at Lincoln Center. The first "act" opened to mostly enthusiastic reviews.

Calling the first installment "exhilarating," Ben Brantley of The New York Times says that: "Voyage pulses with the dizzying, spring-green arrogance and anxiety of a new generation moving as fast as it can as it tries to forge a future that erases the past....Voyage is paced and defined by the quicksilver changes of mood and conviction that come from being young in a time of flux -- by the feeling that everything and nothing is possible."

Going four for four stars in proclaiming Voyage "thrilling," New York Post's Clive Barnes praises: "[F]orget what you may have heard about the plays: There is no required reading list, only a willingness to accept art as wondrously disordered as life. Stoppard has hit upon an enthralling, little-known story and deftly welded it into a soap opera for the thinking classes....[E]normous praise is due to (Billy) Crudup's mousy-looking but valiant sketch of the great Russian critic Belinsky; (Brían F.) O'Byrne's centered revolutionary, Herzen; and the shining-faced (Jennifer) Ehle as the doomed, Chekovian-like Bakunin sister, Liubov."

David Rooney of Variety notes that despite the running time, the play is anything but arduous: "Jack O'Brien has swept away all sense of trepidation, providing thrilling assurance that this brawny, brainy dissertation could not be in more capable hands. There's more talk than drama spread across Stoppard's extended canvas, which certainly requires concentration. But regardless of one's interest in 19th century Russian history, the novelistic play is a spry, witty and thoroughly intriguing account of men and ideas."

Proclaiming the production both "tantalizing" and "passionate," the Associated Press' Michael Kuchwara also provides a positive review: "You'll need to put on your thinking cap for this Lincoln Center Theater production. But don't be intimidated by the parade of big yet mostly unfamiliar (unless you're an expert on 19th-century Russian intellectuals) names and the even bigger ideas that Stoppard presents. In a work so large, it takes a while to get your bearings -- particularly when a dozen or so major characters are introduced in a swirl of activity. The evening's hero is apparent from the outset. It is director Jack O'Brien who marshals a cast of more than 30 actors with the skill of a general commanding the troops."

While conceding that the work is "brainy and complex," New York Daily News' Joe Dziemianowicz is less enthusiastic: "Voyage is certainly packed -- with characters, big ideas, stunning visuals and, alas, vast stretches that can be tedious and emotionally frigid....Not all of it is scintillating. Nor do we come to care about the characters, even as they die or are exiled. That's a problem. Voyage ultimately feels less like a cohesive story than a series of snapshots. But the snapshots are impressive."

If these reviews are a harbinger of critiques to come, The Coast Of Utopia may very well need to extend its marathon season beyond its current sold-out status.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Coast Of Utopia Begins Broadway Voyage This Evening (November 27, 2006)

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At 28 November, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep... This one looks like another great night at the theatre to me. If only I lived in NYC... Or had a fast way to get in and out of Manhattan from Chicago. Love Stoppard. His The Real Thing was the first play that I saw over and over again because of the script. Congratulations to all involved with Utopia! (Thanks Steve for the review update as always!!)

At 28 November, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thanks, as always, for your valuable feedback. I wholeheartedly agree with you on The Real Thing. The sheer brilliance of his writing on that classic had me wishing the story would never end.

I'll be very interested in hearing what the critics think of the following two segments of The Coast Of Utopia. But I believe it will merely whet the appetite for Rock 'N' Roll.


At 29 November, 2006, Blogger T said...

Thanks for the roundup & your comment on the Jennifer Ehle blog, Steve. Just wanted to clarify that we're unofficial and no commmunication with her is possible through it. But we always appreciate nice stuff said about her! :)


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