There's been a lot of awkward talking around how SSC is in a bit of a financial slump--and how they barely made it to this season at all--and how we should all ask for what we need but shouldn't hate Marco if he can't find a way to get it for us. Richard, our director for Lion, even talked about it a bit as he was explaining his vision of the play to us. He read us a line of Henry's:
Since Louis died, while Philip grew, I've had no France to fight. And in that lull, I've found how good it is to write a law or make a tax more fair or sit in judgment to decide which peasant gets a cow. There is, I tell you, nothing more important in the world.
He then rounded out this lovely, heartfelt sentiment by saying, "And that's just what Marco's going to do this summer. Some of us are going to get the cows, and some of us..."
General laughter. Sort of "AhahaI'm laughing so I don't cryahahaha". Our design meeting today was full of those sorts of half defenses-half apologies. We saw the set, heard some sound, saw the costume sketches, and throughout all of them it was "Now we started out with more, of course, but I think the acting will really shine here...", or "We couldn't afford to make all new costumes so I'm pulling the ones from the last time I did the show but you'll see I've made some alterations and it really works...".
Now, I realize I am totally naive here, but I didn't once see the need for either defensiveness or apologies. Everything from the set (Scaffolding, unfinished murals and some truly impressive double doors) to the costumes (lush does not even begin to describe) to the sound (holy crap look this lady up) was incredibly impressive and perfectly tailored to Richard's vision and the play that is already emerging in the first few readings. Honestly, I think adding more than we have could do the play a disservice, and certainly the actors need the room to maneuver. Richard said one of his initial impressions of the play was a cage match: so many two person scenes where each character is just hammering away at the other in any way they can. That sort of raw, brutal energy seems much better served (to me, at least) when the people onstage are given boundaries and a lot of empty space, and that's about it.
There is one notable exception to this: Philip. The most FABULOUS character in the whole play, and that's going up against Eleanor. Blue velvet evening robe. That's all I'll say. But that fits: he is the outsider in the play, and he's forced to bring a little of his own world into Henry's stark one to make himself feel at home. And probably to discomfort Henry, come to think of it.
Kandis, the woman who is playing Eleanor, said something great today: "You cannot think of this as a family of kings and queens. You have to think of them as a family from Queens." That's all it is. Family. The rest is just window dressing.