Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Great Comet

Last night, I saw Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. The show has moved uptown to a tent in the same empty lot on West 45th Street where the Spiegeltent was last year.

The set-up worked quite wonderfully. Most of the action took place in the center of the floor, flanked by tables where the audience sat and enjoyed drinks and snacks. Around us, however, were raised platforms where additional scenes took place, and where there were additional tables for the audience. We were told that there were no bad seats, and I believe it. We came early, but found they assigned us seats, anyway. This meant we didn't have a choice of where to sit, as is usually the case with general admission, but it all seems to work out for the best, given how well the piece is staged.

The music, composed by Dave Malloy, was fun, though not always memorable. That was fine, however, especially when some of the lyrics (also Malloy's) were so clever. During the opening sequence, the audience is introduced to the cast of characters in a song that keeps adding one more person before repeating everything that came before, a la "Rattlin' Bog" or "Partridge in a Pear Tree." If you still had trouble following the action, there was a family tree (with illustrations) included in the program.

This adaptation of War and Peace made me once again appreciate the brilliance and honesty of Tolstoy's writing. Toward the end, when Pierre asks Natasha whether or not she really loved Anatole, she responds, "I don't know." Instead of renouncing him for a cad or holding fast to the memory or her passion, she is confused, and admits her confusion. It's a wonderful moment.

Originally, Malloy himself played the role of Pierre, but David Abeles, who originated the role of Eamon in Once, has taken over as that character. He does a magnificent job, as do fellow cast members including Phillipa Soo as Natasha and Brittain Ashford as Sonya. I saw the understudy for Anatole, Azudi Onyejekwe, but he also was quite wonderful.