Just back from the premiere of HOMEBODY/KABUL at BAM. It's a fantastic and torturous production--four hours long, convoluted and dense, opening with a tremendous monologue that is the peak of the evening--Linda Emond gives a marvelous and revelatory performance that pushes back the bad reputations that cling to solo shows and shines a light on what it can do. Here's a brief item on her and the role...I simply can't say enough about her work here.
The rest of the show is a decrescendo from that height--it has flashes and moments of brilliance, especially as we pull past the three hour mark, but ultimately doesn't live up to that initial promise the Homebody makes at the top. Two decisions stand out in my mind as deeply flawed, and they're featured in this Playbill article:
a)The decision to NOT end Act One with the Homebody monologue. Instead now a few scenes from what was Act Two play out, which feels anticlimactic and wrong. It feels like this is being done to goose the audience, to make them feel they should stay for Acts Two and Three...it's pandery, and leaves those scenes feeling orphaned and lose drive.
b)Maggie Gyllenhaal. She seems like a terrific woman, and quite respected for her work in film so far, but she doesn't make it work in this production. She has a breathy quality in her voice that grates eventually, and her range isn't there--though she gets every other scene and sells the hell out of what she does understand, time and time again Kushner's script betrays the fact that she doesn't have her arms around this show. This isn't a case of a screen star not having stage chops--it's just not working correctly here, and I'd much rather see Ms. Gyllenhaal in an ensemble role in the future.
Both of these decisions fall at the feet of Frank Galati, the show's director. He has not done his work here--he can't keep his actors audible to large chunks of the house, can't make Gyllenhaal's scenes work, can't seem to open the doors and let Kushner's play really take off. Even with all these failures it's an immensely enjoyable show, which is testament to some tremendous performances and Kushner's tireless work.
On the gossipy side, the afterparty was very nice. Tony Kushner fidgets a lot, Kristen Dunst is very polite and Maggie Gyllenhaal looks great in a party dress. Also, if you are peeing next to Ben Brantley at intermission, don't look at his penis. That's rude.