Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Straini in noapte/Strangers in the Night – A night at the theater

About two years ago, when I heard “Strangers in the Night” was coming to Iasi, I went through a lot of trouble and stressed a lot of people to get tickets, and in the end I failed. This spring, I saw an on-line ad for the play, but the date was set in February and it was April already. I was miffed I had missed it again, still when I looked better I realized the date had been moved to April. Since it was supposed to be the upcoming week, not a particularly good day for me and also so soon, I thought there was no way there would still be tickets available. I called to inquire about the tickets anyway, and guess what? Yes, they had tickets, and the play had been postponed once again to May. Erm, okay, this worked even better for me, especially since it was just across the street. So I got the ticket and then waited a whole month to see the damn play.

Now what’s so special about “Strangers in the Night”? It’s a play written by Eric Assous (original title “Les montagnes russes” – very fitting!) and performed during 2004-2005 by Alain Delon and Astrid Veillon. The word goes that Radu Beligan saw it performed in Paris, and then he decided to translate and direct it himself. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for a time travel device to be invented and since you can’t get Alain Delon to come to Romania to do a play, we have to settle for Florin Piersic and Co. First time around his stage partner was Emilia Popescu, this time he stared along younger actress Medeea Marinescu. I had seen her in “Je vous trouve tres beau” French movie and I had found her all right so I wasn’t too bothered by the change of the female lead. Everyone knows Mr. Piersic so no need for introduction there.

We arrived at Luceafarul Theater on time and waited for half an hour past the announced time of the show for the room to fill. It’s a theater mainly for children plays and since it’s been a while since the last time I had been there, I had almost forgotten how small that hall really was. I mean it’s a monster of a building my dad helped design 25 years ago, but the rooms are really small. I suppose one would go crazy with that many kids gathered in one place, however there were few kids there last night. It was nice to see all the seats were occupied, even those in second row were fashionably late, and most part of the audience was fairly young. There were extra seats added to the end of each row, all reserved, of course, so it was crowded and the people in charge with the placing were in it way over their heads, but we managed.

Finally, Mr. Piersic came out on the stage carrying a bouquet of white roses and… started with a speech. Hmm, okay. I haven’t been to the theater in a while so maybe the customs have changed. He had a long list of people to thank to, some of them were in the audience, and he threw in a few more or less appropriated jokes, only to get to the point twenty minutes later and ask the audience to turn off their cell phone. Ah, okay. I fully support his request, only it would have been more efficient if someone from the management had done it in advance and we wouldn’t have been left to boil in our own sweat for a whole hour. I forgot to mention it was awfully hot and stuffy inside. Next time I’m going, I’ll be the one wearing a bathing suit. Moving on.

Mr. Piersic made a personal enemy when out of all people sitting in the front row he picked little brother to ask him if he had a cell phone and if it was turned off. It was. He also asked where he kept it, and when the answer was “In my pocket,” he retorted, “I don’t see any pockets, it’s in your pants.” Little brother who is very polite and well-mannered did not reply “No, there’s something else I keep in there,” but he did swear never to go see Mr. Piersic on stage again. So there.

On to the play. At first sight, the subject is pretty simple: a middle age married man picks up a girl in a bar and brings her home while his wife and kid are away on vacation. The trick is that the girl is not exactly who she claims to be and only in the end we find out what’s the deal with her, hence the rollercoaster. Mr. Piersic was a little out of breath in the beginning, should have saved his strength with the speech, just saying, but he overcome that little issue. A little more distracting was the amount of paper towels spread all over the place that he used to wipe his face. I think the audience was a little envious, he should have shared them with the rest of us, the clean ones I mean.

When he’s not over acting, which he kind of does at times, Mr. Piersic’s persona often comes out from underneath all of the character’s layers. This could be a problem for those who are not keen on the man, but personally I didn’t mind. The story was compelling enough to keep me interested without letting minor things put me off. I did notice, though, that he has a habit of mumbling the words at some points. I had no problem hearing them giving that I was sitting in the front row, but I did wonder about the ones in the back.

For as long as I can remember there was a problem with the sound system in that room, it was set too loud. Slightly annoying if it was just music playing, it became more than a little bothering if the actors had to speak in the same time. Luckily, there weren’t many moments like these.

There was love at first sight between Ms. Marinescu’s red high heels and I. I can’t say the same about the skin color bra that peeked on the side of her black satin nighty/cocktail dress. People in the back might not have been able to see it, but a bunch of us sure did. For the life of me I can’t understand her fashion choice, but that’s just me and it’s not really important.

Ms. Marinescu seemed a little agitated, or maybe that was part of the stage directions, and her voice reached some high notes. It made me wonder if that was her normal voice or perhaps the dryness in the air was affecting her. I dare to say that her part is more demanding than Mr. Piersic’s, because she gets to play five characters, sort of. She had a really moving scene at the end, even if the final reveal was predictable and a bit of a cliché. But this is not the actors’ fault, and except for the ending, which deserved a little more excitement, the rest of the script was highly entertaining and well-written.

In spite of the good chemistry between actors - let’s just ignore the huge age gap, OK? - I couldn’t help wondering how was Emilia Popescu’s Juliette. Mrs. Popescu being a more mature and experienced actress, I imagine her portray of the character had to be quite different, but like I said above no time travel device so I guess I’ll never know…

At the end of the show, the actors got a standing ovation and were called for a second bow, but oddly enough, no flowers were offered. And to add insult to the injury, there were still cell phones ringing during the performance. Some people have no shame.

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