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A CurtainUp Review
Life (X) 3
In Art one man's choice to buy an expensive white painting made his friends question their whole relationship. The way these friends carped about each other was sheer delight. Life X 3 is again a modern comedy of manners. Each of its three scenes are given a slightly different shift of emphasis in characterisation which results in three different outcomes. It is a dramatic device already penned effectively for the stage by Michael Frayn and Caryl Churchill.
Reza'a characterisation is very good. Henry (Mark Rylance) is a quietly spoken softy of a scientist married to assertive, Sonia (Harriet Walter). Their six year old son Anton has just been put to bed and Henry is the chosen messenger for Anton's demands to discipline setting Sonia. What emerges is a delightful introduction in which Henry repeats Anton's negotiation for another biscuit or an apple to be met with Sonia's strict refusal.
When the doorbell rings, it is Henry's publisher, Hubert (Oliver Cotton) and Ines (Imelda Staunton) who have arrived for dinner a day early. Hubert is an opinionated, thrusting, insensitive sort of a guy, not afraid to demolish both his wife and Henry. Ines is self-effacing and rather stupid. The first scenario, over an improvised dinner of wine, a packet of "Cheeetos" and some chocolate covered cookies, ends very bady. Hubert brings the news that Henry's impending scientific paper has been anticipated by someone else with devastating and despairing results for Henry and his three year's work.
In the second scenario, Sonia is kinder to Henry and he finds it easier to accept the publication of the rival paper. In the third, Henry is altogether more assertive, confident and pro-active -- and with happier results.
Mark Rylance (Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe) is a wonderfully appealing Henry. He has a lovely Welsh voice and exquisite comic timing. When he pleads on behalf of his son, it is as if Sonia has two children. Harriet Walter is his perfect foil. She is strong faced, confident, the lawyer who asserts her case at home. Oliver Cotton, the successful scientist is pompous and dislikeable as he bullies his unprotesting wife. Cotton and Walters buzz with the recognition in each other's character of a similar strength and sexual energy. Staunton's Ines personifies the stolid and boring "hausfrau" with her tedious advice on parenting.
The design team delivers an ultra modern set in a neon blue linear cube with three's of everything for this life in triplicate -- screens, cushions and cut outs . Reza has taken a loose interpretation of chaos theory to give three different outcomes and created a light comedy with some very funny performances. Christopher Hampton, as ever, translates the succinct dialogue well but even Warchus's sophisticated direction cannot disguise the essential superficiality of the play. It is Reza's best play since Art but it does not eclipse it.
Our review of Art in New York and in London
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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