KPBS AIRDATE: December 12, 2003
Adaptations from one medium to another are not always successful. From book to stage, play to film, from cartoon to live action to stage and back again — it doesn’t always work. But two current productions succeed magnificently. One brings a book gloriously to life and appeals to the child in all of us. The other puts on the small screen something that was brilliantly conceived for the stage, and it’s strictly for thinking, politically-minded grownups.
It’s being hailed as the TV event of the year. “Angels in America,” adapted by Tony Kushner from his Tony, Olivier and Pulitzer Prize-winning play, is as vast and varied as America itself. It’s about Jews and gentiles and Mormons. Blacks and whites. Homophobia and homosexuality. Love and faith. Trust and loyalty. U.S. policies and politics. And perhaps most of all, it’s about stasis and change. It’s a work of genius. Now, along comes Mike Nichols, with an all-star cast, and brings this spine-tingling, jaw-dropping work to the general public – well, those with HBO, anyway, until the DVD comes out for rental. He couldn’t miss with a $60 million budget and a trillion-dollar dream cast: Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Emma Thompson, Mary Louise Parker — and Jeffrey Wright, playing a role he won a Tony for on Broadway a decade ago. It’s a spectacular production, both intimate and expansive, beautiful, moving, funny, intense and thought-provoking. Part I is being re-run in segments this week and Part II airs this Sunday and then repeats. Run, walk, beg/borrow/steal…Do whatever you have to do to see this modern masterpiece.
Now let’s look at a children’s classic, and a great way to celebrate the Seussentennial, a century of joy brought to kids of all ages, by our own former La Jolla resident, Ted Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss. This is the sixth year of our delectable homegrown production of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” delightfully directed by Jack O’Brien at the Old Globe. There’s a new Grinch in town, and he’s a local greenie. David Brannen is less scary and mean than his predecessor, but his heart still grows two sizes over the course of the evening. He cavorts wonderfully with adorable Rusty Ross as Young Max, while the story is told by mellow-voiced Old Max (the wondrous Ken Page, soon to be replaced by another local, Jim Chovick). I saw the tiniest Cindy-Lou Who, Shawn Sullivan, who’s already a heart-stealer at age 6. The crackerjack cast of San Diego adult favorites includes Melinda Gilb, Steve Gunderson, Phil Johnson and Jessa Watson. The new, improved “Grinch” has less glitz and more heart. The colors, shapes and textures recreate the book perfectly. But the most magical part of all is the look on the kids’ faces as they watch the familiar story unfold.
It’s a storybook season: you can give some Green and follow the Angels.
>©2003 Patté Productions Inc.