Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Exorcist Comes to the Stage

A friend and I recently went to the stage adaptation of The Exorcist at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. Here is part of the review I wrote for Popmatters. The rest can be read here.

The Exorcist: 3 July - 12 August 2012 - Los Angeles

Live theater has always been a bit of a mystery to me. While I’m not necessarily a complete novice when it comes to the performing arts, I’ve been to several live wrestling shows, and that’s kind of like theater. Whenever I see a play, I’m reminded of that endlessly reliable quote from L.P. Hartley about the past being a foreign country. Simply replace “past” with “theater” and you sum up my feelings nicely. For someone more comfortable with movies and TV, they definitely do things differently onstage.

Besides wrestling and some local productions of Shakespeare, I have been to a couple interesting shows over the years. During my angsty teen years, I saw the Phantom of the Opera a couple of times (has there ever been a more perfect metaphor for an “alienated” and self-involved youth to latch on to?).  I saw the highly entertaining Priscilla Queen of the Desert on Broadway a few years ago (see my review here), and last year I was lucky enough to see Kristoffer Diaz’s amazing play, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.

During all of these performances I have tried to learn and understand the nuance and appeal of this unfamiliar medium. What made live theater so unique and compelling? I wasn’t quite as flippant as the just-wait-until-they-make-a-movie-out-of-it crowd, but I also wasn’t too far from it either. So when I was flipping through the theater schedule at the Geffen Playhouse last year after seeing Chad Deity and saw that they were doing a stage production of The Exorcist, adapted by John Pielmeier from the William Peter Blatty novel, I resolved that this was something I could not miss. Not only did it just seem like an interesting concept for a show—Teller from the magic duo Penn and Teller was a consultant—but I figured it would also help me in my continuing education in the world of the theater.

Unlike the other performances I had been to, this show contained content I had engaged with before. I knew The Exorcist, I have seen the movie countless times, I was aquatinted with the book, and I even knew a priest who was friends with the priest that Father Merrin was based on. With this background knowledge I figured I could do comparisons between the play and the film, see what was kept and what was changed, and in that, see the fingerprints of the director in order to better understand the creative choices that were made. I figured that I would not be going into the darkened theater unarmed this time. Instead, I would be an active participant instead of a passive observer. 

Continued at Popmatters here

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