It’s one of those stories that’s too easy to tell — celluloid killed the Broadway stars. Sure enough, the world of film has forever altered the world of theater. But the fact is, neither one seems to be going anywhere in a hurry, and the symbiotic relationship between the two is only increasing — whether it’s to the benefit or detriment of either is still a matter of opinion.
Thirteen of the thirty-one plays on Broadway this week are film adaptations for the stage and five that started out as plays have been made into major motion pictures. One of the few pieces that is, for now, purely a play (David Mamet’s November), will undoubtedly be considered for film and is the clear result of all the Hollywood money that drives Mamet’s theatrical enterprises. And there is no question that the theater beyond 42nd Street relies in large measure on the proceeds of the small and big screens for its very existence (many off-Broadway playwrights earn a living from television or film).
What better context in which to mount a theatrical film fest? Every year the Brick Theater in Williamsburg manages to come up with a snappy new theme to capture summer headlines amid the festival fray (last year’s was the Pretentious Festival). This year’s Film Festival began a few weeks ago, but because of its success they’ve extended the run of many pieces until July 27.
Now, you should know that the Brick is a scrappy little theater. I saw two of the hands-down worst shows I’ve ever seen in New York there. I suspect this has a lot to do with the lack of a solid curatorial process as much as anything, and the fact that some of the groups they’re presenting haven’t taken as much time to polish or test their work before mounting. But there are some gems in the mix.
Two pieces in particular are worth checking out. The first, Suspicious Package, created by Gyda Arber and Wendy Coyle, is described as an “interactive noir” in which you play a role. After arriving at the theater you’ll be handed a video iPod player that will lead you on an absorbing journey through 1940s Williamsburg and a story inspired by the classic archetypes of noir. The second piece is Bone Orchard’s The Stubborn Illusion of Time. It’s primarily a visual piece whose power is in its ability to evoke emotion and tension, and one of the major hurdles the show manages to overcome is the difficulty of getting the film/video production values up to the standards of the performance — one of the primary challenges for most theater that makes use of moving pictures.