The Libertine, is one of my favorite films, so when I was invited to review an off-off Broadway staged production, I was excited. What made the film so wonderful, was the performances by Johnny Depp and the amazing ensemble acting. Taking on a work of this caliber requires consistent acting chops and being able to wrap you mouth around language. Except for Broadway veteran Rufus Collins, who played Charles II and Olivia Gilliatt, who played Jane, that’s what is missing from this production. There was some nice work done by Simon Pearl, Ted Lewis and especially Carey Urban, but just when I thought I was going to write a rave review, there was inconsistencies, that take me out of the moment. As for Ken Schatz who plays the lead John Wilmot (Rochester), I’m not sure if he was mis-cast, mis-directed or both. Looking a little like Chad Lowe and reminding one of a young Joel Gray, he is not strong enough to carry on 3 hours of a wordy play. Rochester is a man, who is in his own words is despicable, yet he asks us to watch his life and in reality defies us to like him. He is a poet, a fornicator, yet prolific in his political views. By the end of the film we actually like and admire Rochester. We understand his anguish with a life, that he wishes so much to live but has pissed away. This role requires someone sexy, with a command of language, so we understand and relish every word. Sadly after 2 hours. I just wished he’d hurry up and die and even that took another hour. Andrus Nicols, played the long suffering wife with dignity, but again this role was mis-directed. The Countess longs for her husband’s touch and warmth and it should ooze out of her being.
On a bright note the music by Alexander Sovronsky, set by Kristin Worrall, costumes by Ella Sawtell and lighting by Drew Vanderburg were first rate. They set the mood, the tone and the world in which Rochester lived and breathed.
This production was taken directly by Stephen Jeffreys script and should of been cut. 3 hours is just too long for this kind of work. Instead of being quick paced, witty and relevant, we just wanted it to be over. Eric Tuckers staging was nice but why after an extremely looooooong play, do you add yet an another dance? Thought the choreography was well done, we just want out of the theatre and could not enjoy it as much as you deserved.
In all honesty I am not sure if I am suppose to lower my standards for an off-off Broadway production. Good acting is good acting, good plays are good plays and that is equal across the boards. I’d rather watch the film again.
The Libertine plays until May 30 at 314 West 54th Street 2nd floor