Saturday, May 29, 2010

Off Off Broadway: The Glass House

Red, now playing at the Golden Theatre on Broadway and starring Alfred Molina as the monomaniacal artist Mark Rothko, has received some well-deserved accolades, including seven Tony Award nominations. By contrast, The Glass House by June Finfer, now playing at at the Clurman Theatre in Theatre Row at 410 West 42nd Street in Manhattan, and featuring Harris Yulin as the similarly artistically obsessed architect Mies van der Rohe, has not received nearly as much buzz or publicity.

And that is a shame because this production of The Glass House by the Resonance Ensemble deals with basically the same theme as does Red - and does as outstanding a job in doing so. Not to take anything away from Alfred Molina's extraordinary over-the-top portrayal of Mark Rothko but I, for one, actually found Harris Yulin's intentionally much more understated portrayal of Mies van de Rohe to be much more satisfying.

I also very much enjoyed the more complex interrelationships of the four principal characters in The Glass House: Mies van de Rohe (Harris Yulin), Philip Johnson (David Bishins), Edith Farnsworth (Janet Zarish) and Lora Marx (Gina Nagy Burns). They were all excellent, with Mr. Yulin, as I've already suggested, deserving of being singled out for special praise.

The play deals with several classic themes. First and foremost, of course, there is the issue of the degree to which an artist's ideals may trump those of his patron: in Red it was Rothko vs. The Four Seasons Restaurant (which commissioned Rothko to paint murals for its walls) while in The Glass House it was van de Rohe vs Edith Farnsworth (who hired van der Mohe to build her, as a country retreat, the glass house of the play's title). Then there is the issue of van der Mohe's sexual fidelity: the interplay between his long time mistress, Ms Marx, and his recent lover, Ms Farnsworth, plays out dramatically. And finally there is the matter of the relationship between van der Rohe and Johnson which cannot help but remind one of the relationship between Howard Roark and Peter Keating in The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

The Glass House is being produced in repertory by the Resonance Ensemble with The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen. I haven't seen the Resonance production of The Master Builder and so I can't comment on that. But I can tell you that The Glass House is definitely worth seeing.

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