"the revisionist," take two.

went to go see the revisionist again with a friend, and there was a talkback after, in which the cast and the director did a bit of a q&a with another “living playwright” and took questions from the audience.

at one point, the living playwright mentioned that workshopping can confirm the suspicions you have regarding your work, and i liked that point because it’s true — when i did a fiction writing workshop during undergrad, i knew where the weaknesses were in my stories, especially in the first draft stage, and it was refreshing, honestly, to get feedback that confirmed that because it reminded me not to be lazy or slack off but to continue honing my craft down to every single word because every single word counts.

(spoilers ahead)

the revisionist really is a lovely play, and, holy, vanessa redgrave is so fucking brilliant.  it’s not perfect; some of the transitions are awkward and some of the dialogue is stilted; but, overall, it’s a lovely play.  plays are interesting to see more than once, too, because a play is a living thing — it’s different every time.  an additional detail had been added to the play since i first saw it in previews —* the phone rings at the very end of the play, but maria doesn’t answer it — and i thought that detail was so lovely and demonstrated in a rather subtle way how david had affected her day-to-day existence.

(* i think this detail actually just slipped my mind after i saw the play the first time.  it did indeed ring in the previews, but i was so excited about everything else that this one escaped me.  heh.  sorry.)

also, in the talkback after, jesse eisenberg actually mentioned that vanessa redgrave had suggested a change in the play that i think is incredibly significant — maria is a survivor of the holocaust because her mother paid her catholic nanny to take maria from the ghetto and hide her, and, when the war ends, maria is alone with no family.  she meets a girl she used to know whose family also did not survive, and this girl is dying from tuberculosis and tells maria that she has family in new york city, and this girl dies, and, years later, after maria is married and has papers and consequently now exists, she contacts an organisation in israel and gives the name of this girl, which is how she becomes david’s cousin.  originally, eisenberg had written it that the girl “gave” maria her family, leaving maria a note essentially giving her permission to “become” her, but redgrave suggested changing that, that maria assumes that identity herself in her desire for family.

that really is what takes the revisionist to the next level, i think, and i think it’s so fabulous how the creative process works and how this is the ideal of what we hope the collaborative creative process to be.  and, in the talkback, eisenberg was asked a question about the ending, and he mentioned something about maria resenting having told david the truth, and i think that’s fantastic, too, because i still took away from the play the same thing i did before — how the phrase “i don’t care” has this dual meaning, that it’s the best thing he can say to her whereas it’s the worst thing she could hear because, to him, it’s his way of accepting her and saying that she means something to him but, to her, it’s a rejection.  and, also, how the play is fluid, really, because, earlier, maria and david have an exchange where she’s incredulous that family doesn’t mean much to him, that he barely ever sees his sister and he gets along with his friends better than his family and blood doesn’t mean much to him — and she asks him about that a second time as though she wants to confirm it, as though she starts thinking in that moment that it might be okay to entrust the truth to him — and, god, yes, i do feel like i’m doing that english literature major thing and attributing more depth to something than exists, but i feel like a little shit every time i think that because i think a lot about my own work and it makes me tingle hoping that, maybe, someone will love something i wrote enough to think about it and mull over it.

which reminds me of a line from the revisionist — david’s a writer, and, when maria asks him if he wants to be famous, he replies, “i would like to be acknowledged” — and that, well, i can empathise with that.

"the revisionist," take one.

jesse eisenberg has been on my radar since the social network led me to delve into his backlog, but i didn’t really know much about him until i went to his talk at the 92y with thane rosenbaum.  i think it’s safe to say that people tend to have a general impression of him from his body of work; he plays the awkward and neurotic but charming and endearing character a little too well; and he’s very much in conversation as you’d imagine — awkward, yes, neurotic, yes, but charming in heaps and very sharp and smart.  and funny.  i’d known he’d written a play that he’d be starring in starting in february, and i’d known he’d written and acted in a play last year, too, but i had my doubts, honestly, in the way that i doubt every actor or singer or celebrity who decides to write.  (or, as is usually the case, “write.”)  after hearing him in conversation, though, i was very much intrigued (and very much in love) and curious, so off i went to the theatre, and i can say in all honesty that i really liked the revisionist.

i’m shit with summaries, so i’m not going to try to summarize the play here (google’s your friend), but here’s a bit i wrote in my journal when i got home.  i’ve edited out possible spoilers, and forgive the clumsy writing — i didn’t edit it at all:

"… I loved what it said about family — how we had these two characters who were so different — to him, family doesn’t mean much, but, to her, family is everything.  She lives all the way out in Poland but knows more about their extended family Stateside; he doesn’t really understand why she’d hang the photographs of people who don’t come to visit her on her walls; and, in the end, when she tells him the truth, … and he tells her he doesn’t care — that statement "I don’t care" means one thing to him and is his way of accepting her … but, to her, the words are a rejection, that it doesn’t matter, she doesn’t matter, he only chose to come to Poland as a last resort, anyway.  Even though he’s there visiting her in Poland, he’s no better than all the other extended family she hangs on her walls but to whom she doesn’t exist."

at least, that’s one thing i took away from the play, and i’m kind of dying to see it again because i do that — once i watch something i like, i want to watch it again (and again) (and again, sometimes).  (the same applies to films; there are honestly so few films i actually like that, if i stumble upon one i do, then i can’t get enough.)

there’s this beautiful scene in the play, too, where david (eisenberg) finally lets maria (vanessa redgrave) tell him who the people in the photographs are, and he asks her how many of these people came to visit her, and she tries to deflect the question, and it’s this beautiful but painful scene, so wonderfully acted by both of them.  jesse eisenberg and vanessa redgrave work very well together in the play, and, oh, god, vanessa redgrave — i don’t think it even needs to be said that she is stellar.  so stellar.

jesse eisenberg’s one to watch, i think, not just as a film actor but kind of just … as a creative person?  or even as a human being?  in the least creepy way possible, i mean.  i like his bluntness, the fact that he doesn’t try to project a persona or fit a mould, and i particularly like that he is clearly a thinking, introspective person who reflects upon himself.  he did an interview with vulture (i think that’s how i should cite it), in which he talked about the first play he wrote, asuncion, and there are two specific things he says that i actually wrote into my journal and replied to, not only because his responses were in themselves thought-provoking but also because they resonated on a personal level — and i’ve thought of posting them here, and i guess we’ll see if i actually do.