Tuesday, July 3, 2012

this is it boys, this is War...horse

Tonight, I lived for the first time. 

Meaning, tonight I saw Warhorse.

It was so beautiful.

To recap, briefly, the play tells the sweet little tale of a young boy whose rash father looses their mortgage money to buy a little foal--half draft horse, half thoroughbred--and who then raises the horse not only to ride like the wind but also to be mega useful around the farm and plow. If you (like I did) thought you would never be able to get excited enough about a horse trying to plow that you were sitting on the edge of your seat, wringing your program in your hands, this show proves us all wrong.

So obvi, this super mega useful horse fetches a tidy sum when the British army comes through town being all like: Yo. it's 1914. Time to declare war on el Kaiser. Joey (that's the horse) gets sold into the calvary, while our poor Albert (that's the boy) is torn from his side. 

And of course, the rest of the play is Albert's and Joey's journey back to each other. And it's incredible. The beautiful thing about a horse being the protagonist is that the storytellers have a neutral entrypoint into the story of war. And there are several fantastic scenes where Joey's in the midst of several different characters from different sides, and watching the drama that unfolds in those situations is magnificent. 

Telling a war story on an epic scale is rare in the theatre, for several reasons. One of the technical difficulties the play overcame was the language barrier. German, French, and English soldiers, when they encounter each other can't speak each other's language. They can't understand each other. In a film, you can have each side speak their own language, and use subtitles so that the audience can understand what's happening. In a play, you can't do that. If the German characters speak German, roughly 85% of your audience are just as lost as your English-speaking characters. The actors did a remarkable job of making us believe the language barrier. I found that one of the most impressive feats of the show, on the part of the actors.

The puppets. I can't even begin. I tear up just thinking about them. What I absolutely love about puppetry is that it's an art of self-giving love. A puppeteer's job is to bring the puppet to life onstage--to give it breath. And in the process of doing that, the puppeteer effaces himself. If a puppeteer does his job well, he disappears. I'm in total awe of their artistry. The way they take us into the story, and the characters of these puppets. I never thought an audience of hundreds of people would gasp in sadness and horror as a puppet made of wood and cloth was about to be shot. That's the magic of theatre.

It was the best first Broadway show I could have asked for.

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