Thursday, May 13, 2004

Theatre Thursday: Diddy or Didn't He?

Pursuivant to our previous conversation re: Acting Rappers, P. Diddy has been getting decidedly mixed reviews for his Broadway debut in a revival of Lorraine Hansberry's classic A Raisin in the Sun:
With a lot of pent-up hostility about the Hollywoodization of the Great White Way and Combs's nerve in taking on a role originated by the great Sidney Poitier, some sharpshooters went straight for the jugular in critiquing his portrayal of Walter Lee Younger, an angry 34-year-old man still living with his widowed mother in 1950s Chicago's black ghetto. "Sean Combs, otherwise known as rap mogul and fashion impresario P. Diddy, is giving a sadly N. Adequate performance," Variety squawked gleefully, dipping into a previously untapped reserve of Diddy-related wordplay.

In a review headlined "A Raisin shrivelled by laughter," the Washington Post reported that hip hop's jack-of-all-trades could not get up the gravitas necessary for the part. His flaccid acting abilities made members of the audience laugh at inappropriate moments, critic Peter Marks wrote: "When he drops to the floor in a heap, sobbing at the realization that he's lost the family's entire savings -- 'That money is made out of my father's flesh!' he cries -- it's about as persuasive as a Teamster dancing Swan Lake."

Not all critics were so quick with the harsh zingers, however. Newsday gave the American classic's revival a positive review, writing, "Combs is better than OK. He has presence playing someone besides his own formidable self. He projects."
[That's me I'm quoting, from my round-up of Diddy's reviews a couple of weeks ago in the Post.]

I'm sure P. Diddy's no Sidney Poitier, but I imagine a lot of the wrath comes from theatre people who feel threatened when non-actors invade their stages. There's a significant desire to project the image that acting is difficult, takes years and year to learn, takes more years to master, and requires a certain amount of innate talent, too.

I don't disagree with that, really, but I do know that some of my favourite theatrical experiences have occured while watching amateur or student productions in small black-box theatres.

Post-script

I've seen some theatre of late, but I've been horrible about writing about it here. Last week, I caught the opening night of Hairspray and then on Tuesday I went to see The Last Five Years at CanStage. Neither of them really knocked my socks up, I'm afraid.

A film did, however. I loved The Far Side of the Moon (originally La Face Cachee de la Lune) by Robert Lepage, whose work I've only ever seen on the stage before.

It's been in and out of the theatres in Quebec already. English-Canadian, go while the goings good. I'll stick up my Post review soon.

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