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David Hare's "Plenty"
Posted by Leadingplayer 2012-10-08 19:55:48

Does anyone know how the play ends? In the film there is a beautiful flashback scene in the French countryside. It seems created for the film though. Was that the ending of the play too?

David Hare's
Posted by Auggie27 2012-10-08 20:10:32

Same scene exactly. It was originally staged with a remarkable coup de theatre as the gray, airless room Susan is in with Codename Lazar melts away and a blinding bit of sunlight spills in, revealing, finally, a drop of the French countryside. "My friend...there will be days and days and days like this." It's a beautiful moment in the film, and actually even more stunning on stage.

The stage directions from the script:

"Lazar opens the door of the room. At once music plays. Where you would expect a corridor you see the fields of France shining brilliantly in a fierce green square. The room scatters. The darkened areas of the room disappear and we see a French hillside in high summer. The stage picture forms piece by piece. Green, yellow, brown. Trees. The fields stretch away. A high sun. A brilliant August day...."

David Hare's
Posted by Leadingplayer 2012-10-08 20:29:01

Thanks Auggie, the "days and days" quote gives me goosebumps.

Anyone know if Lincoln Center has the Original production on tape?

David Hare's
Posted by bobs3 2012-10-09 07:03:08

Kate Nelligan gave a mesmerizing performance in PLENTY. I believe David Hare wrote the part of Susan specifically for her. Edward Hermann was almost as good as Nelligan was.

This play calls for a major revival, maybe starring Michelle Dockery.

David Hare's
Posted by Auggie27 2012-10-09 09:46:01

In the 90s, Cate Blanchett played it again in London, in a somewhat controversial production. The character is notoriously difficult to nail, to make accessible and sympathetic, and of course, that's why she's so mesmerizing. She's about as warm and cuddly as Hedda, and comes with fascinating baggage, youthful idealism that literally paralyzes her. I'd love to see it, because Susan Traherne's principals seems almost alien in today's world. Though she's a kind of narcissist, both arrogant and elitist, her narcissism and elitism are in service of big ideas, (maybe nothing less than the future of humanity itself). I would love to see a revival but remember how mainstream audiences responded to both the Broadway production (only 92 performances, after all) and the film. The film was a flop. Today, it remains one of my favorite adaptations of a play. Gorgeous, haunting (great score), it feels epic, and features brilliant turns by Streep, Charles Dance, Gielgud, and under-appreciated Tracy Ullman as Susan's bohemian friend Alice Park, and Sting, as the lower-class man chosen to father Susan's Child. Sting was quite persuasive.

I think one of the first American productions starred Blair Brown. Must investigate.

FYI, one of the best appraisals of PLENTY I've ever read is by Jon Robin Baitz in the book "The Play That Changed My Life." He analyzes the many ways Hare's techniques in the script inspired him, and bemoans having missed the famous B'way production. I must admit, I grew to admire the play in the years after I saw that production. I saw it on a snowy Sunday, after waiting at the TKTS booth, and with wet feet and a cold was stuck in the last row of the (then) Plymouth's Orchestra. I would love to go back and have a re-do, as I was tired and wanted to get home. Still, I remember how much the 2nd act got to me. And that moment above that inspired this thread.

David Hare's
Posted by bobs3 2012-10-09 14:10:37

It transferred from The Public Theater after a 6 week run to the Plymouth for a limited run of 12 weeks (including previews). The production was a success on Broadway and they tried to get Nelligan to extend her contract but she refused saying she was exhausted from doing such a demanding role eight performances per week. I believe her agent (the late and notorious Sam Cohn) tried to negotiate a deal where she would play 6 performances a week during an extension with a substantial pay raise. It was a not financially feasible deal for the producers.

David Hare's
Posted by Roscoe 2012-10-09 16:20:57

I was very impressed with the play, and Ms. Nelligan's reading of "there will be days and days and days of this" is one of the most goose-bump inducing theatrical memories I have. Poor old Meryl just couldn't come near it, the film is a disaster, and mostly because she is so hideously miscast -- I've had a hard time taking her seriously ever since.

David Hare's
Posted by Auggie27 2012-10-09 17:14:40

"The film is a disaster." An awfully subjective take passed off as fact.

FYI, Gielgud, Sam Neill, and Tracy Ullman were all nominated for BAFTA Awards, and Gielgud was named Best Supporting Actor by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film at least has a 71%, 7.3 on a scale of 10 among critics. Not proof of much, except it's hardly "Howard The Duck."

David Hare's
Posted by bobs3 2012-10-09 23:03:16

I agree. I thought Gielgud, Charles Dance, Ullmann, Sting and Neill were great in the film. Streep did a different take on the character than Nelligan...with Nelligan you hated the character but loved the actress, Streep made Susan more sympathetic. I thought Streep was good but in a different way than Nelligan. In an ideal world Kate Nelligan should have done the film but Meryl Streep was (is) a movie star and Nelligan wasn't.

David Hare's
Posted by Auggie27 2012-10-10 07:39:06

The film offers us one image that provides a transition not in the play: when Charles Dance takes Meryl from the psychiatric ward. It's a sad, wordless sequence, but it beautifully illuminates Susan's moment of extreme evulnerability, and it's a turn in Susan's story left to the audience's imagination in the play, reported by Susan as she indicts Brock.

The film also substitutes a long, haunting sequence in Jordan for the top of act two in the play (the Dorcas scene excised). We see the tranquilized, emptied Susan rather than merely hear about it, and Alice's shock gives us a strong, more objective point of view on the dynamic between Brock and Susan. And the final showdown between Susan and Brock includes Susan cradling Raymond, giving him brandy after he's injured, rather than the coolly detached ending in the play ("now Raymond, where should we begin?") Hare clearly worked with Schepisi to find new layers in this character, and Streep was given opportunities to show sides that Nelligan was not. Everything in the screenplay augments the play.

David Hare's
Posted by Roscoe 2012-10-10 11:56:17

"An awfully subjective take passed off as fact."

More like a strongly worded opinion, actually. And you're quite right, quoting awards nominations and rottentomatoes percentages isn't proof of much. Opinions, they differ all over the place.

David Hare's
Posted by Leadingplayer 2012-10-11 21:41:21

Don't know if Blair Brown ever did Plenty but she did originate Hare's The Secret Rapture on Bway.

David Hare's
Posted by bobs3 2012-10-11 21:44:45

Blair Brown did the American premiere of Plenty at the Arena Stage in Washington D.C. She and David Hare later became a couple and he wrote The Secret Rapture for her.

David Hare's
Posted by Leadingplayer 2012-10-13 20:59:18

"In the 90s, Cate Blanchett played it again in London, in a somewhat controversial production."

Why was the production controversial?

A triumph, or "so frenziedly neurotic as almost to forfeit one's sympathy."
Posted by Auggie27 2012-10-14 14:50:03

Controversial because the production's response to the star was startlingly divided. The Entertainment Weekly report makes the case echoed by some others. It was Blanchett's West End debut and the first major revival of Hare's first big success. So its wimper-like impact was startling.

"Hitting a low point during an overblown dinner party scene, Blanchett's performance is a major disappointment."

Representative of the range:

"The evening will be remembered for Blanchett, who seizes the play by the scruff of the neck and often succeeds in shaking it to life. Pencil thin and often wonderfully glamorous, she ranges from cool irony to raging fury, and in her rare moments of tenderness she seems to glow from within."
Daily Telegraph

But not all critics admired Blanchett's interpretation of the role.

The Guardian calls her performance,"so frenziedly neurotic as almost to forfeit one's sympathy."

A triumph, or
Posted by AC126748 2012-10-14 15:43:53

That final quote from The Guardian could easily be applied to any of Blanchett's stage performance--it seems like the most common critique amongst people who have found her work lacking in the past. And while I've been a great admirer of the work I've seen her do on stage, I'd say it's not entirely inaccurate. (Note: I did not see her in Plenty).

I do love this play and long for a major revival. Michelle Dockery is a nice choice. Anna Friel, Nina Arianda, or Rebecca Hall all come to mind, as well.

A triumph, or
Posted by Auggie27 2012-10-14 21:03:45

Rebecca Hall -- now that's a very compelling choice.