I’m writing regarding Don Aucoin’s story “Theater companies find fault sometimes is in their stars: Marquee names are a draw at the box office but can be a drain on the stage” (Page A1, Nov. 29). I used Nick Offerman’s star power to lure my son and his girlfriend (the next generation of theatergoers) to see “A Confederacy of Dunces” at the Huntington Theatre Company. It cost close to $100 for each ticket.
I myself was lured, having read the quirky book years ago, as well as the blitz of ads in the Globe. Sorry, the show was uninteresting and boring. I also found it dreary how they chose to focus on sexual situations and innuendos, while putting a bow on everything at the end. It was as predictable as a prime-time sitcom.
The reason I bought tickets to see “A Confederacy of Dunces” was my fondness for the book and my certainty Offerman was the right choice to play Ignatius.
Offerman is outstanding, as is the actress playing Ignatius’s girlfriend, but the play is a hopeless mess. There’s no way anyone working on that production honestly felt it was ready for the stage. The pacing and tone are inconsistent — from dour and glacial to incoherently manic in seconds. The universe it occupies is never established, and that’s mostly the fault of the nonexistent set design. This production needs way more than audio cues and screen projections to establish the setting.
The book doesn’t exactly turn Reilly into a sympathetic figure, but it does develop him enough that the reader roots for him. The play just rolls out his lunatic behavior and expects the audience to applaud when he escapes New Orleans. Which the audience most certainly didn’t do when I saw it.
There are a million reasons why the play doesn’t work, but the first one is the opening sequence in which Offerman is put into costume. There’s only one reason for this moment to exist onstage. It’s a cynical move by a director who thinks the audience might not be smart enough to recognize the star they paid to see.
Some may say they recognize the play’s flaws but still really enjoyed it because of the strong performances, but no performance is strong enough to save such a plodding play.
Patterns and praise
Thanks to Sebastian Smee for his wonderful “Frame by Frame” column on “Dish With Flowers and Foliage” (“A Colorful View of a Vanished Empire,” Tuesday Stories, Dec. 1). It is exquisite, and he beautifully describes why. I have been to Turkey many times and am fascinated by the complex patterns you see everywhere. I’ve purchased bowls and plates there — and love them all — but none comes close to the sophistication of the one in this article.
Smee brings superb taste and high standards to his work. He finds obscure, fascinating paintings and makes the reader realize that time spent in front of a beautiful painting is time well spent. He also never dumbs it down. I have no doubt that his articles coax many people to probe individual artists more deeply and, in the case of this amazing dish, contemplate the uniqueness of Ottoman culture. And that, too, is time well spent.
Wealth of observation
I’m writing in response to Sebastian Smee’s critic’s notebook “An encounter with beauty — and ourselves: Images of wealth and poverty in MFA show can make the conscience flinch” (Page A1, Nov. 22). In observing what we call “fine art,” and also a lot of public architecture, we often pay no mind to the fact that most often, it is all the product of the patronage of the very wealthy, as well as of the imposition of their particular tastes and interests. Workers, the underprivileged, the uneducated: Through most of art history, these people didn’t make art; or if they did, it wasn’t the kind that got preserved; or if any of it got preserved, it’s not the kind we traditionally value. As a result, entire past cultures we tend to see through the eyes of people who were very rich and powerful, as we behold the work of those people’s lower-class employees, or their slaves.
Therefore this exhibition at the MFA is of especially great interest, for those of us disposed to consider the ethical significance of things. And this reflexion on the exhibition by Smee is a terrific guide to interpreting it. It would be another terrific guide if we could coax his 8-year-old daughter to write up her thoughts!
Belated kudos to Matthew Gilbert for his excellent BuzzSaw column suggesting that it might be time for a superhero who is gay (“Using power for good: Now that ‘Supergirl’ has arrived, is it time for a TV superhero who’s gay?,” Sunday Arts, Nov. 1). Gilbert made a very strong argument, and I would hope to see that in my lifetime. However, I recently ran and lost a campaign as the first openly gay mayor of Concord, N.H. As liberal as some would like to think New Hampshire is, I found myself up against all kinds of resistance, even from people who have known me in Concord for decades. Gilbert’s story should generate discussion and interest, and it is one more step toward a more accepting world. He writes with heart and passion and makes his pieces a really good read.