Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Old "Warhorse"

Watched Warhorse last Saturday night with GH, at the Vivian Beaumont, a part of the Lincoln Center Theater. I heard such high praise for this production, directed by Marianne Elliot and Tom Morris, that I was inevitably somewhat disappointed by it. Adapted by Nick Stafford from a novel by Michael Morpurgo, the play had a very simple story. The first half, which traced the bonding between the horse and his boy, between Joey and Albert Narracott, dragged as slowly as the hunter-farmhorse pulled the plough. There was nothing unexpected or nuanced about the development of that bonding. The foal and full-grown horse puppets, designed by Adrian Kohler, with Basil Jones, for Handspring Puppet Company, were wonderful, but their novelty lasted only so long.

In the second half, the action quickened and some nice links were made. Learning to pull the plough saved Joey's hide, as he was put to work pulling the ambulance-cart, and so was not ripped to shreds by machine guns and barbed wire (A total of eight million horses died during World War I, said the program notes.). The sergeant who scoffed at Albert's mission to find his horse turned out to be the one who rescued Joey from no man's land. The long-anticipated reunion between the horse and his boy was rather sentimental, but I did feel a twinge in this cold heart. Seth Numrich, who played Albert, was better-looking than his picture in the program. Alyssa Bresnahan played Albert's mother, Rose, with brusque lovingkindness. Madeleine Rose Yen was heart-rending as the little French girl Emilie, traumatized by war.

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