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This little homunculus
May 26, 2009 7:13 PM   Subscribe

London’s Royal Court Theatre has made this spring a Wallace Shawn season. In addition to showing Shawn’s cult movies “My Dinner with Andre” (1981) and “Vanya on 42nd Street” (1994), the theatre has staged his 1990 one-man show, “The Fever” (with the estimable Clare Higgins taking on Shawn’s role), his 1985 play “Aunt Dan and Lemon,” and Shawn’s first new play in more than a decade, “Grasses of a Thousand Colors,” in which the pug-nosed provocateur himself performs the central part. This is a big deal. (previously)

The Royal Court, one of the most influential theatres in Europe, is doing for Shawn what the Beatles did for Little Richard: rediscovering for a new generation a singular American talent who had been marginalized in his own country. In the United States, Shawn, as a playwright, is a relatively unknown quantity without an artistic home; in England, his works, which prey on both consciousness and conscience, are published under the rubric of “contemporary classics. - John Lahr, The New Yorker
posted by Joe Beese (29 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is more than a big deal! It is nearly... inconceivable.
posted by eschatfische at 7:15 PM on May 26, 2009


A Wallace Shawn retrospective? Inconceivable!
posted by Rock Steady at 7:16 PM on May 26, 2009


Crap.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:16 PM on May 26, 2009


The AVClub recently had an interesting interview and retrospective of Wallace Shawn's work.
posted by Auden at 7:18 PM on May 26, 2009


These little homonculi of mine, I'm gonna let 'em shine!
These little homonculi of mine, I'm gonna let 'em shine!

Let 'em shine, let 'em shine, let 'em shine!

dear sweet 10 lb. 6 oz. baby jesus but I can be both twee and stupid.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:23 PM on May 26, 2009


I was wandering through Harvard Square a few years ago and noticed a small sign and got in line. Something I just don't do. I was the last person allowed into the Agassiz theater in a seat that used to be between 112&114, behind a post, enough room for one leg (of a very short person, I'm not), twisted, leaning just to see, hot, stuffy... I had no real idea what it would be about. Moments after Mr Shawn began to speak I forgot where I was, totally transported with, The Fever.
posted by sammyo at 7:29 PM on May 26, 2009


Thirsting for a way to name the unnameable, to express the inexpressible?

Tell me more!
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:32 PM on May 26, 2009


Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line
posted by Ironmouth at 7:37 PM on May 26, 2009


Why is "My Dinner with Andre" a "cult" movie?
posted by xmutex at 7:46 PM on May 26, 2009


because of the "My Dinner with Andre" action figures in "Waiting for Guffman"
posted by milkrate at 7:50 PM on May 26, 2009


xmutex: Why is "My Dinner with Andre" a "cult" movie?

Because it falls victim to one of the classic blunders!

sorry - I tried, I swear I tried; but I just couldn't help myself
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:58 PM on May 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


1995-ish: Greenwich Village

One afternoon I was walking west on Bleecker Street, probably having just come up the steps from Kim's Underground.

Across the street coming from the direction of the Circle In The Square Downtown I spot a small bald man struggling with two enormous stuffed gym bags, one slung over each shoulder. Very unstable, trying unsuccessfully to hail a cab as he walks.

It's Wallace Shawn.

I start jaywalking across the street towards him. Having caught his attention, I shout with exaggerated friendliness, "Can I HELP YOU with your BAGS?"

I must have upset him. He visibly started, then clumsily scampered away up the street, thrown from side to side by the weight of his gym bags. Rather than take advantage of my courtesy he bolted in apparent terror. As I stood and watched him run I felt a sense of wonder and amusement that has perhaps never left me.

It is in my mind his grandest role. The quintessential Wallace Shawn.
posted by Hammond Rye at 8:04 PM on May 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


A veritable Wallace Shawnathon.
posted by mhum at 8:13 PM on May 26, 2009


"The Fever" is pretty great. It was originally intended to be performed for very small audiences in living rooms. It'd be badass if RCT decided to do something like that.

I saw "My Dinner with Andre" in college, and Shawn still continues to grow on me every time I see or read something of his. And he adds a little bit of charm to every crappy movie he has a bit part in.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:05 PM on May 26, 2009


My college did Aunt Dan and Lemon. Going into that play knowing it was by the Princess Bride guy and coming out having seen insane ranting about Henry Kissinger, a young girl regretting not having made sexual advances on her aunt, and a combination fellatio/strangulation scene was something else.
posted by Ndwright at 9:21 PM on May 26, 2009


Am I the only one who was hoping his dinner with Andre to have been with the giant?
posted by ooga_booga at 9:50 PM on May 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Anybody want a peanut?
posted by not_on_display at 10:06 PM on May 26, 2009


I read Shawn's A Thought in Three Parts in high school. It's absurdly sexual. If I remember it right, there's a scene where two guys have a contest to see who can ejaculate the furthest onto women waiting at the other end of the stage. I remember thinking, "This is by the guy from The Princess Bride? Is this for real? How the hell do you stage this?"

I still have yet to see it performed. Too bad the Royal Court didn't take a chance.
posted by painquale at 11:14 PM on May 26, 2009


I'll make a pitch for Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills, in which Shawn has a middling part through which he manages to make a typically disproportionately large impact, as he delivers insults such as "You're like some kind of sad slime trail left behind by God-knows-what kind of shit-eating parasite!" with that controlled fury just barely on the edge of sputtering. He's been a benefit to every film in which I've seen him.
posted by adipocere at 12:54 AM on May 27, 2009


I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I always thought of Wallace Shawn as a funny character actor and never realized what else he was up to...

Actually I always think of him as "Ellen" from Nice Girls Don't Explode, so at least I know something a lot of you people were blissfully unaware of...
posted by mmoncur at 1:40 AM on May 27, 2009


Too bad the Royal Court didn't take a chance.
posted by painquale


Yeah, they're showing Grasses of a Thousand Colours instead:

"Grasses of a Thousand Colours is like Shawn's early plays, in being domestic drama of an outlandish kind. Animals don fancy costumes and welcome humans to a party. Cats make satisfying lovers. Husband and wife take pleasure in savaging one another, just as they do in other works by Shawn. Donkeys stand on the table at dinner and "haphazardly piss", while men admire their penises."
posted by vacapinta at 5:15 AM on May 27, 2009


"The monkeys aren't working! We're formulating another plan!"
posted by steef at 5:50 AM on May 27, 2009


This is more than a big deal! It is nearly... inconceivable.

You keep using that word...
posted by inigo2 at 6:59 AM on May 27, 2009


That film bibliography leaves out his role in the film "New York City Serenade". That omission may be on purpose.
posted by inigo2 at 7:02 AM on May 27, 2009


I'm really surprised and pleased that, in that Onion profile, he says that he enjoyed playing Zek "almost more than anything [he's] done".
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:40 AM on May 27, 2009


This is more than a big deal! It is nearly... inconceivable.
A Wallace Shawn retrospective? Inconceivable!

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:24 AM on May 27, 2009


My Dinner With Andre is getting the Criterion treatment.
posted by HumanComplex at 11:13 AM on May 27, 2009


Yeah, I saw awhile ago that the Criterion edition was coming soon. That's awesome. I wish they'd have done Vanya at the same time.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:32 AM on May 27, 2009


Yeah, they're showing Grasses of a Thousand Colours instead

Yeah, it sounds great. I didn't mean to suggest that the Royal Court was being overly conservative. I just want to see someone stage Three Parts!
posted by painquale at 6:23 PM on May 27, 2009


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