Straight Line Crazy theater criticism

David Hare’s new play is his “most dramatically gripping and politically thought-provoking” in decades – and starring Ralph Fiennes is a “triumph,” said Mark Lawson The guard. He plays Robert Moses, the controversial urban planner who shaped the New York metropolitan area for the automobile age and influenced a generation of American civil engineers, architects and planners.

The play focuses on two contrasting episodes from Moses’ long career. In 1926 he urged New York’s governor Al Smith to approve two giant freeways connecting the city to Long Island. Then, in 1955, he failed in his attempt to build a road through Washington Square Park. It sounds dry, but the piece “sizzles” with “dynamic, idea-driven dialogue” about the duel between elected and unelected power.

“I’m afraid the crackle is exactly what’s missing,” Clive Lewis said in The times. Straight line crazy is an “uneven and often didactic piece held together by a compelling, larger-than-life central performance”.

Fiennes is indeed “terrific” as the megalomaniac “hijacker of an urban planner,” Patrick Marmion said in the Daily Mail, but the game is oddly disjointed. The first half has a riveting long scene (“30 Minutes of Hare’s Greatest Screenplay”) where Danny Webb as Smith is in “red-hot” form. Unfortunately, the second half “shrinks into a critical essay” without a similar visceral antagonist to drive the plot forward.

What action, asked David Benedict in diversity. The play consists of long discussions – “driven by diligent actors” – but almost “nothing” happens. And Hare is “painfully dependent on performance”: To the end, “characters explain things to people who already know what they’re being told, to inform the audience”.

Instead of drama, Hare gives us a series of “wordy and largely static Ibsenite confrontations,” said Sam Marlowe in The i paper. Nicholas Hytner’s staging is “predictably adept and tasteful.” But it was “everything, to be honest, a bit boring”.

bridge theatre, London SE1. Until June 18th Straight Line Crazy theater criticism

Fry Electronics Team

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