Synopsis: Hugh Jackman hangs out in a cabin in the woods, alternating scenes between two different women in what seems to be a linear story. Spoilers to follow.
- Maybe halfway through the show I caught onto the notion that we were probably actually watching two separate stories from the cabin, but that Hugh’s character just had a ‘system’ for taking women to the cabin… hopefully not involving murder. It was a fun revelation. Shortly after, Hugh talks about his uncle, who used to take women to the cabin all the time, but really just for a lay, and had a whole routine for getting their pants off. Hugh’s character says he never wants to be like that, and that he reserved the cabin for the great love of his life. Well… there’s two women so… how’s that work? There’s a lovely moment where you think the second woman is his ‘great love’ (because we see her in a red dress) and the first woman was brought some time later out of a desire to recapture some spirit of his great love lost through imitation, asking her to wear that same red dress. But then that woman also makes a comment about the picture of a woman in a red dress that confirms that she’s not the original. It was a fun puzzle working all of this out during the show– certainly kept me attentive.
- Reminded me a little of a great short story by Adolfo Bioy Casares called ‘The Invention of Morel’ which also deals with a repetition of sequence and romance in a similar way.
- I always love when a character speaks confidently and with enthusiasm about something they know a lot about. So Hugh Jackman talking about fish, especially the stuff about sea trout and how strong they get, was awesome. Also seemed to serve as an analogy for how every time he brings a woman here, maybe it makes him a little bit stronger or the pain a little bit less. Not overt though.
- Section of the play clearly designed around lady boners: Hugh takes the fish the woman caught, prepares it, cooks it, serves it. Mmmmm is what all the ladies thought. Apparently he cut his thumb pretty bad one night and it wouldn’t stop bleeding! Yikes. That must have been rough show to be in the audience for.
- Great simple set — really felt like a cabin, and I love the theater! Circle in the Square has a really brilliant thrust stage that provides intimacy and a natural intensity.
- I’m a sucker for a good sound design. I don’t recall much in the way of music cues (though those certainly could have gone a long way toward clarifying some of the more ambiguous aspects of the show), but the rain and nature sounds definitely helped transport me to this remote cabin near a river.
- I’m also a sucker for accents. Sure, it seems a little strange to have an Australian, a Brit, and an Irish character all supposedly living near the same location, but I enjoyed all of their accents (and the natural effect those accents had in shaping their characters) that I didn’t mind.
- Hugh is known for really going big, so it was nice to see him restrained… quieter, more of an enigma. However, I think there was a missed opportunity in that one really powerful blast of his natural energy could have gone a long way toward providing a peak to contrast with the valleys of energy in the show. Anger? Elation? Discovery? It wouldn’t have mattered– just give us something.
- The singing was a nice touch– I liked the poem. Another missed opportunity though– why not have Hugh ever join in the singing? His character’s obviously familiar with the song/poem, and he has a beautiful voice. It could have shown a moment when he’s syncing up with the memory of his dead/lost/forgotten love in a potentially beautiful fashion.
- I really can’t stand it in theater when someone monologues uninterrupted for a period of time, especially when the monloguing individual is accusing someone of something that they clearly want to rebut. No one sits in silence during something like that, and it takes me totally out of the reality of the show. This happened a lot.
- Not sure if this was a directing or acting choice, but whenever Hugh was being asked a question he didn’t want to answer like ‘how many women have you brought here?’ or ‘who’s the woman in the red dress with her face scratched out’, all I registered on his face was dumbfound confusion. That kind of ambiguity was frustrating, because it had me wondering if he was crazy and really didn’t remember the other women, or it was simple a painful memory he was trying to suppress. Showing some genuine, specific emotion in these moments would have been far more powerful and effective at drawing empathy from the audience.
- Why didn’t Hugh’s character just move the picture of his first love with her face scratched out? Did he want the other women discovering this secret? Was that part of the routine? I mean, that would be kind of interesting, but that’s not the kind of thing best left ambiguous.
- In the final scene, we have a third woman (one of the understudies) who comes gathers water and asks Hugh if he really thinks she’ll be able to learn to catch a fish. And Hugh smiles and says something like ‘oh yeah. the trout are really racing today.’ I’m not sure what I was supposed to take from that. It seems silly to introduce a third ‘imitation’ woman to the mix, so she must have been the original woman he loved. But why show us this? It might have made me tear up a little if I really felt the connection between Hugh and his long-lost love throughout the show, but again, whenever she was being evoked, all I got from him was a kind of ‘duh-doy’ blank face. Furthermore, it’s tricky to give someone who is supposedly his ‘perfect love’ a physical form, as there’s too much opportunity in the short time seeing them together to question if there was really anything between them and if there was actually anything special about her. Seems better to just leave that relationship up to the audience’s imagination.
Tales from after the show:
As is wont to happen at Broadway (and West End shows), the actors came out after the show to raise awareness (and money) for Broadway Cares, a wonderful charity that provides all manner of support to families living with HIV/AIDS. I did a bowl-a-thon for them a couple weeks ago! Anyway, Hugh ended the show covered in water, and so has some fun getting the audience, right then and there, to bid on his shirt. Very quickly he identified two individuals who had the money to make a sizable donation (one man and one woman). Playing them off each other, he upped the donations by talking about how they’ll get to spend time with him in his dressing room after the show and “we’ll do whatever you want. Within reason of course!” The woman bidding had a man next to her who, after the bid reached about $7000, buried his face in his hands. Hugh called him out apologizing, asking if that was her husband. Her answer “No, he’s my financial advisor.” Awesome. Finally, the bidding leveled out at $11,000, at which point Hugh announced that actually, he had to change his shirt, so there are two shirts. “So how about we make a really sizable donation to a really excellent charity tonight, boh of you donate $11,000, you’ll both get a shirt, and you’ll both get to come backstage.” In a final perfect moment, the woman asked “When?” Hugh said “Now!” and finally, from the woman, “Hold on, I have to pee!”