How I’ve gone 3 weekends in a row is beyond me. Also, my tolerance for everyone else watching the show last night was set on practically 0, so you’ll have to forgive the sass in this recap.
Jasper and Evelyn were in the bar which was lovely of course. Heading to the ballroom, I was delighted to finally get a chance to see Zhauna Frank’s Danvers. If you want to avoid the crowds (and I was not having any idiot audience members last night), Danvers is great. Hardly anyone follows her. Recently, I’ve begun experimenting with watching from different angles and the lack of crowds allows that to happen. Back to Zhauna. SHE IS A FANTASTIC DANCER. It’s so different to see a Hecate dance, and she’s the first one to have this combination of roles. She plays the stern nature you’d expect, but then is so tender at other times. I loved her duets with everyone, as well as her trio with Austin Goodwin’s Porter and the new Lady Macduff (working on getting a name). To see her play a character so different than Hecate was a wonderful treat.
Of course, one of her best scenes is the door dance. This happened last night with Luke Murphy’s Macduff. Since I heard that Luke was back, I’ve been wanting to see his Macduff for several reasons. One, he was the original. As in Boston original. Second, Luke was Macbeth my first show, and at one point, he stared directly at me, and I froze in the most awesome way. So for the rest of that night, I knew I wanted to make eye contact. And well, 26 shows later, here we are.
Jesus Christ Luke Murphy. Is that a thing? Like Jesus Christ Will Seefried? Because holy fuck, he can dance. Virtuosic technicality to the highest degree. I’ve only seen the Macduff loop fully once before so I’m probably shaky on the loop. For instance, I had no recollection of him going from the ballroom up to the mezzanine by pulling himself over the railing. Jesus Christ. Then the door dance with Zhauna was fucking incredible.
Shoutout to the guy who who thought Macduff was Macbeth and whispered it loudly and I overheard. I spent time rethinking all of Macduff’s scenes as though he were Macbeth. This was not a productive thought process.
After Macduff went through the Rep Bar, I waited for the rave because I wanted to stand somewhere completely different (diagonally from Hecate’s table over by the bar counter). I know it sounds weird and completely random, but I wanted a different spot from where I usually stand, and it was the most different place I could think of that I hadn’t already stood. So when a steward made me move to make room for the drunken imbeciles inhabiting the building last night, I called it quits. Not that I was in the way; I anticipated being made to move, and purposely backed myself as far into the corner as possible. But nope, I got directed as far over as possible. Somehow I got pushed up on the stage behind super tall people both in front of me and to my right, so I couldn’t even watch Hecate if I wanted to, let alone the witches. I also just don’t like watching from there. In front of the stage, sure. Being on the stage just disconnected me. It was probably the ginormous people.
I went to chat with Evelyn, but first had the pleasure of having my cards read by Adelaide. Then my usual chat with Jasper and Evelyn. I was probably in the bar for close to an hour, but it was wonderful; I did something to my knee earlier this week (don’t ask me what) and having to run after Macduff sort of aggravated it, so being able to take pressure off of it (plus get away from idiots in show) was fine. I saw some of the things at the top of my SNM bucket list, so I didn’t mind. Mallory Gracenin, you are a goddess.
Went inside with about 10 minutes left and watched Austin’s Porter, because that is also an incredible thing you should see if you haven’t. So yes.
Luke Murphy is amazing, but Rob McNeill was the original Macduff.
And waaaaaaaaaaaay back in London:
I wrote recently that Sleep No More is in something of a renaissance. I’ve been to the show a few more times since, so wanted to add some further thoughts.
* I’d mentioned that Jesse Kovarsky’s Boy Witch is great. I saw it again last week and it got even better! He’s more confident in the role now, and he’s added more of his own unique touches. I was often smiling under my mask while following him - both because he’s clearly having fun teasing the audience, and because he’s just so good. The precision and beauty of his movement during the pool table solo is awe-inspiring. And I just love how he engages with his crowd - he’s so good at creating a connection.
* Speakeasy Barman is not a character I usually follow. I get the sense that you’re actually not *supposed* to. But I gave it chance because Jesse was on, and actually it was very fun. Jesse just has a natural instinct for how to make a character interesting - he was subtle, but was always doing things to keep the audience’s attention and bring the character to life. If you catch him in the role, it’s worth spending a loop.
* I was looking forward to seeing Leslie Kraus as Sexy Witch, and it totally lived up to my expectations. She’s like… an evil fairy sprite, or something. So tiny and delicate and teasing - she reminds me of Ching-I Chang, who was my all-time favorite. Like Jesse, she’s delightfully fun to follow. And her bar solo just KILLS it - it’s so absorbing, hypnotic, absolutely stunning.
* Austin Goodwin’s Porter has long been one of my favorites, and I loved seeing it from another perspective when I was following Boy Witch the other night. I only had a few moments watching the Porter, but even then Austin has such presence, and such a delicate, graceful vulnerability. If you’re following Boy Witch, it’s like a concentrated experience of the Porter, too - you see such key moments: the longing, the hope, and then crushing heartbreak. Austin is amazing at those scenes.
* Elizabeth Romanski’s Violet is always delightful. She says the intro speech perfectly every time - she’s funny, she’s welcoming, she’s threatening, and she’s otherworldly. She hits the elevator door HARD and I’ve never seen her get the timing wrong when introducing James.
In truth, I think the intro is often the weakest part of the show - when done poorly it can slide into “cheesy haunted house” territory. :/ But Violet absolutely lives up to the quality of anything else you see once inside the hotel.
* Nick Bruder is REALLY REALLY SCARY. He whispered that Macbeth thing to me the other day and, like, I wasn’t sure I’d survive the experience. It totally lured me into following him, though - second loop, no less.
* Paul Zivkovich’s Porter was already one of the best things ever in the show - the only Porter I’ve seen fully succeed at both the humorous and the tragic aspects of the character - and it’s gotten even better since he got back from Drowned Man.
I miss Paul’s Fool. The characters are distinct, but much of what made his Fool great is the same type of thing that’s making his Porter so good now. It’s *little* things - I don’t want to spoil, everyone should go see and be surprised - but the overall effect creates such a nuanced sense of character, someone that you feel you *know*, and that you like - just from watching him, observing the tiniest quirks, even just the way his eyes move.
The way he approaches the witches at the phone booths, for example - other Porters come forward with such a tense sense of expectation, of terrified hope, and Paul’s Porter has that too, but he approaches in such an understated way, sidling in like one of the audience, like he’s trying (and totally failing) to hide the immensity of his longing. It’s like, he plays so many layers and underlying emotional notes - not just the longing and the fear and the hope, but the character’s own awkward self-consciousness of those things, and he does it in a way that’s kind of funny, and terribly sad at the same time, and relatable in a way that makes you dread what’s about to happen, and wish you could protect him.
The way he relates to the other characters, also, reminds me of his Fool. Porter and Fool exist on the margins, observing the more dramatic people around them - in a literal way, they direct the audience to watch the major characters - but Paul does it so that his interest in them actually becomes an interesting trait about his own character as well.
Also - the Porter 1:1 is my favorite 1:1 ever, and Paul’s version is awesome.
* I had doubts when I heard Oliver Hornsby-Sayer is playing Porter and Macduff - I was never a Dwayne fan. But he’s *really* good - his Porter is so expressive, with an innocent quality that makes him extra sympathetic. He’s an excellent dancer, of course, and his durational scenes were interesting and effective - I love how they all put their own spin on certain moments. His 1:1 was great - that innocent quality totally draws you in.
* I’ve never felt very engaged with Macduff before - he seems like a character that exists mainly to do impressive choreography and to have a wife who’s way more interesting than he is. But Olly’s Macduff drew me in, with that same expressive, innocent quality of his Porter. You really believe that Macduff adores his wife, that he’s bewildered about how to help her but trying really hard - and his later abandoning of her seems less blatantly negligent and more just naive, which makes him a lot more sympathetic. Plus he’s doing the wall climbing choreography now, yay!
* The other night, David Botana gave the best elevator intro I’ve ever seen. I actually hung back so that I could see everything he’d do. It was kind of like if a really hilarious Norman Bates was running the elevator? But with like, a completely tongue-in-cheek awareness of the elevator operator tropes.
* Aside from that random brilliant Botana intro, James Graber is otherwise the winner at running the elevator. He is ominous and funny and you are guaranteed a better show if he is there telling people not to hold hands. THANK YOU JAMES GRABER.
* Paul Corning! His John Lindsay is always a delight at the Heath, and it was fun to see him bringing some of that charm to the Manderley recently too.
* Since he’s great in the bar, I decided to try following Paul’s Taxidermist, which was an odd experience. I’ve never followed the Taxidermist before, and I found it really scary. I wanted to run away. He’s so creeeeeepy. Which I guess means he was effective! I really enjoyed his performance, but my own timid reaction weirded me out.
* I’m literally still in shock that I saw Conor Doyle as Boy Witch the other night. I was drinking absinthe right beforehand so maybe I just hallucinated the whole thing? Hopefully one day I’ll hallucinate seeing his Porter, too.
Last night at the late show, I did the usual perfunctory check at the ballroom scene to see who was on. And I almost fell over the balcony.
Conor Doyle was Boy Witch.
Three and a half years ago, when I went to Sleep No More for the first time, Conor’s Boy Witch was the only thing that kept me from leaving early.
I didn’t like the show at first. It seemed wrong to do Shakespeare without dialog. Dance was not an art form that I appreciated.
There was one scene that caught my attention, which was this man lip syncing “Is That All There Is” while crying, and then this incredible, striking moment where this other man wiped the tears from his face.
(This is not usually what happens. But I swear I remember the Porter wiping the Boy Witch’s tears himself.)
I stayed at the show and followed the Boy Witch. I must have been impressed by the rave, but I don’t remember it. I just remember lurking on the edges of the shower scene afterward, having never had a more uncomfortably intimate theatrical experience. I didn’t help with the clothes, or interact with him at all, but just being there was bewildering and transformative. I was so disconcerted and scared and completely in the moment with the character - it becomes difficult to lose yourself in other forms of media after experiencing Punchdrunk at its best.
Boy Witch became my favorite character for a bunch of reasons. He runs an emotional gamut. He interacts with other interesting characters and all of his scenes are engaging. The way he teases and plays with his audience is so much fun, and just observing the crowd dynamics around him is fascinating.
I only ever saw Conor’s Boy Witch a handful of times. I never experienced his 1:1 or had much in the way of interactions. The last time I saw him in the role was almost two years ago.
And yet, every other Boy Witch, every time, I compare to him. There are others who are great. Austin is absolutely brilliant. Jesse is a new favorite. I’d started to wonder if Conor was really that good, or if maybe it was just that he’s the first performer I ever followed - maybe I’d just imprinted on him like a baby bird imprints on its mother. :P
He really is that good.
Every other performer who does Boy Witch is following a path set out for them by someone else. Some are really great at following it, but they are trying to embody this idea of the character in a way that has been taught to them.
Conor, I think, might just be a witch in real life. :P Every choice he made seemed natural. He has, of course, so much confidence and awareness of how to perform in the Punchdrunk context. And he just, I don’t even know how to describe it, but every choice he made was just *witchy*, true to the character without having to try. He has this way of luring the audience in while completely not pandering to them - teasing, making them feel grateful for every bit of attention, then moving on disinterestedly to lure the next one.
I think Conor is my favorite not because he’s the first performer I ever followed, but because of the aesthetic choices he makes. He has this disturbing edge, this uncompromising way of disconcerting you, of making the audience uncomfortable. That blank broken Frankie stare as Claude predatorily kisses him; the way his Eugene would sit there for five minutes eating an orange in the messiest way imaginable, oblivious to the room full of people watching; how his Boy Witch hands you his laced shoes and expects you to figure out how to get them on him.
I’ve very rarely had the Boy Witch 1:1. Never before with Conor. After wiping away his tears, he ran the tissue down his face, below his mouth, down his neck, his eyes wide, welling with tears, staring into mine, his hand over mine, pressing uncomfortably hard for a long moment against his throat. This… is what I mean about powerful aesthetic choices.
It was such a surprise to see him again. It reminded me of the early days of the show, when much of the cast had originated their characters - the dynamic was so different back then.
I don’t want to rave too much, but Conor’s Boy Witch is great, and if you ever see him in the role, follow.
laindh said: How many do you know about the cast's own projects/ other performances other than SNM? So far I've only heard of EAM's Boy Friday and they'll soon give a performance ("Chez Bushwick Presents: 2Night Show October"). Also Jesse will be appearing in the Death of Klinghoffer (metropolitan opera)?
Here are a few things I know about— I’m sure there are more, and I encourage everyone to share them. It’s awesome seeing SNM cast members (current and past) in other contexts.
Erik Abbott-Main - Boy Friday
Julia Campanelli and Brandon Tyler Harris in Pink Moon
Emily Terndrup - Debut at the Knockdown Center (Oct. 7-9)
Jesse Kovasrky and Nick Bruder in The Death of Klinghoffer at The Met (October 20 - November 15)
Tori Sparks inThird Rail Projects’ Roadside Attraction
… So who did Madonna follow?