'Murdoch' and Much More at Kennedy Center's International Theater Festival
If you walk into the Kennedy Center these days, you’ll be getting into the world of “World Stages: International Theater Festival 2014,” which is filling up many of the venues, foyers and walkways at the center with plays from all over the globe, exhibitions and installations and other special events, including staged readings through March 30.
The versatility of subject matter, style, and process has been evidence right from the beginning of the festival, especially with another visit from renowned and legendary director Peter Brook’s intensely emotional production of “The Suit” from South Africa.
From Australia, it perhaps wasn’t too surprising to see “Murdoch” from prolific playwright David Williamson and the Melbourne Theatre Company. It’s a play—actually, more of a fast-moving montage—about the life and times of you-know-who, the grandly belligerent, piranha-hungry media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, who is played by two different actors, the young Rupert, imagined by Murdoch himself as quite the dashing lad, and the older Murdoch we all know and often despise, smug, a little dicey, self-justified and grasping, as he and his alter ego snatch up a bagful of media enterprises, from newspapers in Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S., especially New York, to satellites , television networks and Hollywood studios, in a preposterous exercise of constant brinksmanship.
“Murdoch,”,like many of the offerings in this far-reaching festival, may not be everyone’s cup of Aussie tea, but for the longtime newsies among us, it stung and fascinated. This “Murdoch” is practically a visceral history of what’s happened to the print portion of the media industry -- its take over by both technology and the scaly tastes who get close to their goal of world domination by appeasing the tastes of bottom feeders.
“Murdoch” moved along at a clip—marriages, mom, friendships with the rich and powerful, forays into controlling politics—Blair, Thatcher—the gobbling up of Fox which oddly enough offered up the enduring and endearing “The Simpsons.” For a good part of the evening, this was good and nasty fun, but in a way it’s a little like Murdoch’s hunger itself—there’s just so many buyouts, betrayals, astounding pronouncements and property grabs a body can take, however entertaining it may be.
In terms of the festival, there’s much, much more to come. There’s “Green Snake” from China in the Terrace Theatre March 27 through 30; “Not By Bread Alone” from the Nalag ‘at Theater Deaf-Blind Acting Ensemble from Israel, March 25 to 26; “Penny Plain” from the Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes in Canada, March 20 and 22, and a staged reading of the powerful “Fallujah” by Heater Raffo and Tobin Stokes from Canada.
And speaking of marionettes, there’s a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, (March 20-23 in the Eisenhower Theatre) from Bristol Old Vic, in association with Handspring Puppet Company from South Africa, the folks who brought you the vivid and moving horse puppets and marionettes in “War Horse.” A sampling of their handiwork is on display in the Hall of Nations, as is an installation entitled “Pequeno Teatro" (“Little Theater”).
For young audiences, there’s also “The Adventures of Robin Hood” from Scotland’s Visible Fictions, co-commissioned with the Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences, March 28 through April 6 in the Family Theater.
Photos: World Stages: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Bristol Old Vic & Handspring Puppet Company (England & South Africa); playing from March 20 through 23 at the Eisenhower Theater.