Thursday, April 10, 2008

A compelling stage Conversation

Opening tonight, Off Off Broadway at 29th Street Rep, is a solid theatrical adaptation of Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974), a three-time Oscar nominee and one of his best films, with an outstanding performance from Gene Hackman. It was unlikely for the stage, and unlikelier still for a 74-seat house, but leave it to clever, industrious Chicagoans to figure out a credible way to make it work. As wiretapper Harry Caul, star David Mogentale (pictured) could not be more different than Hackman; his accountant-type look and performance are, however, entirely fitting, the supporting actors fine (in at least one instance, better than the film), and Joseph Fosco's sound design (and original, David Shire-esque music) ingenious. (The way the actors "enact" the tape, with dropouts, etc., is well-handled.) As the story would be difficult to update--in our digital age it's only gotten easier to bug someone, and no one, least of all our government, seems to care about privacy anymore--it's still Seventies-set, but with reverberations that continue to cast a chill. And it's only $20, now through May 4 at the theater.

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