Rufus Norris

Review: NT Live’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers

National Theatre’s elaborate filmed production of David Hare’s new play evokes place better than people.

Third Rail Repertory Theatre’s presentation of the British National Theatre’s NT Live series is one of Portland’s hidden theatrical treasures. Several times each year, dozens of theater fans flock to a well hidden auditorium in downtown Portland’s World Trade Center to see high definition, big screen productions from Britain’s National Theatre in London. The series offers Oregonians an opportunity to experience — virtually, at least — a world class level of production that no Oregon theater, not even that one in Ashland, could afford to stage. Those lofty production values are the main reason to see the current NT Live production, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, which runs twice more, this Saturday afternoon and evening, April 4.

BBF

I haven’t yet read the best-selling 2012 volume of the same title by MacArthur “genius” grantee Katherine Boo, a long time favorite journalist of mine from her days at the Washington Post and Washington Monthly, but it earned critical acclaim, including a National Book Award. Now a Pulitzer Prize winning staff writer at The New Yorker, Boo is featured in a short video that preceded the broadcast of playwright David Hare’s adaptation of her book, directed by Rufus Norris, and I just wish that the play itself had packed emotional poignance apparent in her brief interview and the video’s real-life Mumbai scenes. Because for all its truly spectacular acting and staging, Hare’s play ultimately suffers the fate of so many that try to put complex literature on stage — and especially those that try to dramatize a multi-faceted historical tapestry.

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