A Night with Shirley Jackson

I’d seen somewhere on the Internets that Paul Giamatti (far right), along with (from L-R) Cristin Milioti, Dana Ivey, and Stephen Kunken, were participating in a night of reading short stories by the late writer Shirley Jackson in honor of her 100th birthday. I literally had no idea who Shirley Jackson was, but my dude had just finished watching the John Adams series on HBO and loved Paul Giamatti so I bought two tickets. 

We ended up hearing five short stories from the group (one was read by the host, whose name I forget at this moment) and they were all pretty good. The story Ivey read was kind of long and I don’t really remember what it was about. Jackson was a dark writer, sometimes very cryptic. Usually cryptically funny though. 

Giamatti’s story was probably the more eerie. Milioti, Ivey, Kunken, as well as Giamatti all told the stories with the flare that only stage actors can provide. It was a really different type of night, one that I’m glad we went to.

Did you know that Venus in Fur had been translated into a movie? And one in French, nevertheless? Me neither. But it was directed by Roman Polanski and starred his wife in the role of Vanda. I love this play and I was super excited to see the movie translation. 

At Symphony Space on the UWS tonight, I had the opportunity to see a small screening of this film that came out at last year’s Cannes. The screening was followed by a talkback with playwright and screenwriter David Ives (pictured above, on the right). I really enjoyed the movie – it very closely followed the script. I will admit that I was wishing the entire time that it was Nina Arianda on screen, but what can you do. And that’s not to say that Emmanuelle Seigner was bad, at all. I just love Arianda.

Afterwards Ives talked about the collaboration with Polanski on writing the film (him and his wife just spent a few weeks in Switzerland with Polanski and his wife). He talked about the first, very brief message that Polanski ever left on his answering machine. He talked about the subtitles being a mess at first and then he took questions from the audience.  There was a lot of inquiry having to do with the ambiguousness of the theatre and how that gets a little bit less-so with a film. At one point he said, “Nobody is real onstage. Everyone is a metaphor for something else.” I thought that was kind of brilliant.

It’s a great film. I highly recommend it. 

PS: David Ives is currently working with Stephen Sondheim on a new musical. So, there’s that.