*SPOILER ALERT* to anyone who hasn’t seen Candide at the Huntington yet.
My thought process during the first scene of Candide at The Huntington Theatre Company: “Well, it’s another Hunt show.” “I wonder how long it will be till intermission.” “Will I leave at intermission? Well I did last time I saw a show of the Hunt’s so I’ve got no reason not to this time around.”
And then the sky fell and I was intrigued.
I want to examine these first few moments a bit more in depth though because there’s something interesting in comparing that first scene of Candide and my thought that it was a usual Hunt show. First, in the action of the scene we’ve got the aristocracy learning that all bad things are present for good reason. They’re being pacified to the world around them, not challenged to question it. And while yes, we learn through the process of the show that we need to work in order to survive life, I want to look at this scene solely as this scene.
This is the first time that I’ve ever been even vaguely challenged by a Hunt show. Here is a summation of what I’ve walked away with from Hunt shows before:
Becky Shaw: Don’t be the awkward chick.
All My Sons: Morality. Ethics.
A Civil War Christmas: Uhm…Christmas was a lot less fun back in the 1800s?
Fences: I mean…it’s Fences. Race. Class. Gender. Family Matters.
Vengeance Is the Lords: Would you want someone who killed someone killed?
Educating Rita: Everyone deserves equal opportunity regardless of their social/economic status.
I’ll admit, this is oversimplified, well in some cases, but my point is, it’s all been issues I either don’t care about, already agree with or are frivolous. So when Candide surprised me…I was well…surprised. But in terms of content and being challenged, my experience with The Hunt is about the same as what Candide, Cunegonde and Maximilian are learning from Pangloss. The Huntington’s website even says that, “The Huntington Theatre Company engages, inspires, entertains and challenges audiences with theatrical productions.” Isn’t a mission statement about a goal, not what’s already being achieved? Also, how do they measure these things and what audience are they speaking about? I’ve yet to experience most of those things at the Huntington except maybe entertainment now and again.
So great, point one, the action of the scene matches with my experience of the theatre company.
Now the set. In context, brilliant, at the moment…flat, tiny, boring, expected. Literally, in the box.
See where I’m going with this? I don’t think there’s really much more that I need to say.
So why is it a bad thing that Candide finally pleased me? Because it wasn’t a Huntington show. It started at the Goodman, went to Shakespeare Theatre Company, then came to The Hunt. This isn’t something they did, it may as well have been a touring production. Complete and total props to everyone involved in the production, and to the Hunt for bringing the show to town but now start doing work like this of your own! I don’t mean production value, I mean in purpose and artistry. Be the rest of Candide, not the first scene.