We know what to expect from a Walt Disney film, everything from the adorable creatures to the clear delineation between good and evil. The latest Magic Kingdom offering, Saving Mr. Banks is no exception, giving a Disneyfied version of the media giant’s acquisition of P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins. Walt is a simple man – so the story goes – who has promised his daughters to get Mary Poppins on the screen, while Travers is cast as a lonely, psychologically damaged spinster who only gets in the way.Travers’ intense dislike of musicals and cartoons is the challenge to be overcome, and while they failed to convince her in real life – Travers so furious with the butchering of her work that she refused to work with Disney ever again – a different story is told in the film, Travers tearful in her epiphany of the Wonderful World of Disney in the end. As banal as some might see this change, we need to remember that the pixie dust from this manicured perception is in fact ashes of the dead.
We went on a brief theater rampage recently, seeing Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy, Lyle Kesler’s Orphans and Richard Greenberg’s The Assembled Parties. While there is something to be said for witnessing the likes of Alec Baldwin (Orphans) and Tom Hanks (Lucky Guy) on stage, those plays paled in comparison to the staging of Greenberg’s work, a drama that delivers interesting characters, sharp dialogue and a sprawling, rotating New York apartment. The piece centers on those who play the stock market, reupholster chairs at exorbitant cost and attend law school to delay life decisions, people who judge and glibly self-reflect, and yet are endearing in some aspect. The play asks much, answers little and lacks a coherent beginning and end…indeed is much like modern-day life. Interestingly enough, the play had to be recently edited after the Boston Marathon bombing, due to a reference made to a Harvard student making a bomb for extra-credit, an image that certainly matches the tenor of the work and our times.