Move Like a Butterfly

04-Feb-07 10:12 PM by
Filed under Films, On Stage; 1 comment.

It's generally agreed, even within the annals of this blog, that a story's source material — be it book, play, or film — will almost always prove superior to any new medium to which it is adapted.

I witnessed that gulf this weekend, when I saw a live theater version of the 1973 film The Sting. Having recently seen and enjoyed this classic film starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman as con artists, I was looking forward to seeing a fresh performance.

There were a few variations on the original script that I didn't expect. Some added to the experience, such as the story being framed as the flashback of an older woman. Others detracted, such as the two handkerchiefs Johnny Hooker switched in the opening con being different colors… talk about insulting the audience!

Such changes were minor compared to two shadows cast by the film, though. The play's impact and tension were diminished by my recent memories of the movie; what had originally surprised me was, of course, predictable the second time around. But most noticeable was the absence of Robert Redford and Paul Newman. In that respect, I cannot fault the actors who adopted those icons' roles for a weekend performance. I instead fault whoever conceived the notion that The Sting's script could stand apart from the actors who made it famous. I perhaps also fault myself for being unable to separate the two; surely I do community actors a disservice for holding them up to the standards of Hollywood, and myself the disservice of being unable to appreciate what those actors are offering.