Sontag: Reborn

Photograph: Joan Marcus
Sontag: Reborn
Photograph: Joan Marcus
Sontag: Reborn
New York Theatre Workshop , East Village Wednesday May 29 2013 19:00

Sontag: Reborn. New York Theatre Workshop (see Off Broadway). Created by the Builders Association. Adapted by Moe Angelos. Dir. Marianne Weems. With Angelos. 1hr 15mins. No intermission.

Sontag: Reborn: plot synopsis

Moe Angelos stars in her stage adaptation of the youthful diaries of Susan Sontag, which chronicle the private struggles of the burgeoning public intellectual. The Builders Association's Marianne Weems directs.

Sontag: Reborn: theater review

The first and only time I met Susan Sontag (roughest interview of my career, by the way), it was upstairs at 79 East 4th Street, during previews for her play Alice in Bed, then being presented at New York Theatre Workshop. Last week I went back to NYTW to encounter the fearsome, severe woman again, this time filtered through the digital veils of the Builders Association and embodied with a dollop of detachment by Moe Angelos.

Sontag: Reborn is culled from the first published volume of the writer’s journals, edited and released several years after her death in 2004. These entries—some of them dry accounts of her day, others lists of books she meant to read or exotic slang she hoped to remember—span 1948 to 1962, from her precocious teenhood to her midtwenties, just before she took the world by storm with a series of landmark cultural essays. Although I knew it was only a prerecorded, video-projected Angelos, bewigged and playing the elder Sontag to her live, younger self, I could feels those cold, vivisecting eyes on me once more.

You may think this artful, affectionate multimedia piece, assembled with great integrity by Marianne Weems, is intended mainly for Sontag’s admirers. Not so. The great service it renders, besides expanding the human dimension of a chilly, Olympian intellect, is to show how hard it is to become the sort of thinker and writer Sontag was. She may have had ample natural gifts, but she worked hard, agonizing over what to read, how to order her mind and learning to embrace herself as a lesbian. Her painstaking project of self-authorship makes for a touching and inspiring vicarious spectacle.—Theater review by David Cote

Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote

RECOMMENDED: David Cote reviews Sontag: Reborn in Under the Radar.

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Venue name: New York Theatre Workshop
Address: 79 E 4th St
New York
Cross street: between Bowery and Second Ave
Transport: Subway: F to Second Ave; 6 to Astor Pl
Price: $65
Event phone: 212-279-4200