A DISCUSSION with TONY AWARD-WINNING DIRECTOR DAVID CROMER
"IT IS NOT A WORK PUNCTUATED WITH ROWDY CHEERS AND FOOT-STOMPING OVATIONS. THE BAND’S VISIT FLOWS WITH THE GRAVE AND JOYFUL INSISTENCE OF LIFE ITSELF. ALL IT ASKS IS THAT YOU BE QUIET ENOUGH TO HEAR THE MUSIC IN THE MURMURS, WHISPERS, AND SILENCES OF HUMAN EXISTENCE." - BEN BRANTLEY, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Maybe you’ve noticed the Telephone Guy’s early arrival in The Band’s Visit. Long before he speaks, we see him in the background, staring at a payphone like he can will it to ring.
His vigil adds a provocative texture to the show. Until he starts interacting with other characters, he’s like a phantom on the periphery, reminding us that Bet Hatikva is brimming with souls.
And those souls are everywhere we look. As the show moves between major scenes, director David Cromer fills the transitions with glimpses of other characters. On our way to a song or fight or flirtation, we might see a woman smoking or a musician daydreaming or a man rolling by on skates. We have just enough time to wonder about them before the turntables in the set carry them smoothly away, back to whatever they’re living through.
“I wanted it to seem like we were finishing one storyline and then wandering down the street to another storyline,” Cromer says. “It’s a way to cast the spell that we all feel is in the story. That spell is in the film, which is not afraid of silence and space. And it’s in David Yazbek’s music, which has this feeling of sitting back as it’s flowing forward.”
Cromer’s staging also emphasizes how much is happening in this town. “The show doesn’t have a lot of very overt events — no one is suddenly getting married or getting sick — but it feels very full to me,” he says. “Most of our lives are spent like that. Floating through things, waiting. And waiting is an active thing. It is expectation. It is wanting.”
All this wanting-waiting creates a crackling energy. By the time the ensemble sings “Answer Me” in the final scene, we understand that all of these people are hungry for a different — even a slightly different—life.
Cromer sees hope in their longing, and in the small things that eventually do change in the village he’s shown from so many angles. “It’s about that moment when you’re pretty sure nothing else is going to happen, or nothing interesting is going to happen, or you’re never going to get woken up again,” he says. “I’ve been convinced at various times that I wasn’t going to be woken up again by anything, and then it will show up. So just when you’re pretty sure it’s over, it ain’t over.”
For more from David Cromer, including his thoughts on how this show tells every type of love story, visit TheBandsVisitBook.com.