Director James Ivory has a date at Dryden

09:49 AM, Mar 28, 2013


Written By Jack Garner

The name of Ivory on a film — especially teamed with the name of Merchant — has long been a sign of artistry, class and intelligence. “Merchant-Ivory” has been the imprimatur of quality on films, from A
Room with a View to The Remains of the Day to Howard’s End.

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The Ivory is director James Ivory, and he has built an impressive career while working alongside the late producer Ismail Merchant, and usually with screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Nearly all the trio’s 30 films were literary adaptations.

And now Ivory is being celebrated with a visit to the George Eastman House, where his archive is stored, and where several of his films will be shown in a series at the Dryden Theatre, starting Wednesday.

Ivory will appear at the Dryden to introduce one of his personal favorites, Jefferson in Paris (1995), with Nick Nolte, Gwyneth Paltrow and Thandie Newton, at 8 p.m. April 6. Ivory was last here at the Rochester High Falls Film Festival and the Eastman House in 2010, to showcase his last film (to date), The City of Your Final Destination.

The Dryden, meanwhile, is showing other Ivory films this month, including Mr. and Mrs.
Bridge (with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward) on Wednesday, Roseland (with Teresa Wright and Lou Jacobi) on April 10, Maurice (with Hugh Grant and Rupert Graves) on April 17, and The Householder (an early Merchant-Ivory film from India) on April 24.

GEVA AND FILM BUFFS. Talking about live theater and films in the same breath isn’t really fair. Theater has the immediacy, the threat of mistakes that can’t be edited or reshot, the hard-to-dissect but undeniable spark between the actor and the audience, and, to put it in a term that’s hot right now in film, live theater is always in 3-D.

But, while I acknowledge all that, I can’t help but note an aura of the movies floating tantalizingly around the just announced next season for Rochester’s Geva Theatre. I assure you, as a lover of both art forms, that’s a good thing.

It starts on June 13 with the arrival of an Oscar-nominated film actor Robert Forster, who is coming back to his hometown for his first appearance on the Rochester stage, performing the world premiere of a one-man show on the life of the late President Ronald Reagan (another movie actor). The Lifeguard: Ronald Reagan and His Story runs through June 30.

An appreciation of film — especially the classics of the great Alfred Hitchcock — comes into play from Oct. 22 through Nov. 12, when Geva stages The 39 Steps, which mixes thrills and comedy, as both a re-creation of the famous early Hitchcock British film, and a parody of that and other films in the master’s oeuvre.

Your homework assignment is to screen The 39 Steps, a thriller from 1935 that firmly establishes Hitchcock as the creator of stories in which innocent folks become entangled in espionage and mystery. At least one scene, a fabulous action sequence with Robert Donat clinging to the outside of a fast-moving train while it crosses a bridge, should prove especially challenging to Geva director Sean Daniels, but, hey, you never know about the magic of the theater.

Three other plays on the 2013-14 Geva schedule offer cinematic ties:

• The annual holiday appearance of A Christmas Carol, which brings memories of several film versions of the Dickens tale (the best being the Alistair Sim version from 1951). Geva’s Carol runs Nov. 27-Dec. 28.

Clybourne Park, a contemporary play that updates the race and real estate trauma first explored in Lorraine Hansberry’s classic, A Raisin in the Sun (a play staged recently at Geva, but also a much-admired film from 1961, starring a young Sidney Poitier). This updating play accomplished an astonishing award sweep, winning the Olivier, the Tony, and the Pulitizer Prize. Clybourne Park is on the boards Feb. 11-March 9.

The Odd Couple, is a hit Neil Simon play that has been staged with great success at every theatrical level, but was also the subject of much-loved 1968 film with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, and a later hit TV series with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. Geva offers The Odd Couple April 22-May 18.