Alexandra Marshall

Alexandra Marshall is the author of five books, including the novels Something Borrowed and Gus in Bronze.

Recent Articles

The Prince Is Dead. Long Live the Prince.

On multiple video monitors at his Manhattan apartment in the Hotel Elsinore, the modern Hamlet (Ethan Hawke) mesmerizes himself with his own distressed image. At Blockbuster Video, he rents action films by the dozen, all the better to create his frightening movie-within-a-movie that is his version of the play wherein he'll "catch the conscience of the king." His girlfriend Ophelia (Julia Stiles) has her own darkroom and carries around a bunch of Polaroid proofs that will scatter around her like fallen leaves as she herself disintegrates. Typical of their generation, Hamlet and Ophelia try to escape into the technologies of image making, but because this Hamlet is none other than Shakespeare's tragedy, their essential identities, and thus their fates, are as bound--and sealed--as ever. With any contemporized rendering of Shakespeare, there are always those who feel the plays can't be authentic if the stagecraft isn't as "Shakespearean" as the language. But we are reminded in the 1947...

What's Wrong with This Picture?

I'd been waiting for American Beauty since one day last summer in West Hollywood, when I first saw that now-familiar woman's torso on a billboard dominating the Sunset Strip. The adolescent hand intrigued me, and the single long-stemmed dewy dark-red rose was like an arrow across that torso, with its keyhole-like navel in the shape of a question mark. "Look closer," the promotion suggested, along with the names of the film's two superstars-sophisticated, sexy, contemporary-Kevin Spacey and Annette Benning. By now, of course, the advertising is also able to invite, "Look closer at the best reviewed movie of the year." And I've come to see American Beauty in that other cultural capital of America, Harvard Square, where it's currently running in two theaters practically every hour on the hour. The full-house audience is clearly engaged, and the movie ends to the applause of hundreds of individuals, a show of approval that is rare for Harvard Square. Some of my own best friends are...

Inside John Malkovich

Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness was forecast by his 1938 novel La Nausee , in which a solitary named Antoine Roquentin, in the privacy of his journal, analyzes the agony of his existence: " La nausee ... c'est moi ." The comedy Being John Malkovich opens with a similarly pain-infused intimacy, in a stunning solo "Dance of Despair and Disillusion" performed with a marionette by a down-and-out puppeteer named Craig Schwartz. For Craig, there is no question: Being is Nothingness. We know this because the puppet is modeled on the puppeteer, with his acrobat's body but the hurt eyes of professional failure. His longing for escape combines with his longing for erotic love in a painful and hilarious rendition of the love story of Abelard and Heloise, a performance that will end his career on the street—"consciousness is a terrible curse," he laments with his enduring wit—and will force him to seek work in the real world. Fortunately, his being "a short-statured man with nimble...

Word of Mouth

A decade after Abbie Hoffman had first set the hairstyle for a generation, he showed up on a television talk show with a radically short haircut and the explanation that, once Tab Hunter was wearing his hair long, Hoffman knew it had come time to cut his own. By this logic, now that an off-Broadway comedy played entirely in hip-hop rhyme is being raved about in The Wall Street Journal , has hip-hop also come full circle? The Bomb-itty of Errors is a winningly clever reinvention of Shakespeare's comedy of mistaken identity, with the text and music created and performed by five white kids who merge hip-hop and theater for a mainstream audience of all ages. In other words, the black hip-hop subculture that began in the mid-1970s in the vast train yards of the New York subway system--with adolescent trespassers spray-painting graffiti--has now surfaced downtown, via NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, in a show produced by Daryl Roth, three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Just as from...