Exit, Pursued by a Bono

Slate's Culture Blog
March 10 2011 8:43 PM

Exit, Pursued by a Bono

After months of accidents, ballooning costs, terrible reviews, and gleeful public rubbernecking, Julie Taymor is  officially out  as the director of the beleaguered Broadway musical,  Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

Last month, when critics collectively descended upon the show (which was then, as now, still in previews), I  noted  how the story of  Spider-Man  had really become a story about Taymor, who was being depicted as character in a Greek tragedy of her own making. The director and co-book writer also earned comparisons to Arachne,  Spider-Man 's ancient, eight-legged antagonist. (Vulture's Scott Brown  described  the show as being "about an artist locked in a death grapple with her subject, a tumultuous relationship between a talented, tormented older woman and a callow young stud.")


Now that Taymor's been booted, writers are coming up with a whole new set of similes for her condition. On The   New Yorker 's Web site, Michael Schulman is "reminded of  the late stages of Hillary Clinton's 2008 Presidential campaign , when it was clear to everybody in the world but Clinton that the numbers weren't going to add up."

Ultimately, Taymor was blinded by her own strengths: persistence, passion, and unforgiving originality. Let's hope that she can ride those qualities, as Hillary Clinton did, to something new and big ...

In the  New York Times , Taymor's friend Jeffrey Horowitz, artistic director of New York's Theater for a New Audience, uses  a maternal metaphor :

Julie's an extremely sensitive person, and she has always felt like a mother to her plays, a mother to her characters ... This is like a mother being taken away from her family. She loves that family. She wants that family.

The Associated Press, meanwhile, seems to quote a comparison of Taymor's own fashioning, from her  TED talk  last week:

"I'm in  The Crucible  right now,"  she said, referring to the Arthur Miller play about the Salem witch trials. "It's trial by fire."

That last metaphor is so juicy, so resonant a woman being persecuted by an angry mob! but it may actually be too good to be true: When the  New York Times ' ArtsBeat blog printed the same quote , it made it sound like Taymor was just referring to a generic crucible. She also compared the eight-year experience of developing  Spider-Man  to scaling twin volcanoes, which she once did in Indonesia a useful reminder that, regardless of her current situation, Julie Taymor is a badass.

The  New York Post 's Michael Riedel  reports  that Bono is going to be stepping up as the show's creative honcho. Along with a new creative team including director Philip William McKinley and playwright and  Spider-Man  comics scribe Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa he plans to "rip the show apart from top to bottom," says a source.

I'm dubious about this overhaul. Perhaps the new team  will  manage to completely revamp the show. More likely, they'll produce a slightly more coherent mess. Will theatergoers really prefer that to Taymor's glorious trainwreck?

Meanwhile, here's another implicit metaphor: When the show finally opens this summer, Arachne's role will likely be diminished .

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