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Lucy Komisar

"The Fountainhead" is Van Hove's Misogynistic take on Ayn Rand

“The Fountainhead.”
Adapted by Koen Tachelet from the novel by Ayn Rand, translated by Erica van Rijsewijk and Jan van Rheenen. Direced by Ivo van Hove. In Dutch with English titles.
Toneelgroep Amsterdam at Brooklyn Academy of Music, Opera House, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn.
Tickets: (718) 636-4100; https://www.bam.org
Playing November 28 - December 2, 2017.

Aus Greidanus Jr as Peter Keating (left), Ramsey Nasr as Howard Roark (right). Photo by Richard Termine.

"A B movie" would be too generous a description of this dreadful play. It is based on the tome by Ayn Rand, a bible of the far-right, which, if the play is any indication, shows they have no more taste in literature than politics. Or maybe this is just the fault of adapter Koen Tachelet. Director Ivo van Hove adds his own horrors.

Events take place in a very large space/office/workroom that makes it easy to move from one scene to another without repeated set changes. Though it gives up intimacy. Like looking through the wrong end of a telescope. Or being at a three-ring circus.

In the rear is a video screen giving us closeups of the actions. Sort of a big brother/virtual reality/no escape.
Howard Roark (Ramsey Nasr) our hero, or anti-hero, is in a competition with his friend/colleague Peter Keating (Aus Greidanus Jr.) over who will be the best/or most successful architect. Roark is going for the first, Keating the second. They both end up in New York.

Roark goes to work for a man who hasn't had a commission in years. Keating gets a job, sucks up to his boss, but asks Roark for help all along the way. He's just a draftsman, and Roark is the creative guy.
Keating pays Roark $500 to use his work. (But, hey, isn't that capitalism?)

Then we get into some soap opera. Roark meets Dominique Francon (Halina Reijn), a rather cynical independent woman, a journalist who writes about architecture, who suddenly decides she wants to marry, right away.

Somehow this segues into rock pounding in a quarry. And Francon imagining she is with a man she loathes — Roark. Who then rapes her, not symbolically, very graphically. He pulls down her pants to reveal bare ass and rapes her from behind. She screams.

Aus Greidanus Jr as Peter Keating (left), and Halina Reijn as Dominique Francon (right). Photo by Richard Termine.

In case you are too far from the stage, you can see it all on the video screen. She is turned on. She revels in his violent manhood. I cringe in disgust.

Francon moves between the two rivals. Now one (I forget which) says if they marry, she has to give up work. And there's more of her walking around naked. Roark wants an enraptured surrender, "the moment before a body breaks."

When it doesn't get bad, it gets silly. Keating testifies against Roark in a lawsuit. Shortly, Roark arrives on staged naked. We notice that he seems to prefer anal sex. Which gives Dominique loud orgasms. Then she tells him she has married Peter Keating.

Are you following this pretentious drivel? And we have only just gotten to the intermission! This went on for four hours!

We come to the newspaper publisher Gail Wynand (Hans Kesting), who prints what people in the slums want to read. Everything is for sale. Dominique will suck up to him. She’ll sleep with him to get a commission for her husband.

Halina Reijn as Dominique Francon (left), and Hans Kesting as Gail Wynand (right). Photo by Richard Termine.

What in the world is van Hove's point? Corruption of capitalism? We know that. (So how is Ayn Rand the far-right guru?) Aside from that, the story is ridiculous when it is not offensive, horrific, misogynistic. Conjures up "Stepford Wives."

There will be more B-movie stuff about Roark blowing up social housing that aesthetically offends him. (And remember, he is the hero.)

What is this porn doing at BAM? Francon is supposed to be a serious architecture critic, but her real talent seems to be sexual availability to anyone who might be useful.

Is the point that Ayn Rand is porn? Offensive, regressive? Not sure van Hove is saying that. He seems to revel in this, too. This play offends me.


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