|Divided loyalties: Miles, the Governess, and Peter Quint in NYCO's Turn of the Screw (Photo (c) Richard Termine)|
If the production had had less happening, I thought, it would have been easier to focus on the essentials of what it was about. Intelligent and nuanced in detail (how does the Iron Lady on the BBC affect this anxious socialization of appropriate femininity and masculinity?) it contained some ghostly gimmicks which I found distracting. If Peter Quint represents repressed (bisexual?) desire, there's no need for his presence to make the lights flicker and the TV go dark. Aside from these tropes of supernatural haunting, there's nothing to suggest that Quint is a tortured soul; rather, he seems the most self-assured character of the piece. Though Quint himself is not troubled, the Governess is, deeply. Miss Jessel was. Miles, by contrast, though disturbed and frightened by Quint, is also his ally, also the singer of his song. This unsettled, unsettling openness contrasts with the insistence of the others that Quint's ways are other and incomprehensible. In Miss Jessel's address to Flora, in Mrs. Grose's outcry, there are repeated assertions that men and women cannot, must not, should not communicate in the same ways. And this is part of what thwarts the Governess: Miles is (almost) a man; he can often seem it in his preternatural self-possession and suave, even challenging maturity. So how must she treat him? As a child? Or as the always-already sexualized, dangerous Other, the male? Miles' hesitant attempts--sometimes fearful, sometimes precociously confident--to reconcile this perceived dichotomy end in frustration, and the tragedy of a forfeited future.