For many years I never quite understood, or rather agreed with, the sentiment that some films would work better on the stage. It seemed silly. Nothing was wrong with simple film sets that didn't have much bearing on the plot, that weren't dynamic, engaging, or moving. While a movie like The House of Yes might be wonderful as a play, I always found that watching the volleying banter on the big screen gave it life that a live production could never reach. Likewise, there was something magical about Richard Linklater taping an entire film (Tape) in one room with only three actors. Why should it be shackled to the stage?

And then I sat down to watch Woody Allen's Whatever Works and the light clicked on. I have never seen a movie so utterly terrible on the big screen that would be so entirely apt on the stage. Each set was irrelevant. Wipe away the streets and restaurants Boris and his friends chat at and replace it with a table and spotlight. Add a bed and bathroom and you've got Boris' run-down apartment. Change the lighting and add some seagull noises -- you've got Randy James' boat abode. Not one set added any life to the feature and every scene looked like it would thrive better on a bare-bones stage with the actors playing off each other in real time.


The film's over-the-top and devoid-of-reality plot is just the sort of quirk that can thrive on-stage, and now I get it. Where a film like Annie Hall lived within its setting, Allen's most current New York is nothing more than an easy-to-erase and irrelevant backdrop. I might still think that most stage-stylish films are worthy of the big-screen treatment, but I now see how entirely ill-suited some stories can be for celluloid.

Which movies do you think would work better on the stage?