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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, December 21, 2006
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
LAST-MINUTE SPECIAL-APPEAL! *
HELP SAVE LONDON'S THEATRE-MUSEUM IN COVENT GARDEN! *
Year-End Meditation: *
Farewell, Troubled 2006! *
Looking Forward To Bright New 2007! *
A New Look for Show Notes in 2007! *
New Plays; *
Old Plays in Revival: *
New Musicals: *
Old Musicals in Revival: *
Other Entertainments/Other Venues: *
Opera, Dance, & Music-Theatre: *
Holiday Production-Roundup: *
HELP SAVE LONDON'S THEATRE-MUSEUM IN COVENT GARDEN!
ON 7 JANUARY 2007, THE THEATRE-MUSEUM IN COVENT GARDEN WILL BE CLOSED DOWN BY ITS PARENT—THE VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM—TO SAVE MONEY!
You can help prevent this—and you don't have to send a donation.
You can become a GUARDIAN of the THEATRE-MUSEUM!
In Three Simple Steps:
1] Log on to the website: www.theatremuseumguardians.org.uk
2] Fill in your name and check some of the boxes provided.
3] If not Internet-connected, send your Name & Address to:
SAVE LONDON'S THEATRES CAMPAIGN
Guild House, Upper St. Martin's Lane
London WC2H 9EG, Britain
Do this and you will be joining such Theatre Museum patrons as Dame Judi Dench, Zoë Wanamaker, Vanessa Redgrave, Lynn Redgrave, Sir Alan Ayckbourn, Sir Arnold Wesker, Sir David Hare, Sir Peter Hall, Sir Cameron Macintosh, Sir Derek Jacobi, Sir Donald Sinden, and Lord Rix, Lady Macmillan, Viscount Falkland, & the Earl of Glasgow! Oh, there's also Simon Callow and Paul Scofield on board!
If you do not ACT NOW! there won't be any Theatre-Museum in Covent Garden ready for your entertainment, information, & research when you come to London for your next Great West-End Theatre Adventure!
[This commentary also appears on NYMuseums.com in altered form.]
Farewell, Troubled 2006!
Looking Forward To Bright New 2007!
Do the Arts Have a Role To Play,
Helping America Build Democratic Nations in the Middle-East?
This is a purely Rhetorical Question. Obviously, the Arts do not, as America is incapable of Building Nations—Democratic or otherwise—in the Middle-East. Or elsewhere…
And, as for the Arts in their many guises, you may well remember that the American Invasion Plan for Iraq made no provision for protecting the priceless collections of Iraq's National Museum. [Forget about Theatres: Live representations of human-beings on stage are forbidden the strictest of Muslims.]
The problem now seems to be whether American Democracy can be preserved from the ideological onslaughts of the perverse NeoCons. And the ongoing depredations against Traditional American Freedoms by the Bush White House.
You may recall that Paul Wolfowitz—one of the leading NeoCon Ideologues pushing for Regime Change in Iraq—retired from the Department of Defense when it became clear he had helped launch an Epic Disaster, only to become Head of the World Bank! Such are the Rewards of Failure.
So why should American Artists—Performing & Otherwise—expect a Call to Serve Their Country in any of the many ways that the Arts can help build healthy, happy societies and to heal what has been savaged and torn asunder? And they can also forget about programs to support performing-artists & play-productions, to train young hopefuls, and to make the Performing-Arts an important part of school-curricula at all levels…
The best we can hope for in the New Year of 2007 is that aspiring young talents, Established Performing-Artists, Theatre-Designers & Technicians, Producers & Artistic Directors, and even Theatre-Critics & Performing-Arts Journalists will do all that they can—on their own initiatives—to make the Arts Important in American Life.
A New Look for Show Notes in 2007!
Usually, your scribe's columns for NYTheatre-wire.com are headed with a Month-date, as they are usually compiled at month-ends. For this final year-end report, however, the full date is European-style: 24 December 2006.
The reason for this is that on that date, your roving performing-arts-reporter was 78 years old! This might help explain to some readers of this site why I do not cover every theatre-production or play-reading in New York City. I cannot do so: I do not have the Time.
Not to overlook those Oddities which may spring up in attics or basements beyond Avenue A or over on Court Street in Brooklyn. Then there's the Papermill Playhouse, way over in New Jersey…
Nor to neglect theatre in Chicago, San Francisco, & Shanghai, when travel permits. Or in London or Leningrad—as it then was, or Mexico-City or Paris or Warsaw or Copenhagen or Riga or Seville or Sofia, Bulgaria.
It's not a problem of Energy or Will: I would take a look at almost everything if I had the time to do so, but I am also the Senior Correspondent of NYMuseums.com, which is NYTheatre-Wire's sister-site, which requires that I see almost every Museum Press-Preview for new Exhibitions. And the breath-taking Blockbusters!
I used to spend all three summer-months—between Spring & Fall Semesters at Brooklyn College & the CUNY Graduate Center—covering Theatre, Opera, & Dance all over Europe, East & West. But, after my 60th birthday—when I wrongly thought I'd stop counting—I had to reduce this to two months.
My family in California was growing ever older and needed some attention… Also, there was the annual Shakespeare Festival nearby in Ashland, Oregon! Plus ACT in SanFran and the Berkeley Rep!
This summer was my 50th Anniversary at the famed festivals of Bayreuth, Bregenz, Edinburgh, Munich, & Salzburg! Over the past half-century, I have saved production-photos from all those festivals—an almost unrivaled ArtsArchive: the great years of Maestro Herbert von Karajan at Salzburg, among others! At both Bayreuth & Salzburg, critics had to buy the actual photos! So my photo-archives have a $$$$ value as well as a cultural one.
With the approval of the various festivals—and at no cost to them—the not-for-profit Lightning New Media has created individual sub-websites for all five fests, which will eventually be freely available under their over-arching website: ArtsArchive.biz.
In addition to the Festival production-photos, there will also be many of my own INFOTOGRAPHY™ photos of the festival-cities and their major landmarks and festival-venues.
Over the decades, I have interviewed many famed stage-artists, directors, designers, technicians, conductors, & arts-managers for magazines such as Opera News, Ballet News, Opera Monthly, Theatre Crafts, Entertainment Design, After Dark, Dance Magazine, Theatre Design & Technology, and other national publications.
All these audio-interviews made at—and about—the major festivals will be online as well. Also as many of my reports over the past fifty years as can be found in my extensive print-publication-files. This will include festival columns from NYTheatre-Wire dating back to 1994!
[Need I note that this is taking a great deal of my available time—and not a little cash-outlay…]
This site will also host my printed-archive of fourteen years of creating, writing, taking-photographs-for, & editing both The Art Deco News and The Modernist. Under the title of the Glenn Loney Book Shop all my out-of-print books and previously unpublished arts-books will be available online on the ArtsArchive.biz website as well. This is also taking a lot of time—and money—in the scanning, editing, & formatting for the website.
Actually, as the Historian—and also an Awards-Nominator—for the Outer Critics Circle, an awards-voter for the Drama Desk, and a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the International Association of Theatre Critics—for which I was last month one of two Official American Delegates to the "Extraordinary Congress" of IATC in Seoul, Korea—I have a rather full schedule.
I finally had to give up full-time membership in the Theatre Historical Society, the American Society for Theatre Research, and its counterpart, the International Society for Theatre Research.
But I am still a member of the Music Critics of North America and the Dance Critics Association. I did not join the Art Critics—too many dues to pay—primarily because I think of myself on that site as merely an Arts-Reporter or Arts-Journalist. But even a journalist can form an opinion.
After all, I studied Art History at the University of Wisconsin with no less an expert than actress Uta Hagen's father, Prof. Dr. Oscar Hagen! [When I asked Uta for an interview about training opera-stars to act—Don't Call Me Madam!—she said she didn't give interviews. But when I told her I'd got an A from her dad, she relented: "I've got to see someone who received an A from my pop!"]
In addition to other professional-organization duties & responsibilities, I am also a Nominator for the Municipal Art Society's annual Brendan Gill Award. There was even a time when I was a Tony-Voter, but that was when I was on the A- or B+ List as well as the Second-Night List for major print-publications.
It must be noted that there is a major prejudice among some arts-publicists against website reviewers & reporters—as opposed to print-publication writers—in the doling-out of press-privileges and press-tickets. As a result, I can no longer get press-tickets for the Metropolitan Opera or the New York City Opera…
Actually, as more newspapers & journals bite the dust—and arts-coverage in surviving publications becomes increasingly limited or even omitted—more arts-related reportage & criticism is now available on various websites. This needs some recognition by the Arts-Powers That Be!
Then there's the Problem of Age-Discrimination. When I turned 60—nearly two decades ago—I bounded into the offices of three Manhattan-based national print-publications for whom I had been writing: "Guess what! I'm sixty years old today!"
Three sets of editors' faces fell: "Good God, Glenn! We thought you were maybe 40 or 45… Look, you can't write for us anymore. We're a Young Magazine, with a Young Outlook and a Young Readership. Sorry!" [This is a generic-replay of an almost universal-response.]
I am not paid for these Museum & Theatre-Wire reports: they are—if not that clichéd Labor-of-Love—at least a kind of Arts-Obsession.
The point of this long Blogger-style Print-Rant is that Show Notes, in the bright New Year of 2007, will have to take a somewhat Simplified Form. More like brief Listings & Comments, than extensive Ruminations & Rambllngs…
And, as I am leaving for Egypt and an INFOTOGRAPHY™ expedition to all the major Historic Sites early in January, I will try out this new format in this Farewell to 2006 column…
It has also not been lost on me that my many theatre-critic colleagues do not report on all the shows they see. Some with weekly columns may choose to review only one or two shows of the five, six, or seven they may have seen that week.
There would have been more theatre-columns this past year, had I not been traveling so much. This current one might have been posted earlier, but I was still digesting the October/November theatre & photography experiences of my first trips to Korea & Japan. The hundreds of photos are still not labeled, indexed, and organized into photo-volumes…
But I think I owe all the shows & theatres that have invited me at least a Listing & Comment. Should I get over this Obsession?
Tom Stoppard's THE COAST OF UTOPIA: VOYAGE [*****]
This first-installment of Tom Stoppard's Epic of Russian Intellectual Ferment—which laid the ground-work for the Communist Revolution and the Triumph of Lenin—is a major achievement for the Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre—as the ensemble was originally conceived by such talents as Harold Clurman, Arthur Miller, & Elia Kazan. It has not often attained the high level of acting-excellence initially envisioned, but director Jack O'Brien has coaxed wonders from an admirable cast, featuring Richard Easton, Jennifer Ehle, Billy Crudup, Martha Plimpton, Brían F. O'Byrne, Amy Irving, & Ethan Hawke, among others. I saw the entire Royal National Theatre Marathon production several seasons ago—and was "blown-away," as they say. This first-third of the drama promises as much when all three sections are later played ensuite! I'll see Part Two: Shipwreck on my birthday!
David Hare's THE VERTICAL HOUR [***]
Clive Barnes calls this new David Hare socio-political drama "the finest play on Broadway in years!" That's the quote they keep repeating on WQXR every half-hour. But Clive has often said that before this production. It has a Tremendous Tree, designed by Scott Pask! It stars the delightfully twitchy Bill Nighy, as well as Julianne Moore, in her Broadway debut. Unless she was angry-loud—or giving Yale Tutorials in a gothic-paneled college-inset—she was breathy, very hard to hear. She doesn't project. Oh, the Political-Content? She was a War-Correspondent in Iraq—where else?—and she is to return, eschewing marriage to Nighy's physical-therapist son. Not Vintage Hare, sad to say…
Paul Rudnick's REGRETS ONLY [***]
One regrets only that the usually ingenious Paul Rudnik has not written a much wittier socio-political comedy. The Father-of-the bride-to-be has been asked by the President [guess who?] to draft an Amendment to the Constitution that will prevent Gay Marriages. Rudnik has borrowed his Central-Dramatic-Device from Douglas Turner Ward's Day of Absence, in which all the Blacks disappear, leaving a Southern town of Racist Whites helpless. He has also borrowed, in effect, Thornton Wilder's wise-cracking maid, Sabrina, from The Skin of Our Teeth. The always-admirable George Grizzard convincingly—but not flamboyantly—plays a Gay Fashion-Designer, possibly modeled on the late Bill Blass. The Wedding is endangered when he causes all New York's Gays to absent themselves. Gotham is paralyzed, but William Ivey Long's gowns are splendid!
David Greig's THE AMERICAN PILOT [****]
David Greig is a frequent force for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but he also has playwriting-ties to the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre, the Young Vic, the Donmar, Out of Joint, and the Scottish National Theatre. So you might be tempted to wonder why he is not better-known in New York & the Regions. Certainly The American Pilot ought to have a wider public interest than merely for subscribers to MTC's smaller basement-stage at City Center. Aaron Staton is the furious but helpless American Pilot, who has parachuted into a nameless village somewhere in the Middle East or the Asian Sub-continent. What is to be done with—or to—him? Sell him back to the Americans? Behead him before a Video-camera? Your worst fears about being shot-down over Afghanistan! Characters may seem somewhat TV-stereotypical, but most are illiterate, superstitious, & fearful. Not a Broadway transfer, but worthy of subsequent productions!
Julia Cho's DURANGO [***]
Of course you have to make Advance-Reservations if you want to ride the Vintage Steam-train through Colorado's Copper Canyon. But Julia Cho's Repressed-Gay Korean-Immigrant father is so irascible & impulsive that he failed to do so, angering & disappointing his two disappointing & fractious motherless Korean-American sons. I found his story—and his sacrifice of a childhood love for married-respectability—very touching. Not so a colleague: "Don't they write plays about anything but Gays!"
Sarah Ruhl's THE CLEAN HOUSE [**]
Sarah Ruhl has just won one of those "coveted" MacArthur "Genius-grants." On the evidence of this deliberately fractured—but essentially boring—farrago of what writers South-of-the-Border are fond of calling Magic-Realism, she is a Long Way Off from Genius. Nonetheless, her plays have been produced at most of America's most prestigious Regional Theatres, as well as abroad in Israel, Australia, Germany, and even in Canada! There's this sister with a lovely house, a tense-making career, and a failing-marriage. Her maid doesn't like to clean—she should check out Paul Rudnik's maid! So her Lady Macbeth-Obsessive sister comes over, uninvited, to Clean the House! And there's more, but not that interesting…
Anne Washburn's THE INTERNATIONALIST [**]
Thirty-four hours in an Unspecified Central or East European country! Communication and other problems for an American Abroad. But there are Larger Issues here. Does Globalization cause Global Warming? Just asking: you don't expect plays to give you definitive-answers. And that's not one of the Issues here. Zak Orth was Lowell, and Andromache Chalfant designed the succinct set.
Toni Morrison's THE BLUEST EYE [***]
This Steppenwolf Theatre Young Adults production was attractive, charming, touching, and thoughtful by turns. And it was rewarding for grown-ups, as well as their kids. Lydia Diamond effectively adapted Toni Morrison's novel, with Hallie Gordon staging the sympathetic cast on various levels and in the mini-house-fronts of Stephanie Nelson's simple setting. Alana Arenas was Morrison's Pecola Breedlove.
It's that Time of Year again: What were the Ten Best New Plays? The Ten Best Musicals? The Ten Best Revivals in each category? Don't forget: there was no Pulizter Prize for drama in 2006! Not that there were no Worthy Candidates. Of course there were, but the Trustees of Columbia University—who oversee the Pulitzers—have always been Very Conservative Judges. Being both very busy and usually very wealthy, they have better things to do than actually read all the plays, news-reportage, poems, novels, and other prize-contenders. They depend on recommendations of Panels of Experts.
But they are not obligated to accept the recommends. Thus it was that favorable recommends—at various times—for plays by Edward Albee and Lillian Hellman were ignored, and no prize for drama was awarded. My mentor, John Gassner, and his friend & colleague, John Mason Brown, finally resigned in protest.
Readers may wonder why Douglas Carter Beane's The Little Dog Laughed has not yet been reviewed—or even listed—in this installment of Show Notes. When I first saw this hilarious comedy Off-Broadway at Second Stage last January, I noted that it should transfer for a longer run at another Off-Broadway theatre. But nothing happened. Until now, when it has moved to Broadway, at the Cort, with rave-reviews for the wonderful Julie White as a take-no-prisoners Hollywood agent! Her client is a Closeted-Gay actor with a Great Future ahead of him, if he can only manage to Act Straight—and not fall in love with that agreeable Young Hustler… As my colleague asked: "Don't they write plays about anything but Gays!"
Actually, I have not yet seen the partially-recast Little Dog, so I ought to check-out the replacements. Though I do feel a bit guilty about asking for press-tickets for a show that has moved, even if I did praise it and argue for a transfer. Especially if the move is to Broadway, considering how staggeringly expensive the ticket-prices now are. The producers need to sell those seats to People from New Jersey, who are now cramming The Wedding Singer and The Jersey Boys for every performance—and at super-inflated prices.
When I first arrived in New York, a balcony-seat cost $1—or less. A seat on the orchestra-aisle—for my birthday way back in the 1960s—cost $3.50 and the lunch at Sardi's afterward, about the same. Of course, I was not paying: it was a Birthday Gift. Otherwise, I'd have seen Night of the Iguana from the balcony, as usual–
Old Plays in Revival:
Sir Harley Granville Barker's THE VOYSEY INHERITANCE [*****]
This stunning revival of London West-End actor-manager Granville Barker's tense Social Drama is worth a visit for the splendid set and gorgeous Edwardian costumes alone. The grand salon of the Voysey Country-House seems constructed of floor-to-ceiling heavy gold picture-frames, with portraits and genre-scenes enclosed. And it is on such elegant & traditional externals that the great Reputation of the Voysey Family Investment Bank is founded. Unfortunately, as the distraught inheritor-son—played by Pillowman's Michael Stuhlbarg—discovers from the Family Patriarch [a magisterial Fritz Weaver], the old man has conducted affairs in the manner of Enron-Executives, with the same kind of chicanery that recently destroyed the reputation of London's famed & widely respected Barings Bank. Sir Harley was a great advocate of the plays of Bernard Shaw and wrote some impressive social dramas himself, most now wrongly neglected. David Warren has directed a David Mamet-adapted version of Granville Barker's play for Mamet's Atlantic Theatre. [It should be noted that Jonathan Bank's Mint Theatre also recently revived this troubling drama, in a much-praised production.]
Henrik Ibsen's HEDDA GABLER [****]
Updating Ibsen usually does not work very well. His characters become rather different from the ones he had imagined in a Claustrophobic 19th Century Norway. And their difficult social & personal situations & interactions are undercut by Modern Life, which offers no easy parallels to the Religion-Ridden & Tradition-Bound Norway of Ibsen's time. A recent New York Theatre Workshop staging by a Continental Genius was at most bizarre. At BAM—celebrating Ibsen's Anniversary Year—a fairly traditional Hedda production, actually from Norway, was lackluster. But Berlin's Schaubühne staging—directed by Thomas Ostermeier and recently at BAM—was Post-Modernly-Contemporary and all the more powerful because of that! The Tesmans could have been living in Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona House, all glass, revolving & reflected in a slanted mylar-mirror overhead. Katharina Schüttler was a devastating & devastated Hedda. One updating that really seemed Incredible, however, was the directorial-decision to have Eilert Løvborg's revolutionary—but as-yet-unpublished—manuscript preserved only on the hard-disk of his lost Laptop Computer! Hedda smashes it to pieces with a hammer. Surely the ever-cautious, ever-resourceful Thea Elvsted would have printed-out a couple of Hard-Copies?
Eugene O'Neill's THE HAIRY APE [***]
Why don't they produce Eugene O'Neill's dramas at the Broadway Theatre that bears his name? For that matter, why not Neil Simon's plays at the Neil Simon Theatre? And when was the last time you saw a comedy by George Broadhurst at his theatre? Instead, this season, to see Vintage Experimental O'Neill, you needed to rush off to Charlotte Moore's admirable Irish Repertory Theatre. Well, O'Neill was of both Irish & Repertory-Theatre Descent. What makes him especially remarkable—even now—among modern American playwrights was his courage in responding to new forms in drama, such as German Expressionism. The Hairy Ape—with its steamy visions of the Underworld of the boiler-room of a great Ocean-Liner, contrasted to the sleek Art Deco Lives of the Manhattan Elite—was a Shocker and a Slice-of-Life Production-Triumph in its day. The wonder is that director Ciarán O'Reilly and set-designer Eugene Lee were able to suggest that production in the tiny confines of the Irish Rep's intimate theatre! The stoker-ape's confrontation with Manhattan—and his death at the hands of a real ape in Central Park Zoo—could have seemed a bit 1920s-dated, had not a deranged man recently died in just such a clinch of Man & Beast at the zoo!
Tennessee Williams' SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER [***]
This symbol-overladen & heat-fevered Tennessee Williams' drama worked better as a movie—which "opened it up," as they are fond of saying. Of course, Montgomery Clift & Elizabeth Taylor helped! No such aid was in sight at the Laura Pels Theatre, in the Roundabout's effortful revival, staged by Mark Brokaw. The estimable Blythe Danner offered her best as the willfully-self-deceiving old Mrs. Venable, but it was an effort and a stretch. For that matter, it wasn't so easy for Katharine Hepburn, either. Santo Loquasto's vision of the Venable Mansion in New Orleans' Garden District resembled a Jungle Conservatory. Beware the Man-Eating Fly-Traps! They don't talk about Pre-frontal Lobotomies much anymore, but Williams' regret for what happened to his beloved but impaired sister Rose always echoes in this savage drama…
Jay Presson Allen's THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE [**]
Anyone who saw Maggie Smith in the original stage-version—and the subsequent film—of Muriel Spark's novella of School-Mistress Fascism in Pre-War Edinburgh would have had some problems with the casting of the courageous Cynthia Nixon in a role that was not only a serious stretch for her. But also probably wrong for her. Director Scott Elliott is to blame—and for other casting as well. It was also not necessary—or even very revelatory—to show one of Jean Brodie's school-girls modeling buck-naked for the Art Instructor. Muriel Spark is all about Devastating Understatement, even if her Jean Brodie is not: "Young girls! I am in my Prime!" My favorite memory of Dame Maggie in this role on stage is Jean's definitive-comment: "For people who like that kind of thing, well, that is what they like!"
Tad Mosel's ALL THE WAY HOME [***]
It was interesting to see the Transport Group's revival of Tad Mosel's adaptation of James Agee's troubling novel, A Death in the Family. But I couldn't erase the memory of the late Arthur Hill in the original Broadway production. Nonetheless, this fine ensemble did both Agee and Mosel proud, in their recreation of the Follet Family before and in the wake of Father Follet's untimely death in an auto-crash. Was he just over-tired—or drinking? Director—and Transport co-founder—Jack Cummings III has worked wonders with his troupe and the drama. For the Record: the Transport Group has a five-year-plan for a ten-decade exploration of various aspects of the American Experience. [August Wilson-inspired, in terms of the decadal-decision?] This will be accomplished with five classic American Plays & Musicals, as well as five commissioned world-premiere plays and musicals. This began with an excellent Our Town, in 2002. In 2004, Transport premiered Michael John LaChiusa's First Lady Suite.
Simon Gray's BUTLEY [**]
OK, so I never liked this play—or its Anti-Hero, Ben Butley—but I did very much admire Alan Bates in the original London production. Although Simon Gray writes—with a bitter sarcasm—about teachers, writers, editors, & publishers, he is usually On-Target, especially about malicious & disappointed Academics & Authors. But—as with Cynthia Nixon as Jean Brodie or Blythe Danner as Mrs. Venable—the role of Butley is certainly a muscle-wrenching stretch for Nathan Lane. He works himself into a fever-sweat in the process, but this undercuts Butley's slyly vicious verbal-attacks on his colleagues. Radio-ads on WQXR—my only source of contact with the Outside World, when at the console of the Mighty Mac—feature a recording of Lane assuring listeners that Simon Gray actually wanted him to portray Butley when he had aged enough. But there's a shelf-life/sell-by problem: Lane is now too pudgy, too obviously middle-aged, to suggest the kind of attractive & brilliant male University Lecturer a younger male former-student & now colleague might be initially attracted-to… Long before The History Boys, good academic-advice was always: "Keep your hands off the students!"
August Wilson's TWO TRAINS RUNNING [***]
When the American Theatre Critics Assn. recently descended on the theatres of Minneapolis & St. Paul, one of the most memorable productions they saw was one of August Wilson's Decadal-Dramas of African-American life in the Mean Streets of Pittsburgh's Hill District. This was staged by Lou Bellamy, the Guiding-Light of St. Paul's estimable Penumbra Theatre, where Wilson had his first production! Bellamy has now brought his directorial-skills and Wilsonian-insights to Signature Theatre's August Wilson Season. But Two Trains Running is rather slow-moving, and Bellamy slows it down even more with a café-waitress who makes frequent maddenly slow-motion stage-crosses, possibly to suggest a place and time where Nothing Is Happening. At least not for Blacks… Frankie Faison is a power-house as Memphis, but the City of Pittsburgh plans to invoke Right of Eminent Domain to tear down the café & its sheltering building for mere pennies.
Wm. Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT [*****]
Although this brilliant, elegantly-stylized, deeply-moving production was Shaksespeare in Slavic, it was one of the finest, most beautiful stagings of Twelfth Night I have ever seen. Including director Declan Donnellan's original English version of his concept— both performed entirely with male-actors, as in the Bard's own time. This is a bitter-sweet comedy I had already seen too many times as a Regular at many a Shakespeare Festival. Nonetheless, in this essentially stark & simple staging, I discovered New Meanings, New Relationships, New Ideas that had not surfaced in previous productions. Thanks to BAM for importing it. This powerful staging—mounted by the Chekhov International Theatre Festival of Moscow—is touring the United States. So, if it comes your way, DO NOT MISS IT!
Wm. Shakespeare's LA TEMPÊTE/THE TEMPEST [***]
Not to overawe its audiences with Too Much Ibsen, this season's Next Wave at Brooklyn's BAM has programmed some Shakespeare as well. Unfortunately, this self-regarding French-Canadian avant-garde production of The Tempest was no match for Moscow's Twelfth Night. Almost Amateur vs. Professional, although it offered such trendy innovations as a live-cast reduced to only Four Performers. Not exactly to call them actors, as there was rather more ranting than required. The Québeqoise idea of conflating Caliban with Ariel—both slaves to Prospero on his Enchanted Isle—doesn't work effectively as a single-character: They are not Of the Same Order. One is a Spirit, the other a Savage. Nor was the much-touted Multi-Media effect of having the rest of the cast appear as Virtual Characters on a giant video-screen. With bizarre mutating-backgrounds and vaporous spirits, etc.
MARY POPPINS [***]
At least actors-in-ape-suits do not bungee-cord themselves all over the stage of the New Amsterdam Theatre, as they do over at the Richard Rodgers, in that other Walt Disney Hit, Tarzan. But Mary Poppins—and her eponymous Umbrella—certainly do fly a lot. At the close, they even soar way out over the audience, to disappear high above the balcony, possibly flying off to that fairytale-land from whence she came to Shape-Up the Banks Family, kids and adults alike. Tarzan's Bob Crowley has designed both sets & costumes, but, thankfully, he has not also staged, as he did for the Ape-man. Sir Richard Eyre has directed, which could not have been easy, given a front-and-center two-story doll-house-like home-interior. The set is shallow, so all movement must be linear or vertically-inclined. The Edwardian Children's Nursery in the Banks attic descends in front of this movable set, to the immense surprise & delight of both adults & kids in the audience. But I kept hoping Peter Pan—or Sandy Duncan or Kathy Rigby—would fly in the Nursery window, and a great shambling white dog named Nana would arrive to look after the kids. Mary Poppins is really a Control-Freak! The much-admired Matthew Bourne's dance-routines are energetic & attractive—especially that of the Chimney-Sweeps—but they also look Formulaic—and not much inspired by the characters or the plot. Gavin Lee is amusing as Bert, the Chimney-Sweep—a season for Sweeps, as Kristin Chenoweth is also impersonating one as Ella, in The Apple Tree! Then there's Ashley Brown, who plays the title-role, sings bravely, Nannies imperiously, and expands the potentials of the wire-flying-apparatus. Sir Cameron Macintosh produced. Most of the songs you may already know from the film or your DVD?
DR. SEUSS' HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS! THE MUSICAL [***]
If you saw the Jim Carrey movie—or have the DVD—seeing this show with the entire family, especially with its limited Holiday-run and high-priced tickets, may seem too costly. Especially when we are gushing millions of dollars daily to establish Democracy in Iraq and keep those Oil-Gushers coming for Mobil/Exxon. In fact, it could be more cost-efficient to return to Dr. Seuss' charming original story, with its delightfully cartoonish illustrations. But it's always good to see John Cullum at work in a musical, even if it's only as Old Max. And the athletic Patrick Page is infectious as the Grinch. As always, John Lee Beatty's Seussian-settings are a delight, as are Michael Curry's puppets! Jack O'Brien created the original of this production at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre and "supervised" this revival. But it's a Far Cry from Tom Stoppard's Utopia and O'Brien's brilliant staging of that Epic at Lincoln Center… Still, this is a charming production and could tour endlessly—with lower ticket-prices!
GREY GARDENS [***]
Initially, seeing Grey Gardens in its Playwrights Horizons premiere, I was puzzled by the way in which Doug Wright had chosen to tell the pathetic tale of the Bouvier-Cousin of Jackie Kennedy. Watching it again on Broadway, at the Walter Kerr, I can better understand his decision to show us the debutante Edie Beale in the first act—frustrated by her graciously-domineering mother—and, in the second act, as a bizarre middle-aged woman. But the second-act attempt at a "musical-number" is still awkward and intrusive, even if the Beales—both mother and daughter—don't stop singing about their Memories, Dreams, & Troubles. What remains resoundingly impressive is Christine Ebersole's all-too-human impersonation of both Edith Bouvier Beale, in the first act, and "Little" Edie Beale, in Act Two. As at Playwrights, she is wonderfully supported, in the second part, by Mary Louise Wilson, as the demanding, infirm, cranky—but still domineering—Old Edie. For me, the score isn't memorable, aside from a wistfully sad lyric about another winter "in a summer town." If you had ever seen the actual Grey Gardens mansion in its Occupied-Dereliction, you might still prefer to remember it as it then was. Or from the David Maysles documentary of the same name.
SPRING AWAKENING [****]
Initially, seeing Spring Awakening in its Atlantic Theatre premiere, I was somewhat put-off by the linking of a furiously out-bursting modern rock-score with the repressed, closeted, sexually-ignorant lives of some turn-of-the-last-century German teen-agers. In that Prussianized Moral World of Rectitude, Respectability, & Denial, Mauritz, Melchoir, & Wendla would hardly have expressed themselves so fiercely, defiantly, & vibrantly. Frank Wedekind—the creator of the femme-fatale Lulu—was writing about a very different time, place, and relationship between Pastors, Parents, & Teachers with the children in their charge. Watching Spring Awakening again on Broadway, at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, I can better understand composer Duncan Sheik & librettist Steven Sater's decision to show these tortured teens in the costumes of their own time—the powers of Wedekind's play not only remain, but they are incredibly amplified by the device of allowing his youths & maidens to sing out their anguish and longing in a much more modern mode. As staged by Michael Mayer and choreographed by Bill T. Jones, this production is Sheer Dynamite! Cast with the Stars of Tomorrow! As for Singing Students, History Boys, eat your hearts out!
THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN' [*]
Not that much, they aren't. Shows still close if critics hate them and audiences don't have a Clue. Unfortunately for choreographer/director Twyla Tharp, this was no Movin' Out. But then Billy Joel was no Bob Dylan—and Dylan Defeated Tharp. She could not devise a way to make his songs work on stage. Captain Ahrab and his crew were not the answer. It looked rather like Pirates of the Caribbean meets the Big Apple Circus, alas. A total loss of $8.5 million!
HIGH FIDELITY [*]
Tower Records is also Closing! But not as fast as High Fidelity, the brief Broadway Incarnation of what has become a Cult Property, somewhat on the order of The Rocky Horror Show. Or so I am told… The Link between Tower and Hi-Fi is that the latter is largely set in a shabby, doomed Record-Shop, with a nerdy, dysfunctional staff and a haplessly unlucky-in-love young male store-owner. There was plenty of noisy Song-Bellowing and tumultuously energetic Stage-Movement, but the best Production-Value—for your scribe, at least—was the constantly-changing, frequently-mutating settings of Anna Louizos. These split-second transformations occurred almost too swiftly: I wanted to see more clearly how they worked. [One of the joys of 19th century British Theatre was to see the magical Transformations happen gradually!] Somehow I have never managed to see the Cult Movie—nor to have read the Cult-Novel—on which this stage-musical was based. So I was baffled by the shrieks of Recognition & Pleasure around me from the Capacity House on Closing Night. Fortunately, it was not the Last Night for the High Fidelity T-shirts, as they will surely turn up somewhere on Eighth Avenue at greatly reduced prices… The prize-winning David Lindsaay-Abaire wrote the abysmal book. Will Chase—the show's hard-working star—also appeared on Broadway in Lennon. Which also closed early…
MURDER MYSTERY BLUES 
On the evidence of this rankly amateurish production at 59E59, it was impossible to reconcile the London critic-quotes in the program which raved about this Woody Allen short-story musical-collage. It was as difficult to believe that Allen had actually authorized this inept Janet Clarke adaptation & staging. As in John Doyle's revivals of Sweeney Todd & Company, the appalling actors played their own instruments, singing badly as well. The real problem, apparently, was that they were in fact really more musicians than talented/trained actors anyway…
FLOYD AND CLEA UNDER THE WESTERN SKY [**]
The rumpled, shambling David Cale starred in this improbable quasi-Country & Western musical, for which he had also written book & lyrics and co-composed the music. Cale has a host of bio-credits, but he did not direct: he left that task to Joe Calarco, who didn't have much to do on the tiny set at Playwrights Horizons. Mary Faber impersonated Cleo. No, this is not another Grey Gardens Broadway-transfer…
Old Musicals in Revival:
As with innovative director John Doyle's recent & highly successful Sweeney Todd revival, all the actor-singers in Stephen Sondheim's Company play their own instruments—and then some. David Gallo's clinically-simple set is anchored by a single great column: Phallus-inspired? Some of the Social-Concerns & Activities that were topical when this show was new now seem really dated. Pot, anyone? But you cannot change modern-classic-lyrics to suit the fashions of succeeding decades. The generally attractive—and certainly talented—cast also tries to re-animate the interest & anxiety about Heterosexual Marriage that was so in vogue all those long years ago. Where is the Sondheim Musical about Gay Weddings? And Ladies who Lunch has lost its Elaine-Strichian bite. Raúl Esparza, however, is charming, if deliberately remote, as Bobby with no Bio. When the show was originally produced, I thought Bobby was merely a dramatic-device—what does he do for a living?—to link the four George Furth playlets that are the real heart of this musical. He may have been suggested by the young producer/director Hal Prince, in fact. The rest of Furth's one-acts showed up later as Twigs, with Sada Thompson.
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS [****]
Yes, Virginia, there is a Christmas Scene in Meet Me in St. Louis! Charlotte Moore—who was in the Broadway version of Vincente Minelli's vintage movie-musical—has adroitly staged this charming show for her Irish Repertory Theatre. Even without Judy Garland—later Mrs. Minelli—it is still a delight. And Becky Barta is a lovely Katie. Tony Straiges has devised an novel evocation of the 1904 when St. Louis was preparing for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, one of the most fabulous of American World's Fairs. This show—with a facile book by Hugh Wheeler, who replaced Lillian Hellman's disastrous book for Candide—is based both on the MGM film and Sally Benson's original St. Louis short-stories for the New Yorker. The songs by Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane still ooze nostalgia. An aged George S. Irving plays Grandpa.
THE APPLE TREE [****]
Well, Nathan Lane is no Alan Bates and Kristin Chenoweth is no Barbara Harris. But it doesn't matter, at least in the three short musical-fables of The Apple Tree, as revived at Studio 54. She is brassily-beautiful, campily-comic, and mega-powered-vocal as three Jerry Bock & Sheldon Harnick heroines, based on tales by Mark Twain, Frank Stockton, & Jules Feiffer. And as the pathetic-waif chimney-sweeper Ella—in Feiffer's Passionella—she is a good match for chimney-sweep Bert in Mary Poppins!
LES MISÉRABLES [**]
Good thing the so-called "revival" of Les Mis didn't return to the Imperial Theatre, its long-time home, distinguished with a big bronze roundel of the Iconic French Waif Logo embedded in the sidewalk-concrete. No, it's now in a smaller theatre, the Broadhurst. Leaving the Imperial free for bookings like the late and rapidly failed High Fidelity. The current incarnation of Les Mis, this musical riff on the Victor Hugo novel, presented by Sir Cameron Macintosh, looks like a touring-version that's been out on the road for some years. It's Loud, but it's also Trite & Formulaic. Crowd-filling actor/singers seem to have worked-out mini-dramas among themselves, which distract from the Main Action, predictable as that may be. I have been assured that this production is All-New for the Broadway revival. It doesn't look or play like that, however. Some performances are, in fact, embarrassing… Why not a co-revival of Les Mis Saigon?
Isn't it time to bring back Cats to Broadway? Both Cats and Evita are Alive & Well in Central Europe!
Other Entertainments/Other Venues:
Neil LaBute's WRECKS [***]
If you want to know who had the idea first for Rent-a-Wreck, check-out Ed Harris in Wrecks. If you missed this Neil LaBute monodrama at the Public Theatre, it could turn up elsewhere, as Harris seems ideally suited to make this role and this rant work. Of course, it could always be expanded into a Major Motion-Picture, adding Scarlett Johanson, Uma Thurman, Denzel Washington, Nicole Kidman, and Dustin Hofmann & Philip Seymour Hofmann. LaBute staged Harris, and he could do even more with a larger cast.
Iris Bahr's DAI (enough) [***]
In the imaginary framework of making interviews in Israel for a Documentary, the Israeli artist Iris Bahr is amazing, creating a varied cast-of-characters living in or visiting Israel. At the close of each interview, the subject is killed by Acts of Arab Terrorism. Nonetheless, as both an artist and an Israeli, Bahr herself is torn by the complaints of dispossessed Palestinians as she is by the plight of the embattled Israelis, in a Promised Land whose existence is imperiled.
Ronan Noone's THE ATHEIST [***]
Chris Pine was compelling in this troubling monodrama, produced by Square Peg. But it's not really about Religion, at least not as George Bush understands the term…
Two talented troupes provided lively entertainments for both children and adults at the New Victory Theatre. More impressive was Circus Oz—composed of Aussies—cavorting & acrobatting in their Laughing at Gravity Tour. The other ensemble—consisting of two men only—presented Speed Mouse: The Worst of the Umbilical Brothers. The comedy of their Mime-with-sounds depends on the ingenious use of a hand-held mike, in almost an act of Fellatio, as all kinds of real-world sounds are created with smacking-lips, tricky-tongue, teeth, & glottis!
Opera, Dance, & Music-Theatre:
DON JUAN IN PRAGUE [***]
In Prague—and, indeed, elsewhere in Festung Europa—the celebrated Performance-Artist Iva Bittová is widely regarded as a most innovative & exciting talent, combining acting, mugging, moving, gyrating, & singing with her violin-playing. As she is often deliberately off-key—like some kind of operetta-Gypsy-comic, her playing the role of Donna Elvira in the recent BAM presentation of Mozart's Don Giovanni was both puzzling & annoying. The rest of the cast in this pared-down version of the Mozart/DaPonte Masterpiece—world-premiered in Prague—were excellent singer/actors, which merely made Bittová's presence in trios and duets a torture. Accompanying were members of the Agon Orchestra of Prague. In Greek, Agon can mean an Act or Action. With Bittová, it sometimes suggested an Agony.
LORD BYRON'S LOVE LETTER & THE VILLAGE SINGER [***]
At the Manhattan School of Music, the annual Autumn opera-production featured a double-bill of slight but charming one-act works. With a libretto by Tennesse Williams for a Raffaello de Banfield score, the Lord Byron opera was built around a small-town Mississippi spinster who showed tourists the letter Lord Byron once wrote her when she was beloved. Her daughter, it develops, was their Love-Child. But the letter has been destroyed. What if Williams had lived to write the libretto for André Previn's lackluster Streetcar Named Desire opera? The Village Singer—based on a story by Vermont's "local-color" author, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman—amusingly recounts the dismissal of an aging contracted Church Soprano, who is to be replaced by a Sweet Young Thing. She gets her revenge by singing so loudly at home that they cannot hear their own choir in the church. As usual, these mini-operas were performed with skill and charm by young talents who may well be the Stars of Tomorrow. Ari Pelto conducted.
Judith Barnes as Médée. Photo courtesy of Vertical Player Repertory
Over fifty years ago at UC/Berkeley, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with the distinguished French composer Darius Milhaud & his wife, Madeleine, when I did lighting for a production of a Jean Anouilh drama, for which he had composed music. Having fled the Nazi Occupation of France, he was then a Professor at Mills College, in Oakland. But only last week, I heard for the first time a challenging performance of his opera Médée, over on Court Street in Brooklyn! This is a very effective and moving evocation of Euripides' tragedy and surely deserves a wider public than the devoted opera-lovers who crowded into what must once have been a store-front space. This was a Vertical Player Repertory performance, conducted by Peter Szep and starring the impressive Judith Barnes, founder of the Rep. The multi-ethnic cast are all able singers, professional and amateur, and also deserve wider audiences. With a more audience-friendly & production-viable performance-space, who knows what the Vertical Players may achieve? I'm guessing that their name implies they have nowhere to go but up: certainly, in their currently cramped space, a staircase is the only means of Vertical Expansion! Disclosure: The able direction of Médée was the work of my former CUNY student, Dr. Seth Baumrin, now a professor at John Jay College and at Marymount Manhattan. Also: Peter Szep has worked with Iva Bittová, helping with the videos for Don Juan in Prague up at Bard! Talk about Co-Incidences!
STILL LIFE WITH COMMENTATOR: AN ORATORIO [*]
Recently shown at BAM, this was a curiously annoying farrago of self-congratulating avant-garde mime, music, narration, posturing, and what-have-you… As an Oratorio, it would have made the Messianic Handel both laugh and cry. Nonetheless, it was variously not-for-profit-funded, being premiered at Chapel Hill, although commissioned for BAM's 2006 Next Wave Festival. It was obviously designed for a youthful audience, who had arrived too late in time for the young John Cage and Steve Reich. But Michael Ladd's quasi-Hip-Hop libretto-patter had its moments—and its self-indulgent Nadirs.
The Salzburg Festival at the Morgan Library
Recently, the new Intendant of the Salzburg Festival, Jürgen Flimm, came to Manhattan to introduce this coming summer's program in Mozart's Home-Town. In the wake of the Festival's production of all 22 known Mozart works for the Music-Theatre in 2006, Flimm is proposing a respite from the Wunderkind, taking a look at the Dark Side. Your scribe was able to greet Prof. Flimm at the prefatory reception, where Flimm recalled the Loney Show Notes that praised his remarkable Bayreuth Festival production of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle. His presentation for the American Salzburg Festival Society was followed, in the handsome new Morgan Libe concert-hall, with opera-arias by the fabulous Diana Damrau—so wonderful last summer in Ascanio in Alba, Dorothea Röschmann, Peter Mattei, and Markus Werba, all Salzburg & Met Opera stars!
Julie Taymor's MAGIC FLUTE [*****]
Of course this should be called Julie Taymor's Zauberflöte—with music by Mozart. It replaces a much simpler, but certainly handsome Met Opera Flute production by David Hockney. But it is a Marvel of Scenic, Costume, Puppet, & Lighting Invention. Taymor's costumes belong in the MoMA Collections—or those of the Met Museum—long before this production is worn-out. My favorite image is of that giant skeletal prehistoric-bird, flying high above the stage, with three tiny white troll-puppets astride its bony-back. The four immense revolving clear-plastic Masonic-Themed Geometric Portals are also wonders. This constantly Visually-Astonishing production has almost more scenery than Mary Poppins! Nathan Gunn—so good as Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd—is a delightful Papageno, but Prince Pamino looks like Nanki-poo in The Mikado. Note: This was a Birthday-Present from a former student, as the Met won't give your scribe press-tickets anymore. So I do not feel obliged to write about this marvelously designed & cast production at length… But do not miss it—even if it's only to sample the 90-minute version for kids—in English!
It has been quite some time since BAM's Harvey Lichtenstein prematurely closed down a disappointing Martha Clarke opus involving Walt Whitman, the Baby Elephant Flora, from Charleston's Spoleto Festival, and other disparate elements. Her frequent composer/collaborator Richard Peaslee—who also did the score for Peter Brook's Marat/Sade—phoned me to come to see the show as soon as possible, although it was supposed to run another week: "Harvey didn't like the reviews, so he's closing us down, just like Broadway!" This time out, Clarke has the welcoming protection of the New York Theatre Workshop, but no Peaslee. She has strangely chosen to animate—in her inimitable manner—some Luigi Pirandello Sicilian-stories, already visually immortalized by the Taviani Bros. in their film, Kaos. The results are OK—not astounding nor memorable—so you might want to get the DVD of the original film. Clarke and her text-collaborator, Frank Pugliese, were sitting right in front of me. They were enjoying their production hugely! Always a Bad Sign… The evening was a glittering fest of the Prominenti: Air-kissing and the entrances of Marian Seldes and Frances de la Tour, of History Boys, among other notables!
SOME HISTORIC/SOME HYSTERIC [****]
Some years ago, Peter Brook scored an International Triumph with his shocking production of Peter Weiss's Marat/Sade, in which the dangerously-mad inmates of the Paris Insane-Asylum of Charenton performed a play about the Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat by Charlotte Corday, written & directed by the infamous Marquis de Sade, also an inmate. The Director of the asylum regularly invited Parisian Napoleonic Aristocrats to view these strange theatricals.
Decades later, another Asylum-Director at a different Paris mad-house—the immense Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital—did something similar for eager audiences, although his shows were given the character of Illustrated Lectures, focusing especially on Female Hysteria. This compelling figure was the celebrated Mesmerist, Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot. He induced—or forced—his pathetic, but occasionally beautiful, subjects to Act Out their varied Hysterias. Charcot also indulged his talents as a Hypnotist: no wonder the Beau Monde of Paris flocked to his famed "Tuesday Lectures."
Not aspiring to the crown of either Peter Brook or Peter Weiss, nonetheless director Ildiko Lujza Nemeth & her co-conceptor, Jessica Sofia Mitrani, have created something almost as powerful with Some Historic/Some Hysteric, shown recently off Delancey Street. Charcot is at the center of this haunting Performance-Piece—beautifully visualized, complete with Period-photos, ingeniously animated, and other Video-Enhancements. He's played by the handsome Markus Hirnigel, as a very serious scientist, driven by a strong sense of Duty, to share his discoveries with a wider public, enlisting his tormented female-patients as lab-work in progress. They are exposed in two cabinets at either side of the stage-space, with four women in narrow vertical boxes on each side, for a total of eight Fascinating Cases. The induction of varied Hysterias involves both mime & dance-movement, so this is much more than a mere Historical Reconstruction of past Medical Abuses. Dr. Sigmund Freud—who was obsessed with Female Hysteria—is also invoked.
These bizarre Lecture-Demonstrations are Introduced & Moderated by a Lovely Lady in a Very Long Red Gown—actually she's standing on a concealed pillar, making her a Towering Mistress-of-Ceremonies. When Prof. Charcot puts a patient under his spell, there's something almost seductive, sexual about his manner & touch. But when he rams his hand & arm under her skirts, to control hysteric-attacks, he is sexually-sadistic. How his Paris audiences must have enjoyed these Tuesday Theatricals! And so would you, if you had found your way down to Delancey Street and the funky old Clemente Soto Velez Arts Center!
OPEN DOOR [***]
There was a time when the avant-garde composer Elizabeth Swados was a Counter-Culture Name "to conjure with," as they used to say. She was the Thinking-Man's Meredith Monk, so to speak. Ellen Stewart was her first champion, at LaMaMa ETC. But as soon as Swados became Marginally Famous, Joe Papp co-opted her for the Public Theatre. I thought this was Artistic-Poaching, but Ellen insisted she was proud of Swados and welcomed her entry into the Wider Performance-Arena over on Lafayette Street. After not-being-heard-from for some time, Swados was recently back at LaMaMa, in fact, in the Annex. Her music-and-lyrics were employed in the service of a Dance-Mime of sorts, directed & choreographed by Federico Restrepo. The Swados-score invoked some Klezmer and some Recycled Glass. The performance-event was titled Open Door: A Dance Puppet Music Odyssey. Restrepo's puppets recalled the Bread & Puppet Theatre in its Glory Days. The 15-part Political Agenda of the Odyssey involved demonstrating the Horrors of Globalization, Global-Warming, Extinction of Species, Exploitation of Third-World Peoples, & Political-Corruption. Not exactly Novel Targets, but if Puppets do not Speak Out, who else will?
I AM A DANCER [***]
Felice Lesser has created a very interesting Multi-Media Dance-Theatre production that she calls I Am a Dancer. What makes this program so special is that she has focused on the Lives, Careers, & Dreams of a group of young dancers who work—when they are able to get free from non-dance subsistence-jobs—essentially as Free-Lancers, without the protection & stability of membership in a regularly-performing ensemble. For those dance-philistines who often ask aspiring novices: "But what will you do for a living?" Or: " What does a dancer free-lancer do when a crippling-injury occurs?" Lesser's attractive young dancers answer on a documentary-video—which plays behind the actual dancers in performance. They are Lauren Toole, Kristin Licata, Jacqueline Sherwood, & Taylor Garrabrant. After hearing from their lips—in often tight close-ups—about the Problems and the Rewards of this kind of Dance-Life, you realize that there have to be rewards: Otherwise, why would they do it? A dancer's functional-life is necessarily short: Do they think about what they will do to survive, when they can no longer pirouette en pointe? Lesser has also taped forthright interviews with Melissa Medina, Jose Rivera, & Ha-Chi Yu, who do not dance live in this production. There are also some clever Lesser Dance-Animations on-screen! But the experience of watching her four live-dancers perform their own improvisations along with their video-testimonies is especially moving. And informative! For those not In-the-Know, Felice Lesser's Dance Theatre is celebrating its 30th Anniversary with I Am a Dancer. In that time, Lesser has created some 40 original choreographies for her company. She is also a gracious hostess-commentator for this unusual program. An added dividend to the evening was the opportunity to inspect the Post-Modernist concrete-fortress that is home to the Mikhail Baryshnikov Arts Center, at 37 ARTS, located at 450 West 37th Street—not far from the Javits Center.
THE 51ST (DREAM) STATE [***]
This energy-charged production-performance—conceived & written by the poet Sekou Sundiata—featured the poet himself, invoking his images, supported by vocalists La Tanya Hall, Ronnell Bey, Samita Sinha, & Bora Yoon! As a plus, David Thompson danced. This was produced at BAM in association with HARLEM STAGE/Aaron Davis Hall, Inc., reaching out to the Downtown Brooklyn African-American community.
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Radio City Music Hall's annual Christmas Show arrives again! Laud To The Nativity is St. Ignatius Loyola's choric salute to the Birth of the Holy Child. At the Daryl Roth Theatre: Looking forward to New Year's Eve, with Striking Twelve! At the York Theatre, That Time of Year could be called The Joys of Hanukkah. More Messiahs and Nutcrackers than are possible to hear & see. Whatever became of Amahl & the Night Visitors as a Christmas Treat? Peter Schumann's Bread & Puppet troupe comes to Theatre for the New City with the Everything Is Fine Circus for kids and The Battle of the Terrorists & the Horrorists for grown-ups! Are Bush & Rove really Horrorists? New York Theatre Workshop offers Les Freres Corbusier's A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant: Cute Kids! Does Tom Cruise celebrate Christmas? And whatever became of the body of The Founder, L. Ronn Hubbard? Did they embalm it? And what do they do with the Pre-Natal Engrams anyway?
Copyright Glenn Loney, 2006. No re-publication or broadcast use without proper credit of authorship. Suggested credit line: "Glenn Loney, New York Theatre Wire." Reproduction rights please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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