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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, January 2008.
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
A New Beginning for the Year 2008! *
New Plays: *
Peter Parnell's TRUMPERY [****] *
Tracy Letts' AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY [****] *
Tom Stoppard's ROCK 'N' ROLL [****] *
Aaron Sorkin's THE FARNSWORTH INVENTION [****] *
David Henry Hwang's YELLOW FACE [***] *
Jordan Harrison's DORIS TO DARLENE [***] *
Julia Cho's THE PIANO TEACHER [***] *
Conor McPherson's THE SEAFARER [***] *
Abbie Spallen's PUMPGIRL [**] *
Mark Twain's IS HE DEAD? [***] *
Brooks Reeves' THE CITY THAT CRIED WOLF [**] *
Old Plays in Revival: *
Wm. Shakespeare's CYMBELINE [***] *
Wm. Shakespeare's RICHARD III [***] *
Wooster Group HAMLET [**] *
George Farquhar's THE CONSTANT COUPLE [***] *
Bernard Shaw's THE DEVIL'S DISCIPLE [***] *
Howard Barker's A HARD HEART [***] *
Sam Beckett's BECKETT SHORTS [***] *
Susan Kim's THE JOY LUCK CLUB [***] *
Harold Pinter's THE HOMECOMING [****] *
Edward Albee's PETER and JERRY [****] *
Dostoevsky's CRIME and PUNISHMENT [***] *
New Musicals: *
Charles L. Mee, Jr's QUEENS BOULEVARD [**] *
Old Musicals in Revival: *
HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS [not seen/not rated] *
Other Entertainments/Other Venues: *
Nights at the Metropolitan Opera: *
Sergei Prokovief's WAR and PEACE [*****] *
Christoph W. Gluck's IPHIGÉNIE EN TAURIDE [****] *
Other Opera Adventures: *
Lucas Foss's GRIFFELKIN at the Manhattan School of Music *
Gian Carolo Menotti's AMAHL and THE NIGHT VISITORS at St. Ignatius *
Salzburg Festival Soloists at the Morgan Library and Museum *
NEXT WAVE Adventures at BAM: *
James Thiérrée's AU REVOIR PARAPLUIE *
Hiroshi Koike's SHIP IN A VIEW *
Tan Dun's THE GATE *
Voice-4-Vision Puppet Festival at Theatre for the New City: *
TIGER PLUS [***] *
TIN LIGHTNING [****] *
NIGHT SHADE [****] *
THE JESTER OF TONGA [****] *
HANDMADE PUPPET DREAMS III [*****] *
Bread and Puppet Theatre Christmas Festival at Theatre for the New City: *
Unusual Performing-Arts Oddments: *
Nature Theatre of Oklahoma's NO DICE [***] *
Werner Schwab's THE ROUND OF PLEASURE [****] *
Joel Jeske's CUT TO THE CHASE [***] *
Sarah Jones Abridges BRIDGE and TUNNEL for 2007 Brendan Gill Prize! *
At the Public Theatre: UNDER THE RADAR Festival Tracking New Theatre: *
NEW-YEAR'S NEW-FORMAT RESOLUTION!
It is a Truism that New-Year's Resolutions are made to be broken, often as soon as New-Year's Day! But the manifest Good-Intentions are surely worth something? At least even the most irresolute Resolutions argue that their Makers recognize that there may be Need For A Change…
Those who regularly read Show Notes may well remember—you can find it in the New York Theatre-Wire online-archives, in any case—the well-intentioned promises made at the close of AD 2006 by Your Roving-Reporter.
As Your Scribe sees—and often also hears—almost every important theatre-production On and Off-Broadway, he finds it impossible to make daily-reports and still have time for organizing, labeling, and computer-indexing the thousands of INFOTOGRAPHY™ print, slide, and digital photo-images he has made over the past half-century in many parts of the Known-World.
There are now well over 350,000 individual photo-images in the INFOTOGRAPHY™ ArtsArchive, over 60,000 of them already digitized from their print and slide originals. Images of Manhattan Christmas-Windows 2007 are in process right now, for instance.
So, this year—as last—your Reporter has resolved to Write Less but Say More. This is not so easy to achieve, as no-one gives him a Word-Limit or even casts a wary Editor's-Eye over the copy before it goes online.
All this Performing-Arts Reportage is unpaid as well, so I do it when and as I can. As I am also the Chief-Correspondent for NYMuseums.com, saving up reports for the end of each month is the Only Way To Go.
Not only am I at the Theatre, Opera, or Ballet every evening—as well as most matinées—Museum and Gallery Press-Previews occur almost daily, sometimes two or three of them on the same morning! I would not want to miss any of these events—although there are many more exhibitions and shows I cannot attend, owing to Time-Constraints—but I also feel obligated to file at least a brief-report, to share with others who will want to make time to see the shows and also with those who cannot come to New York to enjoy them.
My new Analytical-Strategy is to list all the productions in specific-categories, discussing major points of interest, such as similarities and differences, rather than endlessly listing all the performance and production-credits, which I would otherwise do, as I know how hard most of these artists have worked to get their Show on the Metaphoric-Road.
When I first began filing Show-Notes reports, way back in 1996, I always had excellent black-and-white or color-photos with which to illustrate various reviews. Later, came color-slides. Even later, color-images on CD's.
Unfortunately, now most of Broadway and Off-Broadway Show-Images are posted on relevant websites, to be accessed by e-mail or whatever. I have neither the patience nor the training to take all the time needed to open copious files, choose an image, and integrate it with Show-Notes, which in any case will be re-conformed when it leaves my computer on a CD.
No one wants to read dense paragraphs of Academic-Prose on a computer-monitor. That's why I soon began writing only one- or two-sentence-paragraphs.
But even that looked rather boring, so I began using simple Graphic-Devices to add interest, or Focus-Attention. These also, in some way, I fondly believe, make up for not having Production-Photos in these notes. That is why there are both bold-face and italic words and phrases in these reports.
As I do a lot of research and background-reading auf Deutsch, I have also adopted the German-Practice of Capitalizing-Nouns. This may be maddening to some readers, but I rather like it.
Unfortunately, I have also become addicted to over-use of the Hyphen, using it—as with the Capitals—to link and emphasize certain words as Concepts or distinct Objects. I will strive to do better about these Graphic-Quirks in the coming Year of Our Lord AD 2008…
For the Record: Another reason for this new and reduced format is that I have to leave on 10 January to photograph Petra, Mount Sinai, St. Catherine's Monastery, Jerash, and Amman for the INFOTOGRAPHY™ Photo-Archives. There simply is not time to write at greater length.
Peter Parnell's TRUMPERY [****]
Tracy Letts' AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY [****]
Tom Stoppard's ROCK 'N' ROLL [****]
Aaron Sorkin's THE FARNSWORTH INVENTION [****]
David Henry Hwang's YELLOW FACE [***]
Jordan Harrison's DORIS TO DARLENE [***]
Julia Cho's THE PIANO TEACHER [***]
Conor McPherson's THE SEAFARER [***]
Abbie Spallen's PUMPGIRL [**]
Mark Twain's IS HE DEAD? [***]
Brooks Reeves' THE CITY THAT CRIED WOLF [**]
Trumpery, Peter Parnell's interesting character-study of Charles Darwin, would have been a wonderful adjunct to the recent Darwin show at the American Museum of Natural History. But it is much more than a theatrical-footnote to Darwin's scientific-achievements.
Few of those who generally accept Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection are aware that another, almost forgotten, scientist arrived at the same conclusions about the Origin of Species. He was the peripatetic Alfred Russel Wallace, who even wrote of his findings to Darwin, essentially forcing Darwin to publish.
But he never got the credit he deserved, for which Darwin felt pangs of guilt. Parnell's drama also discloses other sources of guilt in Darwin's family-life, as well as his struggles to win recognition for his concept of Evolution. Michael Cristofer was compelling as Darwin, with Neal Huff an impulsive Thomas Henry Huxley. Manoel Feliciano was the somewhat naïve Wallace. David Esbjornson staged.
Playwright Aaron Sorkin—in The Farnsworth Invention—wants audiences to know about another man who did not get proper credit for his scientific-achievement. Without Philo T. Farnsworth's perfection of the Cathode-Ray Tube, black and white TV broadcasts would not have been possible.
Des McAnuff has effectively staged the show in a handsome multi-purpose setting, with Hank Azaria as David Sarnoff and Jimmi Simpson as Philo. Sorkin's unusual narrative-device is to have each character fill-in the developing-details about the efforts of the other.
The drama also works as a Panorama of the Rise of General David Sarnoff, founding RCA and all that. Philo declines, as the Prince of Radio-City rises. Sarfnoff wins the vital Tube-Patent; Philo fades away.
Actually, Farnsworth won the Patent-Title. Subsequently, Sarnoff paid him $1 million, but that doesn't make such an interesting onstage conflict.
Bottom-Line: Millions have heard of Charles Darwin. Many American TV Couch-Potatoes have no idea who David Sarnoff was… [And who now remembers the time when NBC had both a Blue and a Red-Netwok?]
As for Remembering, in David Henry Hwang's self-referential drama, Yellow Face, the playwright—strongly played as DHH by Hoon Lee—notes that people seem to remember him as that Asian guy who wrote Madame Butterfly. M Butterfly!, he tactfully corrects…
The play's title refers to Caucasian-Actors playing Asian-Roles in "Yellow-Face"—glued fish-skin to pull up the eyelids at the corners, Max-Factor robust-yellow—the Pacific-Basin equivalent of Whites playing Negro-Minstrels in Blackface. [Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor and All That…]
DHH created quite a stir on Broadway when he protested Jonathan Pryce appearing in Miss Saigon as the Asian Male-Lead. But his travails didn't end there.
His loving and ambitious father, HYH—played by Francis Jue—created a successful Chinese-American Bank in Southern California, with later extensions into Mainland-China. He asked DHH to join the bank's board of directors.
And there were some campaign-contributions to the Clintons, which understandably had to be investigated by the US Government. Along with charges of Money-Laundering…
DHH suggests that some Chinese-Americans are targeted in the Cross-Hairs of the Justice Department for Political-Reasons. He may well have a point, but that's a bit removed from White-Men putting on Yellow-Makeup.
Your Reporter first learned of DHH workshopping Yellow Face in the Stanford University alumni-magazine. DHH—like Your Reporter—is a Stanford Man! In fact, the play was developed in collaboration with the Stanford Institute for Creativity in the Arts!
[When I was at Stanford from 1951-53, there was very little Creativity in the Arts. But the late Warner Leroy was one of my Oral Interpretation students, while Richard Zanuck was doing English Comp with one of my grad-classmates who was a Teaching-Assistant. Who knew what they would achieve…]
Now another Stanford University Professor—Shelley Fisher Fishkin—is making a mark in American-Theatre. She has discovered a forgotten comedy by Mark Twain—not at Stanford—in the Mark Twain Papers in the Bancroft Library or the University of California at Berkeley.
[There are also some Glenn Loney Papers in the UC Library: 140 running-feet, at last count…]
Samuel L. Clemens—Twain was his pen-name, back in the days when authors really used pens—had some success in the Post-Civil-War American-Theatre. But it always came in collaboration with others.
The Gilded Age was co-written with Charles Dudley Warner. And Twain worked with Bret Harte to turn Harte's M'liss into a stage-play. But American—even Manhattan—Audiences were much more naïve back then: you couldn't go wrong with the broadest of farces.
Still, no one would think of reviving Twain's Puddin' Head Wilson today. For that matter, the play Shelley Fishkin found among Twain's forgotten manuscripts hadn't been produced in his own time.
It is called Is He Dead? And Twain's good-fortune is that he has been given a Posthumous-Collaborator, the witty playwright David Ives!
Twain's Bright-Idea was that in 19th century Europe—with Millionaire-Americans like JP Morgan and Henry Clay Frick buying up Old Masters like wallpaper—a brilliant young painter might well starve to death, his unwanted canvases suddenly commanding huge prices when he was safely dead and could paint no more.
The career of Vincent Van Gogh—who sold nothing of importance during his tragic life—is a Prime-Example.
Twain seized on the idea of the now unquestioned Old-Master Jean-François Millet—unable to sell his powerful works—faking his death and reappearing as his Twin-Sister.
For those who have studied Art-History, it is hilarious to see the devastated young Millet bring back to his garret such Masterworks as The Angelus and The Gleaner, having failed to sell them even on the street.
My guess—borne-out by asking some people around me—is that many in the hysterical audiences at the Lyceum Theatre have no idea what the paintings on stage-easels are, or even what they are called. Several people didn't know the name Millet.
No Matter! Not to Fret! Even with the two handsome and imposing settings and the High-Fashion Period-Costumes, Norbert Leo Butz is virtually the Whole-Show! As Millet's crazed sister, he is a dynamic and constant delight!
Just as he was the most interesting actor on stage in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, so also here does he run rings around everyone else. I can hardly wait to see Butz in Charley's Aunt, a far better farce. Not to mention out-Raying Ray Bolger in Here's Charley!
As Your Reporter was no Big-Fan of Tracy Letts' Bug and Killer Joe, he was not much looking forward to August: Osage County. This feeling was not allayed when WQXR—the Radio-Station of the New York Times—was repeating the show's ad every thirty-minutes or so, featuring Times' Critic Charles Isherwood, alive-on-tape, praising this Steppenwolf production even before it had opened on Broadway!
The Times used to be very discouraging about its critics promoting productions: Critics were not allowed to join organizations whose Chief Reason for Being was to choose The Best Play and The Best Musical each season.
August: Osage County is a very long Family-Drama, so it was to be expected that some would compare it favorably with Eugene O'Neill's A Long Day's Journey Into Night. No one thought to bracket it with A Death in the Family—although the death of a Father is in fact a Mainspring for the Dramatic-Action.
Although tautly staged by Anna D. Shapiro and strongly acted by a generally powerful Steppenwolf-Cast, this was no O'Neill Family Saga—which was made more resonant by its autobiographical-nature. Instead, August might be compared to Horton Foote's recent Dividing the Estate, though Letts has provided Three-Sisters to quarrel over what remains.
Forget about Chekhov's Three Sisters: Letts' Siblings don't want to go to Moscow. Not even Moscow, Idaho. Nor are their lives and complaints all that interesting: the show really revolves around the acid-wit and bitter-meanness of their Mater-familias, Violet Weston, fiercely played by Deanna Dunagan.
There is an imposing three-story house-frame, but what occurs within it—unlike the action in Jo Mielziner's stark house-frame for Death of a Salesman—is more Soap-Opera than Arthur Miller.
August: Osage County is certainly an Achievement—as well as an actor-audience Endurance-Contest. What was it that Miller and O'Neill had that made it possible for them to raise the lives of Ordinary-People to the level of Tragedy? [Of course, James and Gene O'Neill were hardly Ordinary… Willy Loman, yes.]
As for Ordinary-People, when it comes to Irish Plays about Working-Class-Types there is the added problem of Dialects so thick a bog-cutter's spade couldn't cleave them. The pathetic lives of the characters in Abbie Spallen's Pumpgirl and Conor McPherson's The Seafarer may seem more interesting than American Trailer-Trash and Mall-Crawlers because they talk different, often larding their complaints with Shite and other Expletives.
Even more of a barrier is the fact that Spallen has her three actors recalling Events-Past in disconnected Monologues. Nothing is Dramatized; there is no Interaction. This worked for Brian Friel's Mollie Sweeney, but there, the monologues didn't seem so Separate.
Some wits insist that Conor McPherson and Martin McDonagh are digging in the same Bog of Drunken-Irishness. But they aren't entirely interchangeable: Martin is more Mystical than Conor.
In fact, McPherson's conjuring up the Devil to collect on Old-Debts in The Seafarer—though it seems to have fascinated some reviewers—isn't nearly as interesting as some other Diabolic-Dramas. [There's even a Musical of The Devil and Daniel Webster: Scratch! Shaw's Don Juan in Hell doesn't count…]
At least Julia Cho spares her Vineyard Theatre audiences chronic-drunkenness in The Piano Teacher. Elizabeth Franz is hauntingly sad as a former piano-teacher—probably not a very good one—now old and cut off from the world, her husband long dead and her students vanished.
She tries to make contact with some via phone. What emerges by implication is that her husband—who she says had terrible experiences in Europe that marked him for life—was Abusive to her and may have abused some of her students in the kitchen, while she pretended not to notice.
[Who has a Piano to practice on anymore, anyway? But you could still be abused by a Randy-Priest at Confession or in the Sacristy…]
Abusive or Exploitive-Relationships are central to Jordan Harrison's ingenious Triple-Play, Doris To Darlene, a Cautionary Valentine. Oddly enough, the Music of Richard Wagner links the three tales, with Wagner starring in one of them!
A Black teen-age song-contest-winner, Doris, is turned into Darlene by dynamic Record-Producer Vic Watts—who is obsessed with listening to Wagner. He has married her, but she's no longer a Money-Maker, so he has no interest in her or her needs. [Think of weird Phil Spector…]
An ardent teen-age boy is transfixed in his Music-Appreciation-Class by Wagner's Music and by his Wagner-Loving bachelor-teacher, who once sang Opera. He sings again for his student, but that's as far as he will go…
Meanwhile in Munich, Neu Schwanstein, and Linderhof, Richard Wagner swirls about in damask robes, writing Immortal-Music, while the desperately besotted young King Ludwig II adores him and pays all his bills. Staged by Les Waters—with a cast of six—this is an ingeniously-designed production, not without sadness.
There are certainly also Exploitive-Relationships in The City That Cried Wolf—some of them Sexual—but what makes this show distinctive is that it is populated entirely by fairytale-characters.
More precisely: Raymond Chandler meets Mother Goose, to get to the bottom of all that business about Wolves Blowing Pigs' Houses Down. A youthful cast of seven plays Famous-Favorites such as King Cole, Miss Muffet, Mary Mary, Humpty-Dumpty, Bo Peep, Jack B. Nimble, and Mother Goose.
Brooks Reeves conceived the script, which was staged by Dan Barnes and Leta Tremblay. If you are not able to see this energetically-acted show—which surely must tour—you can get a lot of enjoyment out of just reading the text, to savor the way the Old-Favorites have been implicated in Crime-Noir.
While you are reading about Hansel, Turkey Lurkey, and Cinderella in a modern Big-City Corruption-Scenario, you might also want to check out The Real Personages in Mother Goose. All of these characters in the Mother Goose Rhymes are often sly or savage Political-Parodies on major figures in London-Intrigues of long ago.
Little Jack Horner may have sat in a corner, but he was indeed eating a Christmas-Pie! When he Pulled Out a Plum, think of all those plummy No-Bid Halliburton-Contracts in Iraq! Same Corrupt-Idea…
Of all the shows listed above, the best of the lot this session is surely Tom Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll. It is not only an ingenious account of daily-life under Soviet-Communism in Socialist-Prague, intertwined with the complex lives of an English University-Family, whose chief, Max [the indomitable Brian Cox], is an unrepentant Stalinist to the end.
For those who stayed the course with Stoppard's Epic-Trilogy, The Coast of Utopia, at Lincoln Center last season—in which varied versions of Marxist-Theory and Anarchist-Activity were academically-explored, along with some dubious Family-Values—this new drama shows some of the malign effects of Marxism in Practice.
Everywhere in the East-Bloc—or Warsaw-Pact Nations—any form of dissent was immediately put-down. Playwright—later President, when Communism collapsed—Vaclav Havel wrote sly satires such as The Memorandum, rather than deal with the bizarre realities of daily-life under the Hammer and Sickle.
Bootleg Rock 'n' Roll records from the West were great treasures for disaffected young Czechs. Listening secretly was a form of Defiance. When the Purple People of the Universe, Prague's own outlawed rock 'n' roll band was formed, a much wider young audience could be reached.
Obviously, the Authorities had to put these long-haired, oddly-dressed Purple People down. And they did…
Trevor Nunn deftly staged, in a revolving set by Robert Jones. In addition to Cox, Sinead Cusack and Rufus Sewall are also outstanding.
Not only does this show offer intriguing insights into Political-Provocations and unusual Family-Relationships, but it also provides a Primer in Rock. Stoppard has paralleled the ultimately sad career of Sid Barrett with the Purples and he has also prepared a Definitive-Discography—projected on the front-curtain—of the Rock 'n' Roll recordings he selected for this production!
In 1953, Your Reporter was double-timing in Infantry-Rifleman Basic-Training at Ford Ord, CA, to the sounds of Rock Around the Clock, with Bill Haley and the Comets. Recent College-Grad Draftees dropped-dead from Heart-Attacks during our frantic super-speed marches through the Monterey-Sands.
So that has made me less than an adoring-fan of the music that Stoppard and the Purple People of the Universe loved.
Still, Rock 'n' Roll is a dynamic and thought-provoking production. I saw it two years ago at the National Theatre in London. On this Second-Seeing, I liked it better because I think I understand it better…
Old Plays in Revival:
Wm. Shakespeare's CYMBELINE [***]
Wm. Shakespeare's RICHARD III [***]
Wooster Group HAMLET [**]
George Farquhar's THE CONSTANT COUPLE [***]
Bernard Shaw's THE DEVIL'S DISCIPLE [***]
Howard Barker's A HARD HEART [***]
Sam Beckett's BECKETT SHORTS [***]
Susan Kim's THE JOY LUCK CLUB [***]
Harold Pinter's THE HOMECOMING [****]
Edward Albee's PETER and JERRY [****]
Dostoevsky's CRIME and PUNISHMENT [***]
Bill Shakespeare wasn't having a very good season as Winter approached Manhattan. WQXR—the Radio-Station of the New York Times—was playing the same annoying ad for the Lincoln Center production of Cymbeline over and over and over. [They did the same for Cyrano, Is He Dead?, and August: Osage County, which—at least for Your Scribe—had the undesired effect of inducing hostility before even witnessing the various productions.]
Cymbeline was, in any case, a Hard-Sell, for it is not a very good play. Ads suggested that you could lose your head over this production: well, something like that, as it does indeed include an Offstage-Beheading!
Critics were quoted with raves about Martha Plimpton's Imogen, Michael Cerveris' Posthumus, and Phylicia Rashad's Queen. Frankly, I found John Cullum's baffled King Cymbeline the most interesting and believable of these ranting Shadows, although Cerveris was certainly effective as the credulous hero, as was the wicked Iachomo of Jonathan Cake.
The Malice and Evil of Cymbeline's Queen were only in the lines Shakespeare wrote for her: Rashad didn't seem to inhabit the role. As for Plimpton's much-abused Imogen, her delivery suggested the forced energy with which Germanic-Actors often rant the Classics.
What was best about Mark Lamos' production, however, was its Pageant-Like Design, thanks to Michael Yeargan, Jess Goldstein, and Brian MacDevitt.
What was especially Depressing was seeing a virtually EMPTY BALCONY—with many empty side-seats in the orchestra—on a prime performance-evening! Had the Word gotten out about the problems of the play?
Pericles is Problematic as well, but it can be made to work. Your Reporter's misfortune is to have seen all of the Shakespeare Canon—as well as some questionable titles, such as Arden of Faversham and Two Noble Kinsmen—too many times at the many American, Canadian, and British Shakespeare Festivals.…
Beware the Ides of March! Also beware producing Timon of Athens!
Richard III would seem a safe choice for a Star-Turn, but somehow that didn't quite work out with Michael Cumpsty as the Boar of Scarborough, where this Malign Monarch was supposedly born. It was more like showing the play in successive-scenes, instead of investing the drama with terrifying Power.
Treats were shared with the audience. Later, we were given small paper flags with the Boar's Head on them, so we could wave them in approbation of Richard's murderous Accession to the Throne.
Still, Cumpsty was more suited to the role than little Peter Dinkelage, when he tried to climb up on the Royal Throne at the Public-Theatre not so long ago. Perhaps we should declare a Moratorium on productions of Richard III?
For a change, of course, there's Marlowe's Edward II over on West 42nd Street! Red-hot pokers and all that!
Thos. Jefferson once said: People have the Kind of Government they Deserve. That is also true of Theatre…
The much-admired Wooster Group's Deconstruction of the Bard's Hamlet was also designed as a Deconstruction of Richard Burton's Broadway-Impersonation of the Melancholy-Dane. Films of that production were manipulated—with cuts from John Barrymore's Hamlet and someone who looked like Kenneth Branagh as well—to create a ghostly non-show that was an Event in Itself.
Downstage from the video-screen—from which Burton's Image was often erased—Woosterites mimed on-screen movements and mouthed the speeches. This was very skillfully done, including miming film-glitches!
As usual, Elizabeth LeCompte staged with such stalwarts as Kate Valk, Ari Fliakos, and Scott Shepherd as Burt Hamlet.
But to What End? This gimmick worked better last summer at the Edinburgh Festival, when the Wooster Group combined a Grade-B Italian Sci-Fi Film with one of the first Operas on record: Cavalli's Didone.
Although the East Village Pearl Theatre is dedicated to Reviving the Classics—as is the CSC, or Classic Stage Company, more or less—its casts are sometimes so uneven that one would rather wait for Chekhov at Lincoln Center, or over in Brooklyn at BAM.
Nonetheless, almost no New York troupe is interested in bringing back to life the often salacious comedies of the English Restoration. So the opportunity to savor George Farquhar's lively social-farce, The Constant Couple, was not to be missed.
In the event, although Minimally-Designed—in the tradition of Poor-Theatre—the production was fast-paced and the performances were effective. Imagine: the wild and free hero, Sir Harry Wildair, believes the beautiful woman he so desires, the virtuous Angelica, is really a whore in a very High-Class House of Assignation!
What was of Special-Interest in this production, staged by Jean Randich—as is so often the case with the plain-spoken comedies of the Time of Charles II, when women for the first time appeared on stage—is the distinctive-quality of what would become Character-Stereotypes in the Sentimental Comedy of the succeeding 18th Century.
Charlotte Moore's Irish Repertory Theatre can be depended upon for good and sometimes great productions of both Irish Classics and newer Erse Dramas from Eire, as well as from England. In fact, George Farquhar was initially a very young playwright in Dublin, where the Irish playwrights Oscar Wilde and Bernard Shaw originated. [For that matter, Sean O'Casey ended his life in Cornish Torquay, not in Dublin…]
The admirable Tony Walton both directed and designed the Irish Rep's revival of Shaw's Colonial New-England Thriller, The Devil's Disciple. For the tiny L-shaped stage, Walton was able to manage some complicated set-changes with comparative ease.
Lorenzo Pisoni was properly dashing as the devilish Dick Dudgeon, baiting the decent but timid Rev. Anthony Anderson [Curzon Dobell] at the time when the Colonials needed to mobilize to fight King
The most notable element in the production of Howard Barker's very hard Symbolic-Drama, A Hard Heart, was the unforgiving performance of Kathleen Chalfant, as the Riddler.
Barker's play was written long before anyone had heard of Geo. W. Bush, least of all in his Chosen-Role of The Decider. But Barker's seemingly-omniscient Riddler—who bit-by-bit gets all the Defensive-Strategy wrong, until All Is Lost—certainly echoes what has come to pass. Will Pomerantz staged.
What is Most Notable about Beckett Shorts at the New York Theatre Workshop is the engaged participation of Mikhail Baryshnikov! Close up, he is shorter than he has appeared in the great male-roles of ballet.
Thrre is an almost Chaplinesque Little-Man quality to his reaction to hostile forces around him. It would have been interesting if he had been able to work with the late Alan Schneider—a good friend of Beckett's—who first staged these works for New York.
As it was, he was directed by Joanne Akalaitis, whose time at the helm of the Public-Theatre was not memorable, to say the least. Original music was provided by Ms. Akalaitis's ex-husband, Philip Glass.
The ever-inspiring and totally-dedicated Tisa Chang has moved her Pan-Asian Repertory from an stair-case-cursed church-venue on the Upper West Side to the more convenient Julia Miles Theatre—once the home of the Negro Ensemble Company.
The handsome and sentimental revival of The Joy Luck Club—adapted from Amy Tan's novel by Susan Kim—recalls the 1999 New York premiere of the play by the Pan-Asian troupe. Those who have enjoyed the film would surely savor seeing Amy Tan's Ambitious Mothers and Frustrated Daughters live onstage as well.
You even get a sampling of Peking Opera, thanks to Lu Yu. Sets, costumes, and lighting—all so important to telling this multi-faceted tale—are the work of Kaori Akazawa, Carol Pelletier, and Victor En Yutan.
Actually, Marilyn Campell and Curt Columbus' adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment is not a revival, but as there have been others as well, it almost seems like a déjà vu.
In an odd way, it recalls the famed Moscow Taganka Theatre production of Yuri Lyubimov, which featured a de-hinged White-Door as its major-prop, as this Writers' Theatre staging's own claustrophobic set is composed almost entirely of doors.
Scott Parkinson's Raskolnikov is a fascinating study in Psychosis. But, as directed by Michael Halberstam, Susan Bennett's Sonia and John Judd's Porfiry Petrovich are also arresting interpretations.
The full title of Peter and Jerry is actually Edward Albee's Peter and Jerry ! But it is only ½ a revival. Its second-half is in fact a revival of Zoo Story, the one-act Theatre of the Absurd drama that made Albee famous way back in the 1960s.
To the Back-Story of Peter's fateful encounter with the crazed Jerry in Central Park, Albee has added a Front-Story which shows why Peter had to go out for a walk. Little did he know he'd have to confront a really scary Dallas Roberts to keep his place on a park-bench.
Bill Pullman and Johanna Day are excellent in underplaying the repressions which haunt their household. They might also make a good academic-couple, say, George and Martha, in Who's Afraid of Virginia
As that drama is four-hours-long—give or take some minutes—it doesn't need a Front-Story added to it. Like Peter and Ann, George and Martha are childless. But at least Albee lets them Invent an Imaginary-Child. Peter has to settle for Parakeets!
Curiously, long long ago, when Harold Pinter's The Homecoming was first played in Manhattan—after local critics had already been baffled by his The Caretaker—Pinter joined the Drama-Desk for a luncheon-meeting at Sardi's.
Not only was his Cast quizzed, but Pinter himself was asked about his peculiar characters in The Homecoming. Was Ruth—played by his then-wife, Vivian Merchant—really a trollop? Why was her husband, Teddy—the London-born American University Professor—so willing to leave her to be set up as a high-class West-End Prostitute by his family and return to the US without her?
What was up with the leering, malignant Lenny? What was wrong with Max, the pater-familias? Why did
Sam so silently endure being so rudely treated? What was really going-on in this shabby house?
Amazingly, Pinter actually gave some Answers. That was the Last Time he did so. He realized it was far better to keep his audiences and the critics guessing.
As Your Reporter used to tape all of these historic Drama-Desk meetings, the Pinter Comments are there somewhere. Before long, all these sessions will be On-Line, having been digitized for my ArtsArchive.biz website!
In the current Broadway Revival, Eve Best seems even more Mysterious and Provocative than Vivian Merchant once did. Also admirable are Raul Esparza as Lenny, Ian McShane as Max, and Michael McKean as Sam. Daniel Sullivan staged.
Charles L. Mee, Jr's QUEENS BOULEVARD [**]
Considering the box-office popularity of Broadway Musicals, it may seem odd that no new commercial shows were launched in this period. That is because of the Stagehands' Strike, which pushed the premiere of Disney's Little Mermaid over into January 2008.
Still, there could have been more new musicals waiting in the wings…
Mee's musicalization of an old fable of a bridegroom's desperate hunt for a wonderful flower for his new—but abruptly abandoned—bride has been transported to Queens. It is part of Signature Theatre Company's season celebrating the dramaturgy of Charles Mee.
Otherwise, it would seem unlikely that a commercial producer would have invested so much money in the elaborate production, which transforms the Peter Norton Space into a wrap-around disco-experience of the multi-ethnic-diversity to be seen on Queens Boulevard.
But even this scenic-environment seemed a bit flashy and tawdry, while the performances within it savored of community-theatre. The songs and dances were pleasant enough, but this show poses no challenges to In the Heights, last season's musical celebration of the Hispanic-Experience up in Washington Heights—soon to move to the Big Time!
It is said that Charles Mee has posted all his plays on his website for anyone to read or to produce, royalty-free. You could check this out. If true, this is a very generous gesture. It also guarantees a lot of exposure the plays would otherwise not receive.
As for Signature's signature-program of each season showcasing a famed Living American Playwright, where will Artistic Director James Houghton go, once the well runs dry? After David Mamet and Neil Simon, who next?
And, as for Peter-Named Performance-Spaces, is there possibly a contest between the Foundations of Peter Norton and Peter J. Sharp, to see which can fund the most venues?
Old Musicals in Revival:
HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS [not seen/not rated]
No new Musicals is bad enough, but no Revivals from the vast archives of American Musical Comedy? Why don't more of the musicals showcased at Encores at City Center move to Broadway or Off?
Chicago was just such a transfer—not much more visually-enhanced than the bare-bones City Center staging—and it is endlessly running on Broadway and London's West End.
As for The Grinch—which was only scheduled for a two-month Holiday limited-engagement—the Stagehands' Strike threw a wrench into its plans and finances. Last season, this colorful production proved a charming show—especially the puppets!—so producers may have been thinking of an Annual Christmas Event, on the order of the Radio City Music Hall's annual Christmas-Spectacular: 75 Years Old this season!
For Christmas 2008, Grinch producers may not want to take such a gamble again. The Musicians' Union might strike next time!
Time was when Dickens' A Christmas Carol was a regular holiday-treat underneath Madison Square Garden. This season, Cirque du Soleil provided the show, but Your Scribe was not invited, so he cannot file a report. But it is not true that if you have seen one Cirque du Soleil show, you've seen them all…
The Metropolitan Opera did provide a new Hansel and Gretel; the New York City Ballet once again revived its Nutcracker, and Kent Tritle conducted Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors at St. Ignatius, so some of the Holiday-Standards were on offer.
Other Entertainments/Other Venues:
Nights at the Metropolitan Opera:
Sergei Prokovief's WAR and PEACE [*****]
Christoph W. Gluck's IPHIGÉNIE EN TAURIDE [****]
Although an all-new production of Engelbert Humperdink's Hansel and Gretel is the Met's Christmas-Treat this season, Your Scribe will see it only after this column is filed. But the Met's revival of its 2002 production of Sergei Prokofiev's War and Peace was the best Holiday-Gift ever!
Count Leo Tolstoy's Epic-Novel demands an Epic-Production: that is precisely what the Met and St. Petersburg's famed Mariinsky Theatre have achieved in this dazzling co-production, conducted by Valery Gergiev, who continues to preserve the Mariinsky's historic traditions and those of the Communist-Era Kirov.
On WQXR radio-ads, the Met now refers to itself as the Largest Stage in the World—or is it the Greatest Stage?—which is probably also true, even though its amazing stage-machinery is somewhat copied from that of the Bavarian State Opera's National-Theater in Munich.
Not all the remarkable stage-machinery was enlisted for this production, for designer George Tsypin devised a kind of top-of-the world revolving-hemisphere as a base for the action, with set-props dropped in from the flies or brought onstage by Supers. This permitted rapid scene-changes and eased the deployment of what seemed Regiments or Battalions of Russian and Napoleonic Troops.
In full Parade-Uniforms—wonderful period-costumes by Tatiana Noginova—these often doomed soldiers marched and filed and surged about the stage, banners proudly waving. It seemed there were more companies of Infantry and Artillery on stage than Geo. W. Bush recently deployed in his Baghdad Surge!
Prince Andrei was strongly sung by Alexej Markov, with the decent but naïve Count Pierre Bezukov sensitively interpreted by Kim Begley. As the sage Russian strategist who turned the tide against Napoleon, Samuel Ramey was craggily commanding as Marshal Kutuzov.
Marina Poplavskaya and Ekaterina Semenchuk were radiant as Natasha and Sonya. [In 2002, Anna Netrebko made her Met debut in this production, under the guidance of Gergiev.]
As there are no less than 68 Character-Roles in War and Peace—sung by 52 soloists at the Met—listing would prove endless. But they were all effective in character and in action: not easy to achieve with such a huge cast and so little rehearsal-time…
There were only seven performances this season, but it must cost a fortune to play even one, given the logistics. In addition to all the soloists, director Andrei Konchalvosky had to stage-manage 118 choristers, 41 ballet-dancers, and 227 supernumeraries! [But no Partridges in Pear-Trees!]
An added expense was building new sets, as the Met's stage is much larger than that of the Mariinsky. But then there were also 1,200 costumes, requiring 79 dressers for the immense cast.
Not to overlook the 204 swords and 152 rifles for the soldiers on both sides. Cannons as well. Also one horse, one dog, one goat, and four chickens!
Each performance required 150 pounds of fake snow: as Moscow burned, blizzards engulfed Napoleon's retreating armies.
If you missed the Met's War and Peace and you cannot afford to go to the former Leningrad to see this Kirov-Mariinsky production on its home-stage, there are those two fabulous film-versions of this Epic of Napoleonic Ego and Russki Courage: one is Soviet, the other stars Mel Ferrer and Audrey Hepburn. But neither have an operatic-score.
One of the Met's much-touted new stagings, Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride was especially notable for the performances of Susan Graham as the Priestess of Diana and the seemingly-ageless Placido Domingo as Oreste. Louis Langrée conducted the exemplary cast and the Met's excellent orchestra.
What did not quite work was the Temple-Environment, designed by Thomas Lynch. Some of its side-details with Stephen Wadsworth's surging staging probably could not be seen well—or at all, higher-up—by those not sitting in the Orchestra and Grand-Tier.
Was that Immense Ugly Idol in the heart of the Sanctuary a representation of Goddess Diana? [Michele Losier, as Diane, made a spectacular entrance from the flies, on a wire! Not quite Peter Pan nor Mary Poppins, but the same technology…]
Other Opera Adventures:
Lucas Foss's GRIFFELKIN at the Manhattan School of Music
Gian Carolo Menotti's AMAHL and THE NIGHT VISITORS at St. Ignatius
Salzburg Festival Soloists at the Morgan Library and Museum
Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors was thrust upon the world by NBC-TV, way back when. Following its success with the Viewing-Public, it soon became a live-performance staple around Christmastime.
This Manhattan Holiday-Season, Amahl resurfaced at the Park Avenue Jesuit fortress of St. Ignatius Loyola—one of the best organs in New York!—as part of the annual Celebration of Carols.
Simply staged in front of the altar, it was as usual charming, but not easily seen from the rear-pews! The admirable Kent Tritle conducted the equally admirable Choirs and Orchestra of St. Ignatius, for whose excellence he is primarily responsible.
Following the enthusiastic response to Amahl, the Powers at NBC-TV commissioned Lukas Foss to create something similar for their Electronic-Audience. The result was the 1953 Griffelkin, recently revived Live at the Manhattan School of Music.
The fable—libretto by Alastair Reid—involves a Little Devil being given 24-hours on Earth to make mischief. Unfortunately for his Satanic-Masters—here represented by the Devil's Grandmother [Margaret Peterson]—he is touched by the Human-Plight and ends as a Human-Being!
What was most amazing about this production was the stunning vocal virtuosity of Anthony Roth Costanzo as Griffelkin. He looks very much like a boy, but he has the counter-tenor power of very mature performer.
Visually, however, the Manhattan School's Opera Theatre was not able to achieve its usually high-standard of production-values. Hell didn't even look Hellish, nor did the assorted Devils inspire much Shock and Awe. Steven Osgood, however, conducted effectively.
A now venerable Lukas Foss stood to acknowledge audience-applause!
In November 2006, the Salzburg Festival Society invited various Friends of this famed summer opera-festival to the Morgan Library, where they were able to hear Festival Intendant Jürgen Flimm discuss the coming 2007 season in JP Morgan's magnificent Rare-Book Library.
Then they adjourned to the new Renzo Piano-designed basement-theatre for a dazzling concert by Salzburg Stars, who were also that season at the Metropolitan Opera!
This past November, however, Prof. Dr. Flimm and his co-workers had to present their Festival-Pitch from the theatre-stage, followed by the concert, which this time was presented as part of the Morgan Library and Museum's regular Concert-Series.
This change in format may have puzzled regular concert-goers who were not Salzburg-Regulars, but the performances by Barbara Bonney, Ekaterina Gubanova, Simon Keenlyside, Genia Kühlmeier, and Michael Schade were excellent. Bradley Moore genially accompanied at the piano.
These artists also discussed their work in the Salzburg Festival, which was of special interest to Your Reporter, who had seen several of them at work last August, which was his 51st Summer as a critic at the Salzburg Festival!
For the Record: The New York-based Nature Theatre of Oklahoma will perform August 2008 at the Salzburg Festival as part of Jürgen Flimm's Young Directors' Project!
NEXT WAVE Adventures at BAM:
James Thiérrée's AU REVOIR PARAPLUIE
Hiroshi Koike's SHIP IN A VIEW
Tan Dun's THE GATE
Charlie Chaplin lives on in spirit, in the dynamic and ingenious performance-personage of his grandson, James Thiérrée! But his charming show, Au Revoir Parapluie, is not a Little Tramp incarnation, nor a downscale-version of Cirque du Soleil.
It has some of the acrobatics, the odd props, and the haunting images of Le Cirque, but it is Its Own Thing. Seasons ago in Europe, Your Scribe has seen the earlier manifestations of some of the images in this show, when Thiérrée's mother, Victoria, Charlie Chaplin's daughter, was the co-star in Le Cirque Imaginaire and Le Cirque Invisible. She still gets costume-credit!
[Hal Prince's children—Daisy and Charlie—are great-grandchildren of Charlie Chaplin, but you won't see them twirling umbrellas over at BAM!]
As for Ship in a View, it is most interesting for the intertwining of Live-Choreography with Video-Footage. In one section, the camera pans endlessly around wrecked boats and ships in harbor. Occasionally the video-images are more powerful than the dancers, but for the most part they were dynamic and challenging.
Video-Art also plays a role in Tan Dun's Orchestral Theatre-Work IV, The Gate, but Puppetry is also employed. The Gate is not an opera, unlike Tan Dun's The First Emperor, premiered at the Met last season, for the orchestra is very much on-stage, if downstage.
In fact, the conductor of the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Michael Christie, even played the role of the Judge, as the lives and loves of three legendary women are examined. These are Yu Ji, from Farewell, My Concubine, Koharu-san, from The Love Suicides at Amijima and Juliet, from that well-known play.
The Dramaturgical-Device animating this work is the need for some philosophical stock-taking before the three women's Souls can pass through The Gate, to wait for their next Reincarnation on earth.
As Tan Dun is noted for his fusion of Eastern and Western musical-modes, it's interesting that his Juliet [Nancy Allen Lundy] sings in the tradition of Grand Opera, while Yu Ji [Song Yang] performs as a Peking-Opera heroine. The astonishing contrast continues when Koharu-san appears as a Bunraku-Puppet, manipulated by black-clad handlers. Hua Hua Shang sings this role, but does not play the puppet.
Voice-4-Vision Puppet Festival at Theatre for the New City:
TIGER PLUS [***]
TIN LIGHTNING [****]
NIGHT SHADE [****]
THE JESTER OF TONGA [****]
HANDMADE PUPPET DREAMS III [*****]
Over the years, Crystal Field's Theatre for the New City—located in a dis-used City-Market on First Avenue in the East Village—has become something like a distant Annex of LaMaMa, which already has a nearby Annex. It has long been a welcoming-home for many forms of Avant-Garde Theatre and Performance.
With its three performance-spaces, it can accommodate shows both intimate and large. Its large lobby-spaces also provide possible exhibition-venues. So it has played host to the Toy-Theatre Festival—formerly at HERE, when it had more space there—as well as to other theatre-specialties, such as the recent Voice-4-Vision Puppet-Theatre Festival.
Sarah Provost and Jane Catherine Shaw—the co-curators of this fascinating fest—made it clear to enthusiastic audiences that this was no commercial Avenue Q puppet-show. Instead, the festival has been conceived as a way for local puppetry-artists to share with each other and with the local community.
Tiger Plus was billed as "an evening of Overhead Projection." Cut-out figures and objects in the style of Chinese and other Asian Shadow-Plays were projected with a translucent-screen between the actual two-dimensional forms, or laid against a white-ground in the manner of Tara Walker's black silhouettes.
Produced by Chinese Theatre Works, there were three short shows: Tiger Tales, The Turkey Vulture—with script by Susan-Lori Parks, and Return, by Shuyun Chen. These had their charms, but Ping Chong does this kind of thing better.
Conceived, composed, and partially-performed by Chris Green, Tin Lightning was created for a 2006 Puppet Festival in Taipei! It can travel: contact Chris Green at chrisgreenkinetics.com.
Three intertwined stories of Humans interacting with Nature—some of them verbally-banal, but visually-interesting—involve some arresting-images. I especially liked the tiny illuminated tents! Erin Orr and Lisa Gonzales interact with Green in performance.
Just so you won't think Tin Lightning is something thrown-together on the spur of the moment—which it occasionally suggests—it was, in fact, work-shopped at Middlebury College in romantic Vermont, at the Barnevelder Movement and Arts Complex in oil-soaked Houston, as well as at Franklin and Marshall College in the heart of the Amish Country!
Chris Green recently installed 46 life-sized kinetic animal-sculptures and puppets of his own design in a Noah's Ark site at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles!
Joseph Silovsky's surprising The Jester of Tonga is an extremely complicated Performance-Piece, as he makes his entrance on a small bike, towing behind it a chain of carts and wagons, loaded with trunks and suitcases and electronic-equipment needed to tell his tale.
Part of the fun is his frantic opening of cases to find necessary equipment and props, trying to hook everything up and make it work, and finally retailing his bizarre tale of the sometime Jester of Tonga.
This kind of show has its moments, but I prefer the polish of a Basil Twist production.
[For the record, yes, there really is an Island of Tonga, ruled for generations by a Queen. In fact, Queen Salote of Tonga was an Honored-Guest at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second. Recently, autograph-letters from Salote and another Tongan Queen were on display for auction at Sotheby's!]
Nightshade was created by Liz Adele Allen, Sarah Frechette, and Jason Thibodeaux.
In addition to these shows, there was also a Puppet-Slam and a special program of delightful videos of short puppet-adventures with varied forms of puppetry and animation.
This was called Handmade Puppet Dreams III. If it exists on VHS or DVD, you would do well or order a copy to enjoy and share with others. Great for the Classroom!
Among the treats: Piano Mouths, Sinkin' Soon, Trixie and the Tree Trunks, Too Loud a Solitude, Tyger, Incubus, and Les Malaventures de Zut-Alors!
Coming soon to Theatre for the New City—well, in April, actually—Puppets 'n Poe!
Bread and Puppet Theatre Christmas Festival at Theatre for the New City:
For many years now—in various venues, but recently exclusively at the Theatre for the New City—the now ancient and venerable and grizzled Master-Puppeteer Peter Schumann has brought his Bread and Puppet Theatre into the heart of Manhattan from far-off Vermont. For kiddies, he and his troupe—featuring both puppets and brass-band—provide some delightful matinée Holiday Cheer and Fun.
In the evenings, however, Gloom and Doom are more in order, as, year by year, the World Situation grows more desperate, with no Vision or Enlightened-Leadership on offer at home or abroad. The always Politically-Conscious Schumann posts his Annual-Critique with Puppets.
This Christmas-Past, Schumann-as-Santa presented a Guantanamo-themed reworking of Dante's Divina Commedia: The Divine Reality Comedy.
Using an ingenious variety of puppet-forms, designed and drawn in Schumann's distinctive bold style, Paradise, Post-Paradise, Purgatory—Water-boarding, anyone?—and Inferno were sequentially evoked, concluding with a Puppet Service for Guantanamo.
No, Virginia, there is not really a Santa Claus. He is only one of those Faith-Based Urban-Legends. This is no longer a Season to be Jolly… President Geo. W. Bush may have pardoned the White House's Thanksgiving-Turkey [ho ho ho], but he showed No Mercy to Our Troops surging over there in Iraq.
Unusual Performing-Arts Oddments:
Nature Theatre of Oklahoma's NO DICE [***]
If New Yorkers have not previously heard of the Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, they have nothing on the natives of that Great Midwestern State.
Actually, Nature Theatre is a Manhattan-Based Avant-Garde Performance-Group that has borrowed the name from Franz Kafka's unfinished novel, Amerika: "The Great Nature Theatre of Oklahoma is calling you!"
Presented by Soho Rep—not on its own Soho stage, but around the corner in a former indoor-playground—No Dice is said to be only four hours of the original 11-hour Epic.
The Company-Members—variously and occasionally bizarrely attired—strike poses and declaim disjointed snatches of Self-Revelation that sound very much like Cell-Phone Conversations overheard on Manhattan buses.
As many of the Utterances echo Performing-Artists' Concerns, it is thus no great surprise to learn that the texts have been culled from more than 100-hours of taped phone-conversations!
Because of the length of the show, free sandwiches and soda were served as the spectators entered the Performance-Space. At the interval, they were still available, but for cash!
For the Record—as well as for Critics, who may have wanted to know Who Is Who, a Cast-List was provided:
Anne Gridley—wears the red wig.
Robert M. Johnson—wears the pirate-hat.
Zachary Oberzan—wears the cowboy-hat and fake-mustache.
Kristin Worrall—wears the white wig and sun-glasses.
Thomas Hummell—wears the cape and pointed-ears in the First Act.
Kelly Cooper—wears the green dress and feathers in her hair.
Pavol Liska—wears the cape and pointed-ears in the Second Act.
The Nature Theatre of Oklahoma has performed last season at the Under the Radar Festival, going on to glory in Philadelphia, Portland, Holland, Austria, Belgium, and even into Darkest Germany!
They must have made a Very Big Impression in Salzburg, for the famed Festival's Intendant Jürgen Flimm has invited them to join the Young Directors Project—which he founded some seasons ago, under its English, not Deutsch, title.
With the Conception and Direction of Pavol Liska and Kelly Cooper, Anne Gridley and Robert M. Johnson will perform the Nature Theatre's version of Romeo und Julia, but auf Englisch.
This will not be Shakespeare's version of Romeo and Juliet. Nor yet Prokofiev's vision neither…
Instead, the show was created by calling people on the phone, asking: Can you tell me the story of Romeo and Juliet?
Guess What? Almost all of those called could not recall the play-plot from beginning to end!
The Salzburg Festival's lavish pre-fest magazine notes: In the end, the participants radically re-imagine Romeo and Juliet in their own voluptuous detail, creating scenes and characters that never existed before. What we are left with is a highly personal and original series of Romeos, pervaded with feeling and rife with thoughts about love.
This show seems Made-To-Order for the Salzburg Festival's 2008 Theme: Den stark wie die Liebe ist der Tod. Or: Death is as Strong as Love. Very Germanic, that thought… Wagner's Liebestod and all that!
Werner Schwab's THE ROUND OF PLEASURE [****]
This elegantly-devised production should also be seen at the Salzburg Festival. After all, its author was the late avant-garde Austrian playwright, Werner Schwab! What is more, he based this strange script on the best-known drama of another Austrian playwright, Dr. Arthur Schnitzler!
That drama, widely known as La Ronde—owing to the masterful film-version—is a sort of round-dance of changing sexual-partners in turn-of-the-century Vienna, where Sexual-Repressions and Hang-Ups gave good employment to the genius of Dr. Schnitzler's colleague, Dr. Sigmund Freud.
Schwab was also something of a genius, but he used his fertile imagination in service of a kind of Germanic Black Comedy rich in Scatology, Degradation, Linguistic-Nealogisms, Violence, and Surrealism. These are almost impossible to translate into English-Equivalents, so translator Michael Mitchell has resourcefully devised toned-down similarities.
The basic outline of Schnitzler's drama remains, but what makes this production so fascinating is the handsome Visualization of the text, with direction by Ildiko Nemeth, choreography by Julie Atlas Muz, and stunning costumes, stage-environments, and lighting by Nemeth and Jessica Sofia Martin, Joel Grossman, Frederico Restrepo, and Marguerite Lochard.
The equally handsome and talented cast includes Markus Hingel, Catherine Correa, Jeanne Lauren Smith, Sarah Lemp, and Kaylin Lee. Despite the limited performance-space at the Clemente Soto Velez Center, Nemeth's New Stage Company has achieved a production of Beauty and Power.
What Viennse audiences did not know—or understand—when they first saw Dr. Schnitzler's Reigen was that it was also an unspoken—even hidden—documentation of the way in which Syphilis is transmitted from partner to partner. In La Ronde, it passes from a Street-Walking Prostitute all the way up the Social-Ladder to the Highest Rungs…
As for Werner Schwab, shortly after wining four major playwriting-awards and being hailed as the most promising new young Germanic Theatre-Voice, he died tragically at 36 years of age. Nonetheless, he had created 16 plays before he passed over…
Joel Jeske's CUT TO THE CHASE [***]
This charming show celebrates old Vaudeville and Silent-Film routines, all played in hilarious split-second Pantomime. Master-Clown Joel Jeske conceived it; Mark Lonergan staged it; the members of Parallel Exit performed it at 59E59.
It should surely tour! The lively cast includes Joel and Juliet Jeske, Laura Dillman, Mike Dobson, Ryan Kasprzak, Andrea Kehler, and Derek Roland.
Sarah Jones Abridges BRIDGE and TUNNEL for 2007 Brendan Gill Prize!
Near Battery Park, in the historic US Customs House—underneath the Museum of the American Indian—monologist-sociologist Sarah Jones assumed several of her New York metropolitan-characters from Bridge and Tunnel, to thank the Municipal Art Society for awarding her the Brendan Gill Prize.
Brendan Gill was a fundament of The New Yorker—also its Drama Critic for a time—for decades. But Brendan was also an enthusiastic Historic-Preservationist. It was he who enlisted Jackie O to march in protest to save Grand Central Station from demolition!
Each year, the Gill Prize is given in his memory to that artist who in the previous year has created some very special kind of artwork celebrating the City. This is not a Lifetime-Achievement-Award.
The Work can be a Photo-Essay, a Play-Production, a Painting or Sculpture, a Novel, History or Poem, even a New York Symphony or a new work of Architecture…
Your Scribe—a longtime Muni-Arts member—is a Gill Prize Nominator. His finest hour was nominating Hugh Hardy for his Historic Renovation of David Belasco's first Broadway theatre, now known as the New Victory on New 42.
This past season, he nominated Anish Kapour for his giant Sky-Mirror in Rockefeller Center Plaza. Kapour was among the Finalists, but Sarah Jones won deservedly. Now that I think of it, Kapour is not a New Yorker: should that have ruled him out of the competition?
At the Public Theatre: UNDER THE RADAR Festival Tracking New Theatre:
Your Roving Reporter regrets that he cannot cover this fascinating kaleidoscope of New Theatre Works at the Public Theatre and other Manhattan Venues during the month of January.
He will be standing atop Mount Sinai to watch the sunrise over the Promised-Land, as Moses is said to have done many Millennia ago, as well as photographing the ancient monuments of Petra and Jerash for INFOTOGRAPHY™, his 50-year photo-archive of Arts and Architecture around the world.
Thus, he will miss such performance-adventures as How Theatre Failed America, Church, Disinformation, Generation Jeans, In Spite of Everything, Stoop Stories, Terminus, Regurgitophagy, This Place Is a Desert, Small Metal Objects, Etiquette, Trojan Women, and Poetics: A Ballet Brut.
If you live in the New York City Area—or are coming for a January-Holiday from abroad to take advantage of the Dollar's new-found Worthlessness: Prada is cheaper on Madison Avenue than it is in Milan!—the fest begins 9 January, ending on 20 January. All tickets at the Public are $15, but the All-Access-Pass admits you to every show for only $99! You also get discounts with the Pass at alternative-venues, plus brunch with Under the Radar Artists!
Not to overlook Panels and Discussions! What serious Performing-Arts Adventure would be complete without Talking-Heads to explain what it is that they are trying to do onstage?
One panel that should be of interest to many—serious-spectators as well as performance-groups—is titled: How To Bring Your Show to Edinburgh Fringe. During August, in the Scots Capital, the Fringe provides the largest open arts-platform in the world!
Some summers, there have been as many as two or three-thousand separate shows and performances on offer. Your Roving Reporter used to cover as many as he could—some of the best make it to New York the following season, often at 59E59—but now, at Age 79, the official Edinburgh Festival is about all he can manage to review.
At one point—when he was much younger, however—he made a point of covering productions presented in the special Fringe-Theatre set up by some of his Brooklyn College grad-students in Performing-Arts Management!
Oddly enough, there has never seemed to be any Quality-Control. If you can raise the money to reserve a Performance-Venue, find Housing for your troupe, purchase Air-fare, and cover Meals and Miscellaneous, you can show your stuff in Edinburgh!
This Ancient and Historic City is crammed with churches, church-halls, schools, and art-galleries with many spaces available in late summer. Not that many go to church anymore, anyway… The Fringe Festival is a great place to meet young artist-performers from all over the world as well. Then there are the concurrent Edinburgh Film Festival, a TV Festival, and a Book Festival! Not to overlook the world-famous Edinburgh Tattoo, a Folk-Fest and Military-Drill before the High Castle.
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