| go to lobby page | go to other departments |
Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, May 2008.
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
New Plays; *
In the Public's LAByrinth with Philip Seymour Hoffman: *
Brits Again on the Upper East Side! *
Old Plays in Revival: *
Long Ago, Papa Wrote a Play: *
Whatever Became of Mary Noble, Backstage-Wife? *
After an All-Female Cast, Two Outstanding Men from South Africa! *
From Destructive Sexual-Intrigue Onward to Hilariously-Comic Sexual-Intrigue! *
New Musicals: *
From Sophisticated-Europa To Teen-Age Baltimore! *
Mis-Named Glory Days Opens & Soon Closes… *
Old Musicals in Revival: *
Many Enchanted-Evenings Ahead for South-Pacific Revival! *
Manhattan-Transfer: Washington-Heights Moves From Off-Broadway to the Great White Way! *
Laurence Fishburne in THURGOOD [*****] *
Mike Daisey in Mike Daisey's HOW THEATRE FAILED AMERICA [****] *
Other Entertainments/Other Venues: *
Nights at the Metropolitan Opera: *
But here are some recent Winners, Old & New: *
From Casino To Battlefield! *
Tristan Is a Dangerous Opera: People Die & Not Only in the Plot! *
Other Operas, Other Stages: *
At the New York City Opera: *
At the Juilliard Opera Theatre: *
At the Manhattan School of Music: *
Mannes Opera Theatre at the Kaye Playhouse: *
Beyond the Opera-House: *
At the New Victory Theatre: *
Lincoln Center's Great Performers: *
Unusual Theatre-Expriences: *
At the Theatre for the New City: NY Ukefest 2008: *
At the Public Theatre: Under the Radar Followed by the PUBLIC LAB: *
Off-Off-Broadway Stats: *
Enda Walsh's THE WALWORTH FARCE [****]
Caryl Churchill's DRUNK ENOUGH TO SAY I LOVE YOU? [**]
Paul Rudnick's THE NEW CENTURY [***]
Liz Flahive's FROM UP HERE [***]
Sarah Ruhl's DEAD MAN'S CELL PHONE [**]
Willy Holtzman's SOMETHING YOU DID [****]
Michael Murphy's THE CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR [****]
Adam Bock's THE DRUNKEN CITY [***]
Stephen Adly Guirgis' THE LITTLE FLOWER OF EAST ORANGE [***]
Itmar Moses' THE FOUR OF US [**]
Garret Jon Groenveld's MISSIVES [***]
Torben Betts' THE UNCONQUERED [****]
David Greig's YELLOW MOON [**]
As Hamlet might have said to his college-chum, Horatio: "There are more kinds of Theatre in Heaven & Earth than are dreamt-of in your Philosophy."
Certainly, New Forms & Kinds of Theatre have proliferated in Our-Times: Psycho-Drama, Theatre of the Forgotten, Children's Theatre, Black-Theatre, Theatre of the Absurd, El Teatro Campesino, Women's Theatre, Black Comedy, Regional-Theatre, & Native-American Theatre, as well as the ever-popular—at least in The Media—Theatre of War!
Aside from earnest dramas about the hopeless, endless War in Iraq, there are not currently many plays that could be called Political-Theatre, however. But David Mamet's satirical-farce, November, is notable for its hilarious Engagement with the Problems of the Presidency.
Given the Obsessive-Fascination of Talk-Show-Hosts & Presidential-Debate-Moderators with the wearing—or NOT—of American-Flag Lapel-Pins, there really ought to be more satirical plays about How Our System Operates—or Not—as well as How To Get Elected!
The TV-Travesties of what are quite-wrongly called Debates are surely worth a comedy or two?
How about a Fantasia in which the almost Officially-Anointed Republican-Presidential-Candidate, Sen. John McCain, chooses Condi Rice as his Vice-Presidential Running-Mate? There have been Rumors, after all…
No sooner is the Straight-Talker sworn in on the Capitol-Steps than he suffers a Massive-Attack of Hubris, tragically dying on the spot.
This would automatically make the Hon. Prof. Dr. Rice America's First Woman & First Black President! This would resolve the current Either/Or Dilemma posed for Potential-Voters by the two Democratic-Contenders.
Of course, on-going events in the Real-World of Political-Theatre show that the Terrain is constantly changing, the Stakes rising & falling, so a Musical-Satire involving Real-Political-Personalities would be doomed before Steve Sondheim could finish the lyrics…
Moving-On, have you turned-off your Cell-Phone? This question is now the Universal-Prelude to every kind of Performance, including tawdry Chix-Flix movies.
Before you Die, it is also a Good-Idea to turn off your T-Mobile. Not only did a Belgian-Corpse fail to do that, but the Undertaker apparently Sealed the Coffin without checking to remove the Cell-Phone!
This was the Inspiration for Sarah Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone, but the resulting semi-comedy is regrettably not as interesting as developing the Original-Premise could have been. Imagine the agonized Grieving-Relatives around the coffin, desperately trying to pry off the lid: especially the Wife, eager to discover who the Caller could be?
"Hello? Listen, we're here at the Funeral-Parlor! He's dead! Why are you calling now?"
Even if the actual-occurrence had been with an Open-Coffin-Funeral—I wasn't there & I didn't read the press-reports—the Comic-Consternation & Subsequent-Events could have made a mordant Black-Comedy!
Sarah Ruhl has won all kinds of Playwriting-Awards, so she must be Doing Something Right. Frankly, I didn't much like her much-praised The Clean House either, but she seemed very Smart & Sensible at a recent Outer Critics Circle Panel.
Maybe I just Don''t Get It?
That was certainly the case with Caryl Churchill's lame, obvious, throw-away Anti-US mini-satire, Drunk Enough, in which Two-Males were on an Escalating-Sofa, One seducing the Other, in a Theatrical-Objectification of Churchill's View of American-Imperialist-Activities. Ho-Hum…
The only other drama by a Woman-Playwright that has premiered since the last Show-Notes was Liz Flahive's From Up Here. The much-admired Julie White was wonderfully distraught as a Mother who has Married-Again, but her difficult teen-age kids don't like him, no matter how hard he tries to Be a Pal.
There is also a Globe-Trotting, Everest-Climbing-Auntie—initially discovered in a Parachute-Harness, hence From-Up-Here, I guess—who drops-in & is again gone-away. The Symbolism of this rather escaped me, but my Colleagues are extravagant in Admiration of both the Playwright & her Play.
Denis Conway in Enda Walsh’s new play, "The Walworth Farce."
Talk about Dysfunctional-Families! Enda Walsh's Immigrant-Irish Household in The Walworth Farce—recently in DUMBO at St. Ann's Warehouse—hilariously revealed a Demented Irish Dad & his Two Enslaved-Sons, re-enacting somewhat Dubious-Events back home in Eire, with a series of Wigs & Frocks. Even some Mock-Coffins…
This unsettling & deeply-dark Black-Comedy by Walsh—that's Enda, not Edna!—features a Play-Within-the-Play, the Irish-Memories brought back to Endless-Life. Both plays were remarkably animated by astounding actors of Galway's Druid-Theatre: Denis Conway, Garrett Lombard, & Tadhg Murphy.
Director Mikel Murfi pushed his players to a frantic, furious pace.
For the Record: The Druids recently played all of John Millington Synge's dramas in New York: Your Scribe had seen them previously at the Edinburgh Festival, where they won multiple-awards.
St. Ann's will soon be hosting the Toy-Theatre Festival, formerly at HERE, then at Theatre for the New City. It is the best-venue, as all those wonderful Toy-Theatres can be easily displayed in the immense lobby. [For the Uninitiated, DUMBO is an Anagram for Down Under Manhattan-Bridge Overpass…]
In addition to Caryl Churchill's quasi-Political-Play noted above, there are also two new dramas that address such themes: Willy Holtzman's Something You Did & Michael Murphy's The Conscientious Objector.
The latter can be related to Geo. Stevens jr's Thurgood monologue, as it focuses on the Activism of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King [DB Woodside], even presenting him face-to-face with President Lyndon Baines Johnson [John Cullum], angered at King's unyielding-opposition to the Vietnam War.
Holtzman's concern with the years-later Aftermath of Fatal-Violence during the Vietnam-Protests links, oddly enough, to Barack Obama's Current-Campaign & his Association with former Weatherman Bill Ayers, who is even cited in the program.
Joanna Gleason plays Alison, whose Act of Conscience became an Act of Terror. Now, after 30 Years in Prison, she seeks Parole. Should it be granted?
After all, Patti Hearst came out of it all OK, even after her disastrous encounter with The Symbionese Liberation-Army. Remember them? [At that time, my esteemed colleague, Prof. Mario Fratti, wrote a Musical about Patti & her Abductors! Is it now time to revive this Cultural-Artifact?]
On a far more Trivial-Note, there is Itamar Moses' The Four of Us. Moses has just won a Major Playwriting-Award, with cash-attached, so the rumor that his play is somewhat Autobiographical adds special interest.
It's essentially about two College-Chums [Gideon Banner & Michael Esper] who hope for Success as Writers. One makes it almost immediately: the other, not.
Moses' Bach at Leipzig was one of the most ingenious plays I've seen about an Incident in the Life of a Great-Composer. His new prize-winner is said to be about Beethoven…
Paul Rudnick, of course, has referred to Richard Wagner in his fantasy-drama about the Fairytale-King, "Mad" Ludwig II of Bavaria.
Would that Rudnick had wittily-focused on another King & Composer Duo, rather than gluing together some old one-acts & calling the result The New Century—actually apparently a store on the order of K-Mart.
Fortunately, Jane Houdyshell is wonderful as a Crafts-Person, who regards Christo's GATES in Central-Park as nothing more than a Giant-Crafts-Project.
But even better is Linda Lavin, as the distraught mother of not one, but three, Gay-Siblings. She also resents being labeled Jewish, "just because I'm critical & articulate…"
In the Public's LAByrinth with Philip Seymour Hoffman:
That Renaissance-Man of the Theatre, Philip Seymour Hoffman, recently staged Stephen Adley Guirgis' fragmented drama, The Little Flower of East Orange, which features Cameo-Appearances by Pope John 23, Jimmy Stewart, & Bobby Kennedy.
Ellen Burstyn was both difficult & fascinating as an aged-woman having difficulty Passing-Over, having previously adversely-affected the lives of her children, notably the Narrator, Danny, played by Michael Shannon. As Therese-Marie, Burstyn spends a lot of time in a Hospital-Bed, in what appears to be Intensive-Care…
The ecstatic religious-poetess, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, is quoted in the program. Had Guirgis evoked St. Teresa of Avila
instead, this might have been a different drama…
As for Adam Bock's The Drunken City—staged by Trip Cullman for Playwrights Horizons—the Sad Young Men just don't seem to Get-It. This presents RelationshipProblems for Melissa, Marnie & Linda, played by Maria Dizzia, Cassie Beck, & Sue Jean Kim.
Brits Again on the Upper East Side!
At 59E59, the 5th Annual Brits Off-Broadway is now underway. As many of these dynamic productions have already won awards at the Edinburgh Fringe-Festival, importing them to Manhattan saves future trips to Edinburgh, where the Dollar has become almost Worthless…
David Greig is one of Scotland's most important younger playwrights, so it was interesting to sample his Yellow Moon: The Ballad of Leila & Lee. This is not exactly a Scots-Version of Bonnie & Clyde, but it comes close.
Leila [Nalini Chetty] is a pretty young girl who cannot resist the attraction of Bad-Boy Stag Lee Macalinden [Andrew Scott-Ramsay]. This does not End-Well.
Greig's Damascus is coming soon, the opening delayed by some sort of Visa-Problem. As the play takes place in the Middle-East, has the production aroused the Interest of National-Security-Agents?
[Did you know that Composer Edvard Grieg's people emigrated from Scotland to Norway? They changed the spelling of the name…]
Much more Challenging—as well as Visually-Imaginative—was Torben Betts' The Unconquered, staged by Muriel Romanes. The stark white foreshortened-set & cartoonish two-dimensional props—plus the strong while & black costumes & makeup—recalled Shock-headed Peter, but this show was minus The Tiger Lilies.
No Matter: Neil McKinven & Alexandra Mathie were driven by Shock & Awe in this Poetic & Apocalyptic-Drama. Their tempestuous daughter, Nicola Harrison, was even more compelling
Not part of the Brit-Fest, but also at 59E59 was Missives, by Garret Jon Groenveld. This was effectively staged by Elysabeth Kleinhans, who has created the starkly Modernist premises & venues at 59E59. This proved a Letter-Play with a Difference…
Old Plays in Revival:
Anton Chekov's THE SEAGULL [***]
Samuel Beckett's ENDGAME [****]
Clifford Odets' THE COUNTRY GIRL [**]
Ernest Hemingway's THE FIFTH COLUMN [***]
Fugard, Kani, & Ntshona's SIZWE BANZI IS DEAD [*****]
Christopher Hampton's LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES [*****]
Caryl Churchill's TOP GIRLS [**]
Marc Camoletti's BOEING BOEING [***]
John Turturro, as Sam Beckett's blind & crippled but still-willful Hamm, is Over-the-Top for some critics. But I found his All-Stops-Out performance wonderful, an emotional-bulwark against the always-imminent Ennui of a Beckettian Symbolic-Drama like Endgame.
Also exemplary in the BAM revival—staged by Andrei Belgrader—are Alvin Epstein as an aged, fuddled Nagg, Elaine Stritch—also consigned by their son to a Garbage-Can, & Max Casella as the Much-Put-Upon Clov, who may be Hamm's son. At least that is what was suggested in the Post-Production on-stage powwow with the Participants, moderated by Robert Brustein.
But it was not one of the Great Ideas of Western Man at CSC to cast Alan Cumming—Wilkommen!—as Chekhov's Turgeniev-type in The Seagull. He's better in a Greek-frock in Euripides' Bacchae…
Dianne Wiest, as the vain, self-centered, embattled Artiste-Actrice Arkadina, is somewhat effortful, so this does not seem entirely like Acting. But it is still Hard-Work to watch…
Her embittered, unloved son, the Zukunfts-Dichter Konstantîn is properly a pain, as played by Ryan O'Nan—O Nan, where is thy sting?—but Kelli Garner is thoroughly believable as the insecure, untalented actress Nina in the Russki-Provinces.
What if Chekhov had decided, instead, to call his new drama either The Eagle or The Vulture, if he was determined to use Avian-Symbolism? Maybe Konstantîn wouldn't have had to shoot himself, as his unappreciated Avant-Garde Drama was obviously way ahead of the tastes of Chekhov's Times.
Long Ago, Papa Wrote a Play:
It was good to see Ernest Hemingway's nearly-forgotten & only drama, The Fifth Column, in a very professional production at the admirable Mint Theatre. Who now remembers the original Theatre Guild staging?
From left to right: Heidi Armbruster and Kelly AuCoin, Ronald Guttman, Kelly AuCoin and Nicole Shalhoub. In "The Fifth column". Photos by Richard Termine.
Was Papa's spoiled but glamorous lustful American Woman War-Reporter—sending bulletins from the embattled Hotel Florida in Madrid, during the Spanish Civil War—suggested by Ace-Journalist Martha Gellhorn, who had a son by Hemingway? Or was the actually-glamorous Heidi Armbruster, playing Dorothy Bridges, supposed to be the Ace-Journalist Dorothy Thompson instead?
Did this woman-reporter realize she was Sleeping With a Spy?
Kelly AuCoin was Philip Rawlings, a Humphrey Bogart role, with Joe Hickey as Robert Preston. The Mint's dedicated founder-director, Jonathan Bank, staged effectively, but one was finally grateful that Hemingway decided against a Life in the Theatre…
Whatever Became of Mary Noble, Backstage-Wife?
Although Clifford Odets' dated Post-Hollywood pot-boiler, The Country Girl, apparently had some dramaturgical-tweakings for the current revival, these did not include a Title-Change! It was not originally titled The Country Wife, as the Sun's drama-critic insisted.
Restoration & 18th Century dramas are a Long Way Off from vintage Broadway-Backstage-Melodrama. As Odets' enemies used to say, after Hollywood had corrupted him: Odets, where is thy sting?
Mike Nichols—who seems to feel more secure with All-Star-Casts—drew on the Obvious Star-Power of Morgan Freeman, Frances McDormand, & Peter Gallagher.
Introducing the element of a Mixed-Marriage into a drama set way back in 1950—in addition to the insecure actor Frank Elgin's alcoholic-dependency—seems as Problematic as it does in this season's Come Back, Little Sheba.
Not for those audiences who were born after 1975, perhaps, but those of us who are considerably older do remember how things were back then. Nonetheless, Morgan Freeman is impressive in the role of Frank; McDormand, less so as his edgy, fearful wife, Georgie.
Caryl Churchill's Top Girls—although it has been given a cleverly-designed & thoroughly-professional production at the Biltmore-Theatre—had some spectators ambling up the aisles even before the Intermission. By the close, there were almost more people onstage than in the orchestra.
In any case, I've never been a Great-Fan of this drama about the Choices a determined woman has to make to Succeed in Professional-Life.
As for the Eat-Men-for-Breakfast Marlene [Elizabeth Marvel] & her Fantasy Dinner-Party with Famous-Women, I would rather have seen Saint Joan than Pope Joan [Martha Plimpton], but Bernard Shaw had already explored that Territory. [My devout Catholic guest was amazed to learn that there had once been a Woman-Pope—who gave birth in the midst of a Papal-Procession: Non Papa, sed Mama!]
Also in the cast—which worked very hard to make Churchill's Fable work: Marisa Tomei, Mary Beth Hurt, Mary Catherine Garrison, Jennifer Ikeda, & Ana Reeder.
After an All-Female Cast, Two Outstanding Men from South Africa!
In the revival—the last time anywhere, at BAM—of Sizwe Banzi Is Dead John Kani & Winston Ntshona were even more wonderful than the last time this Apartheid-Spawned social-comedy was played here.
Of course they have performed this ingenious work—co-authored with Athol Fugard—internationally on extended tours. But South Africa has had a Black-President—unfortunately not like the first, the almost-Sainted Nelson Mandela—for some years now.
So it's time to Move-On. When Apartheid came to an end, I wondered what Fugard would do for play-topics, as the destructive-dynamics of Racial-Segregation—primarily pushed by the descendents of the Colonizing-Boers—seemed to have been defused.
The Captain's Tiger showed a young Fugard coming-of-age on a rusty freighter in the Indian-Ocean. Now it's perhaps time for a Hard-Look at the New South Africa? [Your Scribe was mugged in broad-daylight on a Main-Street of Cape Town by three Black teenagers not so long ago…]
Scott Pask should get an Award for his effectively-Minimalist Evocation of French Rococo Elegance in the Smoke-&-Mirrors setting for Chris Hampton's Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Sumptuous—but also somewhat seedy—Drapes rise & fall, even serving as bed-linens, as the tense scenes & locales of this malign drama of Sexual-Intrigue & Deliberate Psychic-Damage unfold.
Katrina Lindsay's equally-elegant costumes also evoke an aristocratic-ambience not shown in detail. As does Donald Holder's subtle changes of lighting, aided by Paul Arditti's sound-design.
Given this somewhat Haunted-Environment, the Machinations of insidiously arch Ben Daniels & the icily-regal Laura Linney seem even more threatening to their Designated-Victims. And what a pleasure not to have to watch John Malkovich as Valmont!
Rufus Norris has ingeniously guided this brilliant cast, which also includes Siân Phillips, Jessica Collins, Mamie Gummer, Kristine Nielsen, Benjamin Walker, & Jane Pfitsch!
From Destructive Sexual-Intrigue Onward to Hilariously-Comic Sexual-Intrigue!
Molière was deft with French-Farce: in Tarfuffe, he might have been the inventor of hilarious Seduction-Scenes. But the Master of the French Bedroom-Farce was Feydeau: Think Cat among the Pigeons & a Basic-Set with Six or Eight Doors! With well-oiled Hinges!
Brits have always loved these Sex-Farces, especially when they involve Married-Couples, cheating on each other, or trapped in such seeming-circumstances by Accident…
Feydeau translates well, but there have long been West-End playwrights who believe they can match him. Generally, they cannot, although Alan Ayckbourn has provided a mock-commentary on the Genre, in Bedroom Farce.
But farces like Run for Your Wife! or Boeing Boeing are more often Cringe-Worthy, if you are not one of those Sex-Starved Brits.
Your Scribe suffered through Boeing Boeing years ago at its London premiere, so he was not looking forward to seeing the current revival at the lovely Longacre, newly & handsomely restored by the Shubert Interests.
Wow! What a Dynamic-Show! The brilliant director Matthew Warchus has paced & raced his High-Octane Cast through their sexy-encounters at breakneck speed, with side-splitting results. Brad Whitford is very good as the Sly-Guy who has not one but three Airline-Stewardesses on call, thanks to their varying Flight-Schedules.
When these flights suddenly change, the Fun Begins. But it is complicated by the arrival of an Old Buddy from Wisconsin, on his way through London. When the shy, repressed Robert discovers he's attractive to all of the busty, sexually-smoldering young women, the Fireworks Go Off!
Mark Rylance—long the Master of Revels at London's Globe-Theatre—is not only a Quintessential-Clown, on the order of Charlie Chaplin, but he is also an Agile Stage-Athlete. What makes his frenzied activities onstage so outrageously hilarious is that Rylance actually Lives the Part, rather than merely showing it in a stylized-performance or like a Moment of Mime.
Gina Gershon, Kathryn Hahn, & Mary McCormack are Dream-Stewardesses. Christine Baranski is the disapproving French-Maid who tries to prevent Disasters, sexual & otherwise.
Rob Howell's sets & costumes provide a stunning White Base for Colorful-Uniforms & even more colorful Hi-Jinx!
Oddly enough, although not by Feydeau, this trite & obvious farce is also translated from the French: it's by Marc Camoletti, if anyone wants to know…
Forget about its Limitations as Dramatic-Art! Boeing Boeing is simply too funny to miss!
Stew's PASSING STRANGE [****]
A CATERED AFFAIR [**]
GLORY DAYS [**]
Premiered at the Public Theatre, Stew's Passing Strange has moved to Broadway, where it is now delighting an Age-Mix of Stew-Fans. Your Scribe missed it at the Public, but was frequently warned by colleagues that it was "too Loud."
I met the producers of the show at the Outer Critics Circle Awards-Nominations at the Algonquin Hotel. They were really pleased—and possibly a bit surprised—that I liked it so much. They also assured me that the Decibel-Level has been reduced, twice!
If you have Hearing-Loss, that will not be a Problem when you go to see this dynamic show at the Belasco. But not only will Stew's thumping score energize you, his witty & insightful lyrics should also provoke some Thoughts about Coming-of-Age in these Tempestuous-Times.
Having spent a lot of time in both Amsterdam & Berlin, the main scenes of Stews' European-Odyssey, I was very receptive to his distinctive "Take" on Life on the Edges of so-called Normal-Society.
Stew is center-stage as Musician-Narrator—with drums & keyboards rising out of the stage at either side—but his Mis-Adventures are brought to Vibrant-Life by an stunning ensemble of Singer-Dancers, wonderfully choreographed by Karole Armitage.
From Sophisticated-Europa To Teen-Age Baltimore!
Although based on another outrageous John Waters Baltimore-based Teen-Angst movie, the Elvis-Inspired Cry-Baby is not another Hairspray Triumph. Nor is it a Disaster, thanks to the inventive choreography of Rob Ashford.
James Snyder—as the Wrong-Side-of-the-Tracks Badboy Cry-Baby—is OK, but I would have preferred Cheyenne Jackson in that role. But he's already busy in the Awards-Nominated Xanadu. Fortunately, the entire ensemble is Super-Animated, with Harriet Harris outstanding as the only Adult in Sight.
The Stage-Environment, designed by Scott Pask [sets], Catherine Zuber [costumes], Howell Brinkley [lighting], & Peter Hylenski [sound] is of major importance in the effectiveness of this show.
As for A Catered Affair… Why?
Did Paddy Chayevsky's TV drama or Gore Vidal's movie-adaptation really cry-out for another turn as a Broadway-Musical? Especially one as depressing & dis-spiriting as this one?
Obviously, book-author & Sharing-Star Harvey Fierstein was looking for a Vehicle for his Talents, one that did not involve Female-Impersonation, as in his recent Hairspray employment.
But turning the alcoholic bachelor-uncle who sleeps on the sofa into a Petulant Out-Gay, while leaving the characters in the Bronx in 1953, was Unbelievable, especially in such a Working-Class Milieu. Unless the current audience-members were born after 1968…
Faith Prince had her Moments as a dowdy, worn-down, bitterly-disappointed wife, who dreams of One Moment of Transcendant-Glory when her only daughter gets married. Tom Wopat was wasted…
Even David Gallo's ingenious set & Zach Borovay's projections were depressing. John Doyle staged, but cast-members didn't get to play the Orchestra-parts on their own instruments, as in Doyle's award-winning Sweeney Todd & Company stagings.
Mis-Named Glory Days Opens & Soon Closes…
There are 480 light-bulbs w/reflectors as a backdrop to the Bleachers-section which is the main staging-area for Glory Days! Your Scribe counted them, when they were not blazing in his eyes…
Four former High-School Social-Misfits—bonded by their failure to Make the Team & the fact that they are Different from the Other Guys—have a brief reunion on the playing-field. One of them suggests setting the Automatic Turf-Sprinkler-System to turn on when the Big Charity Game is in full-swing.
They sing about this & make some revelations & discoveries about themselves. There was a Time when being Gay or Coming-Out was nothing to sing about.
Nowadays, apparently, you can sing about such Teen-Identity-Crises as long as the spoken-dialogue is rich with repetitions of Shit & Fuck & other popular Pre-Adult-Expletives.
Nonetheless, there was some emotional-validity to the interactions of the four boys, sensitively interpreted by Steven Booth, Andrew C. Call, Adam Halpin, & Jesse JP Johnson.
Perhaps someone should write/compose a Teen-Age Lesbian-Musical to prepare girls for the Weddings they are not going to have with such Conflicted Young Men as these?
This bare-bones production originated in Arlington, VA, at the Signature Theatre.
Old Musicals in Revival:
SOUTH PACIFIC [*****]
IN THE HEIGHTS [****]
One of Your Scribe's most-treasured circles-of-shellac is the Original-Cast-Recording of Leonard Bernstein's Candide. Way Out West, we knew the Original Broadway Production had essentially failed, but the compelling score & the ingenious lyrics—What a wonderful day for an Auto-da-Fe!—took on a Life All Their Own.
Reading Lillian Hellman's original ironic, acerbic libretto, it was not difficult to imagine why the show had not pleased Broadway-Audiences.
Despite Bernstein's brilliant adaptations & parodies of a broad range of Musical-Forms—plus savagely witty lyrics by the likes of Richard Wilbur, John LaTouche, Stephen Sondheim & Bernstein himself—Candide clearly was not Functional.
Fortunately, Hal Prince—also a longtime Candide fan—recognized what the essential Problem was: the Hellman-Libretto!Having just worked with Hugh Wheeler—known abroad as Crimi-Writer Patrick Quentin!—on a Neu-Schwanstein-Schloss-based film, starring Michael York, Prince urged Wheeler to draft a new Libretto, one that now serves both Bernstein & Voltaire's Visions very well.
[Your Scribe got to ride down to the Castle in the Limo with Wheeler & the previous day's Rushes, which I had picked up for Prince, as I was doing a piece for After Dark: Royal Castles & Harold Prince.]
Prince had tried out his new Candide over at BAM in the tiny space that was once the Dodgers Theatre. This worked so well that he moved it to the Broadway, which was redone so that the Audience, the Musicians, & the Cast could Intermingle, with barrels of peanuts-in-the-shell to enjoy.
When the New York City Opera decided to present Candide as part of its Opera-Repertory—also echoed by ENO, the English National Opera—it gave Prince a free-hand to develop a Big-Proscenium-Stage version of his Broadway-Vision: a sort of Voltaire/Pangloss Traveling-Circus!
Obviously influenced by the Eugene Lee settings for Prince's Sweeney Todd, the NYCO Candide has been most ingeniously & handsomely designed by Clarke Dunham, Judith Dolan, & Ken Billington, with delightful choreographies by Patricia Birch.
Revived in a Limited-Run at the close of the current NYCO Season—this complicated show is not easy to present in Rotating-Repertory—Bernstein's Celebration of Abused-Innocence-Abroad featured Richard Kind as Voltaire/Pangloss, Daniel Reichard as Candide, Lauren Worsham as Cunegonde, Kyle Pfortmiller as Maximilian, Jessica Wright as Paquette, & Judith Blazer as the Old Lady. George Manahan conducted with a strong sense of both Fun & Irony.
I was able to see both the Dress-Rehearsal & a regular performance. I never tire of this show, but I do believe—along with some fellow-critics—that it is time to retire this production & search for a New Vision.
As the Belgian enfant-terrible Gérard Mortier is taking over the New York City Opera—after stormy Salzburg Festival & Paris-Opera Intendancies—he might well decide to offer Candide to either Peter Sellers or Robert Wilson for a Retread…
Many Enchanted-Evenings Ahead for South-Pacific Revival!
The wonderful new semi-Period-production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific at the Vivian Beaumont in Lincoln Center is being advertised as the First Broadway Revival of this historic show. Actually, when Richard Rodgers was running the series of Summer Musical Revivals at the New York State Theatre many seasons ago, he did revive his show.
But that doesn't count because Lincoln Center—although it is touching Broadway on its Northeast-Corner—wasn't then even remotely considered Tony-Territory. Play-productions at the Beaumont were never considered for Awards-Nominations.
When some Broadway Musicals—like Phantom—threatened to Run Forever, the Tony-Nominators were running out of potential Award-Winning-Nominees. Thus, the theatre named for Vivian Beaumont Allen—why do we know so little about the people whose names adorn so many Manhattan Institutions?—was suddenly discovered to be a Broadway Theatre!
Bartlett Sher has out-Joshed Josh Logan, the original director of South Pacific, with the adroit musical-staging of Christopher Gattelli. Even those who still remember Mary Martin & Ezio Pinza should be delighted with their Replacements, Kelli O'Hara & Paulo Szot, a handsome Brazilian Opera-Star.
Frankly, when I saw PInza all those years ago, I thought he looked old enough to be Nellie Forbush's father… So the Visual-Problem was not only those all-too-cute half-breed Polynesian-Kiddies.
Some male-critics have found Szot too Wooden as Emile de Becque. Most female-critics I know think he is a Real Hottie! It's also good that he sings well…
I still treasure the memory of Juanita Hall as Bloody Mary, but Loretta Ables Sayre is OK in the role: Shrunken-Heads & all…
Danny Burstein is effective as Luther Billis, but he does not erase the memory of Myron McCormick—even if I cannot remember the correct spelling of Myron's last name.
Oddly enough, what struck me most initially in the new staging was Lt. Cable [Matthew Morrison] Field-Stripping His Cigarette, so the Japs wouldn't know US Military had been On-Site.
This Sherian Attention-to-Detail is a Hallmark of the production, even if few in the audience were in the Navy or the Seabees [Navy Construction-Battalions] in World War II.
[Of course, as the Army-Base is fairly large & not obviously Camouflaged at the Vivian Beaumont, Jap Reconnaissance-Planes could easily have spotted it.]
High Praise for Michael Yeargan's set-designs & props—especially his use of a sliding-stage over the sunken-orchestra. To suggest a US Army-Airforce Bomber onstage, as well as Billis' complicated Laundry-Establishment & to make an onstage Stage out of Two Army-Trucks is no mean feat!
[Note: There was no US Airforce at this time. Both the Army & the Navy had their own Air-Arms.]
How wonderful to hear—as well as SEE—all those compelling R & H Songs Live again! A visit to the Beaumont will surely be Some Enchanted Evening for everyone who can get a ticket!
Nor is the current revival of Gypsy to be missed, although it is a Nostalgia-Trip of quite a different sort. Patti LuPone voraciously makes Rose's Role her very own, though she does not erase memories of Ethel Merman: who could?
The admirable Boyd Gaines is empathetically-winning as the much-abused Herbie, with Laura Benanti an affecting Louise. Even though now Ancient, Arthur Laurents—the original book-author—has staged very effectively. Jerome Robbins' choreography has been replicated by Bonnie Walker.
Leigh Ann Larkin & Tony Yazbeck are charming as Baby June & Tulsa, although the reiteration of My Name's Baby June! does wear after a while…
Manhattan-Transfer: Washington-Heights Moves From Off-Broadway to the Great White Way!
For Broadway-Regulars, In the Heights is obviously a New Musical, but for those of us who patrol the Precincts of Off-Broadway & Off-Off-Broadway, the show now at the Richard Rodgers Theatre is an Enlargement & Re-staging of the show's premiere last season down in that Concrete-Fortress where Baryshnikov is evoked, not far from the Javits Center & the Holland Tunnel Opening: Watch Out for Cars & Trucks when you go to shows there!
In that venue—which is very wide & shallow, without a fly-gallery—the show looked very Spread-Out, but the upstage stone-work really did evoke the masonry-walls up in Washington Heights & at the Cloisters Museum!
On Broadway, the show works far more effectively visually, especially in terms of the energized choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. The attractive songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda—who also Conceived the show & is its dynamic & charming Star—clearly enchant cheering audiences.
But the show's Book is really TV Soap-Opera set to music.
Although there are various Plot-Problems To Be Resolved, the Major-Dramatic-Question is what to do about a Beloved-Daughter who has left Stanford University—although she had a Scholarship!—before Term-End because she finally felt she just Could Not Cut It!
She could have been the First-Latina from Washington Heights to become a Stanford Grad! So her Wounded-Father decides to sell the Family Car-Hire Service to send her back to Palo Alto!
Wrong Move! She could go to City College, only a short bus-ride away. Not to overlook Hunter College, or even Brooklyn College, where Your Scribe toiled for Three Decades. They are all First-Rate & she could Live At Home!
Laurence Fishburne in THURGOOD [*****]
George Stevens, jr, has fashioned a very effective monologue surveying the career of America's first African-American on the Supreme Court: the brilliant Thurgood Marshall!
More important for potential-audiences, Laurence Fishburne both embodies & illuminates this role!
Leonard Foglia has directed the popular Hollywood-Star, using some Washingtonian Architectural-Images adroitly, to give a Sense of Time & Place.
Mike Daisey in Mike Daisey's HOW THEATRE FAILED AMERICA [****]
Monologist & Theatre-Critic Mike Daisey is a Big-Man. So is his Passion for Theatre & his Monumental-Disappointment with Grand Cathedrals of Performing-Arts, with little Product & Dwindling-Audiences.
His often-hilarious Rant at Joe's Pub—now moving to the Barrow Street Theatre—shows him to be a different kind of Theatre-Critic than, say, Charles Isherwood, who reviews plays & their productions.
Mike Daisey reviews Regional-Theatres, Artistic-Directors, Dramaturgs, & even Isherwood, whose name he only has to intone to get a Big-Laugh from his Theatre-Wise Audiences.
With so many Teens & Twenty-Somethings now living inside the Internet—or disappearing into Video-Games like Grand Auto-Theft—who will be the Audience of the Future for Live-Regional-Theatre?
Forget about Repertory-Theatre: that Dream of the 1960s has long ago died almost everywhere. Who can afford to pay a seasonally-contracted ensemble of 50 Equity-Actors, when you are programming Two for the Seesaw, The Belle of Amherst, & Endgame?
Daisey's own Dreams of Theatre-Glory as an actor-producer—contrasted with the actuality of Garage-Theatre in Seattle—are also both Instructive & farcically Funny!
As an eager Thespian-Acolyte, Daisey got his start at the Shakespeare Festival at Monmouth, Maine.
Your Scribe made the Pilgrimage to that Historic-Theatre & its administrative-center, Toad Hall, years before Daisey arrived—noted my survey of Shakespeare-Festivals, The Shakespeare Complex!—but apparently nothing had changed.
If you are in the Theatre, or interested in the Theatre, you should see this Super-Charged One-Man-Show!
Other Entertainments/Other Venues:
Nights at the Metropolitan Opera:
Peter Gelb, the Metropolitan Opera's new Presiding-Directorial-Genius—sharing honors with the Genius of Musical-Director James Levine, of course!—in his First-Season at Lincoln Center has wonderfully succeeded in presenting old Opera War-Horses & more challenging works as Living, Breathing Theatre.
Not as Concerts-in-Costume, which the Met often had been doing for Decades.
Not only has the Dynamism of the New Production-Policy excited Old-Subscribers & attracted New-Audiences, but the Worldwide TV & Radio-Broadcasts of new Met productions have inspired other major Opera-Houses to follow suit!
What's more, first-time Media-Viewers are often not content to see these stunning shows in Movie-Theatres on giant-screens or at home on their Plasma-Screens. They want the Real Experience of actually being at the Met!
New productions for next season have been recently announced: John Adams' Doctor Atomic—J. Robert Oppenheimer Sings!, La Damnation de Faust—Quebec's Robert Lepage projects Haunting-Projections, Thaïs—Renée Fleming & Thomas Hampson: what more is there to say?, La Rondine—Puccini, interpreted by Angela Gheorghiu & Roberto Alagna, Il Trovatore—visual-environments inspired by savage sketches of Francisco Goya y Lucientes!, & La Sonnambula—La Fille's Natalie Dessay & Juan Diego Flores return to astound Met-Audiences!
But here are some recent Winners, Old & New:
Philip Glass's SATYAGRAHA [****]
Sergei Prokoviev's THE GAMBLER [****]
Gaetano Donizetti's LA FILLE DU RÉGIMENT [****]
Richard Wagner's TRISTAN UND ISOLDE [****]
Wolf Mozart's DIE ENTFÜHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL [****]
When Philip Glass's Minimalist-Opera, Satyagraha, was long ago premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Your Scribe was asked to interview Constance DeJong, the composer's co-librettist.
As their text was to be sung in Sanskrit, an ancient Asian-Tongue that was hardly in daily-use, even in Mahatma Ghandi's India, let alone South Africa, the designated locale of Ghandi's initial efforts—through Non-Violent Protests—to achieve Social-Justice, I wondered what Audiences might understand of their Libretto?
Few spectators at BAM would be familiar with texts from the Ancient-Epics, The Mahabharata or the Bhagavad-Gita. But—as with composer Carl Orff's use of Classic Greek & Latin texts—the rhythms of the Sanskrit blended with the hypnotic Minimalism of a Quintessential Glassian-Score.
In its handsome revival at the Met, this still produces a Powerful-Effect, especially when vocalized by such admirable talents as Richard Croft, as M. K. Ghandi. Others who intensely animated the contemplations of events included Bradley Garvin, Richard Bernstein, Ellie Dehn, Mary Phillps, Earle Patriarco, Alfred Walker, Rachelle Durkin, & Maria Zifchak.
A highlight of Phelim McDermott & Julian Crouch's production was the impressive use of symbolic Giant-Puppets, dwarfing the actor/singers. Dante Anzolini conducted, undaunted by the endless-repetitions of Glass's limited but Signature-Chromatic-Range.
This is, after all, not Puccini…
Fortunately, Sergei Prokofiev—who was able to blend Modern-Idioms with a quirky lyricism—had something just as challenging to offer in The Gambler, whose tale is not told in a series of Conventional-Arias & Choruses, but more like a Through-Composed accompaniment to a strange drama of Chance & Fate. Beyond Pique-Dame…
The Kirov's Guiding-Genius, the active-everywhere conductor Valery Gergiev, was again in the pit for this revival. It is certainly owing to his Initiatives that a number of Russian-Operas—generally unknown or seldom-performed in the West—have begun to find places in Western Repertories. [Nor would the Baden-Baden Opera fest have been launched without him!]
The complex-plot of The Gambler was powerfully animated by Vladimir Galouzine, as the Tutor/Gambler, in love with the quixotic Polina [Olga Guryakova]. Especially interesting was Larissa Diadkova, as the ancient, addled Grammy, who, on a whim, gambles away most of her fortune, to the horror of the General [Sergei Aleksashkin], who believes he is her Heir & cannot wait for her to die.
Fantastic Modernist settings by George Tsypin, complemented by Georgi Alexi-Meskhishvili's lavish costumes.
From Casino To Battlefield!
The Castle-interior-setting for the Met's new La Fille du Régiment production looks very much like one I saw years ago—was it in Zürich or Munich?—but the designer, Chantal Thomas, probably wasn't even born then. Her initial-set for the French Army Camp is a jolly jumble of immense Maps of Europe.
Natalie Dessay—as the Titular-Fille—proved a pert, charming, athletic Comedienne. Quite a contrast to her Season-Opening Lucia de Lammermoor, with her distraught face & streaming black hair all over Manhattan-Buses & Telephone-Booths!
The great & gracious stage-actress Marian Seldes made her Met-Opera Debut in the speaking-role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp at Age 79! She was a Hit & she had two stunning costumes.
But the Big-News was Juan Diego Flores, with his Nine High-Cs on-target, encored to the echo, as they had been at LaScala Milan. This looked & sounded rather like a Stunt—forget about Opera As Theatre!—especially as Flores seemed to be begging the audience to beg him for an Encore…
Director & Costume-Designer Laurent Pelly could have conducted the Surge in Iraq, so well-equipped & well-drilled were his sometimes comical Troops! Marco Armiliato conducted with verve & also a baton…
Tristan Is a Dangerous Opera: People Die & Not Only in the Plot!
Although the revival of the Met's venerable Tristan und Isolde production was intended as a Showcase for the considerable talents of the now slim Deborah Voigt & the once-again hefty Ben Heppner, Fate & Viruses conspired against them.
The evening I was once again able to savor Dieter Dorn & Jürgen Rose's quasi-Kabuki staging, Heppner was abed in Canada, replaced on this night by an able Gary Lehman, who had just replaced the previous Replacement.
Voigt began well, but early in the Second Act, she suddenly had to leave the stage. There was a long, pregnant pause, after which the admirable Janice Baird made her Met Debut in what remained of Isolde's Passion.
Nonetheless—not least thanks to the Genius of Richard Wagner & the Powers of this Medieval-tale of a Doomed-Love—the evening was an Overwhelming-Experience! James Levine—who has shown them how to do it in Bayreuth, the Shrine!—conducted with restraint.
In the welcome revival of Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio, Diana Damrau was superb as Konstanze, especially following the daunting Traurigkeit ward mir zum Lose aria shortly thereafter with the Monumental-Challenge of Martern aller Artern!
Her Belmonte, the award-winning Matthew Polenzani, was her equal in both acting & singing, with Steve Davislim & Aleksandra Kurzak a delightful duo as Pedrillo & Blondchen. Santa Monica's David Robertson conducted: he also vigorously applauded his singers!
This Children's-Book vision of the Middle-East has a kind of Minimalist-Charm, but it dates back to 1979, when the late John Dexter thought it was cutting-edge Cute. Perhaps it's time for a Re-Vision?
Of course you wouldn't want the Enlightened Pasha Selim [Matthias von Stegmann] to be transformed into a Saddam-Hussein, but New Ways of looking at Muslims & Islam—Post 9/11—suggest some artful Avant-Gardism: Condi Rice as Konstanze perhaps?
How about Paul Wolfowitz or Karl Rove as Osmin, the Harem-Overseer, at the Met amusingly played by Kristinn Sigmundsson.
Such Updated-Concepts may sound ridiculous, but some seasons ago at the Salzburg-Festival, Entführung was presented as Hostage-Taking on the razor-wire-border between Israel & the Gaza-Strip, with a CNN TV-Crew on hand to tape all the Operatic-Action…
Well, you really had to be there to Appreciate this Concept. Speaking of the Salzburg-Festival, Diana Damrau was a delightful Amor in the Mozart-Year production of Ascanio in Alba!
Other Operas, Other Stages:
At the New York City Opera:
Henry Purcell‘s KING ARTHUR [**]
It would be wonderful to report that the NYCO's new staging of Henry Purcell's King Arthur: A Dramatick Opera evoked the Era in which it was originally created—with a Libretto by no less a poet than John Dryden!—even if it did not plunge back into the Mists of Camelot.
Unfortunately, this was not fated to be, as Mark Morris was engaged as Stage-Director, bringing along the Mark Morris Dancers to provide some hokey, jokey set-pieces. Forget about John Dryden, even about John Lennon…
None of the comic-genius of Morris' re-visitation of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker—The Hard Nut—was on view, only self-indulgent bits & pieces that detracted from performance of major musical set-pieces. Some critics were amazed that the actual singers could join in the Forced Fun & even move somewhat dancifully…
Jane Glover conducted, with costumes by Isaac Mizrahi that did neither him nor Purcell any credit.
One hopes this work will not stay in the City Opera's Repertory, but the NYCO's impending Intendant, Gérard Mortier, is apt to force-feed it to future audiences.
At the Juilliard Opera Theatre:
Ned Rorem's OUR TOWN [*****]
Both at the Manhattan School of Music & at the Juilliard, one often has the sense of seeing & hearing the Opera-Stars of Tomorrow in the Fall & Spring thoroughly professional opera-productions. But this Spring, audiences enjoyed something of a Juilliard Premiere, with Ned Rorem's sensitive musicalization of Thornton Wilder's Our Town.
This proved an especially effective work of Music-Theatre, not only for Rorem's thoughtful musical-settings, but also for J. D. McClatchy's sensible, respectful adaptation of Wilder's original dialogue for this distillation of a vanished Small-Town America & its Inhabitants, especially in Death, sitting silently in chairs up on the hill in the Old Cemetery,
The able Anne Manson conducted a talented young cast, including Alek Shrader as George Gibbs, Marc Webster & Jessica Klein as his parents, Jennifer Zetlan as Emily Webb, with David McFerrin & Renée Tatum as her folks. Alex Mansouri was a matter-of-fact but compassionate Stage-Manager.
At the close, the Octogenarian Rorem loped onto the stage to receive enthusiastic applause. At 85, Rorem has two new operas ready to premiere very soon: Little Nemo in Slumberland & The Secret Agent!
At the Manhattan School of Music:
Kurt Wiell's STREET SCENE [*****]
Would you believe a Cast of Sixty on stage in the Manhattan School's revival of Kurt Weill's Street Scene? Could you also believe a physical-environment worthy of the Original Broadway Production?
The stage of the Art-Deco John C. Borden Auditorium was filled with an immense Tenement-Façade, teeming with the often daunting lives of a diverse collection of Depression-Era New-Yorkers. Almost every person—including those who were not Major-Players in the variously Tragic, Mundane, & Comic intertwined-events—proved to be a Character-Role, effectively presented.
Echoes of Weill's Berlin mingled with hints of Gershwin & Weill's own mastery of the Broadway Musical Idiom, this time  in the service of a Modern-Masterwork that proved powerful Music-Theatre.
Weill managed a deft balance between Elmer Rice's original dialogue from his play & the often lively & occasionally haunting lyrics of Langston Hughes. As with Gershwin's Porgy & Bess, this seldom-produced work now seems almost an American Folk-Opera…
Conducted by Hal France, the large cast proved very professional, especially James Rodgers as Sam, Devon Guthrie as Rose, Andrea Arias-Martin as her tragic mother, & Arthur Miller [no, not the Arthur Miller!] as the jealous husband who shoots her & her Lover [John David Jasper].
Mannes Opera Theatre at the Kaye Playhouse:
Francis Poulenc's DIALOGUES OF THE CARMELITES [****]
Considering that the Cloistered-Nuns of Our Lady of Mount Carmel must take a Vow of Silence, there is a lot of Sung-Conversation in Francis Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites.
Fortunately, almost all of it powerfully advances this harrowing tale of Fear & Trembling—countered by the Nuns' Superb-Courage—in the face of the Anti-Religious-Savagery of the French-Revolution.
With a great angled Cross as its fundamental stage-platform, the recent Mannes Opera production of Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites visually echoed a similar, but larger, Symbolic-Device used in some Major Opera-house stagings of this impressive modern opera.
Even though on smaller-scale in Hunter College's Kaye Theatre, this powerful revival was no student-knock-off. Anchored with some talented Mannes Alums & electrified with the performance of the NYCO veteran Joyce Castle as the Old Prioress, the young Mannes singer/actors brought the High-Drama of George Bernanos' original tragedy—as effectively-adapted & brilliantly-scored by Poulenc—to thrilling life.
Sung in the English version of Joseph Machlis, no super-titles were needed, so clear & passionate was the diction of the cast!
Emily Duncan-Brown was especially moving as the timid, fearful Blanche, who—at the height of the French Revolution's Reign of Terror—at last finds the courage to join her Carmelite Sisters & be beheaded by the blade of the Guillotine: Martyrdom for Jesus & Mary!
Also effective were Blanche's young friend, Sister Constance—who has an insight that they will both die together—sweetly interpreted by Deanna Breiwick; Maya Lahyani as Mother Marie, the Assistant Prioress, & Sara Sturdivant, as Mother Jeanne.
I was amazed to see how many young South Koreans were in the cast, as well as some other talented Asians. Mannes, which is now part of the New School, must be reaching out to these obviously dedicated young singers. They are certainly in Good Hands with Mentor & Conductor Joseph Colanieri!
Beyond the Opera-House:
At the New Victory Theatre:
All Hail to the Romanian Gymnastics Federation!
Some of their most outstanding Men & Women Gymnasts have just completed an extended-tour—ending on New 42nd Street at the New Victory!—of a dazzlng production of Dance, Movement, & Gymnastics. In the opening-number, they even spell-out the name of their show in Human-Bodies, one gymnast for each letter in A-E-R-O-S!
This remarkable Adventure in Athletic-Movement should be more widely-seen. Its New York explosion of Synchronicity was all too brief.
But the Beijing-Olympics are looming, so surely some of these performers will be competing, as the Federation's Stars—so brilliantly-trained & strictly-disciplined—are needed to win more Golds & Silvers for Romania.
That Aeros was not just another demonstration of Gymnastic-Skills, but rather almost a Dance-Event, was thanks to the choreography & direction of Moses Pendleton, Daniel Ezralow, & David Parsons.
Mo Pendleton is famed for his MOMIX creations, but he was initially an instigator of the innovative dance-ensemble, Pilobolus. [Not mentioned in his program-bio, for some reason…]
[Incidental-Intelligence: MOMIX effectively began with Pendleton's dance-solo at the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid.
Your Scribe was flown up to the Lake in a small plane—along with Arlene Croce, incisive dance-critic of the New Yorker—so we could report on the Performing-Arts Events programmed to complement the Bob-Sledding, Slalom-Skiing, & the Figure-Skating. Not to overlook the Arts-Installations on the frozen lake-surface…
[Clive Barnes—then NY Times Dance & Theatre-Critic—flown separately, got to stay in the great vintage Lake Placid Resort-Hotel. Arlene, I, & Adrian Bryan-Brown—then the late Susan Bloch's PR-Assistant, but now one of Broadway's most important PR Officers—were all consigned to one of the Rustic-Cabins flanking the Hotel.
[We were to share it with two guys from a Ski-Equipment firm, on hand to sell Its Products, but also with a big load of shredded Pot, spread out on the big table in the central room of the cabin.
[Arlene took one look at that & took-off for Mo Pendleton's digs, where she spent the rest of the Arts-Fest. Adrian & I weren't offered any of the Cannabis, but Mo got a great review from La Croce!]
PIGS BEARS & BILLY GOATS GRUFF [****]
This Acted-Out Story-Telling was Great Fun!
What's more, it didn't require any stunning stage-effects, colorful-graphics, or Digital-Animations!
The four performers from Australia's Patch Theatre also offered not one, but four beloved Children's-Tales: The 3 Little Pigs, Goldilocks & the 3 Bears, 3 Billy Goats Gruff, & The 3 Feathers.
Why do these things always come in Threes? Like the Three Wishes, the Three Witches, the Three Wisemen…
Eileen Darley, Jacqy Phillips, Stephen Sheehan, & Stuart Day—discovered in the kitchen of an old country-house—use the table, 3 chairs, & some kitchen-utensils & mops, as well as their own inventiveness & imagination, to bring the stories to Comic-Life!
Lincoln Center's Great Performers:
Basil Twist's PETRUSHKA [*****]
Basil Twist & Ping Chong are today the most ingenious, innovative, & inventive of all the Avant-Garde Puppet-Theatre-Masters. Both have been rewarded with critical praise & audience-enthusiasm, plus awards & honors.
Among Twist's Triumphs are Symphonie Fantastique—performed in a stage-filling aquarium-tank, to the music of Hector Berlioz, evoking his obsession with Harriet Smithson, an Irish actress—& Dogugaeshi, a remarkable re-creation of an almost forgotten Japanese Puppet-Theatre Tradition.
The Berlioz work toured internationally, although the fascinating Japanese evocation was seen only all too briefly in Manhattan, at the Japan Society. Later, it traveled to Japan.
Twist's colorful but ultimately saddening Petrushka—shown recently at Lincoln Center for only two weeks—is a revival, which meant that Twist's invisible Bunraku-style puppet-handlers had to re-rehearse or re-learn all the movements of the three main characters, themselves puppets in a Carnival Puppet-Show.
Inspired by the Diaghilev Ballet of the same-name & Igor Stravinsky's specially-composed music—here played by the twin-pianists, Julia & Irina Elkina—Twist has reduced the ballet-cast to the Pierrot-like Petrushka, the vain & brilliant Ballerina he loves in vain, & the Powerful Moor, who ultimately slashes him with a Scimitar, reducing poor Petrushka to a pile of wood, cloth, & strings.
The Ballerina is able—thanks to her invisible-animators—to execute some Leaps & Pirouettes not even Makarova could achieve. There are also some remarkable Abstract-Movement-Effects, performed in the Black-Void of Twist's stage.
What would be wonderful would be a Twist-Fest, with all of his stunning productions on-offer! At the very least, they should all be available on DVD, preferably in some form of Holographic-Enchantment!
THE CASTLE: 4 Voices—70 Years in Prison [*****]
The Castle is an imposing Neo-Gothic former Catholic-Girls-School which the totally-dedicated David Rothenberg has been able to save & develop into a welcoming-home for men & women newly-released from Prison, often with no place to go & no way to make a New Start in Life.
The Castle is a new & compelling presentation, conceived & directed by Rothenberg, with the collaboration of four attractive & impressive Ex-Convicts, with a total of 70 years in prison among them.
They have all made New Lives for themselves, with the help of Rothenberg, his Fortune Society, & other new-found friends living in the Castle. Sometimes, even their Parole-Officers are helpful…
I believe you cannot fail to be moved & even inspired by the Redeeming Life-Experiences of Casimiro Torres, Vilma Ortiz Donovan, Kenneth Harrigan, & Angel Ramos!
As they Interweave their varied stories, they emerge as newly strong Individuals that you would surely like to know as Friends & Neighbors.
But what is especially sad is the realization that their early experiences often robbed them of any Self-Esteem or any sense of Home, or Security, or Purpose in Life. No one cared for them, or about them.
If the Castle had not been there for them, what would have become of them, hounded by their Pasts & their Parole-Officers?
With America's Prison-Population now the Largest in the World, what will happen when hundreds & thousands of prisoners are eventually paroled or released? With Only One Castle…
There is a very frank Talk-Back after every performance! And you can donate to help provide some Basics for the Castle & its incoming Residents!
Call 212-691-7554, or log-on to the website: fortunesociety.org!
Years ago, when David Rothenberg was working as a Theatrical Press-Agent, he became initially interested in bringing Theatre to Prison-Inmates, as both Entertainment & Therapy.
Your Scribe—at David's invitation & urging—made the unsettling journey to Riker's Island to observe Prisoners both as Audiences & as Performers. I was initially shocked to see so many young men, virtually teen-agers, listless & hopeless, then briefly animated by watching or Making-Theatre.
It is a Harrowing-Experience to go through all those vault-like Locked-Doors into the bowels of the Cell-Blocks, even if you know you will be coming out a Free-Man in an hour or so…
But these initial Theatre-Encounters only served to make Dave Rothenberg realize how little was being done to prepare Parolees for Life on the Outside.
Founding the Fortune Society was an outcome of these experiences.
Wm. Faulkner's THE SOUND & THE FURY [****]
Sub-titled (APRIL SEVENTH, 1928), this striking production at the New York Theatre Workshop has been created by the talented ensemble of the Elevator Repair Service. As they are variously reading/interpreting William Faulkner's unusual novel, The Sound & The Fury, a Tale Told by the Idiot, the castrated Benjy Compson, they all sound fairly dysfunctional, surely incapable of Repairing Your Stalled-Elevator.
The large cast take turns inhabiting the costumes & the personas of Faulkner's White & Black Characters in a detailed set-environment: it's like August, Osage County, but only one floor of the house…
Rather like the Nature Theatre of Oklahoma—who specialize in reprising Cell-Phone Conversations—the ERS Actors are supposdly reading from Faulkner's novel, complete with "He said" & "She said."
This is, of course, a deliberate Mannerism, one that was long ago employed by Gordon Rogoff's BBC Ensemble, which read/played William Burroughs' Naked Lunch, at that time very Trendy. The problem with that venture was that not only were the performers not very talented, animated, or interesting, but the Burroughs-Text was also flaccid & uncompelling.
The ERS troupe, however, are Dynamic-Plus! Little stage-dances & other kinds of Divertissements help to keep things moving, as there are more actors onstage than actual roles to be embodied.
Because there is so much Energy, Passion, & Realized-Characterization electrifying the proceedings, the "He said" & "She said" fade away as potential Distractions.
From left to right: : Dan Drogyny, David Zen Mansley, Ilana Landecker in "The System of Dr Tarr & Professor Fether."
Edgar Allen Poe's THE SYSTEM OF DR TARR & PROFESSOR FETHER [**]
Last Autumn, Crystal Field welcomed a Puppetry-Festival to the Theatre for the New City. There were several really interesting, cutting-edge shows on-offer, so I was looking forward to the Tarr & Fether puppetry inspired by one of Ed Poe's more Ghoulish-Tales.
The dedicated & talented Candice Burridge conceived & directed this show, with music composed by Jon Vomit. I refrain from any obvious comments about his Score…
Some of the Shadow-Puppetry was really imaginative: one scene evoked the Young Frankenstein ride to Victor's Castle, although this T&F journey was to a Madhouse in the South of France.
The problems began, however, when the framings of the shadow-screen were turned around to create a 3-D Madhouse setting, complete with live-actors in grotesque makeup & costumes, as well as some life-sized 3-D Puppets.
Unfortunately, most of this was Theatre of Coarse-Acting, embarrassing to watch. All the more so as the performers seemed to be Enjoying Themselves Tremendously.
Way back in the Actual Times of Poe & Mark Twain, they might have been themselves Tarred & Feathered by outraged audiences…
At the Theatre for the New City: NY Ukefest 2008:
Your Scribe tends to think of Musical-Hawaii in terms of Hilo-Hattie & Harry Owens & His Royal Hawaiians. Nonetheless, the Ukulele is also emblematic of Hawaiian music-making.
Recently, the various Public-Spaces of the Theatre for the New City were thronged with Uke-Players & Uke-Lovers. A number of audience-members brought their Own-Instruments. One cranky guy was outraged that there was no Uke-Checking Facility. He had to take it into the Uke-Concert with him!
Uke-Experts came from as far away as Sweden, Australia, Tasmania, & Tampa!
There were Workshops & Seminars, in addition to the Concerts—which could have benefited from Time-Constraints & a little less Palaver.
So-called Musical-Theatre-Productions were God Loves Tiny Tim & Sex! Drugs! & Ukuleles!
Remember Tiny Tim & when he got married? Uke in hand… To Miss Vicky…
Most of the Uke-Toting-Guests were having a wonderful time, but I prefer those Country Fiddlers' Fests.
At the Public Theatre: Under the Radar Followed by the PUBLIC LAB:
PS 122's Mark Russell has been put in charge of the Public Theatre's Under the Radar series of new play-productions from at home & abroad. As the Public's Artistic-Director Oskar Eustis puts it: "From Belarus to Ireland, from Australia to San Francisco…"
In only two-&-a-half weeks, some 16 shows were unveiled for Public-Patrons thirsting for Innovative & Cutting-Edge new Theatre-Works.
There is also the Emerging Writers Group, the Musical Theatre Initiative, & the PUBLIC LAB. Not to overlook the regular productions of Philip Seymour Hoffman's LAByrinth Theatre, as well as stagings by the Wooster Group, such as their recent Burton/Barrymore Hamlet Deconstruction.
The Pub-LAB productions—presented in the intimate & adjustable Shiva-Theatre, where it's sometimes like Sitting-Shiva from the discomforting seating—are notable as Plays-in-Progress that cost only $10 for any seat in the house!
They are also Not-for-Review, as award-winning Naomi Wallace may be off on the side making frantic notes for the next day's performance.
For Your Scribe—who never takes notes anyway & doesn't have to revise the play, or even feel obliged to offer dramaturgical-advice for improvements—this is a Real Blessing! Just sit back & enjoy…
Even better: It's not First-Come, First-Served! All seats are Reserved!
I saw—as well as Enjoyed—Paris Commune & The Fever Chart.
The Commune's Steve Cosson & Michael Friedman—The Civilians—just showed their new This Beautiful City in the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre Louisville: Evangelical-Crazies in Colorado Springs, set to music. This is coming to Manhattan soon!
Naomi Wallace's three somewhat Surreal & Haunting Visions of Horrors & Terrors in the Middle-East won't win any points with Geo. Bush or John McCain. But especially not with the American Jewish Committee…
Steve Cosson & Michael Friedman's PARIS COMMUNE [Not for Review/Not Rated]
Naomi Wallace's THE FEVER CHART [Not for Review/Not Rated]
Tracy Scott Wilson's THE GOOD NEGRO [Not for Review/Not Rated]
Rebecca Cohen's PENALTIES & INTEREST [Not for Review/Not Rated]
Scott Hudson's SWEET STORM [Not for Review/Not Rated]
The productions somewhat overlap, with the last three listed with respective opening-dates of 20 May, 10 June, & 20 June. For Tix, call: 212-967-7555!
Among the 400 members of ART/NY—the Alliance of Resident Theatres—there are now some 260 Off-Off-Broadway companies. What makes these ensembles or organizations outside the Off-Broadway-Boundary is the less-than-99-seat Theatre-Cut-Off. [Off-B'way playhouses usually have 299 seats or less…]
Actually, ART doesn't have the stats on all these Mini-Stages. There may now be as many as 350 companies in all the five boroughs of New York City!
In the past season, 2006-07, some 1,700 productions were mounted by these ensembles. Some have been in operation—usually with one or two productions a season—for as long as Forty-Years! Others are almost brand-new.
For the Conscientious-Critic—who must also report on Broadway & Off-Broadway—this mans No Evenings At Home!
| home | discounts | welcome | search | international | lobby |
| museums | NYTW mail | recordings | coupons | classified |