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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, January 5, 2009.
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
New Plays: *
Dan Gordon’s IRENA’S VOW [****] *
Itamar Moses’ BACK BACK BACK [***] *
Craig Lucas’ PRAYER FOR MY ENEMY [***] *
Beau Willimon’s FARRAGUT NORTH [***] *
Billy Goda’s DUST [**] *
Anthony Horowitz’s MINDGAME [***] *
Noah Haidle’s SATURN RETURNS [***] *
Alan Hruska’s NEW HOUSE UNDER CONSTRUCTION [***] *
Old Plays in Revival: *
David Mamet’s SPEED-THE-PLOW [****] *
David Mamet’s AMERICAN BUFFALO [**] *
Martin McDonagh’s THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN [****] *
David Rabe’s STREAMERS [****] *
Samm-Art Williams’ HOME [****] *
Horton Foote’s DIVIDING THE ESTATE [****] *
Sarah Kane’s BLASTED [***] *
New Musicals: *
BILLY ELLIOT [****] *
SHREK: THE MUSICAL [****] *
ROAD SHOW [***] *
IMPROBABLE FREQUENCY [****] *
MY VAUDEVILLE MAN! [***] *
GIMPEL TAM [****] *
ROMANTIC POETRY [**] *
Old Musicals in Revival: *
PAL JOEY [****] *
IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS [****] *
Other Entertainments/Other Venues: *
Slava’s SNOWSHOW [***] *
Dylan Thomas’ A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS IN WALES [****] *
JEFF HARMAR’S 1959 BROADWAY SONGBOOK [***] *
Fun & Games & Shock at the New Victory: *
Cirque Mechanics’ BIRDHOUSE FACTORY [****] *
Dan Zane’s HOLIDAY HOUSE-PARTY [***] *
Green Thumb Theatre’s CRANKED [****] *
Nights at the Opera: *
At the Metropolitan Opera: *
Berlioz’ LA DAMNATION DE FAUST [****] *
Massenet’s THAÏS [****] *
Puccini’s LA RONDINE [****] *
Mozart’s DON GIOVANNI [**] *
Wagner’s TRISTAN UND ISOLDE [****] *
Tchaikovsky’s THE QUEEN OF SPADES [****] *
Met Lottery for Orchestra-Seats! *
At the New York City Opera: *
Intendant-Apparent Dr. Gérard Mortier Jumps-Ship! *
At the Major Music-Schools: *
LATER THE SAME EVENING [****] *
TRILOGY: 3 ONE-ACT PORTRAITS OF MARRIAGE [***] *
Dance Down in Chelsea: *
THREE NEW CHOREOGRAPHIES FOR CEDAR LAKE [****] *
Solo-Shows & Monodramas: *
Mike Daisey’s IF YOU SEE SOMEHING SAY SOMETHING [****] *
Danny Hoch’s TAKING OVER [***] *
Josh Jonas’ CAPTURE NOW [***] *
BAM’s 2008 Next Wave Festival: *
Pina Bausch’s BAMBOO BLUES [****] *
Édouard Lock’s AMJAD [****] *
Very Special Shows: *
LIZA’S AT THE PALACE… [***] *
GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS [****] *
OH, THOSE BEAUTIFUL WEIMAR GIRLS! [***] *
New Tomes on the Theatre-Bookshelf: *
For the Record: *
Dan Gordon’s IRENA’S VOW [****]
Itamar Moses’ BACK BACK BACK [***]
Craig Lucas’ PRAYER FOR MY ENEMY [***]
Beau Willimon’s FARRAGUT NORTH [***]
Billy Goda’s DUST [**]
Anthony Horowitz’s MINDGAME [***]
Noah Haidle’s SATURN RETURNS [***]
Alan Hruska’s NEW HOUSE UNDER CONSTRUCTION [***]
Schindler wasn’t the only Righteous-Gentile with a List. A devout Catholic, Irena Gut Opdyke, also saved more doomed Polish-Jews than she thought was possible. Especially as she was hiding them in the basement of a Nazi Wehrmacht Officer’s villa, where she served as his modest Housekeeper!
"Back Back Back" by Itamar Moses at Manhattan Theatre Club.
Irena’s Vow is not as devastating as The Diary of Anne Frank & not just because the unfortunate Franks were trapped in an Amsterdam attic, rather than a basement. It has its moments of stark fear, but Irena actually saves her Jews at last. Tovah Feldshuh is admirable in the role & quite a change from playing Golda Meier in Golda’s Balcony.
Prolific playwright/screenwriter Dan Gordon—who has also served in the Israeli-Army, fighting Arab-Nationalists as a Military-Spokesperson—has crafted another Holocaust Cliff-hanger. The initial New York production—shown in the sub-basement of Baruch-College—is set to move Off-Broadway.
Before I read the bio of Itamar Moses, I thought how remarkable that an Israeli-Emigrant should understand American-Baseball so well. [I suppose that’s
because most of my Israeli friends left Israel some time ago for New York, rapidly acclimating to their new home.]
But Moses didn’t leave the Promised-Land for the Land of Promise. Instead, he was born in Berkeley, CA, America’s capital of Free-Speech & Thought. Even better for cultivating a Liberal-Outlook, Moses now lives in Brooklyn!
The title of Moses’ ingenious exploration of the Baseball Steroids Scandal baffled some of my colleagues—who also didn’t seem to connect the action with Steroids at all. But it refers to running & reaching for a fly-ball soaring into the Outfield.
Jeremy Davidson, James Martinez, & Michael Mosley are very good as three men from the Majors who get caught up in Performance-Enhancement. Even if you hate Baseball, the performances at least should be of interest.
Although Prayer for My Enemy takes place both in Iraq & America & has been imagined by the admirable Craig Lucas—whose Prelude To a Kiss & Reckless are both challenging fantasies—somehow I didn’t connect with this odd fable.
Nonetheless, the performances of Victoria Clark, Michele Pawk, Cassie Beck, Zachary Booth, Jonathan Groff, & Skipp Sudduth were well worth the price of admission—although critics don’t have to pay… Bartlett Sher brought his customary expertise to the staging.
Similarly with Farragut North—a Washington DC Metro-Station we American Theatre Critics had recently used during our Annual Conference—was especially attractive with Chris Noth in the cast, plus Dan Bittner, Kate Blumberg, Otto Sanchez, Olivia Thirlby, John Gallagher, jr, & Isiah Whitlock, jr.
Playwright Beau Willimon’s overview of Beltway influences—although set in Des Moines—was staged by Doug Hughes.
Hunter Foster’s lovely sister, Sutton, may be in love with an Ogre named Shrek, but he has quite different problems, notably his lack of interest in removing some offending dust when requested to do so. In Dust, one thing leads to another, ending with his death… Scott Zigler staged Billy Goda’s "new thriller."
If you remember Ken Russell in his Glory-Days—as the creator of such films as Tommy, The Boy Friend, Devils, & Women in Love—you may be surprised
"Mindgame" by Amthony Horowitz begins October 28 2008 at Soho Playhouse
to discover how his vision has shrunk, staging Anthony Horowitz’ curiosity, Mindgame.
Not only has Russell’s vision shrunk, but also his set: "The set shrinks approximately one-sixteenth of an inch every thirty-seconds through the entire play." "This transformation happens entirely before the audience’s eyes!" "As the play progresses, the portrait of Karel Ennis changes into Dr. Farquhar."
The real attraction in this production—despite the continuous & strange-changes in the setting—is the presence of Keith Carradine, as the insidious Dr. Farquhar, a Madman in charge of a Madhouse.
Nothing Is What It Seems, but, if your tastes tend toward S&M Images, you will not be disappointed. As Nurse Plimpton, Kathleen McNenny has to do more than her share.
"New House under construction" by Alan Hrusa December 4th 2008 to January 4th 2009 at 59E59 Theater
Rather like one of those Major-Movies, with Production-Credits for four or five Cute-Names & Logos, New House Under Construction
arrived at 59E59 under the auspices of Victory Theatre Center, Rock & A Hard Place Productions & Red Horse Productions.
Despite this Protective-Carapace of Nomenclatural-Cladding, the revolving house-frame set was a bare-bones 2x4 wood-skeleton. But this proved not to be a visual-metaphor for the tangled relationships of the Young-Marrieds involved. No such transparency…
Alan Hruska’s somewhat predictable drama was nonetheless made viable by a good cast, including Sam Coppola, Kevin Isola, Nancy Lemenager, Shannon Hoob, & Anthony Crane.
Some years ago, Saturn Returns was produced by the Public-Theatre. You can see the signed-poster for this show while you wait for the elevator to the Martinson.
So I was puzzled when I read that Saturn Returns would be on view at Lincoln Center at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre. Well, it is not the same show at all. This Saturn is "A New Play by Noah Haidle."
It is also a Biography-in-Regression, for we see John McMartin first as Gustin at Age 88, followed by James Rebhorn as Gustin at Age 58, succeeded by Robert Eli at Age 28. Rosie Benton gets to play all his women, Loretta, Zephyr, & Suzanne.
But Ralph Funicello’s sedate Living-Room remains more or less the same from 2008, to 1978, way back to 1948. Some small changes to indicate the ebb & flow of decorative-tastes…
The Playbill helpfully explains that the Planet-Saturn completes its Orbit in approx. 29.5 years. When it returns to its original position at the time of a Person’s Birth, this is a Saturn-Return. So, Astrologically, this translates as three Saturn-Significant Turning-Points in One’s Life: 27-30 years, 58-60 years, & finally 86-88—if you last that long…
The Problem with plays set in Living-Rooms—as with those positioned in AR Gurney Dining-Rooms—is that they really only work when the people who use them, or merely pass through them, are actually interesting. This also applies to Bedrooms, whether requisitioned by Alan Ayckbourn or Jan de Hartog, dimly remembered for The Four-Poster, a Hume Cronyn-Jessica Tandy hit of Yesteryear.
Old Plays in Revival:
David Mamet’s SPEED-THE-PLOW [****]
David Mamet’s AMERICAN BUFFALO [**]
Martin McDonagh’s THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN [****]
David Rabe’s STREAMERS [****]
Samm-Art Williams’ HOME [****]
Horton Foote’s DIVIDING THE ESTATE [****]
Sarah Kane’s BLASTED [***]
Doesn’t any NYC producer have the courage to revive David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago & Duck Variations? Haven’t we already had too many revivals of American Buffalo?
The latest of these was most notable for the mountains of Thrift-Shop-Trash arrayed around the stage, much of it being thrust out of shelves toward the close. This may well have kept the production-staff busy between matinée & evening-performances, but it did little to add depth to an already Shallow-Fable.
"Speed the Plow"-- L to R: Raul Esparza, Jeremy Piven, Elisabeth Moss. Photo by Brigitte Lancombe.
For Film-Fans there must have been a certain frisson at seeing Haley Joel Osment onstage. For previous admirers of John Leguizamo, there was the fear that he is morphing into John Turturro. And Cedric the Entertainer was, alas, not all that Entertaining.
Fortunately, the frantic-dynamic Raúl Esparza—in Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow revival—posed a Visual-Challenge to Slackers, both in the audience & onstage. No wonder Jeremy Pliven left the cast…
Robert Falls staged Buffalo; Neil Pepe prepped Esparza on Speed…
You might well think that seeing Martin McDonagh’s Cripple once is quite enough to Get-His-Message. Nonetheless, the visiting production from Galway’s Druid Theatre Company—staged by Gerry Hynes—was worth a spectator’s second-time visit as well. Irish actors tend to do this stuff better than Actors Studio Alums…
David Rabe’s Streamers now seems a bit dated: the US Army isn’t what it was then, even confined to barracks. But director Scott Ellis got good performances from his cast.
The Signature’s season of Negro Ensemble Company Golden-Oldies is a valuable reminder of how far African-American Playwrights & Performers have come since Douglas Turner Ward & Bobby Hooks founded that fabled company.
But the current revival of Samm-Art Williams’ Home is more than a reminder or a Sentimental-Journey. It is a dynamic production, featuring three remarkable talents: Kevin T. Carroll, Tracey Bonner, & January Lavoy! Carroll’s ferocious energy alone is impressive, but his passions in character are searing. Bonner & Lavoy are amazing in instantly assuming various highly-defined roles. Ron OJ Parson directed.
Soho Rep’s staging of the late Sarah Kane’s devastating Blasted is especially unsettling in these times of Random-Jihad. Who would have thought a handsome hotel-room could be reduced to wreckage in a short intermission?
Reed Birney & Marin Ireland deserve Purple-Hearts for what they experience, though Birney’s Ian is a bit of a shit, so Solitary or Sudden-Death are also OK. The Soldier/Terrorist of Louis Cancelmi might have given the Guards at Abu-Ghraib or Guantánamo a scare. Sarah Benson staged.
Hallie Foote is even more bitchy/demanding/entitled as Horton Foote’s Mary-Jo, now that Dividing the Estate has been translated from a smaller stage to the Booth Theatre. In fact, almost everything about the show seems bigger & better. It’s like August, Osage County—without that Problematic-Mother. As Foote’s Mater-Familias, however, Elizabeth Ashley seems to be Acting, not Being…
BILLY ELLIOT [****]
SHREK: THE MUSICAL [****]
ROAD SHOW [***]
IMPROBABLE FREQUENCY [****]
MY VAUDEVILLE MAN! [***]
GIMPEL TAM [****]
ROMANTIC POETRY [**]
If you loved Billy Elliot as a movie, how much more enjoyment you are going to have seeing Billy Live On Stage, serially danced & embodied by the remarkable young David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, & Kiril Kulish!
Steven Daldry continues his directorial-infatuation—from film to stage—with Billy’s Triumph over Brit Provincial Coal-Mining-Town Morés & sense of Threatened-Masculinity: "Only Poofters do ballet…"
The wonderful Carole Shelly is Billy’s-Enabler. Also admirable: Gregory Jbara, Haydn Gwynne, & Santino Fontana.
That this is also an Elton John Musical should not be overlooked. His Partner, David Furnish, is an Executive-Producer. Peter Darling choreographed, with ambling settings by Ian MacNeil & Provincial & Royal Ballet costumes by Nicky Gillibrand.
Some friends actually refused to join me for an evening of Shrek: The Musical: "They’ve turned an Animated-Cartoon into a Musical? You’ve got to be joking…"
Good News! Shrek is a colorful, comical, witty, ingenious, & even vastly entertaining show! Not only is Brian D’Arcy James—in schreklik-maquillage—hilarious, but he even occasionally tugs at the Heart-Strings. Daniel Breaker’s Donkey is the most sassy Side-Kick you can imagine.
There are a variety of Young & Teen Fionas, but Sutton Foster is the Real-Thing! [Too bad her brother was trapped in Dust way over in Hell’s Kitchen: He deserves a Good-Musical as well: it’s been a Long Time since Urinetown…]
What really redeems Shrek for the Intellectual-Show-Goer are the ingenious lyrics of David Lindsay-Abaire, who also crafted the book. The Spirit of his Fuddy Meers lives on!
The Look of this show—Animated-Cartoons come to Life!—owes a lot to the ingenuity of designer Tim Hatley, with nods to the talents of choreographer Josh Prince & director Jason Moore. But nothing would work without the hilarious antics of all the Nursery-Rhyme & Fairytale Characters. Pinocchio’s Nose should have been given to Geo. W. Bush as an Xmas Present!
Stephen Sondheim’s Road Show seems to have an odd-affinity with his troubled Assassins. Instead of abandoning his Concept, he keeps on trying to make it work. What was once Bounce—among other titles—is still a musical-effort to tell the tale of the Adventures of the Bros. Mizner, known to fame & infamy as Addison & Wilson.
Years ago, I read an interesting biography of the brothers, being especially interested in Addison’s work as an Architect to the Rich of Miami Beach, providing them with increasingly elaborate Hispanic-Palaces. Not to overlook Addison & Willy’s promotion of Boca-Raton—literally Mouth of the Rat! Perhaps their diverging & interlocking stories should have stayed on the page…
Dead-in-Bed is not a compelling way to open a musical of this Scope & Ambition. So it takes a while to get interested in the Hustler-Antics of Willy Mizner, as well as the more serious longings of Addy. Nonetheless, the production at the Public-Theatre—set among a clutter of battered trunks, filing-cabinets, & other office bric-a-brac—was ultimately rewarding, not least for the Mizner Bros., as portrayed by Michael Cerveris & Alexander Gemignani.
John Doyle—who has Made His Name by staging stripped-down Sondheims—at least did not this time require his actors to play musical-instruments!
"Improbale Frequency", musical comedy.
Not since Shock-Headed Peter have I seen such an unusual musical as Improbable Frequency. It is not visually like that worldwide Tiger-Lily Triumph, but, thanks to the production of Dublin’s Rough Magic Theatre & the intricate & ingenious plot & lyrics of Arthur Riordan—music by Bell Helicopter!—it is in the same League of the Fantastic.
Indeed, Riordan’s lyrics are so fiendishly inventive that you will want to have a copy of the script after seeing this show to fully-savor their wit & imagination!
"The play is set in Dublin in 1941," the program informs us. But if you did not already know that the famed Brit-Poet John Betjeman was also London’s Secret-Agent in the Capital of Irish IRA-Inspired Independence, some of the plot twists & turns may initially baffle you.
Back-grounder: So long & so fiercely have the Irish longed for freedom from the Tyrannical British Overlords that they have for generations fought openly & also subterfugely against Perfidious-Albion. Sir Roger Casement was hanged for Treason in World War I: he wanted the Kraut-Kaiser to help free Ireland! [Only in 1926 did the English grudgingly give Dublin some Autonomy…]
Even in World War II, there were IRA Irish who were eager to help German-Submarines sink British vessels—even some merchant-ships that would have brought food to famished Ireland…
So there are a lot of subplots & cross-currents in the Red Bank Restaurant, where some strange Broadcasts seem to be giving coded Secret Info…
Among the engaging songs are: Be Careful Not To Patronize the Irish, We’re All in the Gutter, Tooral-aye-ay for the IRA, Interrogation Bolero, An Irish Atom Bomb, Imperial Tango, & God’s Bicycle Slipped a Gear.
The Hero of this show is a mild-mannered Cross-Word-Puzzle Solver, who is recruited by MI5 via his successful solution of a planted-puzzle! But he is no James Bond: just very clever… [My late cousin Tony Dangerfield was the Russian-Expert for MI6, but that’s another story…]
Karen Murphy & Shonn Wiley were charming in My Vaudville Man!—effectively a Letter-Play about the career of show-biz hoofer Jack Donahue. This show was crafted by Jeff Hochhauser & Bob Johnston from the Alcohol-Challenged Irish-American dancer’s Letters of a Hoofer to his Ma.
This proved a worthy successor to the York Theatre’s Enter Laughing, now again revived.
Now I want to Celebrate the Achievements of my former Brooklyn-College student & dear friend, Moshe Yassur! Moshe earned an MFA in Directing way out in Flatbush, a very long way off from his Native Romania—from which he escaped the Nazis to flee to Palestine.
When the State of Israel came into being, he became an Officer in the Israeli Army, later emigrating to New York.
When Moshe enrolled in my classes in Dramatic-Structure, I was astounded: this charming little guy with a shock of white hair—looking like Doctor Mabuse in that famous Fritz Lang film—was only slightly younger than his prof!
Although Romania was the Birthplace of Yiddish-Theatre, it had died-out—literally—at the hands of the Nazis & their Fellow-Fascists. But Moshe Yassur was invited to recreate Yiddish Theatre Culture in Modern Romania!
Not only has he done that, but he has also had Big-Successes staging such popular Western-Fare as Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw & The Belle of Amherst—Emily Dickinson, portrayed by two of Romania’s Leading-Actresses in two major theatres!
Now Moshe Yassur has had an impressive success in Manhattan! His Gimpel Tam—book & lyrics by Moshe, based on Israel Bashevis Singer’s famed story, Gimpel the Fool—was enthusiastically received by sold-out audiences at the Folksbiene: National Yiddish Theatre.
Adam Shapiro was endearing as the simple Gimpel, an abused orphan, a longing man alone, an honest but credulous baker, of whom most of his Shtetl neighbors take advantage or openly mock. The ultimate mockery & deception arrives when Village-Elders encourage this love-starved bear-of-a-man to marry the Shtetl-Slut, Elke [Daniella Rabbani], who takes random lovers right under his nose.
[I must admit both Gimpel & his Half-a-Life in this impoverished Eastern-European Jewish-Village touched me deeply, although I grew up a Methodist in the High-Sierras of Sunny-California. My own dear Father—though he knew a lot about Animals & Nature, useful for a Marginal-Farmer—was also somewhat Simple & Trusting. And so was often mocked & cheated by other farmers: even by his own brother. Not only that: my Mother—who was totally-opposed to Sex in any manifestations—made him sleep outside on the porch…]
Nonetheless, thanks to the Klezmer-accented score of Romania’s Radu Capatari, the lively, vibrant cast, & the colorful peasant-designs of Roger Hanna & Gail Cooper-Hecht—all splendidly coordinated in Moshe Yassur’s staging—provided an ultimately delightful theatre-experience!
Somehow, I hoped that Gimpel would find a Better-World than this one on The Other Side…
At the lavish reception—after the performance in the Goldman-Sonnenfeldt Family-Auditorium of the handsome new Jewish Community Center, at Amsterdam & 76th—a hard-faced, possibly Botoxed, blondined-woman looked squarely at me & spat this out: "That Singer! He hated women!"
My long-term impression of Singer—& not only from his Gimpel tale—is that he really didn’t like or trust most people he met. With such a View of Life, he could hardly go wrong… After all, Pollyanna wasn’t a Jewish girl anyway!
Gimpel Tam is the showpiece of the Folksbiene’s 94th Consecutive Season! Artistic-Director Zalmen Mlotek is determined to extend this record, even as grandchildren of New York Yiddish-Speakers no longer are functional in this Cultural-Survival of Jewish-Existence in Eastern-Europe. What the Folksbiene longs for is a real Yiddish-Theatre as an actual venue.
That could become a Reality, even in these economically-disastrous days, but do not depend on Bernie Maddow for funding…
There have, of course, been other efforts to establish a modern, functioning Yiddish-Theatre in New York. When Ida Kaminska brought her ensemble from Warsaw, the enthusiastic Public-Response encouraged her to remain here. But it didn’t happen & Kaminska ended-up at Queens College, not exactly a center of Shtetl-Culture.
Nonetheless, every Spring, when I went to Poland for the Warsaw Opera Festival in the Teatr-Wielki, I would always save two evenings for productions at the Teatr Ida Kaminska. Aside from Poland’s wonderful Tevya, most of the actors in the company were blond young Poles, who had learned their lines phonetically!
As I always went in the company of my best friend in all Poland, the late Antony "Kazik" Marianowicz, I had no Translation-Problems. Although Kazik—like many Jews in the Arts in Poland—had had serious problems when the Communist-Government decided to blame Jews for its own mis-managements, he was ultimately made Chief of the Author’s Union!
For the Record: Gimpel is not Moshe Yassur’s first production in Manhattan. For some years, he & his admirable companion, Dr. Beata Hein Bennett, produced important Modern European Dramas Off-off-Broadway in their own theatre! Only the Classic Stage Company, under Chris Martin, also gave such works the stagings they deserved.
Some of the seats from Moshe & Beata’s theatre still survive over on Bleecker Street, used now by the Culture-Project!
[Incidental-Intelligence: The Hein Family of Lindau, Germany—only a few kilometers up Lake-Constance from Austrian Bregenz & its remarkable Opera-on-the-Lake: its recent Tosca featured in Quantum of Solace!—has earned a certain well-deserved recognition.
[Beata’s dad, a Professor of Medicine at the University of Munich—Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität—was dismissed by the Nazis, retiring to Lindau to serve patients as a GP. Lindau was about as far as one could get from Die Stadt der Bewegung.
[After the Second World War—in the general spirit of renewal & rebuilding—Dr. Hein suggested to the Swedish Bernadotte-Heirs of the sub-tropical island of Mainau in Lake-Constance that they might use Schloss-Mainau for annual summer meetings of Nobel Laureates! Beata still has photos of herself as a young girl in the company of such luminaries as Neils Bohr.]
"Romantic Poetry." Photo by Henry Leutwyler.
I have—as do most of my colleagues—tremendous admiration for the antic-imagination & playwriting-talents of John Patrick Shanley. He is also a thoughtful & compelling speaker on Theatre & much more Serious Topics. In the new movie, Doubt, he also dispels doubts about his ability as a Director!
Such Doubts, unfortunately, were certainly raised when he recently staged his own musical, Romantic Poetry, with score by Henry Krieger. The Larger-Doubt, however, was why he believed he needed to try his hand at Musical-Theatre? Not even Hal Prince could have made this material work…
Old Musicals in Revival:
PAL JOEY [****]
IRVING BERLIN’S WHITE CHRISTMAS [****]
Stockard Channing and Matthew Risch in "Pal Joey." Photo by Joan Marcus.
It is good to have such an attractively-designed revival of Rodgers & Hart’s sweetly cynical Pal Joey on view. But a colleague couldn’t get the point of creating this John O’Hara-inspired musical originally: "He’s not interesting. He’s a rat. Who cares? At least in Guys & Dolls, they are really good guys when it matters."
Frankly, I enjoyed this Joe Mantello-staged production, especially the impressive performance of talented young Matthew Risch, replacing the originally-intended Joey. He’s virtually an Instant-Star!
It may well be that Stockard Channing will never challenge Mary Martin nor Ethel Merman, but her interpretation of Vera Simpson & her songs was compelling. Martha Plimpton’s saucy Gladys Bumps proves once again what a versatile actress she is: a Long Way Off from Tom Stoppard & The Coast of Utopia!
Thanks to the witty dance-mockery of choreographer Graciela Daniela—abetted by designers William Ivey Long, Scott Pask, & Paul Gallo—the cheesy Ziegfeld-Follies knock-offs Chez Joey were a dazzling delight. Roundabout Theatre has another worthy revival at Studio 54.
[Many moons ago, I met my favorite Vera, Carol Bruce, in an Essex-House suite, among Show-Biz Luminaries. I was so excited: "Gee, Miss Bruce, I saw you as Vera in San Francisco, at the Curran Theatre! When I was only a kid." The air congealed…]
Another colleague was dismissive of the Only-for-Christmas-Season engagement of White Christmas at the Marquis Theatre: "Gawd! It’s awful! It’s so tacky, it looks like a worn-out bus-&-truck tour!"
As I am considerably Older than some of my colleagues, I have to say that this bright & shiny production looked very much like the great 1950s Broadway Musicals I used to see at SF’s Curran Theatre. The Period is exactly right, as is the enthusiasm of the able cast, including Stephen Bogardus, Jeffry Denman, Kerry O’Malley, & Meredith Patterson.
The production is rumored to have started out in LA way back in 2004, but it didn’t look at all bus-&-truck. All the colorful costumes looked brand-new! And I suppose asking David Ives & Paul Blake to concoct the book was a smooth-move as well. [Why Richard Greenberg had to rework Pal Joey is still unclear…]
Other Entertainments/Other Venues:
Slava’s SNOWSHOW [***]
Dylan Thomas’ A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS IN WALES [****]
JEFF HARMAR’S 1959 BROADWAY SONGBOOK [***]
I first got sprayed with what seemed tons of shredded white paper down at the Union Square Theatre, the initial venue for Slava’s Snowshow. Bits & pieces kept falling out of seams for weeks. But the kids loved it & they still did when it moved uptown to Broadway at the tiny Helen Hayes—after some time out-of-town on endless tour.
Russki Slava Polunin is essentially a Sad-Clown, but with a Great-Heart when he plays the Yellow-Clown. His squad of flap-footed Green-Clowns—of various sizes—form a hilarious back-up.
Yes, Virginia, there is still a Radio-City Christmas-Show, with the Rockettes, but Manhattan was spared an excess of Christmas Carols, Amahls, & Hansel & Gretels. As usual, there were Excesses of Messiahs, including the dreadful Sing-Along Messiah. I suspect that that quintessential Old Hanoverian Georg Friedrich Händel would surely fly-off-the-handle if he had to hear one of these!
"The 1959 Broadway songbook" by Sarah Louise Lazarus December 3-12 2008 at 59E59 Theater.
Julie Taymor’s magical Magic Flute has become the Met Opera’s favored Xmas-Treat, to rival the New York City Ballet’s venerable Nutcracker. But, for me, the best Holiday Musical was the Irish Rep’s delightfully nostalgic Child’s Christmas in Wales, staged & designed by Charlotte Moore. Of course, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, but Wales—as is Cornwall—is just across the Irish-Channel from Dublin, after all…
Jeff Harnar is a Charmer—joined by Klea Blackhurst & Anna Bergman, with David Gaines at the keyboard. Great to hear the 1959 Hit-Parade songs at the 59E59 triple-theatre venue! Unfortunately, I missed the real 59E59 Christmas-Show: Simon Green singing Coward at Christmas: A Cabaret for Noël.
Fun & Games & Shock at the New Victory:
Cirque Mechanics’ BIRDHOUSE FACTORY [****]
Dan Zane’s HOLIDAY HOUSE-PARTY [***]
Green Thumb Theatre’s CRANKED [****]
Dan Zane’s unruly shock of hair is almost as Zany as his Persona & House-Party. All kinds of music, instruments, ethnic-traditions, puppets, whatever. It was a little like that Ethel’s Truck-Stop musical-jamboree over at BAM. Great fun.
Birdhouse Factory at the New Victory was much more structured, but certainly with a rich mixture of instruments, styles, & almost Cirque du Soleil athletic-inventiveness. Yes, the idea was that Birdhouses & cages were, in fact, being somehow made…
If you hate Hip-Hop Rap—as well as Drugs—you could have an odd experience watching the amazing Canadian, Kyle Cameron, taking you on a Virtual-Tour of Crystal-Meth Druggies in Vancouver, BC.
Disturbing, disorienting, even at times disgusting, but ultimately compelling & devastating, Cranked should put you off Getting-High forever. Devised by Michael P. Northey—with lyrics by Northey & Kyprios—the pounding beat & rapid-fire lyric-narrative may seem Cameron’s Personal-Experience as he embodies it so well.
In the following Question-Period, he assures his audience this is not His Story, but it is based on Northey’s first-hand observation of the appalling Drug-Scene in Vancouver, once the placid scene of a Major World’s Fair. Cameron then explains to the largely Teen-Audience how dangerous, if seductive, Meth-Addiction is. He even offers web-sites for more Information! Try www.methfacts.org or www.nycma.org.
While you are Online, you might want to check-out the New Victory Theatre, now on Facebook!
Nights at the Opera:
At the Metropolitan Opera:
Berlioz’ LA DAMNATION DE FAUST [****]
Massenet’s THAÏS [****]
Puccini’s LA RONDINE [****]
Mozart’s DON GIOVANNI [**]
Wagner’s TRISTAN UND ISOLDE [****]
Tchaikovsky’s THE QUEEN OF SPADES [****]
With the sole exception of an appalling Euro-Trash staging of Don Giovanni, all of the Met Opera productions listed above proved a remarkable Holiday-Treat.
Hector Berlioz’ La Damnation de Faust was especially welcome, because it’s so seldom seen, being notoriously difficult to stage, as it’s really more of an Oratorio. [His Trojans also poses imposing problems…]
Nonetheless, Québec’s Robert Lepage—strongly supported by designers Carl Fillion & Karin Erskine—has created a marvelously imaginative exploration of the Faust-Legend, complete with athletes rappelling up the Video-Enhanced stage-set-frame. Holger Förterer & Boris Firquet deserve plaudits for these moving-visions.
Despite the complexities of the production in performance, James Levine still conducted magisterially, with the Principals all outstanding: Marcello Giordani as Faust, John Relyea as Méphistophélès, Susan Graham as Marguerite, & Patrick Carfizzi as Brander.
Lepage’s success with this challenging libretto & score augurs well for the new Wagner RING he is to stage in the Spring! Not to be missed—unless the tickets are already sold-out. If you were unable to see the new Damnation de Faust, do make an effort to savor it when it returns to the repertory!
Jules Massenet’s eroto-religioso operatic-titillation, Thaïs—inspired by the quatre-sous novel of Anatole France—provided, in this Met revival, an Oriental Art-Deco showcase for the Person & Voice of Renée Fleming, glamorously-gowned by Christian Lacroix.
She was, of course, stunning, both vocally & visually, but it was impossible for me to detect—from Row Y in the Orchestra—whether she was wearing the Renée Fleming Perfume that her dear friend, Ann Gottlieb, has created for her.
As the over-pious-over-zealous Monk Athanaël, Thomas Hampson sounded over-taxed, as well as looking overworked, slogging around the Egyptian Desert & in the Flesh-Pots of Alexandria. In any case, it is not easy to sing the vocal-lines of French Opera, even for Masters of the Italian Repertoire.
The handsome Art-Deco-ish Thaïs production was conceived by John Cox, on loan to the Met from Chicago’s Lyric Opera. It looked familiar: was this the same production provided for the late Beverly Sills, when she essayed the Temptress-turned-Saint?
Jesús López-Cobos conducted, his very name adding a certain religiosity to the proceedings—which closed with Thaïs ensconced on what seemed to be a High-Altar, savoring her Immanent-Sainthood.
[Incidental-Intelligence: I must have, however, a certain fondness for Massenet, as his Muse was a Native-Californian, comme moi: the great soprano Sybil Sanderson, for whom he created this role. Years ago—when I was still permitted to write for Opera News—our Editor, the late, lamented Robert Jacobson, would identify me, in italics, as having been born in Sacramento, also the natal-city of Mme. Sanderson! Alternatively, I would be recognized as having grown up in Nevada City, Nevada County, from whence also came America’s First Internationally-Acclaimed Operatic-Soprano, Mme. Emma Nevada!]
Giacomo Puccini’s delightfully Art-Deco-esque La Rondine—The Swallow—is a co-production with the Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse & the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. As all three of designer Ezio Frigerio’s settings are both charming & immense, the opera-house in Toulouse must have a huge stage—I don’t remember, having visited way back in 1956—or the were sets enlarged for London?
Fortunately, Franca Squarciapino didn’t have to enlarge her stunningly-stylish Art-Deco costumes, as the Principals, Chorus, & Dancers—almost Apache at one point!—all looked & acted terrifically smart & trendy. Outstanding, of course were that famed husband-&-wife team, Angela Gheorghiu & Roberto Alagna, as passionate but mis-mated lovers. [There are echoes of Violetta & Alfredo in this, but less tragic.]
Shepherding his vocal-resources, Samuel Ramey was properly distinguished as the vivacious Magda’s wealthy patron. But Marius Brenciu was an absolute comedic-delight as the would-be poet, Prunier. [He could also be outstanding in a Broadway Musical!]
Stephen Barlow staged this original Nicolas Joël production, Marco Armiliato conducting with appropriate verve. Lightweight-Puccini, but with some splendid songs & a total-delight to experience. All too briefly on view…
On the other hand, Marthe Keller’s coarse & dumb staging of Don Giovanni was both an embarrassment & a penance to endure. Some of the stage-business she gave her actor/singers was on the level of Community-Theatre inventiveness, not to overlook the often awkward Placement & Movement of cast & chorus on stage.
What was really impressive, however, was how hard the Principals tried to make this Sophomoric Business & Movement their Own! Especially the vibrant Giovanni, Erwin Schrott, & his long-suffering Leporello, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo. Also admirable vocally—if sometimes embarrassing to watch—were Dorothea Röschmann, Tamar Iveri, Isabel Leonard, Matthew Polenzani, & Joshua Bloom.
The oddly-towering, variously-scooting brick-wall-segments of Michael Yeargan’s strangely Piranesian-setting were not at all helpful in evoking Seville in any Historical-Period. Totally-Depressing. Lothar Koenigs conducted.
In the final Met performance this season of its hauntingly-beautiful Orient-inspired, Vanishing-Perspective-inductive production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Linda Watson, was appropriately moving & powerful as Brünnhilde, with a stalwart Peter Seiffert as Tristan. This Dieter Dorn/Jürgen Rose vision is a Visual-Masterpiece. As performed by this cast & conducted by Daniel Barenboim, it was also a Musical & Emotional-Masterpiece…
Elijah Moshinsky & Mark Thompson’s production of P. I. Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades is also visually-impressive: Overwhelming even, when the Met stage is crammed with Cast, Chorus, & Supers in elaborate Court-Costumes of the Age of Catherine the Great!
But some small-scale stage-placements & movements are not as effective as they could be, somewhat impairing the Total-Effect of this Grand-Spectacle…
Seiji Ozawa conducted a cast featuring an effortful Ben Heppner as Ghermann, Felicity Palmer as the aged Countess, guarding her Secret of the Three-Winning-Cards, & Maria Guleghina as the unfortunate Lisa. [Jumping in the frozen River Neva seems a difficult way to leave Petersburg forever… You just might need an Ice-Breaker!]
Met Lottery for Orchestra-Seats!
Way back in the 1950s, West-German Opera-Intendants & Theatre-Directors already didn’t want their artists performing to empty seats. So, fifteen-minutes before curtain-time, lines of Students & Seniors would be sold any remaining seats—even front-&-center in the Parkett/Stalls/Orchestra for DM 1.
Both Liebestod & Dove sono sounded better in a full-house. That was also true for Goethe & Dürrenmatt.
Now the Met has also got the Message: any week from now until season’s-end, you may be a lucky winner in the $25 Weekend Tickets Lottery. There is also a separate—but almost equal—weekday-program—with tickets for $20.
Weekend-tickets are for both Orchestra & Grand-Tier seats, Friday & Saturday evenings, based on availability. Entry-forms have to be filled out on Mondays on the Met Opera’s website, www.metopera.org. Winners will be posted at noon on Tuesdays, following which tickets—two per person—must be paid for by phone [1212-362-6000] or be picked up at the Met box-office by 5 pm Wednesdays.
Actually, the Met is not effectively filling empty-seats at a loss, merely to have them occupied. Instead, thanks to the initiative of Agnes Varis—a managing-director on the Met’s Board—$3 million has been donated by the Board’s Directors to subsidize this gift to the Opera-Loving Public.
Varis Rush Tickets—a weekday Varis-Initiative—are limited to 200 seats per performance, Mondays through Thursdays. 150 of these tickets are available at the Met box-office each day two hours before performance.
But there are also 50 seats reserved for Seniors! These are available on performance-days by phone, beginning at Noon!
At the New York City Opera:
Intendant-Apparent Dr. Gérard Mortier Jumps-Ship!
Piqued that the Board of the New York City Opera could not provide the Millions of Dollars he demanded for the coming season in the newly-renovated New York State Theatre—whose modernization has prevented staged-performances in 2008-2009—Dr. Gérard Mortier has abruptly abandoned his post as Intendant.
Mortier—former Intendant of the Salzburg Festival, the Ruhr Triennial, & the Paris Opéra—had programmed a season entirely composed of New American Operas, including one based on the film, Brokeback Mountain.
Were Puccini still available, this might well have proved to be another Horse-Opera on the order of his famed La fanciulla del West, but avant-garde composer Charles Wouronin [sp?] was contracted to do the deed…
As matters now stand, there is no Outstanding Opera Artistic-Director on the horizon who can lead NYCO into major triumphs in the New Century. Alas…
At the Major Music-Schools:
LATER THE SAME EVENING [****]
TRILOGY: 3 ONE-ACT PORTRAITS OF MARRIAGE [***]
Although some opera-lovers would pay good-money not to have to sit through a New American Opera—something Dr. Mortier was prepared to force-feed them—composer John Musto & librettist Mark Campbell have actually crafted one that should command productions across the nation: Later the Same Evening.
This intriguing & eventually compelling work has been inspired by five moody Edward Hopper paintings, which are visually integral in the narrative that explores their silent imagery. The paintings are: Room in New York, Hotel Window, Hotel Room, Two on the Aisle, & Automat.
Initially, as New Yorkers drift through a gallery-show featuring the five Hoppers, Musto’s music seems that all-purpose themeless Modernity which permits dialogue to seem sung.
But as the gallery-goers become the subjects of the paintings, as real lives develop out of the painted-images, the score begins to evoke not only their moods & dreams, but also the essential Thirties Jazzy Art-Deco world of Metropolitan Manhattan & the Boroughs.
The already-professional talents of the Manhattan School of Music Opera-Theatre ensemble were all excellent in their various Life-Roles. This physical production should be more widely seen & heard. Designed by Erhard Rom, David O. Roberts—& of course, Edward Hopper!—it was staged by Leon Major & conducted by Michael Barrett with infectious verve.
Usually, the Juilliard Opera Center’s fall-production is every bit as good as the Manhattan School’s—sometimes better & not just because Juilliard has more money at its disposal—but Trilogy was a disappointment.
Sub-titled 3 One-Act Portraits of Marriage, it was conceived—& conducted—by the customarily dependable James Conlon. But, as "realized" by designer Darko Tresnjak & director James Marvel, it occasionally bordered on Sophomoric-Slapstick in performance.
The Marriage-Scenes were Mussorgsky’s The Marriage, Krenek’s Schwergewicht, Oder die Ehre der Nation, & the Fleischmann/Shostakovich Rothchild’s Violin. The Kreneck’s stage-props were amusing; the final-segment was reminiscent of a Bashevis-Singer tale, with Wryly-Painful Social-Content.
There was No Intermission!
Dance Down in Chelsea:
THREE NEW CHOREOGRAPHIES FOR CEDAR LAKE [****]
Nancy Laurie Walton—one of the Wal-Mart Heirs—is the Patroness of the impressive young Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. She was present recently for the World-Premiere of choreographer Didy Veldman’s frame of view, in the company’s handsome new Chelsea Quarters on West 26th Street. It is admirable that both Nancy Walton & her cousin, Fay Walton, are so handsomely supporting the Arts, especially in these Dark-Days. [Fay Walton is also creating a World-Class Art-Museum & Concert-Hall down there in Arkansas!]
Also on the Opening-Night program for the New York season were Luca Veggetti’s abstract athletic/balletic memory/measure & Crystal Pite’s wonderfully frenetic TEN DUETS ON A THEME OF RESCUE.
Orbo Novo is coming-up. You can see that later in the year at Jacob’s Pillow & the Joyce Theatre. The troupe will also be dancing the taut choreographies noted above at the Charleston Spoleto Festival USA. Meanwhile, check-out their HQ down in Chelsea!
[NYTheatre-Wire’s Dance-Maven, Jack Anderson, has already reported on Cedar Lake. Check-out his review!]
Solo-Shows & Monodramas:
Mike Daisey’s IF YOU SEE SOMEHING SAY SOMETHING [****]
Danny Hoch’s TAKING OVER [***]
Josh Jonas’ CAPTURE NOW [***]
"If you see something say something" by Mike Daisey, October 15th through November 30 2008 at Public Theater.
A critic-colleague complained that Mike Daisey’s new Nuclear-Holocaust-Threat monologue was not as funny as his previous How Theatre Failed America,
at the Public Theatre’s Joe’s Pub.
Although it certainly is bizarre that the Original White-Sands Testing-Site of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s Manhattan-Project Atomic-Bomb is open only ONE DAY A YEAR for Public-Visitation—Mike describes his Personal-Visit—there is nothing amusing about the Bomb’s Impending-Fusion-Potential for Global-Destruction.
Like President Dwight David Eisenhower, Mike Daisey is also understandably wary of the Military-Industrial-Complex. Donald Rumsfeld & Condi Rice may be prime-subjects for Satire, but Hiroshima was No Laughing-Matter!
Williamsburgher Danny Hoch is monologically-appalled at the current Influx of Gentrifying-Outsiders to this Brooklyn-Enclave. He hilariously impersonates some of the most outrageous of these Newcomers.
Will Danny spoof Brooklyn’s Greenpoint next? Or Redhook, site of On the Waterfront…
[Actually, it wouldn’t be a Bad-Idea to turn the Industrial-Dumping-Ground GOWANUS-CANAL into another Little-Venice!]
Josh Jonas has had Family-Problems—as who has not?—but they weren’t as Conventional as the sordid-details most Confessional-Monologists confide in their audiences. My guest couldn’t wait for this to be over: "Who cares about his dismal self-involvement?"
BAM’s 2008 Next Wave Festival:
Pina Bausch’s BAMBOO BLUES [****]
Édouard Lock’s AMJAD [****]
Damiano Ottavio Bigi and Tsai Chin Yu in "Bamboo Blues" . Photo by Richard Termine.
"Amjad" November 12 to 15 by Edouard Lock. Photo by Edouard Lock
The Strange & Mysterious Asian Sub-Continent has had an Artistic–Impact on a variety of Innovative-Artists, including Theodora Skipitares, but Mary Zimmerman went no farther than the Middle-East, with her Arabian-Nights fantasies.
Wuppertal’s Pina Bausch, however, has been able to stir Bollywood—as well as Traditional-Indian-Ritual-Dance—into her novel Bamboo Blues, seen recently at BAM. Set-piece dance-fragments were variously repeated, with some impressive Video-Backgrounds, some of them also dancing…
Édouard Lock’s choreography for his La La La Human Steps ensemble in Amjad—both as live-dance & film—was both arresting & innovative. You had to be there…
Very Special Shows:
LIZA’S AT THE PALACE… [***]
GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS [****]
OH, THOSE BEAUTIFUL WEIMAR GIRLS! [***]
You’ve got to hand it, not only to Little Mary Sunshine—as that show’s hit-song insisted—but also to plucky Liza Minelli! It was so very brave of her recently, if briefly, to stalk the immense Palace-Theatre stage on which her dear mother, Judy Garland, gasped almost her Last many seasons ago.
Exhausted by some marginal choreographic-routines, a breathless Judy sat down on the edge of the stage, panting for breath, while her hundreds of fans—the Palace is a huge theatre: five-a-day Vaudeville, after all—kept shouting encouragement: "We Love You, Judy!"
And it was True. Also for Liza, who looked as though she might collapse in the second-half, literally supported by modern replacements for Kay Thompson’s Williams Bros. This section was a sentimental-tribute to the multi-talented Thompson, who was both Mentor & Substitute-Mother.
After the full-stage Finale, Liza’s hundreds of fans would not stop applauding. She came forward to tell them That Was It. She really had not prepared any Encores. Nonetheless, she went upstage to confer with her able accompanist & Music-Director, Billy Stritch.
She came downstage to sing Have a Merry Little Christmas so softy, tenderly, & wonderfully that it was the Best of the entire-evening. Even though she has said she would never sing Her Mother’s Song again…
My first memory of Martha Clarke’s Flemish-Inspired Garden of Earthly Delights is in-performance on the converted-church stage of St. Clement’s. Unfortunately, it has almost no Head-Room, so the Heavenly-Flights were not nearly as impressive as they have been subsequently at the Minetta Lane Theatre, where Clark’s Mock-Medieval dancers soar high in the air.
This remarkable Dance-Fantasy—effectually imagined from Hieronymus Bosch’s mystical Triptych of the same name: a print on view in the lobby—is Clarke’s most famous achievement. But Vienna: Lusthaus & Miracolo d’Amore were quite as good.
Premiered in the Dock Street Theatre for the Charleston Spoleto Festival years ago, the haunting Miracolo—with a wonderful Richard Peaslee score, Titian white-capped Clowns, & mysteriously moving Commedia-Ladies, naked to the waist—sent a shocked Alice Tulley down the aisle & off to Italy…
Hungary’s artistically-adventurous Idelka Nemeth was obviously aiming at an even more shocking sensation with her recent Oh, Those Beautiful Weimar Girls! She had certainly achieved last season a Schnitzlerian-Sense of Viennese-Decadence—not to mention Lusthausian-Wein—with The Round of Pleasure, inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s Sexual Merry-Go-Round of Inter-Class-Coupling, known best in the West as La Ronde.
[Prof. Dr. Schnitzler was secretly suggesting how Syphilis is sexually-transmitted, but that was not a topic one could openly show on the stage of the Burgtheater.]
Chorus of "Oh, Those Beautiful Weimar Girls!"
Weimar-Sexuality—in all its fevered variations—was rather more Overt, as well as Pervert. But this was not the Weimar of Goethe, Schiller, & the Bauhaus!
After World War I, with Berlin in shambles & the Kaiser exiled in Appeldoorn—the New Republic received its Constitution in placid Weimar, where the National-Theatre could sub as the Reichstag.
Soon, however, the Parliament & Government returned to Berlin, where all Social-Restraints were off. Bolsheviks were rioting in the streets, clashing with Nazi-Thugs. In Clubs & Cabarets, performances & assignations were often astonishing.
Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Memoirs suggest this better than the I Am a Camera-derived Cabaret, but Nemeth has, instead, focused on The Life & Art of Anita Berber, "Weimar Berlin’s Priestess of Depravity."
Her source is Berber-biographer Mel Gordon’s The Seven Addictions & Five Professions of Anita Berber. This is a Lot of High & Low-Life to cover, but Theatrical Thrill-Seekers are not denied Visions of the Dominatrix. As well as almost any other kind of kinky Fun-&-Games you can imagine…
Certainly in period-music, provocative-costumes, & erotic-choreography, a sense of Berlin After-Dark in the Jazzy 1920s is evoked by Nemeth’s Production-Vision.
Nonetheless, despite the earnest intentions of her hard-working cast, the effect was not all that Erotic or Shocking. I didn’t fall asleep, but neither did I get an Erection…
You want Depravity? You can get all that right here in New York: Eliot Spitzer may still have Ashley Dupree’s cell-phone number?
New Tomes on the Theatre-Bookshelf:
When was the last time you saw a revival of The Happy Journey To Trenton & Camden? It’s one of my favorite Thornton Wilder dramas, not only because it’s a precursor to the Stage-Manager device in Our Town, but also because it was the first play I directed at UC/Berkeley very long ago  in California Hall!
Even if you are too young to have seen Tallulah Bankhead on Broadway as Sabrina in Skin of Our Teeth, you should at least have read the play? If you did not see the haunting film of Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey, you could have read the novel.
The Selected Letters of Thornton Wilder—a title that suggests some suggestive-ones have been omitted: Wilder, after all, never married—is not only a valuable insight both into Wilder the Man & Wilder the Author, but it is also a fascinating Insider’s History of the Modern American Theatre.
It comes endorsed by both Marian Seldes & A. R. "Pete" Gurney! Its author-editors are Robin G. Wilder & Jackson R. Bryer—who has also edited the letters of Eugene O’Neill & Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald.
Published recently by Harper, this interesting tome runs to some 729 pages, priced at $39.95 in hardcover. It will surely make you want to read—or re-read—both Wilder’s plays & his novels!
Rizzoli had a book-signing—wine, no finger-food!—recently for The Story of 42nd Street, by Mary C. Henderson & Dr. Alexis Greene. Both of these estimable author/critic/researchers are well-known to the Theatre-Community, as well as to Your-Reporter. [In fact, Alexis earned her PhD-in-Theatre in our CUNY Graduate Center Program!]
The promo-card for the book summarizes its contents thusly: The Theatres, Shows, Characters, & Scandals of the World’s Most Notorious Street.
It has been published by Backstage Books, but I can offer no further info, as I have yet to receive a Review-Copy, as promised at the 2 December 2008 signing.
Nonetheless, this book is of great interest as I was centrally-involved in the planning & execution of a Major-Exhibition & Panels on the demolition-threatened Historic 42nd Street Theatres in the now-vanished Mall of the CUNY Graduate Center on West 42nd Street. [Now located in the old B. Altman Building, at 34th & Fifth.]
Titled 42nd Street Theatre & The City, the show & the panels occurred way back in 1977. The Ford Foundation had even made a model of the Street & the Theatres, suggesting ways they could be preserved, even if not functioning as Legitimate-Theatres anymore.
Although ardent Theatre-Preservationists wanted all these theatres saved, there was no way they could survive as playhouses, most of them having been converted to movie-theatres after the 1929 Crash.
Disney’s Ziegfeld New Amsterdam, David Belasco’s Belasco/Victory/Republic [now the New Victory], & the Selwyn [now the American Airlines/Roundabout Theatre] are the only ones to survive fairly intact.
The Julian Eltinge, later the Empire Theatre—Eltinge was a famous Female-Impersonator—has a preserved Exterior, its Auditorium now serving as a Lobby for the AMC Cinema-Complex.
[Can you imagine an Early 20th Century Drag-Queen as a Major-Broadway-Star, with his Very Own Theatre? For that matter, can you imagine Mae West’s Sex on Broadway? And how about Censorship, with the Wales Padlock-Law?]]
The Historic-Façade of the playhouse built for David Mansfield & Reginald DeKoven’s productions—the Lyric-Theatre—still survives on West 43rd Street, but that stage & another theatre have been melted into one, now called the Hilton Theatre, recent site of Young Frankenstein…
For the Record:
Oscar Wilde’s most-revived comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest, has risen again from the Wildean-Crypt! More important, however, is the fact that Lynn Redgrave will impersonate the socially-ferocious Lady Bracknell.
Unfortunately, Manhattan First-Nighters will have to brave the cold winter-blasts in New Jersey, as this show is opening 14 January at the Paper-Mill Playhouse, in far-off Milburn, NJ. But it may be worth the journey as playwright-actor Keith Reddin, Cynthia Mace, & Zoë Winters are also in the cast.
It’s not entirely odd that Earnest remains Wilde’s most-popular play: when was the last time you saw a production of Wilde’s Salome in French, as originally-written? Richard Strauss did set Salome to music, but you may be more familiar with that other musicalization of the Wildean-Opus, Earnest in Love?
Considering the centrality of a meddling Young American Woman in Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance—the second-time he used Importance in a play-title!—why isn’t this challenging drama revived in America?
For that matter, where are the current revivals of Lady Windermere’s Fan or An Ideal Husband? Both of which could star Lynn Redgrave!
[There seems to be some kind of Conspiracy to Limit the Revival-Repertoire of Great Modern Classic-Dramas to The Cherry Orchard, Hedda Gabler, The Seagull, & Doll’s House.
[How about a Peer Gynt revival? Or The Pretenders or Emperor & Galilean? Or Brand or Rosmersholm or When We Dead Awaken?
[Has everyone forgotten Strindberg’s Dance of Death? Or Queen Christina or Eric XIV? How about some Pirandello? Giraudoux, Anouilh, or Sartre…]
[Not only should there be more first-class revivals of Great Modern Dramas, but Theatre-Students should be required to see them. At least they could then learn how to spell the titles: it is not The Impotence of Being Earnest nor The Cheery Orchid!]
Despite the Nation-Wide Economic-Collapse, Fidelity Investments is sponsoring this Wilde production. Paper-Mill has needed a Bail-Out for some time, so why not?
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