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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, March 6, 2009.
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
New Plays *
Old Plays in Revival: *
New Musicals *
Old Musicals in Revival *
Other Entertainments/Other Venues *
At The New Victory *
At Wales Week in NYC *
A Very Mixed Bag *
The Big Event in February--for those fortunate enough to get tickets from the Shubert Foundation--was the splendid Memorial Tribute to the late Gerald Schoenfeld, Guiding Genius of the Shubert Theatres & their often amazing Productions.
Hugh Jackman was the adept Aussie Accented MC, introducing a Cavalcade of Stars. An unassuming Lord Webber, formerly Sir Andrew, noted how often Gerry would address him as Cameron, forgetting who had actually created Sir Cameron Macintosh's fabulous Wealth…
Unfortunately there was no printed Program, so Your Scribe--who stood in line--cannot now recall all the outstanding actors/directors/dancers/singers/choreographers who sung the praises of a man who really loved the theatre, often propping up plays he liked--but which he knew could never be Crowd Pleasers! Every Performance Night, he made the rounds of his theatres so see how things were going, knowing everyone who worked for him, even door men & cleaning staff!
The celebration of a life.
Gerry Schoenfeld was also generous with his time & interest in Theatre Training Programs in the City, often sharing with our PhD in Theatre Program at the CUNY Graduate Center. He was always available to talk to Your Scribe's CUNY Seminars, especially about problems of Arts Management!
Our association began way back in the 1960s, when our CUNY CASTA Theatre Program--Center for Advanced Studies in Theatre Arts--mounted an impressive Mall Show in our old home on 42nd Street, across from the New York Public Library & Bryant Park.
This was titled 42nd Street: Theatre & The City, celebrating the history of those then deteriorating Playhouses on what was called "The Theatre Block." Once the glittering Heart of Broadway--also known as "The Great White Way"--the block itself had become dark & dangerous, the old theatres having lost their Original Franchise during the Great Depression.
Instead of glamorous First Nights, there was Minsky's Burlesque--until Mayor Fiorello H. Laguardia shut it down!--& Legit Theatres turned into Second Run Movie Theatres. By the 1960s, many were showing Soft Porn.
Our Mall Show was accompanied by a series of Panels on what could be done to save such Landmarks as David Belasco's Victory, the Empire--built as The Julian Eltinge for that famed Female Impersonator, the Selwyn--now the American Airlines Theatre! & Florenz Ziegfeld's New Amsterdam--original home of the fabulous Ziegfeld Follies.
Your Scribe--as a Prof. of Theatre in the CUNY Program--was Coordinator, along with Dr. Margaret Knapp, who really did all the work…
Among Celebrities on our various Panels were the historian Arthur Schlesinger, jr, the drama critic Stanley Kauffmann, actress Dorothy Stickney, producer Herman Shumlin, the New Yorker's Brendan Gill, producer Alfred de Liagre, jr, restaurateur to the Stars Vince Sardi, designer Ming Cho Lee, & Fred Papert, who was spearheading Redevelopment of 42nd Street.
There were five panels, examining different aspects of Saving the Theatres. The fifth & last, was chaired by Your Scribe, who had invited Gerry Shoenfeld, Cultural Affairs Commissioner Martin E. Segal, Newsweek critic Jack Kroll, director Wynn Handman, & producer Richard Barr--among others--to discuss 42nd Street: Future Showcase of America's Performing Arts.
So much for Future Visions: Disney & American Airlines are now on Broadway…
When it became apparent that there was no Shubert Heir who could continue to operate the Empire created by Sam Shubert & his brother JJ, a NYC Surrogate Judge appointed a Managerial Troika, headed by the lawyers Gerald Schonefeld, Bernie Jacobs, & Irving Goldman.
Goldman has long since disappeared from this Saga, having disgraced himself with Subway Vending Machines. [You could probably Google for more info about his Fate.]
Schoenfeld & Jacobs--who now have theatres named for them, formerly the Plymouth & the Royale, for those interested in Theatre History--saved the Shubert Theatres & even went a long way toward Saving Broadway as well.
My relations with Gerry were generally cordial, although there was a Problem with the Lyceum Theatre. This was the Oldest Broadway Theatre in continuous use as a theatre--it was never turned into a Porn Palace!
The lovely Neo Baroque Lyceum had been built in 1903 by Producer Daniel Frohman to house his repertory theatre company. What made it special was that--for his repertory--Frohman had Costume & Scene Shops, Scene Storage, Rehearsal Spaces, & other production amenities on site, so the theatre complex actually stretched from West 45th Street through to West 46th Street, although in the middle of the block between Sixth & Seventh Avenues.
As with David Belasco's second Broadway theatre--the new Belasco, also between Sixth & Seventh Avenues, but on West 44th Street--Frohman had his own offices & personal apartment way upstairs in the front of the theatre. Both these producers had small doors in the walls so they could look down & see what was happening on stage during rehearsals & performances!
One day, I heard whispers that the "Shuberts"--as Gerry & Bernie were usually called--intended to sell the Lyceum & its Site to a potential Department Store developer. As Stern's had recently closed--& been rapidly demolished--on 42nd Street & Sixth, this seemed a Dumb Idea for Site Use.
Apparently, the "Shuberts" thought the Lyceum was too small to operate as a commercial Broadway Playhouse. But how could this historic theatre be saved? Not by an appeal to the Shubert Management certainly.
Almost in the same week as I discovered the Plot Afoot, Mrs. Daniel Frohman Davidson--"Uncle Dan's" Niece--came to my CUNY office to ask my help in getting the Lyceum Landmarked. We soon succeeded in this, which prevented the "Shuberts" from selling the Site & the Theatre.
I understood why they didn't want to have to "carry" a theatre that was, at least for them, Unproductive. But there was a way to save the theatre, continue to operate it as a Broadway house, & relieve the Shuberts of their Tax & Maintenance Burdens.
This would have been for the City of New York--as had been done with the old Shriners' Auditorium on West 55th Street, which became the NY City Center during the Great Depression--to acquire the Lyceum by Eminent Domain & then lease the theatre for $1 per year to the CUNY PhD Theatre Program. We could have continued to make possible 8 Broadway Performances a week, but under a quite different contract.
We could also have used the auditorium for daytime lectures, panels, & faculty meetings, as all Broadway Theatre Auditoriums are empty--even useless--most of the day.
As Rosemary Harris & Ellis Raab's APA Phoenix Theatre had been resident in the Lyceum, their ingenious stage designer, James Tipton, worked out new ways to use the Complex including an Outside Elevator in the breezeway, to make the usually unsold Balcony easily accessible.
Several years before this, the Saviors of South Street Seaport had asked me to find ways to use some of the then derelict 19th Century Buildings in the area. I had written about their problems--Fish & Ships, for After Dark Magazine--making some suggestions in print.
They thought my idea of a John Street Theatre Museum--the John Street Theatre was NYC's first commercial playhouse, but it no longer exists--was excellent, not only because our first theatre was near the Seaport Site, but also because New York City did not then have--AND STILL DOES NOT--a real Theatre Museum, although it has scattered collections.
Hal Prince, Alex Cohen, Alfred de Liagre, & many other Theatre Luminaries supported the Project, which I & my NYU colleague & friend, Brooks MacNamara, were working out on our own, but without any financial backing up front--or any on the Horizon. [I've never been able to Get a Grant, but I have helped others…]
Our efforts were applauded, if not assisted. Finally, Hal told me he'd talked with other Broadway Machers about the Idea. They loved it, but it needed to be Mid Town, as "no one was ever going to go down to South Street Seaport!" [Clouded Crystal Ball!]
At this time, Jimmy Tipton & I were working out uses for Dan Frohman's backstage shops & spaces. I thought they would be just right for a Midtown Theatre Museum, which could be entered through a real Stage Door!
We could demolish the rabbit warren of office partitions the APA had constructed in Dan Frohman's once luxurious office & apartment, restoring them to former Glories.
The Upstairs Rehearsal Hall--the same size as the downstairs Stage--could become a CUNY CLUB, as the City University, unlike Harvard, Yale, Cornell, & even Williams College, has never had a Midtown Center for Fund Raising, Rallies, & pre theatre cocktails. [It still does not… Why not?]
In the event, the Shuberts saved the Lyceum themselves by ripping out some fore stage boxes to install more seats--with bad sight lines--& otherwise improve Income. They also restored Daniel Frohman's office & apartment, making it the handsome home of the Shubert Archive, created by my esteemed friend, Brooks MacNamara!
Happy Ending & no hard feelings between Gerry & me… As far as I know… He never said anything about this to me afterward…
But both the Belasco & the Lyceum--as also the Cort--are on the Wrong Side of Broadway, for some undefined reason less desirable as Production Venues & not only because they are relatively small…
Donald Margulies' SHIPWRECKED: An Entertainment [*****]
Lynn Nottage's RUINED [****]
Lisa Loomer's DISTRACTED [****]
Gina Gionfriddo's BECKY SHAW [****]
Charles Busch's THE THIRD STORY [***]
Will Ferrell's YOU'RE WELCOME AMERICA: A Final Night with George W. Bush [***]
Arthur Giron's EMILIE'S VOLTAIRE: An 18th Century Sexual Symphony [****]
Hoffman & Holland's CORNBURY: The Queen's Governor [***]
Dan LeFranc's SIXTY MILES TO SILVER LAKE [****]
JT Rogers' WHITE PEOPLE [**]
Philip Ridley's LEAVES OF GLASS [**]
Ella Hickson's EIGHT [***]
A Quartette of New Plays at 59E59:
Edmund White's Terre Haute [***]
Frank McGuinness' GATES OF GOLD [***]
Jane Bodie's RIDE [***]
Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder's FRESH KILLS [***]
Considering the number of New Plays listed above--as well as the on going Tribal & Religious Turbulences which are currently engulfing various areas of the Globe--it may well be some indication of the growing Emotional Isolation & Alienation of most Americans from the so called Outside World that only Lynn Nottage's powerful drama Ruined deals with the immense Human Damage of such Beyond Our Borders Carnage & Killing.
Nottage's Mother Courage is Mama Nadi, who operates a Bar & Whore house in the Congo's Ituri Rainforest. Government & Rebel forces rage, rape, & pillage--it's really about Gold & Diamonds--but the saddest of the casualties are young girls who have been raped, or "Ruined," then cast out by their families & villages. Mama Nadi sells their services to whichever troops are passing through… An impressive cast, deftly deployed by Kate Whoriskey, from Chicago's Goodman Theatre.
Shipwrecked also takes its Manhattan audiences beyond borders, but this Outing is long ago & far away. Donald Margulies' delightful "Entertainment" retells the story of the "Adventures" of Louis de Rougemont. His strange tale of Survival on an Island Kingdom in the distant seas was an immense success when he returned to Civilization. But then he was Unmasked by the Media as a Fabulist, if not an outright Fraud. Fabulous performances from the Three Hander Cast, inspired by director Lisa Peterson.
Mark Wendland's set for Lisa Loomer's Distracted sets up the audience with a myriad of Visual & Audial Distractions even before her desperately distracted Parents appear on the cluttered scene. The Message seems to be that, if you have an Attention Deficiency Challenged Child, you should pay more attention to him. This is like telling Stressed Out New Yorkers to avoid Stress. Nonetheless, this is an immensely clever comedy of Familial Dysfunction. Director Mark Brokaw evoked excellent performances from Cynthia Nixon & her cast mates.
Shown last Spring at the Actors' Theatre Louisville Humana Festival, Gina Gionfriddo's Becky Shaw has been improved by some pruning, but the Human Time Bomb, Becky, is neither Vanity Fairish or Shavian. Actually, the priggishly inhumane Max--with whom she is "set up"--is far more interesting in Gionfriddo's Social Context. As staged by Peter DuBois--no relation to Blanche--this show is an almost perfect satirio comic machine. Max: David Wilson Barnes--a name to fill up a Marquée!
Postcard of the Third Story by Charles Busch. Design by www.toofabulousforwords.com
The title of Charles Busch's new Cross Dresser suggests such dramas as The Second Story Man or The Passing of the Third Floor Back, but The Third Story is actually about Plot Lines. The fiendishly intricate intertwining of Onstage Reality with plot events in imagined Screenplay Drafts provides the framework for Busch to appear in various Designer Drags.
Busch is unquestionably the Julian Eltinge of Our Era--Pace Charles Ludlam!--but the most amazing performance comes from the frenetic Jonathan Walker, a man of many instant character changes. Not quite a Lon Chaney, the Man of a Thousand Faces, but well on his way. Kathleen Turner was his onstage Mother/Co Screenwriter, adroitly encouraged by director Carl Andress.
It might have been more amusing to see George W. Bush attempt to Impersonate Will Ferrell. Or is Ferrell the sort of Personality who can actually be Parodied? Just a Streaming Consciousness of actual Bush Quotes might have been more interesting than Ferrell's re working of these texts & of the more outrageous Bush Gaffes. Perhaps he should have asked Jon Stewart's writers to help him out? Most amazing, however, were the $200 plus preferred ticket prices on offer at the box office…Perhaps I should recuse myself from commenting on Emilie's Voltaire, as its inventor, the distinguished playwright Arthur
Giron, is a very old friend of mine. We met initially when he was working on ways to dramatize the mystifying & ultimately tragic story of Edith Stein. Not so long ago, one of the recent Popes elevated Edith Stein to Holocaust Sainthood.: "Our Sister of the Holocaust" or words to that effect…
Emilies's Voltaire by Arthur Giron and Kevin Confoy. Graphic Design by Jay Ballestros, Daymoon Design.
But this presents a Problem to professional Holocaust Hard Liners, as Edith Stein was born a Jewess! What is more, as a Jew, she became a distinguished Professor of Philosophy & a Thinker. What is Unthinkable about Prof. Dr. Edith Stein, however, is that she eventually turned her back upon her Race, Religion, & Profession to become a Carmelite Nun!
The Carmelites do not talk much, if at all. They pray & meditate silently: what an about face--or volte face--for a Philosophy Prof! From Rationalism to Roman Catholicism!
Nonetheless, when the Gestapo was rounding up Jews in the Netherlands, they seized not only Anne Frank--now a kind of Poster Child for the Evils of the Holocaust--but also the Carmelite Nun Edith Stein. But being a Converted Catholic did not save her from a Nazi Gas Chamber or the Crematorium…
The Raging Question remains--at least for Holocaust Invested Orthodox Jews vs. the Catholic Hierarchy--unresolved in this World: "Did Edith Stein die a Jew in her innermost of hearts, or did she die a Catholic?"
Arthur Giron has wrestled repeatedly with this Paradox, with great dramatic effect. He has also written wonderfully of an Immigrant Jewish Experience in America: Becoming Memory. This has yet to be produced in New York…
Arthur Giron comes from Guatemala--his family having fled the Holocaust to the New World--so he has an understandable interest in History: not only where we came from, but also where we might be bound!
Emilie's Voltaire doesn't offer a Guide to the Future, but it does help explain how a Truth Teller like Voltaire was able, not only to Survive in a time of Absolute Monarchs, but also to be so productive as a Thinker & Satirist.
Frankly--aside from already knowing something about Voltaire's Visit with Frederic the Great at Sans Souci in Potsdam--I knew almost nothing about Voltaire's Life in France: either as a Scourge of the Rich & Foolish or as a Private Person. And the only indication I had previously of Voltaire's Views on Sex were derived from his classic satire: Candide--which most of us know only thanks to Leonard Bernstein!
Giron's Emilie fills in many of the gaps: Imagine an on going affair with a very intelligent but impetuous Aristocratic Married Woman, whose husband is both a man of Consequence & Power. Fortunately, even though Giron sub titles his often amusing drama "a sexual symphony," it also provides some provocative insights into the already troubling times in Pre Revolutionary France.
Emilie's Voltaire ends in 1749: the Bastille fell in 1789. The Bourbon Monarchy couldn't see it coming: Voltaire's eyes were far sharper about the Future, but not so much about his own life… Giron was fortunate to have Kevin Confoy directing such fine players as Michael Medeiros & Amy Lynn Stewart as his two quasi philosophical Lovers.
Charles Busch isn't the only avant garde guy who likes to don stylish frocks & wear important ear rings to set off elegantly coiffed wigs. No! No, indeedy! There's also the inimitable David Greenspan!
As Cornbury, Greenspan--any relation to Alan?--gets to wear elaborate panniered skirts & full Anglican Colonial Drag!
David Greenspan as Lord Cornbury
Appointed Queen Anne's Colonial Governor in New York, Cornbury's Cross Dressing was a Scandal, especially to the pious Dutch Settlers, who created New Amsterdam before the Brits seized it from them.
Another Veteran of the Off Off Broadway Alternative Avant Garde Theatre, the imitable Everett Quinton--unlike his late partner, Charles Ludlam--did not choose to provide a Female Impersonation, although his Dutch Pastor was often in a bit of a Hissy Fit. This production was Jolly Fun & should be seen more widely. Just Imagine ex Mayor Rudy Giuliani in Drag as Lord Cornbury!
Lee Blessing recently gave his fans a drama about a Dad kidnapping his estranged daughter--her Mom got Custody--in order to re establish a Good Relationship. Not quite the same, Sixty Miles to Silver Lake deals with Father Son Bonding, though not as a Blessing…
Yes, there is Prejudice Out There. Yes, some White People harbor almost irrational Fears & Hatreds. But JT Rogers stacks the Deck with his portraits. Powerful, in their various ways, but also prejudiced…
Victor Villar Hauser starred as Steven--directed by Ludovica Villar Hauser--in Philip Ridley's Leaves of Glass. The play's title has nothing to do with Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, although some potential viewers did not understand that.
The Core of the drama--yes, there were some glass leaves, after all!--concerns the failure of two brothers to Come to Terms with the Past, each having a quite different Recall of What Really Happened. Although played with some intensity, the production had rather the sense of a Villar Hauser Self Gratification Showcase…
Every August, as many as two thousand different Theatre, Dance, & Musical productions are offered at the Edinburgh
Fringe Festival. Your Scribe formerly attempted to see as many of these as possible, preferring to follow the Fringe First Awards as a guideline. But Carol Tambor has set up her own Best of Edinburgh Award, which finances an all expense paid run in New York City!Eight is the Fifth of Tambor's Best, recently shown at PS 122. In Ella Hickson's series of short Couplings, eight attractive British Twenty Somethings provide some odd and/or amusing Insights into the peculiar Problems in Personal & Sexual Relationships of an Inter generation of what once were Rebels but now find almost anything acceptable. Some of these skits are Keepers for Stateside Study & Performance, but others are so British that you really had to have been there…
59E59 as a Theatre Space--three of them, actually--has the Virtue of being on the "Right Side" of Madison Avenue, although it is actually on the Left Side, if you approach it from Uptown. The admirable Primary Stages is a primary tenant, with Shipwrecked! currently selling out in Theatre A!
Theatres B & C are on the third floor level, with their various attractions having variously spaced Curtain Times. This prevents Entering & Exiting Audiences from drowning out the dialogue in Shows In Progress. Unfortunately, there is only room for Three Seniors to sit in the ground floor Lobby, which produces a Gray Haired Pile Up when hordes of Golden Agers descend on the Box Office.
"Terre Haute" by Edmund White at the 59E59 Theater from February 13 to Fabruary 15 2009.
Among the B & C productions recently, Edmund White's Terre Haute has been luring the most viewers. This may be partly attributed to the Literary Fame of White, who has distinguished himself as a Writer with a Gay Sensibility.
Indiana's Terre Haute is not--in & of itself--a very interesting place, but it is the site of Max Security Fed Prison where Enemies of the State are Executed!
Tim McVeigh--no Taliban he--was executed here for his horrendous One Man Oklahoma City Bombing. White's play imagines an effete older author & essayist--modeled on Gore Vidal--coming to visit McVeigh in prison & discover his Motives for the Bombing.
Working man's clothes presented Freshkills by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder, from February 12 throught March 1 at 59E59 Theaters.
The Visits never happened, but there was an Exchange of Letters. Peter Eyre plays James/Gore, with Nick Westrate as Harrison/Tim. As with Truman Capote & Perry in In Cold Blood, there are homosexual overtones in James' fascination with Harrison. But he is more interested in him as a Rebel against the Erosion of Essential America. Unfortunately for this Liberal Vision, Harrison turns out to be an Ignorant Hate Driven Paranoid Killer.
As for Fresh Kills, yes, that is the actual name of the place on Staten Island where Manhattan dumps its Garbage. Amazing that in the tiny stage space at 59E59 so much garbage & an actual Pick Up could be accommodated, as well as some spectators.
As with Arthur Miller's Eddie Carbone, in A View from the Bridge, playwright EG Wilder's Eddie also has a Problem about Sexual Identity. But where Miller hints, Wilder has a Teen Age Male Sexual Hustler Stalker go down on Eddie in the Pick Up. Obviously, this cannot Turn Out Well, as Eddie is a Married Man & his Cop Buddy is also his Brother in Law! Does this sound like a Major Motion Picture, or what…
Ride, written by Jane Bodie and directed by Nick Flint.
Jane Bodie's Ride is a two hander about a man who cannot commit & a confused woman. It is set in Melbourne, Australia, even though director Nick Flint & actor Jeremy Waters are from Sydney, a rather more interesting Metropolis than Melbourne--which does have an impressive Arts Center. This is a production of the Outhouse Theatre Company: that's surely Aussie Humor…
The Gates of Gold by Frank McGuiness and Kent Paul.
A critic colleague had excoriated Frank McGuinness' play, Gates of Gold, before I had the opportunity to see it. As I admire McGuinness as a very interestingcontemporary Irish Playwright, I was determined to see this show. Staged by Kent Paul, it is sensitively acted--flamboyantly even, with Martin Rayner as the Dying Star, Gabriel.
Indeed, I was so absorbed in the action--not having read the program before--it was only on my way home that I realized that Gabriel was in fact based on Míchaél MacLiammóir, founder of Dublin's famed Gate Theatre, together with his Life Partner, the theatre's Manager/Producer Hilton Edwards--reservedly played by Charles Shaw Robinson.
As the drama notes, these two strangely matched men lived proudly & openly as Gay Lovers in a time when it was still Against the Law to Practice Homosexuality. Openly or otherwise… Considering the dark depressive power of Irish Catholicism, this was all the more remarkable, but their Theatre & their Productions forgave them much.
The Gate was founded in 1928, the year in which Your Scribe was born. But I count myself lucky to have seen them both at work at the Gate, having first come to Dublin in 1956, when I was teaching Overseas. The Abbey Theatre was great, but so was the Gate!
Old Plays in Revival:
Richard Greenberg's THE AMERICAN PLAN [****]
Brian Friel's ARISTOCRATS [***]
Henrik Ibsen's HEDDA GABLER [**]
Wm. Shakespeare's THE WINTER'S TALE [*****]
Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard [****]
Anton Chekhov's Uncle Vanya [****]
Tennessee Williams' TEN BLOCKS ON THE CAMINO REAL [***]
Bill Prosser's THE LATE PLAYS OF TENNESEE WILLIAMS [*****]
[Nota Bene: This is a Book! Not a Play…]
The American Plan by Richard Greenberg, directed by David Grindley.
Henry James' novel of Old New York, Washington Square/The Heiress, was reworked by Richard Greenberg in The American Plan, but his Heiress was not a repressed Wasp. In fact, Greenberg was able to improve on Henry James by conflating the Holocaust & Homosexuality into his Dramatic Dough. In the current revival--Greenberg's plays seem to invite revivals--both Mercedes Ruehl & Lily Rabe are well worth the journey to the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre! Good Old Sam Friedman! A Name to Conjure with…
The estimable Charlotte Moore--Guiding Light of the Irish Repertory Theatre--has mounted an interesting revival of Brian Friel's Aristocrats, demonstrating once again why the Anglo Irish had it all over the Native Irish at being Grand in a Stately Home.
As for Grand Mansions, Hedda Gabler finds herself trapped in the grandest house in Provincial Norway, but this Noble Manse seems to have once been a Fun & Games Establishment as it has a Grand Mirror slanted over a Central Settée, on which the bare buttocked Hedda is initially Discovered!
Why the Roundabout Theatre thought it was High Time for yet another Hedda Revival--after both BAM & NY Theatre Workshop had recently given Ibsen's drama notable Make Overs--challenges the Imagination. Did they really believe Mary Louise Parker was right for this role? Or did they rather want to Showcase the New "Adaptation" by Christopher Shinn--which was based on a Literal Translation by Anne Charlotte Harvey? Does this mean that Shinn cannot read Norwegian?
Why this Producer Passion for New Translations & "Adaptations" of Modern Classics? William Archer's initial Ibsen translations into English are in the Public Domain, so why pay more money for new versions which lack the Authentic Late 19th Century Period Tone of both Ibsen & Archer?
Does a new production of Hedda have more resonance if Hedda smashes Eilert Lovborg's Laptop--seen at BAM--rather than when she burns his Magnificent Thought Changing Manuscript?
At the Magnificent & Magisterial BAM/Bridge Winter's Tale, a lovely lady seated next to me asked if I had seen Uncle Vanya? Indeed I had, struck with admiration at the in character concentration of most of the actors, as I was seated about five inches away from Sonia & Astroff!
She then asked me how I liked the New Translation. In fact, I had wondered why it was also necessary for CSC to re translate Chekhov, when there are already adequate English Versions extant? Truthfully, I was so focused on the characters in action that I had not really paid attention to any Translator Improvements in the script.
Not having an inkling of the Import of her Question, I offered a dismissive response--which I instantly regretted, as she then said: "It was my translation."
So I must now offer, in contrition, the observation that this version seems perfectly serviceable--especially as it is a direct translation from the Original Russian, not an "Adaptation" or a "New Version."
Next time--when someone asks: "How did you like me in the play?"--I really need to Think Twice before responding. When, however, an actress asks: "How did you LOVE me in the play?"--you already have your Cue for the Correct Response!
As designed by Santo Loquasto, CSC's Vanya seems to be taking place in an Old Barn--minus shingles or wall boarding--that is pushed right into the audience's faces.
Considering the fact that there are all of 26 rooms of this decaying Country Estate, which only adds to the growing depression of spirits of the lovely Helena--trapped in a mis matched marriage, as well as trapped out in the Provincial Russki Boondocks--suggests that a different Scenic Solution might have served this Tragi Comedy more effectively.
Nonetheless, director Austin Pendleton has helped his generally admirable cast to be very much In the Moment. The Chekhovian Anti Chemistry between Astroff & Sonia was especially poignant, thanks largely to Mamie Gummer, abetted by Peter Sarsgaard's Astroff. Also on the Estate: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Denis O'Hare, & George Morfogen…
Several reviewers made a point in print of looking forward to the time when people will not feel compelled to mention who Mamie Gummer's Mother is. I believe that time has now arrived!
As for BAM's Bridge Season--which, I assume, means Bridging the Atlantic, possibly between Kevin Spacey's Old Vic Franchise & Brooklyn based BAM--thus far it has been an immense Success.
Although BAM once had a memorable Peter Brook devised Cherry Orchard on Persian Carpets, Sam Mendes has re imagined Chekhov's Masterpiece yet again. Tom Stoppard provided the New Version--something Admirable Playwrights are apt to do when they are experiencing Dramatists' Block.
Both Winter's Tale & Cherry Orchard have been handsomely but minimally designed by Anthony Ward, with attractive & evocative costumes by Catherine Zuber & subtle lighting by Paul Pyant. It is important to call attention to such aspects of production, not only because they create visual/emotional Milieux which enable the actors to bring their Characters to Vibrant Life, but also because when they are most effective, they are usually least noticed by audiences!
Central to the powerful effects of both dramas in these BAM/Bridge productions are the strongly contrasting performances of Simon Russell Beale as Lopahin & Leontes. He is an Amazement!
Those Media Important Drama Critics who are actually Paid to review plays have raved at length about the wonders & splendors of both productions, so Your Scribe--who is neither Paid nor Thanked for his Screeds--will not further expand on these Dithyrambs of Praise.
Nonetheless, having seen a number of productions of the seldom staged Winter's Tale, I must admit that this was the most effective, the most moving staging I have ever seen of what is surely an extremely Difficult Drama.
As with King Lear--who almost in an instant turns against his beloved daughter Cordelia, when he is unwisely dividing up his Kingdom--so also does King Leontes seem in--matter of minutes to turn from affection for his old friend Polixenes & his beloved wife Hermione to totally misplaced dark suspicions & raging hatred, based on jealous whims.
Over time, I have talked about these strange changes in both dramas with a range of notable directors of Shakespeare's plays. Almost all of them have told me that you just have to move the scene along as fast as you can, so the audience doesn't really have time to think about what is happening.
Both Lear's & Leonte's changes of heart seem to make no sense…
But that may be exactly what both plays are all about?
Having done stage lighting for Winter's Tale once upon a time, I was once able to run almost all the lines for myself. Or prompt, when needed.
But one reading of one word in the present production was a Revelation to me: the word is Recreation.
In most contemporary stagings of Winter's Tale--there haven't been all that many, in fact--the word is customarily uttered somewhat like REH kree ay shun. As in such phrases as: Summer Camp Recreation or Spa Recreation Director.
But Simon Russell Beale's stunned & appalled Leontes--devastated by the Fatal Consequences of his Overpowering Jealousy--promises the Adamant Paulina that he will make Prayers & Lamentations in the Chapel dedicated to his Dead Queen his constant Re Creation! How that reading affects all that follows…
I was surprised to hear some colleagues and/or friends say they didn't like Paulina. Not necessarily Sinéad Cusak--who, for me, wonderfully embodied this pivotal character--but the woman in the play: "She was really nasty to the King!" "She's a meddlesome old bitch!" "Who does she think she is, that she can talk to the King like that?"
It is always an Amazement to me how many people do not know many of Shakespeare's plays--especially drama critics--either from not having ever read them or having seen productions of them!
When I first came to New York, back in 1960, I was surprised to hear some Major Reviewers laughing heartily at Shakespearean Jokes that were Four Hundred Years Old! I soon discovered that it was their First Time!
My dear old father, Mert Loney--who first saw/heard a Shakespeare play when he was 80 years old--laughed lustily at the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Comedy of Errors at the NY State Theatre during our last World's Fair. As both Academic & Critic, I pointed out to him that Four Centuries had passed since those jokes were first told on the stage of the Globe Theatre in London!
"Don't matter: they're still funny…"
There's one more Shakespeare staging promised for BAM this Spring, but it's not a Bardic View from the Bridge. Instead, The Merchant of Venice will be re imagined by Edward Hall's All Male Propeller Company.
Hall extrapolates such ensemble casting/playing from the Historical Fact that No Women were permitted on the Elizabethan Stage. But--aside from old Nurses, Scolds, & Crusty Aristocrats--all Shakespeare's Great Women were played by Boy Actors! Vide: Antony & Cleopatra: "I shall see some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness I' the posture of a whore." [Italics added…]
Although we regally refrain from mentioning the name of Mamie Gummer's Mother, it seems safe to note that both Edward Hall & Rebecca Hall--Hermione in Winter's Tale--are the Talented Progeny of the variously married Sir Peter Hall! [Leslie Caron was one of the Lucky Ladies!]
However Amazed & Angered you--as American Tax Payers--may well be, the Big Bail Out for the Bank of America has at least made it possible for what was once AP Giannini's Bank of California to prop up the BrooklynBamBridge with a generous Subsidy! Your Tax Dollars at Work!
Tennessee Williams' Camino Real--as re imagined by David Herskovits' always inventive Target Margin from one of the various versions Williams left behind--was probably the last show to play in the historic Ohio Theatre, down on Wooster Street. Even America's Total Economic Collapse seems not sufficient to deter Developers from Demolition of Our Architectural Past…
For a variety of reasons, what was originally a one act play has never been easy to make work on stage. My most vivid memory of a Camino Real in production was that one in which the late Jules Irving played Kilroy, boxing gloves & all. Irving's Kilroy was definitely Here…
The Concept of the Virginity of the Gypsy's Daughter, Esmeralda, being renewed by a New Moon is certainly a Beacon of Hope in Troubled Times! It is no more Delusional than Treasury infusing Billions of US $$$$$$$$ into AIG or General Motors!
Target Margin's production of Tennessee Williams' Camino Real could not have opened at a better time for me: I had just received Bill Prosser's long awaited study of William's late plays, including his comments on the various versions of Camino Real.
This fascinating book is "long awaited" for an Unfortunate Reason. Although Prosser had staged Williams' plays & worked closely with the playwright in Key West & elsewhere, when he sought publication of his manuscript, this was deliberately blocked by someone Williams had loved & trusted.
This was the Lady Maria St. Just, to whom Williams left control of his literary properties. It would have been impossible--unthinkable, even--to discuss the Late Plays--which few Williams fans had read or seen--without using some illuminating quotations from these virtually unknown scripts.
This the Lady forbade, as she agreed with the generally Negative Reactions of Drama Critics to those of the late plays that had been produced. She was on record as opposing dialogue quotations--even attention being paid--for fear this might diminish or damage Williams' distinguished reputation as the author of Glass Menagerie & Streetcar Named Desire.
Among the dramas that greatly profit from Prosser's very Insightful Analyses are such works as The Red Devil Battery Sign, Clothes for a Summer Hotel, Kingdom of Earth, Slapstick Tragedy, The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, The Seven Descents of Myrtle, In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel, Vieux Carré, & Something Cloudy, Something Clear.
Once upon a time, I was able to interview Tennessee. He made two strong points about his work as a playwright: "You can't retire as an artist" & "The Catastrophe of Success."
These reactions were prompted by my noting the disappointment of many critics--especially with his later plays--that he was not writing Glass Menagerie & Streetcar over & over again. That he had moved on, even though critics & audiences had not…
Actually, I have seen most of the late plays--often in critically maligned productions, which did the essence of the dramas no good services. But on those occasions, I was more baffled by the productions than, perhaps, by the plays themselves. And it was not always helpful to discuss, say, Slapstick Tragedy, with a director like the late Alan Schneider, before seeing his staging.
So I am relieved that Bill Prosser did not quote from any of my less than insightful reviews of some of these plays. I could only wish that I had had the advantage of reading Bill's book before seeing any of those stagings.
Perhaps I should now explain that Bill Prosser--who was Head of the Directing Program for the Department of Theatre at Brooklyn College--& Your Scribe shared an office for a number of richly rewarding years.
But what I did not realize--until I began reading this wonderfully written book--that my friend Bill was so Intelligent, Witty, Wise, & also Compassionate!
Our Office Talk was mostly banalities: Bill! I miss you & now deeply regret all those Missed Opportunities to have learned from you!
Ed Sherin has written the Foreword for The Late Plays of Tennessee Williams: he is a worthy Witness. [Ed long ago invited me down to Washington's Arena Stage to sit in on his rehearsals for Howard Sackler's Award Winning The Great White Hope, which I then reported on for Today's Theatre, now defunct.]
Scarecrow Press has published The Late Plays of Tennessee Williams. For more information or to order Prosser's book, try www.scarecrowpress.com.
"This Beautiful City" by The Civilians
THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY [***]
THE STORY OF MY LIFE [Closed by Popular Demand!]
Now that it is Unsafe & Unwise to Fly at any time or at any Price, you no longer have to worry about booking return air fare to Colorado Springs. The Civilians have been there already & they are prepared to share with you--in Songs & Interviews--the Militant Christianization of the US Air Force Academy & the Disastrous Downfall of the Rev. Ted Haggard of the New Life Mega Church! All in the lingering shadows of Pike's Peak!
This is the THIRD Time I have seen this production: fortunately, it seems to get better, maybe a bit shorter as well. Or am I just getting used to It?
Rather than re cycle old reviews, Your scribe would advise Googling backward to the Show Notes reports from Washington, DC, & last Spring's Humana Festival in Louisville.
At the Vineyard Theatre--across from Union Square Park--some Spectators did pick up their things & leave before the show was over, but they looked like Serious Right Thinking God Fearing Christians who had been offended by the Recreated Interviews the Civilians had actually conducted with Real People in Colorado Springs. Conversations even with Atheists, Trans Sexuals, & Homosexual Protestant Negro Parsons!
The Coverage is certainly Fair & Balanced, but also enjoyably Musical!
For those who are easily offendable when Religious Belief is in the Spot Light in such a show, it is almost impossible not to be annoyed or outraged by these Stupid, Crazy, Cockamamie, Ridiculous, Superstitious, & even Hateful Articulations of What Other People Believe…
But doesn't Someone have to be Wrong?
Why don't The Civilians Interview God? They could find out what He/She really has to say about Belief in Him/Her!
In any case, Civilians, did you actually ask yourselves before you began this Project: WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
Your Scribe was booked for The Story of My Life shortly after it opened--to strongly negative reviews, it should be noted. But when he arrived at the tiny little Booth Theatre, it was dark as a Black Hole, with a small notice on the doors that the show had already closed! A trip for nothing on a cold winter evening. But why didn't this New Musical's PR people call to alert me that there would be no performances? It would have been a Courtesy, even though I am not Mr. First Nighter…
Old Musicals in Revival
There were no major revivals of Old Musicals in this review period. But some are On The Way! Look for Guys & Dolls, West Side Story, & Hair--re treaded from its Shakespeare in the Park summer run.
Years ago--in Who Needs Theatre?--Your Roving Reporter argued--not only that We All Need Theatre, most of all when Daily Life & The Future are looking Darkest--but also that we should have a Permanent Subsidized Musical Theatre, featuring a rotating repertory of the Best American Musicals, as is the case in many major European Capitals.
Why shouldn't outstanding repertory productions of, say, Oklahoma!, West Side Story, & Cabaret be on tap as Bohème, Aïda, & Meistersinger are at the Met? With possible revivals of Greenwillow or Magdalena, for added treats?
Actually, you have more opportunities to see productions of Vintage American Masterpiece Musicals in Munich, Budapest, & Vienna than you do in, say, Chicago, San Francisco, or Dallas. Forget about New Orleans! Everyone else seems to have done so…
Don't bother to look for Who Needs Theatre? at your local Branch Library--if it has not already been Closed for Lack of Funds. This book was never published, although a number of Editors admired it.
The well worn Manuscript was usually returned, with comments like this: "Glenn, I loved this. I stayed up all night to finish it! But what you are urging--Subsidized Theatre--means MORE TAXES! No one wants to pay More Taxes!"
In the meantime, the much admired drama critic, Robert Brustein, used that very title for a collection of his elegant theatre essays & critiques. No matter: the original manuscript has been scanned, amended, edited, proofed, & formatted, ready to be put On Line at ArtsArchive.com in the Glenn Loney Book Shop.
Now may be the Right Time for two Government Subsidized National Repertory Theatres: One for American Dramas & the Other for American Musicals. They could both be based in New York, but with National Touring Potential.
No Broadway Musical Theatres, however, have the backstage production potential for Repertory, as the Met does for Opera. But, with a Central Production & Storage Facility, the musicals could be rotated among Depression Darkened Broadway Playhouses!
In the Dead of Winter--amidst the apparent Total Economic Collapse of the American Capitalist Banking & Brokerage System--both long running & recently opened Old Musicals have been closing.
Announcing a Limited Run is, of course, often a Ploy to Sell Tickets. If the revival proves a Hit, guess what! The Run can be Extended. Or the show moved to a vacant theatre!
On a recent Wednesday evening, half hour before curtain, there were only a handful of Twenty Somethings with backpacks outside Phantom. Usually, there is a long line of eager Lloyd Webber admirers, clamoring for admission to this Longest Running of Broadway Shows.
If the American People can Afford Multi Multi Billion Dollar Bail Outs for Wall Street & The Bank of America--were we in fact consulted about this?--why cannot Pres. Obama & the US Congress create jobs in the American Theatre, for the Benefit of the American People?
Who have nothing good to expect from the AIG, UBS, Morgan Stanley, Citicorp, Chase, JP Morgan, & Wells Fargo Bail Outs…
At this Point in Time, we need much much more than FDR & Hallie Flannigan's justly admired--but torpedoed by Congress--Federal Theatre Project!
Other Entertainments/Other Venues
Nights at the Metropolitan Opera:
Giuseppe Verdi's IL TROVATORE [***]
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's EUGENE ONEGIN [*****]
Francesco Cilea's ADRIANA LECOUVREUR [****]
CW Gluck's ORFEO ED EURIDICE [***]
Gaetano Donizetti's LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR [****]
At the Bayreuth Festival--the Fountainhead of Richard Wagner "Workshop" Opera Stagings--Critics & Public alike get all four tickets for productions of the RING. You either get them all, or you get NONE.
Most often, it is the latter, as some Wagnerites have to wait ten years for a ticket to, say, Parsifal. The Season is so short; the Festspielhaus auditorium so small, & the Demand so Great that annual Waiting Lists are seemingly endless…
This should not seem such a problem at the Met, which will shortly revive the old Otto Schenk staging of the RING, but there are only Three Cycles available. And Wagner's Four part Saga will not be returned to the Met Repertory until the Season of 2011 12, we are told. Fiendishly difficult now to assemble a competent cast to sing so many Demanding Roles…
So there is already a Waiting List for Music & Musik Theater Critics who want to report on the stagings of Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, & Götterdämmerung.
Unfortunately, Your Scribe is not even on a Waiting List, as the Annual Conference of the American Theatre Critics Association in Sarasota--as well as other stage oriented obligations--make it impossible to see any of the three Cycles in sequence.
Nor will I be permitted to review the new Sonnambula--starring Natalie Dessay!--owing to the immense demand for Press Seats. Fortunately, I have seen her already in other venues & other productions, including the Salzburg Festival.
These are, of course, disappointments, but when the Met Management may have to pawn its immense Marc Chagall Magic Flute Murals hanging over the Foyer--thanks to the Impending Collapse of American Capitalism--we all must make Sacrifices!
Fortunately, I was able to see once again the Met's magical Eugene Onegin, as well as its less magical Mark Morris Inflected Orfeo ed Euridice.
Robert Carsen's Minimalist Vision of Onegin is devastating both in its Beauty & its Emptiness. Thomas Hampson was a weathered Onegin, already old before he began his wanderings. He is noble & admirable, but this role would be better served by a younger talent. Of course, he is not the only Onegin in the Met's Stable of Operatic Studs.
Karita Mattila was also rather more Majestic & Matronly than one might wish for a glowing shy young Tatiana. The Problem for both of them is not just a matter of Appearances & Vitality, but also of their Matured Voices…
Mark Morris' Orfeo--credited to Morris, as le Chevalier Christoph Willibald Gluck's Musical Vision of this Ancient Tale seems somewhat subservient to Morris' bustling Post Modernist Choreographies--is astonishing the First Time Round. But the Morrisian Inventiveness begins to seem Repetitive on Subsequent Seeings.
One reason for this--as well as with Bob Fossé choreographies--is the Limitation of Morris' Dance Movement Vocabulary. Bob choreographed--even for Gwen Verdon--on his own body, working dances out in advance of rehearsals, rather than letting them Evolve, building on the distinctive talents & physical abilities of his dancers.
Of course, that's what made these choreographies so distinctive & almost immediately recognizable as a Morris or a Fossé Dance Sequence. But you may not want to see such sequences over & over.
Actually, Orfeo is not entirely about dancing in Elysian Fields, although you might not know that from this production.
What was especially rewarding on the evening I saw Orfeo again was the unexpected appearance of Kirstin Chávez as Orfeo: very impressive, both visually & vocally! As Stephanie Blythe had been repeatedly advertised as Orfeo on WQXR--the Classical Music Station--I was tiring of that prospect.
But Danielle de Niese's Euridice was certainly rewarding, in spite of Morris' staging of her scenes. Heidi Grant Murphy's garden swing Amor is charming, but later Morris has her just sitting there on stage… James Levine conducted with verve, as befits a determinedly Fun production.
Considering the visual & emotional brilliance of some of Mark Lamos' stagings for the New York City Opera, his Adriana Lecouvreur for the Met seems uninspired, even occasionally cluttered. Too vast a Scene, with too many Characters & Extras in costume?
The Plot Complications--at this late date or Point in Time--do not seem especially Compelling, but that may also be a fault of Francesco Cilea's scoring of the libretto. Scribe & Sardou have had their Day, anyway.
Nonetheless, who can complain, with the admirable Maria Guleghina as Adriana & the imposing Olga Borodino as la Princesse de Bouillon? Plus Marcello Giordani as Maurizio! Marco Armiliato conducted.
Actually, I did get to see Anna Netrebko this Winter, but it was on the rather small silver screen of that Multiplex at Union Square, where Circuit City & Virgin Records are going under.
A friend treated me to one of those Met at the Movies HD Adventures, notably Mary Zimmerman's production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor.
Although I have watched the TV cameras at work in the orchestra of the Met during actual performances, I had no idea of the effect on screen of the live recordings made by that little camera that scoots back & forth on the lip of the stage. Not to overlook the cameras high up in the flies & on the sides!
Even with the periodic interference of raising Opera Glasses to your eyes for a Close Up, you cannot have the same sense of a staging & the characters' emotions that is made possible by the deft editing of these Movie Theatre Presentations. They provide a remarkably seamless Overview & Close Up Experience of a production!
Pre performance & Intermission Interviews also offer both Opera Lovers & Novices who have never been Backstage or in a Dressing Room a wonderfully instructive entry into the Mysteries of the Musical Theatre.
These also gave me the opportunity to meet--at least on tape--the accomplished conductor, Marco Armiliato, who seems a charming, witty, & altogether delightful man & artist!
Seeing set up & strike of the massive Lucia sets was also impressive. But some of the interviews would have worked better had they not seemed to be in the way of the scene changes: too rushed, too breathless…
As for the Contemporary Relevance of Verdi's Il Trovatore--as we do not have Witch Burnings anymore & all the Gypsies seem to be sitting in store fronts, waiting to Tell Your Fortune--Salvadore Cammarno's fraught Libretto has long seemed a proper subject for Parody.
Were it not for the Famous Anvil Chorus & some notable Arias & Duets, you would not want to pay Big Bucks to see a play about a mother throwing her own baby into a Raging Fire. You can get all of that free on TV!
Trovatore was, however, my first Opera Favorite, as my Mother had bought a huge Victrola, with lots of opera records, at an auction for $10! Who wanted Opera Records in the Great Depression?
I played Trovatore--sung in English--over & over, until the disk wore out. But, by that time, I could sing along with both Solos & Choruses.
I marveled at Manrico's love for both his Mother, the Gypsy Seer Azucena--who was not his real mother--as well as for his doomed love, Leonora.
And, as for the "Villainous" Count de Luna--well, Milton Cross had referred to this Malignant Character on the Saturday Afternoon Texaco Met Broadcasts so often as "Villainous," I thought it might be part of his Title…
In the Met's new production--conducted by Gianandrea Noseda--Dolora Zajick was an impressive Azucena, with Marcelo Álvarez a stalwart Manrico. In some sense, however, they were overshadowed by the power of Dmitri Hvorostovsky's vocal & physical Menace as that very same Villainous Count de Luna.
Several summer seasons ago, Trovatore was mounted on the great Lake Stage of the Bregenz Festival. The immense stage set--sprouting right out of the waters of Lake Constance--was a flame belching Oil Refinery! This also tended to Overshadow all else. But this was not a Trovatore staging one could soon forget!
Unfortunately, the Met's new stage filling Scenic Vision of Trovatore also Overshadows, to the point of Visually Dominating, as well as impeding movement, where it should instead be an effective platform and/or background to the Singers & the Action. Director David McVicar & set designer Charles Edwards deserve blame, rather than credit, for this…
At The New Victory
JASON & THE ARGONAUTS [***]
The young Acrobatics who form the core of the corps of Groupe Acrobatique de Tanger--Tangier, for visitors to Morocco's most famed city--are members of the Hammich Family who have been performing street shows for over Seven Generations. They are Terrific!
But now their varied skills have now been orchestrated by the French director, Aurélien Bory, with the integration of Circus, Dance, Theatre, & Video. The resulting & dazzling show is a tissue or a fabric of these skills, which is what Taoub means in Moroccan Arabic!
Goupe Acrobatique de Tanger's new show: Taoub.
There are 12 of these attractive & agile Taoubistes, but only three still bear the Hammich Family Name. By whatever Name, they are all engaging performers & deserve to be widely seen & enjoyed!
As for the ingenious re telling of the Old Tale of Jason & the Argonauts, it takes only 2 very inventive men to do the deed! Simon Donaldson & Tim Settle are often hilarious, when they are not desperate--for seizing the Golden Fleece is an almost impossible Feat of Daring & Courage. You really need a girl like Medea on your side. [But you should not betray her later on, or you will surely regret it!]
At Wales Week in NYC
LONESOME VALLEY & CLYMAU--A New Musical
This is the second season I've been able to enjoy the fresh young talents of the Drama Kids from Trinity University College, located in Carmarthen, Wales. They were here as part of Wales Week in NYC 2009.
Yiddish may be dying out & the Irish--liberated from British Rule in 1926--had to learn Gaelic all over again, but the Welsh Language has never died. And, at this rate, it never will, as classes at Trinity are conducted in the Mother Language of the students.
The engaging actor/singers--the Welsh are a Singing People!--are enrolled in Ysgol Theatr, Cerdd a'r Cyfryngau at Trinity, where they can elect in their second year of Theatre, Music, & Communications to have a semester in the USA at the University Rio Grande Ohio!
Rio Grande's Prof. Greg Miller staged some of these future performers & communicators in the late D. Brooks Jones' Lonesome Valley, a series of short takes on life in a Welsh Settled town in Ohio.
Clymau, on the other hand, is a new Welsh Musical recently created in Wales by Ceri Elen & Eilir Owen Griffiths.
This is a musical retelling of an Old Welsh Tale, in which Siwan--the illegitimate daughter of [bad] King John of England--is unhappily married to the aging Prince of Wales, Llywelyn Fawr. She commits Adultery, with disastrous Consequences.
But this is Ancient History, not a foretaste of the disastrous marriage of the current & incumbent Prince of Wales & Lady Diana Spencer. This might also make an Opera some day…
A Very Mixed Bag
Virginia Woolf & Anne Bogart's FRESHWATER [***]
ShaolIn Temple's SOUL OF SHAOLIN [****]
The Team's ARCHITECTING [***]
Mike Burstyn in "LANSKY"--The Little Man & The Law [***]
Rosemary Harris in OSCAR & THE PINK LADY [***]
David Johnston's CONVERSATIONS ON RUSSIAN LITERATURE [***]
[Plus Three More Plays]
Continuum's ILLUMINATING UKRAINE--Virko Baley & the Avant Garde [***]
Women's project and SITI company present Virginia Woolf's "Freshwater."
On the basis of the conflated script of Virginia Woolf's "only play," it's easy to see why she preferred the Novel as a Literary Form. Actually, Freshwater--in its origins--was a kind of in house entertainment for members of the Bloomsbury Group, making affectionate fun of some Known–Notables.
Anne Bogart's Siti Company--strongly supported visually by the delightful set & costume designs of James Schuette--make this a Merry Romp, akin to the Theatre of the Absurd. Fun to Watch--with no real Philosophical Implications, although there is a Sexual Undertow.
On quite another level, Soul of Shaolin was also Fun to Watch, not only for the amazing Shaolin Kung Fu feats of its male & female performers, but also for the simple beauty & dignity with which they were presented. Liu Tongbiao staged & choreographed, with music by Zhou Chenglong.
The core of the fable is a Mother's Unending Search for her son whom she has had to abandon as a tiny Infant, fleeing for her life in one of the many Wars in Ancient China. The Babe is found by a Shaolin Master & becomes a notable Fighter for the Right, ultimately re united with his now aged Mother.
This is a Touring Production--originating in Shanghai--so do not miss it when it passes by…
As for The Team's Architecting, you really had to be there, but its visual effectiveness owed a lot to the set & costume designs of Nick Vaughn & the Videos of Brian Scott. But there is always a danger--with Interactive Actor/Video--that the Videos may upstage the actors…
Anagramatically, TEAM stands for Theatre of the Emerging American Moment. If these able troupers live up to their name, the next Moment they should work on could well be the Total Economic Collapse of the American Capitalist System! That certainly is emerging…
Mike Burstyn IS "Lansky"! And he makes a very good show of it, reviewing his Life as the Most Famous Mafia Jew. The framework is his Celebratory Dinner for his acceptance as a Citizen of Israel--the Right of Return of All Displaced & Disposed Jews all over the World. [Arab Palestinians need not apply…]
But Golda Meier is not to be bribed. Lansky doesn't Make the Cut--aside from his Circumcision as a babe. Joseph Bologna staged this Monodrama he co wrote with Richard Krevolin. Burstyn can tour this show for a long, long time: he is excellent!
And there is clearly a Semitic Thirst for Jewish Firsts! Jewish War Heroes! Jews in Sports! Jews in the Yiddish Theatre & On Broadway! Jews in Hollywood! Jews in Academia! Jewish Songwriters! And now: Jews in Crime!
[Just imagine the Opposites: Gentiles in Hollywood, Gentiles in Sports, Gentile War Heroes…]
If Rosemary Harris is not yet The First Lady of the Theatre, it is only because she is not being given the Major Roles she deserves. She has certainly worked long & diligently enough in a wide variety of challenging roles to achieve Universal Acclaim.
She certainly gives Her All to the role of the Pink Lady in Eric Emmanuel Schmitt's Oscar & the Pink Lady, staged by the venerable Frank Dunlop.
Unfortunately, Oscar is a little boy who is dying of Leukemia, so we see & know him only by implication, as the Pink Lady recalls visiting him in the Children's Ward. She is packing up his Cherished Things, which he will no longer need, now that he has, we presume, Passed Over.
French Institue Alliance Francaise presents "Oscar and the Pink Lady" starring Rosemary Harris.
This might have worked better if there could actually have been a Live Oscar on stage to provide a Physical Object for the Tearful Sentiments his Dire Plight & Impending Death are supposed to arouse.
Frankly, Frank, I would rather you & Rosemary had chosen a rather different Mono dramatic Vehicle. The Belle of Amherst may not be any longer a Novelty, but if Julie Harris could make it a kind of Magic, surely Rosemary Harris could imagine for us an even more enigmatic Emily Dickinson!
Imagine an American CIA Secret Agent on a Post Soviet Russian Park Bench, discussing Russian Literature with a very knowledgeable [ex?] NKVD/KGB Secret Agent. But she is a Woman, not an Alpha Male--and he is plying her with repeated Russki Vodka Toasts!
But Jonna McElrath, as Helena, is not so drunk that she can't Talk Turkey about Nuclear Warheads with the Kremlin's Man, played by Frank Anderson.Considering the Default Informational & Intellectual Settings of Condi Rice as Stanford University's Expert on the Soviets & Eastern Europe, Helena should have been the White House Advisor instead!
"Conversation on Russian Litterature." a play by David Johnson.
Playwright David Johnston prefaced this play with three short one acts, the best of which was a Chekhov Parody.
Thanks to the Musical Ensemble Continuum, the New Music of one nation of the recently freed Eastern Europe Warsaw Pact Consortium was recently explored at Merkin Hall. The program was Illuminating Ukraine, featuring Virko Baley.
Palm of the Hand was a world premiere for Virko Baley--who is a music prof at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas! A long way off from Kiev, Minsk, & Pinsk!
The late Valentin Bibik was represented by his Sonata No 4, Op. 41, from 1981. Bibik was also saluted by Baley with another world premiere, Song without Words--Der Abschied: In Memoriam, as well as by Alexander Shchetynsky's Music in Memory of Valentin Bibik.
An Obituary, in Memory of Dmitri Shostakovich was performed by Continuum, a work by Leonid Hrabovsky, as well as Epitaphium by Valentin Silvestrov.
With all these Epitaphs, Memorials, & Obituaries, this instructive evening concluded with the New York Premiere of Baley's Klytemnestra, A Dramatic Scene. This is a powerful work for a powerful Soprano!
Introducing the work, Baley noted that he has always believed that "Clytemnestra has been given a Bum Rap."
In his potent setting of Oksana Zabushko's dramatic Soliloquy, Agamemnon's wronged queen is preparing for his Victorious Return from Troy. She has a Surprise in store for him!
This is a small Gem of Music Theatre that should have much wider performance!
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