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Loney's Show Notes

By Glenn Loney, January 2011.
About Glenn Loney

Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.


Haunted at 59E59: Seen on the Feast of Stephen, When Snow & Ice Lay All About…
End of the Year 2010 at 59E59: If That's All There Is [Then There Isn't Any More!]
Isabel Allende's House of Spirits Now Haunting Audiences at Repertorio Español!
Middletown Is Even More Boring Than Centerville USA!
Rewriting the French Revolution for Broadway: Mistakes Were Made…
NYTW: Three Men & Three Pianos, Plus Lots of Free Wine & Schubert…
Fanciulla at the Met: David Belasco Strikes Again!
Mélisande, Why Did You Drop My Ring in the Fountain?
Sultry Southern Ennui in Summer & Smoke: Hoiby & Wilson's Tennessee Williams Opera.
Peter Schumann's Bread & Puppeteers Brand the Trojan War as Genocide!
Egon Schiele Has Triplegängers in John Kelly's Haunting Pass the Blutwurst, Bitte.
Fantasy Brain Scans Revealing Plankton, Ants, & Bees in Ildiko Nemeth's Mapping Möbius!
The Last Supper at the Park Avenue Armory: Not Quite Kosher, But Very Art History Nutritious!
Brooklyn Bedbug Alert! Gregor Samsa's Astonishing Metamorphosis Terrifies BAM Audiences!
The March of Time! Mayumana's Momentum Thumps, Bumps, & Grinds at New Victory!

By the time you read this, the various Holy Holidays will be over--unless we can get this on line before Twelfth Night

It may seem Redundant or Oxymoronic to describe our recent spate of Festive Days as "Holy," but that is used largely to differentiate them from those that now appear to be mainly Commercial in Intent.

In America--even before Protestants gave Catholics the Right to Vote: No No! Wait a Minute! That's not right? Shouldn't that be Whites gave Blacks Voting Privileges?--there has always been a Church & State Separation Tension regarding the Winter Equinoxial Holy Days.

Should we give each other Lavish Gifts, drown ourselves in Intoxicating Libations, & gorge ourselves with Holiday Treats? Or should we Give to the Poor instead…

You've surely heard this before: What Would Jesus Do?

What would God do? Has anybody ever thought to ask about His Wishes?

Would He have taken a day off to see ELF?


New Plays:

Edna O'Brien's HAUNTED [***]

Inspector Sands' IF THAT'S ALL THERE IS [***]

Isabel Allende's LA CASA DE LOS ESPIRITUS [*****]

Will Eno's MIDDLETOWN [**]

Craig Wright's MISTAKES WERE MADE [****]


Other Entertainments/Other Venues:

Making Music at New York Theatre Workshop:

Burkhardt, Duffy, & Malloy's THREE PIANOS [***]

Some Nights at the Opera:

Giacomo Puccini's LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST [****]

Claude Debussy's PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE [****]

Lee Hoiby's SUMMER & SMOKE [****]

Claudio Monteverdi's RITORNO DI ULISSE IN PATRIA [****]


Avant Garde Theatre Lives Again at Ellen Stewart's LaMaMa E.T.C.

John Kelly's PASS THE BLUTWURST, BITTE [*****]

Ildiko Nemeth's MAPPING MÖBIUS [****]

At the Park Avenue Armory:

Peter Greenaway's THE LAST SUPPER [****]

Across the River & into BAM:

Gardarsson, Farr, & Kafka's METAMORPHOSIS [*****]

Victorious at the New Victory:

Mayumana's MOMENTUM [****]



Dark Omens for the New Year?

High Priests in Rome, during Imperial Eras, used to tear the Entrails from Sacrificial Beasts to read the Future Portents in their Livers & Lights. This tended to spread a lot of Shit around…

But what is Your Roving Arts Reporter to think about finding his Bathtub clearly Full of Shit on New Year's Eve?

Could this be a Heaven Sent Message that 2011 will be even more Full of Shit than was 2010?

[Actually, Someone Upstairs--No! Not Him!--who had been at her Winter Retreat in Florida, returned the day before & someone in her entourage must have dropped a Kotex into the toilet, then thoughtlessly flushed.]


Second Viewing: Scenes Re Seen…

A very special Holiday Treat were Press Invitations to see again both Time Stands Still & A Little Night Music. Because Steve Sondheim's Night Music was already at the Walter Kerr Memorial Theatre, it couldn't be moved to his very own theatre, The Stephen Sondheim Theatre. Formerly, the Henry Miller Memorial Theatre

Only a few evenings before Your Reporter saw David Margulies' interesting drama about a War Reporter Photographer Team, I'd had the pleasure of seeing him onstage in After the Revolution!

In the historic Cort Theatre, Time certainly didn't stand still: the Tension between Laura Linney & her partner, Brian d'Arcy James, kept passions brewing & moving. She is so Excellent! But Christina Ricci & Eric Bogosian also added sparks to the combustible fuels on view.

Frankly, I enjoyed this production much more than I had when I first saw it at the Samuel J. Friedman Memorial Theatre. This time, I was really engaged by the Characters & their Dilemmas!

I had already seen Night Music twice, both times with Catherine Zeta Jones as Desirée Armfeldt. This time out, Bernadette Peters was playing a more bouncy, more saucy Desirée, but she'd Made the Role Her Own!

Elaine Stritch had replaced Angela Lansbury, so the aging Grand Courtesan, Mme. Armfeldt, was considerably more tart, even at times strident


Importing Haunted at 59E59: Ghostly Images, Seen Through a Glass, Darkly

Despite some dimly but colorfully fuzzed images seen--Symbolically, one supposes--through the Translucent Back Wall of Mr. & Mrs. Berry's modest suburban home, apparently on the fringes of London, the only Ghosts that seem to haunt the Berrys, are the Memories of What Once Was, the Fantasies of What Could Have Been, & the Visions of What Might Happen, before it's too late…

Brenda Blythen is spot on as Mrs. Berry, a put upon Store Supervisor, who comes home from a hard day's work, only to find her disaffected husband [a charming Niall Buggy] dreaming again. Or giving away her Treasures to a sweet young girl of Questionable Provenance [Beth Cooke].

Love doesn't last forever, but Marriage tends to go on & on…

On the evening of the Worst Manhattan Snow Storm in memory, Your Arts Reporter slogged to the theatre, paid close attention to the show, then struggled home some 12 blocks through raging drifts up to his knees. Buses were sideways, unmoving, on Madison. One or two Taxis had foundered…

As this production was brought all the way to Snow Bound New York from Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre, I thought there must be more to the play than Meets the Eye [& Ear].

After all, some Divinely Inspired Drama Critic had favorably compared Haunted to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

But Mr. & Mrs. Berry are much less interesting than Edward Albee's George & Martha. George may be the Bog in the History Department, but Mr. Berry is lost in the dismal swamp of his Literary Allusions.

Mrs. Berry may have christened their tiny cottage Versailles, but that argues Delusions that Albee's Martha would immediately Torpedo.

After that spate of Irish Plays last autumn--most of which focused on Couples or Individuals even more forlorn than the Berrys--I wondered if Haunted's Irish born playwright, Edna O'Brien, was offering much, much more than Living Death in Suburbia: a Concealed Satire of the Home life of The Royal Family!

Liz could well be Mrs. Berry, mocked by younger employees for her sensible attention to the Requirements of her Job, but also fearful of disappointing her Adoring Public, which help Prop Up her Throne.

Prince Philip could be seen as the layabout Mr. Berry, claiming a Gentrified Origin, but uninterested in actually working at a Real Job.

After all, Phil began as a Penniless Greek Prince, but with that Good Glucksberg Bloodline to link him to Queen Victoria & make him an eligible Prince Consort!

His Mother became a somewhat strange Greek Orthodox Nun.

Which was certainly not the case with Mr. Berry, whose also odd, but Patronizing, Class Conscious Mater, believed he'd Married Beneath Him. No one could ever say that of Prince Philip: his Royal Marriage elevated him…

But no, Edna O'Brien is no Alan Bennett: Haunted is what it is…

As O'Brien says herself, long interested in the Quiet Desperation of Suburban Lives: Love is the Labyrinth in which a husband & wife arrive at the cliff edge, when an enchantress…enters as an unwilling catalyst, three people trapped in a universe of emotional hunger, colliding dreams, stealth & betrayal, a locus wherein "lies madness."

Well, that says it all, doesn't it!


The Real Inspector Sands: No Hysteria, Only If That's All There Is

The frustrations of loving each other--by what seems a Charming Young Couple somewhere in Outer London Suburbia--don't echo the problems of the Berrys, because Frances & Daniel are in the First Flush of Love.

Nonetheless, each has Defining Obsessions which the other partner has yet to discover--with often hilarious results. Daniel is a Power Pointer, a compulsive Organizer

This lively show--as well as Hysteria, a companion piece, played in rep--is the creation of Inspector Sands, a trio of talented young performers: Lucinka Eisler, Ben Lewis, & Giulia Innocenti.

This amusing Interlude was commissioned by the Lyric, Hammersmith, but was developed at South Street, Reading, the Nightingale Theatre, Brighton, & the Battersea Arts Center.

But the Trio don't in the least seem tired of doing this mad show over & over.

Your Arts Reporter was dragged into the action by Daniel's Psychiatrist, who sat by me in the aisle, asking me how my life was. Well, it was Christmas & my Birthday, with No Cake, No Party, so I wasn't funny, even in Improv.

I asked Daniel's Doc if he was paying Real Money. She said he was. I'm on HIP, but they don't accept that in either Reading or Brighton…


Sins of the Fathers: Generational Chilean Hauntings in Isabel Allende's House of the Spirits

Last February, at the Denver New Play Summit, Your Reporter was struck by the power of a new drama by Caridad Svich, even though it was offered only in a Staged Reading. Not a full stage production…

Actually, Svich's haunting dramatization of Isbel Allende's La Casa de los Espiritus was commissioned by Repertorio Español. Denver was a kind of Curtain Raiser.

Now in the teeming repertory of Repertorio, House of the Spirits is also teeming with Spirits: the remarkable, unusual & often abused Women in the family of the wealthy, angry, needy, imperious Macho Chilean Land Owner, Esteban Garcia [Gabriel Gutiérrez].

An extremely complex, layered Family Chronology is revealed by Alba [Denise Quiñones], the grand daughter of this Haus Tyran. José Zayas has directed an outstanding cast.

Given the tiny stage at the former Gramercy Arts Theatre, designer Robert Weber Federico works his usual wonders, suggesting multiple locales & States of Mind & Spirit, with gauzy panels & projections.

What is even more amazing is that the ten marvelous members of this cast are also appearing in other Repertorio productions, the bill often changing nightly.

Each show seems like Opening Night, even if the scenery of some productions is wearing thin…

So, if you don't want to miss this remarkable Encounter with Chilean Women--Ghostly & Living, you need to phone ahead to find out when La Casa de los Espiritus is to be played.

There are so many fine productions on tap, that the Allende/Svich drama has to take its turn on stage.

Phone: 212 225 9999. Or try www.repertorio.org… How about watching on some show segments on YouTube? Or Twittering?

Now known internationally as a Prize Winning Novelist, Chilean Author Isabel Allende was born in 1942, but not in Santiago de Chile. She first saw the Light of Day in Lima, Peru, where her father, Tomás Allende, was Chile's Ambassador.

In 1970, her Uncle, Salvador Allende, was elected President of Chile, heading a Socialist Government, which infuriated wealthy Chilean Fascists & angered the US, which had long feared "Commies" in the Americas…

Backed by the Wealthy, the Chilean Army seized power. Allende was Assassinated: the Pinochet Terror began. Ordinary Citizens began to "disappear," as they had in neighboring Argentina, under Military Tyranny.

After the wanton killing of her courageous uncle, Isabel Allende removed her family to Venezuela.

In the meantime, she wrote some celebrated novels, beginning with La Casa de los Espiritus, in 1982.

Allende now lives in San Rafael, California, & has taught at UC/Berkeley. A long way off from Santiago de Chile…


Middletown Is Not Our Town, Nor Is It a TV Reality Show…

Watching all those Stage Hands move Props about & pull up sections of the flooring for Will Eno's Middletown made Your Reporter wonder why they had not been worked into the Small Town Interactions of the Generally Uninteresting Small Town People Eno has been pleased to put upon the stage.

We have just had an impressive bare bones production of Thornton Wilder's Time Capsule Classic, Our Town.

Obviously, Modern Life has not improved matters…

Eno is clearly aiming at a kind of Style in his inter cutting of Lives, Attitudes, & Incidents, Is this Meta Theatre. Or what


Down in Sheridan Square, Mistakes Were Made

Your Arts Reporter rushed off to see the much admired Michael Shannon in Mistakes Were Made, under the Totally Incorrect Assumption that this was to be a Devastating Monologue, exposing the corrupt incompetence of Donald Rumsfeld, as Commander in Chief of the Pentagon, during one of our many recent Third World Wars

Not at all!

Shannon is much more amusing than Donald Rumsfeld. Or even Dick Cheney! If that were possible, given that the Ex Vice President, even in a Secure Undisclosed Location--is always killingly hilarious…

Actually, Mistakes Were Made is the title of a new potentially Broadway Bound Drama about the French Revolution. Well, Playwright Craig Wright certainly does have a Point: Mistakes were made.

After all, Marie Antoinette did lose her head, didn't she?

But this frenetic new show isn't about the Boring Details of a long ago Regicide at all.

It's about Play Producer Felix Artifex's desperate efforts to bring a massive pile of pages--written by a College Professor, trapped in the Heartland of America--to Broadway.

It's immediately clear that the Script has no Playable Hope, but also that Felix doesn't know the First Thing about the French Revolution. Plus: Felix seems to have forgotten totally that we already have had Les Miz not once, but twice!

This inventive new show is almost as much fun as The Producers, even without a Score. It's also much less complex [cheaper] to produce.

Do see it! Down at the Barrow Street Theatre, in Greenwich House…

Shannon is supported by a Multi line Phone, a Suffering Secretary, & a funny Fish Puppet in an Aquarium that gives the show the feel of Real Production Values!


Not the Old Four Piano Quartet, but Three Men on Three Pianos

The New York Theatre Workshop--down on East Fourth Street in the Village--is a Long Way Off from Schloss Hohenems in the West Austrian Alps, where Your Arts Reporter has enjoyed its Annual Schubertiade on occasion.

Nonetheless, Rick Burkhardt, Alec Duffy, & Dave Malloy--the three men who play the three pianos--have decided that Manhattan needs its own peculiar version of a Schubertiade.

To achieve this end, they even journeyed to Vienna--the Fountainhead, as it were, of Germanic Romantic Music--to visit the Birth House & the Death House of this too young dead Composer.

The Three Guys even visited Schubert's Grave

If they had gone off to Eisenstadt--where FJ Haydn is buried in a Special Memorial Chapel, near one of Prince Eszterhazy's many Monumental Schlosses--they could have marveled at Haydn's Marble Sarcophagus, which for many years did not contain Haydn's Severed Head, which the Soviet Russians had captured when they Occupied Vienna at the close of World War II! But that's Another Story…

Had they only looked at WA Mozart's actual grave in Vienna's St. Marx Cemetery--how many people still think he was dumped, penniless, in a Common Grave?--who knows what inspiration they might have derived from this experience?

As it is, they have chosen, instead, to once more attempt to do more than just perform Schubert's Song Cycle of Die Winterreise as a Solo Concert, accompanied on one piano.

This has, of course, been done live brilliantly by the late Dietrich Fischer Dieskau & the late Hermann Prey. But you can still hear them on recordings!

If you had the good fortune, as I did, to interview both Dieskau & Prey, you'd know they'd never try to Act Out--with Gestures--the Tale of Schubert's Restless, Solitary Wanderer.

Instead, they acted with their Voices & the responses of their bodies in singing this Cycle of gloomy, dooming Musical Meditations.

But Actor Musicians seem to regard Schubertian Songs as a Serious Acting Challenge, for Die Winterreise was performed years ago at Ellen Stewart's LaMaMa--just across the street from NYTW--by a North German group.

Although they were only two feet away from me--sitting captive in the first row--they wore BODY MIKES!

Frauen Liebe und Leben--or should these L's be the other way round?--was later "dramatically" performed, as I recall, at the Judson Poet's Theatre, also a Village Landmark of the Avant Garde.

The disclosure that Schubert was Gay & died of VD seemed to upset some Ticket Holders. [Hey! No one's perfect. Tchaikovsky--taunted by fellow officers for his homosexual inclinations, committed Suicide…]

Other spectators departed when they seemed to have had enough of the Free Wine & Schubertian Fun & Games of the Trio.

Even though one of the three did offer me Terra Fossil wine from the aisle bar right beside my seat, I had to decline. On the grounds that: DRINK IS DEATH FOR DIABETICS!

Actually, the Three Guys are engaging performers & they can all play the piano OK, but this is really a kind of Cabaret or Club Act, more appropriate to Joe's Pub, although it doesn't have room for all Three Pianos.

But the Free Wine wouldn't work in most Cabarets, as they live from selling drinks…


La Fanciulla del West: David Belasco Meets Giacomo Puccini for a Second Round!

On Giacomo Puccini's Birthday--one hundred years after his Fanciulla del West premiered at the Old Met, down at Broadway at 39th & 40th--Your Arts Reporter was delighted to see the Met's current revival at the New Met in Lincoln Center!

Even way back in 1910, some Puccini Fans were puzzled that the Maestro would want to compose a real Horse Opera--complete with horses on stage, always a risky proposition--virtually abandoning the glorious Arias & Duets that had made him famous.

Was his decision to bring David Belasco's drama, The Girl of the Golden West, to the opera stage influenced by the great success he'd already had in adapting Belasco's Madame Butterfly?

Although both operas have a Young Girl at their dramatic centers, Yokohama is a long way off from Hangtown

Nonetheless, from the Discovery of Gold at Sutter's Mill in 1848--followed by the greatest Emigration ever of men to the California Goldfields--even as late as 1910, both Easterners & Europeans were still fascinated by Tales of the Wild West.

Even as early as 1850, Alonzo Delano--called "Old Block" & an ancestor of Franklin Delano Roosevelt--was The New York Times' Correspondent from my home town of Grass Valley, which he helped found.

With reports from Mark Twain & Bret Harte in The Overland Monthly & other journals, people couldn't get enough Fact & Fiction about the Far West.

When America's first Operatic Soprano, Emma Nevada, made her debut in Europe, she was an immediate sensation. She was virtually The Girl of the Golden West, as she was born near Grass Valley during the great mining boom.

David Belasco--another Golden Wester, a San Franciscan of Portuguese Jewish descent--had become a Major Force on Broadway: producer/manager/director of both the Belasco & the Stuyvesant Theatres.

His Stage Specialty was a detailed Naturalism or Realism: Real Hot Cakes cooking in the window of a Child's Restaurant on stage.

The Japonnoiserie of Madame Butterfly's paper paneled home was delicately reproduced on stage as well. For Girl of the Golden West, Belasco was in his element.

Not only did Belasco know the California Goldfields well, but he had even been an actor at Piper's Opera House in Virginia City, just across the border in Nevada.

In fact, his misadventure with a Virginia City Lynch Mob may have inspired him to climax his new Golden West Melodrama with a Lynching!

Leaving Piper's late, after a show, Belasco was seized & strung up, mistaken for a look alike Horse Thief!

Fortunately, he was able to convince the Vigilantes that he was really an Actor, not a Criminal

As Puccini was already famed for his interest in Verismo, Belasaco's Stage Realism must have appealed to him a second time, but with a quite different Locale & Heroine.

Minnie [Elisabete Matos] is an Orphan Girl who has grown up catch as catch can in the Wild West of the Gold Rush Era. Unlike most of the Placer Miners who throng her Polka Saloon, Minnie can read & write. So she teaches them what she knows of the Good Book.

She's both a Comforting Mother & an Untouchable Sweetheart for all these Lonely Men.

Although the handsome Sheriff, Jack Rance [Lucio Gallo], desires Minnie, she stays aloof.

Until she meets the even more handsome Dick Johnson [Marcello Giordani], with whom she falls instantly in love.

The Unfortunate Fact that Johnson is actually the daring Bandido, Ramerrez, requires Minnie to save his life not once, but Twice! Watch Out for Blood Dripping Down on the Poker Cards!

My favorite memory of a Met Opera Fanciulla is of Dorothy Kirsten riding to Dick Johnson's Rescue on a White Steed, down at the Old Met.

There are Live Horses in the current revival, but they are only seen through the open door of the Polka Saloon upstage.

The fear that Wells Fargo would be robbed by Ramerrez got a laugh from the audience that neither Puccini nor Belasco would have understood. Over the years, Wells Fargo has itself become a Robber Bank…

When the Met's Great Gold Curtain rose on the vast interior of Minnie's Saloon--more like Grand Central Station than the cramped Gold Rush Bars of yesteryear--some audience members sighed with foreboding: this interior looked nothing like a Zeffirelli setting…

In fact, even before the Overture--conducted by Nicola Luisotti--the orchestra was spotted with empty seats. More people left as the evening progressed…

A woman near me--aghast at the crowd of brawling Miners on stage, in the raw gray wood setting--hissed to her husband: "It's like Deadwood set to music!"

Well, it's certainly no Bohème or Butterfly, but this Horse Opera has its own special Powers!

Curiously, this late after Richard Wagner, Puccini was attempting real Musik Theater, his score underscoring the Action & Passions, rather than providing an Aria Studded Narrative.

When I saw the gray wooden Main Street of Minnie's Town in the High Sierras--as the Miners were preparing to hang Johnson, caught trying to escape to a New Life far away--it reminded me of Broad Street in Nevada City [Pace! Emma Nevada!], where I grew up, Grass Valley's Sister City!

Verismo, indeed!

What doesn't really work--neither with Dorothy Kirsten nor Matos--is a Minnie who is obviously not still in her teens…

But who wants a Met Opera Girl of the Golden West with Miley Cyrus as Minnie?

[For the Record: David Belasco's Girl of the Golden West will be included in my Gold Rush Play Anthology: Pioneer Dramas of the Golden West. This will soon be online in the Glenn Loney Bookshop, on GlennLoneyArtsArchive.com.

[Most of the plays were actually written in the 1850s & 1860s. Alonzo Delano's A Live Woman in the Mines is clearly set in Grass Valley. I staged it years ago in the William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre at UC/Berkeley for the Sophomore Farce.]


An Architectural Forest of Revolving Doors & Windows for Debussy's Pelléas

Mélisande, the wonderfully ethereal, waif like heroine of Maurice Maeterlinck's Symbolist Drama, is quite a Contrast to Puccini's Minnie. But then, Symbolism was intended as a Direct Challenge to the Realism & Verismo of Pre World War I Continental Theatre.

That Claude Debussy chose to adapt it for the opera stage also presented him with Challenges, for it is obviously not amenable to Arias, Duets, & Choruses. The Met's Chorus has the Night Off whenever Pelléas et Mélisande is performed.

Lost Golden Objects seem a Symbolic Theme in Pelléas, for when Mélisande is first discovered by her Husband to Be, Golaud, by a shimmering pool in the forest, she has somehow dropped a Golden Crown into the water, threatening to drown herself if Golaud attempts to rescue it.

Later, she drops his Wedding Ring into a well near the Palace. Then, Yniold--Golaud's son by a previous marriage--loses his Golden Ball among the rocks…

Mélisande is also blessed--or cursed--with Rapunzel like Long Golden Hair. Pelléas entangles himself in both her Hair & her ethereal Affections…

Although much of the opera seems to consist of describing actions, locales, situations, & people, rather than revealing them directly, Debussy has set Maeterlinck's visions in such a luxurious, liquid, Musical Fabric, that it is ravishing merely to hear this score. Wonderfully conducted at the Met by Sir Simon Rattle.

No More Tax Cuts for the Rich!

They will only spend the money on Interior Architecture, with tall, tall revolving walls, pierced by tall, tall--also, very narrow--doors & windows.

The Met's production--which looks as though it must have originated in London, possibly at ENO or Covent Garden--was designed by John Conklin & staged by Jonathan Miller.

This Operatic Fable seems to unfold in some Unknown Kingdom in the remote Medieval Era, with Forests, Pools, Wells, Copses, & other Evocations of Nature. But a number of modern productions avoid Nature almost altogether, preferring to play with Shape Shifting Royal Chambers.

The excellent cast at the Met included Magdalena Kozená as Mélisande, Stéphane Degout as Pelléas, Gerald Finley as Golaud, Willard White as Arkel, & Felicity Palmer as Geneviève, mother to both Pelléas & Golaud, who are, in fact, half brothers…

They are adept in avoiding Collision with the Revolving Scenic Panels. But not with each other…


Love's Sad Dreams Up in Smoke: Lanford Wilson Adapts Summer & Smoke with Lee Hoiby Score.

How many operas can you name that have been based on dramas by Tennessee Williams? Or at least, Williams Inspired Operas that you can still remember?

One that Your Reporter cannot forget was given its World Premiere at the San Francisco Opera. Since that time, I've not heard of a major production--certainly not at the Met--of Andre Previn's version of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Unbelievably, although Stanley has plenty to Kvetch about, Previn gave him not a single Aria. But the troubled Blanche had three…

Considering Blanche's Sexual Longings & Problems, this should have been a major work, full of Potent Passion & Domestic Drama.

Was there a Glass Menagerie opera? Something on the order of Lights Out, Laura! If so, I must have missed it.

The Rose Tattoo could make a charming Opera Buffa. The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore is definitely more Problematic

Fortunately, Lanford Wilson--remember his HOT L Baltimore?--made an admirable libretto from Williams' Summer & Smoke, that composer Lee Hoiby--he's now 85 years old!--set to music.

This long neglected work was recently given an attractive production at the Manhattan School of Music.

Considering that such student productions--as also at the Juilliard Opera Theatre--are given Only Three Performances, it is amazing that they are so handsomely designed, so well acted & sung, & so respectful of the Artistic Intentions of the various Composers & Librettists.

There is a bit of a Problem in the actual opera of Summer & Smoke in that some conventional conversational gambits of Williams' Small town Southern Social Ladies--that might be throwaways to add Local Color--are fully set musically, which gives them an Importance they really do not deserve.

Dona D. Vaughn--who is the Artistic Director of the Manhattan School of Music Opera Theatre--also staged this production, which had Alma's Rectory Home at Stage Right, with Dr. John's Surgery at Stage Left.

The Angel named ETERNITY was upstage center, brooding over the failed hopes of the Sexually Repressed, but internally passionate, Alma Winemiller [Anna Viemeister], who fortunately is No Relation to Amy Winemiller, of current musical fame.

Nikoli Strommer was interesting as the dissolute young Dr. John Buchanan, whose career gets back on track only when his own father is shot by the hot tempered Hispanic who is Dr. John's potential Father in Law.

Although Dr. John seems to be Drunk for most of the opera, he nonetheless sings with no sign of Intoxication, thanks to Hoiby's score. This may be a Musical Mistake

Nonetheless, I can forgive Hoiby a lot because he also created a Lola Montez Musical, which is set in my Home Town: Grass Valley, California!

The Southern Accents varied during the patches of Unsung Dialogue. Most interesting was that of Alma's Crazy Mother--always dying for an Ice Cream Cone--wonderfully played by Claire Coolen.

Steven Osgood conducted, alternating briskness with Southern Langour

For the Record: The Manhattan School of Music' Steinway Initiative is underway! All of the School's well worn pianos are being replaced with 50 new Steinways!


Bread & Puppet Pageantry: An Anti War/Anti Genocide Vision of Monteverdi's Return of Ulysses!

Peter Schumann brings his Bread & Puppet Theatre to Manhattan every Holiday Season with some Socially Conscious Pageantry, often designed in his Inimitable Style of broad strokes & bright colors.

But this time at the Theatre for the New City, he & his talented followers have outdone themselves.

Schumann's vision of The Trojan War as God Approved Race Genocide is a new "take" on the Valiant Greek Heroes who destroyed those Pagan Trojans because one of their Princes stole the Hellenic Wife of a Great Greek Commander…

The Narrative Vessel for this Voyage into Antiquity is not Homer's Iliad, but Monteverdi's operatic treatment of the Odessey: Il Ritorno di Ulisse in Patria.

This is not, however, a low budget Met Defined production. It is an imitation of nothing usually seen on Opera Stages. It is the Ding an Sich

Instead, it is a fantastically inventive staging of the legendary events in Ulysses' long drawn out return from the Trojan War to his faithful wife, Penelope, fighting off boastful Suitors who hope to win both Queen & Kingdom.

Before the performance, Bread & Puppeteer Brasses & Percussions rally on First Avenue, attracting audiences. Once in the great area--which Schumann has hung with huge black, grey, & white banners, with horrific Scenes & scarifying Slogans--they are treated to a Prologue that makes the Concept of Classic Genocide quite up to date, referencing Our Wars in the Middle East.

The Orchestra is at one side, each member in a distinctively designed white gown, with a Narrator & male & female singers who provide a reduced version of the Original Opera. Orchestra members also function as a Chorus…

The effects are memorable: when Ulysses' Ship sails into the arena, its fabric prow plows diagonally across the playing space, its sides extending & extending, supported by Puppeteers inside, one of whom hoists a Mast that scrapes the ceiling, while its Great Sail waves potently over all…

It would be wonderful--when this show's tour is over--if all the Costumes, Sets, & Props, products of Schumann's prodigious imagination, could be permanently on view as an Installation. At MoMA, for instance.

Not at the Whitney--even though it loves Installations--because Peter Schumann comes from Schlesien, or Silesia, once part of Germany, now part of Poland. Thus, he's technically Not An American Artist: an Essential Qualifier for exhibiting at the Whitney.

Schumann is, if anything, a Universal Talent. So his Visions & Designs speak a Universal Language.

The late Tadeusz Kantor's sets, props, & costumes for The Dead Class are now an Installation at the German National Museum in Bonn. So why not The Return of Ulysses at MoMA?


Egon Schiele Mysteriously Materializes in Ellen Stewart Theatre, Thanks to John Kelly's Genius!

On the handsome color brochure for the dynamic revival of John Kelly's Pass the Blutwurst, Bitte, Kelly even looks like one of Egon Schiele's tortured Self Portraits.

This remarkable recollection of Schiele's tormented Life & Creativity was first shown at LaMaMa way back in the 1980s, to great acclaim. It was brought back in the 1990s, to even more éclat, but Ellen Stewart begged Kelly to reprise it for her 49th Season.

This he has done brilliantly, now even more Egon Gaunt than he was 25 years ago…

His Schiele has not just a Doppelgänger, but a Triplegänger! His two Altar Egos--altar, in that there's a kind of Worship involved--are almost Kelly Look Alikes: Luke Murphy & Eric Jackson Bradley!

Schiele's model & part time lover, Wally, is interestingly interpreted by Tymberly Canale, sparring with young Edith [Mackenzie Meehan], whom Schiele actually marries.

They all die young in the terrible Spanish Flu Epidemic that followed Austria's Defeat in World War I.

[People didn't get the Flu just because Austria had participated in the Prussian Kaiser's Assault on the West. But this may have created conditions that made that horrible Sickness & Death possible…]

Early in his career, Schiele was jailed as a Pornographer. His Problem was--as you can easily see, if you study the excellent collection of Schieles at Ronald Lauder's Neue Galerie--is that he was fascinated by the Genital Organs of Women, especially Young Girls.

Apparently, an Austrian Muff Diver, as the Crude used to phrase this Sexual Predeliction. Now, any of these early sketches is worth Thousands! Even Millions for some bidders…

John Kelly brings Schiele, his Women, his Art, & his rather Tragic Life, as they say, Back To Life. What's more, he is almost Chaplinesque in his subtle but at times Robotic dance movements, his arch grimaces, & his general Fluidity.



Brain Stripping Möbius' Convoluted Chaotic Cerebral Confusions at LaMaMa…

In Henrik Ibsen's final drama, When We Dead Awaken, the grim discovery is that: We find that We Have Not Lived.

Ildiko Nemeth's crazed Dr. Möbius is not quite dead yet, but he fears that all his Researches may have been in Vain: His Brain has been his Map of the Exterior World. His intense Interiority--rather than strict Scientific Observation of the World Around Him--has projected his Thoughts & Fantasies onto Reality.

Working with a young Female Assistant--who seems rather better Oriented than Dr. Möbius--they begin a Surreal Survey of Evolutionary Development. This begins with amorphous forms, Amoeba & Plankton, which end up in the Belly of the Whale.

[A propos of Whales, a Jonah like fellow critic has just referred to the Christmas show at the Irish Rep as A Child's Christmas in Whales…]

From Single Cells, Möbius & his Aide advance to the Ants, watching a Queen & her adoring Worker Ants. Despite Ants' supportive Colonial Organization, even their Queens can wear out & die.

Onward to the Bees, a Higher Order, perhaps, but still Hive Oriented. Also with a Queen Bee

Dinosaur Bones are not overlooked, but Dr. Möbius doesn't move on to analyze Human Folly.

I'm not sure that this quick sprint through the Darwinian Corridors of the Origin of Species solves anything for Dr. Möbius or for Nemeth's audiences at LaMaMa, but it certainly does offer intriguing Visual Experiences, notably the unusual white Wire Sculptures that adorn her white clad Players, as they dance & sing about their brief lives on the Lower Levels of Creation…

The oddly Transformatory Images that are also projected--along with Titles that recall Old Silent Movies at MoMA--are also a Visual Feast.

Jonathan Slaff's Press Release for Nemeth's novel Theatre Adventure quotes someone named Glenn Loney as being in great admiration of her production of The Round of Pleasure, based on Dr. Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde. Schnitzler, fortunately, was no Dr. Möbius…

Not only did I admire the way Nemeth visualized Werner Schwab's adaptation of Schnitzler's Viennese Carousel of Love High & Low--in which the Good Doctor was trying, very subtly, to show how Social Diseases can be all too easily transmitted--but I also suggested that this show should be presented at the Salzburg Festival.

They've already offered The Nature Theatre of Oklahoma at the Salzburg Festival. Round of Pleasure is miles ahead of Telephone Conversations about what the Respondents remember about the Plot of Romeo & Juliet

Ildiko Nemeth's earlier Oh! Those Beautiful Weimar Girls! is also a production that deserves to be more widely seen…

It's worth noting, also, that in its 49th Year, Ellen Stewart's LaMaMa ETC was virtually the first Post War Avant Garde Theatre Workshop where, as they say, Anything Goes!

But, unlike Ellen's Imitators--most of whom managed only a ten year run, before they wore out--LaMaMa is still there & she is still offering stages where dedicated young Writers, Composers, Directors, Performers, Designers, & Techies can still experiment, unfold their Fledgling Wings & FLY

It's wonderful how such Young Ensembles can be so Talented & so Dedicated to Art Experiments that are never going to land them on Broadway or in Burbank. You hope they also have Day Time Jobs!

But don't forget: such Luminaries as Harvey Keitel & Bette Midler were once Aspiring Novices down at LaMaMa…


Let's Eat! Leonardo's Last Supper, Followed by Veronese's Wedding Feast at Cana!

This remarkable Show of ever mutating, ever changing Projections--on the tall blank Cathedral Like surfaces deployed in the Park Avenue Armory--suggested, initially, a rapidly changing Panorama of Renaissance Italian Façades, followed by ingenious Digitalis Digitalized examinations of the Structure & Symbolism of not one, but TWO, Famous Feasts!

After exposure to a marvelously wide ranging Visual Banquet of Italian Renaissance Architecture, Design, & Painting, Ambulatory Audiences entered a stark Nave, centered by a long table, set for Dinner, but with no Place Cards for either Jesus & His Disciples or for Ticket Holders.

Leonardo's Last Supper was then revealed as it can never be on that Refectory Wall in Milan.

The brilliant Technicians who have made this show possible have been able to Play with Light in such a way that the Figures at Table become almost three dimensional, with light changing behind them, as well as in front of them. Their Hands become glowing objects, floating in space, detached from the dark masses of their owners.

Actually, the Figures have been remade Three Dimensionally to achieve these stunning effects…

Although this Legendary Feast would have been more than Enough Nourishment for Art History Starved New Yorkers, it was followed by a similar quasi Photo Shopped exploration of Veronese's Wedding Feast at Cana.

But this Dinner Table Masterwork is not on Milanese Refectory Wall.

Instead, it was once in place in the Refectory of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. Napoleon's Victorious Soldiers ripped it from the walls with their Bayonets, after which the Loot was placed on view in the Louvre

Even every Guest at table--as well as On Lookers, including a Noble Hound--has been Numbered by Peter Greenaway & his Technicians. They also devised bold red lined Grids to emphasize the Structural & Symbolic placement of various faces--including that of Veronese!

Questions were also raised about the Content & Composition of this great painting: Why is Jesus at the Absolute Center, while the Bridal Couple is shoved off at the side?

Did the fact that this is supposed to be an Orthodox Jewish Wedding Feast--but created for a Roman Catholic Monastery--impact on Veronese's Placement of Characters?

Turning Water into Wine is said to be Jesus' First Miracle, but is it just possible that He really turned Wine Into Water?

That would be Especially Pleasing to Temperance Christians. I call this: The Methodist Miracle!

Viewers were free to wander around in the dark recesses of the Park Avenue Armory, being careful not to trip on the splintery floor boards not covered with special mats for this show.

The effect was rather like that of moving around a Great European Cathedral, but with No Pews for Sitting…

This Traveling Show is neither the First, nor the Last, of such Peter Greenaway Visions. He is the Generator of Ideas & Texts, but the Visual Magic is the work of a very long list of Artists & Technicians.

Most--but not all--are Italians & Peter Greenaway's Prologue, Main Course, & Epilogue have been facilitated by Milan's CHANGE PERFORMING ARTS.

The ingenious Computerized Digital Programs that have been developed to make such shows possible can only make Routine Users of Adobe Photo Shop insanely Jealous!

But the creation of Leonardo's Last Supper as a Vision was much more complicated than mere Computerized Manipulation. In the program, Adam Lowe--Director & Founder of Factum Arte--discusses the Complex Processes involved…

[For the Record: Having long long ago photographed many of the Italian Monuments, Artworks, & Façades shown in Greenaway's Leonardo for my own INFOTOGRAPHY™ ArtsArchive Collection, I was tremendously impressed with the Technology used to give Life, Dimension, & Nobility to otherwise Mute Images.

[I first photographed Leonardo's Last Supper, when I first came to Milan in 1956. There wasn't even a Sign forbidding Flash Photos. At that time, the Fresco was in a sad, muted condition, the victim of too many Restoration Attempts…

[Recently, I had to stand in line in order to see the latest Restoration. No Photos, of course…

[Thanks to Change Performing Arts in Milan, you can now also experience Peter Greenaways' Leonardo's Last Supper in the same Ancient Refectory Complex!]


Quick, Henry! The Flit! Giant Metamorphosed Bedbug at BAM Was Once a Man!

Iceland may be in Economic Difficulties, but it has a very Bankable Export in the Person & Talent of Gisli Örn Gardarsson, who recently turned into a Bedbug over in Brooklyn at BAM.

Cirque du Soleil, eat your Collective Hearts Out!

Gisli Gardarsson uses some of your same Death Defying Gymnastic Strategies to achieve his effects, closing with the sensational drape assisted drop to his lonely, abandoned Death, left hanging almost literally By a Thread

Instead of donning an awkward, if Kafka esque, Bedbug Costume to change from Gregor Samsa into the huge six legged Horror of Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis, Gardarsson suggests all Gregor's agonies & travails in his own body, literally walking on the walls & the ceiling of a dis oriented Trick Bedroom.

Gardarsson once planned to be a Gym Teacher, but Acting got into his Act.

The remarkable current touring production is an ingenious collaboration of Reyjavik's Vesturport Theatre & London's Lyric Hammersmith Theatre.

Gardarsson & the Lyric's David Farr adapted Kafka & co directed, with a highly stylized presentation of Gregor's very proper Klein Bourgeoise Family. Gregor's sister, Grete, is interestingly played by the interestingly named Nína Dögg Filuppusdóttir.


Thumping, Bumping Multi Faceted Concepts of Time: Momentum from Tel Aviv's Mayumana…

Both Kids & Parents had a Great Time keeping Time--hand clapping, head bobbing!--to the pulsating percussive rhythms of Mayumana's Momentum.

This Tel Aviv Based troupe is an integrated ensemble of young artists from a variety of countries, but its appeal is obviously Universal.

Clocks, Watch Faces, & Digital Time keepers all evoked Images of TIME, as well as the Passage of Time, which was marked by Athletic/Acrobatic Antics & dancing to the persuasive beat of the score of Eylon Nuphar & Boaz Berman.


Performing Arts News & Notes:

It's sad to say Goodbye to a great production in a Limited Run: Driving Miss Daisy, for instance.

But it's harder still to bid Farewell to a show that should have had a Long Run

Both the innovative Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson & The Scottsboro Boys had only recently opened, but now their Closing Notices have been posted.

It could be argued that only Juke Box Musicals can now make the grade on Broadway, even though both these excellent productions were Music Driven.

But it's more likely that both their Serious Subjects--Genocide of American Indians & Ruined Lives of Falsely Accused African Americans--& the Archly Satirical Approach to those topics discouraged Unthinking Audiences seeking Uncomplicated Entertainments.

Those who may have thought that the South's Peculiar Institution of Slavery was at the center of John Guare's new drama, A Free Man of Color, at the Vivian Beaumont must have been surprised to learn--in a sharing, at the CUNY Graduate Center's Martin Segal Theatre--that spark for the drama was stage director George Wolfe's request to Guare to write a Restoration Play for the outstanding actor, Jeffery Wright.

But, as Guare explained the Process, the text became much more complicated, with more issues & characters than in any Restoration Drama. The Central Difficulty for Guare's central character is that he is a Free Negro in old New Orleans, where Color is no Bar.

But, with the Louisiana Purchase, New Orleans becomes subject to American Law, which, in effect, cancels his Freedom, at least in the South, where New Orleans seems to be located…

Guare was engagingly interrogated by CUNY's Prof. David Savran, who is not only a Distinguished Professor [higher pay than an Ordinarius] but who also occupies the Vera Mowry Roberts Chair in American Theatre!

Savran noted--in discussions about Thomas Jefferson in Guare's drama--that Gaure's wife is on the Board of Monticello, Jefferson's Palladian Mansion & Estate.

Guare's Free Man of Color is described as a Libertine.

Savran told us he'd looked up that word: it's from the Latin, meaning one who has been liberated from Slavery!

This was a surprise to John Guare--as well as to most of his audience. What no one bothered to note was that in Modern Parlance--even in the Restoration--a Libertine was/is a man whose Sexual Appetites know no Boundaries.

Thus, Libertines are not really free, but Slaves to their Sex Addictions


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