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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, February 2011.
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
PASSING GLANCES AT SCENES SEEN:
•No More Uncle Wiggley in Connecticut: Blood from a Stone…
•"Pete" Gurney Recycles Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, with The Last Wasp in Black Tie!
•African Americans Celebrate Passover in Virginia Plantation Ruins: Shalom!
•Shalom! South Bronx 1940s Teens Don’t Understand Mr. Hirsch, Who Died Yesterday.
•Rooting Through Rubbish To Find Key To Dead Father: Disposable Cameras—In Your Image.
•Don’t Vote for Either of These Presidential Candidates: The Body Politic.
•Beheading for a Billionaire Brunch: Food Prepping for the Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller!
• Madmen on the Loose: Compulsion & Diary of a Madman: Mandy Patinkin & Geoffrey Rush!
•At the New City: More Than You Need To Know About Sex Among the Younger Generation.
•Which Is Which: The Wicked Witch or The Witch of Edmonton?
•Single Ladies Join Forces in David Mamet’s Boston Marriage at Juilliard Drama.
•Molly Sweeney: There Are None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See…
•Timon! Do Not Waste Your Wealth: No Bail Outs for Dishonest Athenian Movers & Shakers!
•All Singing, All Dancing New American Musical in Dubai Reprised: The Road to Qatar!
•Bartered Bride Not Battered! James Levine on Juilliard Podium!
•John Adams on Carnegie Podium, Conducting Juilliard Orchestra!
•Good Advice from a Burning Bush: Free My People & Make a VideOpera: Mosheh!
•Spalding Gray Recycled: Zach Helm Is Now Interviewing the Audience!
•Around the World in 80 Days Reduced to 60 Minutes: Colin Quinn’s Long Short Story
INTRO: Why is it that some of the most imaginative, most powerful current productions are Revivals of Classics or Near Classics?
Did Shakespeare, Molière, & Oscar Wilde know something about Character, Plot, Style, & Human Foibles that Prize Winning Writers of New Plays haven’t yet discovered?
Why do recent plays that originally bowed Off Broadway now get revived On Broadway? Nothing good enough to Open Cold on the Great White Way?
Now that the Road is effectually Dead, does the American League of Theatre Owners & Producers so desperately need the Validation of Reviews from Regional Theatres & Off Broadway that they have to resort to reviving a show that was better suited to the Lucille Lortel?
They Don’t Write Plays the way they used to…
But there are Snippets of Impromptu Theatre everywhere.
As long as two women coming home from work in Manhattan on the No. 2 Train are going: "Then I said to her & she said to me…" the Story Telling Impulse remains alive.
Here’s a Vignette from last Saturday at the Jewish Community Center, over on Amsterdam, near the Beacon Theatre.
Your Roving Arts Reporter goes there every Saturday for Post Falling on My Head Rehabilitation: Full Body Massage by Rachim!
There’s even a Shabbas Elevator that automatically stops on every floor, so the Orthodox do not have to violate Leviticus!
After Massage & Steam Room, I was dressing in the Locker Room. Over in a corner a Naked Dad & his buck naked kid were fooling around with his Cell Phone.
He took a couple of shots of his Nude Kid. "Dad! Don’t do that!"
"Hey! When you are 18, I’m going to show these to your Girl Friend!"
"What’s a Girl Friend?" He clearly didn’t like the sound of this Promise or Threat.
His Dad thought for a moment: "Well, I’ll show it to your Boyfriend then…"
The Mini Theatre of Modern Day Tolerance/Acceptance!
Tommy Nohilly’s BLOOD FROM A STONE [***]
A. R. Gurney’s BLACK TIE [****]
Matthew Lopez’ THE WHIPPING MAN [***]
Fred Newman’s MR. HIRSCH DIED YESTERDAY [**]
Rob Benson’s IN YOUR IMAGE [**]
Abrons & Perry’s THE BODY POLITIC [**]
Jeff Cohen’s THE MAN WHO ATE MICHAEL ROCKEFELLER [****]
Rinne Groff’s COMPULSION [***]
Nikolai Gogol Adaptation: THE DIARY OF A MADMAN [*****]
THE INVENTOR, THE ESCORT, THE PHOTOGRAPHER, HER BOYFRIEND, & HIS GIRLFRIEND [***]
Old Plays in Revival:
Dekker, Ford, Rowley, & Berger’s THE WITCH OF EDMONTON [*****]
David Mamet’s BOSTON MARRIAGE [Not for Review]
Brian Friel’s MOLLY SWEENEY [*****]
Bill Shakespeare’s TIMON OF ATHENS [*****]
Stephen Cole & David Krane’s THE ROAD TO QATAR! [****]
Other Entertainments/Other Venues:
Opera & Concert:
At Juilliard + The Met:
Bedrich Smetana’s THE BARTERED BRIDE [****
Yoav Gal’s MOSHEH ***]
Gathering Grapes at The Vineyard:
Zach Helm’s INTERVIEWING THE AUDIENCE [**]
At the Helen Hayes:
Colin Quin’s LONG SHORT STORY [***]
SHOW NOTES OVERVIEW:
Behaving Like Trailer Trash in a Tract House: Can You Get Blood from a Stone?
Considering Connecticut’s reputation for Upscale Homes & Over Educated House Holders, it’s something of a shock to see & hear the Mayhem & Bad Language that infest all three acts of Tommy Nohilly’s disturbing new drama: Blood from a Stone.
Before I checked my program—to make sure the scene was really set in Connecticut—I thought the Dysfunctional Family on stage might be some of my California Relatives.
Even Derek McLane’s distressed set looked a bit like my late mother’s double wide House Trailer, a "Mobile Home" that was no longer On the Road.
Ethan Hawke plays Travis, a disjointed, disaffected young man, who has a not only a Family Problem but a Drug Problem.
His warring father & mother—as well as siblings & friends—are always trying to give him money, which should shame him, but rather will enable him to buy more mood suppressants & light out for places beyond Connecticut.
His parents’ Till Death Do Us Part Marriage has deteriorated into a War of the Sexes, staged just this side of Hell. His younger brother is a Liar & a Thief…
Curiously, even though Travis clearly doesn’t want to get involved or entangled, he seems to be the Stone to which the rest of his family cling: for validation, for approval.
While it was ultimately exhausting to watch & hear the permutations of Family Disaster unfolding on stage—also hoping none of the house’s roof panels, front porch, furniture, or broken glass from the kitchen window would fly out into the auditorium—I have nothing but admiration for the entire cast: Ann Dowd, Thomas Guiry, Gordon Clapp, Natasha Lyonne, & Daphne Rubin Vega.
As staged by Scott Ellis for The New Group, what they did on stage didn’t look like Acting. It looked like the Real Thing!
In fact, what happens in Blood from a Stone doesn’t seem like something Imagined or Made up. It has very much the feel of a Family Crisis fiercely experienced. The program notes that the author is a former Marine & that he now lives in Hell’s Kitchen.
Can this be worse than living in "a small town in Connecticut"?
Who knew that the Cheever & Updike People had Trailer Trash neighbors?
With a Black Tie, You Do Not Wear Pants: You Don Trousers! The Last Wasp Offers Advice!
The engaging Gregg Edelman plays Curtis, whose son is getting married—if he doesn’t panic—to a beautiful young woman. Who just happens to be Black, somewhat to the chagrin of the lad’s Upstate New York Old Conservative Family.
Pete Gurney’s basic plot premise sounds a bit like Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, but it’s much richer than that: The glamorous girl’s former Lover, now a Practicing Homosexual—Practice Makes Perfect!—& a Star Entertainer is coming to the Wedding Rehearsal Dinner to Do His Show, with TV & The New York Times tagging along!
This completely upsets the Plans of the unfortunate Curtis, who is rehearsing his Bridal Toast, as he is dressing in his late father’s old Tuxedo, complete with the Black Tie of the title.
Dressing formally & planning the series of Toasts by Old Friends is periodically interrupted by the apparition of his Father [an elegant Daniel Davis], who can not only walk through walls, but also insists that the Old Standards of Protocol & Etiquette must be Preserved.
Gentlemen do not wear Pants. They wear Trousers. Their homes are cared for by Cleaning Ladies, not by Cleaning Women. That handsome coat is not part of a Tuxedo—pace, Tuxedo Park!—it is a Dinner Jacket.
Gurney could just as well have titled this often hilarious & handsomely designed comedy as The Last Wasp. Curtis is surely the Last of the Line.
It’s not too much to say that Gurney is the Poet of the Dying Wasp Culture of Buffalo & Beyond.
The point of his Dining Room was that no one really needs or uses a Dining Room anymore. Families do not sit down to dinner together: You grab whatever’s in the Fridge…
Girls from Good Families do not go to Bennett to be "finished" anymore.
Bennett closed down years ago, although its Alumnae—including Jane Lahr & Zsa Zsa’s daughter—are surviving. But Good Manners are not Everything anymore.
Mark Lamos staged, in the tacky Lake George hotel room designed by John Arnone. Carolyn McCormick, Elvy Yost, & Ari Brand were also on hand.
The War Between the States Is Lost, But There’s Still Time for a Negro Seder Among the Ruins!
Two André’s are the Mainstays of Matthew Lopez’ vision of survival in the wake of losing the Civil War to the Yankees: André Braugher & André Holland.
They have returned to the shattered Virginia Plantation Mansion of Caleb’s apparently Virginia Jewish Planter Parents.
Caleb [Jay Wilkinson] may be a Confederate Deserter. His right leg is turning black from Gangrene, caused by a bullet deep in the flesh.
The Old Family Retainer, Simon [André Braugher], saws it off, sans anesthetic—to the horror of some in the audience who also apparently needed a sniff of anesthetic. The loot prone young John [André Holland] may be Caleb’s half brother.
Why is this Night different? Well, it’s not often you have Plantation Negroes celebrating a Seder, complete with Bitter Herbs!
The Whipping Man of the title was that feared personage who was assigned to flay the backs of recalcitrant & Runaway Slaves. Simon’s back is fearsomely scarred with Lashes.
No one does Ruined Plantation Mansion Interiors like John Lee Beatty!
Doug Hughes directed.
Conrad’s Mistuh Kurtz, He Dead Transformed in Bronx Darkness into Mr. Hirsch Died Yesterday.
The only reason I wandered down West 42nd Street to the Castillo Theatre was to see my dear friend & former MA student, Moshe Yassur, on stage as the Mr. Hirsch of the title of Fred Newman’s odd play.
No one among the 1940s South Bronx teenagers likes the dour, uncommunicative Mr. Hirsch, who is the brother in law of a friendly candy & ice cream shop owner. Even the bitter, bossy Sadie Greenberg—whom no one likes also—doesn’t like him. She says he’s a Phony & a Show Off.
Mr. Hirsch’s back story is never told. At one point, a projection of the Entrance to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp appears in the Picture Window of the Candy Shop. You can infer that Mr. Hirsch is a Holocaust Survivor…
The Ironic Motto above the Main Gate at Auschwitz was: Arbeit Macht Frei.
This means Work Makes You Free, which was more optimistic than Jeder das Seine—To Each His Own—which was another Main Gate Motto at some other Nazi Death Mills.
Playwright & Castillo Maecenas Fred Newman should have put a little more Arbeit into his play script. There is too much missing, unexplained…
I had no difficulty in hearing all the lines: the Actors were very energetic in their performances.
You would readily recognize what they did on stage as Acting! It had almost nothing to do with Real Life. Even as lived in the 1940s up in the Bronx…
Woodie King, jr, directed.
Scores of Disposable Cameras Litter Tiny 59E59 Stage: What Images Did Dead Dad Snap?
See, there’s this tiny apartment, littered with rubbish, cluttered with Disposable Cameras. But neither of the two brothers—sons of a Dead Drunken Irish Dad—is going to develop the film to find out what he found so interesting or so necessary to photograph.
Seeing those Mysterious Photos would be the High Point of Rob Benson’s odd drama of Irish in Manchester. But that was not to be. Pity…
More’s the pity, because Benson was inspired to write this play after seeing a Documentary about Two Brothers "cleaning the flat of their deceased father."
Among the rubbish were all these Disposable Cameras.
As Benson explains in the Program: "The Theatrical Potential of this set my mind racing: Time Bombs of Information littering a stage."
For some Arcane Reason, Benson did not see fit to let the Bombs Explode! Missed Opportunity!
Perhaps it would have been more interesting to see the Documentary, rather than Benson’s play?
Benson plays Warren, who is described as Clever. No evidence of this was shown in the Lines or in the Confrontations of the Two Brothers.
The Message of In Your Image seems to be: You can take the Irish out of Ireland, but you cannot take the Thirst for Booze out of the Irish!
Mary Matalin & James Carville’s Romance Re Cycled: Body Politic Not All That Sexy…
The famous Romance & Marriage of the GOP Election Strategist & her Donkey Counterpart is mentioned in the dialogue of Richard Abrons & Margarett [that’s two T’s] Perry’s new & supposedly Romantic Comedy.
Fortunately, the Authors did not elect to play their Young—Across the Aisle—Lovers. But Perry did direct it. Rather obviously, at that. No opportunity to let the audience know that something funny had just been said or done was missed.
To watch Spencer [Matthew Boston] & Trish [Eve Danzeisen] strip down for Sexual Action on stage was neither Exciting nor Erotic. Romance should be more Romantic, shouldn’t it?
What was especially depressing about the situation was that both the Romantics were dealing in Dirty Tricks, at the behest of the two Governors who were seeking election [erection?] to the Presidency of the United States.
The Central Issue seemed to be that one of these Obvious Incompetents wanted to avoid Religious Faith as a Touchstone of Electability.
Obviously, he was very ill advised to take such a Stance.
After all, wasn’t Baruch Obama criticized for faulting GOP’eers for their devotion to Guns & Religion?
What is needed now is a really strongly Satiric & Sarcastic Parody of Presidential Campaigns. Mitt Romney is a Barrel of Laughs & Sarah Palin is already a Parody…
Not the Real Michael Rockefeller: The World of the Asmat Springs Entirely from Our Imaginations.
"We mean no disrespect with our play."
This Caveat appears at the end of Playwright Jeff Cohen’s Program Introduction for The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller.
The Year 2011 marks the 50th Anniversary of the disappearance of the 23 year old Rockefeller Scion among the Asmat, a Head Hunting, Cannibal Tribe in Papua/New Guinea.
No one knows what really happened to Rockeller, but Speculations on his Untimely End were soon linked to the Cultural Propensities of the Asmat.
Christopher Stokes even wrote a Short Story about it. This is the basis of Cohen’s unusual drama.
Young Mike [Aaron Strand] is presented as an Art Loving Innocent, an admirer of the Asmat Wood Carvings of Designing Man [Daniel Morgan Shelley]. He has come to Papua to commission as much Tribal Traditional Wood Carving as Designing Man can produce.
Things don’t work out very well for Michael.
But before he has his throat cut by Designing Man, there are some fascinating Tribal Rituals & Social Interactions, with many Skulls as Masks on display.
Designing Man & his woman Breezy [Ayesha Ngaujah] haven’t been able to conceive, so his "brother," Half Moon Terror [David King], exchanges wives with him. Getting acquainted, Plentiful Bliss [Tracy Jack] shows him & the audience a Raucous Riot of Sexual Positions.
The Costumes & the Body Paints—where there are only a few snatches of fabric—are the ingenious devisings of Kimberly Glennon.
The proceedings are often hilarious, especially when all the Natives speak excellent English, but Michael talks gibberish. Nonetheless, Cohen’s text is often poetical, even with a haunting simplicity.
Respect is shown for Michael Rockefeller’s Artistic & Cultural Sensibilities: He feared that the Asmat Culture would be destroyed by Tourism & Museum Expeditions.
Not to Worry on Our End: the Metropolitan Museum has an entire gallery honoring Michael Rockefeller, with some of his Epic Finds on view. Those Tribal Carvers were very big on Penises…
Which may remind the Gossip Sodden how Michael’s dad—the V P of the United States—died?
Clenched, on top of Megan…
A Tale of Two Madmen: One at BAM, the Other at the Public Theatre—Rush vs. Patimkin!
Geoffrey Rush is not only an Oscar Contender—for his remarkable role as the Speech Coach of King George VI, in The King’s Speech—but he’s also dazzling audiences over at BAM in Brooklyn as Nikolai Gogol’s Madman, writer of the Diary of the same name.
Mandy Patinkin is a Long Way Off from Gogol as a fanatic, compulsive Meyer Levin, in Rinne Groff’s Compulsion. He believes he has the Copyright on Anne Frank’s Diary: that Otto Frank double crossed him!
The Gogol Diary is not exactly a New Play, having been developed years ago by Geoffrey Rush & director Neil Armfeld in Antipodean Australia. But it’s new to BAM audiences & new every performance, as Rush hilariously & bizarrely descends into Madness.
As Aksentii Poprishchin—a very junior clerk of the Ninth Grade in the staircase structured governmental apparatus of Czar Nicholas I—he ekes out a miserable existence in a garret room, served by an adoring Finnish girl, Tuovi [Yael Stone].
But he dreams of wedding the beautiful Sophia [Yael Stone], daughter of the Director of his Department.
Finally, Poprishchin—who imagines he is the King of Spain, destined to fill the Empty Throne—ends in an Insane Asylum, straight jacketed like the other inmate, Tatiana [Yael Stone].
Rush’s nose is tipped with Red: He’s an essential Clown. But not a Happy Clown…
His Maunderings & Pretensions are grotesque, but hysterically funny. His Body Language is almost more amusing than his Private Musings.
He’s accompanied by Strings & Reeds. The Violin can mimic his Vocal Line!
The stark Van Gogh inspired red garret setting of Catherine Martin, the costumes of Tess Schofield, & the striking Lighting of Mark Shelton do much to enhance the downward Dance of Madness.
Neil Armfield’s co operative staging with Rush is admirable, here reprised from its original in Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre.
Armfield’s remarkable Cloudstreet was also shown at BAM, in 2001. But I saw it first at the Edinburgh Festival, where Armfield asked me to look after his Parents during a Festive Reception.
As for Meyer Levin—aka Sid Silver—his Obsession with his Rights to Dramatize the Diary of
Anne Frank, rather than the Hackneyed Hacketts, turns him into a Madman of quite a different kind.
This over produced Production has been developed, over time, by the Public Theatre, in collaboration with the estimable Berkeley Rep & the Yale Rep.
Mandy Patinkin plays Levin over the top. And then some…
In some of his In Your Face Rants, you might well ask: "Is this good for the Jews?"
Nonetheless, Hannah Cabell & Matte Osian are remarkable. She as the smart Manhattan publisher & agent, Miss Mermin, as well as the loving but often baffled French wife, Mrs. Silver.
Osian plays four different men, but he looks much alike as three of them: only in Israel, does he look really Artistic & Israeli.
Eugene Lee has created one of his Trademark settings, decorated down to such details as a Poster for Levin/Silver’s Chicago Puppet Theatre production of Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude.
In the densely Lighting Instrumented Overhead, one also sees Hanging Puppets. Onstage, we get to see a Puppet Anne Frank in action & later, a Puppet Sid Silver.
Their usages were Dramatically Effective, but I’d rather have seen some of the Inactive Overhead Puppets from time to time. Who knows what stories they might have had to tell?
Watching the Obsessive Meyer Levin/Mandy Patinkin in this Obsessive Production, I came away with the impression that Levin & The Anne Frank Industry had also become an Obsession for Playwright Groff & for the Public’s Producing Director, Oskar Eustis…
Sex for Today: Matt Morillo Shows Us How It’s Done Among the Young: Please Use Condums!
Initially, it didn’t mean much to me that the pretty Lady Escort was named Julia [Roberts] & her genial script bound paying customer was named Richard [Gere].
What I instantly surmised was that these two attractive people [David Doumeng & Jessica Durdock Moreno], Meeting Cute under such Sex for Pay Circumstances would ‘ere long Find True Love.
A Colleague—who actually has time to go to Moving Pictures—tells me this is the Plot of Pretty Woman, starring Roberts & Gere!
Richard/Jeffrey is the very wealthy inventor of Sex Toys that make it easier to Eat Pussy & Suck Cock, if I understood correctly their functions.
The play—one of two involving people in the same walk up—was, Morillo says, partly inspired by the Eliott Sptizer Scandal.
Not having time to watch either Movies or TV, I do not know whether Saturday Night Live at that time offered Satiric Skits dealing with Sex Across State Lines.
Nonetheless, it would have been more interesting had Morillo used his Talents to reprising that Political Set Up.
How was it that only Client #9 was targeted? Who wanted to Bring Down Spitzer? Leaving us with a Legally Blind & somewhat Clueless Governor?
I’d love to learn—possibly in a Morillo play—who were the First Eight Clients? Members of the Supreme Court, who often lunch with the Koch Brothers?
In Morillo’s second & interconnected comedy, we get to see a Noisy, Tattooed, Semi Nude Male Bottom handcuffed & leapt upon by his recently absent Lady Love, dressed in shiny black Police Cap, Boots, & various S&M accoutrements.
I suppose it’s good for Senior Theatre Goers to find out How The Other Half Lives. But I wouldn’t pay Good Money to watch this. You could get a Porn Film much cheaper. Or try Porn On Line…
Clearly, Sex has never been Taboo as a Stage Topic over the Ages. It is often the Mainspring of many a great Drama. Think of the Central Problem in Tristan und Isolde. Think of Don Carlo & his father, the King of Spain.
Both Tristan & Don Carlo fall in love with women who are supposed to Marry Their Fathers. King Mark, in case you didn’t know it, was Tristan’s father. There’s a gravestone somewhere in France that records this relationship…
Anyway, whether in Grand Opera or on the Classic Stage, Playwrights & Librettists have seldom found it necessary to show Sex Acts on stage. Salomé’s Dance of Seven Veils is supposed to stimulate our Imaginations, not show Herod doing the Dirty Deed with her.
Would Goethe’s Faust have been more powerful had the Playwright showed Gretchen in bed in action with the newly rejuvenated Old Philosopher? How about Mephistopheles looking on, masturbating?
Perhaps it’s asking Too Much that Young American Playwrights might borrow a leaf from The Masters?
Morillo is better known for Angry Young Women in Low Rise Jeans with High Class Issues. Also Up Coming: Angry Young Women in the Dollar Store with the Long Island Meatheads.
They Don’t Write Jacobean Plays the Way They Used To, So Jesse Berger Is Helping Out.
What a Cast for The Witch of Edmonton!
André De Shields, Charlayne Woodard, Everett Quinton, Derek Smith, Amanda Quaid, Sam Tsoutsouvas, Justin Blanchard, & Christopher Innvar! To name only a few…
Although the Original Text was cobbled together by Thomas Dekker, John Ford, & William Rowley—Shakespeare, surprisingly, was otherwise engaged at the time—director Jesse Berger has wisely seen fit to "adapt" their handiwork.
Berger has also staged his talented cast very effectively in the interesting wooden structure that suggests such Jacobean Stages as the Red Bull.
When I saw this troupe’s unusual Duchess of Malfi—also produced at St. Clement’s—I didn’t make the theatre connection, supposing, instead, that Red Bull, the Austrian Energy Drink, was the Sponsor.
Considering the Horrors piled on Horrors—with the occasional excursion into bizarre comedy—that is almost the Hallmark of Jacobean Tragi Comedy, it is all too easy for actors to make a mockery of the Characters, the Situations, & the Lines themselves.
The Witch’s cast do not do that. They are entirely in character, quite serious about what they—as characters—are doing. Extravagant as some of the scenes may be, they are played with an almost frightening Concentration.
This is not the place to summarize the Convoluted Plot: buy the play for that!
But it is, nonetheless, a study in Hysteria in a remote English Village in the 17th century, where all kinds of Misfortunes & Mishaps may be blamed on crazy old ladies, living in ditches or caves.
Charlayne Woodard’s Mother Sawyer is no innocent old woman. She believes she’s a witch who can do harm, supported by her Familiar, Dog, a wonderfully contorted Derek Smith.
The Anti Hero, Frank Thorney [Justin Blanchard], is a good looking but ruttish rascal who is falsely contracted to two women. [Adultery used to be punished by Stoning, but only for Women.]
Frank dies on the Gallows—strikingly presented!—not for Bigamy, but because he has murdered one of his wives & put the blame on his rivals.
The layered fabric costumes of Cait O’Connor are a marvel to behold. Anka Lupes’ wooden scaffold setting is admirable.
It should be remembered—in the Jacobean Context—that not all old women who took the character of Witches were in Pacts with the Devil. Some were White Witches—like Glenda the Good.
Long, long ago, I made a Pilgrimage to a mysterious forest cave in Rural England, where I was able to dip my hand into the Miraculous Waters of Mother Shipton’s Well. She was a White Witch & a Seer, much sought after in her day.
Any Fabrics dipped into the Well—when taken out & hung up—stiffen like boards. There is a kind of chemical in the water that causes them to Calcify!
On the Clothes Lines stretched above the Well were many Handkerchiefs & Bandanas, but Pride of Place went to some 15 Knickers, stiff from Calcium, rather then from Natural Fluids…
One of my critical colleagues wanted to know who was this Jacob for whom such plays as The Witch of Edmonton had been written?
Another thought that Edmonton was a city in the Canadian Province of Alberta…
Do You Know What a "Boston Marriage" Really Is? David Mamet Certainly Does!
The always handsome productions of the Juilliard Drama Department are not to be reviewed. But it seems only fair to salute the ravishing costumes of Anne Kennedy & the stylish setting of Alexis Distler!
The Miracle of Sight May Become a Curse: Molly Sweeny Is Manipulated & Abandoned…
When Brien Friel’s Molly Sweeney bowed on Broadway, it introduced Alfred Molina to American Audiences. But it did much more than that, certainly.
It encouraged Spectators to think about what being able to BE a Spectator really means.
Is the so called Gift of Sight always a Blessing?
Friel tells the tragic tale of Molly Sweeney in three Interlocking Monologues.
First & foremost, there’s the radiant Molly [a remarkable Geraldine Hughes], confident of herself in her Village World. She’s been raised by a Loving Father who has taught her to know her Environment through the Senses of Smell, Sound, Taste, & Touch.
She really doesn’t need to see.
But she falls in love with the raffish, feckless, unemployed Irishman, Frank [a disarmingly charming Ciarán O’Reilly], who is an Enthusiast for Causes & Projects. He’s often off & away from the Village of Ballybeg to Save the Whales/Seals/Penguins or whatever…
Frank’s immediate Cause with Molly is to restore her sight, lost when she was in infancy. She was not Born Blind.
Fortunately for Frank—but unfortunately for Molly—there’s a World Class Eye Surgeon in Ballybeg!
Dr. Rice [thoughtfully, ruefully played by Jonathan Hogan]—once one of the four leading Ophthalmologists in the world—has lost his beautiful wife to one of his Colleagues.
The Good Doctor was so busy with his Successful Operations that he was no longer looking at his wife, loving her as she deserved.
So he has retreated to Ballybeg, to lick his Metaphoric Wounds with Alcohol—the drinkable variety.
Operating on Molly’s Eyes may be the Key to his Recovery of both Reputation & Skill.
Of course, this will also be a Triumph for Frank: Better than Saving a Whale!
The operation is a Technical Success, but Molly isn’t used to Seeing. It’s a shock to adjust to Colors, for instance.
If you want to know what happens to all three of these possibly cursed Irish, you will want to rush off to the Irish Repertory Theatre where the admirable Charlotte Moore has deftly directed her Trio.
Charlotte is the resourceful Artistic Director of this invaluable Theatre Asset to Manhattan. Ciarán O’Reilly is her strong supporting partner as Producing Director. He’s also an excellent, wide ranging Actor!
Richard Thomas is Timon of Athens, But His Suck Up "Friends" Could Be US Bailout CEOs!
Timon of Athens—one of Shakespeare’s Late, Dark Plays—is notoriously difficult to stage. As with Pericles & Cymbeline, Shakespeare Festivals tend to avoid it.
Unless, like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, they feel duty bound to produce the Complete Canon over the seasons.
Ashland has, in fact, done the Canon several times, but its stagings have never convinced me that Timon is a play I need to see more than once. Ditto: Two Noble Kinsmen…
Now, having just seen Richard Thomas’ powerful Timon at the Public Theatre, I am eager to see it again, this time On Broadway. Just as the Public’s Shakespeare in the Park Merchant of Venice transferred this past season!
In fact, Thomas’ Timon—a very long way off from shooting a Thanksgiving Turkey on The Waltons—is so subtle, yet so passionate, that I long to see Thomas in other major Bardic Roles.
If he has already played Hamlet, I must have missed it. But I believe he’s now more than ready to bring new insights to the Melancholy Dane. King Lear may be looming in the future, but we can wait for it.
What especially struck me about the bare bones, but totally evocative staging at the Public was the open handed, open hearted way in which the genial Timon welcomed, feasted, & gifted his Coterie of Friends: a Painter, a Poet, a Collector, a Factor: all important Movers & Shakers in the Athens of Alcibiades & Apemantus.
Thomas as Timon was totally unaware of any Base Motives on the part of his Ever Importuning Guests.
You could say that Timon is a bit of a Fool.
Only when he is Totally Ruined & desperately needs Help & Loans from his Dear Old Friends, does he discover that—like Shakespeare’s Richard III—that they Are Not In a Giving Mood…
He takes to a Cave in the Primeval Forest to lick his wounds & try to survive on blackened roots. He now has Lear Like Rages. Maybe Thomas is ready for King Lear?
In how many of the Bard’s dramas does One once Rich & Powerful take to the Woods? The Forest of Arden? Or to a Desert Isle, like Prospero, smarting from the Infamies of Trusted Relatives & Friends…
Digging for Roots, Timon uncovers a battered tin box, filled with Golden Coins.
News of this reaches Athens. Soon the Old Suitors are back, as though nothing had happened.
It’s rather like the Too Big To Fail Bail Outs: you were going to take down not only the American Economy, but also that of the Entire World, but I saved you with My Gifts.
Now that I am in direst Need, you have no money to loan to me, even on the most Usorious Terms?
To underscore these similarities, the Public even had a Town Hall to explore the Power of Money in America: Too Rich To Fail—Americans & Their Money.
This featured Richard Thomas, his director, Barry Edelstein, Randy Cohen, Katy Lederer, Jeremy McCarter, Bethany McLean, & Social Arbiter David Patrick Columbia, who has to go to all those endless Galas, Benefits, & Awards Presentations that keep the Very Rich from staying at home with their often confused & anchorless Trust Funded Children.
Design Credits go to Neil Patel [scenic design], Katherine Roth [costumes], Russell H. Champa [lighting], Leon Rothenberg [sound], & the estimable Paul Huntley, the Master of Stage Wiggery.
Two Short Jewish Guys Create New American Musical for Dubai: Sholem & Salaam Aleikum!
While it was an hysterically funny Treat to watch The Road to Qatar on stage at the York Theatre, judging from the color photos in the lobby, it would have been even more amazing to see the Mammoth Musical—with Platoons of Camels—that Stephen Cole & David Krane confected for the Emir of Qatar.
This charming new musical chronicles the Duo’s Adventures & Mis Adventures in devising an "American" Musical—titled Aspire—to be performed under the Largest Domed Soccer Stadium in the World.
James Beaman & Keith Gerchak hilariously/frantically/desperately embody Cole & Krain. Bill Nolte & Bruce Warren play a variety of Middle Eastern types, with Warren also satirizing an insane, effeminate Italian Stage Director.
Sarah Stiles is both sexy & virtuosic in an array of roles, including that of a Translator for the Arab Producer & his often baffled Americans.
On the York’s tiny stage, designers Michael Bottari & Ronald Case have worked wonders. Their marvelous Puppets increase the Cast incrementally!
Director Phillip George keeps things moving at a break neck pace. Some costume changes must be frantic backstage…
This sparkling show should move Off Broadway to a larger venue. Perhaps the Emir of Qatar could be encouraged to recreate the Original Show in Radio City Music Hall?
Met Opera & Juilliard Present Joint Production of The Bartered Bride: Prodigal Son Gets the Girl!
The three delightful performances of Bedrich Smetana’s Czech Operetta Masterpiece at the Juilliard Opera Theatre were Sold Out!
In itself, this is not surprising, for the Annual Spring & Autumn Opera Stagings at the Juilliard usually play to Packed Houses.
But this time—just after Valentine’s Day—no less a Conducting Eminence than James Levine was on the Podium!
Even if you were unable to be there, you can well imagine what a thrill it was for the youngsters in the Juilliard Orchestra to respond to the Baton of Maestro Levine.
Not to overlook the frisson for the talented young singers on stage to get a Cue Nod from Jimmy.
This was not a One Time Only Publicity Stunt.
Instead, this Production ushers in a new Partnership between the Metropolitan Opera & Juilliard!
The Met has long been interested in developing new young talents for its own stage. With the Juilliard just across the street from the Met, this Chemistry is a Natural Fusion.
Twice a year, the Juilliard mounts imaginative, impressive opera stagings in its own State of the Art Theatre. But they play only two evenings & a Sunday matinée.
Many opera fans have wished these often innovative mountings could transfer to the Met, their casts intact. Set schedules have never permitted that.
Not to mention the precedence of Noted Opera Stars over Novices.
This Bartered Bride has a clever new translation—what Ingenious Rhymes!—by the eminent American Poet, JD McClatchy, especially commissioned by the Met.
Not only that: an Expanded Version of the charming Physical Production will be seen on the Met’s own vast stage.
This means that Set Designer Thomas Lynch will have to make the Czech village restaurant & festive street scene somewhat larger.
Costume designer Martin Pakledinaz won’t have to enlarge his colorful Ethnic Trachten & Art Deco Styles, unless the Met substitutes some of its Ample Sopranos for the current cast. In fact, some of the distinctive Czech women’s costumes are already bulging with underskirts & folds of fabric.
Peter Kaczorowski will have to re think his Lighting Plot for the Met, but he’s an Old Hand there.
The Juilliard’s Stage Director, Stephen Wadsworth, will surely want to expand the effects of a Village Festival on the street behind the Restaurant/Pub/Stübe.
The elaborate Circus Float can barely be seen, for instance. A lot of Ingenious Design going for Nothing…
Initially, it’s a Cute Idea to see Choreographer Benjamin Millepied’s dancers cavorting behind the Restaurant Façade. But—as you cannot really see what they are doing—this is soon irritating.
Some snatches of Ethnic Dance are brought into the restaurant, but most of the dances need a better showcase. [What a Great Name for a Choreographer! Not Centipede, but Millepied!]
As Marenka—the love smitten village girl who is to be Marriage Matched to a boy she doesn’t even know—Layla Claire is a real discovery, both as an actress & a singer!
That gawky, stuttering boy, Vasek—a delightful Alexander Lewis, sure to be a star ere long!—fortunately falls in love with the glamorous Circus Star, Esmeralda, who is glamorously played by Joyce El Khoury.
Noah Baetge was a jolly Circus Ringmaster, perhaps overmastered vocally by the Match maker, Kecal [Jordan Bisch].
But all’s well that ends well, as Vasek’s elder brother, Jenik [Paul Appleby], finally gets the girl—through some Contractual Chicanery—having been dispossessed by his scheming Step Mother [Renée Tatum].
Lucky Vasek not only gets Esmeralda, but he also gets to be the Circus’ Dancing Bear!
Those Czechs! What Crazy Imaginations! Think of RUR & The Good Soldier Schweik!
Too bad that Smetana died so far from his beloved Home City, where the Commies re named the Operetta Theatre for him: The Smetana Theatre.
Bedrich Smetana died in Swedish Göteborg, where he was Conductor of the Opera…
John Adams Conducts Richard Strauss, Béla Bartok, & His City Noir With Juilliard Orchestra!
The Juilliard School is making Waves, Big Musical Waves!
Just Think: Bartered Bride, in co production with the Metropolitan Opera, followed by John Adams conducting the Juilliard’s Student Orchestra at Carnegie Hall!
Never has the Carnegie stage been so crammed full with Instrumentalists! Ten Cellists! Nine Basses!
Adams seems even more physical a conductor than Leonard Bernstein—especially when he’s interpreting his own work.
But he certainly threw himself into Strauss’ Don Juan with vigor & vivacity. The Brasses were notably sonorous—despite a few bleats here & there—so the Epic Sweep of this famed Tone Poem was very grand.
Béla Bartok‘s Tancszvit was equally impressive under Adams’ vigorously brandished Baton. Some movements of this Dance Suite, however, don’t seem so danceable. You could Dance Yourself to Death!
Listening to Adams own City Noir, I was struck with some jazzy Gershwinian Passages, amidst what sounded like an Eclectic Fabric of Background Music for Hollywood Films.
Reading the Program afterward—in the Privacy of My Own Home—I discovered I was On Target.
Adams is a Big Fan of the California Dream books of Kevin Starr, who has fascinatingly recorded the Cultural & Social History of The Golden State.
Here’s what he has to say about his inspiration for City Noir: "In the Black Dahlia chapter of his Embattled Dreams volume, Starr chronicles the tenor & milieu of the late ‘40s & early ‘50s as it was expressed in the sensational journalism of the era & in the dark, eerie chiaroscuro of the Hollywood films that have come to define the period sensibility for us."
Out of the Bullrushes, a Multi Media Mosheh, with Burning Bush & Plagues of Locusts!
There may be Riots in Cairo, but down at HERE, Egypt seems a different place entirely. Israelis are not happy about building the Pyramids, but they are not rioting.
They are waiting for a Man, a Leader, who can free them from Bondage. This Chosen One—who gets advice from an electronic Burning Bush—is Mosheh, an almost nude Nathan Guisinger.
At one point, he is decked out in the stripes of a Nazi KZ Inmate, foreshadowing Bad Things To Come.
Yoav Gal—who composed & designed this new VideOpera—must have been channeling the Bauhaus, as well as Adolf Eichmann. The most impressive costumes, worn by the women closest to Mosheh, seem inspired by Oskar Schlemmer’s unusual outfits for his Triadic Ballet at the Bauhaus.
But the round red headgear of Mosheh’s mother, Yocheved, is very like the Sanhedrin Hats seen last summer at the Oberammergau Passion Play.
This role is wonderfully sung by Judith Barnes, who’s also something of an opera impresario herself, having produced Jacques Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann over on a Pier in Red Hook.
Heather Green is Bitia, Pharaoh’s Daughter, with Beth Anne Hatton as Zipporah, Mosheh’s wife.
Not to overlook the Vocal Excellences—this is very demanding music to sing, especially in Hebrew!—of the Chinns: Wesley & Hai Ting. He’s the Voice of God; she’s Miriam, Mosheh’s sister.
At one point in Gal’s Score, there was a sustained thumping, clanging, pounding on what may have been an Anvil. I thought of the Anvil Chorus in Trovatore & Siegfried’s Forging of Nothung, but this was something else entirely.
It was good to know that the opera would be only 90 minutes long, as I feared that otherwise we’d have anvil clanking for all of the forty years Moses & the Israelis spent wandering around the Sinai Peninsula.
Nonetheless, all the Plagues were invoked, set to music. Clearly, they were much more horrific than Setting Fire to the Cairo Museum…
The eclectic Video Clips used to suggest various Nile & Memphis locales were odd: Memphitic Pillars standing against what looked like Subway Tracks.
Citrus Trees—loaded with what appeared to be Grapefruit—were gauzily wavering on the projection scrim. Were they invoked to suggest a Kibbutz to which Aaron might lead the Israelis, after Moses had been buried on Mount Nebo?
Channeling Spalding Gray Always a Risk: What If You Pick Boring Ticket Holders To Interview?
For some reason, Zach Helm has decided to borrow the late Spalding Gray’s Impromptu Show Device of Interviewing the Audience.
This requires No difficult—but witty—Script to learn. You just pick three people, in turn, from your audience, invite them up onto the stage. Seat them, put a mike on them, & pour some water.
Even if the Interlocutor or Interrogator is a charming, charismatic Genius, this can be a disaster if the Audience Members are basically Not Interesting.
You no longer have to worry about Shyness! Thanks to all those TV Talk Shows—not to mention Twitter Titbits & Facebook Feeds—hardly anyone is unwilling to disclose his or her Most Intimate Secrets these days.
But do we need to hear all about settling in for some semesters at NYU?
Or about all those Penguins you saw in Antarctica? At least we didn’t have to watch a Slide Show of your World Travels…
The trick to making such a show a success must lie in an Innate Ability to look people square in the eye & know which ones are the Live Ones.
If they are Dead Behind the Eyes, watch out!
To make this work, perhaps you should have more of the skills of Dunninger, The Mentalist, rather than trying to improvise like Spalding Gray.
Nonetheless, Zach Helm is said to be both author & director of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, which I rather enjoyed. So, Good Luck to him!
With Colin Quinn Around the World & Down Through 5,000 Years of History in 75 Minutes…
Your Arts Reporter must be living a very Sheltered Life, for I had never before heard of Colin Quinn, who I was told is a Stand Up Comic.
I do know that we are all supposed to Stand Up for Jesus—especially Ye Soldiers of the Cross. But there’s nothing Comic about that Divine Command.
I haven’t been to Caroline’s Comedy Club in years. Nor do I watch Saturday Night Live, on which Quinn is said to have appeared.
So I have to judge him on Material & Performance, rather than on Previous Credits.
Instead of taking us Around the World in 80 Days, Quinn reduces the trip to 75 minutes, although it would have been more amusing had he done it in Sixty Minutes.
But he does manage to cover five or six thousand years of Human/Inhumane History. More, if you count references to Cave Men Artists…
According to the Gospel of Colin, the Greeks Had It—Philosophically, at least. But they Lost It.
Quinn Rants very rapidly: I could hardly keep up.
His tart & even Politically Offensive Riffs on Human Stupidity were On Target, but George Carlin did this kind of thing more effectively.
The best thing about this show is the Setting—a Ruined Greek Amphitheatre?—with the Projections of Antique Maps & a Revolving Globe, zooming in on wonderfully fashioned Models of Signature Famous Buildings in various Historic Capitals.
The Human Story is always the same: The Lust for Power & Wealth, with the Masses longing for an Alpha Male Leader.
Only the Destructive Technology improves…
Performing Arts News & Notes:
Acting Teachers Talk About Acting/Critics Quiz Playwrights & Producers: ATCA Mini Meeting!
Just ten days before St. Valentine’s Festivities, American Theatre People & American Theatre Critics exchanged Valentines—more or less—in Manhattan, at Baruch College of the City University, or CUNY.
This was the annual Mid Winter Mini Meeting of the American Theatre Critics Association, or ATCA. Two panels were especially interesting. So much so that Your Arts Reporter & his Web Editor, Scott Bennett, made videos of the Main Events.
Before Acting Teachers discussed their techniques for helping young Acting Talents develop, Drama Critics from around the United States were able to sample a reading of Otho Eskin’s Two Hander, aptly titled Duet.
But this is not just any old Duet! No indeed! Nor is it a piece for two vocalists!
The Protagonist is Eleanora Duse, with her Antagonist the late Sarah Bernhardt. Duse is backstage in Pittsburgh with a rain induced Fever. Just being in Pittsburgh can give you a fever…
The very animated Ghost of The Divine Sarah appears for a Chat: we—the Audience—learn a lot about Acting a century ago or so.
These two Rivals toured widely, even in America, playing, respectively, in Italian & in French. Their Stardom & Style was such that it mattered not to most American theatre goers that they didn’t understand either language.
Angelica Torn—yes! Those Torns!—read Duse’s role, with Betsy Aidem as Sarah. Ludovica Villar Hauser—an admirable avant garde experimenter—is developing this duo drama for an up coming production.
This was followed by a fascinating panel: Approaching a Role: What are the Tools & Techniques that Actors Learn to Understand a Character?
Sharing their secrets as Acting Teachers & Actors were William Esper, Sabra Jones McAteer, Mary McCann, Joanna Merlin, Sande Shurin, & Terry Schreiber.
The Panel was pelted with Questions by the Moderators: Sherry Eaker, formerly Editor/Publisher of Backstage, & Ronald Rand, who is just grand in his Signature Monodrama, Let It Be Art!, in which he channels the late Director, Drama Critic, Group Theatre founder, & CUNY Drama Professor Harold Clurman.
In the afternoon of the first day of the Mini Meet, Ira Bilowit chaired ATCA’s annual Perspectives in Criticism.
But, instead of inviting a Distinguished Critic such as Frank Rich or William Henry III to discuss their Duties & Craft, Playwrights & Producers were asked to discuss their reactions to the published or blogged opinions of their possible Nemeses, Paid Professional Playgoers.
Richard Nelson & Adam Rapp offered some playwrighterly views, with Tim Sanford & Emily Mann representing play producers. Sanford is Artistic Director of Playwrights Horizons, down on Theatre Row, on 42nd Street.
But Emily Mann is more than just the Artistic Director of the McCarter Theatre, way down in Princeton, NJ. She is also a Director & a Playwright!
On Saturday, pre matinée, the annual Celebrity Brunch was held at Sardi’s. Luminaries included Lily Rabe, Dana Ivey, Stacy Keach, Jeffrey Wright, Judith Light, Paxton Whitehead, Dan Luria, Linda Lavin, & Andre De Shields.
Sunday morning, the now theatre sated Out of Town Critics returned to Baruch to discover how to review shows even when you are no longer paid & your newspaper or magazine has died: Digitally!
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