GLENN LONEY'S ARTS RAMBLES
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
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Report for The Month of January 2014
THIS WAS THE MONTH THAT WAS…
Those Resolute Republican Lawmakers, who deride the Wide Spread Fears of Global Warming, must surely have been Congratulating Themselves during the Epic Cold Waves that swept over the Eastern Seaboard this Snow Swallowed & Frost Bitten Month.
Indeed, the Bitter Cold, the Frozen Snow Drifts, & the Icy Roads & Sidewalks, as well as the Shortness of Days, conspired to keep many Well Intentioned Theatre Goers bundled up at Home, perhaps warming themselves before a TV Image of a Roaring Fire in a Totally Conventional Fireplace.
One Good Thing about getting past 21 December 2013 was that you could safely ask: "Have you noticed how the Days Are Getting Longer?"
One Merciful Benefit of Being in January always is that there are Few Show Openings, so Horrendously Bad Weather need not make You Feel Bad about Not Seeing Shows…
Added January Benefits:
Fátima & Santiago de Compostella--as well as to the Medieval/Reniassance/Baroque Cathedrals of Léon & Burgos, concluding with Visits to Bilbao's Frank Ghery Guggenheim, & Madrid's Prado…
Did you know that the Great Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella houses the Holy Relics of Jesus' Brother, Jacob?
Did you know that--despite the Virgin Birth of Jesus of Nazareth--it was Biologically Possible for Jesus to have Siblings?
Did you know that the Prado Museum--with its Priceless Collections of Velazquez, Murillio, Goya, & Hieronymus Bosch--is Completely Free on Saturday Evenings after 6pm?
Did you know that the Grand Pilgrimage Arena before the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima is almost Twice as Large as that in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome?
[For that Matter: Did you know that St. Peter's is not a Cathedral?]
Did you know that the Long Pilgrimage Path to Santiago de Compostella--to be Traveled On Foot, through Cities such as Léon & Burgos--proved to be a Very Profitable Secular Business for Centuries?
[The Canterbury Pilgrims had it easy & they could tell their Tales in English, which has been an Immense Benefit for Generations of English Majors!]
Did you know that the Gothic/Renaissance/Baroque Cathedral of Burgos is an Architectural Hodge Podge of Magnificently Decorated Chapels & Shrines?
Did you know that the Basque City of Bilbao is way upstream from the Atlantic Ocean?
Did you know that the Frank Ghery Guggenheim in Bilbao has Tons of Frank Stella's Rusted Steel, as well as Jeff Koons' Flower Puppy & Metallic Mega Tulips?
Did you know that there is actually some Contemporary Basque Artwork in the Frank Ghery Guggenheim in Bilbao?
Did you know that the Great Marble Monument to Henry the Navigator in Lisbon celebrates Worldwide Colonization by Tiny Portugal made possible by Great Sailing Ships?
[Think of Brazil in the New World & Goa in Asia Minor!]
Did you know that the Rain in Spain is not only Mainly on the Plains, but also in the Northern Mountain Ranges
Did you know that the Trip to Lisbon, Fátima, Santiago, Léon, Burgos, Bilbao, & Madrid--even in a Rainy January--is well worth both the Money & the Time?
PASSING GLANCES AT SHOW SCENES SEEN:
Not so much on which to Report this January, reduced even more by Your Roving Reporter's absence from Metropolitan New York, in favor of Holy Places in Portugal & Spain…
Even though there were Opera, Ballet, & Theatre Performances aplenty in Lisbon & Madrid--as well as in Léon, Burgos, & even Bilbao--after an entire day of admiring Gothic, Renaissance, & Baroque Cathedral Architecture & Decoration, it was a Blessed Respite to remain at the NH or Hesperia Hotel assigned in each Fabled City, to savor the Day's Digital Photos on the iPad.
Who Now Remembers the Sensational Ruth Snyder Murder Case? Rebecca Hall Relives It!
There was a time when it was thought that Sophie Treadwell was Destined for Great Things as a Woman Playwright.
But her Big Hit, Machinal, hasn't had a Broadway Revival since its 1928 Premiere!
Of course, the Following Year, there was The Wall Street Crash, followed by The Great Depression…
The Ruth Snyder Murder Case--she Killed her Hubby!--was the Inspiration for Journalist Treadwell's Drama.
But she did not dramatize this Headline Sensation in a Journalistic Manner: Just The Facts, Please!
No, indeed. She chose, rather, to use the Avant Garde European Mode of Expressionism.
For Broadway Audiences, accustomed to Realism, this was, in a sense, an Alienating Experience--which may well account for both Treadwell & Machinal sinking into Obscurity.
The Odd Title refers both to The Machine--an Electric Chair, which at the close, is used to Administer Justice to the Fearful Hysterical Young Woman & Wife who could not adjust to the Machine Like Routine in her Business Office or to the Machine Like Marriage in which she found herself Trapped.
Rebecca Hall is both Superb & Deeply Affecting as The Young Woman, with Michael Cumpsty properly Smug & Bromidical as The Successful Husband, Man of Affairs.
Es Devlin has devised an Expressionistic Revolving Setting, which effectively accommodates a Rapid Run of Hectic Scenes, all Art Deco Inflected, especially thanks to the Period Costumes of Michael Krass.
Director Lyndsey Turner has also devised Silent Scenes--running through the Basic Narrative--as the Boxy Setting Turns & Turns.
Rebecca Hall may seem like a Simple Fearful Pathetic Nerd of a Girl in this Highly Stylized Drama, but her Bio Credits show an Amazing Range as a Stage Screen & TV Actress.
But then, Acting must be in Her DNA, for her Father is the Celebrated Director, Sir Peter Hall, who--with Peter Brook--founded the Royal Shakespeare Company & later headed London's National Theatre.
Her Brother, Edward Hall, even founded his own All Male Repertory Company, specializing in having Men also play the Women's Roles…
All Stars Perform for Their All Star Peers at Town Hall!
The fabulous Dee Dee Bridgewater not only received the Nightlife Legend Award--responding with a Dynamic Performance--but she also gave some Heartfelt Introductions to Other Talents.
Genially hosted by Bruce Vilanch--who said that Gov. Christie had "thrown him under the bus" over in New Jersey--these Well Deserved Awards for Emerging Cabaret Artists were presented by such Stars as Bill Irwin, Stephanie J. Block, Jason Robert Brown, Maxine Lenihan, & Carole J. Bufford.
Fortunately, Vilanch noted, he was Not Injured by the Bus, as No Traffic was moving across the Fort Lee Bridge!
He was referring, of course, to the Revenge Scandal that has killed Christie's Hopes of being The Next George Bush…
Edith Piaf could have been resting uneasy in Père Lachaise Cemetery, had she been able to hear Bufford's passionate rendition of Je ne regret rien.
Bill Irwin donned several sizes of Baggy Pants to emphasize his Vaudeville Mime Genius.
But the Spotlight belonged to the Winners, many of them Up & Coming.
The Comedy Winners were Gina Brillon as Outstanding Female Standup Comedian--being Latino means you get Scholarships!--as well as Former Taxi Driver Jimmy Failla as Outstanding Male Standup Comedian.
Among the Jazz Winners were William Blake--not the Brit Poet--who won with his engaging evocation of a Female Vocalist whom he Channels.
Nonetheless, Blake won in the Outstanding Male Vocalist Category…
The exciting Gretchen Parlato won as Outstanding Female Vocalist.
Outstanding Jazz Instrumentalists were Ben Allison & Darcy James Ague.
Although the beloved Laura Benanti was recognized as Outstanding Major Cabaret Vocalist, other Performance Commitments prevented her from dazzling the mostly Professional Audience at Town Hall.
But the Energy Charged Offerings of the Outstanding Female Cabaret Vocalist--Stacy Sullivan--as well as that of the Outstanding Male Cabaret Vocalist --Liam Forde--more than made up for that.
As usual, Scott Siegel--whose Knowledge of the Manhattan Cabaret Scene, as well as of Broadway Musicals over the years, is Unsurpassed--Crafted & Drafted a Dynamic Show: literally a Shower of Stars!
Forget About Those Fabled Brecht Composers Kurt Weill & Hanns Eisler: Here's Duncan Sheik!
The Year is 1925; the Place is British India, near the nervous Northern Borderlands.
Ordinary Brit Soldier Grunts are doing their Duty, while the wily Widow Leocadia Begbick is having her Way with the Men & making a Rupee or two from her Gin Mill.
This Handsome & Rigidly Drilled Production--down at CSC on East 13th--is a newly translated Revival of Brecht's Ribald Satire on British Imperialism far from Old Blighty.
It is not in the Same League as Brecht's Mother Courage or Das Leben des Galileo, but it is jolly enough in its way.
This is largely thanks to the Energetic Cast--notably Justin Vivian Bond, as Begbick, the Sultry Chanteuse--but also to the Comedic Efforts of Gibson Frazier, Stephen Spinella, & Other Brit Empiricists.
When the Audience enters the CSC Arena, Individuals have to be careful not to Knock Over the Orange Oil Drum Towers that later scoot about the Area, festooned overhead with Vivid Green Leaves.
Aside from a Golden Ganesha Head & some Hindu Pantheon Color Riots, the Production--designed by Paul Steinberg, Gabriel Berry, & Justin Townsend--is a Symphony in Green & Orange.
Although he is no Kurt Weill, the "Original Music" by Duncan Sheik is eminently Singable & Theatrical.
Brian Kulick staged effectively, raising hopes that he will do the like for the Major Works in the Brecht Canon.
After all, that Fundamental Communist Opportunist, Bert Brecht--who lived out World War II, in the Comparative Safety of Santa Monica, where he wrote Galileo for Charles Laughton--does have some Adoptive American Rootlings…
Hip Hop Dancing in the Dark iLuminated by Light Suits & Other Ingenious Lighting Devices!
See, this fascinating Light Show is performed not just in a Black Box, but also in a Void--devoid of Conventional Stage Illumination--so it likes to call itself iLuminate.
With a Visual Emphasis on a Lower Case i, followed by an Upper Case L…
Unfortunately, Computer Spelling Checks don't like that kind of Keyboard Typography, so it's not easy to illuminate what happens on stage at New World Stages.
Although it is Thoroughly & Hip Hoppingly Choreographed, it is not a Fred Astaire Type Dancing in the Dark Sophisticated Show.
Instead, in the Dense Blackness, Strange Light Outlined Figures emerge, Ambling, Dancing, Embracing, Fighting, Fleeing…
Feet become separated from Torsos. Heads get lopped off. Street Lights dance & sway. A Huge Light Snake devours its Prey!
These Startling Effects are achieved with the use of Ingenious Light Suits & other Stage Props which are outlined with the same Light Strip Technology.
Fifty Years Ago, the Black Theatre of Prague pioneered something similar, although their Special Effects were achieved with Black Light on Costumes & Props painted with Fluorescent Colors.
Miral Kotb has produced & directed iLuminate, as well as Crafting the Script with Athena Sunga.
But, from the Credits & what happens on stage, it would appear that almost the Entire Cast had a hand in creating this DeLIGHTful Entertainment!
Joe Orton Lives Again! But That Cannot Be Said of The Corpse in the Coffin…
When Joe Orton's Black Comedies began to surface in London--first at the Arts Club, then in the West End, beginning with Entertaining Mr. Sloane--astute Theatre Critics hailed Joe as a new Oscar Wilde.
Joe had a Gift for transforming the Most Banal of Social or Moral Observations into Satiric Gold.
Joe Orton was also No Respecter of Persons nor of Organized Religion.
As for Respect for the Dead, in Loot, he shows Two Likely Lads hiding their Stolen Pound Notes in the Coffin of the Recently Deceased Mum of one of them.
For the remainder of this Odd Comedy Drama--totally lacking in the Moral Values that Right Thinking Christians have been Brought Up to Believe In--that Mummy Like Corpse is tossed about, to become a General Object of Amusement.
The only Essentially Innocent Character in this Hilarious Romp is the Befuddled Spouse of the Dead Woman.
Nonetheless, at the Close, it is He who is dragged off to the Police Station, even though he protests that he had been Kissed on the Head by His Holiness, The Pope!
All the Rest of the Randy Rascals on stage go Scott Free…
Riotously staged by Jesse Berger, this was another of the Red Bull Theater's excellent Revivals.
Quite a change from The Witch of Edmonton, Volpone, The Duchess of Malfi, or Edward the Second!
Handsomely designed by Narelle Sissons & appropriately costumed by Sara Jean Tosetti, this Highly Styled Production nevertheless seemed to go right over the heads of most of the Audience at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, down on Christopher Street.
Rocco Sisto was especially impressive as Truscott, but Not To Be Trusted…
Nick Westrate & Ryan Garbayo were the Bum Mate Money Thieves.
As the devious & scheming Fay, Rebecca Brooksher was a Sexual Force to be Reckoned With.
As the sadly bereaved McLeavy, Jarlath Conroy was a Compendium of the Catholic & Conventional Sentiments which Orton routinely mocked.
When Entertaining Mr. Sloane premiered in Manhattan, Joe Orton made his One & Only Visit to America.
Having already become familiar with Orton Plays in London, I was invited by the Broadway Director, Alan Schneider--already an Old Friend--to interview Joe backstage at the Lyceum Theatre.
When we met, it was obvious to me that Joe had spruced himself up for Our Interview: He was wearing a blue striped Sailor Pullover & tight White Pants.
We immediately Made Friends & Joe begged me to send him any Reviews or Comments about Sloane, as he was sure "They'll hate it!"
He was So Right: Norman Nadel called Sloane "a Medieval Cess Pool."
But this began a Correspondence that ended only with Joe's Savage Murder by his Longtime Partner, Kenneth Halliwell, who smashed in his Skull with a Hammer while Joe slept.
This happened when I was up in Yorkshire, visiting my Great Aunt Margaret Dangerfield.
Reading the Morning Paper, she observed: "Well, your friend Joe Orton has just died--like one of those people in his plays!"
Every Summer, when I went over to survey the European Festival Scene, I'd stop off in London to catch up on West End Theatre & have lunch with Joe at the Arts Club.
Joe would always bring Two Scrapbooks with him: One with the Good Reviews. The Other, with the Negatives--which he would read aloud to me with Commentary.
He would insist on Paying, as he was now "Making Money" & I was, as he knew, one of those Underpaid College Professors…
Now much in the Public Eye, Joe was being invited to sup with Donald Pleasance & other eminent Actors & Directors.
Halliwell had become an Embarrassment: Joe told me he was planning to leave Ken for Someone Else…
When I suggested we go down to the National Gallery after lunch, to see a New Exhibition, he refused: "I can't. If I don't get back soon, Kenneth will kill me…"
But I saved all of Joe's Letters to me.
None of mine to Joe survive, as he had to destroy them before Kenneth could find them. In those Pre Computer Days, I never made Copies.
When it came time for a definitive Joe Orton Biography, I wasn't asked, even though Margaret "Peggy" Ramsay, Joe's Literary Agent, knew we were Pen Pals.
Instead, Peggy--who had always been a Good Friend to me--chose John Lahr, who had never known Joe personally.
When I remonstrated with her, Peggy reminded me that she was Not My Agent…
"Nor was your father Bert Lahr & you didn't write Notes on a Cowardly Lion."
But she did ask me to lend John all the Joe Orton Letters, which I did.
Quotes appeared in the Subsequent Bio: Prick Up Your Ears.
Very soon, all those Letters will be reproduced online in my Joe Orton Compendium: Joe Orton Posts a Letter.
The Actual Letters I donated to the Berg Manuscript Collection of the New York Public Library, where they can now be studied.
Roy Williams' Adaptation of Alan Sillitoe's
Run for Your Life, Not for the Selfish or Official Needs of Others: Sheldon Best's Colin Is the Best!
This was once a Memorable Movie, but Roy Williams has now made Alan Sillitoe's Inspiring Story into a Stage Work that's also an Endurance Contest for the Designated Runner.
As deftly staged by Leah C. Gardiner--in the Atlantic Theatre's intimate Sub Basement Space in the Google Building--the Loneliness of Long Distance Runner, Colin, is made both Visible & Palpable, thanks to the Physically Taxing Performance of Sheldon Best.
Growing up among disaffected Young Blacks, in what seems to be North London, Colin--who is always annoyed that No one pronounces that name the way he fancies--gets caught in a Robbery & sent into Juvenile Detention.
But he has a Unique Talent for Running, which leads a Well Intentioned White Psychologist to encourage him in perfecting that Skill.
When the Great Race is finally run, Colin realizes he's not just Running for Himself: His Hoped For Victory means something else for Others.
So why not just Stop Cold…
Sillitoe examines the Social Fabric of the Blighted Lives of Colin, his Family, & Friends.
Loneliness appeared in 1959, when "Kitchen Sink Playwrights" such as Arnold Wesker were busily--if unsuccessfully--attacking the British Class System.
So the Bristling Resentment of the then prevailing Upper Class Sense of Entitlement may now seem a Bit Dated, especially for American Audiences who have No Experience of Being Looked Down Upon by Men who went to Eton & Harrow, to Oxford & Cambridge.
The American Experience of the One Percent vs. the Ninety Nine Percent is something else entirely…
Caricature of Glenn Loney in header is by Sam Norkin.
Copyright © Glenn Loney 2014. No re-publication or broadcast use without proper credit of authorship. Suggested credit line: "Glenn Loney Arts Rambles." Reproduction rights please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.