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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, May 28, 2009.
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
INTRO: Season's End & [Virtual] New Season's New Beginings: *
New Plays *
Old Plays in Revival: *
New Musicals: *
Old Musicals in Revival: *
Solo Performers & Mono Dramas: *
Other Entertainments/Other Venues: *
On Randall's Island: *
At the New Victory Theatre: *
Outer Critics Circle Nominations & Winners: *
INTRO: Season's End & [Virtual] New Season's New Beginings:
Time was when the New York Theatre Season arrived at its Official End every year on 31 May! Even successful productions took a Summer Holiday to re open in September.
Theatres then had no Air Conditioning. Summer designed Roof Garden Theatres provided effectual Cabaret, rather than High Drama & Spectacular Musicals & Revues.
Air Conditioning, Tourists, & Long Runs changed all that. But for many years, no sensible Broadway Producer would open a new show in, say, July. The Major Critics would be out of town, possibly in London, so how would you get the kind of ticket selling reviews you would need?
When Joseph Papp began offering Summer Shakespeare in the Park, however, things began to change. Now, 31 May is no longer a Terminal Date.
Critics may leave town, but shows will still be opening. If they run, the Critics can catch up with them in the Fall. That is, if the Critics still have a job & a place to park their reviews in print…
Newspapers are Dying & Drama Critics are the first to be Discharged, Bought Out, or Pensioned Off. Note that Discharged sounds so much more Professional than the Working Class term: Fired.
Arts Journalists & Reviewers are in the first line of Slaughter in the Battles of Print Survival. You must have noticed that Sports Writers don't seem to be so challenged—which shows you what really matters for America's John Q. Public.
Your Scribe doesn't fear dismissal, as he is not, in any case, Paid for anything he reports or reviews. Almost all I write now is posted on line on the Internet: on Webmaster Jonathan Slaff's two arts websites: NYMuseums.com & NYTheatre Wire.com.
Even if something unforeseen happens to these sites—Buddha & Ganesh Forbid!—Loney Reports & Books will eventually be available on a soon to be designed GlennLoneyArtsArchive website.
Over the past 50 years of professional reportage & criticism—all too often writing for non paying Academic & Professional Journals—I have never been paid for Travel Expenses in pursuit of Arts Related Interviews & Features. [Travel Writing is something else altogether, but you do have to have a Travel Magazine Outlet!]
At the outset of 2009, it was Your Reporter's New Year's Resolution or Intention to file reports regularly at either Weekly or Monthly Intervals.
Unfortunately, my once excellent Apple Computer died a grisly Death only a day after I finally found an Apple Expert—the admirable Scott Bennett—who back up all my multi thousand word files on a new device he found on the Internet, paid for with Citi Cards credits, also discovered on the Internet.
Not only did the Hard Disk expire with a nasty, noisy Death Rattle, but the Capacitators behind the Monitor Screen—when Scott took the rear cover off—had begun to swell & bleed orange gunk! Not nice, Steve Jobs! Or whoever is responsible for the Hidden Technology…
So Show Programs have been piling up here. Now the multi desks are clear again—at least as soon as J Slaff gets this on line—so I can continue writing the many Chapters of my late Mother's True Story: Mother in Winter: Nurture Versus Nature & Mother in Summer: A Month in the Country.
*One of my regular INFOTOGRAPHY™ photo projects—in addition to photographing each new Major Shop & Boutique Closure on Fifth & Madison Avenues: Defunct Circuit City has become a two story half block wide Fifth Ave Billboard for History Channnel Posters—has been to snap a shot of each week's Sermon Topic at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Some are Ingenious, even Priceless. They might just make you want to come in & hear what one of the Pastors could actually say about such a topic.
How about this one for the Easter Season: Jesus & Torture.
Mel Gibson has, of course, already shown Believing Christians something approaching SM Porn Films, in The Passion of Christ: But can & do Pious Christian Sado Masochists actually masturbate to those Gibson Film Sequences?
Born Again Fundamentalist Christians often ask this Leading Question: What would Jesus do?
Even if The Christ appeared miraculously in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo, it is extremely doubtful that he would condone or participate in the National Security Measures prescribed by Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, George Bush, & George Tenet. Maybe also Condi Rice?
Thus, the more sharply focused Question for Easter Tide should have been: Would Dick Cheney Waterboard Jesus?
Concerned American Citizens & Taxpayers must have wondered about what was really going on in such Maximum Malevolence Semi Mortuaries & Why.
It certainly must have occurred to some Right Thinking & God Fearing Americans that there was something distinctly Peculiar about Cheney's Choice of Terms for what has for centuries been called The Water Torture, or The Chinese Water Torture.
Using such a light hearted sounding term as Water Boarding makes this sound like a form of Fun Recreation for Detainees—why call them Prisoners: it is so Confining a Term—to recover briefly from the long hours chained to the walls in Solitary Confinement.
Skate Boarding, Water Boarding, Snow Boarding: it all sounds like so much Fun!
Do America's Enemies deserve to be treated so thoughtfully? Cheney didn't even try those two Major Stage Props of the Spanish Inquisition yet: The Rack & The Iron Maiden!
What was Good Enough for the Popes should be OK for the Presidents!
Jesus finally eluded His Persecutors by Ascending into Heaven. That is not an Option for any of the men who may have been unjustly imprisoned in America's National Security Prisons without Specific Charges & Trial by Jury.
Some Born Agains may believe that Jesus would not have opposed Extreme Measures, citing His Words in the Holy Bible. But all of the Words of Jesus recorded therein have been translated into English, notably having Him say: Suffer little children…
But this truncated Quotation is not what it may seem to be. Suffer means Permit or Allow. As in: Suffer [Permit, Allow] little children to come unto Me…
So, No, Dick Cheney, Jesus would certainly not have Water Boarded anyone, even noisy, annoying Children!
Yasmina Reza's GOD OF CARNAGE [*****]
Neil LaBute's reasons to be pretty [*****]
Christopher Durang's WHY TORTURE IS WRONG [*****]
Craig Lucas' THE SINGING FOREST [****]
Moisés Kaufman's 33 VARIATIONS [****]
Dan Gordon's IRENA'S VOW [****]
Michael Jacobs' IMPRESSIONISM [**]
Tina Howe's CHASING MANET [***]
Evan Smith's THE SAVANNAH DISPUTATION [***]
Tracy Scott Wilson's THE GOOD NEGRO [***]
Christina Anderson's INKED BABY [**]
Morris Panych's THE DISHWASHERS [***]
Bryan Dykstra's A PLAY ON WORDS [***]
Gérald Sibleyras' HEROES [**]
Alan Lyddiard's George Orwell's 1984 [****]
Donal O'Kelly's THE CAMBRIA [***]
Jawal Alassadi's BAGHDADI BATH [**]
Murray Schisgal's SHPIEL! SHPIEL! SHPIEL! [***]
*A Geyser of Vomit is perhaps the most memorable Visual Moment in Yasmina Reza's new domestic conflagration amongst supposedly well behaved Middle Class Marrieds. While Reza's Art was good & also a Broadway Hit, God of Carnage promises to become the Runaway Hit of this impressive Broadway Season.
Director Matthew Warchus—who also staged the hilarious Married Couples frustrated sex farce, The Norman Conquests—has a special talent for bringing out the Best in his Actors, but the Worst in their Characters. Not only in the dialogue, but also in so much that is unspoken.
"Your kid hit my kid, but let's be Civilized about this…"
Well, it's all Downhill from there, thanks to the wonderful interactions of Jeff Bridges, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, & James Gandolfini. Some spectators obviously have come to see a Sopranos Hero in the flesh, but they soon discover how much more is On Offer: Cell phone Obsessed Bridges is almost in a Play of His Own, always On Call.
*Once upon a time, you could have thought that playwright Neil LaBute was a Mysoginist—if you can't spell it, you don't have it—because Women fared so poorly in his early plays. In more recent works, however—especially in his reasons to be pretty, transferred from Off Broadway's Lucile Lortel to the Lyceum—it is apparent that his Geeky Guys are the Problem, not the unfortunate women who love them.
LaBute is lucky to have this cast—as well as Terry Kinney directing: Marin Ireland, Steve Pasquale, Piper Perabo, & the fecklessly charming Thomas Sadowski.
Poster for Chris Durang's "Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them."
*For Chris Durang's Certifiable Idiot American Patriot Dad—with the Arsenal in the Attic—Water boarding is Too Good for the Enemies of Democracy. What a blow when his American Beauty daughter brings home a potential son in law named Zamir!
From Sophomoric Family Farces—apparently inspired by experiences in the bosom of his own family, then transmuted into nutty stage mayhem—Durang has progressed into the Realm of Satiric Caricature. John Pankow's clueless hypocrite, The Reverend Mike, is a good foil for the cluelessness of Kristine Nielsen's Luella, a character also mocked in Durang's Marriage of Bette & Boo.
Water boarding is also Too Good for the likes of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, John Yoo, & Our Ex President. They should be forced to watch endless performances of Chris Durang's Why Torture Is Wrong.
*This hilarious Satire was premiered at the Public Theatre, as was Craig Lucas' new drama, The Singing Forest. Founder Joe Papp ought to be pleased with the varied & novel programs his current successor, Artistic Director Oskar Eustis, is providing.
The much admired Veteran Actress, Olympia Dukakis—she once had her own Rep Theatre over in Montclair, NJ!—plays the wealthy, pampered young Viennese Jewess, Loë Reiman, part of Prof. Dr. Sigmund Freud's Circle in Pre Anschluss Vienna, & much later as a kind of arrogant Bag Lady in New York City, 2000 AD, where she is trying to avoid her angry daughter.
Except for Dukakis, the entire show is double cast, to reprise the self indulgent social situation in Jewish Vienna from 1933 to 1938, when Hitler rode in triumph into Vienna—the Freuds having escaped to London.
When Loé shows her New York store rooms of Priceless Jugendstil Art Treasures—the Schieles, the Klimts!—her Young Visitors are properly astonished.
*This Vision also had a Resonance for Your Scribe, though he did not behold hidden closets in Mid Manhattan, full of Wiener Werkstätte treasures. [Some of those you can now see at the Neue Galerie!]
Not that: No. I was invited to the Ambassadorial Residence of Austria's Delegate to the UN to meet Mme. Mada Primavesi, whose father had one of the most impressive Jugendstil Moderne Mansions constructed in a posh Vienna Suburb. I had photographed this & Otto Wagner's nearby Jugendstil Villa for my Art Deco magazine, THE MODERNIST, also providing illuminating text.
As a quasi expert on the architectures & designs of Otto Wagner & Kolo Moser, I was eager to ask Mme. Primavesi about her father's interest in & support of the Viennese Secessionists & Modernists.
What I was not prepared for was the magnificent & colorful Gustav Klimt portrait of Mada Primavesi as a young girl, displayed over the Ambassadorial Fireplace.
After our Introduction, I exclaimed to the gracious & charming Adult Version of Klimt's playful Portrait: "But Madame, this painting has long been thought Lost! That it must have disappeared among the Art Loot Hitler & Goring stole from Vienna…"
Mme. Primavesi smiled: "Can you imagine what it would have cost me to Insure this painting?
"No, it was never lost. We got it out of Vienna just in time. So, for many years, it has been hanging over my fireplace in Toronto. Only now do you see it outside my home. Soon, it will be at the Metropolitan Museum!"
You can see it there now. Who knows: perhaps some of Loë's Klimts & Schieles are also on view. Down at the Public Theatre, you really cannot get a Clear View…
*For many, just seeing Jane Fonda, live on a Broadway stage, was enough to make the journey to the Eugene O'Neill Theatre worth the while. As for her almost dying moments, doing Research in the Beethoven Archives in Bonn—the Composer's Birthplace, even though he settled in Vienna—was certainly, for some, really difficult to understand.
If you are dying of Cancer, why not let your Last Days on Earth be Peaceful & Forgiving?
But that is the kind of Question you could well expect from a Layman who does not understand the Scientifically Trained Enquiring Mind of the True Academic!
Perhaps only Musicologists can really comprehend Dr. Katherine Brandt's passion to discover why Beethoven wrote at least 33 Variations on a simple little two part Waltz, written by the Viennese Publisher, Anton Diabelli.
Studying the interestingly integrated Projections of Beethoven's actual musical sketches—with corrections & changes—was fascinating, as it helped explain visually what Dr. Brandt was trying to discover. Unfortunately, those in the audience who cannot not read Musical Notation—especially some critics—were in Trouble.
But they did get to see Tom Hanks' son Colin in a supporting role!
The Beethoven Diabelli Variations were played live & eloquently on a Steinway at the right side of the stage platform, to illustrate aurally what Dr. Brandt was discovering in the Archives. Diane Walsh played them & her CD of the Variations is now available. For more info: www.dianewalsh.com.
*For the Record: Some seasons past, when Your Scribe was photographing Mozart's Gravestone in the historic St. Marx Cemetery in Vienna, he found the grave of Anton Diabelli. The image of that tombstone is now somewhere in the photo archives of Loney's INFOTOGRAPHY™.
*Just when you might think Broadway had exhausted the Holocaust as a fresh new subject of Moral Outrage, along comes a wonderfully sentimental new play—Irena's Vow—in which a simple Polish Catholic Gentile Maiden proves to be a Righteous Person, by successfully hiding otherwise doomed Jews in the basement of the Confiscated Villa of the local Nazi Commandant.
This is, in fact, a True Story, dramatized by Dan Gordon—who has served not only in the Israel Defense Forces, as a Captain, but also in Hollywood!
His drama is well crafted—even the birth & nurture of a baby in the basement seems not entirely impossible—but it is the radiant, courageous performance of Tovah Feldshuh as Irena—who is even willing to give up her Virginity to the Nazi to save Her Jews—that makes the play seem Transcendant.
Of course, it's appalling that Six Million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust, but where are the Holocaust Dramas about the other Six Million Human Beings who were not Jews, but Protestants, Catholics, Socialists, Communists, Dissidents, Gypsies, & Homosexuals?
Were their Lives & their Deaths of No Meaning? Was Nothing Lost when they were Murdered: shot, hanged, gassed, burned…
Martin Sherman did write a play about two doomed homosexuals in a Nazi Death Camp. He called it Bent, which is a British Put Down. When it bowed on Broadway, Ultra Orthodox Rabbis & their followers picketed the theatre & the production. They insisted that the play demeaned the Noble Deaths of the Jews in the Ovens & Gas Chambers. [The sub text for some Protestors—I asked them—was that Homos deserved to die anyway. Not fit to Live: an Obscenity in the Eyes of Jahweh!]
*Originally, Michael Jacobs' curiously unfocused drama, Impressionism, was reported to be Three Hours Long—cut in rehearsals, one imagines, but not nearly enough. What was finally most interesting were the fleeting, enlarging, dissolving images of famed Impressionist Canvases that floated across the stage gauzes.
Joan Allen was an unhappy gallery owner—somehow trapped in a Parental Past—who couldn't bear to part with her Impressionist Paintings: not a good plan, if you have to pay rent for what seemed to be a Manhattan Gallery, although this could have been Chicago or Houston.
She was fortunate to have Jeremy Irons—still hurting from the Death of a small African boy he became fond of when photographing in Tanzania—as a Gallery Assistant. Marsha Mason—once Mrs. Neil Simon, long long ago—really wanted one of the Modern Masters: her purchase could pay the rent!
On the day before the last performance, I sat on the Fifth Ave bus opposite Irons—obviously on his way to the Matinée—but I tried hard not to stare. Or intrude on his solitude by telling him that I had admired his performance in a role that was not easy to finesse. In any case, he really looked good: onstage & off.
Jack O'Brien directed this show: What could he have been thinking…
Poster for "Chasing Manet" starring Tina Howe and Lynn Cohen.
*Unbelievable! Jane Alexander as a white haired old woman in a Nursing Home, from which she & the less focused Lynn Cohen plan to escape for a Last Fling in Paris! I remember Jane when she was making history down at the Arena in DC in The Great White Hope.
A lot of water has flown beneath the Rialto Bridge, obviously. But playwright Tina Howe is still poling her old Gondola, instead of moving on into new, fresher streams. As she has set her hospital Bedroom Farce in the "mid 1980s," she may be using Special Pleading to present her play.
As the two Old Gals actually make it onto the plane—Senior Citizen Care must have been more lax then—you can surely expect to see this as a Summer 2010 Movie Treat!
*Imagine a Sweet Young Thing [Kellie Overbey] who is actually a Born Again Christian Home Missionary, determined to
Poster for Evan Smith's "The Savannah Disputation."
Prove Her Worth, both to Christ & to her Charismatic Local Fundamentalist Pastor, who has seen the Truth, the Way, & the Life!
Unfortunately, playwright Evan Smith doesn't put him onstage: it could have been a hoot, except that most of these Divines—when they are not Outright Sexual Hypocrites—are too Sanctimoniously Sure of "The Message".
It's more fun watching the Young Evangelist scare the wits—threatening Hellfire & Damnation—out of the weaker [Marylouise Burke] of two Old Savannah Roman Catholic sisters [not Nun Sisters].
But when Dana Ivey invites their scholarly young Parish Priest [Reid Birney] over for dinner to quote Scripture against the girl's Certainties, he's a bit too academic—even unsure of the Validity of the Gospels—for her taste.
This cute little play—which echoes Great Disputations about the Holy Scriptures—baffled some of my colleagues, although it fascinated me, having grown up on such Religious Controversies & Hair Splittings.
But then I had read both the Old & the New Testaments several times when I was ten. Some of my critic friends—although they went to Shul—had never read the New Testament! It will be a terrible thing not to have read All of The Word of God at the Last Judgment. Half a Loaf may not be enough…
What many do not realize about what they may regard as Annoying Christian Missionaries—"OK, so that's what you believe. But don't try to shove it down my throat! Go do your Own Thing, in peace"—is that, once Saved, having understood Christ's Promise of Salvation, the Born Again are obligated to share this Good News with all their as yet unconverted friends & the Wider World as well.
How Cruel to let Sinners Die & Roast in Hell Forever, when they could be saved so easily, through Christ's All Forgiving Mercy!
At least, that is what Many Believe. You can even pray your Sinner Relatives out of Purgatory, if you are a Catholic & have Masses said & Candles Lit. Methodists, however, have no such luck.
The Logical Extension of all these Theological Logistics is that both Bernie Madoff & Hitler could be Saved, if they truly repented their Dastardly Deeds. Or if Pious Christians are willing to Pray for Them!
So much for Eternity & Our Potential Place in It…
Poster for Tracey Scott Wilson's "The Good Negro."
*As for what Men may remember after we depart, there is the Historical Problem of the Heirs & Their Lawyers. Thus, The Good Negro would have been even better had it dealt with the Civil Rights Movement & the Role of Dr. Martin Luther King directly. Tracey Scott Wilson drafted the play, which suggests that J. Edgar Hoover was not really a Good Person!
Inked Baby, by Christine Anderson, had too many Major Themes, which could not all be dealt with dramatically in one play! A TV series might be better suited, but who will sponsor it?
*Over at 59E59—which, for Your Reporter, is only 12 blocks down Madison Avenue: Walking Distance!—in addition to the always interesting premieres of Primary Stages, the theatre's founder/director Elyzabeth Kleinhans programs various play fests spotlighting Brit & American Playwrights.
You don't have to go to the Edinburgh Festival: 59E59 will bring the Fest Firsts to you in Mid Manhattan!
Poster for the Edinburgh Festival's production of "1984."
Among the excellent Brits productions was George Orwell's 1984. Perhaps Orwell lost some credibility when 1984 actually arrived, but Big Brother didn't come along with it. No, we had to wait for Dick Cheney to see the Shape of Things To Come!
Nonetheless, Orwell's Predictions are now Coming to Pass, so Alan Lyddiard's skillful adaptation of the novel—presented by the admirable Godlight Theatre Company—was both timely & powerfully performed. This is a script many regional & college theatres might well want to produce!
Orwell's Down & Out in Paris & London would be rather more difficult to adapt for the stage, but playwright Morris Panych's The Dishwashers—an entry in the Americas Off Broadway fest at 59E59—could well have been suggested by some of its below stairs scenes at Haute Cuisine Restaurants in London & Paris.
But, instead of Angry Waiters spitting in arrogantly returned to the kitchen bowls of soup—before bringing them out again to the patrons, as completely fresh replacements—Panych lets us see how Soul Killing it is to wash endless sets of dinner dishes way down below the Rich & Famous & Fashionable Diners above.
Poster for "The Diswashers."
It is a Tale for Our Times, as the new Dishwasher was formerly one of those Wall Street Guys, now reduced to Real Work.
In production, however, the Process of Scraping, Rinsing, Washing, & Drying the Dishes, Glasses, & Cutlery was rather carelessly Mimed.
What this show needs is the Process Precision one saw at the Royal Court Theatre in London, when Arnold Wesker's protest play, The Kitchen, was premiered. That hectic but precise Miming of Food Servicing was unforgettable. Perhaps even more so than the actual play, which had much the same Message as Panych's panygyric to the Unseen Workers.
Wesker's angry drama was one of the first of the now historical Kitchen Sink plays by the Angry Young Men—inaugurated by the late George Devine—at the Royal Court, along with the now late but then very angry John Osborne with his angry Look Back in Anger.
*Oddly enough, the next Americas Off Broadway play offered at 59E59 was produced by the Kitchen Theatre Company: Brian Dykstra's A Play of Words.
Hamlet already said it: Words, words, words… But Dykstra's two American Males—in an uneasy rivalry friendship since grade school—spend the time arguing whether Words Obfuscate or Communicate. They could almost come to fisticuffs over this!
You do not have to go to 59E59 for new plays from the British Isles—or Aisles! But the Irish Arts Center—as also at Charlotte Moore's admirable Irish Rep—will be very pleased to point out that Eire is no longer a British Isle, even though it is still attached to one known as Northern Ireland.
*Recently, Donal O'Kelly's The Cambria—wonderfully performed by O'Kelly & Sorcha Fox at Irish Arts—opened an almost Unknown Chapter in the Fight for Freedom, both in Ireland & in America.
This affecting drama—in which all the many characters are performed by this talented Duo—concerns the valiant battle for FREEDOM FROM SLAVERY & for Civil Rights for African Americans, waged by Frederick Douglass.
To silence this amazing Black Orator—who had impressed Abe Lincoln even before he became President—Pro Slavery Enemies of Douglass planned to return him to the South as an Escaped Slave!
Which, legally, he actually was. So, with the aid of Abolitionist friends, Douglass fled to Ireland, in 1845, where he found friends & support!
The Rest Is History, but this play—performed this last St. Paddy's Day in Manhattan, to celebrate the inauguration of our First Black President—should have productions far & wide!
A very discouraging Footnote to the play—as O'Kelly points out—is that Eire, once known as the Irish Free State, is now forcibly deporting Irish residing Africans back to Africa. One black teenager, studying for his Certification, was forcibly deported still wearing his Irish School Uniform!
*Celebrating Ellen Stewart's 47th LaMaMa Season, Actors without Borders presented Baghdadi Bath, possibly to give Manhattan based Iraqi Armchair Strategists some fractured vision of what is happening Over There, as we attempt to Win Bush's War.
Democracy may be a Wonderful Gift—if indeed it can be given by US to THEM?—but Cluster Bombs are, finally, No Man's Friends. What everyone needs in the Middle East are Doctors without Borders, although Actors without Borders are trying to help in their own way. But a more compelling drama would not be amiss…
Previously, Ellen Stewart had presented Haggaddah, staged by Dan Safer for Witness Relocation, with a Logo movie photo of Charlton Heston as Moses! Hear, O Israel! Those Pesky Arabs are not the only Land Holders in the Middle East!
It is Written: "Be fruitful & multiply, so that thy days may be long in the Land Thy Lord giveth thee!"
What matter if Canaanites—or Arabs—were there before thee…
But did God promise Afghanistan & Iraq to Invading Americans? If so, where is It Written?
*Nonetheless, Jewish Heritage & Culture should not be preserved in Israel alone. It is good—although few Young New Yorkers speak, or even understand, Yiddish anymore—that the Folksbiene National Yiddish Theatre is alive & well, up on Amsterdam Avenue, at West 76th Street!
Having just presented my former student & dear friend Moishe Yassur's Yiddish musical version of IB Singer's Gimpel the Fool, Gimpel Tam, the Folksbiene recently offered three Yiddish plays by no less a Broadway Playwright than Murray Schisgal! Remember his award winning LUV…
Schisgal—who grew up in an Orthodox home, with Yiddish as a Second Language—had written five plays in Yiddish & sent them off to his Paris agent. Three of them were duly performed, but in French Translation, in Paris & elsewhere in France!
Two of those three, plus one other, were all performed in Yiddish at the JCC's Goldman Sonnenfeldt Family Auditorium. The Folksbiene's Motl Didner staged The Pushcart Peddlers; Gene Saks mounted The Man Who Couldn't Stop Crying, & Bob Dishy directed 74 Georgia Avenue!
The three short plays composing Shpiel! Shpiel! Shpiel! offered a sentimental Remembrance of Times Past, when Yiddish was widely spoken in the Boroughs.
Shpiel! Shpiel! Shpiel! may soon be produced in Los Angeles, but Schisgal says it's to be in English, as the City of the Angels—outside of the Film Industry—doesn't have much of a Yiddish Tradition.
*As for translating plays from one language to another, Christopher Hampton doesn't have a Patent, although he's done very well with God of Carnage. Czech émigré Tom Stoppard is another Brit who does the Occasional Translation, possibly when no new dramas are lurking in his brain.
But why he wanted to translate Heroes from the Original French is a Puzzlement.
There are these three Old Soldiers in a Vets' Home in France. The Scent of Charles de Gaulle is in the air. But one longed for Jean Anouilh's The Fighting Cock instead: for the Real Thing.
Fortunately, the evening was somewhat Saved by the presence in the cast of Ron Holgate, Jonathan Logan, & John Cullum—who rushed over from August: Osage County, as soon as he had died in the first act, playing playwright Tracy Letts' Father Figure, previously played by Letts' now deceased Dad himself. Quite a Sprint: from Broadway over to Theatre Row!
Old Plays in Revival:
Samuel Beckett's WAITING FOR GODOT [*****]
Friedrich Schiller's MARY STUART [*****]
August Wilson's JOE TURNER'S COME & GONE [*****]
Thornton Wilder's OUR TOWN [****]
Alan Ayckbourn's THE NORMAN CONQUESTS [*****]
Eugene Ionesco's EXIT THE KING [***]
Noël Coward's BLITHE SPIRIT [****]
D H Lawrence's THE WIDOWING OF MRS. HOLROYD [****]
Eugene O'Neill's DESIRE: Under the Elms [**]
Arthur Miller's INCIDENT AT VICHY [***]
Samson Raphaelson's ACCENT ON YOUTH [***]
Christopher Hampton's THE PHILANTHROPIST [**]
Charles Fuller's ZOOMAN & THE SIGN [***]
Jean Baptiste Poquelin's TARTUFFE [***]
Wm. Shakespeare's THE MERCHANT OF VENICE [****]
Wm. Shakespeare's HAMLET [****]
Wm. Shakespeare's HENRY V [***]
"Waiting for Godot" starring Nathan Lane, John Glover & John Goodman.
*Why do actors & producers think the New York Theatre Public needs to see yet another staging of Sam Beckett's En attendant Godot or Waiting for Godot?
It seems Only Yesterday that we had John Turturro down at CSC—with much amused Coens & Weinsteins in the audience. And only the Day before Yesterday that we had Bill Irwin, F. Murray Abraham, & Robin Williams—who didn't have a Clue—at Lincoln Center.
When it was announced that Irwin would be back—but in a different role—in a new staging of this Mythic Mystery Play, now on Broadway at the Booth, this sounded like a Celebrity Name Stunt: Irwin, Nathan Lane, John Glover, & John Goodman—all Tony Winners!
Actually, they are all admirable, excellent even! It is the best Godot production I have seen & I've seen it in many lands & languages. Although Beckett was Irish—not English—writing in French, not English, the cast has chosen to refer to the possible God Metaphor, Godot, as GOD oh, rather than its French Original, Go DOH. Why?
Early productions of Godot in English were so reverent that Didi & Gogo seemed riven with Existential Anguish. Only when Beckett actually staged his play himself—at Berlin's Schiller Theater—with his feckless anti heroes doing Music Hall & Vaudeville turns did directors begin to have some idea of what Beckett intended.
But what he surely intended—to heighten the visual & spiritual sense of a vast empty Wasteland for endless Waiting, was to have one lone—apparently dead—Tree be the sole set piece. But designer Santo Loquasto has provided director Anthony Page with a Stony Semi Surround of huge Granite Boulders, enclosing the futile actions of the characters.
This may change Beckett's Meta Physics, but it looks both intimidating & imposing: all of Nature against Man?
*The Brit born production of Schiller's Mary Stuart stars Janet McTeer & Harriet Walter as the embattled Queens, Elizabeth of England & Mary of Scotland. They perform Magisterially in Period Costumes, while the men around them are in Contemporary Dress, possibly to Underscore visually the True Natures of such Functionaries, even in Modern Politics?
Did you know that Mary was the Queen of France before she was called to the Throne of Scotland? When her Royal Husband, François Premier, died, she left Paris for Edinburgh—surely a Downer, especially when Elizabeth was intriguing to marry her Arch Rival off to the syphilitic Henry Darnley.
Some seasons ago, Your Reporter devised & chaired a Drama Desk Panel at Sardi's, featuring Beverly Sills [M] & Pauline Tinsley [E], Claire Bloom [M] & Eileen Atkins [E], Salome Jens [M] & Nancy Marchand [E], as the Royal Rivals.
It was a Mary & Elizabeth Season, with both Mary Stuart & Maria Stuarda at Lincoln Center & Robert Bolt's Vivat! Vivat Regina! on Broadway.
Beverly Sills astonished the non singing stage actresses—who had noted that some evenings their plays ran longer, depending on the pre Death agonies. Sills pointed out that she had exactly sixteen bars in which to finish her affairs on Earth.
*Of all the plays in August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle, Joe Turner's Come & Gone is the one that should have won the Pulitzer hands down. But he got two Pulitzers, neither one for Joe Turner, which was his favorite & mine as well.
Chad L. Coleman is deeply moving as the troubled Harold Loomis, searching for his lost wife & Looking for his Shining Man. He also needs to find His Song—even though he doesn't at first know that's what he lacks.
All the cast members are effective, especially the Conjure Man, the Rootworker Bynum—Bind ‘em—wonderfully embodied by Roger Robinson.
When this drama first appeared on Broadway, the moment when Harold Loomis had his blinding recognition was an Amazement: all achieved with acting. In this revival, director Bartlett Sher diminishes this Revelation with a tawdry shower of Silver Glitter. Hollywood Tacky…
Poster for David Cromer's production of "Our Town."
*Director/Conceptualizer/Actor David Cromer goes playwright/poet Thornton Wilder one better with his new staging of Our Town. Originally, Wilder astonished jaded Broadway audiences with a bare stage, set with planks & trestles, the action narrated & urged on by a folksy Stage Manager.
Down at the Barrow Street Theatre [aka Greenwich House], Cromer has the Audience virtually engulfing the action, in a three sided seating confirmation. [No Late Seating Possible!] Actually, as the actors occasionally insert themselves into the Spectators' Space, this may be seen as Mini Invasions.
Even though some of Wilder's Small Town Truisms do seem a bit dated in the Era of the Internet, the play still has Peculiar Powers!
But Wilder's Act Two vision of the After Life as Dead Villagers sitting quietly for Eternity in chairs in the hill top Grover's Corners Cemetery is still open to Stringent Objections by those Passionate Christians who are waiting to be caught up into Heaven in the Rapture. Too bad Wilder didn't know that Tim Delahaye would be coming along with his Redemptive Vision & selling a lot more books than Thornton Wilder ever did!
*The prolific Scarborough based playwright Alan Ayckbourn doesn't need to have Out of Town Tryouts for his new & increasingly dark comedies. His triumphs in London's West End & on Broadway come only after he's honed his scripts at home in Scarborough in the Stephen Joseph Theatre.
Scarborough is also a good place to observe closely the Foibles & Follies of Middle Class Brits. You don't have to live in London to take the measure of a Marriage on the Verge of Disaster.
Yorkshire's Scarborough also gave the English Crookback Dick, better known as King Richard III.
Ayckbourn has yet to tackle Royal & Imperial Themes, but Norman's unbridled Lust for Female Flesh—especially ladies he believes only he can understand & pleasure properly—is certainly a livelier source of Comedy than the insufficiently Repressed Romance of the putative King Charles III. Not to overlook the heartaches of Princess Margaret Rose…
What would Ayckbourn do with a potentially Tragi Comic character like Lord Snowdon onstage? Set the play in Snowdonia? [Thinking of that time at the Old Vic when the Princess & Sir Anthony Armstrong Jones walked that close to me in the darkened aisle of the Royal Tier, when the playwright Peter Shaffer wisely avoided presenting Your Scribe to the Royal Couple…]
The tousle haired Stephen Mangan is a Force of Nature as the irrepressible & irresponsible Norman, but the comedy wouldn't bubble over & explode without the rest of this marvelous cast: Amelia Bullmore, Jessica Hynes, Ben Miles, Paul Ritter, & Amanda Root!
The genius director Matthew Warchus—who also staged that other Big Hit, God of Carnage—almost includes the front rows of the Circle in the Square audience in the frenetic action.
So don't sit too close, but do try to see all three of the Norman Conquest Triad in the one day Marathon. Seeing them out of sequence is OK, but there is a definite Comic Increment in the sequence, even if all three plays take place on the same day, in the same time span, but in different parts of a Provincial House & Garden on an epically disastrous Country Weekend.
*The famously fussy Sam Beckett—who now metaphorically sleeps soundly under a simple stone in Paris' Montparnasse Cemetery, or is that other one that begins with an M: Montmartre?—might have interdicted the Broadway Godot.
But Eugène Ionesco—being Roumanian, if writing in French—probably would have loved Neil Armfield's antic staging of Exit the King.
Armfield's fellow Aussie, that delightful Music Hall Farceur Geoffrey Rush, is also an Unwilling to Die King Berenger whom Ionesco would have cheered & cherished. His crazy conduct & insane romps quite disgust the Magisterial Queen Marguerite of Susan Sarandon, although they inspire his anxious young second wife Queen, the light headed Marie, played by Lauren Ambrose.
Actually, this production—hilarious as it is, especially with the designs of Dale Ferguson—is not Vintage Ionesco, as Armfield & Rush have "adapted" the original text. Well, it is in French, after all…
Those peripatetic theatre goers who have seen Neil Armfield's magical Sydney production of Cloudstreet—described on this site in several of its Festival Peregrinations—may already have some idea of the nature of his directorial genius. [When I interviewed Neil at one of those fests, he then asked me to look after his charming Mom & Dad who had come along for the tour!]
*This time out [21 May], the Outer Critics Circle gave the wonderfully active & spontaneous Octogenarian Actress Angela Lansbury an Award for Outstanding Actress, as Madame Arcati, in Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit.
Lansbury emphasized what a pleasure it was to play such a zany comic role on Broadway, where, as she noted, she'd already had a series of Triumphs playing Zanies & Obsessives: Mama Rose, of Gypsy, being the most Obsessive of all.
[But previously, when Lansbury & co star Marian Seldes received an OCC Special Award for their wonderful work on Broadway as ex Tennis Stars, she was unable to come to Sardi's to accept. She played that night, however. This time there were no head aches… & All Was Forgiven!]
Mme. Arcati is almost an actor proof role, but playing the mousey little Maid—who is actually the Spirit Contact which enables Rupert Everett's dead first wife Elvira [an ethereal Christine Ebersole] to return to torment him—is, in contrast, much more difficult. Susan Louise O'Connor won an Award for her work in the role!
Jayne Atkinson—as Ruth, the second wife—was properly annoyed with her condescending husband, especially when he was talking with the wife she could not hear or see. Soon enough, however, she also became a Spirit to needle him! Britain's Michael Blakemore made all this directorial magic.
Elegant sets & costumes, of course!
*The late Sir Bernard Miles—at the late Thames side Mermaid Theatre—began the modern revivals of the almost forgotten plays of such playwrights as DH Lawrence, Granville Barker, & Henry James.
L-R: Eric Martin Brown, Julia Coffey and Nick Cordileone in scene from "The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd."
At the Mint Theatre, Jonathan Bank has been rediscovering neglected or forgotten Victorian, Edwardian, & later Georgian dramas. The Mint's revival of Lawrence's The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd—staged by Stuart Howard—is an excellent reconstruction of the Poverty & stunted Passions of Yorkshire Mining folk: living in misery & misunderstanding long before the advent of Billy Elliott & Margaret Thatcher.
Poster for Stuart Howard's production of "The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd" performed at the Mint Theater.
*As for all those granite boulders in Waiting for Godot, the same Rock Heap may have provided the acres of rocks onstage—as well as hanging far above the stage, secured with heavy ropes—to suggest a rocky New England Farmstead in Gene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms.
This is an early play, which echoes the even earlier Beyond the Horizon, both of which are now rather painfully bound to their Local Color Era origins. Even decades ago, at UC/Berkeley, when we Drama Majors explored O'Neill & even did Scenes, this Baby Killer Neo Naturalist play was often mockingly re named as Perversion Under the Poplars, Orgasms Under the Oaks, & Passion Under the Pines. Well, you get the Idea…
Having Ephraim Cabot's Farmhouse also hanging above the stage—suspended by the same sort of heavy hempen ropes securing the tons of Pendant Stones—may have been Symbolic, but it was out of place in what is essentially a now somewhat embarrassing effort of 20th Century Naturalistic Playwriting!
Nonetheless, I would be happy to give a Very Original & Imaginative Scenic Design Award to Walt Spangler. He is clearly a Talent to Watch. If not to watch out for… No, seriously, these hanging stones & surrounding boulders could work very well for Beethoven's Fidelio!
Perhaps the Producers were also wary of reviving this Early O'Neill, for the posters & ads for the show emphasized DESIRE, with under the elms printed underneath that HED in very small type.
Carla Gugino won several Award Nominations for her avaricious Abby, but Liev Schreiber's brother, Pablo, didn't seen able to provide the necessary CHEMISTRY for this play to work.
Brian Dennehy provided his customary Bluster, in place of nuanced acting. Robert Falls mis directed.
Poster for the revival of Arthur Miller's "Incident at Vichy" at the Beckett Theatre.
*For those dedicated to Keeping Memories of the HOLOCAUST Alive, the revival of Arthur Miller's effortful drama, Incident at Vichy, must have seemed a Vindication of all that suffering. Unfortunately, the play itself is a kind of Themed Construct.
Nonetheless, the drama does serve to remind us—in case any eager Manhattan admirer of the French & Gallic Culture has forgotten—that the French Police were the first to round up French Jews & those Refugee Jews who had fled from Central & Eastern Europe—in the false belief that they would be safe in Paris—before the Nazis & the Gestapo asked them to do so!
*It is rumored that David Hyde Pierce—after his Matinee Idol success in Curtains—wanted to follow that up with the role of a Middle Aged Playwright who falls in Love with his young & somewhat mousey Secretary, in Samson Raphaelson's period play, Accent on Youth.
Aside from the as usual handsome set by John Lee Beatty & the glamorous Between the Wars costumes of the women, by the remarkable Jane Greenwood, the Passion Tensions in this "drawing room comedy" are barely noticeable, let alone compelling.
Yes, Raphaelson's Skylark was a Gertrude Lawrence success, but his best work was done in Hollywood. He was no Noël Coward. Perhaps Hyde Pierce should have played Coward's Charles Condamine, instead of the anaesthetized Rupert Everett?
Matthew Broderick stars in "The Philanthropist" at the Roundabout Theatre.
*Christopher Hampton is to be thanked, this season, for his adaptation/translation of God of Carnage, but we should have been spared the revival of his own drama, The Philanthropist, supposedly inspired by Molière's Le Misanthrope. Nor is this lukewarm exchange of desultory dialogues even Shavian…
The Play & the Production's Best Effect comes almost at the Outset, when a young rejected & dejected Playwright shoots himself in the head, splattering the Philanthropist's drawing room panels with Blood.
It's all down hill from there, even though the panel is replaced. The problem in the play is that the Title Role character is an affectless & disconnected Professorial Cipher, who will not, cannot connect with those around him.
When such a character is effortlessly played by the passive & affectless Matthew Broderick, numbness sets in. This is once again Broderick's feckless Leo Blum, from The Producers, but without the Music & Mel Brooks' comic sense.
*The Signature Theatre Company continues to salute the past achievements of The Negro Ensemble Company, whose time has long passed, although its co founder, Douglas Turner Ward, certainly gave the American Stage, TV, & Hollywood some outstanding players.
But whatever became of Ward's co founders, Robert Hooks & Gerald Krone? Just asking, as I don't read the Times' Obits…
Poster for Charles Fuller's "Zooman & the Sign."
Charles Fuller's Zooman & The Sign was of interest as its African American Hero dared to put up signs challenging the violent, even homicidal, African American Teenager Zooman. Not a good idea in a quasi ghetto where many lived in fear & Police seemed unable or uninterested in ending Zooman's depredations. Amari Cheatom was astonishing—if also terrifying—as the amoral Zooman.
Poster for The Pearl Theater's production of "Tartuffe" as translated by Richard Wilbur.
*Although the Pearl Theatre's productions are usually Low Budget, they nonetheless often offer the only opportunity to view important works of our Classic Theatre. Their recent mounting of Molière's Tartuffe—in Richard Wilbur's ingeniously rhymed translation—was respectable, if not up to the levels of the Comédie française, whose productions are, in fact, not all that compelling. Too much Weight of Tradition?
*Some time ago, in fact, a very long time ago, Your Scribe used to report upon & even work with Dave Rothenberg's Theatre for the Forgotten, when we would go to the city prison on Riker's Island to do a show for the usually young Inmates, or even help them develop their own dramas.
Even when reconstructing Life on the Mean Streets of Manhattan & the Boroughs, you did not have an onstage Gun. Not even one made out of soap…
So it was a surprise to see Shylock pull out a shiv to cut his Pound of Flesh from Antonio's quivering bosom, in Edward Hall's all male Prison Drama of The Merchant of Venice.
Of course Hall's use of Male Actors in place of women—Portia, Jessica, & Nerissa, in this case—does not really echo that of Shakespeare's with his Globe Troupers, as teenage boys played such roles then.
In line with that EuroTrash Attitude for Opera Productions—inspired by the Idea that we have all seen the Classics so often that we no longer really pay attention to what is being said & played, so that we really need to see them with new Eyes & Ears—Hall seems to think that setting the scene even in a Nominal Venice—which this prison certainly is not—may obscure the drama's Deeper & Darker Import. Something like that…
This admired staging recently came to BAM, thanks to the co working of Watermill Theatre & Hall's own Propeller ensemble. It was first presented at the Poole Lighthouse. Richard Clothier was an implacable Shylock—even as an Actor Prisoner.
Would it further enhance the psychological Resonances of Merchant to stage it, say, in Auschwitz or Dachau?
This has probably already been Explored, but I have not been alerted to that, if so…
Poster for David Esbjornson's "Hamlet."
*Folding some scenes in on one another, David Esbjornson's recent stripped down Hamlet at the Duke Theatre was not only energy charged, but it also achieved some New Insights.
But it was also well worth seeing for the Polonius of that veteran actor, Alvin Epstein. As the Player King, the veteran Robert Stattel was also admirable.
Studying the program, a nearby spectator was surprised to find a Priest listed among the characters: "I thought they were all Lutherans in Denmark!"
It's clear from the play text that the Denmark of old King Hamlet was still in the clutches of the Medieval Superstitions—Ghosts on the Ramparts & in even Queen Gertrude's Bed Chamber!—of the Church of Rome.
Dr. Martin Luther isn't even mentioned by Horatio, although he, Hamlet & Rosenkrantz & Guildenstern have been studying at the University of Wittenberg, the very place where Luther nailed his famous Theses to the door of the town church. [You can still see them there today, although they have been alchemized into Bronze!]
Poster for the New-Victory's production of "Henry V."
*John Houseman—the late founder of the Juilliard inspired The Acting Company—might be a bit taken aback to see its new touring version of Henry V, shown recently at the New Victory. Fully armored, it was all Trumpets, Pikes, Drums, & Guns, performed at full force energy so Nuance was lost. Even Princess Katherine's English Lesson lacked the sweetly satiric jesting it usually evokes.
BILLY ELLIOT: The Musical [*****]
SHREK: The Musical [*****]
BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON: The Concert Version [*****]
next to normal [****]
THE TOXIC AVENGER [****]
ROCK OF AGES [***]
Dolly Parton's 9 to 5 [***]
TONIGHT: LOLA BLAU [**]
*Your Reporter never saw the original Billy Elliott in London, as he no longer gets Press tix there. Too Old or only a Website Review Venue: something like that… The only seat I could afford was not cheap, but unfortunately Behind a Column: Obstructed View for £110!
Wait till it comes to Broadway, I thought. But little did I know I'd be asked to see it, not once, but three times! This largesse so that I, as an OCC Nominator, could see the talents of all three Billy Elliotts on display.
They are all excellent, each in his own Billy way. As are Gregory Jbarra, as Billy's Dad; Carole Shelley, as his batty Grandma, & Haydn Gwynne, who gives Billy his chance to become an outstanding Ballet Dancer
What is especially remarkable is the way director Stephen Daldry has translated the popular Billy Elliott film to the stage, thanks also to brilliant design solutions & choreography which con mingle Billy's Coming of Age with a doomed Miners' Strike in the Era of Margaret Thatcher. Of course, the potent Elton John Score & Lee Hall's book & lyrics are of immense assistance…
[Years ago, when Stephen Daldry was achieving Minor Miracles on the tiny stage of the Notting Hill Gate Theatre—upstairs over a Pub—Your Reporter was able to interview him, rightly believing Daldry had Big Things ahead of him. Soon, he was called to the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square: then a Mecca for Innovation & Cradle of the Kitchen Sink School of Playwriting!]
*When it was announced that the animated film, Shrek,would be made into a Broadway Musical, some scoffed. When it actually happened, some friends—invited on my other Press Ticket—didn't even want to see it. Wrong!
It's a delightful show, not least because of all those Fairytale Little People, notably Pinocchio. Brian d'Arcy James is an astonishingly lovable Shrek, but it must be a struggle to hide a handsome face underneath all that Green Makeup! Even Sutton Foster, as Princess Fiona, cannot escape the Green, with little horns like Shrek's.
Daniel Breaker is Outstanding as Donkey, funnier even than the film voice of Eddie Murphy, as we get to see him In Action. Jason Moore staged, with lively choreography by Josh Prince, taking full advantage of Tim Hatley's wonderfully cartoonish sets & costumes.
*George Bush may well have been the Worst President in memory, but most of us have forgotten the Bloody Presidency of Andrew Jackson, whose entire family was killed by Indians in Tennessee. He got even, notably with the Trail of Tears, an early American Genocide Program, relocating Southeastern Indian Tribes to seemingly useless Reservation Lands in the Middle West.
[Ironically, Oil was discovered on the Reservations years later! So who had the Last Laugh?]
Recent biographies are putting Jackson in the accusatorial Spotlight once again, but Alex Timbers & Michael Friedman have instead turned Jackson's Life Story into a Tragi Comic Musical Romp. Acted in a deliberately excessive Burlesque Style, this is a hilarious show that ought to move Off Broadway, after its limited run at the Public Theatre.
Seldom has a stage set been so cluttered with odd & exotic props, thanks so designer Donyale Werle.
As Andrew Jackson, leading man handsome Benjamin Walker could prove stiff competition for that popular Broadway musical lead, Cheyenne Jackson!
*Seen earlier Off Broadway, next to normal is even more powerful on Broadway at the Booth. Alice Ripley is both dynamic & heart breaking as the grief stricken Diana, a wife & mother whose Schizoid Moods—her son, dead in infancy, is now a teen & visible only to her!—are destroying her family.
*It's good that Sutton Foster's talented brother, Hunter, is also central in a new musical. When she was Thoroughly Modern Millie on Broadway, he was the star of the low budget Urinetown, way off Broadway.
At least his new Musical Gig, Happiness, is now running in Lincoln Center, in the Mitzi E. Newhouse. John Weidman's book makes Foster the frantic Conductor on the Subway Car to Nowhere. All the hapless passengers are Dead—save one Wall Street Type—but they don't yet realize this.
In effect, this is rather like Sutton Vane's Post World War I classic, Outward Bound, in which the doomed—if not damned—passengers think they are on an Ocean Cruise! [Fortunately, Sutton Vane is No Relation to Sutton Foster…]
Happiness is, in effect, Passing Over on the A Train! To escape the death car, individuals have to remember—to re live, as well—the one Memorable Moment in their lives when they were truly Happy! They sing the songs of Scott Frankel & Michael Korie.
Among those on board—under director Susan Stroman's expert direction—are Joanna Gleason & Miguel Cervantes, who plays Miguel—with no obvious references to Don Quixote de la Mancha, authored by the Historic Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra.
*Did you know that Manhattan has made the State of New Jersey its Dumping Ground for Millions of Tons of Toxic Waste? Staten Island's Fresh [ironic name!] Kills is already Full!
Playbill for "The Toxic Avenger" starring Nick Cordero.
Imitating the new Disney Tradition of turning Cartoon Movies into Major Broadway Musicals, The Toxic Avenger achieves its Outrageous Effects Off Broadway in one of those old Second Run Movie Houses in the basement of that West 50th Street & Eighth Avenue Complex.
The stage is crammed with multi gallon steel ribbed oil waste barrels. [Rather like all those Rocks in Waiting for Godot & Desire: under the elms!] Some of these deadly cannisters revolve, to disclose intimate settings, like the Branch Library in which the Blind Librarian, Sara [Sarah Chase], cannot see the books that she is desperately trying to shelve all falling in heaps on the floor!
Much of the Visual & Aural Humor is Gross Out Sophomoric: in Thoroughly Bad Taste. But the way in which this show has been designed, staged, & performed—with a multi tasking cast—is Hilarious!
Nick Cordero plays the Toxic Green Giant, transformed from an Ordinary Nerd by New York City's Transported Poisons. Nancy Opel, Demond Green, & Matthew Saldivar are wonderful Quick Change Artistes, zipping from crazy costumes to insane outfits in an instant.
Joe DiPietro & David Bryan are the book, lyrics, & music team. Their new musical, Memphis, is Broadway Bound.
[When the guys who created Urinetown quit their day time jobs to Make More Musicals, I asked them what their next Project would be? After Urinetown, where could you go but on to Shit City, I suggested. They didn't take the Bait, but Toxic Avenger now has Shit City on stage!]
*Your Reporter's Musical Taste was always Retrograde Classical—even as a teen, I never thrilled to the Glenn Miller Band, nor to Rudy Vallée singng Red Sails in the Sunset: my mother even got the sheet music to play that one over & over—so Rock, Rap & Hip Hop didn't drive me into frenzies of head bobbing & toe tapping. [But I always loved Loretta Lynn—her sister, Crystal Gale, not so much—on the Grand Ol' Opry: elemental Country & Western is where I came from Way Out West.]
So I cringed at the thought of Rock of Ages: should I get Ear Plugs or would my residual Ear Wax prove sufficient cushion for the expected Sound Outrages?
In the event, I had a Great Time, especially enjoying the quasi reconstruction of Rock in LA in its heyday. The sheer Energy of the Performers—as well as the heavy pounding, drumming beat of the Music, with the banal & endlessly repeated Lyrics—were Audience Energizing as well. Also: serving Beer & Beverages in the aisles during the Show seemed to help. [Too bad Desire: under the elms didn't do likewise, at least serving New England Cider!]
Some Discriminating Critics complained that the Creators of the Original Rock Songs were not singing them onstage, but then ABBA hasn't seen fit to do that with Mama Mia! [How could they, with copies of that Hit Show playing all over the Civilized World?]
Interesting to note that the ingenious Stage Designer—& also Mythically Named—Beowulf Boritt created the sets for both Rock of Ages & Toxic Avenger!
Leslie Kritzer and Doug Kreeger in "Rooms: a rock romance." Photo by Carol Rosegg.
*Rooms: a Rock Romance also proved to be a Winner, not least for the dynamic performance of Leslie Kritzer! But Doug Kreeger is also very good with the songs of Paul Scott Goodman. Miriam Gordon collaborated with Goodman on the charming book. Scott Schwartz staged.
*The Concept for the imaginary Middle European Chanteuse, Lola Blau, had potential—as devised by George Kreisler—but, in execution by Anna Kramer & pudgy Talking Pianist Joe Volker, it really did not work. Kramer's voice is OK, but the songs would have had more effect without the Brechtian Stage Environment.
Perhaps only an East German Cabaret Artiste like Gisela May could bring this to life. Fake Brecht is not Echt Brecht! Although Kramer has performed this show—supposedly now becoming her Signature—for International Music Festivals in such exotic locations as Aruba & Côte Ivoire, at LaMaMa, it didn't really take off & fly…
*Your Scribe somehow managed to miss the non musical film 9 To Five, so he didn't initially realize that it was not a wonderful idea to provide it—as the wonderful Dolly Parton has done—with actual Music & Lyrics.
Three Office Abused female employees bond to punish—in S&M Mode—their tyrannical & sexist Boss, played by Marc Kudish. The veteran Joe Manello effortfully staged the action, but Andy Blankenbuehler's choreographies were more interesting, even in tones of Grey.
Film Archivists tell me that Jane Fonda & Dolly Parton herself were in the original film: I don't have NetFlix, so how would I know? Busty, belting, & frenetic Megan Hilty seemed to be the Dolly Stand In, with Stephanie J. Block & Allison Janney completing the Triad. Janney is often excellent in dramatic or comedic roles, but Musicals don't seem to be her forté…
Old Musicals in Revival:
WEST SIDE STORY [****]
GUYS & DOLLS [**]
Poster for Broadway's revival of "Hair"
*Considering the immense popularity of Broadway Musicals Old & New—the Chicago revival that began at City Center Encores seemingly decades ago, is still running on Broadway, & indeed, in major World Capitals as well—it's surprising that there have been so few notable resurrections of Golden Oldies in the Year of Our Lord 2009.
Actually, Hair was revived last Summer—2008—in Central Park at the Public Theatre's Delacorte Stage. Although founder Joe Papp preferred Shakespeare in the Park, with several summer stagings, the programs have shrunk, usually with only one Bardic Revival.
Hair owes nothing to Shakespeare, except, perhaps to the character of Autolycus, the rogue rhymester in The Winter's Tale. In effect, Hair has several versions of Autolycus living it up! Indeed, the entire youthful cast seems Super Charged—even if none of them has ever seen an actual Draft Card, much less burnt them!
As transferred from Central Park to Broadway, the show seems greatly improved visually. It has proved an immense success, especially with ageing Boomers & even with their Grandkids. Along with the Flower Children costumes of Michael McDonald, Karole Armitage's choreography is especially admired. Director Diane Paulus has loosely marshaled the antic acting singing dancing forces onstage…
Anti Viet Nam Protests are a thing of the Past, but Ragni & Rado's lyrics, wonderfully transformed into music by Galt MacDermot may live yet a long time: I Believe in Love & Frank Mills—my favorite!
It's been a long time in NYC since we've seen the orange robed chanters of Hare Krishna, but the song still resonates. As for the Dawning of the Age Aquarius, what happened to that?
*Amazing that veteran Playwright/Director Arthur Laurents has achieved the venerable age of 90 & is still functioning on Broadway. For that matter, he was recently skiing in Aspen—or was it Vail?—with Broadway Legend Hal Prince, who is only 80: The same age as Marian Seldes, Edward Albee, & Glenn Loney!
Laurents' current revival of West Side Story apparently doesn't erase fond memories of its original Broadway production, if some reviewers are to be believed. But even some who only know this wonderful show from its later revivals have complained at Laurents' decision to have some of the dialogue & lyrics set in Spanish. Puerto Rican Spanish, at that, provided by the creator of In the Heights, the admirable Lin Manuel Miranda.
Just so you won't forget, there is a Boxed Credit on the Title Page giving JEROME ROBBINS his full due. Were he to return from the Land of the Dead, he might take issue with the re Direction of his old colleague, Laurents. At least choreographer Joey McKneely has tried to reproduce the patterns—if not the vigor—of Robbins' original choreography.
As Tony & Maria, Matt Cavanagh & Josefina Scaglione are attractive & affecting, but some reviewers sensed a Lack of Chemistry. But both critics & audiences love Karen Olivo's lively Anita.
Tro Shaw creates an amusingly frustrated wanting to belong Anybody's. I note this especially as the original Anybody's became a dear friend of mine, the late Lee Theodore, founder of the late lamented American Dance Machine. Lee was notably careful in re creating Robbins Choreographies for the ADM: "You don't want to have Jerry mad at you…"
*That the revival of Guys & Dolls was such a let down was not to be expected from such an experienced & resourceful director as Des McAnuff! What went wrong here?
With its memorable Frank Loesser score & songs—plus the hilariously parodic book of Jo Swerling & Abe Burrows—it should have been a Solid Hit. If anything, it was more disappointing than the recent Pal Joey revival.
Casting was certainly a central concern: Craig Bierko was a charming Robert Preston replacement in The Music Man, but he didn't measure up as Sky Masterson. And although Kate Jennings Grant was admired, she didn't quite make it as the Salvation Army Mission's Sarah.
Not a few critics diagnosed their potential Love Affair as suffering from another Lack of Chemistry.
But other major & specialty roles also suffered when compared—in memories—with the original character creators: Oliver Platt was no Nathan Detroit, not at least as one remembered him from other Incarnations. Nor were Nicely Nicely Johnson or other of the floating crap game guys up to par.
Lauren Graham's Adelaide was OK, as were the Hot Box Girls in their cheesy routines, mapped out by Sergio Trujillo, but deliriously costumed by Paul Tazewell.
Unfortunate, when even London's National Theatre once had a dynamite success with its revival of Guys & Dolls. This Property should be Indestructible… But then, Sir Laurence Olivier as Nathan Detroit! Oliver Platt is no Olivier!
Solo Performers & Mono Dramas:
Lorenzo Pisoni's HUMOR ABUSE [*****]
Frank Blocker's SOUTHERN GOTHIC NOVEL [*****]
Mike Birbiglia's SLEEPWALK WITH ME [****]
Darrel Dennis' TALES OF AN URBAN INDIAN [***]
Poster for Lorenzo Pisoni's "Humor Abuse."
*Delighted with the charm, acrobatic ability, & clown chops of Lorenzo Pisoni—at MTC's Second Stage at NY City Center—I did not at first realize that I had already seen him perform years ago as a very young Clown in the Pickle Family Circus, a virtual San Francisco Tradition!
You have certainly heard all you ever want to hear about Child Abuse, but Lorenzo's childhood abuse was rather different from most. His dad was a hardworking Clown & chief of the Pickle Family Circus, which indeed did involve the entire family in one way or another.
How Lorenzo learned all of the Craft of Clowning the Hard Way, from a demanding Mentor Father—not much hugging or encouragement—makes for a most enjoyable afternoon or evening.
This show should move on to a commercial Off Broadway run. And it should continue to tour, as the tale of the Family Pisoni/Pickle is often hilarious, especially as deftly performed by the handsome Lorenzo Pisoni. This talented guy is Leading Man handsome! [He was recently a stylized Horse in Peter Shaffer's Equus!]
*It is hardly to be believed that author/actor Frank Blocker—his Southern Gothic Novel is his very own Parody of the Genre—is performing 17 different Southern "characters" in his new show of the same name!
They are each & all quite distinct in Vocal & Physical Mannerisms, not to mention their variously bizarre attitudes toward Life. Rapidly shifting from Narrator to Characters, Blocker swiftly becomes each one of them, suddenly transforming himself into another Crazy.
Sometimes, this means rolling on the floor in anger or in extremis.
That Blocker's title has a sub title will give you some idea of what is at stake here: The Aberdeen, Mississippi, Sex Slave Incident. Not to be confused with that long ago Ox Bow Incident…
What is perhaps even more unusual than Blocker's Tale & his performance of it is that you can see it only on Wednesday Evenings, until 24 June, at what appears to be the Private Theatre of the show's director, Cheryl King.
This is called the Stage Left Studio, located at 438 West 37th Street, Suite 5A, NYC, just a couple of doors from the Baryishnikov Center!
Cheryl King has created the Women at Work Festival, as well as the admired Left Out Festival, celebrating Gay Performance. For more Info, check out her website: www.StageLeftStudio.net.
*A fatly stuffed padded mailing envelope arrived shortly before Awards Nominations. It contained a cute little Teddy Bear, wearing an I Slept with Mike sweater.
There was also a large bottle containing a Prescription for me: Take one performance aurally & visually at least once as needed for prolonged periods of laughter & poignancy.
Actually, the prescribed pills were dark & light blue M&Ms.
As for the dear little bear, whether Dr. Mike Birbiglia was actually able to sleep with all the bears sent out to plug this Nathan Lane sponsored Monodrama about an inveterate Sleepwalker, it does seem highly unlikely. But I'm not turning in my Personal Bear & all the M&Ms are GONE!
Actually, Nathan Lane is only one of five producer/presenters. Marc Turtletaub is yet another, worthy of note if only for his sweetly sounding name: Turtle Dove, or Pigeon, depending on how you want to un Germanize it.
Mike Birbiglia is a modest & unassuming—but slyly charming—Monologist, who is so low key in recalling his Past & his Somnolent Affliction that it is at times not easy to hear him, even in an intimate venue.
This could be a Hearing Problem—rather than a Voice Projection deficiency—but, as so many who can still afford theatre tickets are Grey Panthers & Golden Agers, not all of them equipped with Sonar Devices, it would be good if more performers were able to be heard—even in large theatres—without shouting & without mikes. This used to be part of an Actor's Training…
[Your Reporter used to teach such Speech Skills for over forty years. They still know how to project at the Met Opera, sans microphones, don't they?]
*Darrell Dennis both wrote & recently performed Tales of an Urban Indian—at the Public Theatre. This is not about an Indian from India, but a Native American, off the Reservation. Some of his problems & predicaments are predictable, if you have been following the Native American metaphoric Trail of Tears narrative onstage & in print.
Nonetheless, it is good for Palefaces & Gringos to learn what it means to try to assimilate. And what can be lost in so doing…
As Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson—also at the Public—musically reminds us, Great Wrongs have been done to the Original Americans. A bolt of cloth & a sack of cornmeal do not make up for Broken Treaties & Lost Lands & Customs.
On the other hand, you can get tired of hearing historically justified complaints that seem to descend, at last, into Whining.
Do not forget: the Swiss based USB Bank's Phil Gramm & Dick Cheney do not like Whiners! We should all remember that. Palefaces, too…
Other Entertainments/Other Venues:
Nights at the Opera or Allied Arts:
At the Metropolitan Opera:
Antonín Dvorák's RUSALKA [****]
At the Juilliard Opera Theatre:
Giuseppi Verdi's FALSTAFF [****]
At the Manhattan School of Music:
Johann Strauss jr's DIE FLEDERMAUS [****]
At the Brooklyn Academy of Music:
Jonathan Miller's JS Bach's ST MATTHEW PASSION [****]
*Even when there was still a New York City Opera Company—regularly producing operas at the New York State Theatre—there was no way that the often remarkable Fall & Spring Opera Theatre productions of Manhattan's two greatest Music Schools could be transferred to that great Lincoln Center stage.
Then, as now, whether Fall or Spring, Juilliard Opera Theatre & Manhattan School of Music Opera stagings are shown only three times, in one week. There are so many demands from other programs in the schools for use of the theatres, that no extensions are possible.
Now that the State Theatre has been renamed the David H. Koch Theatre—who is this guy, anyway? Why not donate the funds for the renovation of the theatre Anonymously? Do all Arts Mitzvahs have to have the donor's names on them? Is Jehovah watching?—the NY City Opera may once again mount a season or two.
City Opera was dealt a Near Death Blow by the Arrival, and then, the sudden Hissy Fit Departure of Dr. Gérard Mortier, late of the Paris Opera, the Ruhr Trienniale, & the Salzburg Festival.
Perhaps the NYCO's new Artistic Director will find a way to give some innovative Juilliard & Manhattan School opera stagings a longer life. As well as to introduce the Stars of Tomorrow in Lincoln Center, years before they'd ever have a chance to sing at the venerable Met. But even the Met's forward thinking chief, Peter Gelb, might have some ideas about promoting this!
*The Juilliard Falstaff was wonderfully but simply Conceived, artfully Staged, & vitally, comically, frenetically Performed & Sung! Some new insights into both Shakespeare's Merry Wives & Boito's libretto for Verdi emerged in the process.
Stephen Wadsworth directed, with designs by Derek McLane, Sam Fleming, & David Lander. Kerri Lynn Wilson conducted with verve & humor.
But the real Find was the Falstaff of Nicholas Pallesen, although the entire cast was—as usual at the Juilliard—admirable. Mariana Karpatova—a Juilliard Opera Alum—returned to warmly embody Dame Quickly. [Her post Juilliard Opera Credits include performances with the Sarasota & Tampa Operas, where Your Reporter found himself shortly after seeing Falstaff.]
*The Fledermaus of the Manhattan School was a Revelation. I have never seen such a lavish—if ingeniously Low Budget—production on the John C. Borden stage! What is more, the semi pro student singer/actors moved about the scenes as if to the elegant Jugendstil/Jahrhundertwende Viennese Manner Born!
And what fine strong young Voices, coupled with supple movements & attractive Presences & Personalities! In character, of course! The three Fledermaus performances were, as usual, double cast. But I must to salute the Rosalinde & Eisenstein I saw & heard: Jaclyn Bermudez & Dan Kempson.
Also excellent: Jazmina MacNeil's Orlovsky, Jeanine DeBique's Adele, Frederick Voegele's Alfred, & Jason Graae's comic jailer, Frosch, a great role for a non singing actor—with many more lines than
Basa Selim in Die Entführung aus dem Serail!
Kynan Johns conducted very much in the lively spirit of the events, with deft stage direction by Dona D. Vaughn.
*As with the long time Tradition at the Bayreuth Festival—where, when you are fortunate enough to win the RING, you are sold, or given, if Press, all four operas in the 16 hour Ring Cycle—the Met Opera also wants the Press to see this monumental achievement in Musik Theater in its entirety.
There was already a long Waiting List for Press Tickets to the last showing of the Schenk & Schneider Siemmsen Met Ring, when I enquired about tickets. As one would have to see the entire Cycle of one of the sets of Cycles programmed—no skipping around—there was no point in pursuing this, as I was to be in Sarasota & Tampa/St. Pete during two of those operas.
As I had interviewed both the director & the designer when this now well worn production was new, as well as having seen several rounds of Cycles, that was OK.
Also, I had seen this physical production yet again—but with young Polish opera singers—in Warsaw, when the Teatr Wielki's chief, the late Robert Satanowski, produced the entire Ring Cycle for the first time in Poland! Sung in German, not Polish!
The Berlin Wall was still standing during this Warsaw Opera Festival, so West Germany's Foreign Minister, Diether Genscher, wanted to make a friendly supportive gesture to Poland's Solidarity Dissidents with a gift of this replicated Met Production. Perhaps without the Met's entire agreement, though that is difficult to imagine: Manhattan & West Germany overthrow Communism with Opera!
*Fortunately, at the Met's Season's End, enjoying the Met's handsome Russalka production was reward enough. Renée Fleming was the tragic Water Nymph Russalka, glamorous but hardly nymph like. Her fickle Prince was Aleksandrs Antonenko—good, but hardly a new Young American Talent, such as many would like to see & hear more at the New Met.
Stephanie Blythe was the wily old witch, Jezibaba, with Kristinn Sigmundsson as the Water Gnome, Russalka's doom seeing dad: You don't climb out of the water & slime for Amorous Interactions with Humans! No Good Can Come of It!
*The inherent Drama of Bach's St. Matthew Passion was once again demonstrated at BAM, with the revival of Dr. Jonathan Miller's insightful semi staging of this great work. This is a production for which—if you were never able to witness it in performance—you need to see on DVD, rather than merely hear it on CD. Thoroughly involved, Paul Goodwin conducted the Clarion Orchestra & the REBEL Baroque Orchestra.
On Randall's Island:
Cirque du Soleil's KOOZA [****]
The often acerbic critic John Simon once complained of the Montreal based Cirque du Soleil that its spectacular shows featured No Live Animals!
Well, that's the whole point: the designing & construction of a stunningly costumed show, spotlighting Acrobats, Jugglers, Tumblers, High Wire Artistes, & other remarkable Human Performers!
Le Cirque's KOOZA, now under canvas on Randall's Island—near the Carl Ichan Stadium—is one of its best. In fact, it has been written & directed by David Shiner, who long ago made his mark on Broadway as a quintessential Clown & Artiste.
Actually, there are some animals in the show—especially if you count Rodents as animals—for one of the Clowns is a really Shaggy Dog with a clown inside.
The name Kooza comes from the Sanskrit koza, which means box, chest, or Treasure. Indeed, the whole show seems to come out of a Magic Box: the Idea of Circus in a Box.
The glittering, astounding spectacle is a balance between Clowning & Acrobatics. The breathtaking acrobatic challenge, Wheel of Death, is new in this show.
But not entirely new to Your Reporter, who suddenly realized: "I've seen this show before on tour. Where was it: Singapore? Berlin?"
Despite the remoteness of Randall's Island & the fact that it was a Tuesday Night, the Big Top's hundreds of seats were completely filled!
Unlike Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey's Greatest Show on Earth, Cirque du Soleil shows are essentially One Ring Circuses, in the European Tradition. As is the Big Apple Circus of Paul Binder.
There's talk that Cirque du Soleil may want to establish a Permanent Performance Venue here in New York City.
With the severe Economic Downturn, this may not be the Ideal Time, but Phantom has been running on Broadway for years. Why not bring the various Cirque du Soleil touring shows to Manhattan in rotation?
After all, there are always some Cirque du Soleil shows on the road, not to overlook the Major Mountings in Las Vegas!
At the New Victory Theatre:
BLACK VIOLIN [****]
ROCK ‘N ROLL PENGUIN [****]
THE QUEEN OF COLORS [***]
*Way back in 1987, when I made a Grand Tour of Theatres & Opera Houses in East Germany's so called Democratic Republic—which was, in fact, neither—I was delighted in Erfurt to visit a brand new Children's Theatre, which specialized in remarkably innovative Puppet Shows, both for kids in the daytime & adults & kids at night.
This theatre was also outfitted in marble, amazing at a time when you had to stand in line for a loaf of bread or a litre of milk!
But East Germany was in the business of aggressively supporting the Performing Arts, not only to defuse dissidence over Food & Freedom Shortages, but also to show the West that the Warsaw Pact Nations had KULTUR, even if we did not!
In fact, the Culture Minister who had made my Culture Tour possible was Dr. Klaus Gysi, later named Minister of Religion, if you can imagine such a post in a Communist Country. His son, Dr. Gregor Gysi, has become a leading Leftist politician in the re united Federal Republic of Germany.
[My Betreuer—or Guardian: I knew German, so I did not need a Dolmetscher, or translator—was my now best friend in Berlin, Victor Homola, who is also Business Manager of the New York Times Berlin Bureau!]
Poster for "The Queen of Colors" at the New Victory's Duke-Theatre
I didn't have time, at the New Victory's Duke Theatre, to meet the Erfurt Creators of The Queen of Colors, but I'd like to think that they are based in this wonderful theatre I visited so long ago.
This charming show for kiddies & parents is ideal for touring as it requires no sets, costumes, or large casts of performers. The Little Queen & her Castle are drawn on paper—on a podium at one side of the stage—which is then mirror reflected & projected on a large screen for all to see.
The backgrounds are easily filled in with Colors by the presiding artist, with paper strips of props & scenery slid in & out to simulate Movement & Change. The wire outline puppet figure of the Little Queen is manipulated unseen, but also projected onto the drawings on the screen.
An Accordionist at the other side of the stage from the artist provides appropriate accompaniment & comment.
*As for the virtuoso Black Violin stars—Wilner Baptiste on Viola & Kevin Sylvester on Violin—this was a great treat for both Adults & Teenagers. They are so well known to fans—their new album is available digitally from Ioda!—that they were receiving huzzahs even before they showed their stuff.
"Wil B" & "Kev Marcus" have already had a World Tour with Mike Shinoda's Fort Minor band & have performed with some of the Black Greats: Alicia Keys, P Diddy, Aretha Franklin, Mos Def, Kanye West, & Aerosmith!
The audience went crazy with delight! Don't miss them next time round. You don't have to go up to Harlem to see them at the Apollo, but when they are there, why not?
The annual conference of the American Theatre Critics Assn—in theatre & circus rich Sarasota, FLA—prevented Your Reporter from seeing the New Victory's US premiere of the Swiss Circus La Famiglia Dimitri & Noche Flamenco, with its lead dancer, Soledad Barrio.
Ketch and Hiro Pon in "Rock 'n Roll Penguins"
*Although the red haired Ketch! & the yellow haired HIRO PON—their Comanche fringes of hair in ridges over their otherwise naked skulls—do finally produce a large Stuffed Penguin to sit at a set of largely unused drums, they are themselves outfitted with Penguin Beaked Caps & divers' flippers to embody the title's real Rock ‘n Roll Penguins.
But even before they take a Turn with the Birds, they dazzle with their often hilarious Mimes & Acrobatics. In fact, they are so good at that old Mime Device of walking down & upstairs in a shallow trunk sitting onstage, that the McArthur Genius Award Winning Mime Bill Irwin could take some lessons from their off hand but very slinky skills!
Performing Arts ODDMENTS:
Poster for The Wooster Group's "La Didone."
*As Your Reporter had already seen & loved the Wooster Group's conflation of Opera & Italian Sci Fi films, La Didone, at the Edinburgh Festival, he passed up the opportunity to walk way down the hill to St. Ann's Warehouse in DUMBO. It's the Knees when you get Old…
But, in retrospect, I should have done, as this was so ingenious & amusing, it was worth all the pain to see it again…
*Alexis Greene—CUNY Grad Center PhD & critic colleague—has done it again! Hard on the heels of her new book on the Theatres of 42nd Street, she has now co edited, with Shirley Lauro, Front Lines: Political Plays by American Women!
Among the playwrights represented are the award winning Nilaja Sun, with No Child, as well as plays by Paula Vogel, Emily Mann, Cindy Cooper, & Shirley Lauro.
*GREEN is now Very Big almost everywhere around the Nation. It has become the Buzz Word of Choice, even if it's only an advertising ploy to urge more Consumerism.
Nonetheless, the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center at the CUNY Grad Center—which has an amazing variety of free theatre programs through most months—is serious about Green & The Environment.
To celebrate Earth Week 2009, in April it presented a program of presentations & discussions with "environmentally conscious theatre makers from across the country." [Italics added. Ed]
This could be a dynamic new way to get your next play read, if not performed… Anti War Plays are Out: Green is In!
*Peter Harvey & George Balanchine in Dresden!
Manhattan based artist/stage designer Peter Harvey has just had a triumph in Dresden, at the Semper Oper, where he has replicated his designs for George Balanchine's Rubine—or Rubies—from the Master's 1967 suite of three Jewels.
Dresden's Saxon State Opera, in the magnificent Semper—will follow this with a revival of Balanchine's Diamanten, or Diamonds. Harvey will recreate his sets, but the costumes, as always in such revivals remain the designs of the Legendary Karinska.
But Harvey is now also Legendary: the Semper Program describes him as: eine lebende Legende. Or "a Living Legend."
In 2004, Harvey replicated—with some improvements—his original Balanchine Jewels designs for the New York City Ballet revival. Before that, he had journeyed to St. Petersburg, to the Mariinsky Theatre, to recreate his designs for Jewels for a Russian audience in the former Kirov in the former Leningrad.
Your Reporter's first feature for the brand new Theatre Crafts magazine was about one of Peter Harvey's first Manhattan stage designs, for Dames at Sea: Busby Berkeley on a Budget!
For the Record:
Outer Critics Circle Nominations & Winners:
Now that even Nominations for Theatre Awards—even if you do not win—have become a kind of Celebrity Currency, it may be useful to know whom the OCC Nominators chose, as the Announcement of the Actual Winners understandably often eclipses Yesterday's News.
This is a kind of Public Service as our Webmaster, Jonathan Slaff, does not publish such lists: "We don't have a News Section where we could put it," he informed me. [And Why Not? Would this be so difficult to do? Of course, no one gets paid for any of these postings…]
As Your Correspondent is one of the OCC Nominators, he very much wants to share this list with Constant Readers. If you miss from this roster any Names, Titles, or Categories that you believe should have been included, please understand that with the OCC Board, THE MAJORITY RULES, so Yours Truly's favorites may well be Over Ruled.
But I was surprised to hear a Fellow Nominator complain about Friedrich Schiller's Masterpiece, Mary Stuart, that it was: Too Talky!
The same might well be said of the dramas of Aeschylus, Sophocles, & Euripides. Possibly even of Shakespeare? Words, words, words… What we need are more Car Chases?
As filing of this report was delayed by the Sudden Death of My Computer—fortunately, years of reports & reviews were saved the day before with a new Back Up device—it is now possible also to indicate the shows & talents who actually won.
OCC Awards Winners are indicated in the Nomination List below by BOLD FACE type!
59th Annual Awards:
Outer Critics Circle Announce 2008 09 Season Nominees:
"Billy Elliot the Musical" & "Shrek the Musical"
Head the List with 10 Nominations!
Outer Critics Circle, the organization of writers and commentators covering New York theatre for out of town newspapers, national publications and other media beyond Broadway, announced today (April 20, 2009) its nominees for the 2008 09 season in 23 categories. Broadway stars and former Outer Critics Circle Award honorees Rebecca Luker & Danny Burstein presided over the (11 AM) announcement ceremony at Manhattan's historic Algonquin Hotel.
Based on a recommendation by the OCC Executive Committee, Special Achievement Awards will be given to David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish for their performances in "Billy Elliot the Musical" and an Outstanding Ensemble Performance Award will be presented to the full cast of "The Norman Conquests" (Amelia Bullmore, Jessica Hynes, Stephen Mangan, Ben Miles, Paul Ritter and Amanda Root).
Celebrating its 59th season of bestowing awards of excellence in the field of theater, the Outer Critics Circle is an association with members affiliated with more than ninety newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, and theatre publications in America and abroad. The winners of the following categories will be announced on Monday, May 11th and the annual award ceremony will be held on Thursday, May 21st (4PM) at the legendary Sardi's Restaurant.
Outer Critics Circle
2008 2009 Award Nominations
OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY PLAY:
GOD OF CARNAGE
Reasons To Be Pretty
OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY MUSICAL:
BILLY ELLIOTT THE MUSICAL
Rock of Ages
Shrek the Musical
A Tale of Two Cities
OUTSTANDING NEW OFF BROADWAY PLAY:
Shipwrecked! The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told By Himsel)
Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them
OUTSTANDING NEW OFF BROADWAY MUSICAL:
Rooms A Rock Romance
THE TOXIC AVENGER
What's That Smell? The Music of Jacob Sterling
OUTSTANDING NEW SCORE:
BILLY ELLIOTT THE MUSICAL
Rooms A Rock Romance
Shrek the Musical
OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A PLAY:
The Cripple of Inishmaan
Joe Turner's Come and Gone
THE NORMAN CONQUESTS
Waiting for Godot
OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL:
West Side Story
OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A PLAY:
Garry Hynes: The Cripple of Inishmaan
Anthony Page: Waiting for Godot
Bartlett Sher: Joe Turner's Come and Gone
MATTHEW WARCHUS: The Norman Conquests
Moisés Kaufman: 33 Variation
OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL:
STEPHEN DALDRY: Billy Elliot the Musical
Arthur Laurents: West Side Story
Jason Moore: Shrek the Musical
Diane Paulus: Hair
Susan Stroman: Happiness
Karole Armitage: Hair
Andy Blankenbuehler: 9 to 5
PETER DARLING: Billy Elliot the Musical
Josh Prince: Shrek the Musical
Susan Stroman: Happiness
OUTSTANDING SET DESIGN:
TIM HATLEY: Shrek the Musical
Santo Loquasto: Waiting for Godot
Derek McLane: 33 Variations
Ian MacNeil: Billy Elliot the Musical
Walt Spangler Desire Under the Elms
OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN:
Nicky Gillibrand: Billy Elliot the Musical
TIM HATLEY: Shrek the Musical
John Napier: Equus
Martin Pakiedinaz: Blithe Spirit
Catherine Zuber: Joe Turner's Come and Gone
OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN:
Kevin Adams: Hair
RICK FISHER: Billy Elliot the Musical
David Hersey: Equus
Peter Kaczorowski: Ruined
David Lander: 33 Variations
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A PLAY:
Raúl Esparza: Speed the Plow
Bill Irvin: Waiting for Godot
Nathan Lane: Waiting for Godot
GEOFFREY RUSH: Exit the King
Thomas Sadoski: Reasons To Be Pretty
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A PLAY:
Saidah Arrika Ekulona: Ruined
Carla Gugino: Desire Under the Elms
MARCIA GAY HARDEN: God of Carnage
Janet McTeer: Mary Stuart
Harriet Walter: Mary Stuart
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL:
James Barbour: A Tale of Two Cities
Matt Cavenaugh: West Side Story
BRIAN d'ARCY JAMES: Shrek the Musical
Josh Grisetti: Enter Laughing
David Pittu: What's That Smell? The Music of Jacob Sterling
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL:
SUTTON FOSTER: Shrek the Musical
Megan Hilty: 9 to 5
Leslie Kritzer: Rooms A Rock Romance
Nancy Opel: The Toxic Avenger
JOSEFINA SCAGLIONE: West Side Story
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY:
Zach Grenier: 33 Variations
John Benjamin Hickey: Mary Stuart
Russell G. Jones: Ruined
Patrick Page: A Man For All Seasons
DAVID PEARSE: The Cripple of Inishmaan
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY:
ANGELA LANSBURY: Blithe Spirit
Andrea Martin: Exit the King
Kristine Nielsen: Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them
Susan Louise O'Connor: Blithe Spirit
Condola Rashad: Ruined
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL:
Daniel Breaker: Shrek the Musical
Aaron Simon Gross: 13
GREGORY JBARA: Billy Elliot the Musical
Christopher Sieber: Shrek the Musical
Wesley Taylor: Rock of Ages
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL:
Kathy Fitzgerald: 9 to 5
HAYDN GWYNNE: Billy Elliot the Musical
Karen Olivo: West Side Story
Martha Plimpton: PaI Joey
Carole Shelley: Billy Elliot the Musical
OUTSTANDING SOLO PERFORMANCE:
Mike Birbiglia: Sleepwalk With Me
Mike Burstyn: Lansky
Mike Daisey: If You See Something, Say Something
LORENZO PISONI: Humor Abuse
Matt Sax: Clay
OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE:
Cast of The Norman Conquests:
Amelia Bullmore Jessica Hynes Stephen Mangan
Ben Miles Paul Ritter Amanda Root
THE JOHN GASSNER AWARD:
Presented for an American play, preferably by a new playwright:
Annie Baker: Body Awareness
GINA GIONFRIDDO: Becky Shaw
Beau Willimon: Farragut Nort
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD:
For their performances in Billy Elliot the Musical:
David Alvarez Trent Kowalik Kiril Kulish
2008 2009 Outer Critics Circle Executive & Nominating Committee:
Simon Saltzman (President)
Marjorie Gunner (President Emerita)
Mario Fratti (Vice President) Patrick Hoffman (Corresponding Secretary)
Louis A. Rachow (Treasurer) Glenn Loney (Historian & Member at Large)
Rosalind Friedman (Recording Secretary) Aubrey Reuben & Thomas Gentile (Members at Large)
The play Dividing the Estate was considered last season and won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off Broadway Play. The musical Next to Normal was also considered last year (nominated in three categories including Outstanding Off Broadway Musical, Outstanding Score & Outstanding Actress) and won the OCC Award for Outstanding Score. Thus, they could not be considered for nominations in the current season.
Nominations Talley: 3 or more:
Billy Elliot the Musical (10), Shrek the Musical (10), 33 Variations (5), Ruined (5), Waiting for Godot (5), West Side Story (5), Blithe Spirit (4), Hair (4), Happiness (4), The Cripple of Inishmaan (3), Joe Turner's Come & Gone (3), Mary Stuart (3), 9 to 5 (3), Rooms A Rock Romance (3).
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