November, 2013

Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.

Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:

Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company's SLEEPING BEAUTY [****]
Guimarães & Delgaudio's NOTHING TO HIDE [*****]
Shakespeare, Marlowe, Bacon, or Queen Elizabeth I's RICHARD III [*****]
Bill Shakespeare, Chris Marlowe, or Frank Bacon's TWELFE NIGHT [*****]
At the CUNY Grad Center: Celebrating BAM & Beyond…
The Collegiate Chorale Concert at Carnegie: Arrigo Boito's MEFISTOFELE [*****]
Rupert Holmes' Adaptation of the Best Selling Novel by John Grisham: A TIME TO KILL[*****]
Un Authorized New German Version of Prof. Dr. Ibsen's AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE [*****]
August & Lippa's BIG FISH [****]
Merle Good's THE PREACHER & THE SHRINK [***]
At Alice Tullly Hall: THE JUILLIARD ORCHESTRA [*****]
Rhythmic Circus' FEET DON'T FAIL ME NOW! [*****]
Julie Taymor's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM [****]
Harold Pinter's NO MAN'S LAND [*****]
Samuel Beckett's WAITING FOR GODOT
Georg Frideric Händel's RADAMISTO [***]
Lemieux Pilon 4D's LA BELLE ET LA BÊTE [***]
World Premiere of Terrence McNally's AND AWAY WE GO [***]
MSM's Opera Scenes: LOVE & OTHER MISTAKES [***]
Dennis Kelley's TAKING CARE OF BABY [**]
Vladimir Jurowsky Conducts Juilliard Orchestra in EARLY SHOSTAKOVICH [*****]
Mark St. Germain's BECOMING DR. RUTH [*****]
Jack Viertel's Concept, with Wynton Marsalis' Cotton Club Collaging: AFTER MIDNIGHT [****]
Freedman & Lutvak's A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER [*****]

Report for The Month of November 2013


This was the Month of Elections, that Annual Occasion when the People of America get to validate the Choices the Koch Brothers have already made for them.

The Ancient Romans might have called this Vox Populi/Vox Koch

This was also the Month in which we remembered Our Veterans of Foreign Wars--of which we now seem to have a Superfluity.

This was the Month in which Chanukkah--which, being on a Lunar Kalendar, moves around a lot, compared with the Christianized Saturnalia--fell on the very day that President Obama was Pardoning the White House Turkey!

Some Angry Republicans--who also wanted to Repeal the Constitution--could themselves have been mistaken for Political Turkeys.

Nonetheless, in keeping with the Spirit of Dual Holidays, the Jewish Museum offered a Turkey Menorah on its Website--free for Downloading!

Just imagine those Ancient Maccabees burning Turkeys for Eight Days in the Temple

As for the Pilgrim Fathers & the First Thanksgiving, their Lineal Descendants were busy baking Pumpkin Pies & rejoicing that almost all the Original American Indians had been restricted to Reservations.

Just imagine Abigail Adams & Martha Washington arriving in Las Vegas for some Slot Fun & Cirque du Soleil Shows, to discover that they have No Reservations!

Tough Luck!

The Navahos, the Arapahoes, & the Apaches have Reservations to spare…


Speaking of Thanksgiving & Reservations, my Parisienne Theatre Colleague, Dr. Sandra Laredo, invited me down to the Players [often wrongly called a "Club"] for Turkey & Stuffing.

The Players was founded on Gramercy Park, in the Nineteenth Century, by Edwin Booth, America's Greatest Actor at that time & Brother of The Man Who Shot Lincoln.

The Players is an elegant Town House, crammed with Historical Portraits of America's Most Beloved Players, such as Joe Jefferson & Helen Hayes.

Although the World's Greatest Theatre City does not have a Theatre Museum, the Players is a Mini Museum in itself.

You can--if you are a Member or a Guest--even see Edwin Booth's Bedroom & the Bed in which He Died!

But imagine my Shock & Surprise when I thought I was going to witness a Death Scene in the Dining Room/Theatre where Jimmy Stewart was appearing in Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.

Turkey & Stuffing had been cleared away so Festive Guests could enjoy a Period Movie, from a Simpler Time in the Great American March Forward to Exceptionalism & Prosperity.

The Lights had been dimmed, so that only a few guttering Altar Candles shed a faint glow on the remains of Pumpkin & Mince Pies.

Over against a wall near our table, two Senior Ladies had been sipping coffee, possibly worrying about whether George Bailey [a much younger Jimmy Stewart than when he became an Air Force General] was going to commit Suicide

Suddenly, one of them slipped off her tiny Golden Chair--the even tinier Cushion had come free from its moorings--falling with a Thud on the Inlaid Flooring.

Looking over in the Semi Darkness, I thought she might have had a Stroke.

She was Inert, but Moaning.

At the next Wall Table, an even Older Lady was cackling with laughter at George Bailey's Predicament.

She had apparently Heard Nothing.

Nor did anyone else notice, except the Fallen Lady's now desperate Senior Friend, who could not raise her.

Lacking my Cripple's Cane--which I had checked at the Door--I looked down helplessly, afraid I would also Fall.

Fortunately, Dr. Sandra took charge, immediately calling 911.

After an Interval, Six Firemen appeared to succor the Unfortunate Lady, whose Day had been clearly Spoiled.

She did not get to see how a Wingless Angel called Clarence saved the Day for Jimmy/George.

But almost all of the Players & Guests--who were immersed in Hollywood's Post War Vision of A Wonderful Life--seemed unaware that Anything Had Happened. Or that there were Firemen in the Room.

Theatre of the Absurd down on Gramercy Park?



While it is all too true that many New Yorkers do not have enough Food to eat or Decent Shelter over their Heads, there is No Shortage of New Shows for Tourists to see.

But Spider man--after sustaining a $60 Million Loss--is off to Las Vegas.

Big Fish--richly laden with Production Values, but also burdened with an Endless Death Bed Scene--was off to that Great Show Warehouse in the Sky shortly after opening.

Those Theatre Regulars who had not seen the Auditorium of the Winter Garden Theatre in Ten Years were at last to see its Décor once again, as Mama Mia! departed, in favor of Rocky.

Nonetheless, December was to be all too crowded with Openings, On & Off, so that there would hardly time to Deck the Halls.

Meanwhile, NSA was Monitoring Anyone who had Tickets for the following Shows:


Carlo Colla & Sons Marionette Company's SLEEPING BEAUTY [****]

"Someday My Prince Will Come," But He'll Probably Be a Block Head…

What is it about those Beloved Old Fairy Tales, that Happy Endings almost always involve Virtuous Maidens--Princesses or Scullery Maids--being rescued from Fates Worse Than Death by either Handsome Young Princes or by Poor Lads, ennobled by their Courage?

Milan's famed Colla Marionettes have just given the US Premiere of their beautiful Sleeping Beauty at the New Vic Theatre on New 42.

This is an elaborately & ingeniously designed Baroque Production, which takes place in a Miniature Version of an 18th Century Court Theatre, like those in Bayreuth & Versailles.

The Plot follows that of the Perrault Tale, but with the Music of PI Tchaikovsky, for his beautiful Beauty Ballet.

The Royal & Noble Wooden Faces are beautifully formed, but their Magnificent Robes are even more admirable.

The Problem--always with String Puppets--is that their Movement is fairly restricted, depending on the Unseen String Pullers up above.

So, they largely Dance & Prance about, entering & exiting, while Offstage Voices speak for them.

Nonetheless, the amazing Scenic Transformations rival any of those to be seen in surviving European Court Theatres, such as Munich's Cuviélles Theater or Frederic the Great's lovely Venue in Sans Souci at Potsdam.

Another Problem is that of Scale: This Production was designed for the Intimate Milan Marionette Theatre that is the Colla's Permanent Home.

At the New Victory--which is much larger--you really had to be Up Close to appreciate the remarkable Sets & Costumes.

A large TV Screen even had to hung high above the Main Stage, replicating what was being performed down below…

The Colla's dancing, prancing Wooden Dolls have been here before: they Premiered their Macbeth at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater in 2007, coming later to Manhattan to the New Vic.


Guimarães & Delgaudio's NOTHING TO HIDE [*****]

Card Sharpies Use Dazzling Decks Down at the Signature:

They Also Scribble Signatures on Cards for Delighted Spectators!

The Hand, it is often said, is Quicker than the Eye!

Both Helder Guimarães & Derek Delguadio obviously--well, not so Obvious, as it turned out--had Something up Their Sleeves, performing their Logic Defying Suite of Card Tricks down at the Rom Linney Theatre.

No matter how Deftly Shuffled, variously Spread Out & Re collected, Turned & Twisted, their Bike Card Decks always turned out to be in Just The Right Order

Based in LaLa Land, where there are more than Card Tricks on the Bill of Fare, Guimarães & Delguadio do not diversify into such Areas as Sawing a Lady in Half.

It would be fun, of course, if they would improve on this Hoary Illusion, by Sawing a Lady into Quarters!

But theirs is not a David Copperfield Show, even though it has the Show Biz Creds of being directed by Neil Patrick Harris.

Harris is not going to Disappear any time soon.

Or be Sawed in Half

For that matter, Guimarães & Delguadio do not even saw a Deck of Cards in Half. Guimarães does, however, tear a Corner out of one Card.

These Ingenious & Engaging Performers are backed by Six Racks of Sealed Bottles.

They do not contain Miniature Sailing Ships, but Decks of Bike Cards!

Not so Easy to get an entire Deck of Cards--in its Original Package--into a Narrow Necked Glass Bottle

There must be Hundreds of these Bike Card Bottles in the Racks, but, no matter which Bottle an Audience Patsy picks, it will turn out to have his Father's Name written on the Card He Selected!

For the Signature, this Show is a nice Change of Pace:

You cannot always be Reviving Plays by Horton Foote, August Wilson, David Henry Hwang, Edward Albee, or even Romulus Linney


Shakespeare, Marlowe, Bacon, or Queen Elizabeth I's RICHARD III [*****]

Dick the Third Proves Not Only a Villain, But Also a Laff Riot, Thanks to Mark Rylance!

Who knew that inside the Dark Heart of Richard Crookback lurked a Music Hall Comic, dying to Wow Audiences, both at London's Globe Theatre & Manhattan's Belasco?

Although the current Globe Theatre Rep on West 44th is a Limited Run, the Richard III is so remarkable--also Very Good Entertainment!--that this Excellent Company should be invited back often.

As a Longtime Shakespeare Scholar & Theatre Critic--The Shakespeare Complex, Staging Shakespeare & Shakespeare Revisited, soon to be On Line--I have seen many, many stagings of Richard III, at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the RSC's Stratford Festival, the Stratford Festival of Canada, the Old Vic, the Folger Theatre, in Washington, DC.

This Richard has to be The Best Ever!

Mark Rylance's Richard is also The Best Ever, although I have never seen Gloucester of Scarborough played in such an Antic Vein.

At the Outset, frustrated in every way by his Humpback & Withered Arm & clearly not In Line to the Throne, as his Brother, the Duke of Clarence, stands in his way, Crookback confides to the Audience that he is Determined To Prove a Villain.

Deftly directed by Tim Carroll, Rylance plays not only to the Audience, but also with them.

There is no Invisible Fourth Wall.

Period Musicians--playing Period Instruments--play directly to the Audience. As do the Globe Players

Some of the Spectators actually sit in Galleries on either side of a Mock Up of an Indoor Stage Façade of the Elizabethan Era.

Among the many Confrontational Scenes in Richard III--all of which are Newly Illuminated in this Startling Staging--the Murder of Clarence was a Revelation to me!

Just Imagine--after being Brutally Killed, the Royal Indignity of being dumped into a Butt of Malmsey!

Most of the Skilled Players appear in more than One Role, although Angus Wright is a full time Duke of Buckingham, who learns to his Cost, that it's not a Good Idea to press the Newly Minted King for Favors, when he is "Not In a Giving Mood."

It was good to see that Jane Bergère--who dwells in the same Co op as I--is one of the Savvy Producers.

Because the Sam Wanamaker Recreated Globe Theatre--Sited on the South Bank of the Thames--is Open Air & cannot play in Inclement Weather, especially in London Winters, Manhattan is fortunate to have this November Visitation.

Much is made of the Authenticity of this Production--which encourages Audiences to enter the Belasco early to watch the Actors put on their Make Up & almost Authentic Elizabethan Costumes, made from the same kinds of Materials used by the Original Globe Thespians.

From his First Efforts to Rebuild or Recreate Shakespeare's Globe Theatre--which had been destroyed by Fire, some Centuries ago--the American Actor/Director, Sam Wanamaker, was determined to make the Playhouse & the Productions as Authentic as possible.

There was even a Major Conference--in Athens, Georgia, of all places--to determine what the Globe actually looked like & how it functioned.

In the 1950s, when I was teaching Our Troops--in the English Midlands, at Burtonwood Airbase--on Weekends I'd often drive over to Liverpool, where Sam Wanamaker had established his own Shakespeare Theatre.

Ever a Liberal, Sam had fallen afoul of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy & his infamous "Red Hunts."

Fortunately, Hollywood Blacklists had no Power in Britain…

When Sam began his Campaign to Restore the Globe, I joined in, even if only able to help in Summer, when on Holiday from Brooklyn College.

I regularly reported on the Progress in various American Theatre Journals.

If you visit Sam & Shakespeare's Globe, do check at the Door Sill of Door Three. There you will see a Brick, impressed with the name: GLENN LONEY.

There's also a Glenn Loney Autograph on Copper Plate inside.

When we discussed how Sam would achieve True Authenticity in every aspect of the Bard's Globe Stagings, he was adamant that they could only be done in the Afternoon, under Natural Light.

Well & Good! But what about Casting?

In Shakespeare's Time, Roles of Girls & Women were played only by Teen Age Boys. Crusty Old Nurses, of course, were played by Beloved Male Comics

Real Live Actresses did not appear on the English Stage until the Restoration, in the Reign of Charles II.

Indeed, the Actress Nell Gwynn was a Royal Favorite: "Don't let Nellie starve," begged the Dying Monarch.

But Sam balked at the Very Idea of Boys Being Women, even if only On Stage. He feared it might annoy some of his more Conservative Patrons.

That has certainly not bothered Mark Rylance, who has even given some Astounding Female Performances at the Globe. His Cleopatra

The Globe wasn't the only Venue for the Bard & his Players.

Eventually, they had their own Indoor Theatre at the Blackfriars, but they also performed at Court & in the Inns of Court.

Soon, the Current Company will have its own Quasi Jacobean Indoor Theatre, as well.

It will be called the Sam Wanaker Playhouse!


Bill Shakespeare, Chris Marlowe, or Frank Bacon's TWELFE NIGHT [*****]

A Hit! A Hit! A Very Palpable Hit! Twins Lost at Sea Re United! Virtue Rewarded! Fools Shamed…

If Mark Rylance doesn't get a Tony Nomination for Best Actor this Season--as well as Best Actress--then the Tony Nominators don't understand what they are actually seeing on Broadway.

If there were an Antoinette Perry Award for Best Acting Ensemble, it surely would have to be given to this remarkable Globe Theatre Company from London.

Indeed, instead of Wasting Time in College Acting Classes or at the Actors Studio--if it is still In Action--Students should be bussed in to see both Richard III & Twelfe Night at the Belasco Theatre.

As the Drowned in Grief Countess Olivia, Mark Rylance is a Wonder.

He/She--Coronet Crowned & Richly/Rigidly Garbed--seems to scoot on wheels across the Jacobean Stage, taking Mini Steps, as befits an Elizabethan Lady, who is, instead, in Illyria.

Almost as Outstanding as Rylance's Olivia is the heavily laced Maria of Paul Chahidi.

His/Her Chalk White Face is a Study of Conflicting or Fleeting Emotions.

Whatever Whoever who actually wrote the Plays commonly ascribed to The Bard of Avon actually meant in some of the Comic Lines, Chahidi/Maria--by the merest Twitches & Changes of Facial Expression--gives them New Meanings.

It was Instructive to see the Conspiratorial Buckingham of Richard III become, instead, the Foolish Knight, Sir Andrew Aguecheek: a Comic Tour de Force or Tour de Farce for Angus Wright!

Written for Epiphany, Twelfth Night--for the Globe, however, Twelfe Night--has more Occasional Songs than any other Comedy in the Official Canon.

But, as they are not really Plot Related, they can seem like Lyrical Asides or Poetic Impediments to the Swift Progression of the Dramatic Narrative.

It depends, thus, upon Feste--a Free Lance Clown, who wanders about the Town, Fooling for Olivia & Jesting for Orsino--to make these Songs effective.

That did not really Work in Tim Carroll's otherwise Lively Staging.

The American Stage Debut of Screen Actor Stephen Fry--as the Cross & Cross Gartered, Abusive & Abused, Ill Used Malvolio--was warmly welcomed by an Ovation Prone Audience.

The only Visible Problem was the Periodic Dropping of Wax from the Overhead Candelabra: possibly Too Strong Gusts of Air Conditioning?

One of the Quaint Oddities in Twelfth Night is the almost Homoerotic Affection that Orsino develops for Cesario, the--as he believes--Handsome Page, sent from Lady Olivia.

Of course, Not To Worry, for he will soon discover that Cesario is actually Viola, whom he is legally free to love.

But, as "Vile Catamites" were hated, feared, & could be killed without impunity, this Forbidden Attraction could generate a Certain Frisson in the Globe Audience.

With the Dawn of the Age of Aquarius, however, Attitudes began to change, so the Trendy Musical based on Twelfth Night was titled Your Own Thing, meaning you could now do Whatever

Why doesn't someone revive this charming little Show?


At the CUNY Grad Center: Celebrating BAM & Beyond…

CHANGING BROOKLYN: The Impact of BAM--An Evening with Harvey Lichtenstein

No One mentioned it on this Auspicious Evening, but Brooklyn College, BAM, & the RSC--or Royal Shakespeare Company--once had a Triple Shakespearean Entente.

It seems appropriate, then, to Mention It Here, for, if Sam Wanamaker had been able to open his Globe Theatre No. III way back when, then surely we also would have Partnered with The Globe Redevivus, even though Mark Rylance was not yet a Force To Reckon With.

Not only did the Players of Peter Brook, Peter Hall, & Michel St. Denis--who had recently created the RSC--come out to the Brooklyn College Campus, they even brought Wicker Baskets of their Costumes & Wigs with them, to show us how to Dress Up to Play the Part!

Over at the BAM Opera House, we had a Festive Inaugural Evening to welcome such Brit Greats as Ian Richardson & Richard Pascoe.

It was my Assigned Duty to look after our Then Mayor, Abe Beame, who told me he had Read Shakespeare in School

Harvey Lichtenstein was--on that Glittering Evening--in His Element. He was hosting International Celebrities.

But, down on Fifth & 34th--at the Grad Center's Martin E. Segal Theatre Center--an Aged but still Engaged Harvey was Looking Backward.

As Segal Chief, Dr. Frank Hentschker, moderated, Harvey recalled such Memorable Theatre Events as the US Debuts of Wuppertal's Pina Bausch, William Christie's Les Arts Florissants, Poland's Jerszy Grotowski & his Poor Theatre, as well as Peter Brook's RSC Midsummer Night's Dream & his Epic Mahabharata.

Not to overlook Robert Wilson's Einstein on the Beach, A Letter for Queen Victoria, The Life & Times of Joseph Stalin, or the Contributions of Martha Clarke, Meredith Monk, Merce Cunningham, Robert Lepage, Trish Brown, or of Judith Malina & Julian Beck, of The Living Theatre.

Mme. Malina arrived--Wheel Chair bound--but was immediately rolled up to Harvey, who kissed her hand. Julian had long since Gone To Meet His Maker

Harvey recalled installing Arianne Mnouchkine in the Brooklyn Armory, for one of her Francophone Epics from the Cartoucherie, just outside Paris.

Also On Recall, that Unforgettable Production of Leroi Jones' Slave Ship, in which the Audience was almost On Board, in that Tiny Upstairs Space at BAM.

Frank Hentschker showed some B&W Film Clips of such Triumphs as Akropolis, Atys, L'Orfeo, MSND, & Bob Wilson's Freud, but there was No Color Video to show the Splendors of Pina Bausch's Nelken, in which some Five Thousand Red Carnations were Stomped to Death every night…

For Your Roving Arts Reporter, this was certainly an Evening to Remember--or Of Remembrance--as I had seen almost all of the Offerings at BAM, from its Beginnings.

Indeed, having seen Peter Brook's Midsummer Night's Dream at BAM, I was chosen to create the Official RSC Production Book of Peter Brook's Midsummer Night's Dream.

This was followed by Official Production Book of the Young Vic's Scapino. The one with Jim Dale, later a Broadway Musical Star.

When Harvey scheduled Peter Brook's Epic Length Mahabharata, Distinguished Professor Marvin Carlson, Head of our CUNY PhD in Theatre Program, asked me to devise a Semester Long Seminar devoted that Hindu Classic.

I did that & more, turning the Class into an Exploration of the Career of Peter "Empty Space" Brook, including a Program of All His Films.

Our Last Class featured a Personal Appearance by Peter, who suggested that I Interview him--as I had done often before--rather than have him Summon Up Remembrances of Productions Past

This Seminar I converted into a Book: Peter Brook: From Oxford To Orghast.

It is still In Print, although I've not seen any Royalty Checks for some time. Possibly because the Publisher is British?

I did remind Harvey that the only Report I ever had published in New York Magazine was BAM Awash, Afloat, written after the Opera House had a Sudden Flood


The Collegiate Chorale Concert at Carnegie: Arrigo Boito's MEFISTOFELE [*****]

Massive Choral Forces--with a Devilish Mefistofeles--Bring Boito's Masterpiece Back To Life.

Well, not exactly Back To Life, as this was only a Concert Version, not a fully staged Opera House Extravaganza

Curiously, when the Infant New York City Opera staged Mefistofele at NY City Center--with Norman Treigle as this Avatar of Satan--it opted for a Bare Bones Production, all that it could really afford, but nonetheless Totally Effective.

Before that Striking Staging in Manhattan, Opera Loving New Yorkers knew Boito only as the Ingenious Librettist who gave the aging Giuseppe Verdi the Dramatic Substance for his End of Life Masterpieces: Otello & Falstaffo.

But this Musical Adaptation of Goethe's Faust is now seldom heard or seen.

This is Unfortunate, not only for its Intrinsic Beauties, but also because it is the only Faust Version that incorporates both Faust I & Faust II--the latter which Goethe never saw performed in his Lifetime, either as Drama or Opera.

That Superficial Frenchman, Charles Gounod, only used Part I for his Faust: making Generations believe that the Masterwork was only about a Randy Old Uni Professor--miraculously made Young again--debauching & abandoning a Simple Village Girl.

So, we have Conductor James Bagwell, the Massed Forces of the Collegiate Chorale, the American Symphony Orchestra, & Soloists Eric Owens, Arturo Chacon Cruz, Juilianna Di Giacomo, Teresa Buchholz, & Joseph Michael Brent to thank for taking us both to Medieval Frankfurt & Mythical Troy, with the Lovely Helena intact.

Although Helen of Troy was hardly Virgo Intacta

"Helen! Make me Immortal with Your Kiss!"

The Choral Forces of the Collegiate Chorale are so formidable--what a Volume of Sound they produce!--that it seems to take most of the Intermission for them to Leave the Stage & again take their places in the Tiered Seating on stage…

A Memorable Evening!


Rupert Holmes' Adaptation of the Best Selling Novel by John Grisham: A TIME TO KILL[*****]

What Is It About Those Red Necked White Trash Southern Boys? Raping Little Black Girls!

This is the Courtroom Drama to put all other Courtroom Dramas in the shade.

Ingeniously Designed by James Noone, the Judicial Heart of the Courtroom is always going around in Circles, rather like the Intricate Plot, which requires a Defense Attorney in a Mississippi Town to get an Acquittal on a Charge of Premeditated Murder for a Furious Black Father whose Little Girl was Kidnapped, Brutally Raped, & Savagely Beaten.

During the Trial, the Klan Rises, with a Flaming Cross & Torching of the Attorney's Home

Outstanding in a Uniformly Admirable Cast are Patrick Page, Sebastian Arcellus, Ashley Williams, Tonya Pinkins, Tom Skerrit, Chiké Johnson, & John Douglas Thompson.

Because the Outraged Dad has killed the Two Pecker head Rapists with an Automatic Weapon in the Courthouse--an Act both Admitted & Witnessed--the only Possible Route to Acquittal is a Plea of Not Guilty by Reason of [Temporary] Insanity.

Unfortunately, the Expert Witness for the Defense has a Long Buried Charge of Statutory Rape in his File. So, forget about Credibility

Fortunately, the Local Psychiatric Expert blurts out his Low Opinion of Local Juries

Ethan McSweeny staged, but those Rapid Revolves & Skittering Videos threatened to Upstage his Best Laid Blockings.



Wally Shawn's Obsession with Tumescence Gives New Meaning to "Members" of Congress!

Decades ago--when the West German Theatre was recovering from its Nazi Past--a Celebrated Post War Playwright devised a Theatre Evening titled Insulting the Audience.

That was Peter Handke & his strange Theatre Evening was called Publikumsbeschimpung.

The Curtain rose & the Actors came forward.

They then proceeded to call the Paying Spectators such Names [here, in Translation] as Shit Heads, Idiots, Cock Suckers, Fools, Mother Fuckers, & even Christian Democrats!

The Game was to see how long it would take to Empty the Auditorium.

West German Audiences had been long conditioned--even before the Hitler Era--to regard The Theatre with Great Respect--even Paying Taxes to support it!

I witnessed performances of this Deliberate Mockery in various State Theatres.

Initially, most Spectators could not Believe Their Ears: was this what their Tax Money was paying for?

Eventually, however, they began to leave: Some in Anger; Some just Shaking Their Heads.

One Theatre Listing describes Grasses thusly: Three Intellectual Artists try to rationalize Totalitarianism.

Not Really. Nowhere Near…

What Wally Shawn & his Director, Andre Gregory, are really doing is Mocking the Audience, waiting to see how long they can take Extended Discussions of the Length of the Shawn Member when Distended.

I liked best the part where the Bathrobed Shawn bit off Mice Heads at a Fantasy Feast in a Cat's Castle.

Considering the Subject Matter that Shawn & Gregory offered their Public Audiences, perhaps this Show could be renamed Farts of a Thousand Odors?

The Big Question for This Theatre Season: Will Wallace Shawn receive the Pulitzer Prize?


Un Authorized New German Version of Prof. Dr. Ibsen's AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE [*****]

Town Meeting at BAM's Harvey Theatre, Led by Dr. Thomas Stockmann, Norwegian Truth Teller!

Just Imagine! A Play written way back in the 19th Century has a Social Message that is as Relevant & Troubling today as it was then.

This is Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, newly "adapted" by Florian Borchmeyer, Dramaturg of Berlin's Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz. [Please note that that is Lehnin, not Lenin!]

As tautly staged by Thomas Ostermeier--complete with Shattering Disco Sounds--its Stalwart Protagonist, Thomas Stockmann, is shown to be Unflinchingly Right, but also a somewhat Self Righteous Truth Teller.

Dr. Tom's Brother, Peter Stockmann, is Mayor of a small Norwegian Town that is famed for the Healing Waters of its Spa.

When Dr. Tom has those Waters--which the Locals also drink--tested, he finds them rank with Germs & Bacteria.

To him, this means the Baths must be Closed & New Pipes laid above the Current System, to remove the Pollution from Upstream Mills, the most Poisonous of which is owned by his Father in Law

Because Dr. Tom has Issues with both his Brother & his Father in Law, he is not exactly Straightforward in revealing his Findings & his Proposed Solutions.

Rather than instantly alerting his Brother, he decides to disclose this Scandal with a Searing Article in the Local Newspaper.

Initially, he believes he has Popular Support, but this soon melts away as Various Self Interests manifest themselves & the Power of Covert Capitalism asserts itself.

Ibsen might be astonished to discover that his Crusading Stockmann now has a Rock Band in his Parlor. He might also be surprised to see that Parlor transformed into an Immense 3 D Blackboard on which Stockmann chalks up Design Ideas.

At one point, late in the Drama, Leading Characters come out & begin White Washing those Black Walls.

This is obviously an Optical Metaphor

As Stockmann grows more & more frantic--convinced that he is Right & that there can be No Compromise--he convokes a Town Hall Meeting, right up there on the Harvey Stage, directly appealing to the BAM Audience!

Well! The Liberals of Park Slope, Williamsburg, & Eastern Parkway all seemed in favor of Transparency, but some were surprised that the previously German Speaking Cast was also capable of Understandable English!

My Guest at the show was Dr. Beata Hein Bennett, who grew up in German Lindau, near the Austrian Border.

Her Dad was a Professor of Medicine at the University in Munich, but, when the Nazis came to Power, they demanded that all the Faculty join the Party.

He refused, removing to Lindau, about as far away from the German Center as one can get. Thus, Beata's German is not infected with Aryan Improvements.

So, her Judgment that some of the Younger Actors in this Production need work on their German Diction--not only on their English--surprised me. I could understand them OK, without the Supertitles

But What--both the Program & the Production ask--is the Potential for Transparency in a Commercialized Society?

Bundeskanzler Angela Merkel's Austerity Prescription for both Germany & the Euro Zone also is attacked.

Considering that all Berlin Theatres are in some way or other Subsidized by the City & the State, this may be very Brave Political Theatre indeed!

Occupy Unter den Linden & Flatbush Avenue!

Meanwhile, Back at the Baths: Don't Drink the Water…



Bruce Norris' DOMESTICATED [*****]

How Could a Gynecologist Be So Clueless About Sex for Money? Do Not Run for Public Office!

It was High Time someone should write the Eliot Spitzer Play & Bruce Norris has touched almost All the Bases in Domesticated.

The admirable Jeff Goldblum is Bill, who has been Fooling Around with Girls for Pay.

He's not exactly Client No. 9, but he's in Big Trouble.

It's bad enough that he's a Professional Gynecologist--who has more than a little Interest in what's Down There--but he's also pushed his way into Politics.

So, when a Girl for Hire falls down in their Rented Room, & she hits her Head, resulting in a Coma, this is Hot Stuff for the Network News.

In the First Half of the Drama, Bill is so Shame Faced that he hardly Talks.

In the Second Part, he seems to have become an Idiot Motor Mouth.

Initially, Judy, his Writer Wife--strongly played by Laurie Metcalf--Stands by Her Man, looking a bit like Hillary. Or, perhaps, Huma Abdin

But he is an On Going Embarrassment: How about Porn on the Internet?

How about bringing Home such Unwanted Extras as Genital Yeast Infections?

Subsequent Developments & Disclosures make the Anthony Wiener Saga look like Child's Play.

Judy is also a Successful Author, so she is Extra Exposed by her Errant Hubby's Adventures & Mis Adventures when she appears on TV for Promo Purposes

Even though Bill & Judy have married because they thought they were In Love, feckless Bill has increasingly come to wonder what Love actually might be & he feels being Domesticated is to be enclosed in a kind of Prison

Judy & Bill have a Loud Mouthed Teen Age Daughter, who wants the World to hear her Opinions on the State of Women in Society.

Socially Conscious, her Parents have adopted a Cambodian Orphan, who gives Power Point Presentations to the Audience about Sex Urges & Gender Differences in the Animal World

Well! There's a little bit of Everything in this Norris Script, but he's lucky to have such Performers as Mary Beth Piel, Emily Meade, Mia Barron, & Lizbeth MacKay on board.

At every Performance, there is an added Production Cost: a New Guitar has to be smashed!

As for all those Clementinas strewn over the Dining Room Floor, the Hispanic Help can pick them up for use in the next showing…

The Mitzi E. Newhouse has been temporarily turned into a Theatre in the Round, adding Seats & different Points of View.

Director Anna D. Shapiro keeps the Scandals & Confrontations moving briskly.

Unfortunately, Norris' Bill is not like that lovable Ole Hound Dog, Bill Clinton.

He has no Reserves of Charm to fall back on. Instead, he Rants & Rages, as though his Problems were caused by Someone Else

Unlike, say, Eliot Spitzer, he is Clueless, Clueless, Clueless

Not only does he Not Listen to Others, but he doesn't even Listen To Himself!


August & Lippa's BIG FISH [****]

Agnes de Mille: Eat Your Heart Out! Susan Stroman Recreates the Old Time Broadway Musical!

You missed Oklahoma! & all those other Rodgers & Hammerstein All Singing All Dancing Classics?

Now you can once again revel in Great Broadway Gypsy Show Dancing such as has not been seen in Years!

Snappy Routine after Snappy Routine--all clothed in the Fabulous Costumes of the extremely inventive William Ivey Long--make Big Fish the Holiday Show for the Whole Family.

The Elaborate Production Values must have cost the Producers a Bundle!

Special Effects are rampant!

At the center of all this Frantic Activity is, essentially, a Dying Man, who may have been a Big Liar, or a wonderful Tale Teller, who actually lived some of his Dreams

Animating this Fable of Family & a Boy Growing Up are the admirable Norbert Leo Butz, the lovely Kate Baldwin, & the energy charged Bobby Steggert, long a favorite at the York Theatre.

The Print & Cinematic Origins of this New Musical--by John August & Andrew Lippa--are rooted in the Big Fish Novel by Daniel Wallace & the Movie Screenplay by August himself.

Somehow, I missed them both, so I was not so Previously Invested in the Material as others may be.

Despite the Hyper Active Performance of Butz--a dynamic Actor/Singer/Dancer--who often triumphs over the Plotting in which he is involved, I was not charmed by the Character of Edward Bloom, the Big Mouth from Alabama, nor or intrigued by the many Exploits he recounts & often relives, before Our Very Eyes.

The Entire Evening seems inexorably moving toward Bloom's Death in Hospital.

But, at the Inflated Prices you have to pay for a Broadway Show--especially one as Costly as this must have been to Produce--you cannot bring down the Final Curtain on the Death of Little Eva, no matter how Tear Inducing such Death Bed Scenes may be On Stage.

It remains for Ed's Son, Will Bloom--can this be a Name Metaphor: despite his Childhood Tsuris of having an Embarrassing Dad, he is eventually going to Bloom into a Good Dad himself?--to discover who Ed Really Was.

Some of the possibly Fictional Characters from his Lavishly Decorated Boasts seem to have come to Ed's Funeral!

Unfortunately, we did not walk out of the Neil Simon Theatre, humming the Show's Hit Tunes, as they were not Memorable Enough.

The ever changing, ever mutating Video Based Scenery of Julian Crouch--remember his Shock Headed Peter?--is projected on a Base of Horizontal & Vertical Slat Boarding that moves Up & Down, inducing a kind of Vertigo: Maxfield Parrish on Speed

Holiday Audiences are sure to Love This Show: It is Life Affirming & it sure looks like it Cost a Lot.

How did I miss the Novel of Big Fish--with that Witch who knows about Death & that Mermaid & that Big Old Fish--which we actually get to see in what used to be the Orchestra Pit

Was I then too busy reading Kant's Critique of Pure Reason?

Nota Bene: The Closing Notice for Big Fish has just been posted!


Merle Good's THE PREACHER & THE SHRINK [***]

If There Is a God, He or She Should See This Play: Mere Humans Left Floundering…

What should a Rigidly Self Controlled Minister do when his Hysterical Daughter threatens to Destroy the Career of His Junior Pastor--with a Charge of Sexual Harassment--unless he Recants his Belief in God before his Congregation?

What if he seeks out a Psychiatrist--who is already working with his Troubled Daughter--for Advice, only to discover that they had a Fleeting Relationship years & years ago?

What if the Disraught Daughter commits Suicide, just when it looks like everything is going to work out all right?

This is Merle Good's First Play to be produced in New York & it has received a First Class Production on Theatre Row at the Beckett Theatre.

Dee Hoty is excellent as the Challenged Shrink, with Tom Galantich very restrained as the Preacher.

Adria Vitlar--as the Mood Swinging Parson's Daughter, Constance--plays the Role as though she'd thrown away her Meds

As the Play progresses & the Characters reveal more & more about themselves, not only does the Plot Thicken, but they become more & more Believable.

Nonetheless, Constance's Sudden Suicide doesn't seem somehow earned, dramatically.

The Drama poses some very interesting Questions about Belief & Faith--including the presumed Power of Prayer.

Also: about the Possible Need for Open Manifestations of Grief, for the Benefit of Others, if not for Oneself

The Title--The Preacher & The Shrink--suggests that this Drama is essentially about That Man & That Woman, but it is surely concerns much more than that.

Confrontations with his Daughter do force the Preacher to re examine what he has been Preaching from the Pulpit for years.

He could become like Ralph Waldo Emerson, who One Sunday Morning told his Congregational Congregation that he No Longer Believed & left the Pulpit for Good.

So he was not invited to speak at Harvard for Thirty Years!

This left him Time to write Emerson's Essays.

Oh, Crazy Connie is a Would Be Poet who has just received a Letter of Rejection.

She is also a Literature Professor at a Local College, which makes you wonder about Standards?

Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach is aptly quoted in the Drama!

Ignorant Armies are still Clashing by Night, but Matt probably never received a Letter of Rejection.

Hey! He was Head Master at Rugby, after all: The School, not the Game.


At Alice Tullly Hall: THE JUILLIARD ORCHESTRA [*****]

Standing Ovation for Brilliant Young Pianist Kevin Ahfat! Ditson Award for Jeffrey Milarsky!

It looked like there was a Forest of Cellos on the stage of Alice Tully Hall, when the Combined Forces of the Juilliard Orchestra presented a Program of American Eccentrics.

Actually, there were only Ten Violincelli--plus Eight Double Basses--but the Strings certainly sang out, loud & clear, under the Magisterial Baton of Jeffrey Milarsky.

John Adams was once commissioned to compose a Fanfare, but, being a Contrarian--as usual--Adams instead created an Anti Fanfare: Tromba lontana.

The Two Trumpeters were hidden away in the deep recesses of the Student Orchestra.

Adams had hoped for a Placement on Opposing Balconies, but Alice Tully does not permit that: all that Sculptured Wood!

The Highlight of an entirely Admirable Evening was Kevin Ahfat's stunning performance of Samuel Barber's Concerto for Piano, Op. 38.

This is a Fiendishly Difficult Challenge, with many Clashing, Crashing Chords & Flying Fingers racing up & down the Keyboard, hands often crossed.

Canadian born Kevin Ahfat is a slight young man, so even more amazing was the Tremendous Power he demonstrated in this Dazzling Concerto.

They must have had to Cool Off the Steinway, after it was wheeled Off Stage?

Barber's Beloved Sister died while he was composing this Concerto, so possibly that Sad Event may have influenced some of the Tsuris in the Allegro Molto

There were Repeated Ovations for Kevin Ahfat, a Name you will surely be hearing a lot in Major Concert Halls.

As for the Juilliard Orchestra's Brilliant Conductor, from Morningside Heights, Columbia University had sent down the Renowned Pianist, Gilbert Kalish, to confer upon Jeffrey Milarsky the 2013 Ditson Conductor's Award.

Not only does Milarsky Conduct, but he also Bangs on the Tympani: he is Director of the Manhattan School of Music's Percussion Ensemble.

As if Juilliard & MSM weren't enough Music Pedagogy, Milarsky also is Senior Lecturer in Music at Columbia, where he also conducts the Columbia University Orchestra!

It's good that there are so many Symphony Orchestras in Manhattan, but it is to be hoped that the Ever Aging Audience does not die out…

This Eclectic Eccentric Concert closed with Charles Ives' amusing & occasionally thundering Orchestral Set No. 1: Three Places in New England.

Taking us musically & metaphorically to the Boston Common, Redding, CT, & The Housatonic at Stockbridge, Ives playfully incorporated some Once Popular Tunes.

Amazing what an Insurance Executive could do in his Spare Time

What did seem a bit Odd, set in the midst of Three Eccentrics, was the Programming of Richard Strauss' Dance of the Seven Veils, from his initially shocking Salome.

Vienna is surely a long way off from the Housatonic, but the Juilliarders did not disappoint. As this was a Concert Version, there was no Actual Unveiling.

A Critic Colleague--seated in front of me--reminded me that Carol Vaness had, in fact, once shed all Seven of the Veils. That must have been in the Glory Days of the Now Defunct & sadly missed New York City Opera?

My Guest--who know more about Dance than she does about Piano Soloists--was astonished that Kevin Ahfat was playing Barber without Sheet Music on the Steinway.

"He learned all that by heart?"

Well, yes. Any Great Piano Virtuoso has to have it all In His or Her Fingers, after all.

Except, possibly, when they reach a Great Age

Way back in the 1940s, when I was Head Usher at UC/Berkeley for all Lectures, Drama, & Music, I was asked to be the Page Turner for Dame Myra Hess.

She was to play before an Audience of nearly 10,000 in the Men's Gymnasium--with a Band Shell behind her.

In her Dressing Room--before we went out to the Stage--I expressed my astonishment: "Don't you know that Concerto by heart?"

"I am now very old and I must wear glasses. I do not want to forget a passage or even a note. I cannot disappoint so large an audience."

Next Case!


Rhythmic Circus' FEET DON'T FAIL ME NOW! [*****]

Red Is the Right Color for These Dynamic Dancers: Tapping, Rapping, Stomping, & Storming!

Ricci Milan, wearing a Red Jacket, opens this Danceteria Thunderstorm of a Show with a Virtuoso Tap Routine that would make Fred Astaire collapse in Fatigue, just watching it, not doing it.

Never has the Historic Interior of the New Victory Theatre resounded to so much Audience Enthusiasm, including Swinging & Swaying, Clapathons, & Dancing in the Aisles.

Some Parents were even more Dance Engaged than their Kids.

But how could Anyone resist the Pounding Onslaught of all those Taps!

Taps is definitely Tops with the Rhythmic Circus Ensemble, but they can do Soft Shoe, Box Thumping, Chair Banging, & Disco Babble with the Best of The Pros.

Against a Blood Red Background--with Signature Reds emblazoning their Dance Duds--the Rhythmics generate the kind of Fevered Excitement that Waving a Red Cape makes a Sleepy Bull wake up & charge.

There's only one Woman among the Many Men, but Kaleena Miller can out dance & out tap any of the Red Males.

Anyone can Bang on a Drum, but it takes Real Glottal Talent to be a Vocal Percussionist like Aaron "Heatbox" Heaton. He's the Guy in the Red Hat

This is the New York Premiere of the Rhythmic Circus--who surely will be invited back again & again, judging from Audience Response.

But they are only at the former Belasco Theatre, on New 42, until 1 December, so hurry…

The New Vic was David Belasco's Flagship, way back in 1900.

Ever the Impresario of Hits, Belasco would surely have Extended the Run!



Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road Meets Theatre of the Absurd Somewhere Out West…

Marlane Meyer grew up in San Pedro [CA] in the 1950s, in fairly Tempestuous Household, which explains a Lot.

Thank St. Martyrbride that she did not have to Learn the Facts of Life in Bakersfield or Modesto!

Oh! St. Martyrbride is an Invented Saint--not in the Canon--imagined by Aubrey, a Flaky Obstetrician with a Free Clinic, who longs for a Soul Mate.

Her Election rests on Calvin Little, wasted & destroyed by Drugs & Drink, plus Dyslexia & Dispepsia.

Calvin has already disposed of a Previous Wife, complete with a Hidden Burial

The Littles are the Jukes Family from Hell. They wouldn't look out of place in any Central Californian Trailer Court.

There is a Variety of Styles in both this Play & this Production--which also includes Animals prowling in the Forest nearby.

The Initial Presentation of the Little Family makes them seem Outrageous Grotesques: this is partly in the Writing, but even more in the way that the Director, Lisa Petersen, has encouraged the Actors to embody them.

La Grande Guignol doesn't seem the kind of Influence that one would acquire from writing for TV, but some of the Plot Incidents--having made a Map to find where you buried the Wife you Murdered--are both Grotesque & Guignolesque.

The Cast of Six--playing a Multiplicity of Roles--is Exemplary & often very Funny!

In an Interview with Tim Sanford--Magus of Playwrights Horizons--Playwright Meyer describes her Drama as "Sprawling," in response to Tim's proffered "Unfettered."

There are, for instance, Sudden Insertions of Liberal Indictments of Recent Political Economic & Social Disasters. Out of Nowhere

But there are also Heart Breaking Assessments of how We Live & Love: Calvin, near the close, makes a Wonderful Summation.

Marlane Meyer earned her Spurs as a Writer Producer for Law & Order & CSI.

But that's All Over, so she has more time now to concentrate on Playwriting Structure!

Let's Light a Candle to St. Martyrbride, praying for a Deft Revision of a Vision of Sea Monsters & Human Monsters that has such a lot of Good Stuff in it!


Julie Taymor's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM [****]

"We Are Such Stuff as Dreams--No! No! No! as Spectactles--Are Made Of…"

Yes, They do fly in Julie's Dream, but No one has a Spiderman Crash.

Inaugurating the handsome New Theatre of the Theatre for a New Audience--which seems a Direct Steal from the Cottesloe Court Theatre at the National Theatre in London, on the Banks of the Thames--Julie Taymor has confected a Dazzling Dream & Quasi Nightmare that is Quivering, Shivering to be Seen, despite its All Too Short Run over in Brooklyn, just a Katzensprung from the BAM Opera House.

Years & years ago, Shakespeare Production History was made at BAM with Peter Brook's celebrated & stripped down Staging of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Unlike Julie--who has pulled out All the Stops & Technical Tricks--Peter's aim was to strip the Drama down to its Essentials: to let the Words Speak for Themselves.

Theseus & Hippolyta--as well as Oberon & Titania & the Amateur Theatre Rustics--occupied his Empty Space, with only a few Props to create a Circus Atmosphere.

One Innovation was the Whirling of the Freekahs, those Plastic Tubes that whine & sing when twirled & whirled.

These Julie has borrowed from Peter, but hers are Black & his were White

The Difference of Night & Day, but this is, after all, a Night's Dream, is it not?

In the Center of the Thrust Stage is a Bed--into which the Dwarf like Puck of Kathryn Hunter curls up for a Deep Sleep.

Suddenly, the White Sheet begins to ascend, growing & growing until it becomes a Tent like Cover for the Stage.

It also serves as a Horizontal Overhead Projection Screen for some Stunning Video Effects, as well as a White Wall to conceal some Transformations, such as the Miraculous Appearance of Queen Titania in her Fairy Bower with Bottom as an Ass--wearing one of those Signature Taymor Masks, complete with Hand Controls for the Asses Ears & his Babbling Mouth

The Anti Romantic Dust Ups of the Drugged Young Lovers in the Athenian Forest occasion a lot of Athletic Activity before Puck puts the Magic Drops into the Right Eyes.

Striking Scenes, Stunning Visuals, & Teasing Transformations are The Rule.

This is not The Lion King, although there are some Hapless Deer who do get Hunted by Ferocious Hounds.

Nor is this Magic Show another Spiderman Fiasco

Although the Immortal Words of The Bard are often Clearly Spoken--even, on occasion, accompanied by the Music of Elliot Goldenthal--the Charms of this Dream are not so much Verbal as Visual.

The Very Large Cast--often fantastically costumed by Constance Hoffman--disports itself in a Airy Environment designed by Es Devlin, with Lighting by Donald Holder, Sound by Matt Tierney, & Projections by Sven Ortel.

The Varied Roles are Embodied--rather than Inhabited--by generally Admirable Actors, but Max Casella's Bottom is working entirely Too Hard.

Not for a Moment did I believe that these Moving Figures were "…such Stuff as Dreams are made of…"


Harold Pinter's NO MAN'S LAND [*****]

Pinter in Rep with Beckett: Star Turns for Patrick Stewart & Ian McKellan at the Cort Theatre…

Broadway's Cort Theatre is a long way off from the Royal Court Theatre on Sloane Square, where I first witnessed Harold Pinter's curious confrontation of Two Old Men.

Patrick Stewart plays Hirst, a Patrician & a Poet, who has somehow picked up the shambling & shabby Spooner, played by a rumpled Ian McKellan, who also pretends to Poetry.

Hirst is ageing & forgetful. Spooner is eager to provide Convenient Memories.

I first saw Pinter's The Caretaker, years & years ago, in London--also at the Royal Court.

Oddly enough, it also features a Shabby Old Man, eager to make a place for himself in a Flat occupied by a Young Man who is not quite right in the Head.

Hirst is also not quite right, but he has Young Two Retainers who are not eager for Spooner to join their Ménage a Trois.

Billy Crudup is spiffy & feisty as Foster, a Street Smart Comer, toying with Spooner--who doesn't know what to think…

Foster's Partner is the menacing Briggs, stoutly played by Shuler Hensley.

There is a faint whiff of Homoeroticism in the air…

Ultimately--after a Great Deal of Whiskey is downed--Spooner's desperate Audition to be Hirst's Private Secretary fails.

But--unlike the luckless & homeless Caretaker--he cannot "go down to Sidcup to get me Papers."

Sean Mathias has staged both the Pinter & the Beckett.



Samuel Beckett's WAITING FOR GODOT [****]

After Godot in Yiddish Off Off Broadway, Now Godot in English, Though It Was Written in French!

No, Ian McKellen & Patrick Stewart are not making Personal Appearances in Sam Beckett's Waiting for Godot: they are really inhabiting the Roles of Estragon & Vladimir.

But--judging from the Enthusiastic Applause greeting the Entrance of each Theatre Knight--you might well think that this was a 21st Century Version of Sarah Bernhardt's famous Farewell Tours.

Didi & Gogo are not Interchangeable Characters: Gogo gets beaten; Didi consoles him.

Gogo's Shoes Stink. Didi's Breath is Lethal

Aside from these Differentiating Qualities, they seem to be just Two Old Homeless Bums, waiting for a Godot who never comes. Tomorrow, perhaps?

When my late friend, the Stage Director Alan Schneider, became the American Apostle of the Gospel According to Beckett, he was initially at a loss in devising Stage Activities for Didi & Gogo.

Should they just be sitting under that Tree--the only Prop required to stage Godot?

Or should they be Doing Something? Smelling Gogo's Shoes, perhaps?

That Essential Irishman, Sam Beckett, told Alan they should do English Music Hall Routines!

In fact, one time when Beckett was invited to stage Godot himself, he drew on his Early Experiences of Music Hall--known in the States as Vaudeville

Both Stewart & McKellen are Old Time Troupers, so they are expert with that Two Men with Three Hats Routine.

Nonetheless, their Broadway Stint may well be a Farewell Appearance, at least for McKellen, who is now 74.

Indeed, in New York Magazine, he just told an Interviewer that, for him, This Is It! He has reached that Age when, if you cannot get up out of a Chair, you are not Going On

Stewart, who is only 73, made it clear that he's not yet ready to close the Make Up Box.

If this is really McKellen's Farewell to Broadway, I am glad that I got to see him in both Pinter & Beckett, though, oddly enough, he plays a Shabby Bum in both plays.

In Pinter's No Man's Land, the Knights are enclosed in a handsome Wood Paneled Architectural Shell, but, in Godot, they are in a Wasteland of Splintery Planks, with Gaping Holes in the floor.

The One Scenic Given for any Godot Production is that there must be That Tree, standing alone in a Barren Wilderness.

In the First Act, it is itself a Barren Tree.

In the Second Act, it has Three Leaves, which suggest Hope.

As Didi says: "I can't go on." Then: "I'll go on."

Not only am I a Veteran of Alan Schneider's Godot & many other Schneider/Beckett Collaborations, but I have seen Godot all over Germany, when it was In Vogue.

Each German Godot Tree was different.

Didi & Gogo, not so different. German Actors tended to Rant

At the end of one Fraught Season in West Germany, Theater Heute ran a Two Page Spread of all the Different Godot Trees, from Hamburg, Hannover, Bremen, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Mannheim, Stuttgart, Nuremberg, & Augsburg, on down to Munich.

The best Godot I've seen recently was the one in Yiddish, down on New 42, staged by Moshe Yassur, who got his MFA in Directing at Brooklyn College, where I was one of his Grad Advisors.

[Moshe recently revived Yiddish Theatre where it began, in his Native Romania decades ago. He fled the Nazis for Palestine, eventually ending up in Manhattan!]

One of the more bizarre Godot Incarnations was that staged at Lincoln Center, with Steve Martin, Clown Extraordinaire Bill Irwin, Robin Williams, & F. Murray Abraham.

Steve Martin was, well, Steve Martin.

Bill Irwin clowned. Robin Williams--who was completely out of his depth, did Shtik.

F. Murray--who was the only really Serious Actor in the Ensemble--was Brilliant!

Of course, I may be Partial because Murray was my Brooklyn College Theatre Department Colleague, where he was a Distinguished Professor!

Looking back on that Lincoln Center Adventure in Stagecraft & its Excesses, I think that Shuler Hensley's Outsized Pozzo, in the Present Production, is rather similar.

He's not playing The Whale this time, but his Outsized Costume makes him look Stuffed & his Outsized Performance--complete with what sounds like a Col. Harlan Sanders Accent--overwhelms all else on stage.

The Pathetic/Anemic Lucky of Billy Crudup, however, makes an interesting contrast to his Street Smart London Laddie in No Man's Land


Georg Frideric Händel's RADAMISTO [***]

Even Way Back in 1720, It Was a Good Idea To Keep the Troops Out of Armenia!

Stage Director James Darrah has reduced the Martial & Marital Problems in Handel's Operatic Vision of Historic Troubles in the Middle East to a Game of Armenian Musical Chairs.

Worse yet--despite all the Glorious Singing of Ornate Arias & Duets--the Color Palette of this obviously Low Budget Production has been restricted to Sandy Desert Shades.

The Military Melodrama is stretched out along a Distressed Wall, with Major Players standing In Line, like so many Singing Heads on Easter Island.

It would have been more Optically Interesting & Spectator Friendly to have attempted either to set this Story of Love & Gory Glory in a Mythical Historical Thracian/Armenian Past or to have imagined how Handel himself would have mounted it for the Royal Academy of Music in the King's Theatre, Haymarket.

In fact, that is just what Munich's Gärtnerplatz Theater did some seasons ago, giving us Handel in the Strand, complete with Proscenium Stage, Backstage, Under Stage, & Handel's Office on a Revolving Stage that could sink to show us the Flies Above or rise to show us the Actor/Singers preparing below.

Handel, after all, was not only a Hanoverian Composer of Imitation Italian Opera Seria--Happy Endings, guaranteed, plus Castrati--but also a Showman who had to fill the Seats.

When Opera Seria stopped bringing in Audiences, he switched to Oratorios.

Indeed, Radamisto--as performed--was very like a Concert in Costume.

Nonetheless, all the Principals were excellent, though some of them looked a bit Bulky for Grand Opera as it is now more Sexily Sold.

Daggers were vigorously brandished, with Murder, Martyrdom, & Suicide often threatened--but not Achieved, despite a Long Evening of Serial Singing.

After the Interval, there were Vacated Seats

Jullian Wachner conducted the Juilliard415 Orchestra, which included some Authentic Instruments!

Well, actually All Instruments were Authentic, but some looked really Period.


Lemieux Pilon 4D's LA BELLE ET LA BÊTE [***]

Jean Cocteau! Where Are You Now That We Need You? The Frenchies Have Lost It!

Merci, Mille Fois!

It was only Ninety Minutes Long!

But, at one point, the Narrateuse advised the Girl in the Castle of the Beast: "Leave! And never come back!"

Not all that easy for many in the BAM Audience who had come all the way over to Brooklyn from Gotham…

This Ghost Video Version of the Age Old Fable of Beauty & the Beast, however, made one long for that Magnificently Enchanting Film of the Same Name made in Black & White by Jean Cocteau, way back when.

As Jean Marais said, as the Beast: "Ma Robe et mes Gants, Beauté, son les Secrets de ma Puissance…"

Or something like that, but in Better French.

In the Lemieux Pilon Remake, however, the Girl seems to be a Post Post Modernist Artist, whose Signature Brand is splashing broad swaths of Red Paint over earlier Art Efforts.

She would be a Shoo In for the Whitney Biennale, were she American, instead of French.

Unfortunately, neither she nor the Beast/Monster/Man in the Mask excite any kind of Interest or Sympathy, so why get Overworked about her Visit to the Castle, here evoked in B & W Projected Images?

What is most fascinating about the Lemieux Pilon Project's Projections is the way that White Horse seems to canter through a Ghostly Space in the Heart of Real Stage Space.


World Premiere of Terrence McNally's AND AWAY WE GO [***]

Whirlwind Tour Collage of Theatre History & World History, But No Plautus & Terence?

You'd really have to be a Theatre PhD Candidate to properly appreciate And Away We Go--which takes Pearl Theatre Audiences by leaps & bounds & Varied Backtracks from the Festival of Dionysus in Fifth Century Athens onward to Modern Theatre Tsouris.

Some of the Supportive But Aging Spectators, however, seemed Baffled

At times, so was Your Roving Arts Correspondent: What Play Is This? What Century Are We In Now?

Why are we Moving Backward & Forward? Why aren't Women Acting on Stage? Why aren't there More Women Playwrights?

As McNally's Given Name is Terrence, why didn't he include Terence, a Playwriting Giant in Ancient Rome?

Frankly--although also a Theatre PhD, specializing in Theatre History & Dramatic Literature--I was at times baffled by the Historical Snippets & Intramural Sniping: Why did McNally write this? Why did the Pearl choose to produce it?

Is this his Last Hurrah?

In any case, Lots of Set Dressers must have been employed by Sanda Goldmark, the Scenic Designer--who loaded the Thrust Stage with all manner of Theatre Props, Costumes, & Domestic Junk.

With Scores of Varied Lighting Devices overhead…

There was No Intermission.

The Production was said to be only Ninety Minutes Long.

It seemed Longer

But the Pearl Ensemble soldiered gallantly onward!


MSM's Opera Scenes: LOVE & OTHER MISTAKES [***]

Ned Rorem & Gertrude Stein Not Quite in Same Class as Haydn, Gluck, & Hindemith…

As usual, Opera Aspirants at the Manhattan School of Music were admirable in their Fully Staged Scenes.

Dona D. Vaughn is Artistic Director of the Opera Theatre Program, so she must have had a hand in selecting the Scenes.

Christoph Willibald Gluck's vision of Handsome Paris courting the Already Married Helen--in Paride ed Elena--was charmingly set & archly acted, with Helen breaking Pure White Arrows in twain.

Paul Hindemith's Sancta Susanna embodies a Lurid Legend of Illicit Desire & Dire Punishment.

Stage Director Richard Gammon could have made this Scene a bit less Ritually Formalistic

Still, it's interesting to speculate--seeing a Loin Clothed Jesus hanging high up on the Cross--what's really Under that Long Stretch of Fabric?\

Or, when Cloistered Nuns spend so much time on their Knees, looking up at the Loincloth, what are they really Adoring?

The most charming, most amusing of the Love Explorations was Joseph Haydn's Il mondo della luna, wherein an Adamant but Foolish Father is tricked into believing he's been transported to the Moon.

As ingeniously realized by Set Designer Carolyn Mraz, this Modernized Moon looked nothing like that Old NASA Moon.

Who to Blame for choosing Ned Rorem's repetitive setting of Gertrude Stein's deliberately idiotic Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters: Vaughn, Gammon, or Conductor Marcello Cormino? Or All Three…

This was hardly worth Singing About.

Ned did better later with Miss Julie. But he remains most infamous for his Tell All Diaries.

Still, it must have cost MSM some Bucks to equip the Entire Cast of Murderers & Murdered Sisters & Brothers with all those Orange Wigs.


Dennis Kelley's TAKING CARE OF BABY [**]

Some Names Have Been Changed & Transcripts Edited, But This Is What They Said…

Margaret Colin was Lynn Barrie in Taking Care of Baby, with Reed Birney as Dr. Millard.

Kristen Bush was an often hysterical Donna McAuliffe.

She was Under Suspicion for the Death of her Five Month Old Son, so, No Wonder.

Critics were given only One Press Ticket.

This seemed odd, as the tiny Theatre Space behind the real downstairs MTC Theatre on West 55th--where the Manhattan Theatre Club is presenting the Harold & Mimi Steinberg New Play Series--was only half full.

At the Interval--with still an Hour to go--many left, including two Fellow Critics.

At least this Total Recall Reconstruction was not about the Heartbreak of Abortion


Vladimir Jurowsky Conducts Juilliard Orchestra in EARLY SHOSTAKOVICH [*****]

How Can An Authentic Russian Genius Composer Survive with Killer Stalin as His Music Critic?

In the earliest days of Communism in Soviet Russia, one of the Greatest Composers of the 20th Century got his start earning Pin Money by playing Piano Accompaniments to Silent Films.

This was, of course, Dmitri Shostakovich, who soon composed Specific Music for a Sovkino Epic about the destruction of the Paris Commune of 1870, called New Babylon.

As vividly described by Program Notator James M. Keller & as astoundingly conducted by Vladimir Jurowsky, this Reconstructed Score--only Three Reels Worth in Alice Tully Hall, alas--makes one want to see the Reconstructed Film with the Original Shostakovich Music.

The Dynamic Juilliard Orchestra--which also serves as Pit Orchestra for Juilliard Opera Productions--caught its Collective Breaths long enough to launch into Shostakovich's Hypothetically Murdered Orchestral Suite.

These Jazzy Melodies--including Thé Dansant Tunes--may well astonish us today, recalling the Epic Horrors of the Workers State in action.

This Score is Pure Music Hall, inspired by its English Predecessors.

But True Proletarians soon Put a Stop to such essentially Bourgeois Entertainments in the Soviet Union.

Years ago, my late Colleague & Friend, Peter Higgins--who was VP & A&R Manager for EMI Records--played me some 1920s Russian Recordings of this Art Deco Vintage Shostakovich.

Commies dancing to Tea for Two? How could that be?

Oddly enough, in the earliest days of the Great Proletarian Experiment, there was a fantastic burgeoning of Modernist Arts in Performance, Spatial, & the Graphic Arts. Think Suprematism

This amazing Juilliard All Shostakovich Concert concluded with a Rousing Rendition of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1, completed when he was still in his Teens.

Once that Murderous Georgian, Josef Stalin, had made himself Dictator, all Soviet Artists were in danger if they did not serve Socialist Realism.

With Serge Prokofiev, Shostakovich was one of the Two Leading Soviet Composers, but, with Stalin as State Music Critic, Shostakovich was frequently In Trouble.

I do wish I'd had James M. Keller's fascinating Program Notes before the Concert, so helpful are they in understanding & enjoying these Scores.

Is this the same James M. Keller whom I once knew as a Berkeley Poet, who gave Culture Lectures at the Berkeley Public Library?

At first, I was a bit puzzled: why had they given me Tickets right up front? I was looking up at the Shoes of Female Violinists!

Stranger yet: all the Basses & the Celli were on my side of the stage--Stage Right, rather than on the traditional Stage Left.

Tiring of studying Spike Heels, I looked to my right where the very intense Vladimir Jurowsky was conducting the Juilliarders with a Fervent Passion that was astonishing.

Jurowsky is on loan to the Juilliard School from the Met Opera, where he is currently conducting, when he is not in London, with the London Philharmonic, of which he is the Principal Conductor.

From his Amazing Bio, he seems to be conducting all the Major Symphonies of the World, not to overlook his work with the Glyndebourne Opera Festival, etc, etc, etc.

On the Podium, he is a Wonder to Watch!

Sensitively--rather than Magisterially--wielding the Takt Stock, he seems to be looking at each Orchestra Member in turn.

But it is with his agile Left Hand & Arm that his sensitivity to Individual Contributions becomes apparent.

There is a Choreographic Poetry in the Movement of his Left Hand: especially the Fingers!

Each Individual Digit has a Mind of Its Own & a Subtle Suggestion to impart.

Anyone fortunate enough to have savored this Shostakovich Evening will surely want to get CDs of the Selections played, as well as any Jurowsky Recordings available.

Bravo Juilliard & Vladimir Jurowsky!


Mark St. Germain's BECOMING DR. RUTH [*****]

The Good Doctor Is Still Giving Sex Advice, Even Though She's Now 85 Years Old!

It is thanks to the Swiss Kindertransport that Dr. Ruth was saved, to help save Us from our Sexual Hang ups.

Born into a loving German Jewish Family in Frankfurt am Main, this Young Girl was spared, when the rest of her Kin were being transported to Deadly Destinations.

When the Nazis began rounding up Non Aryans--which included Jews, Gypsies, & Homosexuals--the Neutral Swiss offered Sanctuary to some 300 Jewish Children, who would leave Germany on a Special Train, called the Kindertransport.

The ebullient if dimunitive Force of Nature--who eventually became Dr. Ruth Westheimer--is now on view over at the Westside Theatre on West 43rd.

On Stage, she is wonderfully embodied by Debra Jo Rupp--who could also double as Bette Midler, when it comes time to do a Middler Bio Show.

Fortunately, on the Very Evening that Your Roving Arts Reporter decided to check out Becoming Dr. Ruth, the Real Dr. Ruth was on hand, to sign Autographs in the Foyer & answer Questions on stage in a Mock Up of her old Washington Heights Apartment.

If either your Girlfriend or your Wife gags at the very thought of Oral Sex, Dr. Ruth suggests coating the Aroused Member with Whipped Cream, Chocolate Sauce, or Similar Toppings.

If those don't work, she will even endorse a Scoop of Ice Cream. This Good Advice will also work with Other Aspects of the Genital Anatomy.

Playwright Mark St. Germain was also on hand to explain how he'd worked with Dr. Ruth, to tell her Entire Story in an Intermissionless Evening, as she is packing up Beloved Photos & Collectibles, to leave the Heights.

In the Nazi Era in Mittel Europa, the Swiss--though resolutely Neutral, like the Swedes: they could sell Arms to Both Sides--were monitoring the "Labor Camps," through the International Red Cross.

But they were then no great Lovers of Jews, although they could offer Sanctuary, if they so chose.

The Young Girl--much more fortunate than that other Young Girl, Anne Frank--who became Dr. Ruth soon discovered that the Swiss who had saved her really had no use for Jews, other than as Servants & Workers.

So she found her way to Palestine, which soon became Israel: at least that Part that wasn't then considered Jordanian Territory.

Like many European Born Israelis, Dr. Ruth soon found her way to America, notably to New York & a PhD. No, she is not a Medical Doctor

The Rest Is History: How Dr. Ruth Made Sex Seem OK!

This fascinating Bio Show has been deftly choreographed by Julianne Boyd, who is Artistic Director of the Barrington Stage Company, where Becoming Dr. Ruth was developed.


Jack Viertel's Concept, with Wynton Marsalis' Cotton Club Collaging: AFTER MIDNIGHT [****]

The Cotton Club Lives Again, Not in Harlem, However: Dancin' Up a Storm on West 47th Street!

Fantastic! The Revue of Revues! The Glory Days of Harlem Are Back--but in Midtown!

Seldom has so much High Powered Dancing & Singing been seen on a Broadway Stage in a Revue Format!

Among the Many Stars are Fantasia Barrino, Dulé Hill, Adriane Lenox, Karine Plantadit, Jared Grimes, & Dormeshia Sumbry Edwards

The Living Spirit of Wynton Marsalis--Jazz at Lincoln Center!--animates this Lively Show, but the Spectral Presence of Duke Ellington is also Manifest.

Isabel Toledo just has to get a Tony Nomination for Best Costumes: Not since the days of Flo Ziegfeld & The Follies have so many Ostrich Feathers been On Parade!

From the Composer Pen of Duke Ellington, we have Daybreak Express & Braggin in Brass, but--worth noting--Dorothy Fields & Jimmy McHugh are represented by I Can't Give you Anything But Love, with Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler offering us I've Got the World on a String & Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, among other Gems.

Warren Carlyle staged & choreographed this Powerhouse of Talent, with Daryl Waters animating the Jazzy, Bluesy Orchestra, jamming On Stage!


Freedman & Lutvak's A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER [*****]

Die! Die! Die! All You D'Ysquiths! Jefferson Mays Takes the Fall for a Foul Dynasty…

How can it be that the D'Ysquith Heirs are dying off with frightening Regularity?

Anyone of a Certain Age--who long ago saw Kind Hearts & Coronets--knows the Drill: A Wronged Young Man has been sidelined by a Noble Family, just as his Loving Mother was disinherited for Marrying Beneath Her.

Alec Guinness starred as all of the Rapidly Dying Heirs to the Earldom.: I shot an Arrow into the Air; it fell to Earth in Berkeley Square…

Guinness was hilarious, but not quite so Virtuosic as Jefferson Mays, who not only Impersonates All the D'Ysquiths, but also Sings & Dances with Innocent Merriment.

In fact, the Musical Adaptation made by Freedman & Lutvak certainly Owes a Debt to Gilbert & Sullivan, not least in its Ingenious Lyrics: Patterned Patter Songs & all that…

Bryce Pinkham, as Monty Navarro, is an Excellent Foil for Mays, always plotting to remove Successive Obstacles to his achieving The Earldom, together with Lands & Castle.

Like the recent production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder is ensconced inside a Baroque Toy Theatre Frame. As with Drood, it is also played somewhat in the Spirit of the British Music Hall: Camp Plus…

The Entire Cast--most of whom assume Varied Roles, but not so many as Mays!--is excellent.

Multi Awards Nominations for Alexander Dodge--not only for his Toy Theatre Proscenium--but also for the Visually Hilarious Scenes that take place inside it.

His D'Ysquith Anglican Lordship, falling down inside the Great Tower of his Minster, a rapidly revolving Video behind him, is a Stroke of Genius.

Awards also for Linda Cho & her Period Costumes. She must have saved the Producers a Bundle, as so many of the Characters are frequently wearing Funereal Black!

The Walter Kerr Theatre is fairly intimate, so you will have this Charming Spoof almost in your Lap. But it's sure to be a Hit & with Limited Seating, you need to Book Now.

You won't walk out of the Kerr humming Hit Tunes, however. They are Show Integral & far too Clever for Random Remembering

Darko Tresnjak staged, as he did for the Hartford Stage World Premiere, but then he is Artistic Director up in Hartford.

Peggy Hickey, as Show Choreographer, made Good Use of the Very Limited Stage Space.

In short, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder is a Jewel Box Show in a Jewel Box Proscenium inside the Walter Kerr Jewel Box Theatre.



Caricature of Glenn Loney in header is by Sam Norkin.

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