Saturday, November 8, 2014

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Shipbuilding in Wallsend

Don't expect to see Sting on stage at the Neil Simon Theatre!
Is there a genre we could call "the working man's musical?"

The Full Monty would fall into this category. Billy Elliot also wore its working class roots with distinction.  Kinky Boots is an exuberant example of this presumptive classification.

The Last Ship, with music and lyrics by Sting and story by Brian Yorkey and John Logan, at the Neil Simon Theatre in an open run, is an illustration of the style gone sadly awry.

Fred Applegate and Jimmy Nail with the cast of The Last Ship.
Photo by Joan Marcus.


With a who-cares plot, choreography (by Steven Hoggett) replaced mostly by stomping, and songs that generally misfire, and seem to be there mostly just for the exposition, The Last Ship is anything but the pride of Wallsend.

Young Gideon (Collin Kelly-Sordelet) sails away from home after his father is injured and before taking on as an apprentice in the shipyards. He wanders on the seas for fifteen years and comes back (played on his return by Michael Esper) too late for his father's funeral.

He has left behind a girl (young Meg played by Dawn Cantwell) to whom he made promises and whom he still seems to love. Meg Dawson (Rachel Tucker playing the adult woman), has a son, Tom (Kelly-Sordelet again), and a new beau, Arthur Millburn (Aaron Lazar). Arthur has run afoul of the townfolks. He is working with the fellow who is taking over the shipyard and transforming it into a new industrial site.

Lead by Jackie White (Jimmy Nail), a foreman at the works before they closed, the weilders refuse to sign on for new jobs and plan to occupy the yards and yes, build The Last Ship.


Collin Kelly-Sordelet as Tom Dawson in a scene from The Last Ship.
Photo by Matthew Murphy.
In the interests of being completely honest with our readers, from the first tune "Island of Souls," I yearned for intermission. By "We've Got Now't Else," the third song from the end of Act I, my passion for escape rivalled young Gideon's. As a born romantic, "What Say You Meg," a quasi-lovesong before the break, was moderately effective.

The minimalist sets by David Zinn are like so much else on the stage of The Last Ship, generically workmanlike. Among the cast, Fred Applegate as Father O'Brien, generic Irish priest with the soul of a rebel, and Collin Kelly-Sordelet as the wise fifteen year old Tom Dawson are standouts. Aaron Lazar is a likeable hero although my suspicion is I was routing for the wrong lover.

For more information about The Last Ship, or to purchase tickets, please visit The Last Ship,

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

The Flames of Paris.
Photo by Stas Levshin
The Flames of Paris. 
Photo by Stas Levshin

Not just any Russians, of course, but the Mikhailovsky Ballet Company is visiting us from St. Petersburg.



There was a time when a visit from a Russian ballet company and the subsequent defections of its dancers to the West was viewed as a Cold War triumph. These days a touring Russian troupe simply offers the chance to witness part of a grand tradition of superlative dance.

Don Quixote. Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev. Photo by Stas Levshin



The 80 year old Mikhailovsky Ballet Company has never been state-side before. When it aarives on November 11th for its stay at the David H. Koch Theater on Lincoln Center's campus through November 23rd,   consider this your  opportunity to enjoy great dance programs from its varied repertoire.

Don Quixote. Photo by Nikolay Krusser
The Company will play to a live orchestra for its 15 performances in New York. From there it goes to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in California from November 28th through the 30th.

The Mikhailovsky Theatre, where Fyodor Lopukhov founded the Ballet Company in 1933, had hosted many an opera and ballet in the 100 years it had already been in existence.  Its long and storied history included the  George Balanchine choreography of a Rimsky-Korsikov opera in 1923.  Since its official founding as a Ballet Company at the Mikhailovsky Theatre by Lopukhov, the Company has had an outstanding number of top Ballet Masters at its helm.  The Ballet Company staged the premiere of  Lopukhov's production of Dmitry Shostakovich’s The Bright Stream in 1935

Today, the Ballet Company is home to world class Principal Dancers and is headed by Ballet Master in Chief Mikhail Messerer. It blends tradition with modernity in its productions and will bring a sampling to its US tour, including "Three Centuries of Russian Ballet" which will feature choreography from Petipa, Asaf Messerer, and Nacho Duato among others.

November 15th matinee commentary: at Tand B On The Aisle on wordpress

For more information about The Mikhailovsky Theatre and its  Ballet Company, visit The Mikhailovsky Theatre Ballet
For tickets and programs, please visit http://www.davidhkochtheater.com/moreinfoMB.html

Monday, October 20, 2014

Doggone

"Dog Silhouette 01" by Amada44 - Own work. Licensed under
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/
File:Dog_Silhouette_01.svg#mediaviewer/File:Dog_Silhouette_01.svg
The theater has gone to the dogs!

Emotional support animals (ESAs) and service dogs (let Patricia Marx define the difference in her excellent New Yorker article, Pig On A Plane) occupy the best seats in the house. 

Not content with being upfront, some of them distract by barking at the actors, as they did at the Women's Project for a show called "Row After Row." (More on this performance here on this blog at http://tbontheaisleatheaterdiary.blogspot.com/2014/01/row-after-row-is-billed-as-dark-comedy.html.) 

Some "trauma dogs" scratch themselves during a performance, or demand petting from their disinterested (in the play at any rate) owners.

Their presence in the audience is mostly to satisfy some perverse demands of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and may be utterly spurious. 

It is most definitely annoying to this theater-goer and her spouse. How do you feel about sharing the theater with four-footed critters?
"Tan ferret named cincin" by Kerri Love - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tan_ferret_named_cincin.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Tan_ferret_named_cincin.JPG
Before you answer, note that the ferret pictured above may also qualify for categorization as a "trauma" or emotional support pet. 

If the pet owners are in need of emotional support, perhaps they should bring their psychiatrists to the show. The interval would be a perfect time to hold a mini-therapy session.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Too modest by half: McNally's "It's Only A Play"

Rupert Grint, Megan Mullally, Matthew Broderick, Nathan
Lane, and Stockard Channing in a scene from Terrence
McNally's It's Only A Play, directed by Jack O'Brien, at the
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Matthew Broderick's inflections suggest a deeply wounded soul. As Peter Austin, a playwright awaiting opening night notices, in Terrence McNally's It's Only A Play at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in a limited 18 week run through January 4, 2015, he delivers his lines with an aggressive hesitance, that seems perfectly suited to his character. Each sentence is punctuated through the middle, which adds a certain piquancy to the play.

Megan Mullally and Nathan Lane in a scene from It's Only
A Play.
Photo by Joan Marcus.
Peter's best friend, James Wicker (Nathan Lane) is also jittery. He expects bad press, but he is actually more distressed over the fate of the sitcom that kept him from being in Peter's Broadway debut.

Lane, by the way, is on stage and either delivering or reacting to the funny zingers for the entirety of this comedy. He is in every sense of the word "on!" Lane's performance is wonderful.

It's Only A Play mocks everyone involved in the theater. Critics are skewered, of course, and embodied as Ira Drew (F. Murray Abraham,) a particularly nasty specimen. Actors are self-absorbed, and playwrights are needy. Hotshot British directors, in this case an eccentric Frank Finger (Rupert Grint, ) are made fun of for their ubiquitous successes. Sir Frank yearns for a failure.

Micah Stock, Megan Mullally, Rupert Grint and Nathan Lane
in a scene from It's Only A Play. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Even matinee audiences are not safe. Virginia Noyes (Stockard Channing) really sticks it to the seniors in their headsets. The producer, Julia Budder (Megan Mullally,) whose gorgeous bedroom (designed by Scott Pask) is the setting for the post-opening soiree, drops misquotes and malapropisms at fever pitch. Not to dwell too much on voices, but Mullally's squeaky delivery is delightfully antic. Rounding out the cast is the hat-check boy, Gus P. Head (Micah Stock, who has some shticks of his own to add.)

The pace of It's Only A Play is kept moving at a steady and uproarious clip under Jack O'Brien's able direction. In an excellent cast, standing out along with Lane is Stockard Channing who gives a grand and understated performance in a role that could go way over the top, and goes just right.

Unlike poor Peter Austin, playwright Terrence McNally will be able to add this hit to his slew of award-winning Broadway productions. Be warned that your fifteen year old from Atlanta might not be as happy at It's Only A Play as we were.

It's Only A Play is a theater-crowd pleasing satiric comedy, with great sets and lovely elegant costumes (by Ann Roth), a star-studded cast, and very witty name-dropping dialog.

Additional commentary from Tamara Beck can be found at VevlynsPen.com.

For more information about It's Only A Play, please visit http://itsonlyaplay.com/


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Too close: Billy Porter's "While Yet I Live"

Sometimes we are just to close to our own lives to properly document them.

Billy Porter's While Yet I Live, at Primary Stages at The Duke on 42nd Street through October 31st, is a case in point.
S. Epatha Merkerson and Sharon Washington in While I Yet Live.
(c) 2014 James Leynse.
Primary Stages production of While I Yet Live by Billy Porter,
directed by Sheryl Kaller at Primary Stages at The Duke on 42nd Street.


The cliche- (and on occasion, stereotype-) laden script does not let the characters fully develop, despite a mostly stellar cast.

While Yet I Live tells the story of Calvin (Larry Powell), a stand-in for the author, or rather of his family.

Living in "The Big House" in Pittsburgh, PA, are his mother, Maxine (S. Epatha Merkerson), his grandmother, Gertrude (Lilias White), his great aunt Delores, aka Aunt D (Elain Graham), and his little sister Tonya (Sheria Irving in a standout performance.) Also living with them is the shut-in Arthur, whom we never see, but to whom Tonya brings trays of food, and Maxine's best friend, Miss Eva (Sharon Washington)

Calvin leaves home for complicated reasons which involve his stepdad Vernon (Kevyn Morrow) to return at the end of Act I after success on Broadway.

Elain Graham, Lilias White and Larry Powell in While I Yet Live. 
(c) 2014 James Leynse. 
S. Epatha Merkerson is completely at ease in her role as a troubled, handicapped woman who is taking care of everyone around her. Sharon Washington makes you want a friend like that. It's Sheria Irving's Tonya, narrating and moving the drama along, who steals the show.

While Yet I Live is too loose and gangly. A few too many "Name it and claim its" and "You are not brokens" keep it from being taut. In fact, While Yet I Live, could easily be trimmed to bring the play to a more desireable intermissionless hour and fifteen. It could shed some ghosts to let the narrative move more smoothly and dramatically.

To learn more about Primary Stages and get tickets for While Yet I Live, please visit http://www.primarystages.org/.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"The Killing of Sister George" Revives at TACT

When The Killing of Sister George played rural England in the mid-1960s, it met with opprobium. Its ascent to the London stage, however, brought it considerable acclaim. In fact, Frank Marcus' comedy was so well-received that it was turned into a movie, with an X-rating. Despite its fame, and a transfer to Broadway, where its star won the Tony, The Killing of Sister George has not been produced in New York in 30 years. Marcus, whose subsequent plays did not fare as well, was forced to turn from playwrighting to criticism.

Margot White and Caitlin O'Connell in The Killing of
Sister George
in a revival by The Actor's Company
Theatre through November 1 at The Beckett.
Photo by Marielle Solan Photography.

TACT (The Actors Company Theatre, under the artistic lead of Scott Alan Evans and Jenn Thompson) has undertaken a revival of the once ever so controversial satirical piece, which runs through November 1 at the Beckett Theatre.

Ill-tempered and decidely domineering, June Buckridge (Caitlin O'Connell) voices the character of Sister George on a much loved BBC radio drama called Applehurst. She comes home to Alice "Childie" McNaught (Margot White,) the "Martha" to her "Arthur," with a premonition that she will be cut from the program. Her mood, fouler than usual, invites humbling attentions from the generally submissive Childie.

In the midst of all this domestic turmoil, Mrs. Mercy Croft (Cynthia Harris,) a producer on the show, calls with her intention to pop by. The visit is cruelly civil. Sister George is more than a persona June adopts. She has come to identify with the character, and to be identified as the popular nurse from the small town in radio-land. Alice calls her George.
Caitlin O'Connell and Cynthia Harris.
Photo by Marielle Solan Photography.

Rounding out the cast is the downstairs neighbor, a soothsayer named Madame Xenia (Dana Smith-Croll) whom George calls upon in her moment of doubt.

Under the direction of Drew Barr, the cast recreates the times and atmosphere in which The Killing of Sister George first found its way. Questions of sexual identity and personal identity are broached in The Killing of Sister George. Childie's behavior suggests that  George may have reason for her jealousies.

Dana Smith-Croll, Caitlin O'Connell and Margot White.
Photo by Marielle Solan Photography.
The play's title is still powerful, of course. Despite the success of this production, what was once a sensation is now only a curiousity.  In its time, The Killing of Sister George had the power to shock with its testosterone laden script. --- played out by  a woman-only cast.

For more information about TACT and The Killing of Sister George, please visit http://tactnyc.org/.

Friday, October 3, 2014

You know, you really can't

Extended through February 22nd
Rose Byrne as Alice Sycamore and James Earl Jones asMartin Vanderhof in George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's
"You Can't Take It With You" at the Longacre. Photo by  Joan Marcus.
In the zany Sycamore clan, Alice (Rose Byrne) seems to have fallen farthest from the tree. She's a level-headed girl who holds a conventional job as a secretary in a Wall Street firm. In a pleasing turn of events, she and the boss's son, Anthony Kirby, Jr. (Fran Kranz) have fallen madly in love.

 James Earl Jones, Kristine Nielsen, Fran Kranz, Reg Rogers,
Annaleigh Ashford,Patrick Kerr and Mark Linn-Baker.
Photo by Joan Marcus
Will the antics of her charmingly eccentric family spoil her engagement?

Kaufman and Hart's Pulitzer Prize-winning "You Can't Take It With You," at the Longacre Theatre, is a very American comedy. It's about freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

Alice's father, Paul (Mark Linn-Baker) constructs elaborate fireworks in the basement with the aid of Mr. DePinna (Patrick Kerr), who has taken up residence in grandpa's home with them. Grandfather Martin Vanderhof (James Earl Jones) walked away from his office one day years ago, and spends his days at Columbia commencements and his evenings with the neighborhood cop on the corner.

Alice's mother, Penny (Kristine Nielsen) is a serial artist currently writing steamy plays.
Essie, Alice's sister, (Annaleigh Ashford) breaks into dance while her husband Ed Carmichael (Will Brill) plays Beethoven --with a little more he's composed-- on the xylophone. Her tutor, the boisterous Boris Kolenkhov (Reg Rogers, who seems to have been born for this role), indulges her despite her deficiences as a dancer. Rheba (Crystal Dickinson), the family's maid who lives in with her beau Donald (Marc Damon Johnson) takes a keen interest in the household's businesses, which include Essie's candy-making enterprise.

"You Can't Take It With You" is both profoundly subversive and sweetly innocent. Charming, well-acted, beautifully constructed, and fabulously staged with Scott Ellis at the helm and David Rockwell (sets) and Jane Greenwood (costumes) designing. "You Can't Take It With You" is as irrestible as Olga's (Elizabeth Ashley) blintzes, but that comes later.

Elizabeth Ashley as Olga. Photo by
Joan Marcus.
Rounding out the cast are Byron Jennings as Tony's father, Anthony Sr., and Johanna Day as his wife and Tony's mother, Miriam. Also stopping by the Vanderhof-Sycamore home are Henderson, an IRS agent (Karl Kenzler) and some Justice Department fellows (Nick Corley, Austin Durant and Joe Tapper.) Gay Wellington (Julie Halston) spends her time there mostly in a madcap drunk.

"You Can't Take It With You" is a romantic comedy. Expect to see the triumph of good sense.

Every performance, in minutest detail, is perfect in "You Can't Take It With You." In fact the cast are all entirely impressive. James Earl Jones subdues that big voice to play an amicable, wise and peaceable Martin Vanderhof . Rose Byrne is delightful. Elizabeth Ashley makes the most of her Olga, as Reg Rogers does with his Kalenkhov. Kristine Nielsen, Annaleigh Ashford, Patrick Kerr, Marc Damon Johnson and Mark Linn-Baker are understatedly screwball.

To learn more about "You Can't Take It With You," please visit http://youcanttakeitwithyoubroadway.com/. Hurry, tickets should be hard to get.
For additional commentary,  http://lnkd.in/d7rJpzy

Monday, September 29, 2014

Peace in our time

Peace is elusive. Not the concept of peace. Everyone buys into that. The actual absence of war or threats of war is difficult to find. In part, it's hard to come by because war and peace are so much about posturing: "How dare they!" "We have to defend our values."

Paul Niebanck as John Honeywell and Kathleen Chalfant  as Irina Botvinnick in "A Walk in the Woods"
by Lee Blessing. At the Keen in a production directed by Jonathan Silverman. Photo by Carol Rosegg.


In Lee Blessing's vision in "A Walk in the Woods," at the Keen through October 18th, arms negotiations are a game leading to "Nyet" on one side, and "No" on the other.

Paul Niebanck as John Honeywell and Kathleen Chalfant  as Irina Botvinnick in "A Walk in the Woods"
by Lee Blessing. At the Keen in a production directed by Jonathan Silverman. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Irina Botvinnick (Kathleen Chalfant) understands this. John Honeyman (Paul Niebanck), her naive counterpart from the USA, expects to save the world from itself.

Detente is an old-fashioned word. It melted with the ice of the Cold War. Blessing's play, ably directed by Keen's Artistic Director, Jonathon Silverstein, is about people--specifically about two people whose business is politics and whose mission is useless. The two are negotiators for the great and well-armed superpowers of the Soviet Union and the United States of America.

Chalfant's Irina is charming as she eggs Honeyman into trivial conversations as they walk and talk in a Geneva park.  The play, which was nominated for both a Tony and the Pulitzer Prize in 1987, echoes he futility and frustration of arms-race peace talks. It also drags to a point where it loses focus and our interest.

Is "A Walk in the Woods" dated in the post-Cold War era? Much of what it has to say about the unwillingness to scale down and give up weapons rings true. The opponents have changed shape and geography, perhaps. Despite its real-politik plot, however, the play lags. The leads are never anything but compelling to watch, but the outcome is evident and protracted.

The costumes by Amanda Jenks and Jennifer Paar are lively, and provide a nice rhythm to the seasons of the plot.

For more information on "A Walk in the Woods," and the Keen Company, please visit http://www.keencompany.org/.

          

Saturday, September 20, 2014

An excuse to raise a glass

As if you needed a reason to drink, the Bard's 450th birthday is being toasted all around town.


The New York Shakespeare Exchange (NYSX) originated the beer and performance festivities, aka ShakesBEER, along with The Sonnet Project, as a way to infuse our culture with the classical. They want to bring Shakespeare alive to a modern audience.  

ShakesBEER is a three hour pub crawl, with scenes from the Shakespearean repertoire breaking out at each location. October's ShakesBEER features scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream; Henry IV, Part 2; Romeo & Juliet; and Twelfth Night. The featured actors, who will be cheek by jowl with you, include Harry Barandes, Chris Corporandy, Phil Mutz, Sarah Nedwek, Katherine Puma, Colin Ryan, and Katelin Wilcox.

There are so many things you could debate after enjoying your ShakesBEER outing: Was William Shakespeare the Neil Simon, Arthur Kopit, Arthur Laurents, Eugene O'Neill and Arthur Miller rolled into one of his generation? Has any contemporary playwright come along to rival his efficacy in conveying the human condition? Did Marlowe write Shakespeare? Why isn't Tamberlaine performed more often? Is Lear or Hamlet WS's most iconic hero? Are his comedies funnier than The Big Bang Theory?

Book in advance for ShakesBEER. A schedule of the October outings can be found here: http://shakespeareexchange.org/content/shakesbeer-2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

"The Fatal Weakness" afflicts us all

As human beings, we are all to a greater or lesser degree, sentimental creatures.

Before the curtain rises on "The Fatal Weakness" by George Kelly.
Set design for The Mint Theater production by Vicki R. Davis.
Photo by Richard Termine.
"The Fatal Weakness," written by George Kelly in 1946, in revival at The Mint Theater through October 26th, is man's (and woman's) essential romanticism.

Kristin Griffith as Mrs. Ollie Espenshade in "The Fatal Weakness" by George Kelly.Photo by Richard Termine.

It leads Mrs. Ollie Espenshade (Kristin Griffith) to attend random weddings and her husband Paul (Cliff Bemis) to find a little extra kick in his step.

Cliff Bemis as Mr. Paul Espenshade and Victoria Mack as Penny Hassett
in George Kelly's "The Fatal Weakness," at the Mint. Photo by
Richard Termine.

On the other hand, their daughter, Penny Hassett (Victoria Mack) wears a veneer of cynical bravado. Can her free-thinking views on marriage be upended by her husband Vernon's (Sean Patrick Hopkins) staunch fidelity?

"The Fatal Weakness" is a top-shelf drawing room comedy.Under Jesse Marchese's direction, George Kelly's upper crust comedy is perfectly paced. The actors, all outstanding, bring this charming play to life. Kristin Griffith, as Ollie, is centerstage, and gives a wonderfully nuanced performance.

Kristin Griffith as Ollie, Cliff Bemis as Paul, and Cynthis Darlow
as Mrs. Mabel Wentz in "The Fatal Weakness" by George Kelly.Photo by Richard Termine.

Ollie's friend Mrs. Mabel Wentz (Cynthia Darlow)  delights in carrying tales. She has no illusions about why Paul has begun whistling and paying such careful attention to his wardrobe. Hers is a kind of inverse of romanticism.  Unlike Penny or Ollie, Anna (Patricia Kilgarriff),  the household maid, may be the only one completely clear-eyed about how relationships prosper or end.
Patricia Kilgarriff as Anna with Kristin Griffith as Ollie in
"The Fatal Weakness" by George Kelly. Costumes by
Andrea Varga. Photo by Richard Termine.
As "The Fatal Weakness" opens, a lace curtain rises to reveal a stunningly opulent room, designd by Vicki R. Davis, with mirrored walls and plush furniture.

The Mint Theater has once again rediscovered a lively and enjoyable jewel of a "forgotten" play.

For more information about "The Fatal Weakness," please visit www.minttheater.org.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

The intoxicating mix of "Bootycandy"

Phillip James Brannon and Jessica Frances Dukes
in the openiing scene in Robert O'Hara's
"Bootycandy" at Playwrights Horizons
through October 12th. Photo (c) Joan Marcus.
To say "Bootycandy," written and directed by Robert O'Hara, at Playwrights Horizons through October 12th, is brilliant is an enormous understatement.

It's hard to say which episode of the seven vignettes O'Hara created was funnier, brighter, crisper as "Bootycandy" unrolled. Suffice it to say that each segment, standing alone, had its own kind of sparkle.

If there are not enough roles (and you know there are not) for black actors to display their talents, Robert O'Hara has tried to remedy the deficit, providing ample opportunity for this wonderful group of players to shine. In a phenomenally talented cast, with Phillip James Brannon taking the lead as Sutter, it is hard to pick a stand out. All these men and women put themselves whole-heartedly before us. In one uprroariously funny and incisive scene, Jessica Frances Dukes and Benja Kay Thomas dazzle as they play four disparate characters. The one white performer, (Jesse Pennington) in the ensemble of five gets to strut his stuff too, playing a range of parts.

"Bootycandy" exposes both its process and artifice as the chapters of Sutter's life emerge and merge as one. Sutter's progress from boy to man in a homophobic world is about sense and sensuality. "Have you lost your mind in the real world?," is a phrase his mother inherits from his grandmother, and uses to answer many of his life questions.


Sutter (Phillip James Brannon) with his granny (Lance Coadie Williams) in a scene from
Robert O'Hara's "Bootycandy." Photo by Joan Marcus.

'I don't write about white people," Sutter says definitively in the "Writers Conference" sketch that closes out Act I. Sutter, the stand in for the author, is a mixture of innocence and understanding. O'Hara, too, writes about all people. His central character happens to be a young gay black man, finding his way.

Sutter (Phillip James Brannon) with his sister (Benja Kay Thomas), mother (Jessica Frances Dukes) and stepfather (Lance Coadie Williams) in a scene from Robert O'Hara's "Bootycandy." Photo by Joan Marcus.


"Bootycandy" is a heady cocktail of styles and wisely observed details. The fact that its humor is gently satirical does not mean that it lacks bite and insight. Did we mention that Robert O'Hara's play is brilliant? It truly is.

For more information on "Bootycandy," please visit www.PHnyc.org.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Who was Rudolf Bauer? and "Boys and Girls"

Why would a prolific modernist painter suddenly stop making art?

"Bauer," Lauren Gunderson's drama at 59E59 Theaters through October 12th, is based on a true art mystery: what made Rudolph Bauer  (Howard Sherman,) the leading modernist of his generation, quit? He abandoned his legacy to Kandinsky, who is better known today as a master of modern art.

Did Hilla Rebay (Stacy Ross,) once the love of Bauer's life, betray him when she made him sign over all his work and his future artworks to Solomon  Guggenheim?

Howard Sherman and Stacy Ross in Lauren Gunderson's "Bauer" at 59E59
Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg
The play begins thirteen years after Bauer began his self-imposed exile in New Jersey. His wife, Louise (Susi Damiliano) has engineered a meeting between the former lovers who have not spoken in all those years.Modern art was in defiance to the Nazis, who abhorred it. Bauer seemed to like to defy. Guggenheim was his patron, who not only rescued him from the Nazis but also gave him a house, a Dusenberg, and a stipend, none of which satisfied Bauer.

It seems like  there should be drama in the anticipation of this meeting. Will they resolve their difference? Can Bauer return to his easel and create new masterworks? Despite decent performances, it's hard to get engaged in Bauer's ruined career or his motives.

As Louise, Susi Damiliano gives a resilient performance. Howard Sherman is convincing as the stubborn and perhaps broken artist. However, as the story unwinds,  it barely keeps our interest.

 Rudolf Bauer (Howard Sherman) welcomes Hilla von Rebay (Stacy Ross)
as his wife Louise (Susi Damiliano) stands by  in Lauren Gunderson's "Bauer" at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
"Bauer," originally produced at the San Francisco Plyhouse, is mostly talk, although the staging attempts to enliven. There are some nice projections (design by Micah J. Stieglitz, with scenic design by Ewa Muszynska), showing the artist's work and setting recollections.

The Weinstein Galleries are showing of Bauer's art to coincide with the New York production of the play. Sotheby's is auctioning off works by Bauer from September 22nd to October 10th.

Also at 59E59 Theaters: "Boys and Girls," written and directed by Dylan Coburn Gray, is part of Origin's 1st Irish 2014. Confessedly, it was the promise of the risqué that brought me to the theater, and the failure to fulfill it that had us take an early departure, not awaiting the climax as it were.

"Boys and Girls" is billed as being "naughty" -- if having  a young and pretty girl utter the dreaded "c" word can be considered ribald, then "Boys and Girls" is that.
Seán Doyle, Maeve O’Mahony, Claire O’Reilly, and Ronan Carey Seán Doyle in "Boys and Girls"written and directed by
Dylan Coburn Gray, part of 1st Irish at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg
The format of the play is a series of monologues in which the eponymous quartet take turns telling their love stories. Sweet young foul-mouthed things they are, too.

For more information on "Bauer" and "Boys and Girls," please visit 59e59.org


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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Vahr ist Godot?

Poster from 1st Irish website
Samuel Beckett gets a fresh start as New Yiddish Rep renders his seminal absurdist masterwork “Waiting for Godot” in Yiddish for the first time, at the Barrow Street Theatre beginning tomorrow, Thursday, September 4th.  The play is translated by Shane Baker, and returns to New York for 12 performances only through September 21.

“Vartn Auf Godo” is presented in New York  on the heels of its European premiere in Northern Ireland where it opened the 3rd annual Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival, which ran from July 31 to August 10. Beckett wrote the play in ’48-’49 although its world premiere at the Théatre de Babylone in Paris did not occur until 1953. 

This production of this Irish born playwright's work is presented as part of Origin's 1st Irish Festival.

Not part of the 1st Irish, but an Irishman nonetheless, and an oft-quoted playwright, George Bernard Shaw is the Gingold Theatrical Group's "project" on Mondays at Symphony Space. 

GBSwas never shy about the breadth and places in which his ideas played out. His "Village Wooing," written in 1933,is a romance set on the high seas. See the seldom-seen play for two voices at GTG at Symphony Space on Monday, Sep 29th. 

For more on “Vartn Auf Godo” and the Origin's 1st Irish Festival, please visit http://1stirish.org/. To find out about GTG's Shaw Project and "Village Wooing," please visit http://www.symphonyspace.org/.

Monday, August 18, 2014

"Poor Behavior" --it's very good!


Marriage can be a very fragile alliance.
Katie Kreisler and Brian Avers in Theresa Rebeck's "Poor Behavior"
at Primary Stages through Sep 7.  Photo (c) 2014 James Leynse

In "Poor Behavior," at Primary Stages at The Duke through Sept 7th, Theresa Rebeck explores/exposes two couples at the most tenuous point in their clearly wobbly relationships. 


Heidi Armbruster and Brian Avers in
"Poor Behavior." Photo
(c) 2014 James Leynse


Ian (Brian Avers) and Maureen (Heidi Armbruster) are spending an ill-advised country weekend with their friends, Peter (Jeff Biehl) and Ella (Katie Kreisler). The first evening begins with a drunken argument between Ella and Ian over morality. His Irish sensibility is aroused by even the suggestion that things can be deemed good or bad, but it is evident that only he and Ella relish the fight. As their respective spouses head off to bed, Ian and Ella share an innocent tender moment, caught by the ever-hysterical Maureen.


Jeff Biehl in "Poor Behavior." Photo (c) 2014 James Leynse







The actors, guided by Evan Cabnet's excellent direction, are wonderful. The play, a brilliant work in the Rebeck oeuvre, is at once funny and distressing. Watching things devolve is agonizing and delightful. The dialogue in "Poor Behavior" is sharp, quick and witty. Lauren Halpern has designed an admirable country house, just cramped and uncomfortable enough to echo the proceedings of the script.

"Poor Behavior" is an entirely satisfying experience.

To learn more about Theresa Rebeck's "Poor Behavior" and Primary Stages, visit www.PrimaryStages.org

Friday, August 15, 2014

Premieres and more at MDC's Debut New York Season

Often it seems that defying gravity is how we define dance. Hold your breath as dancers twirl in impossible contortions before you. Catch your breath as they move gracefully and effortlessly through air and space, sometimes telling a story, sometimes just rejoicing in movement.

Annmaria Mazzini, a former Paul Taylor Dance Company dancer, and Artistic Director of The Mazzini Dance Collective rejoices in dancemmaking as story telling.

The Mazzini Dance Collective (MDC) holds its two-day only debut New York season on September 6th and 7th at The Ailey Citigroup Theater in The Joan Weill Center for Dance.

MDC was formed to be a collaborative between artists across visual and performing arts media. MDC is an inter- disciplinary, multi-generational troupe, integrating the arts of film, music and design.  At MDC, young dancers are inspired by veterans to reach new levels of excellence in technique, performance and choreography.

On the bill in this inaugural season are the work of MDC Composer-in-Residence Robert Paterson, members of the American Modern Ensemble, Orion Duckstein, and Francisco Graciano, appearing courtesy of the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

Several premieres will be presented during the two days of programming. They include "Playing with Angels," a reflection on the relationship between mothers and sons, choreographed by Annmaria Mazzini with music by Robert Paterson, with the score performed live by members of American Modern Ensemble: Billy Hestand on bassoon, Billy Short on bassoon, and Bryan Wagorn on piano. "When We Rise" is a premiere of a piece choreographed by longtime MDC collaborator Orion Duckstein with music by Zoe Keating and performed by Mr. Duckstein and Annmaria Mazzini. Another new Mazzini creation, "Criminal Commoners," set to music by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, St. Vincent, Phantogram, Cold War Kids, Pulp, and Goldfrapp, and an original piece by Damian Eckstein,  features guest artist Francisco Graciano.

For additional information, and a full list of programming,  please visit http://www.mazzinidancecollective.org

Short, poignant and sweet: "Summer Shorts" Series A

"Sec. 310, Row D, Seats 5 and 6," Warren Leight's crowd-
pleasing one-acter in "Summer Shorts Series A" at
59E59 Theaters. Pictured Peter Jacobson and Geoffrey Cantor
in a photo by Carol Rosegg.
If brevity is the soul of wit, the short short play should prove the embodiment of that spirit.

Some do so with heart, some with humor, but all three of the "Summer Shorts: Series A," at 59E59 Theaters through August 30th, are entertaining and interesting. Each in its own unique way.

The most pleasing of the lot is "Sec. 310, Row D, Seats 5 and 6," Warren Leight's ode to men and sportsfans. Three season ticket holders in Madison Square Garden nosebleed seats share the agonies of being Knick fans as their lives unfold over some twenty years. It's a funny and well-played little drama. Geoffrey Cantor, Peter Jacobson, and Cezar Williams give nicely tuned performances under Fred Berner's direction.

Alex Breaux and Shane Patrick Kearns in "The Sky and The Limit" by
Roger Hedden at "Summer Shorts Series A." Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Did spirtuality or too much weed drive George (Shane Patrick Kearns) to jump off a cliff? This mesa was where he wanted to celebrate his marriage. Aldie (Alex Breaux) lives with the regret of cracking wise when he should have been attentive to his friend. Allison Daugherty rounds out the cast in Roger Hedden's "The Sky and the Limit." Under Billy Hopkins' direction, this simple story simply told has depth and humanity.

Miriam Silverman and Adam Green in a scene from Eric Lane's "The Riverbed."
Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Filling the spaces of loss with a calm that belies their emotions, Adam (Adam Green) and Megan (Miriam Silverman) take turns retelling the story of the death of their daughter Lucy. Eric Lane's "Riverbed" is about the consequences of one moment of inattention. Megan and Adam are nice people struggling to reconnect after their younger child drowns. It's the unexpected in their story that makes this monologue come powerfully together.

For more information about "Summer Shorts," please visit www.59e59.org.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Putting on our "Summer Shorts" Series B

There are many iterations of the short story. Probably that look your mama gave you is the shortest. The tales Lydia Davis tells are almost haiku like. For most playwrights, the short form is aka the one-act. 

Traditionally, "Summer Shorts," a Throughline Artists production in repertory at 59E59 Theaters through August 30th, have upped the ante on short by curtailing the action to a mere fifteen or 20 minutes. Developing a storyline from top to bottom in that time is a challenge. This year's offerings are a bit longer, running into regular one-act territory.

Some of these succeed better than others.

Henny Russell and Will Dagger in
"Napoleon in Exile," from Series B,
"Summer Shorts".
Photo by Carol Rosegg.
One that does so brilliantly is "The Mulberry Bush." 
With every chatty line of dialog, Neil LaBute builds tension, so that you wonder where his story is going and how or if it will resolve. What seems casual is deliberate and taut.

The poignancy in Daniel Rietz' "Napoleon in Exile" burns beneath genuine humor. Henny Russell and Will Dagger are natural and charming as mother and son.

Albert Innaurato disappoints with a ranting sketch comedy-- of excessive length at 40 minutes--that aims to offend. Innaurato's liner notes on the trajectory of his career are the best part of his contribution. The piece, entitled "Doubtless," no doubt as a not so subtle pun on John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt," gets a little help from Jack Hofsiss' lively direction and a fearless cast.
Victor Slezak and JJ Kandel in Neil LaBute's "The Mulberry Bush," Part of "Summer Shorts Series B."
Photo by Carol Rosegg.

The acting in "Summer Shorts 2014, Series B" is universally excellent with stand-out performances by Victor Slezak and JJ Kandel in "The Mulberry Bush."

For more information on "Summer Shorts 2014," visit www.59e59.org or http://summershortsfestival.com/.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Looking forward; dP dances R&J

To be young and in love against the wishes of family and friends is a timeless and eminently romantic tale. Long before William Shakespeare turned Juliet and Romeo into household names, stories of the star-crossed pair were lore. 


Photo by Eduardo Patino.

In celebration of Shakespeare's 450th birthday and for its 25th anniversary, Dances Patrelle (dP) performs "Romeo & Juliet," featuring Francis Patrelle's choreography, based on Shakespeare's play and Prokofiev's score. 

Each year, dP presents two seasons in New York City-- the holiday production of FP's "The Yorkville Nutcracker," and a spring repertory season featuring world premieres and favorites from FP's body of danceworks. For this year's offering, dP will be at Hunter College's Kaye Playhouse from September 11-14. 


The roles of Romeo and Juliet will be played by Alexander Castillo, a Bayside, NY native, who at 13 performed in Patrelle's "The Yorkville Nutcracker," now dancing on the West Coast, and Chloé Sherman, also originally a New Yorker featured in the "The Yorkville Nutcracker," as a student, who is now in the Los Angeles Ballet company.   FP has wrought a wide range of styles in his repertory, from the strictly classical to the contemporary with stops at the American Songbook along the way, always finding the drama in the dance. His "Romeo & Juliet" celebrates the soulful tragedy in the best classicist form.

In 2013, dP was named the resident ballet company of the Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in Tivoli, NY. 

For more information, visit www.dancespatrelle.org.




Monday, July 21, 2014

In Loving Memory: "The Pianist Of Willesden Lane"

Mona Golabek stars in "The Pianist Of Willesden Lane," adapted (from the book The Children of Willesden Lane) and directed by Hershey Felder, which launches the inaugural 5A Season at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

There are those memories which stir the heart and inspire. Mona Golabek shares some of hers with us in "The Pianist of Willesden Lane," a lovely  tribute to her mother, playing at 59E59 Theaters through August 24th, Lisa Jura, who survived the ravages of WWII to achieve the success she dreamt of as a young girl in Vienna. 
Mona Golabek stars in "The Pianist Of Willesden Lane," adapted (from the book The Children of Willesden Lane) and directed by Hershey Felder, which launches the inaugural 5A Season at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Like her mother, Mona Golabek is a musician with world-renown, whose memory play is accompanied by her performance at the piano.  "The Pianist of Willesden Lane" is told in words and music, beginning with Lisa's first encounter with the Nazis that make Vienna unsafe for her, and continuing to her concert debut in London some years later.

"I had always known they were there, but I hadn't really seen them before-- ugly men with rifles, armbands-- they were everywhere...," Lisa says. She is just fourteen and her parents are able to send her to England on the Kindertransport.

Lisa Jura finds her way in England, with the help of friends she makes along the way, and ends up at the London Royal Academy of Music.

Mona Golabek speaks mostly as Lisa Jura and narrates in other voices, as well as,  in telling Lisa's story. Golabek deftly plays the piano pieces that weaves the backdrop to Lisa's life.  "The Pianist of Willesden Lane" is a charming, moving and inspiring tale, beautifully-wrought and elegantly presented, based on Mona Golabek's memoir, written with Lee Cohen, and adapted for the stage by Hershey Felder, who also directs. The staging, with scenic design by Trevor Hay and Hershey Felder, is very affecting as well. The production originated at Los Angeles' Geffen Playhouse, and is the first play staged as part of 59E59's new Series 5A.

To learn more about  "The Pianist of Willesden Lane," please visit www.59e59.org.