Thursday, December 26, 2013

We're "Dancing In the Dark:" Barb Jungr's Holiday Show




Barb Jungr explores what she calls the "New American Songbook," distinguishing it from the traditional lounge fare of the "Great American Songbook." Hers is cabaret forged in the crucible of folk and rock.

Barb Jungr, with Tracy Stark on piano, in "Dancing In The Dark" at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Jungr reinterprets Dylan, McCartney-Lennon, Leonard Cohen, Kristofferson, and Carole King. Hers are tantalizing readings of the lyrics and music. Familiar tunes by Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell and Hank Williams are teased to fit her style.  


Barb Jungr, in "Dancing In The Dark" at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg
"Dancing in the Dark," at 59E59 Theaters through December 29th, Jungr says is just what we're all doing. Her show is about muddling through the long winter nights, heartache and the human condition.

Yes, that's Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" in the title and on the bill. But it's Cohen and Bob Dylan who are Jungr's main soul mates. 

Humor moves Barb Jungr through the gloom with which she flirts so casually. Jungr rocks hard, with passion and intelligence. Lucky are her fans who did not come as late to know her as did this reviewer.

A highlight from the playlist is Jungr's own "Till My Broken Heart Mends," written with Michael Parker, which she sings with her talented pianist, Tracy Stark.

Hurry, visit www.59e59.org for tickets; the show runs through Sunday December 29th.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Handle With Care"

Broadway legend, Carol Lawrence (Tony nominated for her role as Maria in the classic "West Side Story") is Edna in Jason Odell Williams' comedy-drama-romance "Handle With Care," at the Westside Theatre/Downstaits. Directed by Karen Carpenter, the play for an ensemble of four runs  through March 30, 2014. Photo by Doug Denoff.

It's easy enough to acknowledge that the heart is a delicate organ. 

In Jason Odell Williams' "Handle With Care," at the Westside Theatre through March 30th, a trip to America is meant to help heal a broken heart and revitalize an old flame. These longings of the heart lead to strange coincidences in this charming little dramedy.


Charlotte Cohn and Carol Lawrence in Jason Odell Williams' "Handle With Care," at the Westside Theatre/Downstairs, directed by Karen Carpenter. Photo by Doug Denoff.

Edna (Carol Lawrence, Tony-nominated for her role as Maria in "West Side Story") brings her granddaughter Ayelet (Charlotte Cohn) with her from their home in Israel on a quest in small-town America. While at a motel in Goodview, Virginia, Ayelet's beloved "safta" dies and she entrusts DHX to ship the body home. DHX may be reliable but shlubby Terrence (Sheffield Chastain) is decidedly not.
Charlotte Cohn, Jonathan Sale and Sheffield Chastain in
"Handle With Care." Photo by Doug Denoff.


"Handle With Care" opens with Ayelet name-calling Terrence in Hebrew over the loss of her grandmother's body. In desperation, Terrence calls in his boyhood buddy, Josh (Jonathan Sale) to interpret.
"You speak Jewish, don't you?," Terrence implores.

Cohn's Hebrew rant is wonderfully mellifluent. It has spice and plays beautifully off Chastain's naif dumbfoundedness.

As the play moves back and forth in seamless and well-placed flashbacks, the cast under Karen Carpenter's direction makes the most out of the situation. "Handle With Care" is a holiday romance, in all senses of the word-- love, adventure, with a touch of the supernatural-- and it is utterly enjoyable.

For more information about "Handle With Care," please visit http://www.handlewithcaretheplay.com/.





Monday, December 16, 2013

The Exquisite Assistant

David Costabile and John Ellison Conlee in Madeleine George's "The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence" at Playwrights Horizons under the direction of Leigh Silverman, and playing through December 29th.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

Say "Watson" and I think Sherlock Holmes.

Apparently so does Madeleine George, the author behind "The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence," at Playwrights Horizons through December 29th.



George does not limit herself however merely to the one Watson, but also imagines Alexander Graham Bell's assistant, Thomas Watson, and the IBM computer that beat Jeopardy's best. All the "Watsons," (John Ellison Conlee,)  including the fictional one created for the play who is a techie on the "Dweeb Team" aim to please. They are, in many ways perfect companions, whose desire to serve their "master's" and divine their needs.

As helpful as Watson is, so obstructive is Merrick (David Costabile). In his various incarnations as a techno-phobic paranoiac, as an  inventor out to destroy his wife, he is the least likable man on the stage, not to say the planet.

Eliza (Amanda Quaid) is the object of Merrick's affections and distrust. Granted, she is not the only one he distrusts. Merrick's rants against the government are poisonously amusing.


Eliza is building a computer, based on IBM's "Watson," that will understand what she wants. A great asssitant anticipates your desires. Eliza's encounter with the techie Watson whom her husband, Frank Merrick, hires to follow her confuses her emotional landscape. In him she finds the living embodiment of the robot she is designing.

Eliza with the Watson robot she is programming: Amanda Quaid and John Ellison Conlee. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The concept, nicely executed by the actors under Leigh Silverman's able direction, is neat and fascinating, but like human interactions unpredictability. In many ways, the idea behind the play is frittered away by the many paths the plot takes. It's an entertaining and thought-provoking foray, but it ultimately disappoints.

For more information on "The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence," please visit
http://www.playwrightshorizons.org/shows/plays/curious-case-watson-intelligence/

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Exploring A Hertiage In "Dance and the Railroad:" David Henry Hwang's Signature Year


Opera and the operatic have been good to David Henry Hwang. "M Butterfly," a unique retelling of the grand opera, "Madame Butterfly," won the Tony for Best Play and BD Wong  as a Featured Actor in 1988. John Lithgow was a nominee for Best Actor in this huge Broadway hit. Hwang has also worked on operas with the likes of Philip Glass, Bright Sheng, Osvaldo Golijov, Phil Collins and Howard Shore.

"Dance and the Railroad," which was at Signature Center's Griffin Theatre last season, is not an opera, but it showcases a Chinese opera performer, Lone (Yuekun Wu) and his accolyte, Ma (Ruy Iskandar) as they practice their art while their fellow railworkers go on strike.

Hwang is the current Playwright in Residence at The Signature. His next play, "Kung Fu" with Cole Horibe as Bruce Lee, will have its world premiere in February-March 2014.

For more information and to book tickets, visit Signature Theatre's website.

Paris Swings

Peter Anderson (clarinet), Will Anderson (sax),
Luc Decker (drums), Clovis Nicolas (bass), and
Alex Wintz (guitar) in "Le Jazz Hot How The
French Saved Jazz"
at 59E59 Theaters.
Photo by Eileen O'Donnell
"Love, Linda- The Life of Mrs.
Cole Porter,"
at The York
Theatre Company. Photos by
Carol Rosegg.
It's no canard that the French took to American jazz like a duck to water.

Starting in the 1920's, American musicians fled to the receptive shores of the Seine (and the Riviera) to enjoy a lively and welcoming cabaret scene. 


Among those were Les Cole Porters, as well as ex-pats Josephine Baker and Sidney Bichet. Bud Powell, Kenny Clark and Dizzy Gillespie felt right at home in France. Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong also made appearances before an admiring public.

Stevie Holland's and Gary William Friedman's "Love, Linda- The Life of Mrs. Cole Porter," premiering at The York Theatre Company through January 5th, tells the story of Cole Porter as husband. Cole and Linda Porter (Stevie Holland) set up house in one of the fashionable arrondissments and entertained lavishly, and enjpyed the cabaret life of the city.  "Love, Linda" documents in story and with songs by Cole Porter (arranged for "Love, Linda..." by Friedman) their life from Europe and back to the States. Cole Porter wrote music for revues, but met his first success wth the Broadway show "Paris," from which the hit "Let's Do It/Let's Fall In Love" emerged.
Stevie Holland is Linda Porter in "Love, Linda..." Sets by James Morgan, costumes by Pamela Dennis. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
"Love, Linda..." covers a lot more ground than just the Porters' sojourn in France. Linda Lee Thomas  was Cole's senior  by nearly a decade, and married at the time they met. While aware of his homosexuality, she was drawn to his talent and gentleness, a contrast to her first husband's brutality. Their marriage was more thna just one of convenience. Linda nurtured Cole's art. 

"The appreciation of beauty," Linda quotes her mother as saying, "is taste. The creation of  beauty is art."
Holland is supported by music director Christopher McGovern on piano, Alex Wyatt on drums, and Danny Weller on bass. Richard Maltby, Jr. helms Linda's story, which is cogently told in story and music. 

Peter and Will Anderson lead their "Le Jazz Hot" quintet. Photo by Eileen O'Donnell
"Le Jazz Hot- How The French Saved Jazz," at 59E59 Theater's E-Cafe through December 29th, takes an overview of Paris and its jazz scene from the years when Josephine Baker awed (and shocked) the world to the 50's and 60's, when Kenny Clarke and Bud Powell were regulars in the boites.

Peter and Will Anderson (sax, clarinets, flute) with Alex Wintz on guitar, Luc Decker on drums, and Clovis Nicolas on bass. (At other performances, you might encounter guitarist Randy Napoleon, bassist Neal Miner and drummer Phil Stewart on the small stage.) The apex of their virtuosity is in the performance of Duke Ellington's "Paris Blues." "La Vie en Rose" is pleasantly familiar while Django Reinhardt's "Manoir de Mes Reves" is hauntingly unfamiliar.

Cabaret mixed with informative film clips makes "Le Jazz Hot" an amiable entertainment.

For more information about "Love, Linda...," visit http://www.lovelindathemusical.com/. To learn more about "Le Jazz Hot," please visit 59e59.org.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The vast terrain of theatrical history

Carol Schultz (seated) with Micah Stock standing behind her, Dominic Cuskern, Rachel Botchan, and Sean McNall in a scene from Terrence McNally's "And Away We Go" at the Pearl Theatre through December 15th.
Photos by Al Foote III.

Theater has evolved over the centuries. Greek tragedies and comedies had state sponsorship, and free admission for all. Time moves on, and the theater continues to serve different audiences in different times. State assistance can also bring censorship, of course. With privatization come the headaches of raising funds to keep the shows going.  

Donna Lynne Champlin, Dominic Cuskern, Carol Schultz,
Micah Stock and Sean McNall.  Photo by Al Foote III.
Meant as a love poem to theater and its folk, Terrence McNally's "And Away We Go," at the Pearl Theatre Company through December 15th, mashes the traditions and tribulations of actors, acting and acting companies into a historical pastiche.

As it goes traipsing across the vast panoply of theater history, "And Away We Go," ambles through the Greek festivals, over to Richard Burbage's English stage, to the French and Russian revolutions and the playwrights who embodied them, to the impecunious present with a brief stop for Bert Lahr's "Waiting for Godot" in Coconut Grove in 1956. 

"And Away We Go" succeeds at being sometimes funny, sometimes maudlin, occasionally insightful, sometimes dreary, with the French (Versailles 1789) and Russian (Moscow Art Theatre 1896) sequences gratuitous and poorly executed. Many theatrical styles and periods are overlooked, others are overbooked.

The Greeks practiced a long form that has continually been whittled down so that McNally and his contemporaries tend towards the shorter play. "And Away We Go" attempts to find its perspective and cover the full range of theatrical history in under two intermission-less hours. 

By the way, I learned that it was the French who brought us the interval. In Shakespeare's time, the audience came and went as the actors performed.

Given the breadth of this survey, it would appear that McNally isn't aware that you can't do it all in one evening. Sandra Goldmark has created a scenic design that makes the stage look like a gigantic prop room. It's also a busy day at the office for the Pearl's troupe, all of whom are more than willing to tackle McNally's short but expansive text. 

Sean McNall and Dominic Cuskern, both Pearl Company regulars, distinguished themselves well. Both Carol Schultz and Rachel Botchan, also long time Company members, gave fine performances, with Ms. Schultz doing a particularly nice turn as Shirley Channing, executive director of a resident theatre company.
Donna Lynne Champlin, a Broadway and off-Broadway vet making her first Pearl appearance, was very very good in all her many roles. Micah Stock, another guest at the Pearl, had some difficulty with his French playwright, Christophe Durant, but was very good as Pallas, a member of the Greek chorus, and Kenny Tobias of the Coconut Grove concession stand.

For more information about "And Away We Go," and the Pearl Theatre Company, please visit the Pearl website.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Murder Most Delightfully Abominable

What would you do if you discovered that you were an heir to a distinguished family? One that had denied your existence and birthright and driven you and your mother into poverty?

The answer in "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder," at the Walter Kerr Theatre in an open run,  is to have our disinherited hero kill his way to the top.


Jane Carr as Miss Shingle and Bryce Pinkham as Monty Navarro in a scene from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" at the Walter Kerr Theater. "You're a D'Ysquith," Miss Shingle informs Monty. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

In a world in which motives for murder are so often random, it's refreshing to see how carefully planned Monty Navarro's (Bryce Pinkham) ascension is. All the mayhem he bestows is sweetly done, but Monty finds he has a knack for it. Here's a young man who finds purpose and a new skill.

Joanna Glushak as Lady Eugenia, Lauren Worsham as Phoebe D'Ysquith, Bryce Pinkham as Monty Navarro, Lisa O'Hare as Sibella Hallward, and Jefferson Mays as Lord Adalbert D'Ysquith, "Looking down the barrel of a gun" from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" at the Walter Kerr Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

"A Gentleman's Guide.." has a book (and lyrics) by Robert L. Freedman, based like the Alec Guiness film,"Kind Hearts and Coronets" on Roy Horniman's Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal. The music, and additional lyrics, by Steven Lutvak, that accompanies all this silliness is superbly light and airy. The lyrics  match the froth of the score inserting clever plot points  to move the story along.

The relatives Monty is despatching, improvising as he goes, (all played by Jefferson Mays) are a varied lot of upper crust fops, toffs, fools, and snobs.
Jefferson Mays as Henry D'Ysquith, Jennifer Smith, and Bryce Pinkham
as Monty Navarro in a scene from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder"
 at the Walter Kerr Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

Bryce Pinkham is an amiably baby-faced murderer. He sticks to the spirit of the script executing his killing spree with a wink and an air of surprise. Jefferson Mays, in turn, is all bluster as one high-toned relative, gently ridiculous as another, always clearily enjoying himself. The cast led by Pinkham and Mays are as bright as a new penny.

There are three other stand-outs in this fine ensemble. Lisa O'Hare as Monty's love-interest  Sibella Hallward is fetchingly coquettish, while Lauren Worsham as Monty's cousin Phoebe D'Ysquith is beautifully eccentric. Both women have wonderful voices, and excellent comic delivery. The third is Joanna Glushak who grandly steps out of the chorus as Lady Eugenia, Adalbert D'Ysquith's dyspeptic spouse.

Lisa O'Hare as Sibella Hallward and Bryce Pinkham as Monty
Navarro in a scene from "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder"
at the Walter Kerr  Theater. Photo credit: Joan Marcus.


Deftly directed by Darko Tresnjak, the British import is as pleasanly insubstantial. The sets, by Alexander Dodge, feature a puppet stage inset on which mostly the indoor scenes are played; like the book, music and lyrics, the set is cleverly done and there are effects that amuse. Despite all the wit and talent in "A Gentleman's Guide..," the play is a trifle, a fluffy, flimsy and enjoyable romp.

Do you ever wonder whywe find murder, while we decry the crime, such satisfying entertainment. In "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder," it is the pleasure of watching the underdog get even and get away with it. "A Gentleman's Guide..." is pure escapism, a beach read for a winter's eve.

Please visit agentlemansguidebroadway.com to find out more about "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder."


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Theater for the Holidays: A Veritable Feast Awaits

The holidays are fast approaching. Here are some theatrical events to help you give thanks and jubiliation, and celebrate with cheer: 


Enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving with the 99% when Around the Block presents its second installment of Recovery Blip Or Double Dip?--  short plays on the everyday struggles of the 99%.
By Wayne Wilkinson [CC-BY-2.0
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons



In 2004 Around The Block  / Al Doblar La Esquina won an OBIE citation for being one of the producing companies for The Imagine Festival, focused on urban poverty and economic survival.  The reprise of the festival features six one-act plays by Marcia Slatkin, Nina Howes, Carlos Jerome, Edgar Chisholm, William Marley and Allan Yashin.

The off-beat Thanksgiving event will run from November 27th through December 1st at the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre,  312 West 36th Street (1st floor). For tickets and information, call 1-800-838-3006 or visit  http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/510663.


By Maryland Pride (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL
(http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

From November 29th to December 1st, Avenue Q’s John Tartaglia brings Jim Henson’s "Dinosaur Train – Live! Buddy’s Big Adventure" to NYU Skirball Center, as part of the venue’s 2013-14 Big Red Chair Family Series. Premium Orchestra ticket holders will have the opportunity for a 15 min post-show Meet & Greet with at least one character from the production in costume. Join us one hour prior to each performance for educational activities: come learn about dinosaurs and create your own dino puppet! For more information and tickets, visit nyuskirball.org, or call 212.352.3101

On December 19th, 20th, and 21st at 7pm at  St. John's Lutheran Church, 81 Christopher Street, Peter Filichia's "Adam's Gift" riffs on Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." Tickets are FREE. but you must have a reservation and please make a suggested donation to St. John's at the door. Reserve your tickets at, info@adamsgiftstheshow.com.
By Woudloper (Own work) [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

Traditions are a big part of the holidays, so join Urban Stages in their fifth season of A Twelve Night Musical Celebration including Musical Theatre, Cabaret, Jazz and more to benefit Arts and Education. Winter Rhythms 2013 will include a Centennial Celebration of Mary Martin, Sinatra at the Movies, and A Salute to Singers/Songwriters of the 70s. Look for performances from the likes of Karen Akers, Leslie Uggams, Lynn Cohen, T. Oliver Reid, among many others at Urban Stages Theater from December 3-15, 2013. Tickets may be purchased by visiting www.SmartTix.com or calling 212 868-4444 for all performances. For a full schedule and more information, please go to www.urbanstages.org.


Brothers Grimm on a German stamp, 1959.
By Bert Jäger (scanned by NobbiP) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Another holiday tradition is the Axis Theatre's Annual Family Holiday Show, in its 12th year, "Seven in One Blow, or the Brave Little Kid." Adapted from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale by Randy Sharp, who also composed the music and directs the show, "Seven in One Blow" plays from December 6-22, with proceeds from the December 14th performance going to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.  For more information, go to www.AxisCompany.org or call 212.352.3101.
By Rominak (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0
 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Wild Project has its own spirit of celebration for the holidays. These are shows strictly not for your youngsters. The original musical parody of Mad Men, "The Mad World of Miss Hathaway"  features unlimited amounts of booze, broads and bawdy good times.  Its return run is from Friday December 13th though Sunday December 16th. From the 19th through the 22nd, "Nicholas Gorham's White Hot Christmas," invites you to learn the true spirit of Christmas, which for this Hollywood star is money and glamour. Check out the full schedule of holiday treats from The Wild Project at www.thewildproject.com or by calling   212.352.3101.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Did Jack Ruby Act Alone?

Charlotte Maier, Bob Ari, and Max Gordon Moore in "Witnessed by the World," written by Ronnie Cohen and Jane Beale and directed by Karen Carpenter. Photo by Douglas Denoff
Real life mysteries, like the assasination of JFK, have an endless fascination.  Keeping evidence sealed on the grounds that it is of importance to our national security practically invites conspiracy theories.  The Warren Commission left so many questions unanswered that it was bound to leave suspicions hanging.

This is the starting point for "Witnessed By The World," at 59E59 Theaters through December 15th.

Max Gordon Moore and Charlotte Maier in "Witnessed by the World," written by Ronnie Cohen and Jane Beale and directed by Karen Carpenter. Photo by Douglas Denoff
Joan Ross (Charlotte Maier) is a dogged reporter holding on to a particularly tough bone; Joan is sure that
the mob  killed both Kennedy brothers 50 years ago.
Bob Ari and Joe Tapper in "Witnessed by the World," written by Ronnie Cohen and Jane Beale and directed by Karen Carpenter. Photo by Douglas Denoff
As it happens, Joan lucks into a film that Ira Basil (Max Gordon Moore) is writing, "The Untitled Mafia Project." Luck, of course, is a relative term, but she steers Ira towards the mob and Jack Ruby angle for his movie. As Ira envisions it, the film will end before the incidents in Dallas 1963, with a picture of  how Jack got involved in mob activities. Jack Ruby, born Jacob Rubenstein and one of eight children growing up in poverty, loved the high life.

Charlotte Maier and Lois Markle in "Witnessed by the World," written by Ronnie Cohen and Jane Beale and directed by Karen Carpenter. Photo by Douglas Denoff

Joan tracks down his only living sister, Eileen Kaminsky (Lois Markle) to help her with the background. In the process, she uncovers the key to the JFK-Mafia link that she so tenanciouly wants to pursue. Why did Jack Ruby kill Lee Harvey Oswald? Was it a cover-up? What don't we know about the Kennedy assassinations?

With such potentially explosive material, it's a shame that "Witnessed by the World" doesn't shimmer and scintilate. Certainly for the most part, it's engaging, but there are moments when interest flags. Joan's intensity can be off-putting, in fact, is probably meant to be off-putting, but there is a predictablilty to "Witnessed by the World" hwich lets it wind down and disappoint.

Charlotte Maier and Bob Ari in "Witnessed by the World," written by Ronnie Cohen and Jane Beale and directed by Karen Carpenter. Photo by Douglas Denoff
Rounding out the characters thag inhabit and inform "Witnessed by the World" are Joan's former boyfriend and current poker buddy, Aaron Spencer (Bob Ari) and his pal Joe Cappano (Joe Tapper.) Joey, to Joan's delight, would like to introduce her to "Uncle Tony," a mobster who knew Jack Ruby back in the day.

For a schedule, tickets and more information about "Witnessed by the World," please visit 59e59.org.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Living is about hope and joy

Janet Sarno as Mrs. Marcus, Teddy Coluca as Figliozzo, Bern Cohen
as Feltenstein (seated), and Evan Thompson as Grossman
in Richard Abrons' "Every Day A Visitor." Photo by Ronald L. Glassman.
Living to a ripe old age, as the somewhat unfortunate expression goes, has its drawbacks.

In Richard Abrons' new comedy, "Every Day A Visitor," at The Clurman in Theatre Row through December 14th, those disadvantages include bickering, monotony, and a diet too dependent on lentils and cabbage.  

Bob (Raphael Nash Thompson,) the orderly who oversees an old-age home in the Bronx, inspired by Figliozzo's (Teddy Coluca) deciding to "be" Fiorello LaGuardia,  finds a way to liberate those in his care. Play acting at politics is part of his scheme.

Henry Packer as Davidowitz, George Morfogen as Stoopak, Teddy Coluca as Figliozzo, Joan Porter as Mrs. Levy, Raphael Nash Thompson as Bob and Janet Sarno as Mrs. Marcus at a home for the aged in the Bronx in Richard Abrons' "Every Day A Visitor," at Theatre Row's Clurman Theatre through December 14th.  Photo by Ronald L. Glassman.
Bob appoints the melancholy Stoopak (George Morfogen) president in an effort to bring him closer to the other residents. Tilly Marcus (Janet Sarno), always game to play at anything, dons a hat and becomes Bella Abzug while Albert Grossman (Evan Thompson) eagerly takes on the persona of Alan Greenspan.

Even Feltenstein (Bern Cohen), the curmudgeon in residence, enjoys being Henry Kissinger.
Teddy Coluca and Joan Porter in a scene from
"Every Day A Visitor."
Photo by Ronald L. Glassman

Thanks to this little scheme of let's pretend, this
home for the aging is no longer dull. Stoopak's laws include "Joy" and that no one of them should die alone. "Every day a visitor," he decrees so that each of them would have company during a hospital stay.

Richard Abrons has written a sweet play about hope and community. Even in an end of life setting, there can be fun and the Stoopak rule of "Joy."

The cast of "Every Day A Visitor," ably directed by Margaret Perry, form a fine ensemble. Standing a little bit ahead of the pack is Joan Porter as Mrs. Levy, whose labor union duets with Davidowitz (Henry Packer) add a wonderful touch of harmony to "Every Day A Visitor."

 For more information about "Every Day A Visitor," visit them at Telecharge.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"All That Fall," Samuel Beckett's Radio Play: A funny thing happened on the way to the train station....


Weavving the extraordinary from the everyday is the poet's privilege and gift.

In Samuel Beckett's "All That Fall, A Radio Play," at 59E59 Theaters through December 8th under the direction of Trevor Nunn, the ordinary characters of an Irish country town are out and about on a fine morning.

Eileen Atkins, Catherine Cusack, Frank Grimes, and Billy Carter
in Samuel Beckett's "All That Fall,"  directed by Trevor Nunn,
at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
The aged Mrs. Rooney (Eileen Atkins) is on her way to the railroad station to meet her husband's train. Along the way, she complains and berates her neighbors as she goes.

Each of them is a slightly skewed stock figure on parade. Her first exchange is with Christy (Ruairi Conaghan), pulling his stubborn mare and dung cart. "How is your poor wife?," Mrs. Rooney inquires while Christy in turn offers her some dung. "What we want with dung at our time of life?"

Mrs. Rooney next encounters Mr. Tyler (Frank Grimes) on his bicycle, and Mr. Slocum (Trevor Cooper) offers her a lift in his automobile, and is tasked with hiking her up into the car.



But Mrs Rooney's crispest exchanges are with the stationmaster, Mr. Barrell (James Hayes), and the pious spinster, Miss Fitt (Catherine Cusack.) When Dan Rooney (Michael Gambon) finally comes off the train, led by the boy Jerry (Liam Thrift) he is all misery and bluster.

Michael Gambon as Dan Rooney and Eileen Atkins as Mrs. Rooney in "All That Fall," under the direction of Trevor Nunn at 59E59 Theaters through December 8th. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Staged as a radio play, with sound effects (with Paul Groothuis leading the sound design), and old -style microphones dangling from the ceiling across the nearly bare set (designed by Cherry Truluck), "All That Fall" is read from textts in the actors' hands. As gthe fine morning wears away, "All That Fall" is soggy and depressing.

For more information about "All That Fall," please visit 59e59.org.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Harlem Renaissance at "After Midnight"


"After Midnight," which started life as "Cotton Club Parade" in two seasons of the City Center Encores! series, can be found in good company. The long-running "Chicago," originated at Encores!, which generally revives shows that were short-lived in their first Broadway incarnation. An Encores! production generally mimics a late-phase workshop, with minimal scenery, few costumes, actors singing from books. It also always features a first-rate orchestra.

Daniel J. Watts, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Phillip Attmore in a tap number from "After Midnight." Photo by Matthew Murphy.
A few Encores! transfer to Broadway runs, like the recent "Finian's Rainbow" and "Chicago." Most don't enjoy the longevity or the long-leggedness of the latter. "After Midnight," at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre for an open run, was conceived by Jack Viertal as a tribute to the jazz palaces and night clubs of Harlem. It is a grand spectacle, with resplendent costumes by Isabel Toledo that are also a tribute to the era of big night clubs.
Dulé Hill has the world on a string, in "After Midnight." Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Framed by snippets of Langston Hughes' poetry, delivered by The Host, (Dulé Hill), fuelled by classic songs by the likes of Duke Ellington, Harold Arlen, Ethel Waters & Sidney Easton, "After Midnight" ultimately belongs to the band, The Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars conducted by Daryl Waters, and the dancers, choreographed by Warren Carlyle (who also directs.)

Tony-winner (for Doubt) Adriane Lenox is a lusty lady in "After Midnight." Photo by Matthew Murphy. 
Adriane Lenox, reprising her role from the Encores! show as a tough talking jazz singer, is brilliantly comedic as she lushly, and lustily, sings Sippie Wallace's "Women Be Wise" and Easton & Waters' "Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night."


Jared Grimes in a scene from "After Midnight" in a
photo by Matthew Murpy.
Julius "iGlide" Chisholm and Virgil
"Little O" Gadsen in "After Midnight."
Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Phillip Attmore's beautiful voice lovingly caresses Ted Koehler and Harold Arlen's "Happy As The Day Is Long," while he and his dance partner, Daniel J. Watts tap along.  Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Michael Jackson's tap coach, teaches us all a thing or two when she joins them in Koehler and Arlen's "Raisin' The Rent"/"Get Yourself a New Broom."

All the dancing is "oh" inspiring, and the snaky moves of "iGlide," (Julius Chisholm) are especially fascinating; here is a man whose moves are so supple, he seems to have no bones.
Fantasia Barrino, backed by The Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars (Adam Birnbaum on piano and conductor Daryl Watts, pictured) singing Dorothy Fields & Jimmy McHugh's "On The Sunny Side of the Street" in "After Midnight" Photo by Matthew Murphy.
The Cotton Club had "Celebrity Nights," and "After Midnight" aims to follow suit, with Fantasia as the Guest Star for now, and k.d. lang, Toni Braxton and Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds slated for future appearances.

Don't look for a story from "After Midnight," except for the vignettes in song that it delivers. This is strictly a night out watching a romanticized memory of the by gone night spots that once graced Harlem.

For more information about "After Midnight," visit www.aftermidnightbroadway.com.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

News from the rialto...

Just something I've always wanted to say. 

Not that we aren't bringing notable tidings. 

Here are some things to look forward to, some near term, and others off in the distant-- or maybe not so distant-- 2014:


Michael Gabriel Goodfriend as Ali Said and Amy Griffin as Eileen Finney in
"The English Bride" at 59E59 Theaters through November 17th. 

Photo by Bob Eberle.
Love is a powerful narcotic, especially for someone who feels as unworthy of it as Eileen Finney (Amy Griffin) in Lucille Lichtblau's "The English Bride." Eileen is duped by love for an Arab stranger, Ali Said (Michael Gabriel Goodfriend) into unwittingly committing an unspeakable act. 

Ezra Barnes as Dov and Amy Griffin as Eileen Finney in "The English Bride"
at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Bob Eberle


"The English Bride," in a NYC premiere at 59E59 Theaters (www.59e59.org) presented by the Centenary Stage Company, opens on October 30th and runs through November 17th, is based on the true story of the failed 1986 bombing of an El Al airplane. In Lucille Lichtblau's re-imagining of the events, Eileen is interrogated by a Mossad agent named Dov (Ezra Barnes.)  "The English Bride," is the winner of the 2011 Susan Glaspell Award.


The Play Company (www.playco.org) opens its 2013-14 season with a world premiere site-specific work by playwright Andy Bragen. In "This Is My Office," playing from November 5th through December 8th, the space in which the blocked writer, Andy Bragen (played by David Barlow) takes on a symbolic role which brings harmony, reconciliation and redemption.

Let's not forget to visit The Wild Project (www.thewildproject.com), where there are a slew of activities, on stage and screen. From November 8th through the 23rd, see Victor Liesniewski's "Cloven Tongues,"  featuring Casey Biggs, Catherine Curtin, Ema Laković and Alex Mickiewicz. In this drama about a brutalized woman and the social worker and priest who struggle to help her heal. Also at The Wild Project, "Hope is Expensive," performed and written by  by Jill Pangallo, playing on December 10th and 11th, is more of a darkly humorous look at our delusional culture.

On December 9th, The Public Theater (www.publictheater.org) will present a Public Forum Solo with Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz on income inequality and what the artistic community can do about it. "Rich and Poor" is the topic which will be addressed in the  conversation featuring artistts and activists following Stiglitz's talk.

Paul Taylor Dance Company's (www.ptdc.org) annual New York season will begin on March 12th and run through March 30th. During this year's celebration of PTDC, "American Dreamer," Paul Taylor's 139th dance piece, will be introduced on Wednesday, March 12th when the PTDC kicks off its Diamond season at the David H. Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center. 

The Diamond Gala Performance and Dinner is set for Thursday, March 13th. Gala tickets available at $850, $1,000, $2,500 and $5,000 (www.ptdc.org/gala). Diamond anniversariees seem to have some fluidity in their timelines, in the case of the PTDC, it is a mere 60 years old. On Friday, March 14th, Paul Taylor will unveil the 140th work of his long and prolific career. 







Monday, October 28, 2013

The Incidental Racist: "Honky" at Urban Stages

Existential crises come in varied forms.

There may be medical cures for many of them.

Kid 1 and 2 ( Reynaldo Pinella and DeLance Minefee) approach Davis (Philip Callen) on a subway platform in a scene from "Honky" by Greg Kellares at Urban Stages. Photo by Ben Hider.


For Peter (Dave Droxler), being white is the major embarrassment. White guilt, straight-out racism, both white and black, all rear their ugly little heads in "Honky." As each pops up, "Honky" blows it up and shoots it down.

Here is a comedy for the post-racial age. Until that comes to pass, "Honky" uses the tropes of advertising and marketing, in which profiling is professionally de rigueur. "Honky" explodes myths and slurs in a soft sell with a hard edge.

Emilia (Arie Bianca Thompson) counsels Peter (David Droxler) in a scene from "Honky" by Greg Kellares at Urban Stages through November 17th. Photo by Ben Hider.
Advertisers target their markets by demographics of lifestyle, income, race, something many of us prefer not to have our police do. In "Honky," the product is the SkyMax basketball shoe, designed by Thomas (Anthony Gaskins.) The SkyMax in it's various iterations aims to sell to "urban" youth, "code for black," the company's president, Davis (Philip Callen) freely admits.



Andie (Danielle Faitelson) meets Thomas (Anthony Gaskins) at a SkyMax party in a scene from "Honky" by Greg Kellares at Urban Stages through November 17th. Photo by Ben Hider.

While Peter goes to Emilia (Arie Bianca Thompson) for therapy to cure his guilt over an ad he created for the shoe, her brother Thomas beds Peter's girlfriend, Andie (Danielle Faitelson) to cure his own guilt and rage. Davis goes to Dr. Driscoll (Scott Barrow) for a cure that will save his job.

Greg Kellares, the ex-ad man who wrote this intelligent and serious comedy, takes aim at some of our society's most sensitive spots. Consumerism is another of his well-chosen targets in "Honky." The cast, led by Anthony Gaskins' conflicted hero, Thomas, and Peter Callen's unapologetic Davis, as well as the superlative Arie Bianca Thompson, is all first rate. Luke Harlan's gentle touch gives tribute to the subtle perspicacity of the script he's directing.

"Honky" is an amazingly insightful look at race, marketing, advertising, stereotyping and Dostoyevsky.

The 80 seat theater will fill up fast, so please go to http://urbanstages.org/honky to learn more about "Honky." 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"A Time To Kill" also offers a time to heal

John Grisham is a masterful story teller. His plots are full of intimate and expert details of the workings of courtroom proceedings.

Ashley Williams, Sebastian Arcelus and Tom Skerritt in Broadway's A"A TimeTo Kill". (c) Carol Rosegg

In "A Time To Kill," based on Grisham's classic best-selling novel written in 1989 and turned into a blockbuster movie in 1996, the plot is a scintillating mixture of  racism, rape, and murder.


Set in Ford County, Mississippi in the early 1980's, "A Time To Kill"  revolves around Carl Lee Hailey (John Douglas Thompson), the father of a ten year old rape victim who kills the two men who raped his little girl. Carl Lee is black and Billy Ray Cobb (Lee Sellars) and Pete Willard (Dashiell Eaves) are white.

As  adapted by Rupert Holmes for the stage, "A Time To Kill" moves quickly from the men's admission of the crime to Carl Lee's dramatic courthouse killing.
Jake Brigance (Sebastian Arcelus) agrees to defend Carl Lee. His defense centers on the testimony of an unreliable psychiatrist, Dr. W.T. Bass (John Procaccino) brought in by Jake's old disbarred mentor, the drunken Lucien Wilbanks (Tom Skerritt).

Jake reluctantly takes on help in the form of an ambitious liberal Boston law student, Ellen Roark (Ashley Williams in an auspicious Broadway debut) as a de facto law clerk.  Judge Omar Noose (Fred Dalton Thompson) predictably refuses them the change of venue they request, and the trial is on.
 Tijuana Ricks as court reporter Norma Gallo, Patrick Page as
District Attorney Rufus R. Buckley, Fred Dalton Thompson as Judge Omar Noose,
 and John Douglas Thompson as Carl Lee Hailey
in Broadway's "A TimeTo Kill". (c) Carol Rosegg

Their unctuous opponent, Rufus R. Buckley (Patrick Page), the district attorney for nearby Polk County, is prosecuting the case with aims for the Governor's mansion.

The scenic designs by James Noone make use of a circular backdrop of slats that move us from courtroom to Jake's office smoothly but dramatically. There are some wondrous special effects for which the Technical Supervisor, Peter Fulbright should be applauded.

In the large, well-directed (by Ethan McSweeny) cast, John Douglas Thompson's Carl Lee is stalwartly portrayed. Also standing out are Patrick Page whose Buckley is opportunistic and slimy. Sebastian Arcelus is commendable and appealing as the young attorney, who is both of his place in time and beyond it.  We've already welcomed Ashley Williams for her charming turn as the tough and genius-- "it runs in the family"-- Ellen Roark.

It feels like a bit of wishful hindsight of racial harmony in Rupert Holmes' vision of "A Time To Kill" undermining the premise of the story. It's a very moving production, but this small point has to be asked: How does a black sheriff, Ozzie Walls (well played by Chike Johnson) get elected in a county teeming with KKK. A Grisham novel, while always a page-bruner, isn't elegantly written; it runs on the plots and Grisham's insights into the legal system. It's wise to see the movie or, as in this case, the stage version.

Despite the grim facts of "A Time To Kill," there is a lightness and ease in the drama. Rupert Holmes, no stranger to imaginative adaptations ("The Mystery of Edwin Drood," recently at Roundabout, for an instance), has solidified and shortened Grisham's plot to intensify its theatrical qualities. "A Time To Kill" is a solid Broadway hit.

For more about "A Time To Kill," please visit http://atimetokillonbroadway.com/

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

From the book to the screen, and onto the stage

Movies and theater are such different meda. Even though they often have much in common, they are two separate worlds.

Cast of "A Time To Kill" in a photo by Carol Rosegg.
One point of intersection is that both employ the skills of actors and directors. Another is that both in film and on the stage, those actors recite words written by scene writers, whether we call them script writers or playwrights.

Finally both at the cinema and in the theater, the audience is invited into a world envisioned for them by the actors and writers, directors, stage managers or cinematographers, costume and set designers. The story or plot can come from a book or the mind of the writer, from headlines (as expressed by the appetizing phrase "ripped from the headlines"), or from everyday life.

Movie-makers and theater-makers transport us outside of ourselves to worlds and places that we imagine together as their stories unfold. Therein lies the magic.

We're looking forward to seeing how John Grisham's book, "A Time To Kill," lately embodied in a movie starring Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, among others, translates to the stage.

Can't wait to see "A Time To Kill," adapted by Rupert Holmes, at The Golden Theater. For more on the production, visit http://atimetokillonbroadway.com/.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"The Winslow Boy" --Pyrrhic Victory Or Unleavened Triumph?

Photo by Joan Marcus. Terence Rattigan's "The Winslow Boy" at Roundabout Theatre Company's American Airlines Theatre, clsoing December 1st. Charlotte Parry as Kate Winslow with Zachary Booth as Dickie Winslow.

There are playwrights who have been forgotten and then there are those who have been neglected at our peril. Terence Rattigan was a popular writer before new voices of malcontent and unrest appeared on the scene. The oft-called "angry young men" were eager to break new theatrical ground and fight new universalist battles. Rattigan was a master of old-fashioned dramaturgy, whose subjects were often also universalist battles.


In "The Winslow Boy," certainly, based on an actual case, Rattigan resonates with ideas of personal freedom and the right to vindicate ourselves against untrue allegations by those in positions of power. "The Winslow Boy" transcends the drawing room in which it is so gracefully set by Peter McKintosh to attack issues of due process and inalienable rights.

"The Winslow Boy" harkens to quaint ideas about parental approval and filial obligations. It takes place around 1912, before the "great war," when women's suffrage, Kate Winslow's (the wonderful and winsome Charlotte Parry) raison d'etre, is considered a lost cause. Sir Robert Morton (a superbly cool Alessandro Nivola), the advocate Arthur Winslow (the marvelous Roger Rees) hires to defend his son, Ronnie (a lovely Broadway newcomer Spencer Davis Milford) against allegations of theft speaks to the difference of what is right and what is just. Sir Robert dedicates himself to the cause of "The Winslow Boy" in the interests of the former. That, too, may seem a bit quaint. 


Yet it is very much still a timely question of whether the powerful can attempt to impose their version of the truth with impunity if the rest of us do not abrogate our right to fight against it.


Arthur Winslow is a highly practical man. Yet he sacrifices his family's security for the sake of what is right. If Ronnie-- "The Winslow Boy"-- has been falsely accused by the Admiralty, then his name should be cleared."The Winslow Boy" himself stands at the center of the fuss as disinterested as he is innocent. He is, as his brother Dickie (Zachary Booth) puts it, and ordinary boy, who "sometimes doesn't wash." Ronnie is oblivious of the concerns of his family or the troubles  they are undertaking on his behalf. 
Charlotte Parry, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and
Spencer Davis Milford. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The charm of the writing in "The Winslow Boy," articulated by the actors with equal charm gives the "tempest in a teapot" story broader reach. "The Winslow Boy" is at once humanistic and realistic about its subject. It dares to question our reactions while pointing us to the broader picture.



Under the excellent direction of Lindsay Posner, there are some wonderful performances from the  large cast in this production: Michael Cumpsty is peerless as the hapless Desmond Curry; Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is superb as the patiently suffering wife and mother, Grace Winslow. Henny Russell is etouchingly amusing as the Winslows' loyal, inept and untrained parlor maid, Violet. Chandler Williams gives a  fine portrayal as Kate's exasperated fiance, John Watherstone; he also cuts a nifty military figure in his resplendent uniform (also courtesy of Mr. McKintosh's design.) Rounding out the ensemble are Meredith Florenza in a small but meaty role as a reporter, Miss Barnes, interested only in the women's point of view on the case; and Stephen Pilkington as her associate, the photographer Fred.

To find out more about this production of "The Winslow Boy," which plays at the American Airlines Theatre through December 1, please visit Roundabout Theatre Company.