Thursday, November 19, 2015
Making quite a substantial Broadway debut is the delightful Keira Knightley (Therese Raquin). The ensemble generously supporting the titular character includes the stalwart Judith Light (Madame Raquin) and adorably obnoxious Gabriel Ebert (Camille Raquin) as the adopted family of Therese - her father died and her aunt and aunt's son became her family at an early age. Rounding out the ensemble is the hunky and handsome suitor, Laurant (Matt Ryan).
What we have here is a twisted and overbearing mother who raised a weak, obnoxious, nelly-boy son and married her off to his first cousin who was raised in the same household because her father died at an early age. Locked in a loveless (and sexless) marriage, the heat turns up when the obnoxious nelly-boy's best friend finds himself intensely drawn to Therese - - that's when the sparks (and sex) fly. Laurent, Therese, and Camille all go out on a boat (yes there is a real lake on the stage). Laurent knocks the weak Camille off the boat and he drowns. After a few months, the two can finally be together - but will Camille haunt them from the grave? Is the guilt of killing Madame Raquin's only son too much to bare? When Madame Raquin accidentally finds out (a note for the director here - i thought this part of the show was not as clear as it could have been as we do not actually see her overhear something) will she expose the two for the murderers they are?
On a different note, I suspect this play is based on a bit more detailed source material (novel 1867, play1873) . However when translating to this stage it seems the the character of Suzanne (Mary Wiseman) must have been more developed in the source material because her character on stage was incomplete. Did we need to know she had a suitor (happy) and then her father chased the man away (grumpy)? I saw no purpose to this story line. Perhaps the book elaborates.
Sets by Beowulf Boritt were magnificent - some flying in, a literal lake on stage, one hovering in mid air. The actors were not mic'd as far as I could tell and it seemed very appropriate. Sound (Josh Schmidt) , however was ingeniously integrated with tones and ambient sounds during and between scenes. To find out how all this resolves, head over to Studio 54 and catch these fine actors practicing their craft. Just don't expect time to pass quickly.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Belgian experimental Director Ivo Van Hove's minimalist production is ominous and eerily powerful. The sparse and tiny stage (made tiny mostly by adding 70 stadium style seats on either side of the stage where the wings used to be is part of the reason). The innovative staging is reminiscent of a cage match where the actors, all barefoot by the way, engage in a brawl for two hours. Jan Verswayveld's set and mechanical box that raises and lowers around the set are a simple and brilliant idea. Tom Gibbons' sounds reverberate and persist throughout the show adding drama and mystery to the already potent situation.
The mostly-Brit cast does an upstanding job at putting on their Brooklyn-eese. Even when they slip on a word here or there, you never really mind that much because the tension they are all adept at creating and maintaining is masterful. Complain if you will about two brothers straight off the boat from Italy who don't have an Italian accent whatsoever. I don't think this production is much about authenticity, but rather a trimmed down version of the story with a singular focus of intensity, mystery, and drama. Mark Strong (Eddie), Phoebe Fox (Catherine), Nicoa Walker (Beatrice) form the core Red Hook, Brooklyn family, torn by traditions and a desire to grow and be successful in America. The extremely hunky and dashing Russell Tovey (Rudolpho) and svelte Michael Zegan (Marco) are the mysterious interloper illegal immigrants from Italy. Michael Gould (Alfieri) plays the "Greek Chorus" or narrator by lurking most of the show around the outside of the ring explaining what is going to happen. When he steps in the ring as a participant in the battle, he, too, removes his shoes.
This production is nothing short of pure brilliance. The 140 or so people in the stage seating, by far, saw an entirely different play than the people out in the standard theater seats. Those in the balcony quite possibly didn't even see portions of the play. Regardless, the bloodbath on W45th will leave you shaken.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
The playwright was careful not to vilify either side of the argument for or against but rather to tell a tender story that reveals how the grandeur of this building affected the lives of two very different people in this great big city of ours. Joseph Lanzarote (Clyde Baldo) is an older English teacher - a smart, staunch, art lover and lonely wordsmith who wants to save the grand space. Paul Abbot (Matthew Pilieci) plays a construction worker charged with taking the structure down. Two unlikely, yet fast friends - Joseph an observer and lover of the architecture, Paul, oddly, a photographer at the same time demolition team member. They share a common attraction despite being totally opposites in class, education, and life in general. We find through their meetings and banter over the year that both have a deep connection to the station through family members.
The show features grand projections that turn the stage into the grand station itself from various angles and times. We'll forever argue about the wisdom of tearing the station down, but one thing is true no matter what - millions passed through the edifice and the edifice affected so many people in countless ways. This was just one of the millions of stories out there. A link to the show's website which provides many more pictures and documentation on the show and its subject matter - http://theeternalspaceplay.com
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Let me be clear here - the actors were magnificent at the character acting contained throughout- not the least of which was the uber adorable and talented Carson Elrod (Sam Greedy) as an over the top fashion designer. The other actors all played multiple characters - including a single woman who played all the female parts.
The trouble here isn't the lighting (it was great), sound (it was great) or fairly good direction and blocking (very creative use of the stage) on a small stage with limited scenery (Moritz von Steulpnagel). It's that the play itself by Nick Jones is a poor rip off of Back to the Future. Its humor is immature, dare I say childish. And the story goes on and on like a Saturday cartoon and really ends up nowhere. It's a silly premise that contains a hairy gorilla and never really gets much resolution - what ever happened to the sweatshirts/track pants that got introduced before their time? Finally, both the show's marketing and hype about the play gets you to believe it is about actual HATS. While it is about ONE HAT (that's not really a hat in the way you would think), it's really more about fashion and still time travel in general than hats.
Don't waste your time on this silly play that never should have made it to a stage - unless of course you want to travel back in time to one of your high school productions. Better the glowing orbs that nobody seems to mind blow it up in the river.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
The adorably sexy Corey Mach (Ryan) plays opposite Mr. Matthews as his devoted and supportive boyfriend and partner in life. With an all-black cast the show's focus is the struggles of the kids they meet in Uganda, the Ugandan culture and community, and the struggle to continually support them. Music and lyrics by Mr. Matthew's real partner in life, Mr. Gould, feature gospel-like numbers, ballads, and rousing, energetic and theatrically staged African dance numbers. And the band, conducted by Mr. Gould - well - they are part of the reason for the aforementioned roof blow-off. Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass, Guitars, Keyboards, and more percussion than you thought possible - all elevated above the stage in the former wings of the stage - which, of course, were eliminated to enlarge the performance space. Kudos Jonathan Deans (Sound), Justin Townsend (Lighting), and ESosa (Costumes).
Get your tickets now as this one is going to be a hot seller into the holiday season.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
The divine Kristine Nielsen (Paige) helms the cast - ironically the only one who appears as she is (unlike the advertising where she is all made up in a drag like makeup). Ms. Nielsen appears right at home with her bizarre behavior and crazy ideas - she is a true comedic character actress. Cameron Scoggins (Isaac) appearing quite svelte and handsome took full advantage of the power of his masculine character and dominated the stage. Tom Phelan, a remarkable transgender teen actor portraying a transgender teen character, held court as Max or Hir (the neutral pronoun as explained to us early on). Daniel Orestes (Arnold) didn't get many lines since he had a stroke and was basically two steps above a vegetable but was always a presence on stage with his mumblings.
Kudos to David Zinn for the sets - at first a complete disaster - and the amazing transformation that happens after the intermission.
Fasten your seat belts - this one pulls no punches (well actually it does) and feeds the bizarre to you spoonful after spoonful until either you or Isaac has to throw it all up.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
The show is a pastiche of ideas, colors, words, costumes. What it is not is coherent. It's a piece of mental theater. I was, however, really impressed with the actors who had to learn these bizarro parts. They don't make sense and I can only assume that it is like telling an opera singer to intentionally sing off key. For a trained professional that's hard to do. These actors were superb given the extremely bizarre and colorful material they were given to work with. I made it only through Act I, but I have heard that Act II was even more of the same. Experimental performance art should not be 2 Hours and 40 Minutes long.
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Marilyn and Abby are going at it toe to toe, no holds barred at the Bristol Place Assisted Living Facility. And why not? What have they got to lose? Abby wants the room to herself. Marilyn, however, is determined to be Abby's sunny, chatty, and cheerful roommate. Skydiving (conveniently linked to the show's title). Lunch visits. Police Reports. Estranged family members. Even death. Will these cunning ladies duke it out till the last one is standing? The referee in the tete-a-tete is none other than the scruffy, sexy, and burly employee and aspiring actor, Scotty (Nate Miller). Marilyn's daughter, Colleen, (Rachel Dratch) and son-in-law, Derek, (Daoud Heidami) find themselves drawn into the battle. Abby's estranged son Benjamin (Glenn Fitzgerald) eventually becomes a pawn in the game as well.
Head on over to West 55th Street and see who wins this epic battle of wills. Fine acting all around.(especially by Scotty).
Friday, October 2, 2015
In the case of Cloud Nine, she casts a white man as a black slave, a man as a Victorian wife, an adult as a child, and young boy as a woman (and vice versa). Further add the fact that Act I occurs in Victorian times during British colonization of Africa and Act II occurs in 1979 London - with the catch that only 25 years have passed for the characters - who themselves have been "re-cast" as other characters. This may seem like quite a lot to keep track of, but the effect is subtle, the impact quite large as you begin to see the larger message Ms. Caryl is trying to convey. What she is effectively doing is showing how the male dominated society and dominant and oppressive nations in the Victorian era (The Brits dominated and conquered the natives in Africa) draw a parallel to the modern society where the gay culture is experiencing the very same treatment - it's a different cultural construct, but the same effective oppression. At the same time we see the importance and oppression of the female characters both literally and figuratively in Act I by the casting of a man as the Victorian wife.
The actors in this wildly fluid comedy execute Ms. Caryl's message with aplomb. First and foremost we have the adorable and ethereal Chris Perfetti is the face of the gender fluidity playing Betty the Victorian Wife in Act I and Edward a softer gay man in Act I. Sean Dugan takes on the racial fluidity in Act I as Joshua the slave/servant and the dominant gay predator Gerry in Act II like it was a role of a lifetime made just for this handsome and confident ginger. Izzie Steele takes on double duty in Act I (extra kudos here for all those costume changes) as a rag-tag shy and naive nanny and the powerful (which is unusual for the period) female Mrs. Saunders. In Act II she is a powerful and confident lesbian. Clarke Thorell is the ultimate patriarch and family leader Clive in Act I and the naughty, loud child Cathy in Act II. Brook Bloom has the other gender bending role playing young Edward in Act I and older Betty in Act II. Lucy Owen plays a staunch and comically dry Maud the mother of Betty in Act I and the young Victoria (who as a side note was played by a doll in act I) toying with her lesbian side in Act II. John Saunders is the suave single explorer Mr. Harry Begley who just might be gay before it was en-vogue to be gay and then plays the suave yet diminished husband Martin who's masculinity is on the decline in the era where women are on the rise.
If you're confused, don't be. When you watch the action unfold, the character changes start to resonate, the messages start to decode and you will begin to delve into the issues that Ms. Churchill was trying to convey. As billed, it is a play about power, politics, family, queen Victoria, and sex. If perhaps Act I was a tad bit too long with a bit of unnecessary exposition and story, Act II was perfectly timed, executed and impactful. Without a doubt, there was one element of this production that was universally panned by the audience - and that was the seating. While the idea of placing this show in the round in somewhat of a "boxing ring" where the actors "duke it out" is brilliant - the construction of the flimsy, uncomfortable, and frankly cheap looking wooden bleachers was only made more painful by the 2H:40M run time. #seatingepicfail
Despite the extremely uncomfortable and frankly unsafe seating arrangements that were constructed for this production, the outcome was nothing short of remarkable. A fine cast and a provocative message makes for an exhilarating evening in the theatre.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
The incorporable Marlo Thomas headlines the cast as Alice, the matriarch of the family. Her son Billy (George Merrick) is having a bit of a marital/midlife crisis by having an affair with someone he thinks makes his whole life brighter and worth living again. This happens, of course, after he just had a newborn baby with his wife Jane (Kate Weatherhead). He reluctantly confides this little nugget to his father, Bill, Sr. (Greg Mullavey) who of course won't be able to keep it from his wife for more than 3 minutes. Alice decides to invite Billy and Jane over to sort the whole matter out and keep them together. She just can't bear to think about the alternative.
What ensures is anything but a clever little lie.
Sunday, September 27, 2015
I hope I am correct. Here are what others are saying on Opening Night:
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Mr. Hnath was supposed to be a preacher but he felt too much weight of the souls of others on his back. What he kept with him as he transitioned to a playwright instead was a keen ear for the preacher's sermon and the delivery of a message.
Andrew Garman (Pastor Paul) makes you truly believe he is a devout and earnest preacher. Joshua, the associate pastor (Larry Powell), takes some time to show his power but when he does in a 1:1 confrontation with Paul it's all guns blazing. An unexpected and potent foil to Paul is Emily Donahoe (Jenny) a simple, common choir member who confronts his message with plain spoken yet biting words.
Words have meaning. Words are translated and interpreted. So many viewpoints. So many opinions. Who is right? Is anyone wrong? If you don't believe what I believe, can we survive together? These and many other powerful issues are bright up and laid bare before the audience with tender, thoughtful, and intelligent dialogue. There are many question. And even more answers.
It's not very often that at the end of the play you really wished the playwright would come out and take a bow but this is one true exception. His words were a certainly a palpable placeholder for his physical presence.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
The all-British cast (Clive Owen, Eve Best, Kelly Reilly) may add allure and mystery with their fancy accents, but they do nothing for the confounding plot. I mean it was purposely written to confound and leave the average viewer with a feeling they have no idea what just happened. I can verify this as I left the American Airlines Theatre and listened to at least 90% of the audience as they shook their head and asked questions like "what just happened here?". Not being satisfied with these remarks, I went home and read the Wikipedia page about the show and was astounded at what the "experts" purported was going on. Really? Was that what we just saw?
Kudos to Christine Jones (sets) and Japhy Weideman (lighting).
I'm all for hoity-toity theatre but this was work neither entertaining nor satisfying for the majority of the audience. I hope the rest of your 50th Anniversary season is better than this, Roundabout.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Fool for Love is Sam Shepard's existing 1985 work which has seen a life on stage and in film before.
It's a cavernous and lonely piece. It purposely tells you only part of the story leaving you to figure out or just assume the rest. It's a smart work, but in performance doesn't quite fulfill it's promise and leaves you with more questions and uncertainties than the steep price of the ticket should permit.
Fine performances by Nina Arianda (May) and Sam Rockwell (Eddie). A handsome Tom Pelphrey rounds out the performances near the end as Martin. The Old Man (is he dead or alive?) was played with a stoic, lifeless Gordon Joseph Weiss. Interesting and artistic, yes. Satisfying, No.
Monday, August 17, 2015
James Lecesne has written and stars in this one-man dynamo at the Westside Theatre. At first it seems as if his character, Chuck, a tough-as-nails, seen-it-all, been-there, done-that kind of cop, will relay a rather simple disappearance turned murder case. What we quickly finds out is that Mr. Lecesne portrays with supreme aplomb, the "interesting" characters of the small New Jersey town that Leonard Pelkey, the boy who vanished, lived in. His ability to make you believe you are observing a 50+ old, wrinkled smoker in the basement morgue of the town is uncanny. He turns from young girl to old German clock-maker on a dime. He splices and cuts between characters seamlessly and with aplomb. Drawing on those hard core 'New Yaawker', young kid, and foreign accents and mannerisms alike and the all too typical small-town value systems, Mr. Lecesne draws the audience right into that very town during his 70 minute tale.
The characters in this tale are only half the story. The other half is the sadness they exude as they talk about the flamboyant boy who probably lived way too far "out there" being himself for this small town to cope with. What we learn through this tale, too late, as it were, is that Leonard, as different as he probably was, affected this town in the most positive and brilliant way of any of its storied inhabitants.
Too often we criticize in the short run without realizing the extreme joy and beauty a person really brings to our lives. Stop. Think. Reflect. Accept.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
As you would expect in today's high stakes drafts and team rosters - recruiting young players with raw talent is key. What happens when that talent is so raw it's actually a danger to itself? How young is too young? To what ends will agents and teams to to exploit talent? These and many other questions are explored in this 2 hour tour-de-force presented at the McGinn/Cazale Theater of 2ST.
Karen Pittman (Liz Rico) dominates the stage with raw power, steadfast determination and a pure strength of will to succeed as a woman in a man's world. She manipulates and attempts to mold young (very fine looking) and talented high school basketball player from Red Hook Brooklyn, Jeremie Harris (Freddie Luna). The supporting cast - most notably Irene Sofia Lucio (Gabby Fuentes) and Russell G. Jones (Coach Jones) - fill in the drama and back story quite nicely.
With a quick pace and high volume the characters engage in what can only be described as a war of wills. Who wins in the end and at what cost? I leave that up to you to determine. The oddest moment of the entire play was the bizarre opening lip sync which led me to think this was a drag queen show for about 2 minutes. Thankfully nothing else in the show was as bizarre and I quickly forgot about it once the real plot began to furiously unfold.
Thursday, July 2, 2015
Trip Cullman has finally made his rounds complete at all the non-for-profit theaters in NYC and Roundabout is now finally the recipient of his fine directorial skills. The show centers on the millennial, Jordan Berman, who is played with pitch perfect looks and tone by the adorable Gideon Glick. He's cute, shy, and gay. In this case it seems to mean he doesn't have any male gay friends. This is a bit annoyingly unrealistic for the setting of NYC, but we'll go with it. His BFF girlfriends are all growing up and one by one getting married. Poor Jordan is being left in the proverbial dust because he just can't find anyone (again, in NYC I find this and odd premise).
Exposition reveals that each girl is herself quite a different character and Jordan gets something different from each of them. Laura (Lindsay Mendez) is perhaps his closest and most sincere soul-mate from his youth. Kiki (Sas Goldberg) and Vanessa (Carra Patterson) both play slightly more wild BFFs. Together all 4 make up quite a bunch of fun loving friends. As a foil to his youth, Jordan also has a close relationship with his grandmother (Barbara Barrie) who we are lead to believe is old, spry, perceptive, OK with him being gay, and slowly losing her memory but holding on to life itself. (i thought it odd that his parents are never really mentioned from what i recall).
Act I was long and contained perhaps a bit too much exposition than needed to get the basic point across. Act II was much more confrontational and emotional which culminated in a scene in which Jordan basically unleashes a lifetime of pent up anger, frustration, and angst (about being gay, being a gay BFF and a lot of other baggage) on Laura in a very long and emotionally played rant that in itself deserved a round of applause when he was done.
The play, like life itself, just moves forward and ends. It's up to you to decide if it is hopeful, sad, inspiring, or depressing. I suppose everyone can see a lot of character traits of both themselves and various friends in many of the characters - so everyone will take bits and pieces that suit their experiences away and it will be up to them to decide how they feel about the whole thing in the end. I happen to see it with a bunch of single folks and I am left wondering if some of my married straight friends might take something different away from it than me. I bet they do.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Although the headline name seems to be Alicia Silverstone who aptly plays the Legally Blond type sister (Amy), in fact the entire cast is quite delicious. There's a flavor of some affectation for slight control freak with cancer (Jennifer Mudge), lost and young (Heather Lind), cute, cuddly, and genuine boy from Montana (Nate Miller), Northeast "good guy" (Kelly AuCoin) and uptight trapped groom to be (Greg Keller).
I'm not sure if we are supposed to like any of these people or just see some reflection of ourselves in any one of them but the story unfolded mostly as expected and maybe took about 15 minutes too long.
Families are mostly complicated and according to this version, messed up. It's mostly true but do we need a play to remind us of this fact?