Photo by Don Kellogg

Thursday, January 16, 2014

I am the Wind

A theatre critic is sometimes biased, and this is one of those times.  Well, it is not too often that I get to see a play staring someone who I acted with in High School.  So when a press release crossed my desk and I saw that Louis Butelli (and Christopher Tierney) were stepping into the lead roles in an upcoming play, my heart skipped a beat!  Louis was always a talented kid, and as I grow older I have realized he is a superb talent to be reckoned with.

Jon Fosse is a European playwright, virtually unknown in the USA. His work, I am the Wind, is a thinking man's play.  The search for answers, the struggle with why, and the questions of life.  Louis and Mr. Tierney (it seems odd to refer to him as Mr. Butelli) were magnificently sad, thoughtful, inquisitive and powerful.  The play runs a mere 60 minutes and they both captivated me every single minute.

If you need an inexpensive and engrossing evening of off-Broadway theatre - run over to 59E59 Theatre and catch a performance of I am the Wind staring two very talented gents.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bronx Bombers

Major League Baseball and The New York Yankees are actually a part of ("in association with") the new Eric Simonson written and directed two act play, Bronx Bombers.  Yes, it's baseball on Broadway.   And what an iconic team to highlight right here in New York.  Interestingly enough, the last sports show in the round at Circle in the Square was Lombardi.  This one, a recent transfer from The Duke on 42nd also plays well in the round.

The show, as you would imagine, is a baseball lovers delight.  Likely geared to engage the male persuasion, the show takes a look at the greats of the team - combining them all in a quaint dream-like plot.  Act I is a scene from 1977 setting up the conflicts and personalities of Billy Martin (Keith Nobbs), Reggie Jackson (Francois Battiste), Thurman Munson (Bill Dawes), and the ever-caring and genuine star of the show, Yogi Berra (Peter Scolari).

What unfolds is conflict - and what follows in Act II is a dream like sequence of Yogi's that brings all the Yankee greats to a dinner party in his home with his wife Carmen (Tracy Shayne) - Joe DiMaggio, (Chris Henry Coffey), Lou Gehrig (John Wernke), Babe Ruth (C.J. Wilson), Derek Jeter (Christopher Jackson),  Elston Howard (Francois Battiste), and Micky Mantle (Bill Dawes).

What we learn in Act II is that the conflict in Act I was not new at all.  Baseball has always been full of characters, conflicts, and personalities.  And we also gather that fans may wax and wane, but they always come back- especially to this iconic New York team.

I'm not a baseball fan.  I admit it.  The baseball angle didn't jazz me up at all. (I thought it was boring, actually).  But what the show was able to do, even to me, is to tell a story and teach a lesson.  Through all the characters, all the conflicts, and all the noise - there really is one thing that draws men of all ages to the Yankees - and that is tradition above all else.

Will this play hit the mark - being on Broadway now?  I'm not sure, but the tiny audience that watched the show with me seemed to enjoy it.  Especially all those Yogi-isms!  Let's see if wives drag their die-hard husband fans or if they even come on their own!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

She is King

A creation by its star, Larissa Husiak (Billie Jean King), She is King is a verbatim reenactment of the words of Billie Jean King through various interviews for TV.  It's an intensive retrospective hour of the tennis star of the 70's who made history by admitting to a lesbian affair in 1981.

The staging is unique as cameras focus on the subject of the interviews and is broadcast to 9 televisions lined up across the back of the stage, representing the broadcast media aspect of the show.  Several children are involved in the production also.   I believe after reading the show fact sheet that the Incubator Arts Project is partly responsible for the rather distracting kids holding and moving scenery during the show - as their approach is to produce multi-generational works.  (Maybe?).  In the contact of the show, they were supposed to represent ball boys and girls the same age that Billie Jean King was when she decided she was going to be a tennis star and change the sport.  And as we know, indeed she did.

As far as the show goes, it was heartwarming, touching and the script does a fantastic job of highlighting  the attitudes of those times - both the interviewer questions and some of the answers too!   Ms Husiak indeed looked, sounded and felt like Ms King live on stage.  Those trademark 80's glasses clinched the deal.

As for the singing at the end, maybe we didn't need that.   A viable and engaging show.  Well,  maybe if a few changes are made.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


Who would have thought a lyrical play about a crazy woman who kills her husband and gets the electric chair would be so engrossing?  Sophie Treadwell's 1928 play about this very subject matter is currently running at Roundabout's American Airlines Theater - and what an experience it is!

Sets by Es Devlin,  Lighting by Michael Krass and most importantly Sound by Matt Tierney are to be applauded for complementing the tumultuous and often times rhythmical, other times stream of consciousness dialogues superbly.

Rebecca Hall (Young Woman) dominates the stage in her confused and often tortured and emotionally challenged character.  Supported by a large cast of fine, well choreographed actors around her (including Arnie Burton, Morgan Spector, and Michael Cumpsty), the tale of her life unfolds in 9 dramatic and thoroughly captivating vignettes in the ever rotating and changing set.

The play was written not like today's Law and Order formulaic crime drama, but rather as a loose compilation of thoughts, ramblings, and exclamations of a disturbed woman and her desire for emotional freedom who ends up killing her husband.  After all, a play ending in an electric chair scene can't possibly be uplifting, but the exploration of character, dreams, sanity, and life that unfolds along the way add up to a remarkable theatrical experience.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Outside Mullingar

In a charming single act, playwright, John Patrick Shanley, doesn't cease to entertain in this quirky Irish romantic comedy.  As with all thing Irish, there's always alcohol and death - but those aspects aside, Mr. Shanley rises above the expected dirge to present a lighthearted evening of theatre.

The delightful cast of a foursome consisting of a single parent from each of Debra Messing (Rosemary Muldoon), Brian F O'Byrne (Anthony Reiley) - the incomparable Dearbhla Molloy (Aoife Muldoon) and the lovable yet cantankerous Peter Maloney (Tony Reiley) do not disappoint.  Except for Ms. Messing, it seems the other 3 speak or at least were raised with a true Irish brogue and while Ms. Messing does a capable job, you can tell it's not her natural voice.

The follies of the family unfold in about 100 minutes and it's just the perfect timing for this tale.  Despite a curve ball being thrown by Mr. O'Byrne just before the end - you still suspect it's likely to turn out happy in the end.  But you'll have to wait to see just how it all plays out at the Friedman Theatre (i still call it the Biltmore myself) on West 47th.