There is a banality in our daily lives that we want to hide behind long narratives of what we’ve done, and how we feel. We desperately want the ordinary to be extraordinary.
In A Life, Adam Bock’s new play at Playwrights Horizons through November 27th, the characters find it hard to connect.
Nate (David Hyde Pierce) delivers a long and (at least in my lights) tedious monologue, centering on relationships and the astrological that charts them. It’s a tribute to his talent and timing that he can hold our attention for as long as he does.
Bock engages the audience, although perhaps engage is too strong a word, involves the audience, first in
Nate’s soliloquy and then when his sister Lori (Lynne McCullough) thanks us all for coming. It is an irony that she is grateful that Nate had so many friends in his life, since the theme in A Life seems to be his isolation.
Of all the friends Nate narrates about, we meet only one in A Life. Nate shares a coffee and man-gazing with his best friend is Curtis (Brad Heberlee) at a shop near his apartment.
Laura Jellinek’s active set pivots from one scene to another with deliberate drama. Anne Kaufman’s direction cannot keep the pace on this slow moving 85-minutes fast enough to keep the drama from sagging under its own weight.
To learn more about A Life, and for tickets, please visit the PH website.
One of the many pleasures of theater is when the familiar turns into the unexpected.
When there’s Beatles’ songs, and a character starts rolling a joint, it’s clearly shorthand for the ’60s. And where do we go from the youthful exuberance of that era?
Playwright Mike Bartlett paints an unsentimental portrait of the generation that emerged from the summer of love. Can the disruption promised by the3 enthusiasms of the young be delivered?
Love, Love, Love at Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre through December 18th, looks at what happens when the pendulum moves and years pass.
While Henry (Alex Hurt) fancies Sandra (Amy Ryan), his brother Ken (Richard Armitage) is the one she hones in on. Ken is at Oxford as she is, and Henry is just a working bloke. At 19, Sandra knows what she wants, weed and freedom.
Twenty years on, the revolutionary road has led Ken and Sandra to a home in the suburbs with two teenage kids, Jamie (Ben Rosenfield) and Rose (Zoe Kazan). Through it all, Ken and Sandra, still cheerful, seem unfazed by time and change. How have their offspring fared?
Boomers, take note, we might not have succeeded in saving the planet.
Walk down the path with Love, Love, Love to its clear-eyed and unflattering conclusion. It will prove most rewarding. We are always impressed by what Roundabout offers visually in its off-Broadway productions, and the sets by Derek McLane and time-inspired costuming by Susan Hilferty are no exception.
Michael Meyer deftly directs his flawless ensemble in Love, Love, Love. Richard Armitage and Amy Ryan stand out for their
David Harrower’s adaptation of Public Enemy, at the Pearl Theater through November 6th, leaves me gob-smacked as our midwestern friends might say.
Populism has a way of drowning out reason, and majority rule can have unwelcome consequences. Ibsen knew this when he created An Enemy of the People, translated by Charlotte Barslund for Harrower’s re-imaging as Public Enemy.
The man of principle, Ibsen says, stands alone while the majority is lulled into serving the self-interests of the powerful. And that man, the individual, who stands alone is “the strongest man.”
Dr. Stockmann (Jimonn Cole) stands alone, of course. Stockmann’s insistence that he has discovered that the Baths which are a tourist attraction for their little burg are a health hazard threatens the town’s livelihood and prosperity. He’s alienated everyone, except his wife Katrine (Nilaja Sun) and daughter, Petra (Arielle Goldman) who both acknowledge his genius. The rest of the town, represented by his brother, Peter, the Mayor (Giuseppe Jones), the printer and small businessman, Aslasken (John Keating), the hypocritical newspaper men, Billing (Alex Purcell) and Hovstad (Robbie Tann), all turn against him.His father-in-law, Kiil (Dominic Cuskern) is especially angry since it looks like his tannery has caused the pollution.
Harrower (Good With People, Blackbird, A Slow Air) is no stranger to moral uncertainties and slippery slopes. His adaptation of Ibsen is lean and to the point. The text is thought-provoking, and anything but reassuring. Earlier productions of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, like the one at MTC several seasons back, were equally disheartening.
Standing out in this fine cast, Cole plays Stockmann’s as humbly arrogant with a fine subtlety. The Pearl’s Artistic Director, Hal Brooks directs the ensemble with a light touch, playing on both the tragedy and humor in Public Enemy.
For tickets and more information, please visit The Pearl website.
Mankind has had the urge to tell its stories since time immemorial. The stories told in different voices all have universal themes. Theatrical history has a long time-line.
Warping that time-line is also a stage-borne tradition. Retelling Antigone’s
tale, as Ivo Van Hove did at BAM last year, for instance, is one way to honor
Stephen Karam has been charged with recharging Chekhov’s classic Cherry Orchard for the Roundabout this season. David Harrower is reworking Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People into Public Enemy, currently playing through
November 6th over at the Pearl.
Drama poses a problem, offers solutions and catharsis. To that end, Kelly
McCready, an actress and director we recently saw at the Mint in The New Morality,
has taken on Hedda Gabler. Ms McCready, who has re-imagined this Ibsen and is directing, at the Ophelia Theatre Group , starting on October 27th and running through
November 19th, feels that Hedda is too often maligned. She has cut the play
to 80 intermission-less minutes, and taken Hedda’s side, as an advocate and a
friend. And why not? Hedda should be a feminist hero.
To quote Ms McCready, “This production seeks to throw out preconceptions of
the play and the character herself. This Hedda is just a woman who tries to
make her new life and relationship with Tesman work, but she can’t combat
her circumstances and the expectations placed on her because she’s a woman.
She can’t change any of that.”
BTW, the Ophelia Theatre Group is in Astoria, and Ms McCready also
advocates for the “growing arts community” in this outer borough location.
She says, “Astoria has even earned the nickname “Actoria” in recent years, but
it’s obviously difficult to get audiences to venture far from Manhattan. And
that means people are missing out.”
The tickets for Hedda Gabler are available here; they are gently priced at $18 which should drag some of you from Manhattan to the wilds of, we might point out, nearby Astoria.
In another vein of adaptation altogether is David Stallings’ Anais Nin Goes to Hell, at The Theater at the 14th Street Y from October 14th through the 29th, which takes a comedic turn but looks at feminist icons. Imagine Andromeda, Heloise, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Queen Victoria, Ophelia, Karen Carpenter and of course Anaïs Nin, all trapped together in the afterlife. The play was a hit in the 2008 Fringe Festival, and is being re-staged here under the direction of Antonio Miniño.
You may be too young to remember when this play by Shelagh Delaney was made into a film of the same name,”A Taste Of Honey” by Tony Richardson. Honestly, what I do recall about the movie I saw so many years ago is very sketchy.
A Taste Of Honey, extended to October 30th when it will play in repertory with David Harrower’s adoption of Ibsen, Public Enemy, at The Pearl, confirmed some of my memories, and expanded on them in a very satisfying way.
A girl, Jo (Rebekah Brockman) meets a sailor, Jimmy (Ade Otukaya). When her mother, Helen (Rachel Botchan) abandons her once again at Christmas time– this time to run off and marry Peter Smith (Bradford Cover)–, Jo takes up with her boyfriend in their apartment. Jimmy goes back to sea leaving a pregnant Jo to fend for herself. She is joined int the flat by an art student, Geoffrey (John Evans Reese), who is warm, nurturing and accepting. I recalled the sweetness of her relationship with Geoff, and the bourgeois life these two shared.
A precocious talent
A Taste Of Honey, written when Delaney was just 18, premiered in the West End in 1958 and had a run on Broadway. The Pearl’s is the first New York production in 35 years.
Richardson’s cine-adaptation (with Delaney collaborating on the script) did not prepare me for the avant-garde in Delaney’s stage play. She was a poet of the working-class, though her subsequent work never had as much fame as her first work.
Music Hall or barroom
A Taste Of Honey features on stage band, performing tunes from the Music Hall and Jazz repertoires. The accomplished trio here, all hep young musicians, under Phil Faconti’s (guitar) baton, include Max Boiko on trumpet and Walter Ashford Stinson on bass.
A Taste Of Honey, directed by Austin Pendleton, is a touch slow of pace. The ensemble are all terrific, although Rebekah Brockman lets Jo seem a bit too down-at-the mouth. Her character, Jo has remarkable strength, and some of that shows through in her interactions with Geoff. Botchan’s selfish mama is a whirlwind, and Brad Cover’s charasmatically non-chalant Peter is a breath of fresh air.
Harry Feiner’s perfectly messy stage set and Barbara A. Bell’s neat costumes allowA Taste Of Honeyto make an expansive statement in its hsitoric context.
The moment between December 31st and January 1st so widely celebrated, and especially so at the hub on Broadway’s Times Square, is not the real new year.
Every summer-tired kid can tell you that the new year starts in September when school opens. Theater nerds will likewise say that this is the beginning of the year. Broadway will have two openings on the 20th with The Encounter at the Golden and The Front Page at the Broadhurst. Manhattan Theatre Company also starts previews for Heisenberg, a Broadway transfer to the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on the 20th. Holiday Inn started previews at Roundabout’s Studio 54 on September 1st, while their The Cherry Orchard previewed on the 15th at The American Airlines.
Off-Broadway has already been perky this season. Playwrigths Horizons opened its first show of the season, Julia Cho’s Aubergine. PH’s second show, A Life, which begins previews on September 30th, and features David Hyde Pierce in the cast, has already extended its run to November 27th. The Mint has A Day By The Sea, playing since July 22nd and through October 23rd. The Pearl’s A Taste Of Honey began previews on September 6th and has already extended the run through October 30th. Starting on September 29th, it will be running in repertory with David Harrower’s Public Enemy, an adaptation of Ibsen’s Enemy of the People.
Further off the great white way, there is also a good deal of action, too. The list is too long to include every production, but we’ll sample a few here:
Black Moon Theatre Company presents Bliss based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead with performances on September 8-25, 2016, at The Flea Theater.
Core Creative Productions presents an updated version of ariveting and award-winning drama about police brutality called Chokehold at the 14th Street Y Theater from September 16th through October 8th.
Playwrights Realm started their 2016-17 season on August 29th with the world premiere of The Wolves by Sarah Delappe, and will also present a collab with (and at) the New York Theatre Workshop when it shows Mfoniso Udofia’sSojourners & Her Portmanteau later in the Spring.
Meanwhile, currently playing at the New York Theatre Workshop is Nathan Alan Davis’ provocative new play Nat Turner in Jerusalem.
A musical with illusions promises to be a happy ride when On The Rails opens on September 29th, at The Actor’s Temple where it will continue through November 20th.
On The Rails is part of the Lady Liberty Theater Festival, as is Missed Connections, playing sporadically (aka check the scheds) from September 27th through the end of November at the Kraine.
A cinematic and live dance/theater work combines in Geoff Sobelle’s Pandaemonium, directed by Lars Jan with music composed and performed by Brooklyn musician Xander Duell looks to be a unique experience at New York Live Arts from September 28th through October 1st.
The no-holds barred comedy about race and American history, Underground Railroad Gamebegan previews at Ars Nova on September 13th for an opening on September 26th and running through October 15th. extended to October 29th! now in a final extension to November 11th!
Followung up on the introduction they made in 2014, New Light Theater Project is featuring playwright Ross Howard, a Brit indie sensation, in rep from October 19th through November 12th at the Access Theater.
In other festival news, the Flea is presenting a pair of A.R. Gurneys, Squashand Ajax, beginning October 10th.
EDWIN, The Story of Edwin Booth is at Theatre at St. Clement’s through September 18th, so hurry. The musical is about the most famous American actor of the nineteenth century, and, famously, brother to Abraham Lincoln”s assassin.
Aubergine is a plummy color. It is also a French vegetable, less grandly called eggplant in English.
Aubergine is also a play by Julia Cho, whose Language Archive delivered a smartly tart look at the interstices in communication. Aubergine, at Playwrights Horizons through October 2nd, (like Language Archive ) intertwines multiple and parallel experiences.
A chef, Ray (Tim Kang), tries to reconnect with his father (Stephen Park) by preparing him a memorable last meal, with ingredients suggested by his Uncle (Joseph Steven Yang). A young woman, Diane (Jessica Love) recalls sharing a pastrami sandwich with her father just before he died.
Ray’s girlfriend, Cornelia (Sue Jean Kim) remembers her mother relentlessly feeding her so that she began to hate eating.
Meanwhile, a caregiver named Lucien (Michael Potts), speaks with fondness of the vegetables in his memories. Lucien is a shaman, guiding Ray as he sits by his father’s deathbed.
Trust the chef
Death is ever-present in Cho’s drama, even as food is cooked, eaten and immortalized.
Hunger is one of the themes; family another in Julia Cho’s sometimes engaging, oft-times off-putting story.
One should never underestimate the eggplant. Like Cho’s main character, Ray, it has a harshly bitter rind, and a center that is well-textured and soft. Cho may have bit off more than she can chew in the meandering Aubergine.
Courtesy of Ray’s Uncle, parts–even swaths– of the story is told in Korean with English supertitles.
Kate Whoriskey plies a light hand directing this material; the assembled cast is both polished and charming.
It looks like Waitress has all the pluck of the indie project from which it was created. Like Something Rotten!, it carries on.
As if the presence of star Jessie Mueller and a lovely cast were not enough, Waitress is offering a little sweetner: groups as few as 4 (and up to 11) people can get discounted tickets- with pie- to attend.
In my predictions for the nominations Tony is about to make, http://wp.me/p5jq0w-OI, I left out some of this year’s Broadway starts. School of Rockwas not mentioned, and truly, despite its spunk, I doubt it stands a chance in this contest. Nor will American Psycho overturn Hamilton in its run to the top.
May 3rd, noon, Looks like the Tonys left out a contender, too: Audra McDonald was not nominated for the Best leading actress in a musical.
Here’s where the oversight is more serious: From the list (entitled The Chanteuse) below, I have left out Laura Benanti, a soprano to be contended with, often on the short list for many an Award, and Tony winner (for “Gypsy”). Benanti stars beautifully in a wondrous revival of She Loves Me, the musical descendent of a personal favorite among Magyar tales–Little Shop Around the Corner. (In view…
Among the end of summer rituals is the revving up of the theater season. New plays will open at the subscription houses, Broadway will host revivals and original productions; the fall will be the time to re-start.
Just as the fall brings new plays to our attention, so the summer sees old ones run their course. Here’s a list of what you need to catch up on before school starts:
Finding Neverland fits one of my favorite themes. It is another example of a musical undaunted by Tony denial. The production wasn’t even nominated and they survived well over a year! That is about to come to an end, and soon, when the show closes at the Lunt-Fontaine on Sunday, August 21st. It sets off for a national tour, beginning October 11th inm Buffalo.
That day, the 4th of September, will also be the last performance of the Les Mizproduction currently at the Imperial Theatre. The epic Les Miserableswill be missed, but we know we’ll raise a glass to its return.
Fun Home will depart Circle in the Square after its final performance on September 10th.
Meanwhile,Cats has slinked into the Neil Simon, opening for a limited run through January 15th. Jogs the “Memory,” when some 40 years ago, I sat on the stage of the Winter Garden to watch T.S. Eliot’s poetry turned to motion in the original Broadway production.
The ever bouyant and dramatic Phantom, another Andrew Lloyd Webber invention, continues to startle in its long-term home at the Majestic.
Among the more resilient musicals around is still Something Rotten!, which tall-tells the history of all musicals nightly (and twice on Wednesday and Saturdays) at the St. James.The musical, which was also light on TONY recognition in 2015 when it opened, is holding ticket lotteries even as we write.
Sort of like Hamilton, but… tix for the Perfect $10 are still a lot harder to score.