Posted in dance, family drama, fathers and sons, flamenco, inheritance, jazz, office, wealth and power, work

The Weekend Report

Those of us lucky enough to have a weekend, don’t have Daniel for a boss.

Rich, powerful, charismatic and abusive, Daniel is an off-stage presence in “Assistance,” at Playwrights Horizons through March 11. Daniel is unseen and unheard– calling in to his minions from London and Tokyo.

Vince’s (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe), Nick’s (Michael Esper) and Nora’s (Virginia Kull) reactions are the witness to his rants against their incompetence and grammatical failings. Meltdowns are legion as are firings.

Virginia Kull as Nora with Amy Rosoff as Jenny in background. Photo © Joan Marcus

Leslye Headland’s paean to the working classes. Well to those enthrall to the great wealth and financial success of ogreish moguls.

Lucas Near-Verbrugghe as Vince and Michael Esper as Nick. Photo © Joan Marcus

Serving a petty tyrant is a choice for these young people. Jenny (Amy Rosoff) is thrilled at the chance to work more closely with Daniel, for instance. The hapless Heather (Sue Jean Kim), on the other hand, chooses her uncle’s funeral over an assignment in Chicago, with seemingly dire consequences for her.

Sue Jean Kim as Heather. Photo © Joan Marcus

Bobby Steggert’s Justin has a short but convincing stint on stage, demonstrating just how far around the bend the Daniels of this world can take their proteges.

The players in “Assistance” under Trip Cullman’s deft direction are all splendid. In the surprise coda to “Assistance,” Amy Rosoff exhibits outstanding and completely unexpected talents.

The assistants in “Assistance” might benefit from a workplace drug like the one in Kate Fodor’s “Rx.”
(See commentary on “Rx.”)

Visit www.playwrightshorizons.org for a schedule of performances.

Over at the glassworks, power also wrests in the master’s hands.

In “Rutherford & Son,” at The Mint Theater Company through April 8th, playwright Githa Sowerby captured the tone and cadence of a miserable rural life, both in John Rutherford’s (Robert Hogan) home and his factory. He has sacrificed his children’s happiness to respectability and financial success.

See video <a href="http://

Rutherford & Son at the Mint Theater from Mint Theater Company on Vimeo.

It’s easy to see why “Rutherford & Son” was a sensation when it had its premiere at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 1912 and then again a few months later when it opened on Broadway. Githa Sowerby understood not only the mores of a small town but also the ebb and flow of business.

David Van Pelt as Martin and Sara Surrey as Janet. Photo © Richard Termine

The fine cast under Jonathan Bank’s sure-handed direction also understand the rhythms of this old-fashioned but very modern play. Sara Surrey particularly stands out as John Rutherford’s embittered spinster daughter, Janet, and Eli James is exceptional as his thwarted and feckless son, John.

For more information and a schedule of performances, please visit www.minttheater.org.

Working it in a completely different way were the guitarists (and their ensembles) Doug Wamble and Nino Joselle in Jazz Meets Flamenco at JALC’s Allen Room on February 24th and 25th, with two remarkable dancers, Jason Samuel Smith representing the jazz-tap side and Juan De Juan onboard to represent Flamenco.

See pictures from the show here.

Jazz at Lincoln Center invited the two guitarists to showcase their flamenco sensibilities. Doug Wamble rose to the occasion with a composition for reeds (John Ellis), bass (Eric Revis), drums (Rudy Royston) and most importantly tap (Jason Samuel Smith.) “The Traveler” is a song cycle, performed by Mr. Wamble and his ensemble, and punctuated by very fancy footwork by Mr. Smith.

The Flamenco side of the program, represented by the incredible and fierce Juan De Juan, dancing to the music performed by Mr. Joselle and his bassist (John Benitez) and percussionist (Horatio “El Negro” Hernandez) won the dance off despite Mr. Smith’s accomplished performance. Juan De Juan accomplishes the seemingly impossible in his Flamenco interpretations.

The special treat here was watching Jason Samuel Smith and Juan De Juan together for the finale of the program.

For more information about Jazz At Lincoln Center programs, visit www.jalc.org.
The Flamenco Festival 2012 in New York City continues this month with, among other venues, performances at New York City. Visit www.nycitycenter.org for more information.

Advertisements
Posted in dance, menu, modern dance meets ballet, rolling back prices

Celebrating 50 Years at PTDC

While on stage, the peripatetic Paul Taylor Dance Company always seems to be on the move. In fact, their modus vivendi is to practically fly off the stage, in continuous motion. So it may not seem like big news that they are on the move for the spring season.

Well, after celebrating many a spring at New York City Center, they will head up to the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for their performances beginning this March. And they plan to make the 2012 season special.

The “white ballet,” Aureole. Photo © Paul B. Goode

To commemorate not just their move, but also the 50th anniversary of Paul Taylor’s remarkable dance piece “Aureole,” PTDC is staging a special performance on 13 March at the 1962 price of $3.50. These specially priced tickets went on sale beginning on 9 Jan. at the Koch Box office, online at http://www.ptdc.org/tickets.

“Aureole” is light and romantic, but has a meaty athleticism. Its luminous male solo part has been performed not only by generations of Taylor dancers, and in the original production by Paul Taylor himself, but also by both Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

“Aureole” is remarkable for the new ground it broke in connecting modern dance to the ballet.

Paul Taylor began creating “Aureole” in 1962, while the Company was based in Paris. Although, it was his 30th dance piece, it was his first major success, and a groundbreaking new work. “Aureole,” has been considered the work that ushered in the Golden Age of dance.

In it Paul Taylor combined elements of ballet and modern dance in a way that is unique and unexpected. “Aureole,” has an innocence and simplicity that is both tender and soulful. It is also a perfect example of PT’s style with its sweeping and soaring movements.

Unusual for the era in which it was created, “Aureole” is set to a Baroque score, excerpts of the Concerti Grossi by George Fredric Handel. “Aureole” has been dubbed his “white ballet” because the dancers are dressed entirely in white, in stark contrast to the lushness of the score and the fluidity of the dance.

See a performance of “Aureole” here.

The rest of the PTDC run, from 14 March to 1 April is at 2012 pricing. In the repertory for this spring, are three New York premieres, including “The Uncommitted.” Also there will be two much-anticipated revivals – “Junction” from 1961 and “House of Cards” from 1981. During the expanded three-week engagement., PTDC will hold its Annual Gala at the Koch on 15 March.

Master Chef Charlie Palmer of “Aureole” restaurant is getting into the festivities with a special pre-fixe menu from March 1 to April 1 on the ballet’s theme, featuring a “Dance of Death” dessert and a “House of Joy” main course. There is even a vegetarian choice in honor of Gala Master of Ceremonies Alan Cummings on the bill of fare. (Click here to see more about Aureole New York.)

Pictured PTDC “Aureole” stars Michael Trusnovec and Amy Young with PTDC Gala Master of Ceremonies Alan Cumming at Aureole the restaurant with Executive Chef Marcus Ware.

Visit www.ptdc.org to learn more about Paul Taylor Dance Company.

Posted in comedy, romance, satire

Kate Fodor’s "Rx" Is Not A Placebo

Hate your job? There’s a pill for that.

Stephen Kunken, as Dr. Phil Gray, and Marin Hinkle, as Meena Pierotti. Photo © 2012 James Leynse

In Kate Fodor’s new comedy, “Rx,” a Primary Stages production at 59E59 Theaters through 3 Mar., it appears that Big Pharma has a prescription for all of life’s tribulations.

Meena Pierotti (Marin Hinkle), a published poet, is miserable being Managing Editor at “Piggeries, American Cattle & Swine Magazine.”
Schmidt Pharma is developing a drug designed to relieve work-related depression. Meena is the perfect candidate for a clinical trial.

In fact, Dr. Phil Gray (Stephen Kunken), a researcher for the company, tells Meena, when she admits that there are many jobs far worse and more menial than hers, earns upwards of $65,000 and is covered by health insurance.

Marylouise Burke, as Frances, and Marin Hinkle as Meena Photo © 2012 James Leynse

Phil’s boss, Allison (Elizabeth Rich) actually loves her job. She is delighted at the potentially large audience that could benefit from the product they are working on. Her enthusiasm is not infectious. Phil has some doubts whether he shouldn’t be working as a doctor in Africa.

Elizabeth Rich as Allison. Photo © 2012 James Leynse

Meanwhile, Meena, still waiting for the pills to kick in, meets a cheerful widow named Frances (Marylouise Burke), in the old ladies’ underwear section of a neighboring department store. To Meena’s surprise, Frances tells her that she really missed her menial factory job when she got married.

Marylouise Burke, as Frances, and Marin Hinkle as Meena meet in the old ladies underwear section. Photo © 2012 James Leynse

The cast under Ethan McSweeny’s excellent direction gives Kate Fodor’s witty and entertaining script its due. To help keep up the comic pace, Lee Savage cleverly uses modular variations on the Murphy bed in the fluid set design.

Michael Bakkensen as Simon. Photo © 2012 James Leynse

Giving the satire in “Rx” a little extra bite, Marin Hinkle and Stephen Kunken, whose credentials include a 2009 Tony-nod for “Enron,” give affecting naturalistic performances as the romantic leads.

Marin Hinkle as Meena and Stephen Kunken as Phil.Photo © 2012 James Leynse

Paul Niebanck, on the other hand, who also plays neurotic ad exec Richard, gives a broad, almost slapstick turn, as Morgan, a bumbling research doctor in Schmidt’s lab. Rounding out the expert cast as Meena’s gung-ho boss Simon is Michael Bakkensen.

Paul Niebanck as Richard. Photo © 2012 James Leynse

In “Rx,” KF writes a prescription for entertaining and earnest humor.

Visit www.primarystages.org to find out more about “Rx”

Posted in 2-hander, dark comedy drama, Scots Festival

The Scottish Plays Open In April At 59E59

Not the one by Shakespeare whose name famously must not be spoken, but a new batch of plays coming directly from Scotland to kick off 2012—The Year of Creative Scotland are due at 59E59 Theaters beginning on April 4th. The celebrated playwright David Harrower will direct his “A Slow Air” which comes to NY from the Glasgow’s Tron Theatre, via a premiere at the Traverse Theatre at the 2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. “A Slow Air,” scheduled for a short run from April 4 through the 29th , examines the effect that the 2007 Glasgow Airport attacks have on an estranged family.

Allison Pill and Jeff Daniels in the MTC production of David Harrower’s “Blackbird.” Photo © Joan Marcus

(Find out more about David Harrower.)

“Federer Versus Murray,” a dark comedy about bereavement and war, was shortlisted for the London Fringe Theatre Writing Award in 2010 when it premiered at the Oran Mor in Glasgow. It subsequently went on the to 2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it played the Assembly Hall. “Federer Versus Murray,” written and directed by Gerda Stevenson, will run from April 4th through the 22nd. The two-hander will be produced by Communicado Theatre Company and features Gerda Stevenson and Dave Anderson.

Here’s an interview with Gerda Stevenson about “Federer Versus Murray:” Click here.

Posted in academia, drama, parents and children

In "Poetic License," Truth Is Given Some Leeway

It takes a great deal of work to scale an ivory tower.

In “Poetic License,” in its New York City premiere at 59E59 Theaters through March 4th, poet and academe, John Greer (Geraint Wyn Davies) is on the verge of reaching the apex of a distinguished career.

He’s had a lot of help from his ambitious wife, Diane (Liza Vann). Liza Vann’s Dianne is a suburban, good-hearted Lady MacBeth-with a mordant sense of humor. Most recently, Diane has orchestrated a PBS special about John Greer, which pleases him because it means he won’t have to go on a book tour.

Geraint Wyn Davies as John Greer, with Ari Butler as Edmund and Liza Vann as Diane Greer in a photo by Carol Rosegg

The TV crews have been held at bay for this weekend, however, so that John
can quietly celebrate his birthday with his daughter Katherine (Nathalie Kuhn) and her new boyfriend, Edmund (Ari Butler).

Natalie Kuhn as Katherine Greer, with Ari Butler as Edmund in a photo by Carol Rosegg

Just how things fall apart for this family is playwright Jack Canfora’s well-told secret. His taut script, which won a 2011 Abingdon Theatre award, majestically weaves a web of betrayals.

Natalie Kuhn as Katherine Greer, with Geraint Wyn Davies as John Greer in a photo by Carol Rosegg

In an expert cast, Ari Butler stands out with a nuanced performance as a troubled and troubling young man. “Jesus, John.” Diane says, “our daughter is sleeping with a Dickens character.”

Liza Vann as Diane Greer in a photo by Carol Rosegg. “Anything is palatable,” she says, “if you’ve got the right sauce….”

Geraint Wyn Davies’ John and Natalie Kuhn as his admiring daughter may have the most to lose in “Poetic License” since their trust and affection are at the center of this drama.

For more information and a schedule of performances for “Poetic License,” please go to www.59e59.org.

Posted in cabaret, musical theater

Lincoln Center’s 2012 "American Songbook" Was An Inclusive Series

Taking off at the crossroads of standards, jazz, pop, Latin and hip hop, Lincoln Center’s American Songbook has transformed The Allen Room in Time Warner Center into the classiest cabaret joint in town.

Lin-Manuel Miranda performing his work-in-progress about the First Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton at The White House

Lincoln Center’s American Songbook has been a celebration of the varied best of our native music since 1998. This year’s season ended on February 12th with a special added show by Elaine Paige.

Elaine Paige, a British star and frequent Sondheim, interpreter, is an icon musical theater.
(See video by clicking here.

Ms Paige’s recent acclaim as Carlotta in Follies precedes her. (See review of Follies at VevlynsPen.com.

The rising Broadway great, Laura Benanti told tales and sang songs in two shows on February 11th.

On opening night, January 11th, Lin-Manuel Miranda, gave the 2012 American Songbook series a rousing kick-off with excerpts from his work in progress hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton, whose birthday was January 11 in either 1755 or 1757.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s mash-up of cultural phenomena over the centuries in the telling of his tale, The Hamilton Mixtape, provides a vibrant and entertaining history lesson. Inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography of the first US Secretary of the Treasury, LMM started his work on this musical in 2002. LMM’s mash-up of cultural phenomena over the centuries in the telling of his tale provides a vibrant and entertaining history lesson. Lin-Manuel Miranda did not single handedly welcome rap and hip-hop into American Songbook. For his evening at American Songbook, he brought along a strong supporting cast that included Mandy Gonzalez, Christopher Jackson, and Jon Rua, all familiar from “In The Heights.” Gavin Creel. the very talented Broadway vet, was one of the highlights in his role as the petulant King George. Rebecca Naomi Jones sang a beautiful love song from, “Helpless,” while James Monroe Iglehart joined LMM in the cathartic and energetic “My Shot.”
(See video of LMM performing the piece at the White House at from here.

Michael Cerveris, a Broadway star and Tony recipient for Sondheim’s “Assassins,” brought his extremely rarified country roots to the venue in an evening entitled “An Idea of South” on 21 Jan. Featuring some Guthrie, some traditional Americana, a Samuel Barber song set to James Agee’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915,” as well as rollicking New Orleans stylings, it was evident that MC has traveled this country road before. The small stage filled with supporting talent including Jonathan Batiste, and singer-songwriter Paul Sanchez. For “Another Suitcase” from “Evita” MC who is set to join Ricky Martin in the revival on Broadway, was joined by Laura Cantrell, whose voice is reminiscent of the late Patsy Kline.MC’s ease on stage, and circling among the tables before the show, made for a fine down-home performance.

Was “Hello Gorgeous! Leslie Kritzer Sings Julie Styne,” this funny lady’s audition for a Broadway run? Producers recently backed off an anticipated revival of the 1964 Broadway hit “Funny Girl.” Lauren Ambrose was set to for the lead, but the backers felt that, despite plenty of theater cred, she lacked name recognition. When the production was cancelled, LK, who played Fanny Bryce at the Paper Mill Playhouse, reportedly threw her hat in the ring. LK sang three songs from “Funny Girl” in her American Songbook debut on 3 Feb. LK’s comic and vocal talents were on ample display. She even did an excellent impersonation of Liza.

Visit http://www.americansongbook.org/ to learn more about Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series so you’ll be ready for next year.

Posted in drama

"The Road To Mecca" Lights Up The Stage

These days it seems like a provocative idea to use the word “Mecca” to suggest creative freedom.

It was also provocative in the small Karoo Village in 1974 in South Africa, where Miss Helen (Rosemary Harris) taunts her neighbors in Athol Fugard’s “The Road to Mecca,” at Roundabout Theatre Company’s American Airlines Theatre through March 4th. But for vastly different reasons than our present day associations.

Rosemary Harris as Miss Helen and Carla Gugino as Elsa Barlow in “The Road To Mecca” Photo © Joan Marcus

Miss Helen is visited by an old friend Elsa Barlow (Carla Gugino) from the more progressive areas of South Africa; Elsa is as concerned about Miss Helen’s continuing to live alone as is the little town’s pastor, Marius Byleveld (Jim Dale). Elsa and Marius would seem to have very different reasons for worrying over Miss Helen.

Carla Gugino as Elsa Barlow in “The Road To Mecca” Photo © Joan Marcus

The titular “The Road To Mecca” is a collection of sculptures that Miss Helen has made in her yard. To her they are symbols of hope and good will. To her more conservative neighbors they are oddities and abominations.

Jim Dale as Marius Beyleveld, Carla Gugino as Elsa Barlow, and Rosemary Harris as Miss Helen in “The Road To Mecca” Photo © Joan Marcus

Athol Fugard, who is a recipient of a Tony for Lifetime Achievement, has crafted a loving portrait of an artist. Rosemary Harris, and Jim Dale, both Tony-winning veterans, and Carla Gugino light up the stage in this play about independence of thought and action.

For more information about “The Road To Mecca,” please visit www.roundabout.org.