Posted in Amy Morton, Carrie Coon, Edward Albee, Madison Dirks, movie, Pam McKinnon, Steppenwolf, Tony, Tracy Letts, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Love survives in " Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virgiinia Woolf"



It’s a familiar scenario. Sometimes ringside seats come with that invitation to meet the senior
faculty.  
George (Tracy Letts) and Martha  (Amy Morton) are at it again in “Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” in a fiftieth anniversary revival through February 24th   at the Booth Theatre. Theirs is a combative love story.
Tracy Letts as George, Carrie Coon as Honey, Amy Morton as Martha being subdued by Madison Dirks as Nick and  in “Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? “ Photos by Michael Brosilow.

George and Martha duke it out in a battle royale over the course of one long and boozy night while Honey (Carrie Coon) and Nick (Madison Dirks) watch sometimes helplessly, sometimes actively. At first both Nick and Honey seem to be victims of the whirlwind that is Martha. While Honey seems oblivious, but Nick is an avid participant in the kind of games academics and battling marrieds play. 

“I would divorce you,” Martha tells George, ‘if you existed.” Their huffing and puffing definitely blows this house down.  This is an epic production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

 
Tracy Letts as George, Amy Morton as Martha and Madison Dirks as Nick and Carrie Coon as Honey in “Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? “ Photos by Michael Brosilow.
Edward Albee, whose plays have won him a great deal of recognition– several Pulitzer, a couple of Tonys and one for Lifetime Achievement in The Theatre in 2005,–   has brought recriminations and vituperation to the level of art in  “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”.
In its inaugural production in 1962, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” won the Tony Award. This season, “Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” on Broadway  by way of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company and directed by Pam MacKinnon, is on pace to once again grab some prizes.



For a more extended review of 
“Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” see http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/11/edward-albees-whos-afraid-of-virginia.html
To find out more about “Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” visit http://virginiawoolfbroadway.com

Posted in Aasif Mandvi, comedy, drama, Heidi Armbruster, Ibsen, Islan, painter and lawyer, terrorism

ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE

Two very different civic-minded plays shed light on our societal woes. Both of them are more than slightly cynical about democracy and its discontents.

Actually there is a third, “Disgraced” but more on that later and below.


“Modern Terrorism, or They Who Want to Kill Us and How We Learn to Love Them,” at Second Stage Theatre through  November 4th, is a quirky and off-beat comedy tackling an extremely tricky subject.
“An Enemy of the People,” by Henrik Ibsen via adapter Rebecca Lenkiewicz, in a Manhattan Theater Club production at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre through November 11th, is a sincere diatribe.

Boyd Gaines as Dr. Thomas Stockmann and Richard Thomas as his brother, Mayor Peter Stockmann  in “An Enemy of the People.” Photo by Joan Marcus.
Unlike “Modern Terrorism,” which, despite its silly premise and over-the-top slapstick and banter, is coherent, “An Enemy of the People” is a total muddle. The civic dialogue  “An Enemy of the People”purports to hold teeters between anti-populism and democratic idealism. 
  Nitya Vidyasagar as Yalda with Steven Boyer as Jerome Photo by Joan Marcus. 
Terrorists, of course, are scare-mongers bent on destruction through fear.  In “Modern Terrorism,” the terrorists are merely people who see the world differently than we do. There is a danger of underestimating one’s enemy, of course. Or perhaps, it’s disarming to look at the feared, reviled and frightening as ordinary folk. The cell in “Modern Terrorism,”  run by Qala (William Jackson Harper) are the Keystone Kops of terror.  As Jerome, the American who lives upstairs asks  “Why are you so hell-bent on destroying the US, when it’s doing is so well on its own?  
William Jackson Harper as Qala with Utkarsh Ambudkar as Rahim
Photo by Joan Marcus from “Modern Terrorism.”
Rahim (Utkarsh Ambudkar), the designated martyr, is chosen for his boyish naïveté He wants to fit in, and be “chill.” Denied the chance to be just one of the gang in his college, he throws in with Qala and Yalda (Nitya Vidyasagar). Accustomed to not meeting expectations, Rahim accepts Qala’s and Yalda’s disappointment in him resignedly. 

While there is a clarity of vision and even some compassion in “Modern Terrorism,” “An Enemy of the People” lacks a compelling narrative. 

There is no subtlety in this “An Enemy of the People.” It’s all silk-hatted villainy

and shouting. Bombast and bluster further muddle an already muddled and somewhat uninteresting, if timely, plot. Hints of the current debate about fracking are peeking out of
Lenkiewicz’s adaptation. Mayor Peter Stockmann (Richard Thomas) has a perrenial smirk that stands in for mustache-twirling. The noise of its screaming is not the only thing that condenms  “An Enemy of the People.”

Producing this modernized version of Ibsen’s play seeks to capitalize on the political silly season.  Dr. Thomas Stockmann (Boyd Gaines) is at odds with his  brother the Mayor. His desire to save the town in which he was born is overwhelmed by a cynicism. He calls  liberals and populists, those who rule and the majority who allow themselves to be ruled to the carpet.   If the honest man is alone, as Dr. Stockmann seems to think, is  democracy also on the carpet?

Photo by Erin Baiano. Karen Pittman, Erik Jensen, Heidi Armbruster and Aasif Mandvi in “Disgraced.”


Unfortunately, even the usually superb Boyd Gaines is swallowed up in the noise and fury of 
“An Enemy of the People.” The stand out in the cast is Gerry Bamman as the printer, Aslaksen, whose bourgeois interests overwhelm his sense of right.

In “Modern Terrorism,” the geo-political is seriously funny and darkly sad. The small cast are all excellent. Stephen Boyer’s slacker Jerome, William Jackson Harper as Qala, the self-important leader are both wonderfully played. Utkarsh Ambudkar gives us a complicated and sweet Rahim. Nitya Vidyasagarplays Yalda as a young modern woman, whose disappointments fuel her anger.

Sometimes ethnic history is a minefield, and in “Disgraced,” a new play by Ayad Akhtar, at LCT3’s Claire Tow Theater  extended through December 2nd, the sensitive and even touchy matters of identity are explored in serious and unexpected ways. 

Amir (Aasif Mandvi) and Emily (Heidi Armbruster) are a happy and prosperous couple. He is a forceful and intelligent corporate attorney. He is uncomfortable with the fact that she paints intricate and delicate works based in the Islamic tradition.  In fact, Amir is uncomfortable with Islam. He is an apostate, bent on maintaining his place in the white man’s world.  His nephew, Abe (Omar Maskati.) a devout follower of the Muslim faith, is the sole reminder of his past.  By distancing himself from his traditions and family history, Amir has gone adrift and become disaffected. Is there a tribal identity that will out no matter who we try to become?  

“Disgraced” traverses the divide in understanding in a compelling and smart script. Its a well-wrought study of the complications that befall family and friendship.

For more information about MTC’s “An Enemy of the People,” please visit http://www.manhattantheatreclub.com/.

Visit  http://www.2st.com/ to learn more about “Modern Terrorism…”

For a schedule and information about “Disgraced,” visit http://www.lct.org/index_lct3.htm 

Posted in couples, friendship, three-hander, threesome

Seeing the future in "In The Summer Pavilion"

Photo by Gerry Goodstein: Ryan Barry in Paul David Young’s “In The Summer Pavilion” at 59E59 Theaters.


The future lies before you like a summer sky when you’re fresh out of college. There are endless possibilities for you and your closest friends.

In “In The Summer Pavilion,” at 59E59 Theaters through November 3rd, those endless possibilities play out as alternate realities. 

Photo by Gerry Goodstein: Meena Dimian and Rachel Mewbron in Paul David Young’s “In The Summer Pavilion.”

Ben (Ryan Barry), Clarissa (Rachel Mewbron) and Nabile (Meena Dimian), friends just graduated from Princeton, come together like a sexy stew as “In The Summer Pavilion” begins their journey.

“Mr. Premonition here thinks he can see the future,” Nabile says. Ben is wary. “You two, you’re dangerous,” he tells them.  Nabile answers him a little cryptically, “Take off your mask of sorrow and let the comedy play.”  

Barry Ryan as Ben, Rachel Mewbron as Clarissa, and Meena Dimian as Nabile in “In The Summer Pavilion.” Photo by  Gerry Goodstein.

In each scenario, Ben, Clarissa and Nabile pair off differently, as the play unfolds going forward seven years. There is a promise, unkept, of secrets being revealed. “A night full of adventure. Doors opening. Desires fulfilled. Secrets revealed,” Nabile says. Alas, they are not, but several likely outcomes are. “Do you sometimes have the feeling that we’ve been here before?”  

Paul David Young’s play is rich in imagery; it teases with snippets of poetic philosophizing, and offers a satisfying amount of adventure.     

“No, be a jerk. Say the uncomfortable thing. I’m ready for it now.” Ben says. “I am young/ Unripened hope.”

“In The Summer Pavilion” is an intriguing work. The acting under Kathy Gail MacGowan’s direction is charming and natural. Everything– sexuality, career paths, partners– is up for grabs. All of it is an a wild ride. We should probably take Nabile’ s advice and get out the Ouija board.

Bonus points for having the playwright, Paul David Young, in the audience. Young adapted  and 
directed his screenplay for  “In The Summer Pavilion,” which is due to be released in 2013.

For more information about  “In The Summer Pavilion,” visit  www.59e59.org.

Posted in David Wilson Barnes, family drama, inheritance, Jennifer Mudge, legacy, Michael Cristofer, Stephen Belber

"Don’t Go Gentle"

We all know that the scales of justice are often out of balance. 

In Stephen Belber’s “Don’t Go Gentle,” an MCC Theater world premiere at the Lucille Lortel through November 4th,  Lawrence (Michael Cristofer) looks to right that inequity. 


Photo by Joan Marcus. David Wilson Barnes as Ben, Jennifer Mudge as Amelia and Michael Cristofer as Lawrence.

Lawrence, a conservative judge who is sick with cancer, makes end of life assessments and adjustments. Lawrence is concerned over his legacy. In his eagerness to redress wrongs and “evolve” as he puts it, he over-corrects and crosses a line.

Encouraged by his daughter, Amelia (Jennifer Mudge) to give pro bono counsel, Lawrence offers his legal advice to Tanya (Angela Lewis.) Tanya and her teenage son, Rasheed (Maxx Brawer) are badly in need of Lawrence’s aid. What starts out as a project to keep Lawrence active, ends by giving him a purpose.

Photo by Joan Marcus. David Wilson Barnes and Michael Cristofer in a scene from “Don’t Go Gentle”



Lawrence’s decisions rekindle the resentments his children, particularly his son, Ben (David Wilson Barnes) harbor from an unexceptional childhood.

Maxx Brawer, Angela Lewis with David Wilson Barnes in background, and Michael  Cristofer in a photo by Joan Marcus

The acting with Michael Cristofer in the lead, is superb. Newcomer, Maxx Brawer makes the most of Rasheed’s gawky but inherent nobility and wisdom. Angela Lewis, David Wilson Barnes and Jennifer Mudge each deiiver little gems of characterization. 

Director Lucie Tiberghien understands and clarifies the moral dilemmas in Belber’s wonderfully-written “Don’t Go Gentle.”  The pacing in each scene of the intermissionless production is perfect.

For more information on MCC Theater and “Don’t Go Gentle,” please visit www.mcctheater.org.




Posted in Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Antoine Saint-Exupery, based on a true story or event and historical documents, Charles Lindbergh, the for/word company

"North" celebrates the romance of flight and other delights

There is an exhilaration to flying above the clouds that is like no other sensation.

It is the romance of flight that anchors “North,” at 59E59 Theaters in a for/word company production through October 28th. The characters in “North” are real, the story drawn from a wealth of printed materials.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Christina Ritter) was an accomplished and complicated woman. She was a writer, and mother, the daughter of an ambassador, and wife of a celebrity aviator. She was, also, a pilot in her own right. She and her husband Charles (Kalafatic Poole) suffered a very public and hideous loss when their first born was kidnapped and killed.

“North” is Anne’s  story; it’s style is narrative and suggestive. “This is not an adventure,” Anne says, as she relates her meeting with the author/aviator Antoine Saint-Exupèry (Christopher Marlowe-Roche.) “And only in the most accidental and superficial sense can it even be called a flying story. Fundamentally,” she ends, “it is simply a woman’s story.”

 “North,” conceived by Christina Ritter and Jennifer Schlueter and written by Jennifer Schlueter, does not allow its thorough,  well-researched documentation to undermine the gentle lyricism of the play.

The spare set by Brad Steinmetz of three swings and a ladder shelf hints at the playful in tribute to St-Ex’s imagination and Anne’s desire to soar with him.

“North” exudes a giddy seriousness, illuminating the factual with a quiet emotional certitude.

For more information and tickets for “North,”please visit www.59e59.org.

Posted in Daisy Foote, dark comedy drama, family drama, inheritance, legacy, The Foote Family Legacy

Disquiet Contemplation in "HIM"

Nature can be both cruel and glorious.

The titular and unseen “HIM” in Daisy Foote’s new play, in a Primary Stages production at 59E59 Theaters through October 28th, leaves volumes describing the pleasure he felt sitting on a mountaintop.

Hallie Foote as Pauline and Tim Hopper as Henry in “HIM” at Primary Stages. Photo by James Leynse.

Quiet contemplation is the antithesis of the hubbub of family life. In “HIM.” his children see only a remote and withdrawn man. It’s not entirely satisfying that so much of the story of “HIM” is pegged to this mysterious disconnection, to what was unknown or unknowable about their father. Nonetheless, there is so much humor  and humanity in “HIM” that the emotional characterizations ring true and clear.

The eldest, Pauline (Hallie Foote) harbors deep resentful hatred for the father she does not understand because of the poverty in which the family has lived. She is ambitious, acquisitive and envious of her better-off neighbors.

Adam LeFevre as Farley and Tim Hopper as Henry in “HIM.” Photo by James Leynse.

“We don’t have lives,” she tells her brother Henry (Tim Hopper), “we have existences.” Pauline’s burdens which include caring for their retarded brother, Farley (Adam LeFevre), his girlfriend Louise (Adina Verson) and a failing family business are brightened by an unexpected inheritance. Meanwhile, looking for a glimmer of understanding of their father’s legacy, Henry wonders, as he reads the journals his father left behind,  “What was he reaching for when he died?”

The small and accomplished cast, ably led by director Evan Yiounoulis, polish the jewel-like dialog in “HIM” to a fine sheen.

Primary Stages is celebrating the Foote Family Legacy this season. So far, they have given us Horton Foote’s closely observed vignettes of life in “Harrison, TX” and his daughter Daisy’s skillful look at a misappropriated legacy in “HIM.” Hallie Foote, the other family treasure, has her deft and subtle acting to both productions.

For more information about Primary Stages and this production of “HIM,” visit www.primarystages.org 

Posted in Adam Rapp, allegory, Apocalypse, dark drama, New York City, strange, war

Apocalypse Now in "Through The Yellow Hour"

War is chaotic.

In “Through The Yellow Hour,” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater through October 28th, playwright and directorAdam Rapp visits an apocalypse on New York City.

Rapp is no stranger to the odd and allegorical. (“Dreams of Flying , Dreams of Falling” is one that comes to mind as a for instance.)

Photo © Sandra Coudert.
Alok Tewari, Danielle Slavick,
Hani Furstenberg, Matt Pilieci,
Vladimir Versailles, Brian Mendes,
and Joanne Tucker 

Everything in “Through The Yellow Hour” is site specific. The city has been attacked by the Egg Heads, who are systematically killing off the populaton. Ellen (Hani Furstenberg) is holed up in her East Village apartment, waiting for her husband Paul to return. She is the ultimate survivor, trading for foodstuffs and drugs through a network outside her well-fortified door. The first of the nightmares from outside creeps in through a window and ends as the Dead man (Brian Mendes), slumped on the floor for the rest of the play.

There is safety in Pennsylvania, as Maude (Danielle Slavick) tells her when she drops off her baby girl in exchange for a fix.    “There are barges you can get on. They’re traveling south along the shallows of Lake Erie,” she says. When Ellen responds that her plans for escape are “risky,” Maude says  “No riskier than staying here.” Gunfire and the occasional explosion punctuate the dialogue, in “Through The Yellow Hour,” like a soundtrack of terror, designed by Christian Frederickson. 

Hani Furstenberg as Ellen and Vladimir Versailles as Darius in Adam Rapp’s “Through The Yellow Hour.”
Photo © Sandra Coudert.

The end of times vision  in “Through The Yellow Hour” is further accentuated by the elaborately derelect sets by Andromache  Chalfant, and moody lighting of Keith Parham. This is a mesmerizing and puzzling drama, with a superb cast led by Hani Furstenberg.

For more information about “Through The Yellow Hour” and tickets, visit Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.