Posted in 1986 bombing of El Al plane, activists, Andy Bragen, duped by love, Joseph Stiglitz, new work by Paul Taylor, Play Company, Public Forum Solo, Rich and Poor, The English Bride, The Public Theater

News from the rialto…

Just something I’ve always wanted to say. 

Not that we aren’t bringing notable tidings. 

Here are some things to look forward to, some near term, and others off in the distant– or maybe not so distant– 2014:

Michael Gabriel Goodfriend as Ali Said and Amy Griffin as Eileen Finney in
“The English Bride” at 59E59 Theaters through November 17th. 

Photo by Bob Eberle.
Love is a powerful narcotic, especially for someone who feels as unworthy of it as Eileen Finney (Amy Griffin) in Lucille Lichtblau’s “The English Bride.” Eileen is duped by love for an Arab stranger, Ali Said (Michael Gabriel Goodfriend) into unwittingly committing an unspeakable act. 

Ezra Barnes as Dov and Amy Griffin as Eileen Finney in “The English Bride”
at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Bob Eberle


“The English Bride,” in a NYC premiere at 59E59 Theaters (www.59e59.org) presented by the Centenary Stage Company, opens on October 30th and runs through November 17th, is based on the true story of the failed 1986 bombing of an El Al airplane. In Lucille Lichtblau’s re-imagining of the events, Eileen is interrogated by a Mossad agent named Dov (Ezra Barnes.)  “The English Bride,” is the winner of the 2011 Susan Glaspell Award.


The Play Company (www.playco.org) opens its 2013-14 season with a world premiere site-specific work by playwright Andy Bragen. In “This Is My Office,” playing from November 5th through December 8th, the space in which the blocked writer, Andy Bragen (played by David Barlow) takes on a symbolic role which brings harmony, reconciliation and redemption.

Let’s not forget to visit The Wild Project (www.thewildproject.com), where there are a slew of activities, on stage and screen. From November 8th through the 23rd, see Victor Liesniewski’s “Cloven Tongues,”  featuring Casey Biggs, Catherine Curtin, Ema Laković and Alex Mickiewicz. In this drama about a brutalized woman and the social worker and priest who struggle to help her heal. Also at The Wild Project, “Hope is Expensive,” performed and written by  by Jill Pangallo, playing on December 10th and 11th, is more of a darkly humorous look at our delusional culture.

On December 9th, The Public Theater (www.publictheater.org) will present a Public Forum Solo with Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz on income inequality and what the artistic community can do about it. “Rich and Poor” is the topic which will be addressed in the  conversation featuring artistts and activists following Stiglitz’s talk.

Paul Taylor Dance Company’s (www.ptdc.org) annual New York season will begin on March 12th and run through March 30th. During this year’s celebration of PTDC,American Dreamer,” Paul Taylor’s 139th dance piece, will be introduced on Wednesday, March 12th when the PTDC kicks off its Diamond season at the David H. Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center. 

The Diamond Gala Performance and Dinner is set for Thursday, March 13th. Gala tickets available at $850, $1,000, $2,500 and $5,000 (www.ptdc.org/gala). Diamond anniversariees seem to have some fluidity in their timelines, in the case of the PTDC, it is a mere 60 years old. On Friday, March 14th, Paul Taylor will unveil the 140th work of his long and prolific career. 




Posted in a pill to end racism, advertising, comedy, comedy about a serious subject, crises of the soul, Greg Kellares, honky, marketing, profiling, racial profile, racism, serious comedy

The Incidental Racist: "Honky" at Urban Stages

Existential crises come in varied forms.

There may be medical cures for many of them.

Kid 1 and 2 ( Reynaldo Pinella and DeLance Minefee) approach Davis (Philip Callen) on a subway platform in a scene from “Honky” by Greg Kellares at Urban Stages. Photo by Ben Hider.

For Peter (Dave Droxler), being white is the major embarrassment. White guilt, straight-out racism, both white and black, all rear their ugly little heads in “Honky.” As each pops up, “Honky” blows it up and shoots it down.

Here is a comedy for the post-racial age. Until that comes to pass, “Honky” uses the tropes of advertising and marketing, in which profiling is professionally de rigueur. “Honky” explodes myths and slurs in a soft sell with a hard edge.

Emilia (Arie Bianca Thompson) counsels Peter (David Droxler) in a scene from “Honky” by Greg Kellares at Urban Stages through November 17th. Photo by Ben Hider.

Advertisers target their markets by demographics of lifestyle, income, race, something many of us prefer not to have our police do. In “Honky,” the product is the SkyMax basketball shoe, designed by Thomas (Anthony Gaskins.) The SkyMax in it’s various iterations aims to sell to “urban” youth, “code for black,” the company’s president, Davis (Philip Callen) freely admits.

Andie (Danielle Faitelson) meets Thomas (Anthony Gaskins) at a SkyMax party in a scene from “Honky” by Greg Kellares at Urban Stages through November 17th. Photo by Ben Hider.

While Peter goes to Emilia (Arie Bianca Thompson) for therapy to cure his guilt over an ad he created for the shoe, her brother Thomas beds Peter’s girlfriend, Andie (Danielle Faitelson) to cure his own guilt and rage. Davis goes to Dr. Driscoll (Scott Barrow) for a cure that will save his job.

Greg Kellares, the ex-ad man who wrote this intelligent and serious comedy, takes aim at some of our society’s most sensitive spots. Consumerism is another of his well-chosen targets in “Honky.” The cast, led by Anthony Gaskins’ conflicted hero, Thomas, and Peter Callen’s unapologetic Davis, as well as the superlative Arie Bianca Thompson, is all first rate. Luke Harlan’s gentle touch gives tribute to the subtle perspicacity of the script he’s directing.

“Honky” is an amazingly insightful look at race, marketing, advertising, stereotyping and Dostoyevsky.

The 80 seat theater will fill up fast, so please go to http://urbanstages.org/honky to learn more about “Honky.” 

Posted in courtroom drama, deep South, John Grisham, KKK, lurid, murder, race, racism, rape of a child, Rupert Holmes

"A Time To Kill" also offers a time to heal

John Grisham is a masterful story teller. His plots are full of intimate and expert details of the workings of courtroom proceedings.

Ashley Williams, Sebastian Arcelus and Tom Skerritt in Broadway’s A”A TimeTo Kill”. (c) Carol Rosegg

In “A Time To Kill,” based on Grisham’s classic best-selling novel written in 1989 and turned into a blockbuster movie in 1996, the plot is a scintillating mixture of  racism, rape, and murder.

Set in Ford County, Mississippi in the early 1980’s, “A Time To Kill”  revolves around Carl Lee Hailey (John Douglas Thompson), the father of a ten year old rape victim who kills the two men who raped his little girl. Carl Lee is black and Billy Ray Cobb (Lee Sellars) and Pete Willard (Dashiell Eaves) are white.

As  adapted by Rupert Holmes for the stage, “A Time To Kill” moves quickly from the men’s admission of the crime to Carl Lee’s dramatic courthouse killing.
Jake Brigance (Sebastian Arcelus) agrees to defend Carl Lee. His defense centers on the testimony of an unreliable psychiatrist, Dr. W.T. Bass (John Procaccino) brought in by Jake’s old disbarred mentor, the drunken Lucien Wilbanks (Tom Skerritt).

Jake reluctantly takes on help in the form of an ambitious liberal Boston law student, Ellen Roark (Ashley Williams in an auspicious Broadway debut) as a de facto law clerk.  Judge Omar Noose (Fred Dalton Thompson) predictably refuses them the change of venue they request, and the trial is on.

 Tijuana Ricks as court reporter Norma Gallo, Patrick Page as
District Attorney Rufus R. Buckley, Fred Dalton Thompson as Judge Omar Noose,
 and John Douglas Thompson as Carl Lee Hailey
in Broadway’s “A TimeTo Kill”. (c) Carol Rosegg

Their unctuous opponent, Rufus R. Buckley (Patrick Page), the district attorney for nearby Polk County, is prosecuting the case with aims for the Governor’s mansion.

The scenic designs by James Noone make use of a circular backdrop of slats that move us from courtroom to Jake’s office smoothly but dramatically. There are some wondrous special effects for which the Technical Supervisor, Peter Fulbright should be applauded.

In the large, well-directed (by Ethan McSweeny) cast, John Douglas Thompson’s Carl Lee is stalwartly portrayed. Also standing out are Patrick Page whose Buckley is opportunistic and slimy. Sebastian Arcelus is commendable and appealing as the young attorney, who is both of his place in time and beyond it.  We’ve already welcomed Ashley Williams for her charming turn as the tough and genius– “it runs in the family”– Ellen Roark.

It feels like a bit of wishful hindsight of racial harmony in Rupert Holmes’ vision of “A Time To Kill” undermining the premise of the story. It’s a very moving production, but this small point has to be asked: How does a black sheriff, Ozzie Walls (well played by Chike Johnson) get elected in a county teeming with KKK. A Grisham novel, while always a page-bruner, isn’t elegantly written; it runs on the plots and Grisham’s insights into the legal system. It’s wise to see the movie or, as in this case, the stage version.

Despite the grim facts of “A Time To Kill,” there is a lightness and ease in the drama. Rupert Holmes, no stranger to imaginative adaptations (“The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” recently at Roundabout, for an instance), has solidified and shortened Grisham’s plot to intensify its theatrical qualities. “A Time To Kill” is a solid Broadway hit.

For more about “A Time To Kill,” please visit http://atimetokillonbroadway.com/

Posted in A Time To Kill, book to movie to drama, crime thriller, drama, John Grisham, Rupert Holmes

From the book to the screen, and onto the stage

Movies and theater are such different meda. Even though they often have much in common, they are two separate worlds.

Cast of “A Time To Kill” in a photo by Carol Rosegg.

One point of intersection is that both employ the skills of actors and directors. Another is that both in film and on the stage, those actors recite words written by scene writers, whether we call them script writers or playwrights.

Finally both at the cinema and in the theater, the audience is invited into a world envisioned for them by the actors and writers, directors, stage managers or cinematographers, costume and set designers. The story or plot can come from a book or the mind of the writer, from headlines (as expressed by the appetizing phrase “ripped from the headlines”), or from everyday life.

Movie-makers and theater-makers transport us outside of ourselves to worlds and places that we imagine together as their stories unfold. Therein lies the magic.

We’re looking forward to seeing how John Grisham’s book, “A Time To Kill,” lately embodied in a movie starring Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, among others, translates to the stage.

Can’t wait to see “A Time To Kill,” adapted by Rupert Holmes, at The Golden Theater. For more on the production, visit http://atimetokillonbroadway.com/.

Posted in based on a true story or event, family drama, let right be done, Pyrrhic victory, Terence Rattigan

"The Winslow Boy" –Pyrrhic Victory Or Unleavened Triumph?

Photo by Joan Marcus. Terence Rattigan’s “The Winslow Boy” at Roundabout Theatre Company’s American Airlines Theatre, clsoing December 1st. Charlotte Parry as Kate Winslow with Zachary Booth as Dickie Winslow.

There are playwrights who have been forgotten and then there are those who have been neglected at our peril. Terence Rattigan was a popular writer before new voices of malcontent and unrest appeared on the scene. The oft-called “angry young men” were eager to break new theatrical ground and fight new universalist battles. Rattigan was a master of old-fashioned dramaturgy, whose subjects were often also universalist battles.


In “The Winslow Boy,” certainly, based on an actual case, Rattigan resonates with ideas of personal freedom and the right to vindicate ourselves against untrue allegations by those in positions of power. “The Winslow Boy” transcends the drawing room in which it is so gracefully set by Peter McKintosh to attack issues of due process and inalienable rights.

“The Winslow Boy” harkens to quaint ideas about parental approval and filial obligations. It takes place around 1912, before the “great war,” when women’s suffrage, Kate Winslow’s (the wonderful and winsome Charlotte Parry) raison d’etre, is considered a lost cause. Sir Robert Morton (a superbly cool Alessandro Nivola), the advocate Arthur Winslow (the marvelous Roger Rees) hires to defend his son, Ronnie (a lovely Broadway newcomer Spencer Davis Milford) against allegations of theft speaks to the difference of what is right and what is just. Sir Robert dedicates himself to the cause of “The Winslow Boy” in the interests of the former. That, too, may seem a bit quaint. 


Yet it is very much still a timely question of whether the powerful can attempt to impose their version of the truth with impunity if the rest of us do not abrogate our right to fight against it.


Arthur Winslow is a highly practical man. Yet he sacrifices his family’s security for the sake of what is right. If Ronnie– “The Winslow Boy”– has been falsely accused by the Admiralty, then his name should be cleared.”The Winslow Boy” himself stands at the center of the fuss as disinterested as he is innocent. He is, as his brother Dickie (Zachary Booth) puts it, and ordinary boy, who “sometimes doesn’t wash.” Ronnie is oblivious of the concerns of his family or the troubles  they are undertaking on his behalf. 
Charlotte Parry, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and
Spencer Davis Milford. Photo by Joan Marcus.

The charm of the writing in “The Winslow Boy,” articulated by the actors with equal charm gives the “tempest in a teapot” story broader reach. “The Winslow Boy” is at once humanistic and realistic about its subject. It dares to question our reactions while pointing us to the broader picture.



Under the excellent direction of Lindsay Posner, there are some wonderful performances from the  large cast in this production: Michael Cumpsty is peerless as the hapless Desmond Curry; Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is superb as the patiently suffering wife and mother, Grace Winslow. Henny Russell is etouchingly amusing as the Winslows’ loyal, inept and untrained parlor maid, Violet. Chandler Williams gives a  fine portrayal as Kate’s exasperated fiance, John Watherstone; he also cuts a nifty military figure in his resplendent uniform (also courtesy of Mr. McKintosh’s design.) Rounding out the ensemble are Meredith Florenza in a small but meaty role as a reporter, Miss Barnes, interested only in the women’s point of view on the case; and Stephen Pilkington as her associate, the photographer Fred.

To find out more about this production of “The Winslow Boy,” which plays at the American Airlines Theatre through December 1, please visit Roundabout Theatre Company.

Posted in Diane Davis, Donald Marguiles, Florida retirement, holocaust survivors, Hubert Point-du Jour, Kathryn Grody, Mark Blum, Primary Stages

No escape in "The Model Apartment"

                                                       

Escape by definiion involves running away.

In Donald Marguiles’ “The Model Apartment,” two Holocaust survivors are fleeing the very present horror in their lives by retiring to
Florida.

Max (Mark Blum) and Lola (Kathryn Grody) move to their condo ahead of schedule. Since their apartment is not yet ready, they’re given the keys to “The Model Apartment.” 

There end all reasonable expectations of who and why.

In short order, Max and Lola’s daughter, Debby (Diane Davis) follows them from Brooklyn and terrorizes them.

Debby has absorbed all their Holocaust nightmares and memories in her idiot-savant brain.

Kathryn Gordy and Mark Blum in the Primary Stages production
of The Model Apartment © 2013 James Leynse.

Rounding out the cast is Hubert Point-du Jour, with a finessed portrayal of Debby’s dim-witted boyfriend.

Mark Blum’s Max stumbles through pain and denial while Kathryn Grody’s Lola suffers her anguish poignantly.  In a fine small ensemble, Diane Davis stands out as the cruelly mangled Debby.

 Diane Davis and Kathryn Grody in the Primary Stages
production
of The Model Apartment © 2013 James Leynse.

“The Model Apartment” turns out to be more of an “American Horror Story” than its frothy first act suggests. Lauren Halpern’s nicely detailed set exudes the false luxury that undermines Max and Lola’s journey as well. Under the guiding hand of director Evan Cabnet, the build and reveal in this fine new play are well-delivered.

For more information on “The Model Apartment,” please visit either 59e59.org or primarystages.org

Posted in dance, opera, Tennessee Williams, theatrical events

A Sampling of Off Broadway Theater

OFF-BROADWAY THEATRE LISTINGS
“The Mutiliated” extended through December 1.


Marie Antoinette. Photo by Pavel Antonov



SOHO REP 2013-14 SEASON TO INCLUDE NEW YORK PREMIERE OF DAVID ADJMI’S MARIE ANTOINETTE AND WORLD PREMIERE OF BRANDEN JACOBS-JENKINS’ AN OCTOROON

Directed by Rebecca Taichman and Sarah Benson, Respectively, Shows are Among the Most Ambitious Soho Rep Has Ever Produced
SOHO REP 2013-14 PROGRAMMING

Soho Rep,
with John Adrian Selzer, presents
Marie Antoinette (New York Premiere)
by David Adjmi
Directed by Rebecca Taichman

October 9 – extended to November 24
Opening: October 20
Performance Schedule: Tues—Sun at 7:30p, Saturday at 3p

In association with American Repertory Theater and Yale Repertory Theatre



Soho Rep,
In association with John Adrian Selzer, presents
An Octoroon (World Premiere)
by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Directed by Sarah Benson
April – May, 2014


Soho Rep. (46 Walker Street, Manhattan)
Tickets: Through Nov 3: $35 General / $50 Premium; Nov 5–17: $55 General / $75 Premium;
Nov 19—24: $55 General / $80 Premium; $20 Student Rush; $30 General Rush;
$0.99 Sunday, October 13, 27
sohorep.org212.352.3101
___________________________________________

“Bleeding Love”, free staged readings of “a post-apocalyptic new musical comedy”, book byJason Schafer, music by Arthur Lafrentz Bacon, lyrics by Harris Doran, directed by Michael Bush, presented by Amas Musical Theatre as part of the Amas Musical Theatre Lab Series, on Tuesday, October 15th at 3pm and 7pm and Wednesday, October 16th at 1:00pm, at The Theatre at the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street.
TICKETS: FREE
FOR RESERVATIONS EMAIL boxoffice@amasmusical.org, or CALL 212-563-2565


AMAS MUSICAL THEATRE
THE AMAS MUSICAL THEATRE LAB
Donna Trinkoff/Artistic Producer 
PRESENTS A FREE STAGED READING OF
FRIDA
A Musical
 by Michael Aman and Dana P. Rowe
Musical Director
Doug Oberhamer
 Directed by 
Maria Torres
Friday, October 25 @ 6:00pm
Saturday, October 26 @ 3:00pm & 7:00pm
The Theatre at the 14th Street Y
344 East 14th Street, New York City
(between 1st and 2nd Avenues)
For Reservations email boxoffice@amasmusical.org or call 212 563-2565
Visit www.amasmusical.org for more information   
Photo by Daniel Phakos

Support the Walk.
Stay for the Dance!


In support of the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, the Graham Ensemble and dancers from the Martha Graham School will premiere

“Reservoir”

a new dance work by Cynthia Anne Stanley, Founder of Bardos Ballet Theater,
Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Brooklyn War Memorial at Cadman Plaza Park 

11:15am – 2:00pm
The performance repeats every half hour

Performances are free to the public!

 Live Music by Owen Weaver
Costumes by Andrae Gonzalo
Dedicated to Brian Torrey Scott

Come celebrate, support and enjoy!
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

ABRONS ARTS CENTER PRESENTS US PREMIERE OF IRISH THEATER COMPANY DEAD CENTRE
‘Souvenir’Adapts Marcel Proust’s Epic Novel Cycle Into An Hour-long Play
Abrons Arts Center Presents

Dead Centre, Souvenir (US Premiere)

Written & Performed by Bush Moukarzel

Directed by Ben Kidd

Performances: November 14–17, 20–23 at 8:00 p.m.

Abrons Arts Center Experimental Theater (466 Grand Street)

Photo by Scott Wynn

Legendary avant-garde performers Mink Stole and Penny Arcade are set to star in the first New York revival in 38 years of Tennessee Williams’s tender black comedy “The Mutilated.” Directed by Cosmin Chivu, the prodcution runs Nov 1-24 at the New Ohio Theater has extended to December 1.

This is the first production in 38 years of the play, which will now continue it’s run through December 1st in response to popular interest.

Penny Arcade, Male, Mink Stole in The Mutilated by Tennessee Williams, Photo by Cosmin Chivu
——————————————————————————————

The Public Theater Extends the world premiere musical ‘Fun Home” to Sunday, November 17th.
Music by Jeanine Tesori, Book and Lyrics by Lisa Kron, Based on the Alison Bechdel Book
Directed by Sam Gold. Single tickets, starting at $81.50, can be purchased by calling (212) 967-7555, 

www.publictheater.org, or in person at the Taub Box Office at The Public Theater at Astor Place at 425 Lafayette Street. 
Photo by Joan Marcus


Posted in 2001, a new play by Jack Canfora, a town in the west bank, Jack Canfora, Jericho, Jericho a town on LI, Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, Sep 11, the day the towers fell

The Battle of "Jericho:" Personal or Biblical?

Joshua 6-1-27: Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.And the Lord said unto Joshua:‘See, I have given into thy hand Jericho, and the king thereof, even the mighty men  of valour.’



The “Jericho” in the title of Jack Canfora’s new play is not the Biblical one that was conquered by Joshua in acknowledgement of his allegiance to God’s will. Or rather it is not only the one found west of the river Jordan, but also the community on Long Island in which Rachel (Jill Eikenberry) brought up her two boys,  Josh (Noel Joseph Allain) and.Ethan (Andrew Rein.) “Jericho”is very much about community and intertwined allegiances.

Jill Eikenberry, Carol Todd, Andrew Rein, Kevin Isola, Eleanor Handley, and Noel Joseph Allain in “Jericho” by Jack Canfora, directed by Evan Bergman and produced by The Directors Company, at 59E59 Theaters. Photo © by Carol Rosegg

Allegiance is a kind of connection that  Beth (Eleanor Handley), the central character in “Jericho,” struggles to find.. She has always struggled with relationships, even before the cataclysmic events of September 11th left her widowed and in distress. At the beginning of “Jericho,” Beth is “zoning out”as she puts it in her therapist Dr. Kim’s (Kevin Isola) office, while they are discussing her new relationship with Ethan.

Kevin Isola and Eleanor Handley in “Jericho” by Jack Canfora, directed by Evan Bergman and produced by The Directors Company, at 59E59 Theaters. Photo © by Carol Rosegg

Beth is frangible and likable. She is glibly articulate, but can’t seem to get herself together, and as this does not seem to bother her, we are all right with it as well. Beth is haunted by the appartiion of Alec (Kevin Isola), the husband she lost on 9/11. She sees him everywhere, even sitting in her therapist’s, Dr. Kim’s (Kevin Isola) chair.

Noel Joseph Allain and Andrew Rein in “Jericho”by Jack Canfora, directed by Evan Bergman and produced by The Directors Company, at 59E59 Theaters. Photo © by Carol Rosegg

In “Jericho,” in the four years since the World Trade Center towers fell, Beth is not the only one can’t cope. Josh, to the dismay of his wife Jessica (Carol Todd), has become obsessive, finding every attack anywhere in the world to be one aimed against Jews. Unlike Beth, Josh is brittle and off-putting. He has become a stranger in a strange place. Josh’s motivation seems weak even in the context of traumatic occurrences.

Carol Todd and Jill Eikenberry in “Jericho” by Jack Canfora, directed by Evan Bergman and produced by The Directors Company, at 59E59 Theaters. Photo © by Carol Rosegg

The opening act of “Jericho” sets the stage for a poignantly funny play. The writing is witty; the characters make unexpected observations. As “Jericho” progresses, it also gets bogged down, and loses its light footing. The first-rate ensemble, under Evan Bergman’s direction, never loses its way, however, each giving extraordinary performances. The scenic design that Jessica Parks has created for “Jericho” is as so animated that it is allmost another character on the stage.

For more information about “Jericho,” please visit
www.59e59.org.

Posted in baseball, Billy Martin, Derek Jeter, Elston Howard, Eric Simonson, Joe DiMaggio, Lombardi, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, the Babe, Yankees, Yogi

Pinstripe Pride in "Bronx Bombers"

Fact is that in 1977,  when manager, Billy Martin benched the  Yankees newly-acquired star hitter Rggie Jackson for lack of hustle in the middle of a game, there were fireworks in the press. It was an unprecedented move and it fueled the excitement that bad blood between friends and teammates gives reporters.

This is the story that Eric Simonson sets out to tell in “Bronx Bombers,” at Primary Stages at the Duke on 42nd Street through October 19th only. It is an entertaining tale an sufficiently compelling, involving as it does conflict and possible resolution.

Francois Battiste as Reggie Jackson in the Primary Stages production of “Bronx Bombers” at The Duke on 42nd Street © 2013 James Leynse.

As “Bronx Bombers” opens, Yogi Berra, (Richard Topol) wants to fix the rift and quiet the ruckus. His devotion is to the team, and he calls in Reggie Jackson (Francois Batiste) and Billy Martin (Keith Nobbs) for an intervention. Thurman Munson (Bill Dawes) is an ineffective mediator at this pow wow.

Keith Nobbs as Billy Martin in the Primary Stages production of “Bronx Bombers” at The Duke on 42nd Street © 2013 James Leynse.

Somehow this amiable retelling of the 1977 incident derails, and the second act of “Bronx Bombers” loses its way. The turn it takes is into Yankee hagiography. Yogi suffers a nightmare in which the Yankee greats come to his house to help him sort out his problem. Lou Gehrig (John Wernke), the Babe (CJ Wilson), Mickey (Bill Dawes), Joe DiMaggio (Chris Henry Coffey), are joined by Elston Howard (Francois Battiste) and Derek Jeter (Christopher Jackson) at Carmen Berra’s (Wendy Makkena) richly laid table.

Yogi’s nightmare becomes ours as the “Yankee Immortals” dine and dish over teams past. Egos- aside is the definition of what makes a team, but was this ever really true of the New York Yankees.

In their best years, they had a ball club full of egos and outsize personalities. There is a sort of “Soviet” style to Simonson’s play. “Bronx Bombers” makes for excellent Yankee propoganda, touting their exceptionalism.

Has Eric Simonson created a niche as a sports-theme playwright? His three recent outings, including this one, are in league with the Leagues: “Magic/Bird” was NBA co-produced; “Lombardi” had the support of the NFL. “Bronx Bombers” is produced in association with The New York Yankees and Major League Baseball.

The acting is universally fine, with Richard Topol’s Yogi a stand out in the cast. David C. Woolard’s well-researched, and superbly-executed, costume designs mean that this cast sports authentic style throughout.

Yankee fans will enjoy the second act of “Bronx Bombers” for the feeling of a visit with the team’s biggest names. Others will find the nice conflict in the first act exceptionally enjoyable.

For more information about “Bronx Bombers,” please visit  http://www.primarystages.org/bronxbombers.

Posted in Brian J. Smith, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Cherry Jones, Gentlemen Caller, John Tiffany, Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie, Zachary Quinto

As delicate as glass

One might think that
it  would be tiresome to see a play over and over again. One would be wrong if that play were from Tennessee Williams’ greatest hits. They are so subject to reinterpretation that just the anticipation of a new production fires the imagination.

“The Glass Menagerie,” at the Booth through January 5th, rewards the patience of its audiences.

Cherry Jones as Amanda Wingfield and Celia Keenan-Bolger as Laura in “The Glass Menagerie” at the Booth.
Photo (c) Michael J. Lutch

As always in “The Glass Menagerie,” Laura’s (Celia Keenan-Bolger) familiar collection of glass figurines are a reminder of how frangible life and memory are.  We know that “The Glass Menagerie” is a memory play because her brother, Tom Wingfield (Zachary Quinto), tells us so as he introduces his narration. We also know that memory can play tricks. Tom illuminates a past he will ultimately leave behind him.

Brian J. Smith as Jim, the Gentlemen Caller coming home for dinner with Zachary Quinto’s Tom.
Photo (c) Michael J. Lutch  

Zachary Quinto wears his “touch of the poet” magnificently. At times he is taken air-borne as the poesy in Williams’ play takes flight. Celia Keenan-Bolger’s understated fragility gives Laura the delicacy of one of her glass pieces. Like her favorite little glass unicorn, she doesn’t fit in. While her unicorn is comfortable with the others in her collection, she is always ill-at-ease. Even the amiable Gentlemen Caller (Brian J. Smith) puts Laura at sixes-and-sevens.  Laura’s mother, Amanda (Cherry Jones) wants to provide a future for Laura who is crippled as much by her inability to connect with others as by her physical disability.

Tom (Zachary Quinto), Amanda (Cherry Jones) and Jim (Brian J. Smith) at the table, and Laura (Celia Keenan-Bolger) on the coach in “The Glass Menagerie.” Photo (c) Michael J. Lutch

“The Glass Menagerie” is an often revived work out of Tennessee Williams’ oeuvre. This is probably at least in part due to its fluidity of style. The blend of sublime melancholy with a sincere naturalism gives the play its many levels.

In “The Glass Menagerie,” Amanda lives in a world of her own imagining. She lives in a glamorous past, before she married the telephone man “who fell in love with long distance.”  Amanda masks her strength under a cloak of Southern gentility. Cherry Jones does this well, despite the plummy accent that makes some of her bon mots unintelligible.

Celia Keenan-Bolger as Laura with Brian J. Smith as Jim, the Gentlemen Caller in “The Glass Menagerie” at the Booth.  Photo (c) Michael J. Lutch. The production has extended to February 23, 2014.

Tom suffers his remembrances as if they were lashes on his flesh. Tom transcends the world of imagination and reality. He recalls and edits where he has been so he is free to travel on to new adventures and move on with his life.  It is Jim, the Gentleman Caller, who embodies a healthy sensibility. He brings a reality to the Wingfields’ home. Brian J. Smith’s affability as Jim is a pleasant is a stark contrast to the family’s insularity.

Natasha Katz’s lighting is a fifth character in “The Glass Menagerie,” moody and intense. The well-designed costumes, and capriciously off-kilter sets by Bob Crowley are a perfect fit for this production.
John Tiffany’s languid pacing in the first act, suggesting a dream-like unreality could be benefit from a little tightening. This is just a niggling issue with this transcendent “The Glass Menagerie.”   It is a noble addition to the author’s grand and eloquent legacy. (See also the review by Tamara Beck on VP at http://www.vevlynspen.com/2013/11/the-glass-menagerie-worthy-tribute-to.html)

For more information on “The Glass Menagerie,” visit http://theglassmenageriebroadway.com