Posted in Angelina Vorontsova and Victor Lebedev, Balanchine, Dimitry Shostakovich, Ivan Vasiliev, Mikhail Messerer, Oksana Bondareva.Natalia Osipova, Petipa, Russian Ballet, The Mikhailovsky Theatre Ballet

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

The Flames of Paris.
Photo by Stas Levshin
The Flames of Paris. 
Photo by Stas Levshin

Not just any Russians, of course, but the Mikhailovsky Ballet Company is visiting us from St. Petersburg.

There was a time when a visit from a Russian ballet company and the subsequent defections of its dancers to the West was viewed as a Cold War triumph. These days a touring Russian troupe simply offers the chance to witness part of a grand tradition of superlative dance.

Don Quixote. Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev. Photo by Stas Levshin

The 80 year old Mikhailovsky Ballet Company has never been state-side before. When it aarives on November 11th for its stay at the David H. Koch Theater on Lincoln Center’s campus through November 23rd,   consider this your  opportunity to enjoy great dance programs from its varied repertoire.

Don Quixote. Photo by Nikolay Krusser

The Company will play to a live orchestra for its 15 performances in New York. From there it goes to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in California from November 28th through the 30th.

The Mikhailovsky Theatre, where Fyodor Lopukhov founded the Ballet Company in 1933, had hosted many an opera and ballet in the 100 years it had already been in existence.  Its long and storied history included the  George Balanchine choreography of a Rimsky-Korsikov opera in 1923.  Since its official founding as a Ballet Company at the Mikhailovsky Theatre by Lopukhov, the Company has had an outstanding number of top Ballet Masters at its helm.  The Ballet Company staged the premiere of  Lopukhov’s production of Dmitry Shostakovich’s The Bright Stream in 1935

Today, the Ballet Company is home to world class Principal Dancers and is headed by Ballet Master in Chief Mikhail Messerer. It blends tradition with modernity in its productions and will bring a sampling to its US tour, including “Three Centuries of Russian Ballet” which will feature choreography from Petipa, Asaf Messerer, and Nacho Duato among others.

November 15th matinee commentary: at Tand B On The Aisle on wordpress

For more information about The Mikhailovsky Theatre and its  Ballet Company, visit The Mikhailovsky Theatre Ballet
For tickets and programs, please visit

Posted in dogs in the theater, ESAs, Patricia Marx' Pig On A Plane in New Yorker, service dogs, trauma dogs


“Dog Silhouette 01” by Amada44 – Own work. Licensed under
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons –

The theater has gone to the dogs!

Emotional support animals (ESAs) and service dogs (let Patricia Marx define the difference in her excellent New Yorker article, Pig On A Plane) occupy the best seats in the house. 

Not content with being upfront, some of them distract by barking at the actors, as they did at the Women’s Project for a show called “Row After Row.” (More on this performance here on this blog at 

Some “trauma dogs” scratch themselves during a performance, or demand petting from their disinterested (in the play at any rate) owners.

Their presence in the audience is mostly to satisfy some perverse demands of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and may be utterly spurious. 

It is most definitely annoying to this theater-goer and her spouse. How do you feel about sharing the theater with four-footed critters?

“Tan ferret named cincin” by Kerri Love – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Before you answer, note that the ferret pictured above may also qualify for categorization as a “trauma” or emotional support pet. 

If the pet owners are in need of emotional support, perhaps they should bring their psychiatrists to the show. The interval would be a perfect time to hold a mini-therapy session.

Posted in #MatthewBroderickNathanLane2GetherAgain, Jack O'Brien, Matthew Broderick, Megan Mullally, Nathan Lane, Stockard Channing, Terrence McNally

Too modest by half: McNally’s "It’s Only A Play"

Rupert Grint, Megan Mullally, Matthew Broderick, Nathan
Lane, and Stockard Channing in a scene from Terrence
McNally’s It’s Only A Play, directed by Jack O’Brien, at the
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Matthew Broderick’s inflections suggest a deeply wounded soul. As Peter Austin, a playwright awaiting opening night notices, in Terrence McNally’s It’s Only A Play at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in a limited 18 week run through January 4, 2015, he delivers his lines with an aggressive hesitance, that seems perfectly suited to his character. Each sentence is punctuated through the middle, which adds a certain piquancy to the play.

Megan Mullally and Nathan Lane in a scene from It’s Only
A Play.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

Peter’s best friend, James Wicker (Nathan Lane) is also jittery. He expects bad press, but he is actually more distressed over the fate of the sitcom that kept him from being in Peter’s Broadway debut.

Lane, by the way, is on stage and either delivering or reacting to the funny zingers for the entirety of this comedy. He is in every sense of the word “on!” Lane’s performance is wonderful.

It’s Only A Play mocks everyone involved in the theater. Critics are skewered, of course, and embodied as Ira Drew (F. Murray Abraham,) a particularly nasty specimen. Actors are self-absorbed, and playwrights are needy. Hotshot British directors, in this case an eccentric Frank Finger (Rupert Grint, ) are made fun of for their ubiquitous successes. Sir Frank yearns for a failure.

Micah Stock, Megan Mullally, Rupert Grint and Nathan Lane
in a scene from It’s Only A Play. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Even matinee audiences are not safe. Virginia Noyes (Stockard Channing) really sticks it to the seniors in their headsets. The producer, Julia Budder (Megan Mullally,) whose gorgeous bedroom (designed by Scott Pask) is the setting for the post-opening soiree, drops misquotes and malapropisms at fever pitch. Not to dwell too much on voices, but Mullally’s squeaky delivery is delightfully antic. Rounding out the cast is the hat-check boy, Gus P. Head (Micah Stock, who has some shticks of his own to add.)

The pace of It’s Only A Play is kept moving at a steady and uproarious clip under Jack O’Brien’s able direction. In an excellent cast, standing out along with Lane is Stockard Channing who gives a grand and understated performance in a role that could go way over the top, and goes just right.

Unlike poor Peter Austin, playwright Terrence McNally will be able to add this hit to his slew of award-winning Broadway productions. Be warned that your fifteen year old from Atlanta might not be as happy at It’s Only A Play as we were.

It’s Only A Play is a theater-crowd pleasing satiric comedy, with great sets and lovely elegant costumes (by Ann Roth), a star-studded cast, and very witty name-dropping dialog.

Additional commentary from Tamara Beck can be found at

For more information about It’s Only A Play, please visit

Posted in #Billy Porter, #LiliasWhite, #S.EpathaMerkerson, #SharonWashington, autobiographical, based on an actual life

Too close: Billy Porter’s "While Yet I Live"

Sometimes we are just to close to our own lives to properly document them.

Billy Porter’s While Yet I Live, at Primary Stages at The Duke on 42nd Street through October 31st, is a case in point.

S. Epatha Merkerson and Sharon Washington in While I Yet Live.
(c) 2014 James Leynse.
Primary Stages production of While I Yet Live by Billy Porter,
directed by Sheryl Kaller at Primary Stages at The Duke on 42nd Street.

The cliche- (and on occasion, stereotype-) laden script does not let the characters fully develop, despite a mostly stellar cast.

While Yet I Live tells the story of Calvin (Larry Powell), a stand-in for the author, or rather of his family.

Living in “The Big House” in Pittsburgh, PA, are his mother, Maxine (S. Epatha Merkerson), his grandmother, Gertrude (Lilias White), his great aunt Delores, aka Aunt D (Elain Graham), and his little sister Tonya (Sheria Irving in a standout performance.) Also living with them is the shut-in Arthur, whom we never see, but to whom Tonya brings trays of food, and Maxine’s best friend, Miss Eva (Sharon Washington)

Calvin leaves home for complicated reasons which involve his stepdad Vernon (Kevyn Morrow) to return at the end of Act I after success on Broadway.

Elain Graham, Lilias White and Larry Powell in While I Yet Live. 
(c) 2014 James Leynse. 

S. Epatha Merkerson is completely at ease in her role as a troubled, handicapped woman who is taking care of everyone around her. Sharon Washington makes you want a friend like that. It’s Sheria Irving’s Tonya, narrating and moving the drama along, who steals the show.

While Yet I Live is too loose and gangly. A few too many “Name it and claim its” and “You are not brokens” keep it from being taut. In fact, While Yet I Live, could easily be trimmed to bring the play to a more desireable intermissionless hour and fifteen. It could shed some ghosts to let the narrative move more smoothly and dramatically.

To learn more about Primary Stages and get tickets for While Yet I Live, please visit

Posted in 1965, Frank Marcus, The Actors Company Theatre, The Killing of Sister George, Tony winning play

"The Killing of Sister George" Revives at TACT

When The Killing of Sister George played rural England in the mid-1960s, it met with opprobium. Its ascent to the London stage, however, brought it considerable acclaim. In fact, Frank Marcus’ comedy was so well-received that it was turned into a movie, with an X-rating. Despite its fame, and a transfer to Broadway, where its star won the Tony, The Killing of Sister George has not been produced in New York in 30 years. Marcus, whose subsequent plays did not fare as well, was forced to turn from playwrighting to criticism.

Margot White and Caitlin O’Connell in The Killing of
Sister George
in a revival by The Actor’s Company
Theatre through November 1 at The Beckett.
Photo by Marielle Solan Photography.

TACT (The Actors Company Theatre, under the artistic lead of Scott Alan Evans and Jenn Thompson) has undertaken a revival of the once ever so controversial satirical piece, which runs through November 1 at the Beckett Theatre.

Ill-tempered and decidely domineering, June Buckridge (Caitlin O’Connell) voices the character of Sister George on a much loved BBC radio drama called Applehurst. She comes home to Alice “Childie” McNaught (Margot White,) the “Martha” to her “Arthur,” with a premonition that she will be cut from the program. Her mood, fouler than usual, invites humbling attentions from the generally submissive Childie.

In the midst of all this domestic turmoil, Mrs. Mercy Croft (Cynthia Harris,) a producer on the show, calls with her intention to pop by. The visit is cruelly civil. Sister George is more than a persona June adopts. She has come to identify with the character, and to be identified as the popular nurse from the small town in radio-land. Alice calls her George.

Caitlin O’Connell and Cynthia Harris.
Photo by Marielle Solan Photography.

Rounding out the cast is the downstairs neighbor, a soothsayer named Madame Xenia (Dana Smith-Croll) whom George calls upon in her moment of doubt.

Under the direction of Drew Barr, the cast recreates the times and atmosphere in which The Killing of Sister George first found its way. Questions of sexual identity and personal identity are broached in The Killing of Sister George. Childie’s behavior suggests that  George may have reason for her jealousies.

Dana Smith-Croll, Caitlin O’Connell and Margot White.
Photo by Marielle Solan Photography.

The play’s title is still powerful, of course. Despite the success of this production, what was once a sensation is now only a curiousity.  In its time, The Killing of Sister George had the power to shock with its testosterone laden script. — played out by  a woman-only cast.

For more information about TACT and The Killing of Sister George, please visit

Posted in Byron Jennings, Geoge S. Kaufman, Hart and Kaufman, IRS, James Earl Jones, Justince Dept., Kristine Nielsen, Maek Linn-Baker, Moss Hart, Reg Rogers, Rose Byrne, You Can't Take It With You

You know, you really can’t

Extended through February 22nddNew to the cast as of January 2015: Anna Chumsky and Richard Thomas
Rose Byrne as Alice Sycamore and James Earl Jones asMartin Vanderhof in George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s
“You Can’t Take It With You” at the Longacre. Photo by  Joan Marcus.

In the zany Sycamore clan, Alice (Rose Byrne) seems to have fallen farthest from the tree. She’s a level-headed girl who holds a conventional job as a secretary in a Wall Street firm. In a pleasing turn of events, she and the boss’s son, Anthony Kirby, Jr. (Fran Kranz) have fallen madly in love.

 James Earl Jones, Kristine Nielsen, Fran Kranz, Reg Rogers,
Annaleigh Ashford,Patrick Kerr and Mark Linn-Baker.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Will the antics of her charmingly eccentric family spoil her engagement?

Kaufman and Hart’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “You Can’t Take It With You,” at the Longacre Theatre, is a very American comedy. It’s about freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

Alice’s father, Paul (Mark Linn-Baker) constructs elaborate fireworks in the basement with the aid of Mr. DePinna (Patrick Kerr), who has taken up residence in grandpa’s home with them. Grandfather Martin Vanderhof (James Earl Jones) walked away from his office one day years ago, and spends his days at Columbia commencements and his evenings with the neighborhood cop on the corner.

Alice’s mother, Penny (Kristine Nielsen) is a serial artist currently writing steamy plays.
Essie, Alice’s sister, (Annaleigh Ashford) breaks into dance while her husband Ed Carmichael (Will Brill) plays Beethoven –with a little more he’s composed– on the xylophone. Her tutor, the boisterous Boris Kolenkhov (Reg Rogers, who seems to have been born for this role), indulges her despite her deficiences as a dancer. Rheba (Crystal Dickinson), the family’s maid who lives in with her beau Donald (Marc Damon Johnson) takes a keen interest in the household’s businesses, which include Essie’s candy-making enterprise.

You Can’t Take It With You” is both profoundly subversive and sweetly innocent. Charming, well-acted, beautifully constructed, and fabulously staged with Scott Ellis at the helm and David Rockwell (sets) and Jane Greenwood (costumes) designing. “You Can’t Take It With You” is as irrestible as Olga’s (Elizabeth Ashley) blintzes, but that comes later.

Elizabeth Ashley as Olga. Photo by
Joan Marcus.

Rounding out the cast are Byron Jennings as Tony’s father, Anthony Sr., and Johanna Day as his wife and Tony’s mother, Miriam. Also stopping by the Vanderhof-Sycamore home are Henderson, an IRS agent (Karl Kenzler) and some Justice Department fellows (Nick Corley, Austin Durant and Joe Tapper.) Gay Wellington (Julie Halston) spends her time there mostly in a madcap drunk.

You Can’t Take It With You” is a romantic comedy. Expect to see the triumph of good sense.

Every performance, in minutest detail, is perfect in “You Can’t Take It With You.” In fact the cast are all entirely impressive. James Earl Jones subdues that big voice to play an amicable, wise and peaceable Martin Vanderhof . Rose Byrne is delightful. Elizabeth Ashley makes the most of her Olga, as Reg Rogers does with his Kalenkhov. Kristine Nielsen, Annaleigh Ashford, Patrick Kerr, Marc Damon Johnson and Mark Linn-Baker are understatedly screwball.

To learn more about “You Can’t Take It With You,” please visit Hurry, tickets should be hard to get.
For additional commentary,