Posted in drama, performance art

War is disruptive, but you know that

Wars have a polarizing effect on families. Our mid-20th century skirmishes in Southeast Asia had dire consequences. Children returned damaged from their experiences to families that had once been seamlessly integrated into the American dream.

Photo © Joan Marcus. Father Donald (Richard Chamberlain) helps David (Ben Schnetzer) battle his demos.
Photo © Joan Marcus.
Father Donald (Richard Chamberlain) helps David (Ben Schnetzer) battle his demos.

For the returning vets, like David (Ben Schnetzer) in David Rabe’s Sticks and Bones, at the New Group through December 14th, the dream had turned into a nightmare.

David’s damage is psychic as well as physical. He is both maimed and disillusioned. Normal will never be the ordinary life he had. His brother Ricky (Raviv Ullman), mother Harriet (Holly Hunter) and father Ozzie (Bill Pullman) don’t share his reality; they are ill-equipped to deal with tragedy. David’s family is, however, lives each day with an undertone of quiet brutality.

Photo © Joan Marcus. Ricky (Raviv Ullman), Ozzie (Bill Pullman), Harriet (Holly Hunter) in a scene from "Sticks and Bones."
Photo © Joan Marcus. Ricky (Raviv Ullman), Ozzie (Bill Pullman), Harriet (Holly Hunter) in a scene from “Sticks and Bones.”

Sticks and Bones was conceived at the height of the Vietnam conflict; it won Rabe a Tony in 1972. It grew out of an era when the conservative values of the Eisenhower years uncomprehendingly clashed with global events. Originally produced off Broadway in 1971 at Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre, Sticks and Bones was the second play in Rabe’s Vietnam trilogy, which began with The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel and was followed by Streamers.

In Sticks and Bones, the disruption from the norm is extreme, tragic and occassionally funny. Sticks and Bones is a satire, skewering the expectation that everything is okay. Under Scott Elliott’s direction, the play achieves its destiny as a radical vision of a troubled time. The actors play out their unappealing characters with naturalism that belies the play’s surreal contexts.  Bill Pullman gives an especially wrenching performance in this standout ensemble.

Along with the immediate family at the heart of our story, the cast of characters also include Father Donald (Richard Chamberlain), Zung (Nadia Gan) and Sergeant Major (Morocco Omari).

For more information and tickets to Sticks and Bones, please visit http://www.thenewgroup.org/sticks-and-bones.html

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Posted in comedy

The Play’s the thing.

News we can use: Martin Short to join Matthew Broderick in It’s Only A Play on January 7th. It’s Only A Play extends its run through March 29th

Rupert Grint, Megan Mullally, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, and Stockard Channing in "It's Only A Play." Photo © Joan Marcus
Rupert Grint, Megan Mullally, Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, and Stockard Channing in “It’s Only A Play.” Photo © Joan Marcus

Nathan Lane, who is amazing, and will leave the production after January 4th, to be replaced by Short. Broderick will continue in his role as the hapless playwright, Peter Austen. Lane can be seen in The Iceman Cometh at BAM beginning February 5th.

For a commentary on It’s Only A Play, visit our reviews at http://www.vevlynspen.com/2014/11/sparing-no-one-from-sharp-tongue-and.html

or in http://tbontheaisleatheaterdiary.blogspot.com/2014/10/too-modest-by-half-mcnallys-its-only.html

For more on the production, visit the official site for It’s Only A Play  http://itsonlyaplay.com/

Posted in drama, musical theatre

Welcome back the “Soul Doctor”

From the Broadway run: Eric Anderson and Amber Iman. Photo by Carol Rosegg
From the Broadway run: Eric Anderson and Amber Iman. Photo by Carol Rosegg

As is evident from the commentary we made at the time, we liked Soul Doctor when it premiered at Circle in the Square in August 2013. (tbontheaisleatheaterdiary.blogspot.com/2013/08/soul-singer-when-rebbe-met-jazz-singer.html)

So we are very happy to see Shlomo Carlebach’s story return to the New York stage. “Soul Doctor,” coming to Actors Temple Theatre on November 26th, is based on the Rebbe’s autobiography, with additional material from his daughter, Nashama. The concept was by Jeremy Chess and the book and direction are by Daniel S. Wise with lyrics by  David Schechter. Of course many of the tunes are by Shlomo himself, who was known as the “Rockstar Rabbi.”

Look for Shlomo and his followers to return to the stage this  November: http://www.souldoctorbroadway.com/

Posted in comedy, drama, opera, performance art, singing, theater

What’s doing around our town

Photos by Richard Termine Gotham Chamber Opera – EL GATO Photo Credits Photos by Richard Termine  puppeteers and Kevin Burdette
Photos by Richard Termine
Gotham Chamber Opera – EL GATO Photo Credits
Photos by Richard Termine
puppeteers and Kevin Burdette

through November 23rd
For this production of generations, debbie tucker green, the London-born playwright, is reunited with director Leah C. Gardiner with whom she collaborated on her 2011 Obie winning “born bad.” In generations, audiences are brought into a kitchen in a South African township where a fragrant meal is being prepared and into the lives of three generations of a close-knit family. As they cook and banter and share stories and food, generations explores what is passed on and what is lost through generations of a family and a nation in this structurally audacious new play. generations is a co-production of Soho Rep and the Play Company; it runs through November 23 at Soho Rep. A 13 piece choir is led by Bongi Duma who also composed and arranged the music in generations.

More at http://sohorep.org/generations

December 1st and December 13th
Suzi Shelton performs two family concerts sponsored by Symphony Space.On December 1st, The Suzi Shelton Band takes part in Winter’s Eve, a free celebration of the holiday season. On the 13th, Suzi Shelton joins Amelia Robinson and Mill’s Trills as part of a daylong event in Brooklyn. Suzi Shelton is a regular on the “tot circuit” and composes and performs meaningful material for family-friendly events.

More at http://www.winterseve.nyc/forkids/ and http://www.eventbrite.com/e/ps-133-winter-concert-featuring-suzi-shelton-tickets-14206659501?aff=es2&rank=1

December 2nd
Giving Tuesday and Opening Night combine to make the Urban Stages Outreach an “event.” Winter Rhythms kicks off its season with a tribute to Bing Crosby, champagne and a reception with the artists.

More at http://urbanstages.org/winterrhythms2014. To contribute go to http://urbanstageschristmasgiving.mydagsite.com/

December 6th-14th
Gotham Chamber Opera and Tectonic Theater Project’s production of El gato con botas (Puss in Boots) will be at El Teatro at El Museo del Barrio from December 6-14, 2014. Can the scruffy  “Puss” help his master win the princess’s hand?
Xavier Montsalvatge’s take on the classic story features Bunraku puppetry will be directed by Moisés Kaufman and features puppetry from London’s Blind Summit Theater. El gato con botas, originally created in 2011 by the Gotham Chamber Opera, is a co-production with El Museo del Barrio and Works & Process at the Guggenheim. To add to the magic of the opera, the Teatro’s interior contains scenes from children’s literature, including a mural of “Puss in Boots” designed in 1921 by the gifted illustrator and painter, Willy Pogany (1882-1955).

More at http://www.gothamchamberopera.org/production/el_gato_con_botas_2014

December 6th
Cyberscripting Workshop at the New York Public Library: Around the Block’s workshops focus on the interplay of mathematics, urban experience, and technology in the creation of dramatic works. Admission is free, and you can find out more about the program by attending this workshop at The 115th Street Branch of the NYPL, corner of Adam Clayton Powerll Jr Blvd, at 10:30 on Saturday, December 6th.

Extended to December 7th and December 14th respectively
Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 and 3) by Suzan-Lori Parks has had tremendous reception in the press and with audiences. The play, directed by Jo Bonney, opened October 14th, and in its third extension, The Public announced it will run through December 7th.

Also at the Public Theater, also in an extended run is Young Jean Lee’s Straight White Men, which will play through December 14th.

Photo: Gary Wilmes, James Stanley, and Pete Simpson in Straight White Men, a co-production with Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company, written and directed by Young Jean Lee, running at The Public Theater. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg.
Photo: Gary Wilmes, James Stanley, and Pete Simpson in Straight White Men, a co-production with Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company, written and directed by Young Jean Lee, running at The Public Theater. Photo credit: Carol Rosegg.

More at http://www.publictheater.org/en/Public-Theater-Season/Father-Comes-Home-from-the-Wars/ and at

http://www.publictheater.org/en/Public-Theater-Season/Straight-White-Men/

Posted in ballet, dance, performance art

Burning Bright: “The Flames of Paris” Ignite the Stage

Seldom is high expectation met, never mind exceeded. The Mikhailovsky Ballet, visiting New York from St. Petersburg from November 11th through the 23rd, takes the spectacular and the epic to new heights.

Victor Lebedev as Antoine Mistral, an actor, in a scene from "The Flames of Paris." © Costas
Victor Lebedev as Antoine Mistral, an actor, in a scene from “The Flames of Paris.” © Costas

In “The Flames of Paris,” which ran over the weekend, revolutionary fervor and romantic zeal coupled with a robust cast are a rewarding combination.

The stage of the David H. Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center embraces the dancers, giving them ample space to champion “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.”

“The Flames of Paris” is an extravaganza unlike any you’ve likely seen before. From the lavish Royal Court to the elaborate Paris square, “The Flames of Paris,” based on a book by Felix Gras, celebrates the storming of the Tuilleries in 1792. The story, of course, is an alegory for the Russian rebellion of 1917.

Ekterina Borchenko as Diana Mireille, an actress in a scene from "The Flames of Paris," performed by The Mihailovsky Theatre Ballet Company Photo by © Costas
Ekaterina Borchenko as Diana Mireille, an actress in a scene from “The Flames of Paris,” performed by The Mihailovsky Theatre Ballet Company
Photo by © Costas

Theatricality, combined with expert dancing and a rousing score by Boris Asafiev, a Soviet era composer who had seven ballets under his belt when commissioned to produce this tribute to the Bolshevik uprising, give this production its sweep and power. Mikhail Messerer, Ballet Master in Chief of the Mikhailovsky, has re-configured the original choreography by Vasily Voynonen to bring “The Flames of Paris” into the modern era.

His staging is true to the original production, with costumes by Vladimir Dmitriev and a revival of the stage and costume design by Vyacheslav Okunev.

In Scene I of the first act, we see the vicious brutality of the Marquis de Beauregard (Mikhail Venshchikov). Scene II reveals the extravagant excesses of the Royal Court of Louis XVI (Alexei Malakhov.) Then in come the rebel masses.

“The Flames of Paris” is an intelligently framed polemic in which the people’s happiness is represented by a Marsellaisese militiaman Philippe and his fiancee Jeanne (Ivan Zaytsev and Angelina Vorontseva at our performance.) Zaytsev and Vorontseva execute the astounding leaps an turns that make ballet so exhilirating.

The power of Zaytsev’s breath-catching jetes belie his slim frame. His is a triumphant exhibition of the pleasures of classical ballet. Vorontseva balances and twirls on her toes in an endless display of pirouettes so joyously that mere cries of brava and applause seem like too small a reward for the pleasure she gives.

Adding to the populist theme, there is dancing in Basque clogs– the sabot from whence we get “saboteur,” but that is a different story. There are also other folkloric and character dances from the Fanadole in the streets of Paris to the rebellious Carmgnoles.

“The Flames of Paris” is a glorious production. For more of the schedule for the rest of the Mikhailovsky Ballet tour and for tickets, please visit The David H. Koch Theatre or go to the Mikhailovsky site.

For more commentary on the Mikhailovsky, visit http://wp.me/p5jq0w-7, http://wp.me/p5gEnW-o, or http://wp.me/p5gEnW-6

 

Posted in comedy, drama, theater, Uncategorized

Visit “The Country House”

Sarah Steele as Susie, Eric Lange as her uncle Elliott, and Blythe Danner as her grandmother Anna in a scene in Donald Marguiles' "The Country House." Photo © Joan Marcus
Sarah Steele as Susie, Eric Lange as her uncle Elliott, and Blythe Danner as her grandmother Anna in a scene in Donald Margulies’ “The Country House.” Photo © Joan Marcus

Each of us experiences grief and healing in different ways.

In Donald Margulies’ The Country House, a world premiere in its last days at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (closing November 23rd), a family gathers to commemorate and mourn.

It’s been a year since Katherine died young and her mother, Anna Patterson (Blythe Danner) is hosting a memorial. Susie Keegan (Sarah Steele) is the first to arrive at her grandmother’s house; she is sharp-witted and funny, but shocked that Anna has invited more than just immediate family.

Daniel Sunjata and Blythe Danner in a scene from "The Country House." Photo © Joan Marcus
Daniel Sunjata and Blythe Danner in a scene from “The Country House.” Photo © Joan Marcus

Susie is mortified that her father, Walter (David Rasche), a Hollywood director, has arrived with his fiancee, Nell McNally (Kate Jennings Grant). Anna, a renowned actress who will be starring in a Williamstown production later in the summer, has also asked Michael Astor (Daniel Sunjata) to stay a few days while his apartment is fumigated. Michael, who plays a doctor on a long-running television series, is in Williamstown to do a revival of a comedy. He is the object of much envy, especially from Elliott Cooper (Eric Lange), Anna’s surviving child and a failed performer,  Michael, handsome and successful,  is also an object of considerable desire.

Blythe Danner’s performance is natural and superb, but Sarah Steele, with her perfectly timed delivery and mastery of repartee, almost steals the show. Not so fast, almost. In this exceptional well-honed ensemble, no one stands out for long. Eric Lange is thoroughly obnoxious and pathetic as the hapless Elliott should be; his pain distances him from everyone. Each of these characters gets to luxuriate in and reveal their humanity.

Under Daniel Sullivan’s directon, The Country House moves  seamlessly from comedy to tragedy — working both sides of the street flawlessly. Margulies’ script for The Country House is rich and meaty.

Make your visit to The Country House before it closes on November 23rd. For more information and tickets, go to http://thecountryhousebway.com/

Posted in drama, performance art, theater

Paula Vogel, Chazz Palmentieri, Mummenschanz, and “Rodney King”

© MUMMENSCHANZ
© MUMMENSCHANZ

BRIC and the Sundance Institute Theatre Program, in partnership with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Yale Repertory Theatre, host a  work-in-progress reading of Indecent co-created by
director Rebecca Taichman and the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel.  Indecent is inspired by the controversy surrounding the 1922 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance – a play considered by some to be a seminal work of Jewish culture, by others, an act of calumny.

The playwright, director and cast will be in residence at BRIC House, House located at
647 Fulton Street in Downtown Brooklyn, from November 18–24, with the public reading scheduled for Monday, November 24 at 7pm. For tickets and information, visit BRICartsmedia.org .

© MUMMENSCHANZ
© MUMMENSCHANZ

Mummenschanz, the renowned theatrical troupe, whose three-year Broadway run introduced a new form of visual theatricality, returns to New York from November 20-30. The show, at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts (566 LaGuardia Place),  will feature some of the most popular sketches
created and performed by the internationally renowned troupe, as well as new creations– including a world premiere created especially for New York audiences.

Mummenschanz performs in silence,  using forms, shadow and light as well as sculptural manipulations and expressive masks to conjure a magical world, full of possibilities.  Their art is transcendent and sparks the imagination.

“When we return to New York, we always feel like we are coming home,” said founder and performer Floriana Frassetto. “The ‘stories’ we tell are unique in that
they have no sound or music and we hope that our show will awaken the little child in everyone.”

For more information about the New York tour of Mummenschanz, please visit  http://www.mummenschanzny.com/

Chazz Palminteri’s A Bronx Tale helps the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College continue its 60th Anniversary Season on November 23, 2014 at 3pm
In A Bronx Tale, Academy Award® nominee, Chazz Palminteri  tells the semi-autobiographical story of a young boy from a working class family who witnesses a murder and is introduced to the world of organized crime. This classic coming-of-age story premiered in Los Angeles
in 1989, moving to New York City for a critically and commercially successful off-Broadway run. The stage production attracted the attention of Robert De Niro, who offered to make the film as his directorial debut, while keeping Palminteri as a screenwriter and actor on the project. In 2007-08,  Palminteri brought the 18-character one man show back for another Broadway stint.

For tickets to this special performance at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, visit http://www.brooklyncenter.org/

Roger Guenveur Smith reprises his play and performance as Rodney King, after its New York premiere at the 2013 Under The Radar festival and an international tour at BRIC House (647 Fulton Street, Brooklyn) from December 3rd through the 7th.

Roger Guenveur Smith has based his plays on historical events and characters from Huey P. Newton to Bob Marley and Frederick Douglass. In addition to his one man plays, Smith has been in films and on television, from Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” to “Hamlet,” “Deep Cover” and “American Gangster,” as well as on the series “K Street” and “Oz.”

To learn more about Rodney King, please visit http://bricartsmedia.org/events/roger-guenveur-smiths-rodney-king