Posted in based on a true story or event, drama, family drama

“War” and Peace

Discord is so natural to the human condition that we are often shocked when matters are settled amicably.

Aftermath

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins does not go so far as to find a peaceable solution for his characters in War, playing at LCT3 through July 3rd, but he looks at issues of race, mortality, and identity in his family saga.

Roberta (Charlayne Woodard) is in a coma after a stroke and her children, Tate (Chris Meyers) and Joanne (Rachel Nicks) find a stranger, Elfriede (Michele Shay) at her bedside. Elfriede uses the little English she knows to tell them that Roberta is her sister.

In the meantime, Joanne’s husband, Malcolm (Reggie Gowland) calls from Roberta’s apartment to say that he’s found a prowler there. Tobias (Austin Durant) is Elfriede’s son. They have travelled from Germany to meet Roberta. For Elfriede, the journey is emotional; for Tobias it is transactional.

Like Tobias, Tate is caught up in considerations of finance. He sees the Germans as usurpers. Joanne sees them as people in need. The outstanding Lance Coadie Williams rounds out the cast in two roles, as the domineering Nurse and the authoritative Alpha.

Jacobs-Jenkins indulges in the trendlet of breaking the fourth wall. In his case the surreal and supernatural, integral to his story is aided by Roberta’s addressing the audience. His is not a realistic play.

Under  Lileana Blain Cruz’s direction offers what is nearly an out-of-body experience. The techno effects, with lighting by Matt Frey and sound by Bray Poor, and a minimalist set by Mimi Lien, conspire to give War its raw, and visceral power.

Accord

A handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin  inspired J.T. Rogers to create Oslo, a play about the backdrop to the peace accords. Oslo is at Lincoln Center‘s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, under the direction of Bartlett Sher,  with a cast that includes the
charismatic Jefferson Mays, the wonderful Jennifer Ehle, and the dynamic Daniel Jenkins, and playing through August 28th. The large ensemble also features Michael Aronov, Anthony Azizi, Adam Dannheisser, Dariush Kashani, and Jeb Kreager.

Oslo explores the events that led up to the iconic moment in 1993 when peace in the Middle East seemed possible. The inevitable unravelling and descent into strife is a depressing reality today. It might be nice to go back to more hopeful times.

 

 

 

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Posted in Uncategorized

Ring, ring, ring…

“Hi, how are you?” “I’m in the theater. What?” “Oh, yes, at American Psycho.” “It’s a musical.” “No, great seats, third row center.…

Source: Ring, ring, ring…

Posted in ballet, dance, dance making, dancing

Uplifting

Tiler Peck and Amar Ramasar in Justin Peck's Everywhere We Go from http://www.nycballet.com/Ballets/E/Everywhere-We-Go-New-Stevens-Peck.aspx
Tiler Peck and Amar Ramasar in Justin Peck’s Everywhere We Go from http://www.nycballet.com/Ballets/E/Everywhere-We-Go-New-Stevens-Peck.aspx

Ofttimes, once the curtain rises, it’s the costumes I remember. They are the shorthand trigger of what the dance I am about to see will be.

This is not an infallible guide, as it was not with Christopher Wheeldon’s Estancia at New York City Ballet the other day. (The gaucho-rich costumes by the designer Carlos Campos, have a touch of J. Crew; the horses are sleekly outfitted for–under the circumstances– maximum stagey realism.)

A WILD RIDE

We last saw Estancia when it premiered in 2010, so the memory lapse can be forgiven. Or perhaps it should not. Estancia is brilliant, lively, original and a wild love story. A huge brava to Ana Sophia Sheller for her portrayal of the wild Country Girl who tames Adrian Danchig-Waring’s wonderfully danced City Boy. Wheeldon has set the piece to the Alberto Ginastera composition commissioned in 1941 by Lincoln Kirstein. Since his American Ballet Caravan disbanded in the next year, Kirstein never got the chance to have Balanchine choreograph. There is plenty of exotica on the  pampas on which Estancia is danced; there are cowboys, and city slickers, peasant girls and wild horses (one of whom is danced by Amar Ramasar) and a singer (Stephen LaBrie) in the style of flamenco.

A GALLERY TOUR

Pictures at an Exhibition, set for New York City Ballet  in 2014 by Alexei Ratmansky to Modest Mussorgsky’s piano concerto, is artsy, but a touch overly long. Not on a list of personal favorites, but it executes a clever concept, and is well danced by the company.
The cast are costumed, by Adeline Andre, in painterly outfits. Wassily Kandinsky’s “Color Studies…” are the background, in projections created by Wendell K. Harrington and lit by lighting designer Mark Stanley.

CAPRICIOUS

Everywhere We Go, Justin Peck’s second dance created for NYCB (in the spring of 2014)set to music by Sufijan Stevens, suffers from mood swings. These, however, cannot detract from the buoyant mood in which the piece has already put you from the moment it opens. Everywhere We Go is exuberant as it opens, and its excitement and energy is infectious, even heart-stopping. In the seventh or eighth movement, the nine-part dancework lurches into a depression. Everywhere We Go is still exhilarating, just seems to be a little less upbeat.

Among the many thrills offered up by Everywhere We Go is the pleasure of seeing Robert Fairchild and Amar Ramasar partnering. Peck is a master at this kind of male-bonding, but, with 25 dancers on stage, he gives us much much more to enjoy.

In ballet-making, as in all things in life, younger hands must eventually prevail and take over. It is progressive, and these new sensibilities need to be heard. Justin Peck can be counted upon as one of this new band of dancemakers, as can the new-to-me Nicolas Blanc, whose Mothership takes off with a distinctly electro tempo, provided by the music of Mason Bates.

Costumed

In Belles-Lettres, Justin Peck uses costumes to paint a picture in which the drama of the music is reconstructed in the drama of the steps. The piece is set to Cesar Franck’s  Solo de piano avec accompagnement de quintette à cordes.

The Most Incredible Thing is another Peck costume drama. Set to commissioned music by Bryce Dressner, this piece was preceded by enough hype to lift an air balloon aloft. All the hype is true and well-deserved. It is not just the 50 dancers on the stage that make this a BIG ballet. The Hans Christian Anderson fairy-tale is clothed by Marcel Dzama, supervised by Marc Happel, for maximum odd effects.

Classic meets modern

Peter Martins, @NYCBallet’s Ballet Master in Chief, has choreographed a great number of works for the company, including the overwhelming lovely Barber Violin Concerto .

She steps into his embrace, and this being ballet, the embrace is more intimate than you would normally expect. When they switch partners, one couple is wild and tender, while the second take great effort in their relationship.The conceit in this energetic and stirring piece is ballet’s flirtation with modern dance.

For many of the new wave of choreographers, the flirtation has become a collaboration, with modern steps and moves heavily incorporated into their ballet creations.

For tickets for the New York City Ballet, whose new season begins September 20th, please visit http://www.nycballet.com/.

Posted in based on a true story or event, drama, theater

Smarter than the average bear…

Incognito Manhattan Theatre Club - Stage 1 By Nick Payne, Directed by Doug Hughes

Brain matter, preserved or degenerating, makes for interesting study.

Nick Payne’s Incognito, at Manhattan Theatre Club’s City Center Stage I through July 10th, analyzes and dissects, as it were, the ideas of individality/personality and cognition/memory, along with many other entertaining propositions.

Much of the plot of Incognito hinges on the theft of Einstein’s brain and goes full circle, with 4 actors portraying 21 characters in rapid and fluid succession. The story has basis in fact: Dr. Thomas Harvey (Morgan Spector) actually did take the brain with the intent to see what genius looks like, and kept it with him for the next 40 years; it appears he did not find out much in the course of his “studies,” but you will find out a great deal from Payne’s fascinating play.

Questions of sexual identity, loss and recollection are all touched upon in the course of the exciting and novel short theatrical piece. It’s as if a science-philosophy lecture came to life on the stage.

The ensemble work is beautifully orchestrated in Doug Hughes direction of Geneva Carr, Charlie Cox, Morgan Spector and Heather Lind.

Incognito is clever, unexpected and dramatic. It maybe the most interesting and unusual piece of theater you witness for a long while.

Please visit MTC’s site to learn more about and get tickets for Incognito.

Posted in theater, Tony Awards, Tony winner

TONY (W)rap

I was wrong
Hamilton came on strong

Not seven
But eleven

Statuettes for lighting,
Orchestrations, and fighting

Cast and Lin
All win

Hamilton‘s got a token
Record’s still unbroken

Hamilton– 16 nods, 11 wins– trails
The Producers– winning 12– prevails

Their twelve wins no one’s topped
Even with just 11, Ham can’t be stopped

Try and get a ticket to see it, now– no!
That’s okay, it’ll still be there when you do go


It’s an annual ritual at VevlynsPen.com to have me flail around guessing who the winner will be on TONY’s big night. I am often wrong, and occassionally right. Congratulations, for instance, to Roundabout’s She Loves Me for a best for sets designed by David Rockwell.

But the business of TONY is a double-edged sword. The awards celebration attracts audiences– Hamilton, we might point out, did not need the boost– andthose not getting an award are dubbed TONY losers. Yes, I know, a TONY nominee is not a loser, but if you don’t win it…. well you know. It is in the musical category that productions are particularly vulnerable. (Plays are on their own time-table; very rarely would one last even 500 performances, although it may find a revival every few years.)

Not every musical is as resilient as Something Rotten! which chugs along with only the one lonely TONY winner, Christian Borle, in its cast. From this year’s crop, On Your Feet!, the Emilio and Gloria Estefan musical, has its own special appeal, and is selling tickets through next April.

American Psycho The Musical succumbed before awards night. The luminous Bright Star is closing before the July 4th holiday on June 26th; as CBS news confirms, it did not win the awards needed to keep the public’s interest. Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Broadway Sensation of 1921, and all that Followed is telling its story through October 9th at this point. We’ll see if it gets a second wind if and when Audra McDonald returns from her intermission from the show.

Since I mentioned plays, aka non-musical ones, earlier, it is good to remember that Eclipsed might have had a longer run had it gotten more love from TONY. The Father, which won a TONY for Frank Langella’s star turn, closed on schedule on father’s day.The Humans, this year’s best play will stay open at least through the end of the year at the Helen Hayes.

What can the TONYs do to help Broadway more? Should we all ease up a little on thinking of a TONY win as the pinnacle of a production’s success? In other, maybe TONY should matter less and the play be the thing…..

Posted in Bloom's day, Bloomsday, James Joyce

One bloomin’ grand day

from http://www.origintheatre.org/
from http://www.origintheatre.org/

The Irish have given English its heart, wit and a pleasant-to-the-ear lilt. They have a smart and soulful way with the English language, which is celebrated, in part, by the annual reading of James Joyce’s masterwork, Ulysses.

What better place to honor Bloomsday than at Bloom’s Tavern, one of several New York hang-outs for Joyce’s (or is Harold Bloom’s) big day? The 2016 Bloomsday celebration was also the centenniel of Irish independency. “Origin’s 3rd Bloom… @ Bloom’s Tavern of Course!” is organized by  Origin Theatre Company.  There was music by the Irish-folk-rock troubadour Alan Gogarty; actors in costume greeted visitors for a feast of an Irish breakfast. As is the custom on Bloomsday, actors recreate the summer morning chronicled by James Joyce in Ulysses set in Dublin on June 16, 112 years ago.

Reading from the magnum opus were, among others, Fionnula Flanagan, Malachy McCourt, Alfie McCourt, author Colin Broderick and actors Terry Donnolly, Patrick Fitzgerald, Brenda Meaney,  and Fiona Walsh. Also on hand for the festivities was David Staller, champion of all things Shavian, and Charlotte Moore, doyenne of the Irish Rep. Jonathan Brielle, author, composer and lyricist of Himself and Nora  introduced the musical through songs performed by its stars, Matt Bogart and Whitney Bashor.

Joyce coined the idea of Bloomsday, himself, inaugurating the event on June 16, 1924.
The cast and presenters at the 2016  “Origin’s 3rd Bloom…” carried the tradition of the day forward with reverence and humor.

You may be interested in hearing what we’ve said about past Bloomsday celebrations as well: http://wp.me/p5jq0w-3C. Read The New Yorker‘s analysis of what is or is no longer shocking about Joyce’s shocking book.

 

Posted in drama, dramedy, theater

The summertime blues….

Indian Summer by Gregory S. Moss at Playwrights Horizons Directed by Carolyn Cantor. Pictured Jonathan Hadary, Owen Campbell & Elise Kibler. Photo © Joan Marcus
Indian Summer by Gregory S. Moss at
Playwrights Horizons
Directed by Carolyn Cantor. Pictured Jonathan Hadary, Owen Campbell & Elise Kibler. Photo © Joan Marcus

Fleeting and deeply emotional relationships between teens-at- leisure flare up regularly during vacations by the shore.

Gregory S. Moss’ dramedy, Indian Summer, at Playwrights Horizons through June 26th, is on the face of it about teen romance.

Daniel (Owen Campbell) is deposited at the Rhode Island seaside cottage to spend summer with his mother’s stepfather, George (Jonathan Hadary.) On the beach, he encounters a belligerent townie, Izzy (Elise Kibler) with whom he shares a summer moment.

Izzy and Daniel are both dreamers. Izzy’s curiosity makes her as much outsider as Daniel is. Her slacker boyfriend, Jeremy (Joe Tippett), doesn’t share their vision of the world. He is both amused and jealous of their rapport.

Photo © Joan Marcus: Owen Campbell, Joe Tippett & Elise Kibler
Photo © Joan Marcus: Owen Campbell, Joe Tippett & Elise Kibler

Breaking down the 4th wall is almost an affectation with young playwrights these days. It features a character chatting at the audience in a narration. The fourth wall Moss takes down in this case is the cedar cabin George inhabits.

Joe Tippett & Owne Campbell. Photo © Joan Marcus
Joe Tippett & Owen Campbell. Photo © Joan Marcus

The cedar frames a sand dune set cleverly designed by Dane Laffrey.

George’s monologues are instructive and amusing, but seem beside the point– until they don’t.

The excellent, small ensemble is ably directed by Carolyn Cantor. Kaye Voyce’s costumes are casual, cute and carefree, as you’d expect of summer attire.

What could have been a sweet little story turns bittesweet.
Sometimes a story takes a detour, as Indian Summer does.

Is the unexpected zigzag for better or for worse? You decide.

For more information about Indian Summer, please visit the PHnyc website.