Christopher Marlowe had a way with words. Underappreciated, compared to his contemporary, Shakespeare, whose greatness is undisputed and whose popularity remains unrivalled.
Marlowe’s plots, like Shakespeare’s, drew from history and built on themes both personal and universal. His Tamburlaine the Greatis one example of a tragedy with great umph. It is the ultimate tale of an over-reaching hero.
The Jew of Maltais the lesser-known Marlowe version of The Merchant of Venice, well sort of….. It was certainly an inspiration.
Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe were contemporaries, both great Elizabethan dramatists. In fact, Marlowe was considered the greatest tragedian of his era, but somehow Will has outlasted him. Marlowe’s plays are not revived; there is no annual “Marlowe Festival” nor “Marlowe in the Park” to honor his works. There are also no commemorative postcards from Russia for Marlowe, as there are for William Shakespeare. Shakespeare is known now as The Bard, and Marlowe is an obscure reference.
Can Marlowe’s works ever get the scrutiny they deserve? Can he someday share equal billing with Shakespeare? Is there a “market” for a Marlowe retrospective? Would a production of Marlowe’s works meet with audience approval and critical acclaim?
Marlowe met his untimely death in an as yet unresolved murder while his personal reputation was suspect. He had been called to the Privy Council for alleged blasphemies, so perhaps you might say his professional reputation was on the line when he was stabbed to death at the end of May 1593.
Each year, Paul Taylor brings us two new works he has created. Now, with his newish company mandate that Paul Taylor American Modern Dance celebrate and archive the modern dance medium, his company also dances new works by contemporary choreographers and also presents and preserves pieces from the historical repertory.
Paul Taylor’s The Wordis a piece we have only caught once before. On the penultimate matinee of this season, it was presented along with Book of Beasts, as well as the elegant and dancerly Cascade, a work that Taylor created in 1999.
Book of Beasts (1971) is full of fantastical creatures. It is scored in 9 parts, to the music of Schubert, Weber, Saint-Saëns, Beethoven, Mozart, as well as Boccherini, Falla and Tchikovsky, all played with zest on a pedal harpsichord (recorded by E. Power Biggs.) John Rawlings raucous costumes conspire the Taylor’s mood of happy-go-lucky menace in this piece. The Word shares this mood of cheerful malevolence.
Do I look for too much meaning in the amusing patterns of the dance? Perhaps, but this is what I find: In The Word, there appears to be some zealotry with a bracing chaser in the form of a woman, who may or may not be Eve. The religious scholars are not in a garden like Eden, but they worship and genuflect.
Life’s second act is not always a chance to do better, or pick up the pieces dropped during the first act.
Linda, in an MTC production at NY City Center’s Stage I, through April 2nd, is about do-overs.
The titular protagonist, Linda Wilde (Janie Dee) is a 50-ish woman toiling in the beauty industry. She has two daughters, both living in her house. Alice (Jennifer Ikeda), in her 20’s is broken by a high school incident Linda thinks she should forget. Her younger daughter, Bridget (Molly Ranson) is about to burst onto life’s stage. Her husband Neil (Donald Sage Mackay) is a school teacher and would-be rocker, also in mid-life. His bandmate, Stevie (Meghann Fahy), is an attractive ne’er do well whose song interludes all end with “Sorry, can we start again.”
Linda’s rival at work, Amy (Molly Griggs), is also in the first act of her life. Amy is a mean girl of 25 or so, already suffering anxiety about the ticking clock . The office intern, Luke (Maurice Jones), is a millenial with a wicked selfie habit.
Linda’s boss Dave (John C. Vennema) was her mentor when she was Amy’s age; now he is working to champion the younger woman. He’s in charge, so his is the loudest voice.
Penelope Skinner’s Lindais an American premiere under the direction of MTC’s artistic director, Lynne Meadow. Linda is a British import that had a successful run at London’s Royal Court Theatre.
The play is engaging, well-acted, and thought-provoking. In a superior ensemble, Janie Dee takes an impressive lead.
Originality is always prized, but is it always good box office?
Back by popular acclaim
On Broadway, the revival is generally a vehicle that’s had tried-and-true success. The public likes the play or its author, and adding a marquee name will probably bring them in again. An eager new cast and crew doing the hard bits is probably a formula that will minimize a producer’s risk.
There are no guarantees, of course, in the theater. The audiences can be fickle. Is O’Neill still a draw? Will Arthur Miller appeal? Do they want to see Neil Simon, or Ibsen? Is Chekhov a lock for their full attention?
Setting the stage
Les Miz and Miss Saigon (currently in a revival at The Broadway Theatre) cycle through periodically, generally with good success. Catsis bringing back “Memory” at the Neil Simon Theatre at the moment. Sondheim gets out quite a bit too– from revivals of Follies to Sweeney Toddto Gypsy, to mention a few, and of course the current revival of Sunday in the Park with Georgestarring Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford at the refurbished Hudson Theatre.
Bette Midler is expected to be a very effective matchmaker in Hello Dolly!Given her fanbase, she should attract a loyal audience to the Shubert Theatre, running through January 7, 2018, and in fact, the website’s performance calendar is already offering tips on availability.
On the dramatic side, Tennessee Williams gets his share of the Broadway air. His works are often produced, and not just at the not-for-profit subscription houses. So many roles tempt actresses to climb the mountains of his beautiful poetic prose that The Glass Menagerie has seen a number of recent renditions. In 2014, Cherry Jones tackled the part of Amanda Wingfield; in 2010 it was Blythe Danner. Currently, it’s Sally Fields taking on the mother of all roles (sorry Mama Rose) in the Broadway run of The Glass Menagerie through July 2nd.
Broadway transfers create a very different equation for the money behind productions. The show did well in, say, a 300-seat house. How will it fare in one with 500+?
We caught In Transit in its off-Broadway run at 59E59 in a Primary Stages production, and the move to Broadway for this gritty a cappella musical should be interesting to watch. It’s at Circle in the Square through June 25th.
Often, Broadway’s bookmakers like the odds. They’ve taken The Humans, for instance, out of Roundabout’s Laura Pels and plucked it onto the Helen Hayes where it has flourished. Stephen Karam’s domestic drama won the 2016 Tony® as Best Play. Significant Other, another Roundabout vehicle is heading over to Broadway’s Booth Theatre, through July 2nd.
Dear Evan Hansenis doing very well, thank you, since moving around the corner from 43rd Street’s 2nd Stage to the Music Box in an open run. A dramusical with lots of heart and the off-Broadway cred of its creative group, Steve Levenson (book) and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (music and lyrics.) It’s attracting Broadway audiences. Its lead, Ben Platt, who like Significant Other‘s Gideon Glick , has star quality; both transferred with the pvehicles they lead.
Avenue Q took a circuitous route, after transferring from off Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre, it landed off a well-received Broadway run (it won 3 Tony®s in 2004) at New World Stages for seven years.
The most famous name in Broadway transfers came from the Public Theater to win 11 Tony Awards®. It is, of course, Hamilton, a story onto itself. Another recent Public Theater production, Sweat, opens at Studio 54 on March 26th; Lynn Nottage’s timely drama about the dystopia of working class America should do well on a bigger stage.
For my money…
If you were putting up money for a Broadway produciton, would you opt for a revival or take a fly on bringing a production uptown? Tough call. And a big thanks to all the folks who do put their money in and bring theater to us.
There is a national disease of dis-ease which calls upon those disturbed by current events to voice their conscience. This creates controversy.
Some agree, some disagree. It makes for debate. And discussion panels, which proliferated right after the 2016 elections.
Aside from theatrical activists deliberating on the results in November, dramas and musicals often stand on their own in enlightening the social issues and controversial subjects of our time.
Kinky Boots, and in a more straight-forward vein, Hamilton are musicals with a politically and socially conscious bent.
Naturally since differences make for drama, the play can often use “ripped from the headlines” issues to elaborate.
Political inclinations may vary, but the playwright as provocateur is an old meme. Roundabout’s off-Broadway production of Mike Bartlett’s Love Love Lovelate last year created an unexpected carousel of the Boomer generation from the self-absrobed go-go ’60s to a self-absorbed and conservative present era.
Timely subjects are all around us, and authors are told to “write what they know.” And so, adding a twist for P.O.V, they often do.
The Profane, which just began previews on March 17th at Playwrights Horizons (running through April 30th), covers a timely topic that pits secularism against religious tradition. In Zayd Dohrn’s new play the plot has roots going way back to the originals behind Shakespear’s Romeo and Juliet. The characters in The Profane who must confront their mutual prejudices are Muslim. Kip Fagan directs a cast that features Tala Ashe, Francis Benhamou, Ramsey Faragallah, Ali Reza Farahnakian, Lanna Joffrey, Heather Raffo and Babak Tafti.
Art conquers.Theater art, in particular, conquers us when it reveals what is hidden behind the curtain. We are drawn in through the fourth wall that the actors never acknowledge, unless they break it, as they sometimes must.
The theater overcomes. It rises to occassions large and small to engage, enlighten, educate. Ballet and modern dance are also revelatory media. Sometimes it does so by plotting and text; sometimes it does so silently with dance and movement. It is not rough or crude in the way it overtakes us, although it may use blunt language and adult content (as the movies like to be rated) to tell its story. It does not divide to conquer.It unveils, exhibits, and exposes.
Aussie activist Jack Charles has led a wild ride of a life, from crime, addiction and prison to film sets, and on to an age in which he can share his sagacity. The “grandfather of indigenous theater” brings his autobiographical, solo show, Jack Charles V The Crown for a limited run of 5 performances only from March 22-25 at New York Live Arts in conjunction with Performance Space 122 in New York. After this U.S. premiere, Jack Charles V The Crown will run March 29–April 8 at Canada Stage in Toronto.
On the other end of the spectrum of life, we have French artist Fanny de Chaillé’s The Teens Library, a special event that is part of the second annual Tilt Kids Festival. In 2010, Fanny de Chaillé created La Bibliothèque (The Library), a performance produced with 23 residents of the Cité Universitaire Internationale in Paris. The piece has been since presented in countries around the world, including the 2013 edition of French Institute Alliance Française’s Crossing the Line Festival. On Saturday, April 8, 11am–4pm, at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy at Albertine Books, 972 5th Avenue participating teens–primarily U.S. immigrants– will become living “books.” They relate their individual stories which become part of the library’s catalogue in The Teens Library.
In a similar vein where storytelling leads to theater, The Assignment was inspired by a remarkable friendship between two individuals brought together by workshops facilitated by Houses on the Moon Theater Company. Though a fictionalization, The Assignment was developed in part from the exchange of ideas between a mother, whose desire to understand what caused another to take her son’s life, and a man who committed manslaughter and needed to express his remorse.
The production, written by Camilo Almonacid, is being staged at the Jeffrey and Paula Gural Theatre at the A.R.T./New York Theatres beginning April 19th and running through May 7th.
Violence and death play their part in The Reckless Season. The play takes place in a small town USA in 2008. Lisa and Simon, who used to be soldiers, try to leave the aftermath of war behind them. Not easy when things are so unsettled. Lisa’s marriage is falling apart,.the local meth-dealer won’t leave them alone, and Simon’s mother has just committed suicide. The only one who seems to be unflustered is Terry, Simon’s video-game-obsessed brother. Who knows what comes next?
The Reckless Season is a production of the Boomerang Theatre Company at TheaterLab NYC from April 21st through May 7th.
Swordplay has its place in the history of stagecraft, and Liars & Believers (LAB) make use of it in the multi-dimensional Who Would Be Kingfrom March 16 – April 1, 2016 at Theater 511. Life in the clown kingdom of this absurdist multi-media play also involves chickens, violence and betrayal, villains and kings. Who Would Be King is an epically silly and physical production conceived and directed by Jason Slavick, with music & lyrics by Jay Mobley, written by the LAB Ensemble, and created by Liars & Believers.