Posted in 2017 Tony Nominations, drama, musical, Tony predictions

Irksome

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Chris Cooper and Laurie Metcalf in a scene from A Doll’s House, Part 2 (c) Brigitte Lacombe

It’s an annual event that has critics and ordinary theater goers in a tizzy. The Tony Award  nominations are in, and this year’s contest (the 71st)  will be televised o n Sunday June 11th on CBS. It is at this ceremony that the results of all that Tony voting will be revealed. “And the winner is…” is a nerve-racking pronouncement. Equally irksome, and this is true year-to-year, are the actual nominations meted out with such parsimony.

All theater should be celebrated, yet the Tony committee chooses to withhold even a nod from some productions. Why? oh why? (BTW, a line from My Sister Eileen, the musical version of which, Wonderful Town, starring Rosalind Russell won the 1953 Tony.)

Nevermind, we just have to face what is coming at us like a freight train, and dig in for some knotty predictions. Horse races are not my thing, and my track record, as it were, for guessing who will get which prize is extremely poor.

Rinse and repeat

The smart money this 2017 season is on Groundhog Day, a musical I have not seen. Reports –from critics, and friends alike– (one a fan of Andy Karl who went to a performance during his absence due to injury, said it was still terrific)– are that this is the one to beat.

May I propose that in honor of Andrew Call’s valiant subbing in for Andy Karl, we add this minor adjustment to the proceedings: “And the Tony for best understudy in a leading role goes to….” (A category on the women’s side once taken by Barbra Streisand.)

The contestants as we know them

War Paint, another musical I skipped this season, has not one but two leading ladies vying for the Best. Truthfully, both Christine Ebersole and Patti LuPone are winners, although not necessarily this year. Ebersole has two Tonys as the Lead in 42nd Street (2001) and in Grey Gardens (2007); LuPone’s Tonys include a win for Evita (way back when, and wonderful; 1980) and for her Mama Rose in Gypsy (2008.) Both of these admirable divas have also had more than their fair share of nominations over the years.

5019Let me also admit to not having seen the other nominees for Best Musical, which are the wonderfully named Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, the hyper-modern Dear Evan Hansen and charmingly off-beat Come From Away. As an outsider, as it were, I will make no further assumptions here. We really liked Bandstand, and it has had only limited recognition from the Tony folk. We were sure this first-time Broadway effort by veteran musicians Rob Taylor and Richard Oberacker deserved at least to be named.

 

The play’s the thing

Little FoxesOn the straight play side is where we have slightly better traction, although only slightly so. Of the nominees for Best Play, we have seen (and lovedA Doll’s House Part 2.  We have also seen the nominated revivals, The Little Foxes and Jitney, both in very fine productions; the revival of The Price was not among the plays mentioned. For what it’s worth, we are rooting for …Part 2, and for Little Foxes.

While on the subject of …Foxes, Tony could have given Cynthia Nixon (whom as it happens we saw in the lead) and Laura Linney (who split her lead and featured roles with Nixon) co-nominations in the Best Lead Actress category. Instead, Nixon gets the nod as Best Featured Actress, and Linney is in the running for the Best Lead.

The Glass Menagerie
Madison Ferris and Sally Field in The Glass Menagerie Photo by Julieta Cervantes

We have seen three of the nominated actress in both the Lead and Featured category., and this is a tough call. Sally Field has had her “they really like me” moment, and in fact was a very credible Amanda in my favorite Williams’ play; if I say I really really liked her, it is not to mock but to admire. Since I cannot speak to Linney’s interpretation of the steely Regina Giddens, and I can say that Laurie Metcalf was (as usual) fabulous as the re-imagined Nora in …Part 2, I will send a nod her way. This is in part based on only partial facts and in part based on a long-term admiration for her work. The entire cast in ..Part 2 has been nominated, and I would rally for each of them; the caveat is that this conclusion is also based on limited evidence.

The Men in question

We’ve seen five of the shows in which a male actor was nominated for a 2017 Tony Award. Two of them were leads. Denis Arndt gave an impressive, nuanced performance in the two-handed Heisenberg, (so named, I think, because of some relativity principal the play explored) opposite Mary-Louise Parker. Chris Cooper, Torvald in …Part 2 is definitely a worthy candidate; he is both hot and cold. Still, even with that, don’t feel like I know enough about the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play.  For the Best Featured Actor, Richard Thomas is an estimable Horace Giddens in the revival of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes. We definitely felt that Danny DeVito stole The Price from under his co-stars. John Douglas Thompson also shined in the excellent revival of August Wilson’s Jitney. From this vantage, I’m certainly unwilling to pick just one. Now, it is I who is proving tiresome. Oh, well.

In conclusion

May we suggest that you watch the ceremony, hosted by the multi-talented Kevin Spacey, on CBS on June 11th at 8pm. Cheer for the performances and productions you’ve seen; enjoy the fine show that Tony always provides; place your bets, and….

Posted in adaptation, domestic drama, drama, dysfunction, Ibsen adaptation

Nora’s home

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Laurie Metcalf, Jayne Houdyshell, Condola Rashad and Chris Cooper in a scene from A Doll’s House, Part 2 (c) Brigitte Lacombe

In his dramas, Henrik Ibsen seldom sugarcoats his messages. His plays offer cures for the human condition, but they are served in bitter pills. His Enemy of the People, for instance, (see our reviews of both the recent Broadway production and David Harrower’s off-Broadway adaptation, Public Enemy) is about populism with more than a hint of dystopia. A personal favorite among Ibsen’s works, The Master Builder is a difficult play about monomania, among other things.

Ibsen’s characters are generally entrapped by circumstances from which they must extricate themselves.

Nora’s story is perhaps Ibsen’s best-known and most often interpreted (and sometimes reimagined) work.

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Laurie Metcalf and Condola Rashad in a scene from A Doll’s House, Part 2 (c) Brigitte Lacombe

In Lucas Hnath’s reconstruction, A Doll’s House, Part 2, at the Golden Theatre through July 23rd, Nora’s liberation is full-circle. The slamming of a door can be a bridges-burning, you can’t go home again moment. Ibsen’s Nora probably meant it that way. Hnath’s Nora has ample reasons to knock on it until it opens up again. If A Doll’s House, Part 2 is a sequel, the prequel is Ibsen’s. The questions he raises remain unanswered and mysterious. Victorian puritanism, Ibsen’s foil, bolsters Nora’s soap box.

Feminism is a frequent theme of Ibsen’s. Like A Doll’s House, and Lysistrata, for instance, this is a feminist play. Unlike A Doll’s House, Hnath’s …Part 2 hones in on the perspective of each of the principals involved. Each person in the Helmer household has a different reason to open or shut the door. Hnath is not offering an explication of Ibsen’s story. His is a totally new play.

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Chris Cooper and Laurie Metcalf in a scene fromA Doll’s House, Part 2 (c) Brigitte Lacombe

Sam Gold directs a star-studded Broadway cast, with Laurie Metcalf as Nora. Chris Cooper is Torvald, the husband Nora walked out on years ago and Condola Rashad plays Emmy, her now grown-up daughter. In a post-modern mode,  the Helmers’ daughter is played with not even a nod by a black actress. This is not the only prolepsis in …Part 2, which uses very contemporary ways of expression to tell Nora’s stoty. The redoubtable Jayne Houdyshell is the housekeeper, Anne Marie, who has held the family together in Nora’s absence, and who has as much to lose as anyone in the house.

The lighting design for A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Jennifer Tipton (a freqent collaborator of Paul Taylor, among other dancemakers) has received a Tony nod. Sam Gold, the play, the costume designer, and the entire cast are also all recipients of 2017 Tony nominations.

Make no mistake, while David Zinn’s costumes are brilliantly and beautifully period (Ibsen’s that is), the language and breadth of ideas is decidely anachronistic. That is to say, Hnath’s dialogue is furiously funny and utterly contemporary.

For more information and tickets for A Doll’s House, Part 2, please visit
http://dollshousepart2.com/.

Post script, dateline May 29, 2017: Also check out the review posted at The Wright Wreport, aka Vevlynspen.com of A Doll’s House, Part 2.

Posted in based on Chekhov, Chekhov, Chekhov interpretations, dysfunction, Ibsen, Ibsen adaptation, Lucas Hnath

Ibsen gets the full Chekhov

Source: Classics anew

Matt Harrington, Shayna Small, David Kenner, Chris Myers, Brendan Titley, Ben Mehl - Julius Caesar (Photo- Brittany Vasta) (1)
From a past Wheelhouse production: Matt Harrington, Shayna Small, David Kenner, Chris Myers, Brendan Titley, Ben Mehl – Julius Caesar (Photo: Brittany Vasta)

It is a minor obsession with me to note how many ways Ibsen and Chekhov can play for a modern audience. Chekhov gets many of our contemporary playwrights to rise to his challenge, and adapt his social commentary to our moderner times.

Of course, the comparatively dour Henrik Ibsen has also been a catalyst for imitation, adaptation, interpretation and exploration. Lucas Hnath has taken Nora’s escape from a stifling household as the point of departure, as it were, for his A Doll’s House Part 2, currently playing at the Golden Theatre (through July 23rd.)

Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People has proven to be an inspiration for our avant theaters, as well. It requires some heavy lifting, and in the past 10 years or so has had productions at MTC, and the Pearl (in a David Harrower adaptation.)

Now, An Enemy of the People comes to us from the Wheelhouse Theater Company under the direction of Jeff Wise, at the Gene Frankel Theater, beginning June 9th and running through June 24th as a meditation on the “tyranny of the majority.” Just about a perfect assessment of where this story leads.

Posted in Daily Prompt, musical, musical comedy, musical theater, musical theatre, musicals

Upstairs, downstairs

Source: Upstairs, downstairs

HD_KeyDolly Gallagher Levi enters, in a descent from above, on a circular stair. I love the circular stair.

There is a new Dolly, one from a long line of matchmakers, in town in Jerry Herman’s and Michael Stewart’s musical, Hello, Dolly! This one is none other than the Divine Miss M, Bette Midler. Hello.

Posted in bio-drama, Daily Prompt

Infamously famous

Source: Infamously famous

Cagney, The Musical is in New York only through May 28th. Not that James Cagney himself was infamous, or notorious, but rather the characters he played often were.

Posted in Daily Prompt, dysfunction, farce

Not my favorite kinda theater

via Daily Prompt: Farce

3494The farce has a time-honored tradition. It’s as old as the hills in art-form years. So why my personal distaste for it. Too much chaos and running about is the only thing I can point a finger at with any certainty.

  • It makes fun of convention. (✔, that works for me.)
  • It is an irritant, using comedy to point out foibles. (✔ also good as above.)
  • It can be very confusing but in a way to make you think. (✔ thinking, okay!)
  • There is always a lot of action in a farce. (✔, nothing wrong with that, either.)\
  • The average farce puts a lot of value in silliness. (✔, not an essential for me, but ok.)
  • Silliness rather than gravity or satire is the main point of farce. (X this does not attract me, particularly to slapstick or farce.)
  • They run in and out of doors, sometimes carrying sardines. (That’s it. I am not fond of that, even though RTC’s not so recent production of Noises Off was rather fun.)
  • The slamming doors thing is something I like to see reserved for household tiffs.

All that said, the farce is sometimes irrestible. Take for instance, Something Rotten!, underappreciated by the Tony voters, but valiantly drawing laughter long after the ceremonies. I loved it! In truth, it may not really be so much farce as send up. The trilogy of House and Garden brought us in, eagerly, to see all three pieces, slamming doors and all. Lend Me A Tenor is reliably as delightfully foolish as Fortune’s Fool, for instance. It Shoulda Been You is another example of the farcical theater that was marginally entertaining, and featured a fan fave of ours, Tyne Daly.

Of course, when we call something a farce, we are denigrating it, to some extent. We mean it’s ridiculous. it’s just that at the theater, the ridiculous can, so often, transcend!

 

 

 

 

Posted in 9/11, dark drama, drama, showcase

Homeland insecurities

Is it paranoia or caution that drives us to anxiously examine any package left behind on the train seat next to us?

Bigger Than You, Bigger Than Me is Kathryn Coughlin’s play about our anxious times which has its run at the Studio Theatre at Theatre Row from May 10th through 13th. Ryan Kim, Kelly McCready and Celia Pilkington will be directed by Adam Thorburn in this Studio 28 Productions showcase.

Don’t expect this play to assuage any lurking fears you have in our post 9/11 environment. There is more information on the play’s FB page at
https://www.facebook.com/biggerthanyoubiggerthanme/. Tickets are available from the Theatre Row box office on 42nd Street at 9th Avenue.

Posted in ballet, New York City Ballet

The red and the black

Ballet, and I guess, all forms of dance, has always had the effect of transporting me.

In one piece on the program the other day at the New York City Ballet, Peter Martins’ choreography to Stravinsky’s propellant Jeu De Cartes took me away in a most pleasing riot of jumps and jetés. Diamonds, spades, hearts and clubs were displayed in spirited combinations; there were knaves and face-cards acting in harmony. The Queen and her cavalier dresses in kitschy abandon by costume designer Ian Falconer pranced happily to the stirring melody.

This was just the first of five transportive moments that afternoon. And one of the most original and electrifying was Peter Walker’s ten in seven. This is a dancework we had seen before, and were looking forward to with delight. It was even more splendid on a second watching. ten in seven, with a guitar-led band on an on-stage bandstand, and 5 coupled dancers is electrifying. That guitarist leading the band is Thomas Kitka, who also wrote the commissioned score.

Equally intoxicating is Alexei Ratmansky’s new Odessa. Ratmansky reponds to the eclectic styles in the score with fire. The costumes by Keso Dekker are splendid. In the dance, when passion meets brutality, I wanted to be the one to alert the police. In fact every aspect of Odessa, which premiered on May 4th, feels as if it is energized by Leonid Desyatnikov’s music, Sketches to Sunset from 2006.

Lauren Lovette’s For Clara left us with wanting more when last we saw it. This viewing was no different except that the lovely piece, set to music by Robert Schumann, was even more admirable.  Ms. Lovette has succumbed to romantic impulses with great subtlety, and in the most charming of ways.

New York City Ballet’s resident choreographers are always a talented and innovative bunch. When Christopher Wheeldon filled that role, he quickly became our favorite. Fashions come and go, but we still thrill to his works, like Carousel: A Dance, which we never see often enough. After the Rain is another such, and it gets better with repeated exposure. On this occassion, it was danced by Maria Kowroski and Ask la Cour both of whom execute the piece with elegance and style.

Justin Peck, currently the Choreographer in Residence, got his first-ever all-Peck program recently. Two of the pieces, The Dreamers (a duet, danced by Sarah Mearns and Amar Ramasar on this occasion) and Everywhere You Go (for what looks like an entire company), both familiar, are welcome additions to the permanent repertoire. Peck has an interesting way of partnering male dancers, and lots of energy even in his sometimes dystopic moods. New Blood is an interesting new work, that will take a few viewings to absorb and analyze.

The dancers– from corps to principal–earn my unbridled admiration with ever step they take.

The spring season of NYC Ballet’s Here/Now Festival runs through May 21st and   finishing the season on May 28th with Ballanchine’s  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at their Lincoln Center home. Visit the website for information and tickets.

Posted in Daily Prompt

F-stops

via Daily Prompt: Exposed

blacksquareReality TV, also called unscripted drama, is about filming one’s life. This generally involves exposure. Not just the exposure on your camera, but also the kind in which one’s secrets are exposed.

Nothing is hidden, except perhaps the truth, or perhaps, more to the point, reality.

Posted in dark drama, drama, dysfunction, family drama

Cunning and rapacious

Myth-making is an oddly populist activity. Plain men (and women) creating tall tales about themselves or their ilk, such as Paul Bunyon or Johnny Appleseed, are boosted to greater prominence by the imagination.

Little Foxes

The Hubbards in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes, at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre extended through July 2nd, are rich but simple folks who aggrandize themselves with their own form of mythologizing.

Ben Hubbard (Michael McKean), the elder of the cold-blooded tribe, is especially deft at inventing the stories of his family’s success against adversity. His younger brother, Oscar (Darren Goldstein) is equally vicious but hapless.

Little Foxes

It’s their sister, Regina Giddens (Cynthia Nixon at the performance we saw; Laura Linney at alternate performances) who is the most ferocious and cruel-hearted romancer. She has lied to her brothers about the money her husband, Horace (Richard Thomas) will put up for their venture with Mr. Marshall (David Alford) of Chicago; she has spun an account of a future of glory in society for herself when they are all rich.

Oscar’s wife, Birdie (Laura Linney, alternating with Cynthia Little FoxesNixon for this gem of a part), speaks her own narrative of sweetness and betrayal. She tells her story to Regina and Oscar’s daughter Alexandra (Francesca Carpanni) who can still be saved from the family curse of greed. Like Birdie, Addie (Caroline Stefanie Clay), the housekeeper at the Giddens’ home, has genuine concern for Alexandra. It is also Horace’s desire to protect his daughter from her mother and her uncles. He understands the evil they can cause. Alexandra, on the other hand, is not as fragile as her aunt Birdie; she has some of her mother’s steel mixed with her father’s kind heart.

Nixon is demonic as Regina. Linney is brittle as the delicate and damaged Birdie, who dislikes her son Leo (Michael Benz) even more than her husband. Rounding out the cast is Cal (Charles Turner); like Addie, Birdie and Horace, Cal  cares for the few people in the household who are kind and decent.

Daniel Sullivan’s direction of The Little Foxes allows the plot to develop with style and at leisure. The costumes (by Jane Greenwood) are excellent; the gown Regina wears, for instance, is superbly elegant. Scott Pask’s scenery is sumptuous, drawing applause at curtain-up.

This classic tale of conniving avarice is beautifully ugly. Everything about this production of The Little Foxes is done to perfection.

For more information and tickets, please visit http://littlefoxesbroadway.com/

PS: We had seen a couple of earlier versions of Hellman’s dark drama, one of which was wonderfully abstract in its staging. That one was directed by Ivo Von Hove at New York Theater Workshop, and is worth noting for its pedigree. This Broadway production is worth seeing for its faithful adherence to Hellman’s vision and text, and the excellence of its execution of this Hubbard family history. There is no better reason to see The Little Foxes at MTC than the sheer perfection of this production.