Posted in acting, witty

Sophistication — Take Note

via Daily Prompt: Witty There is the kind of sophistication in which the Brits specialize; they present reams of witty dialogue. This is snappy chat that is truly old school. Of course, it’s not entirely limited to exchanges between Bond, James Bond, and Miss Moneypenny, or to Fawlty’s under his breath mutterings. Witty is not necessarily […]

via Sophistication — Take Note

Sharp, smart, quick dialog are the hallmarks and benchmarks of witty writing.

Posted in drama, theater, theater for the common good

Provocations

In the Blood By Susan Lori Parks Directed By Sarah BensonThere are so many social challenges that confront us these days that you would think we need no more provocations. Some of us, for good or ill, welcome them nonetheless.

I can’t speak for you but among the ones  I am most looking forward to are provocations by Robert O’Hara. He has written and will direct Mankind, which starts its world premiere run on December 15th at Playwrights Horizons.

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Sutter (Phillip James Brannon) with his sister (Benja Kay Thomas), mother (Jessica Frances Dukes) and stepfather (Lance Coadie Williams) in a scene from Robert O’Hara’s “Bootycandy.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

O’Hara’s recent works for @PHnyc included directing Kristen Childs’ raucus and insightful Bella: An American Tall TaleHe also directed his own exhilirating romp,  Bootycandy a few seasons ago. O’Hara’s plays tear at the fabric of our reality to offer  exciting new views and cogent, perceptive outlook. He is provocative in the best and biggest sense of the word.

Likewise, reimagining As You Like It for a new world stage resonates in the era of travel bans.
Arden/Everywhere, at the Baruch Performing Arts Center from October 8th through the 28th,  turns Shakespeare into a playwright of the diaspora. As conceived by Jessica Bauman, this refugee-centric version of the classic comedy, is about giving welcome to the unwelcome and finding a home for the exiled.

Signature Theatre is rounding out the Suzan-Lori Parks’ revision of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Fucking A and In The Blood, both extended to October 8th and 15th respectively, and known collectively as The Red Letter Plays.

In In The Blood, Hester LaNegrita (a luminous Saycon Sengbloh) is punished for sins she did not commit alone, sins in which society is hypocritically complacent. Hester not only does not get “the leg up” she needs but she is consistently kicked down. She is not an innocent, but she is a naif. A transgression may only be an error in judgement, and should not be judged so harshly as it is in Hawthorne and in The Red Letter Plays. As for the other play in this set, the title alone has some not giving its full name. I recall the stir when it first played The Public in 2003.

 

Posted in aging, comedy about a serious subject, comedy-drama, dysfunction, family, family comedy drama, family drama, mothers and sons, new dramatists, new work, Playwrights Horizons, serious comedy, spendthrift

Mom

The TreasurerSeptember 06, 2017 – October 22, 2017 Peter Jay Sharp Theater Written by Max Posner Directed by David Cromer
Pun Bandhu & Peter Friedman in a scene from The Treasurer. Photo © Joan Marcus. Note the modern industrial sets by Laura Jellinek.

Family often cuts to the heart of who we are.

Relationships that can be kind can also be cruel, as we find in Max Posner’s The Treasurer, at Playwrights Horizons through October 22nd extended to November 5th, under David Cromer’s direction, a comedy about family, aging, guilt and dying.

Caring for an aging parent who abandoned him when he was 13 is a huge and unwelcome responsibility for The Son (Peter Friedman).

His mother sees it differently. Her version is less dramatic. “Everybody gets divorced,” Ida Armstrong (the wonderful Deanna Dunagan) tells Ronette, (Marinda Anderson) a shop clerk at Talbot’s.

The TreasurerSeptember 06, 2017 – October 22, 2017 Peter Jay Sharp Theater Written by Max Posner Directed by David Cromer
Deanna Dunagan & Marinda Anderson. Photo © Joan Marcus

Ida’s charm is seductive. Her conversations, like her exchange with Julian (Pun Bandhu), a young man she memory-dials, make promises which are then also abandoned. Profligacy has left Ida penniless and dependent on the charity of The Son and his brothers, Allen and Jeremy (Marinda Anderson and Pun Bandhu on the phone). Her continued spending evades The Son’s best efforts as the titular “Treasurer” and leaves him frustrated. Friedman’s narrative is delivered with a nonchalant grace.

The Treasurer could have gone in any number of directions, but Posner’s play goes on its surreal path in an unexpected if foreshadowed course. The result, or rather, the conclusion, is not fully satisfying.

For more information and tickets, please visit the @PHnyc website.

Posted in dark comedy drama, dysfunction, Playwrights Realm, premieres

Victim empowered

20597526_10154504240561486_4624644961396743591_nThe Law and Order franchise, SVU, has liberalized a significant cultural taboo. Rape victims are told in each crime episode that the dignity brutally wrested from them is theirs to reclaim. The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. MatthiasMichael Yates Crowley’s play, presented in a world premiere by The Playwrights Realm at the Duke through September 23rd, is also about empowering the victim. Crowley, however, does not feel that our cultural conversation about rape has the frankness and openness we like to think it does.

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Jacques-Louis David [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“R-a-p-e” is not treated with the solemnity it is given by Lt. Olivia Benson in Crowley’s play. The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias sets a light, almost farcical tone as Grace (Susannah Perkins) recounts the assault. It begins as a sweet and rather awkward love story between two shy youngsters. Jeff (Doug Harris) is a football star with little poise off the field. Grace is an oddball 14-year old, thrilled that Jeff knows her name from class.  The  team quarterback, Bobby (Alex Breaux) (and Jeff’s closest friend) is jealous of the pair’s developing friendship.

It is also in that class that The Teacher (Andy Lucien) introduces an artwork by Jacques Louis David, technically called The Intervention of the Sabine Women that inspires Grace and circumscribes her experience.

The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias is about meeting outrage with humor. Grace’s world is not torn apart after she is raped.  The Guidance Counselor (Eva Kaminsky) and Grace’s best friend Monica (Jeena Yi) both seem disappointed at how composed Grace seems. The Lawyer (Jeff Biehl) is only concerned that she deliver a coherent narrative to the Grand Jury.

Some of the storyline in The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias is delivered by The News (Chas Carey) who periodically announces the day’s events in the town of Springfield.

Under Tyne Rafaeli’s direction, The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias moves quickly;  the cast smoothly characters portrays a townful of people. Andy Lucien is particularly vivid as a charismatic “preacher.” one of the many roles he undertakes. In fact, the ensemble’s ability to shift and adopt a new persona gives The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias almost the feel of improv.

There is humor and wit in Michael Yates Crowley’s The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias, which by no means undermines the seriousness of its subject matter.

For more information and tickets for The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias, please visit the Playwrights Realm website.

Posted in children's shows, Children's Theatre, dark comedy drama, drama, in repertory, noir, puppets

What I Learned Today

The kiddie show format can be very instructive, and not just for the kiddies. You and I can learn a great deal from shows like that put together by puppeteer Joshua Holden and with live music by Jeb Colwell in The Joshua Show: Episode 2, running at HERE Arts Center through September 30th. Joshua and Jeb are out to make us happy. The Joshua Show: Episode 2 plays in repertory with The Flatiron Hex.

The latter, although a comedy with puppets, is decidedly not for children. The Flatiron Hex explores a bloody and dystopic New York City. It is a noir look at interconnective living and a world filled with intelligent mainframes and dangerous code. The Flatiron Hex stars James Godwin as computer genius Wylie Walker.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/105488014″>The Flatiron Hex</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user11940600″>james godwin</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

To learn more visit the HERE website

Posted in aging, family, family comedy drama, Kathleen Chalfant, Peter Pan, Playwrights Horizons, Sarah Ruhl

Growing Up

Wicked BwayRondi Reed
Kathleen Chalfant & Ron Crawford in For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday Photo by Joan Marcus.

There are those who proclaim that “age is just a number” and trill about being “young at heart.”

Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie’s enduring and oft-Disney-fied character, is the poster boy for this way of looking at life.

Others find that hitting the BIG 4-0, 5-0, or 6-0 is fraught with crises, both midlife and beyond.

Wicked BwayRondi Reed
Lisa Emery & Kathleen Chalfant. Photo by Joan Marcus

Sarah Ruhl’s new play, in a New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons through October 1st, For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday upends the famous meme of eternal youth that Peter evokes. It is also a tribute and a present to her mother, who like the titular character in Ruhl’s play performed the role in their hometown theater.

Wicked BwayRondi Reed
David Chandler, Daniel Jenkins, Kathleen Chalfant, Lisa Emery & Keith Reddin. Photo by Joan Marcus.

 

Of course, Peter Pan and the idea of not growing up– or, rather, not becoming a grown up– has appeal for children as well. For adults, the appeal may have something to do with never having to face mortality. This is a conclusion that her brother Jim (David Chandler)  suggests to Ann (Kathleen Chalifant) in For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday .

For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday is a comedy drama about mortality, maturity, and family. It is written in varying rhythms, as if the play itself were a living entity. Under Les Waters’ direction, For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday rolls with a familiarity of shared memories as the siblings, Ann, John (Daniel Jenkins), Michael (Keith Reddin), Jim, Wendy (Lisa Emery) sit at their father’s (Ron Crawford) deathbed.

It is a charming and philosophical play, acted with a spontaneous ease by a cast that seems comfortably to interact as if they were family. There is music (including some original) for which Bray Poor and Charles Coes are responsible and which adds to the appeal of For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday. David Zinn, who has a way with designing homey homes in small settings, delivers a reliable scenic design; Kristopher Castle’s costumes are simple and homey as well. The flying effects are well-timed by ZFX, Inc. Since the story of Peter Pan requires that the family have a dog, a special thanks to Macy for his understated participation in the production.

For more information and tickets, please visit @PHnyc.

 

Posted in historically-based musical, musical, Musical drama, musical theater, musical theatre, Uncategorized

Swing time

Source: Swing time

5019Broadway’s underappreciated Bandstand is set to close on September 17th.

Go! Now!

Thank us later.

Posted in Uncategorized

File under…

cropped-theater.jpg
I tribute this meme to http://www.cafepress.com.

Source: File under…

Phyla

Admittedly, it is an obsessive trait that tends to pigeon-hole disparate entertainments in categories, but lordy it is also so much fun. Orderly — or sometimes quirky– groupings provide intellectual satisfaction.

Change the criteria and your lists have to pivot too. The syllabus varies depending on your P.O.V. If we slide our filmography through the filter of genre, our lists get longer and harder to contain. Try it, and you might see why I’ve said I can’t stop making lists.

Fish or fowl?

The decision to place a film in one group as opposed to another is arbitrary. I rely on subject matter. Sort of…. From one point of view, Chinatown finds itself mapped with Casablanca.  For instance, look at it one way and The Maltese Falcon nests with The Birds;  On The Road To pictures take Bing and Bob along for a trip with Easy RiderJaws pairs withMoby Dick; and Stormy Weather clears to Blue Skies.

The list becomes kind of a free association therapy.

Among my favorites are mafia films that are really comedies or satires. There is nothing intrinsically funny about the mob, so I make a “mafia” category under the comedy rubric, to wit:

Mafia films

While Goodfellas is my top #10, here are some for consideration; note not making you a unrefusable offer–
1. The Family, in which Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer shine, is witty and smart. This is a satire, but with enough violence and extortion to stay in full mob genre. Tommy Lee Jones does some heavy-lifting as the family’s handler.
2. Married to the Mob, as I recall, was a wives’ lark, prescient of any Jersey reality show that cropped up since.
3. Gigli, a rotten tomato mash, with Ben Affleck & Jennifer Lopez, in their dating heyday, is actually quite entertaining.
4. Mafia, a spoof on movies about the mob.
5. Donnie Broscoe: the dark side of mob life; you almost feel sorry for these soldiers of the cosa nostra.

 

Another kind of Wise Guy 

Woody Allen’s heroes are always flawed. His Irrational Man, takes the flaw to a level of indulgance that simply reorganizes reality . Joachim Phoenix makes an arresting leading man in this 2015 addition to the Allen oeuvre.

The Coen brothers also look to the darker side of our natures in their comedies. A Serious Man is about the desperation of a man, a professor like the one in Irrational Man, whose life is falling apart. And yes, it is a comedy, or perhaps a dramedy.

A Beautiful Mind is about a genius at work in which Russell Crowe plays Nobel Laureate, John Nash. Economic theory and the workings of the intellect are as tense and dramatic as any action picture Crowe has made.

Eddie Redmayne is physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, another genius bio-pic.

And so forth….

Money money money, honey!

The financial sector gets the treatment in which greed is front and center. Many of these are truly great, and some are truly iconic, movies:

Wall Street
”                  ” reprised in 2010
Wolf of Wall Street
The Boiler Room
Demolition (probably the oddest entry in this category)
Money Monster

In other corporate news

  • Patterns: from the ’50s, if you have not seen it, do so.
  • The Intern: a charmer
  • Up in the air
  • Michael Clayton
  • Chaplin’s Modern Times
  • The Desk Set
  • 9 to 5
  • Horrible Bosses
  • Office Space

Don’t play with your food

Foodies like going to the movies, too. There can be a lot of drama when tempered steel blades meet temperament. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the cineplex.

Catherine Zeta Jones, Aaron Eckhardt, and Abigail Breslin in No Reservations

Bradley Cooper (Yes, chef) in Burnt

Journey of 100 Steps with Helen Mirren

Juliette Binoche’s Chocolat 

For the kiddies, there’s Ratatouille

Incomplete pass

It behooves me to admit that not only are each of my listings incomplete, and without appropriate notation or explanation, but also that there are many many categories I should have covered.

There are cop stories, crime stories, and buddy pictures with the subgenre of the female buddy pix like Thelma and Louise and … Thelma and Louise.

Sports stars

A couple of styles of cinema are particular favorites in our house– the romantic comedy and the sport genre film. When covering sports, film has been very generous and that list could go on and on and would include William Bendix and John Goodman portraying the Babe; keeping the setting in Boston, Fever Pitch. Giving equal time to their New York rivals, there is the fantastic The Pride of the Yankees. Combining business with sports and covering the business of sports, there’s Money BallMillion Dollar Arm. makes the cross cultural travail between cricket and baseball…

After baseball, where Bull Durham would be on first, and winning the home run derby every year, there is also basketball, and especially football. We would also have to look at all those terrific boxing films from Somebody Up There Likes Me, Raging Bull to The Great White HopeMillion Dollar Baby, and Rumble in the Jungle and so on. Golf also makes an appearance with Tin Cup and The Legend of Bagger Vance, as well as Caddyshack. Ping Pong Summer may be a feisty little stand alone.

Some of these things are not like the other

In pairing films, we recently took the apostrophe as far as we thought it could go in overlapping For Pete’s SakeWhat’s Up Doc? (both with Barbra Streisand) and She’s Funny That Way.

The latter two films are by Peter Bogdanovic, pointing towards another route for list-making: by auteur. The films of Woody Allen, Peter Bogdanovic, Joel and Ethan Coen, Quentin Tarantino, Clint Eastwood, Frances Ford Coppola and so on would be put through their paces, for instance. Of course, the idea of listing films by their star-power is so basic it hardly makes my list.

Or maybe we could just look at movies that have “moon” or Shampoo in the title or as a subject? Then one’s with the word “red” aka The Red ShoesReds… So many things to organize I wonder where to begin.

Trick or tweak

There is more forgotten than included on these lists, and lists of lists. It’s inevitable, really, given filmmaking’s hundred plus year history.

Russell Crowe’s  boxing picture, Cinderella Man , for instance, deserves a place on any lisy. Eastwood’s Sergio Leone résumé and his Dirty Harry pictures has not been mentioned. The Lethal Weapon franchise has spaiwned not only a network TV series but also allows us to full circle back to Crowe in Nice Guys.

I will tweak no more!

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Viewpoints

seagull59thbridge
Photo © Tamara Beck

Source: Viewpoints

This would be my establishing shot, looking over the river at night fall.

Glistening lights on the 59th Street bridge, the water illuminated by reflections from Roosevelt Island’s well-lit towers are magical.

The clouds, minutes earlier prominent lines in the evening sketch, fade into the darkening sky.

Water, even in darkness, has a power over us.