The “Great Puppet,” a French theatrical tradition that spanned nearly a century, made horror an everyday over-the-top phenomenon.
The Grand Guignol was a small theater, seating just under 300, that left a huge impact on atrocity and terror. Their mayhem took the ghoulish to its apex, a level Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk try to mimic with some success in their televised American Horror Story.
Our American stages have never had a great tradition of frightening the audience. Phantom of the Opera is the closest thing to a scary story on Broadway right now. It is a crowd pleaser with its lush music and eccentric anti-hero.
There is nothing genuinely ghoulish about Phantom, which has had a nearly 30-year run at The Majestic Theatre
and has gone around the globe in many touring companies.
Your children, dressed as ghosts and ghouls, witches and werewolves, may be scarier than anything you’ll see on stage this year. The movies, well, they are another story; many as truly blood-curdling, scream-inducing as anything the Grand Guignol came up with in their heydey. Hitchcock’s works are subtler than the Saw franchise, and therefore much much spookier. I spent the shower scene of Psychounder the chair in the cinama house when I saw it.
Comedy is not a continuum. It is a universe onto itself; that is each comedy is unique. Buster Keaton, for instance, created a character, a type, who functioned according to his own rules. Charlie Chaplin did much the same with his sad little tramp.
At home at the cineplex
I am not a movie-goer, per se, but a movie-stayer. Put it on my tv screen and I will gladly watch. Laurel Canyon, Urban Cowboy, a few minutes of Life, all get my attention. Hidden Figures, A League of Their Own, and The Help grab my heart.
However, it is comedies that keep me most engaged. In fact, what hubby and I love best is a smart and funny film. That’s not to exclude the stupid ones, which we consume in considerable quantities as well; you know movies like Animal House or even Dude, Where’s My Car? The low-brow, like Bad Moms, can be very high on wisdom. Comedy is an escape.
How far can escapism go with comedians like Woody Allen, or Noah Baumbach, or the Coens as your guide? Mel Brooks, a smart and funny movie-maker, can take you further down the silly than these other guys.
There are some parallels we can make between Woody Allen and the Coen Brothers, like the films A Serious Man and Irrational Man, which may have more in common in than just the similarily in title. There is a tone in both films that connects their styles and content, even if the plot lines are independent of each other.
Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale tends to have more of a feel of dark whimsy, like a Wes Anderson production. It is not laugh-out-loud funny like Annie Hall or Broadway Danny Rose. It has none of the robust ridiculousness of High Anxiety, for instance, although it is definitely a tremblingly anxious work.
Partnering has developed a new look as the 21st century progresses. Partly, this is a reflection of a more liberal social milieu. Gender fluidity is the term of art for this LGBTQ-era. Same sex marriage, mixed use bathrooms, dorms which house both boys and girls on the same floor are part of our new-age maturity.
Equality has certainly not come full-circle. The workplace and the quotidian are still often off-kilter and exhibit the same kinds of inequities that have been with us forever. We are working on it, much as the dance makers are working on many more diverse ways to partner.
Many choreographers– Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon Benjamin Millipied etc.– experiment with male on male lifts, and Jessica Lang has a woman catch and release her male partner at one point in Her Notes.
Roles can be reversed for Mr. Mom and his executive wife. We’ve come to accept that and to expect to see it in our arts and entertainments. The glass ceiling– and other prejudices and biases– will be broken and taken down in tiny steps rather than with crowbars.
As always, and as our standard preface for these listings, there’s a lot to do and see. New York City theater can keep a body very busy.
Listings for October-November and maybe even December 2017
How time flies? Is it almost the end of this year? Could Halloween be just a week away?
Women’s Project gave this a go in 2016, and it is being reprised at the Westside Theatre.
The cast in Stuffed, playing through February 18th, has changed, except for creator and star, Lisa Lampanelli, and under the same director, Jackson Gray, but it is still a very relateable comedy. You or someone you know has been on and off the diet wagon for a long time. Everyone of us has a relationship to food– love it or loathe it. Can this lead to funny circumstances? With Lisa Lampanelli giving voice to the issues, you bet it can.
Meanwhile, currently at Women’s Project Theatre, What We’re Up Against, a new dark comedy by Theresa Rebeck, playing from October 28th to November 26th, is directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt, and features Skylar Astin, Marg Helgenberger, Jim Parrack, Krysta Rodriguez, and Damian Young.
John Patrick Shanley writes wry comedies based in realism with surreal twists. Examples include Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, as well as Moonstruck, in which Cosmo’s moon overwhelmes the landscape and Cher’s Loretta tells Nicolas Cage’s Ronny Cammareri
that he’s a wolf who chewed off his own hand. His latest, The Portuguese Kid, at MTC at City Center Stage I through December 3rd, stars Jason Alexander as a lawyer beleaguered by family and clients.
Listings are only represent some of the presentations on NYC stages
Matthew Bourne has a new ballet, his first in many years, which is spending five days on the City Center mainstage, from October 26th through November 5th. There’s a rotating cast for The Red Shoes, and a suggestion that children over the age of 8 would enjoy it.
Speaking of the kiddies, take them to Symphony Space on the weekend with Just Kidding, a series of programs dedicated to events for children. This weekend, there is a Halloween fun day planned for Saturday, October 28th at 11am with Joanie Leeds who will lead the musical costume party. Check out the full schedule at the Just Kidding website.
On Saturday, November 4th, the Symphony Space program offers a new way to teach your little ones new languages. Future Hits, a Chicago rock group, brings their irrestible mix of song with learning to the Just Kidding series. One show only at 11a.m.
Zoe Kazan, actress, playwright, has written a new dystopian play, After the Blast, which is at LCT3 in the Claire Tow Theater through November 19th.
Tired of the dystopian world view? Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves, about a girls’ soccer squad, is coming to L.C.’s Newhouse Theater beginning November 1st. The team are highly competitive but there is no end-world scenario here. The Wolves had its well-received premiere with Playwrights Realm last year.
John Leguizamo gives us lessons in Latin History for Morons, another Broadway transfer from the Public, to Studio 54 through February 4, 2018. (You may recall that Hamilton went this route….) Leguizamo was inspired by the ignorance of Latino history in his son’s school to create this primer. More information on Latin History for Morons can be found at its official webpage.
Bukovina and Odessa seem like such exotic locales. Actually, I think you would call them provincial.
Alexei Ratmansky has set dances at both places, to the music of his fellow Russian and frequent collaborator, Leonid Disyatnikov. The simply named Odessais on the NYCB repertory this year.
Songs of Bukovina was introduced by ABT (@ABTballet) in a world premiere on October 18th as part of their short fall season at the David H. Koch Theater.
The steps in Ratmansky’s choreography for Songs of Bukovina are delightfully complex (à la Balanchine) and inventive. The costume design by Moritz Junge is as beautiful as anything else in this ballet. The muted costumes of the eight corps members are as soothing as the score with the principals’ outfits offering pops of bright color. The dancing is spectacular.
I consider NYCB to be our home-grown company, and ABT to be a much more Russian inflected troupe. The choreographer Ratmansky is their Artist in Residence. Many of their dancers have hailed from the Bolshoi and other such dance companies. In truth, their current crop of Principal Dancers is a diverse crew, mostly of American origins.
The ABT troupe all have a solid and gorgeous attack in their way of dancing. Precision, beauty, lyricism are their stock in trade.
As if to prove my point, Gillian Murphy and Cory Stearns delivered an intensely Russian style in Other Dances, a piece Jerome Robbins made especially for Mikhail Baryshnikov and Natalia Makarova for a 1976 gala. These two ABT dancers were superb.
The ABT specializes in the full-length story ballet, a genre that just is not a favorite with me. For this 2-week fall Lincoln Center season, this year from October 18-29, they showcase the short-form dances which I find more enjoyable.
This is not what might be described as a utopian moment in history. The arts, including theater, of course, have found the need to protest the political climate. Sometimes, their response has been by providing us with dystopian visions of a world gone awry. 1984, for example, is one such production. The recently closed revival of Fucking A by Suzan-Lori Parks is another.
Arden/Everywhere, at the Baruch Performing Arts Center from October 8th to 28th, based on Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, takes aim at the dangers that face a democracy. Jessica Baumann and her creative team see their work as a “reframing” of the original text. Their story purports to be about exile and banishment and does not want to center on the romance in this pastoral comedy.
In fact, the text for Arden/Everywhere is Shakespeare’s, embellished by references to immigrants and the plight of refugees. To that end, in its opening sequence, every greeting is a parting, and every hug and handshake bodes a separation.
The likeable cast present Shakespeare’s words with great authority and make the plot both clear and easy to follow. The principals, Rosalind (a very charming Helen Cespedes), Orlando (Anthony Cason, Jr.), Oliver (Kambi Gathesha) and Celia (Liba Vayneberg) are outstanding.
Our lives, no matter how long their time spans, are all just one continuous moment.
If this premise had been posited before the party that is the first scene of Time and the Conways, at Roundabout’s American Airlines Theatre through November 26th, how much more endurable the charades the family played would have been!
Time and the Conwaysrattles on, not unagreeably because as it does it gains depth and perspective. J.B. Priestley’s play, written in 1937 has a timelessness. It endures for us under the direction of Rebecca Taichman, who might have given it a brisker flow.
Gabriel Ebert, Anna Baryshnikov, and Anna Camp were standouts in an excellent ensemble. Paloma Young’s lovely costumes are as true for 1919 as for 1937. The set design, by Neil Patel, is both solid and ethereal in keeping with the tone of Priestley’s story.
Please pardon the spoilers unspooled in our description and review below.
Alan Conway (Gabriel Ebert) is the soul of this family. His sister Kay (Charlotte Parry) is its brittle intelligence.Carol (Anna Baryshnikov) carries the family’s heart. Hazel (Anna Camp), in contrast to her brothers Alan, and Robin (Matthew James Thomas), the family’s ambition. Robin, Mrs. Conway’s (Elizabeth McGovern) favorite child, is a self-destructive wastrel. The giggly girl who marries him, Joan Helford (Cara Ricketts) is deceived into thinking there is more to him by his swagger.
The self-important tyrant Hazel marries, Ernest Beevers (Steven Boyer) is obscenely mean-spirited. Madge Conway (Brooke Bloom) is the polemical sister, idealistic and down-to-earth at once. Her thwarted interest in Gerald Thornton (Alfredo Narcisco) may have soured her and etched her practical preferences.
For tickets to Time and the Conways, please visit the Roundabout website.
Playing favorites gets a bad rep. In fact, it’s a parental rule that moms love all their children equally. Every mother knows that this is hooey; there is always one who stands a little closer to the heart.
My connection to New York City Ballet (@nycballet) goes back many years to the company’s residency at City Center. Over the half-century plus that I have been partial to NYCB, I have had many favorite dancers.
Among the current crop of primas, Sara Mearns is a stand-out favorite. This in no way diminishes the rest of the NYCB troupe who all delight and dazzle. I often find myself loving best the one who is near, as Ado Annie might; I like the NYCballet.
Nonetheless, on my Mearns watch, I find myself fortunate enough to have tickets for one of her performances of the new Bourne (music by Bernard Hermann) ballet,The Red Shoes at City Center starting October 26th. (This time, we will not be sitting in that very last row from which I saw so many of Balanchine’s dancers dance his dances long ago.)
Matthew Bourne has come out of his career catnap to produce his first dance in four years. The Red Shoes, based on the movie that is based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, is the ultimate dancers’ story. It is also a caveat against overreaching. I can’t wait to see La Mearns in the title role of Victoria Page.
George Balanchine, like Paul Taylor, was a catholic balletmaker, finding the arcane in the ordinary. An “All Balanchine” program at NYCB can range over a wide field, landing here in an utterly classical mode, there in the folkloric.
The one we just witnessed included La Valse, in which Sara Mearns was seduced by death (Amar Ramasar, another beloved NYCB Principal) while her original partner, Tyler Angle, is dejected and dismayed.
Robert Fairchild, in his penultimate performance with NYCB, danced Duo Concertantwith Sterling Hyltin. The dance is one of Balanchine’s so-called black and white ballets, set to music for piano and violin written by his friend Igor Stravinsky. It is a sad and luxurious work.
Two of the pieces on the program blended classical with the quotidienne. Square Dance is elegant, and forthright, a very striking and simple ballet, with a hint of the folk dance of its title. Cortege Hongrois, on the other hand, is elaborate. It uses a populist vernacular, blending the czardas with processionals.
La Valse and Duo Concertant are over for now, as is of course the opportunity to catch Robert Fairchild as a New York City Ballet Principal Dancer.
You will be able to catch Cortege Hongroisagain on a program this winter. Square Dancewill be on another one as well.
New and upcoming favorites in the NYCBallet Company appear with each new season. Peter Walker and Lauren Lovette are dancer-choreographers who are classically trained with next gen sensibilities. We are the witnesses to a company that is full of life, and movement, and is always moving forward. Lucky us.
My intro to the NYCB Working Rehearsal included a docent telling us that one of the things she enjoyed about watching the dancers rehearse was that they reveal their personalities in the banter on the stage. In thinking about this, I realized that what I like to see on stage is a persona, not a personality.
In this case, I witnessed, among other things, Robert Fairchild‘s easy charm (and of course those matinée idol looks I have often mentioned before) which has landed him on Broadway in the past. (And also in Paris and London where An American In Paris had its try-outs, as it were, pre-Palace Theatre in New York.) Fairchild is funny and always
very polite, which belies his perfectionism. He is completely professional and engaged in his dancing. His patter with Sterling Hyltin while waiting for the violinist, Arturo Delmoni was an agreeable look at his more private side, but what I expect to see in his penultimate performance as a Principal Dancer for NYCB at the Saturday matinée tomorrow is his absorption into the role in Duo Concertante. In other words, I will be mesmerized by the persona he projects, not the witty personality he clearly possesses. (Note, he reprises this role at the Sunday matinée.)
Not so hasty. We’re still here.
Rumors that the Big Apple Circus had folded its tent for good appear to have been premature.
It may be that the demise of the multi-tent Barnum + Bailey makes this a winning holiday destination, and the only circus in town.
The Big Apple’s one ring approach was always a more kid-friendly way to present the events on this kind of stage anyway. Who can keep up with all the action in three rings?
On Thursday, The Big Apple was setting up for a late October opening at L.C. Its wagon were in the familiar place by Damrosch Park.
Note to the storekeeper
The poster in the window says “Love Always Wins” and the posterboard is covered in post-its meant to prove this point.
The question I want to pose is have you considered how dire the ending is for Romeo and for Juliet, for instance? They are not the only star-crossed lovers in history– or in theater, but they set the tone for all those who have been failed by your all-encompassing motto.
“Love Sometimes Wins” might be a more apt if less emphatic statement. Given the realities in many romances, the equivocal is a better way of expressing the hope that love carries and sometimes delivers.
While on the subject of romance, I want to submit my favorite type of commentary– the list. In this case, it is a list of films in which women are powerful and empowered. Some of them are romantic in the traditional sense. Some take a right or left turn around the central proposition. Other lists I have shared include those in which ballets are interconnected, and have been meant as a year-end salute.
Here’s today’s list:
A League Of Their Own, sports and girls!
Thelma and Louise, girls in cars Bull Durham, a girl–well, a woman and some ball players Moonstruck, a love affair with two brothers and a woman, a full moon, etc etc etc Alice, a woman on the edge of dementia Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, a woman finds herself
Scientology gets more dissing and distancing than Mormonism– well, except from Broadway’s The Book of Mormon. This long-running musical gives the Mormon Church a bit of a beating.
In truth, we are afraid to disparage the beliefs of others, and religion is in general off-limits in polite company. Mormons are particularly lucky that this is so since the antics of the Church of the Latter Day Saints range from deplorable to laughable. For instance, it is appalling that they claim the ancestors of those in no way affiliated with their practice as their own.
Their mythologies, like those of L. Ron Hubbard and his ilk, many of whom have chosen acting as their metiers, are over the top. Hubbard was a writer of science fiction, another arena, like the theater, in which a suspension of disbelief is helpful.
Sorting out the Mormon backstory of their religion, and their history of the United States is a neat trick that boggles a logical mind.