Posted in dogs in the theater, service dogs, trauma dogs

Doggone it!

My dog Chippy in the 1950s.

The idea that dogs (so-called trauma dogs, in particular, but any of your furry companions) need to be ubiquitously present in everyone’s life seems to have taken a turn for the worse.

Dogs are sprawled happily in my local bakery. They are also howling along with the legitimate stars in a legitimate theater near you.

Posted in Classic Stage Company, Conor McPherson, John Doyle, Strindberg adaptation, Ted Sperling, Victoria Clark

Conversation with the director

Victoria Clark is in the current parlance a multi-hyphenate talent; she is a recipient of the coveted Tony Award for her work on the Broadway stage. Her current gig as director of the excellent Conor McPherson adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Death adds lustre to a lustrous resume.

Dance of Death Classic Stage Company BY AUGUST STRINDBERG IN A NEW VERSION BY CONOR MCPHERSON DIRECTED BY VICTORIA CLARK CAST Christopher Invar Cassie Beck Rich Topol Photo (c) Joan Marcus

If you have had the privilege of seeing the play at Classic Stage Company (through March 10th), you will definitely want to hear the actress, singer, teacher and director in conversation with John Doyle on March 5th at 7 o’clock.

Doyle is CSC’s Artistic Director, and a Tony winning director himself. He is presenting the second installment of the Classic Conversation series, for March 5th featuring Clark.

Ted Sperling, who received a Tony when he worked with Clark on Light in the Piazza, will join to accompany Clark on the piano for the musical portion of the evening.

Posted in adaptation, classic, Classic Stage Company, Conor McPherson, dark drama, domestic drama, drama, naturalistic, psychological drama, Shariffa Ali, Shariffa Chilemo Ali, Strindberg, Strindberg adaptation, Victoria Clark, Yael Farber

Cruel and fierce

Photo © Joan Marcus
Patrice Johnson Chevannes as Christine and James Udom, as John

Sometimes it’s the setting, the social fabric of a place, that reflects the context of a work. August Strindberg set his plays in his native Sweden; these settings are often remote and austere; Strindberg’s characters are motivated by a psychology both familiar and alienating, sometimes even chilling. 

Photo © Joan Marcus
Patrice Johnson Chevannes as Christine, Elise Kibler as Julie and James Udom, as John

Women scared Strindberg, it would seem. By today’s standards, his psychological viewpoint is positively regressive. His Julie is neurotic and a hysteric. Her wildness drove her fiancé away.

Yaël Farber roughly covers the same plot points. Her titular Mies Julie (Elise Kibler) is a wild child, distraught and adrift since her intended left her. She turns to John (James Udom), a servant in her father’s house for the strength she needs to exorcise her demons. Their love is fierce and cruel, and motivated by a dynamic different, but not alien to Strindberg’s.

Farber has placed Strindberg’s Miss Julie in a new context  by setting her adaptation in the veldt. South Africa and its racial divide make a poignant if stereotyped backdrop for Farber’s Mies Julie.

The story is sensationalized, with lurid brutality and explicit sex. To be honest, I do not recall the Strindberg original well enough to judge, but there is nothing subtle in this heavy handed adaptation.

As I do recall, in the Strindberg version, Christine represented another betrayal; she was Jean’s girlfriend whom he abandoned for Julie. Here, Christine (Patrice Johnson Chevannes) is John’s mother who raised Mies Julie. Farber, and her director, Shariffa Ali, have also added an element of the supernatural in the figure of Ukhokho (Vinie Burrows), an ancestor whom only Christine sees.

Mies Julie, directed by Shariffa Ali plays in repertory with Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Death, directed by Victoria Clark at Classic Stage Company through March 10th.

Posted in classic, Classic Stage Company, Conor McPherson, dark comedy drama, domestic drama, family drama, in repertory, Shariffa Ali, Shariffa Chilemo Ali, Strindberg, Strindberg adaptation, Victoria Clark, Yael Farber

Torment


Love may be the antidote to death, or it may be its side dish.

Photo © Joan Marcus Christopher Innvar as Kurt, Cassie Beck as Alice and Richard Topol as Edgar

For Edgar (Richard Topol) and Alice (Cassie Beck) in Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Death, directed by Victoria Clark, it is the cruellest of emotions.

The couple, on the verge of their 25th anniversary, have never stopped torturing each other.

Photo © Joan Marcus Cassie Beck as Alice and Richard Topol as Edgar


Alice invites her hapless, if not so innocent, cousin Kurt (Christopher Innvar) to visit in their remote island home. He is readily drawn into their lies and deceptions, deceits and insinuatons.

Watching Alice and Edgar in
their exquisite mutual torment is like the proverbial trainwreck: you are horrified yet cannot look away.

The acting of all three principles is so seamless that the escalations of the hurt are palpable, subtly-defined and well-choreographed. We are enthralled by the fiendish wiles and messy tangle in Edgar and Alice’s marriage, and riveted by Kurt’s engagement with them. Victoria Clark directs with a deft, light hand that allows us to see under the surface.

Strindberg is seldom on stage. If you have not seen him, let Conor McPherson introduce you to him. Dance of Death is a must-see production.

Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Death, durected by Victoria Clark, plays in repertory with Yael Farber’s Mies Julie
directed by Shariffa Ali at Classic Stage Company through March 10th.

Posted in historically-based musical, Kristen Childs, Playwright, musical, Musical drama, Playwrights Horizons, recording

It’s a big tale

Playwrights Horizons announced the release of a cast album of Kristen Childs’ rowdy, wild, and hilarious Bella: An American Tall Tale. Hard copies of the album, produced by Michael Croiter, can be purchased at yellowsoundlabel.com and phnyc.org beginning February 22, when it will also become available digitally on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and Apple Music. Pre-orders are available now via iTunes.

Bella: An American Tall TaleMay 19, 2017 – July 02, 2017 Mainstage Theater Book, Music, and Lyrics by Kirsten Childs Directed by Robert O'Hara  Choreographed by Camille A. Brown

Ashley D. Kelley (as Bella), NaTasha Yvette Williams & Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Joan Marcus

There are many wrongs and omissions that can be righted by imagination. In fact, writers create imaginary characters to construct reality and ponder points of view.

Playwright Kristen Childs is one such, who expresses so many truths in her fiction. Her current work, Bella: An American Tall Tale, at Playwrights Horizons through July 2nd, 2017 is about so much more than a big-bootied pioneer woman of color.

The African-American history of the United States is different from the one taught in schools. That’s why we have Black History Month, that 1/12th of the year where we try to set the record a little straighter. We should just let Kristen Childs do it for us.

Our review was published after the June 12th opening.