Posted in 2-hander, air force, also a film, army airmen, autobiographical, based on a movie, based on a real world conflict, based on a true story or event and historical documents, based on true events, Bryce Pinkham, carpet bombing, comedy about a serious subject, dark comedy drama, drama based on real events, duped by love, ensemble acting, family, fathers and sons, holiday show, memoir, memories, musical theatre, musicals and dramas, narration, new work, Off or Off-Off Broadway Transfer, offbeat work, parents and children, play, play with music, Roundabout Theatre Company, serious comedy, storytelling, stylistic, the damaged and hurting, theater, Vietnam background, war

Legacies of war

bycarolrosegg
Jon Hoche, Raymond Lee, Paco Tolson (center), Jennifer Ikeda, and Samantha Quan. Photo © Carol Rosegg

History can sometimes revel in a very personal dynamic.

For instance, those of us who lived through and joined in protests against the Vietnam War may not share the viewpoint of the main character in Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone, currently playing at MTC’s City Center Stage I through December 4th.

Quang (Raymond Lee) was a pilot in the South Vietnamese armed forces. He was trained in the United States. He saw the North Vietnamese as a genuine threat to life and liberty and welcomed the help of American soldiers in the struggle.

Vietgone is a fast-paced kind-of-multi-media excursion into the hero’s and heroine’s, Tong (Jennifer Ikeda), survival. They meet at a state-side refugee camp where Tong and her mother (Samantha Quan, in a number of roles) have come after the fall of Saigon.

The piece is, and isn’t, narrated by the Playwright (Paco Tolson, also playing several people), who is commemorating his parents’ story. There are rapped love songs, (original music by Shane Rettig) motorcycles, a roadtrip, and a bromance– all trappings to some extent of the era portrayed in the plot.

For the most part, Vietgone is entertaining, interesting, unusual in structure, and well presented. There is room for some cuts here and there. The cast, under May Adrales’ direction, and staging, with scenic designs by Tim Mackabee and projection design by Jared Mezzocchi, are excellent.

In other subscription house news from our household:

Roundabout’s Love, Love, Love (reviewed earlier and playing through 12/18) can make us feel guilty first for Brexit and now Trump as it portrays boomers resting in reactionary comfort.

Over at Studio 54 througfh January 15, 2017, Roundabout has mounted a vehicle for nostalgia. Holiday Inn, with no irony whatsoever, cries out for Mickey and Judy. It is well-served by the cast on hand, however, and a pleasantly tuneful production makes for a great afternoon at the movies, er theater.Bryce Pinkham and Corbin Bleu are the friends and dancing partners, along with Megan Sikora, and Lora Lee Gayer who lead the ensemble in song and dance.

Heisenberg Georgie- Mary-Louise Parker and Alex-- Denis Arndt; Set Designer Mark Wendland; Costume Designer Michael Krass; Lighting Designer Austin R. Smith; Original Music and Sound Designer David Van Tieghem. Photo © Joan Marcus
Heisenberg
Georgie- Mary-Louise Parker and Alex– Denis Arndt;
Set Designer Mark Wendland; Costume Designer Michael Krass;
Lighting Designer Austin R. Smith;
Original Music and Sound Designer David Van Tieghem. Photo © Joan Marcus

MTC gives us Heisenberg at its Broadway venue, the Friedman Theatre through December 11th. Why Heisenberg? The play, so well-acted by Denis Arndt and Mary-Louise Parker as to have one puzzling over the quantum physics of it name, is an enjoyable two-hander. It’s gimmicky staging notwithstanding, the dynamic of the drama is captivating. Heisenberg is a sweet-crazy story, written by Simon Stephens, the pen behind The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Heisenberg was a transfer from Off-Off, and as such had some buzziness surrounding it.Director Mark Brokaw elicits strong performances from both his actors. Parker, who unleashes the odd-ball in her character in little bursts, is fun to watch.Arndt’s charm reveals how a pent-up man can suddenly be both impetuous and child-like. So, back to the title: Heisenberg has an underlying if small principle of uncertainty that you will likely enjoy.

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Posted in 2-hander, comedy, drama, musical theater, theater

Can’t stop making lists

Once you start making lists, it becomes a habit, an obsession, perhaps, and so you continue listing what’s good. Unlike the other lists we posted recently, this one is in anticipation. 2016 is upon us, and there will be so much more theater in the new year.

  1. Forest Whittaker is coming to the Booth Theatre as Hughie, with previews beginning on February 8th. Whitaker will star alongside Frank Wood, under Michael Grandage’s direction, in Eugene O’Neill’s two-hander.
  2. The Color Purple, starring  Jennifer Hudson–in her Broadway debut– is directed by John Doyle. This revival of the musical is coming to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre from London’s Menier Chocolate Factory, and is bringing both Danielle Brooks, and Cynthia Erivo from the British cast.
  3. This spring there’s more O’Neill is headed our way, when the Roundabout presents Long Day’s Journey into Night, starring Jessica Lange, Michael Shannon, John Gallagher Jr. and Gabriel Byrne under Jonathan Kent’s direction.
  4. The Public will have a Broadway transfer of last fall’s hit  Eclipsed by Danai Gurira, and starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o. Liesl Tommy directs at the Golden, with previews scheduled from February 23rd.
  5. The Roundabout has a Broadway transfer of its own with The Humans moving from the Laura Pels this past season to the Helen Hayes Theatre on January 23rd. Wide critical acclaim (including ours) and an unstoppable creative team and cast helped in the move.
  6. Fiddler on the Roof has begun its previews at the Broadway Theatre. Directed by Bartlett Sher and starring Danny Burstein as Tevye, and Jessica Hecht as his wife Golde, this revival is set to make a new “Tradition.”
  7. Any chance to see Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald together again is one we will grab. Shuffle Along, a musical that revolutionized Broadway back in the ’20’s, is being revamped and redone by George C. Wolfe, with choreography by Savion Glover. The new old musical hits the Music Box Theatre in March.
  8. Rebecca Taichman directs another play by Danai Gurira at Playwrights Horizons, Familiar in February.
  9. Two reasons to love Waitress, the musical version of the movie we saw recently, are the lovely off-beat script and Jessie Mueller who has been brilliant in everything from On A Clear Day… onward to Beautiful for which she won that Tony.
  10. Hanging in from the 2015 lists: On Your Feet! and School of Rock, along with Hamilton, because no list of New York theater is complete without this masterpiece for which we have posted multiple raves also at this site (see here.)
Posted in 2-hander, drama, love story

What’s Real?

A review of Martin Dockery’s Moonlight After Midnight by Mari S. Gold

What’s Real?

When Vanessa Quesnelle first enters the unremarkable hotel room in which Martin Dockery sits, watching a comet pass through the sky, you think she’s a call girl /soon you think no, maybe she’s a total stranger, then possibly a lover, an actress even a wife. (She also channels Patsy Cline when singing Walkin’ After Midnight and Crazy.)

Martin Dockery and Vanessa Quesnelle in "Moonlight After Midnight"
Martin Dockery and Vanessa Quesnelle in “Moonlight After Midnight”

The couple’s relationship is constantly shifting which is part of the charm of Moonlight After Midnight, at The Kraine Theater through April 30th. You are constantly off balance, trying to figure out what’s real and what’s not. Mid-way through this short (fifty-five minutes) piece, the relationship turns on itself and off you go again, trying to figure out what’s happening. Even the ending is up in the air as so many relationships are.
Dockery and Quesnelle are a real life couple which contributes to the natural feeling they project. Their interchanges are sharp and complete, even when they don’t quite make sense–or do they? Both are attractive people with honed talents especially Quesnelle’s voice– if she didn’t make it as an actress (which she will), she could hit it as a singer.

Vanessa Quesnelle and Martin Dockery in "Moonlight After Midnight" at the Kraine Theater through April 30th
Vanessa Quesnelle and Martin Dockery in “Moonlight After Midnight” at the Kraine Theater through April 30th

Moonlight After Midnight made its debut in Ottawa, Ontario in 2014 at the Ottowa Fringe Festival and then toured Canada before playing in London . This summer the show can be seen at theater festivals in Orlando, Cincinnati and Minneapolis. Dockery and Quesnelle come from New York so they love performing here but, as Dockery said after the bows, when your entire marketing budget is Facebook, you go where you can.
If you’re anywhere in the areas they’ll be appearing, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket. The evening will live on in your mind as you try and sort out what’s real and what might not be.

For more information about Moonlight After Midnight, pkease visit http://www.horsetrade.info/event/92c246b3d078f7015caf69e92d52bbd4


 

Posted in 2-hander, Brits Off Broadway, bullying, David Harrower, nuclear testing, Scots Festival

"Good With People"

Andrew Scott-Ramsay and Blythe Duff star in David Harrower’s “Good With People,” launching the 2013 Brits Off Broadway festival at 59E59 Theaters. Photos by Carol Rosegg


Having a nuclear test site in your town might put a damper on tourism. Helensburgh, Scotland has been made relatively desolate. 

People come, but just for day trips, as Helen Hughes (Blythe Duff) laments in “Good With People,” David Harrower’s play enjoying a NY premiere at 59E59 Theaters, through April 21st.
Helen works at the Seaview Hotel where Evan Bold (Andrew Scott-Ramsay) is one of the few guests. Evan, who’s been in Qatar and Peshawar as a charge nurse for many years, has returned for his parents’ remarriage.

Blythe Duff  and Andrew Scott-Ramsay star in David Harrower’s “Good With People,” launching the 2013 Brits Off Broadway festival at 59E59 Theaters. Photos by Carol Rosegg

Evan and Helen share an unpleasant history since Evan, out of loyalty to his dad’s job at the naval facility, was one of the boys from the base who bullied her son Jack after he protested nuclear testing.
The actors are both very good story tellers, holding the attention, despite a minimal story to tell.
Puns and misapprehensions provide some modicum of amusement in “Good With People,”
but Harrower’s very short script seems a bit self-indulgent. Long pauses seem like superfluous dramatic tics in a play that is just an hour long.

“Good With People” is the Scots part of 59E59’s annual Brits Off Broadway festival. It is produced by Traverse Theatre Company and Datum PPaines Plough.
For more information about “Good With People,” and Brits Off Broadway, please visit 59e59.org..
Posted in 2-hander, Canal Park Playhouse, juggling, play with music, romance, Singing in the rain, Valentine's Day

In The Mood for Love?

With Valentine’s Day approaching, many of us turn our thoughts to couplehood– which includes love, of course, and often much more.

Cora Bissett as Helena with Matthew Pidgeon as Bob in “Midsummer [a play with songs]” by David Grieg, who also directs with songs by Gordon McIntyre. Costumes by Georgia McGuiness. at the Clurman. Photo by Douglas Robertson 

Each year, Carol Tambor heads to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to sample the unusual and find the play she deems to be “Best of Edinburgh.” The Carol Tambor Theatrical Foundation then presents the play thus designated to New York audiences. Last year the work was “Leo” (See review on these pages.)  This year, “Midsummer [a play with songs]”by David Grieg, who also directs, at Theatre Row’s Clurman Theatre through January 26th, shares the Award with “Mies Julie,” currently running at St. Ann’s Warehouse.

Midsummer [a play with songs]” is an early Valentine’s gift from Ms Tambor to us. In Midsummer [a play with songs]” romance is a by-product of a quest.  

Searching for meaning in booze, sex and bondage (it’s a long story!), Helena (Cora Bissett) and Bob (Matthew Pidgeon) find something far more valuable– friendship and 15,000.

When they meet, Bob is reading “Dostoyevsky… to cheer himself up.” Despite his overtly intellectual endeavors, Bob is “a f****** underachiever.” Their match-up is improbable. He is a low to mid level crook, and she’s a swanky divorce lawyer.

Photo by Douglas Robertson. Helena (Cora Bissett) and Bob (Matthew Pidgeon) in “Midsummer [a play with songs]” by David Grieg, who also directs with songs by Gordon McIntyre. Costumes by Georgia McGuiness.


“Midsummer [a play with songs]” is not for everyone. Love and romance mingles with philosophical asides and silliness in this not strictly linear tale. Songs are interspersed with the narrative and dialogue. “And so– when you see them — the runners,” Helena says, “weaving and glistening through the crowds– you might think, ‘look at them, the fools, they’re trying to run away from death,’ — but they’re not– they’re honestly not– they’re running towards something….”

The central bed is the all-purpose set, cleverly designed by Georgia McGuiness, which also has convenient storage for some of the props the actors need.

Photo by Douglas Robertson of Matthew Pidgeon as Bob and Cora Bissett as Helena in “Midsummer [a play with songs]” by David Grieg, who also directs with songs by Gordon McIntyre. Costumes by Georgia McGuiness. 


While you’re in a romantic mood, take your sweetie to see “Perfect Catch,” being reprised at Canal Park Playhouse on Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm and 4pm through February.

Perfect Catch,” billed as “Throw-mantic Comedy”  takes mime and juggling to Hollywood. Just watching
Jen Slaw and Michael Karas toss umbrellas to the soundtrack of “Singing In The Rain” is worth the price of admission.

To get tickets for “Midsummer [a play with songs],” visit www.telecharge.com. To learn more about “Perfect Catch,” visit www.canalparkplayhouse.com

Posted in 2-hander, acrobatic, athletic, erotic, Gary Henderson, love story, The Magpies

When Love Is Enough: Gary Henderson’s "Skin Tight"

Peter Saide as Tom and Sarah-Jane Casey as Elizabeth in “Skin Tight” by Gary Henderson at 59E59 Theaters.
Photo by Carol Rosegg

“Remember that time…”  “Yes,” she answers.  He protests “You don’t know what I was going to say.” She answers “I don’t have to. I remember everything.”

“Skin Tight,” at 59E59 Theaters in a One Year Lease production through December 1st, is an abstract love story by Gary Henderson, based on “The Magpies,” a poem by New Zealander Denis Glover.

Peter Saide as Tom and Sarah-Jane Casey as Elizabeth in “Skin Tight” by Gary Henderson at 59E59 Theaters. 
Photo by Carol Rosegg

“Skin Tight,” bristles with sensual provocations. It is intense with eroticism, frank language and nudity. Gary Henderson’s  short play is oddly interesting, opening with an fierce and well-choreographed  (by  Natalie Lomonte, former dance captain for Spidermansmackdown between an man and a woman. “Skin  Tight”  is about the enduring love between Tom (Peter Saide) and Elizabeth (Sarah-Jane Casey). 


Sarah-Jane Casey and Peter Saide in “Skin Tight” at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg
The parade of their lives goes from childhood games to wartime separation, from waiting and wanting to infidelity and loyalty. It is a steamy tale, told with good humor. The fighting is brutally savage and very acrobatic.    “Skin  Tight”  is  both romantic and completely grounded. 
The place names trip lovingly off Tom’s tongue. “Point Pleasant. Fairlie. Little nothing names full of magic,” he says. “Tekapo. Pukaki. And the rivers. The Waitaki. The Rangitata.” Tom and Elizabeth have a lifetime to talk over, yet they are both fit and young, truly a handsome pair. 

Skin Tight” is an ode to reminiscences, shared forthrightly. Peter Saide and Sarah-Jane Casey are a very fetching couple, physically attractive, even imposing. They embue the story of “Skin Tight” with  a natural grace and charm.

For more information on the production, visit www.59e59.org

   

 

Posted in 2-hander, dark comedy drama, pensioner and his care workers, similar to a film plot, Sinatra song

Greed Kills, Well, Not Really, in "Fly Me To The Moon"

Katie Tumelty and Tara Lynne O’Neill in Marie Jones’ “Fly Me To The Moon.” Photo by Vinnie Loughran

Fans of Hitchcock’s “The Trouble With Harry” or “Waking Ned Divine” can take heart in Marie Jones’ “Fly Me To The Moon.”

Loretta Mackie (Tara Lynne O’Neill) and Francis Shields (Katie Tumelty) are community care workers, which translates roughly as nurses’ aides, for Davy Magee, a lonely bloke who loves Sinatra tunes and needs round the clock assistance.

Katie Tumelty as Francis and Tara Lynne O’Neill as Loretta share a lighter moment after Davy’s gone.
Photo by Vinnie Loughran  
Well-intentioned, overworked and underpaid, the two spend their days with their charge, running errands for him to  place the occasional bet with his bookmaker or pick up his government check. Francis, a bit of a self-centered schemer, left on her own when Loretta is late, takes Davy into the toilet from which he doesn’t emerge.  It’s Monday, the day Loretta picks up his check, Francis goes to the bookies for any winnings.  
And there-in lies the plot of “Fly Me To The Moon.” Francis and Loretta get in deeper and deeper. “Well there is no turnin’ back now is there?,” Francis says. “You didn’t tell her he was dad, so according to her [the nurse on the phone] Davy Magee is still alive. Why did you not tell her he was dead?” Loretta’s answer: “I was scared.” 

“Fly Me To The Moon” mines the thin terrain of this not entirely original premise. Katie Tumelty and Tara Lynne O’Neill exhibit well seasoned comic timing. Tara Lynne O’Neill’s Loretta lets greed and need get the better of her good-nature. 

Loretta and Francis shift through Davy’s few belongings. Photo by Vinnie Loughran.

For more information on “Fly Me To The Moon,” visit www.59e59.org.