Is it true that youth is wasted on the young? Perhaps not, at least this group of youngsters is making the most of their time and talents. And yes, I am a little jealous.
There is a good deal to be said for getting an early start. Youth is lithe and agile. It is a great season for dancing, Movement can be the lingua franca for the young; it is their body language as it were.
Ellen Robbins’ Dances By Very Young Choreographers at Live Arts, on January 26th and 27th, will be showcasing works by children as young as 8. The dance-makers, ranging in age from 8 to 18, study modern dance and choreography with Ms. Robbins.
The program ranges across the many styles of dance performance, from the humorous, narrative, to the lyrical. The music selections, chosen by the choreographers, include folk, jazz, classical, contemporary.
Ellen Robbins has been teaching dance sine 1966 and has received honors for her work with children. She has taught dance education at Sarah Lawrence and been on the faculties of Bennington College, the 92nd Street Y, and other distinguished institutions. In 2001, Dances By Very Young Choreographers was on the program at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
After the matinee on January 26th, there will be an evening concert by the Alumni of Dances by Very Young Choreographers, which presents work by dancers who studied with Robbins from 1982 to 2016.
Politics matters, of course, since it definitely affects our daily lives–especially as recent current events have revealed. You may understand when I say that I have felt undone by politics these past couple of years.
Initially, there were two things driving me to see this drama by Beau Willimon, the president of the Writers Guild of America East. The Parisian Woman stars Uma Thurman in her Broadway debut. Additionally, it is just the third production at the newly refurbished Hudson, following 1984 and Sundays in The Park with George. (By the by, both of these had star turns, the former Olivia Wilde and the latter starring Jake Gyllenhaal.)
So, what did the production, directed by Pam McKinnon, and also featuring Josh Lucas, Blair Brown, Phillipa Soo and Marton Csokas say to my hyper-poiliticized self about the atmosphere of power and influence in 2016?
Intrigues, gossip, clandestine activities, affairs, rumors all churn up Washington’s social life in The Parisian Woman. Chloe (Thurman) is looking for powerful friends to help her husband Tom (Josh Lucas) further his ambitions. She has none of her own, it seems, so she lives through those she loves. Peter (Marton Csokas) is her lover but not among the people for whom she really cares.
Thurman and Csokas give overly theatrical performances, though in their defense I will say that the material is a hard sell. The script is rough; I think of it as Noel Coward on Red Bull®. Lucas’s Tom is charming if excessively idealized. Blair Brown as one of Chloe’s power circle, Jeanette, is natural and straightforward; her acting like her character has a certain spunk. Phillipa Soo as Jeanette’s daughter Rebecca holds the stage with an easy poise.
Rebecca also gets to wear the one most singularly impressive and stunning gown (costumes designed by Jane Greenwood.) Chloe’s many outfits are attractive in the understated way of a very expensive wardrobe. The men are chic in suits except in one scene where Tom bears his six-pack, (We can assume that the latter is not courtesy of Ms. Greenwood, although her work in the show is very appealing.) The elegant sets (by Derek McLane) move in a clever fashion and feature a kind of newsfeed which is monochromatic Mondrienesque.
Polemics–even when the politics echo my own– are not inherently dramatic
Willimon’s text is stiff with an elegance manqué. Actually, both ends of the register get short shrift– The Parisian Woman is neither vulgar nor haute. The play aims so hard to be insiderish that it fails to qualify as #resist(ance). This blend of fiction with fact in Willimon’s play, could be called a “faction” drama. Many in the audience at the performance I attended seem to have come there as fans of Beau Willimon’s streaming series, House of Cards, another foray into the inner workings of the life political.
I am not saying that we should not take the excursion, just that Willimon’s The Parisian Woman is not an entirely convincing trip down this path.
The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, properly named the World Columbian Exposition in honor of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in the Americas, hosted 46 countries and over 25million visitors.
The 690 acres it occupied was a city of industry that represented and presented progress to the world: Juicy Fruit gum, Cream of Wheat and Pabst Blue Ribbon were introduced at the Expo.
A Ferris Wheel, a moving walkway, an electric kitchen that included an automatic dishwasher and printing press for Braille were also innovations first seen at the 1893 Fair.The Colunbian Exposition was also home to a sprawl of original architecture.
In The Light Years, co-written by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen and directed by Oliver Butler of The Debate Society, this and the subsequent Chicago World’s Fair of 1933 provide the background for a very unusual play. The Light Years is presented with The Debate Society at Playwrights Horizons where it is playing through April 2nd.
Steele MacKaye (a wonderfully bombastic Rocco Sisto), envisioned an ingenius theater to celebrate the arts at this grand historic event. His 12,000-seat Spectatorium, was designed by the now forgotten theatrical impresario to harness the mechanical and electrical marvels of the time.
The Light Years is, in part, a love story, highlighted by technology and wonder and spun over 40-years. In it, we are transported to more innocent times, when novelty could inspire and awe was not an unsophisticated or naive response.
In 1893, the story centers on the progress of building and wiring MacKaye’s theater.
Hillary (Erik Lochtefeld in a star turn) and his assistant, Hong Sling (the charismatic Brian Lee Huynh) are the electricians in charge of making the Spectatorium shine. Hillary’s wife, Adeline (the appealing Aya Cash) is a very modern woman, cheerfully pedalling both iced tea and a bicycle.
When the scene shifts to 1933, it’s Ruthy (Aya Cash, again) who has to keep her family afloat, flipping pancakes and inspiriting her husband Lou (Ken Barnett, in an excellent awe-shucks mode) through the writing of musical ditties for this Fair’s many commercial enterprises. Their son, Charlie (the already accomplished young Graydon Peter Yosowitz) is smitten with the sensations the Fair promises.
The scenic design by Laura Jellinek and costumes design by Michael Krass rise beautifully to the majesty of the occasion.
Every part of the theater space is treated to a bit of the performance. There are lights and things that go poof as well as narratives to explicate the drama. The ensemble engage, entertain and instruct.
The Light Years uses some of the devices Steele MacKaye introduced to turn this small-scale production into a grand spectacle.
Striking off on one’s on is a privilege and a rebellion in which the young often indulge, heading out to find their own success.
Philip (Bernardo Cubria) and his father, Mr. Eldridge (Cliff Bemis) have a fundamental disagreement as Mrs. Randolph (Christine Toy Johnson) looks on in Geroge Kelly’s “Philip Goes Forth” at the Mint extended through October 27. Photo by Rahav Segev.
“Philip Goes Forth,” at the Mint Theater in an extended run through October27th, is about one young man’s contention with his father over his future .
Mrs. Randolph and Philip in the Mint production of “Philip Goes Forth.” Photo by Rahav Segev.
In this classic generational dispute, Philip Eldridge (Bernardo Cubria) is in a fine pique over his father’s (Cliff Bemis) high-handed dismissal of his ambitions. When Philip appeals to his aunt, Mrs. Randolph (Christine Toy Johnson) she tells him, “You may be able to do wonders, Philip ,—I know nothing at all about it . And if I did know—that you had it in you to succeed even moderately at it ,…..—I should be the first to encourage you.” She is sympathetic, but worried, “.. I’ve read so much of the disappointments and heartbreak of writers; and I’m sure the majority of them must have ridden away wit h very high hopes.”
Mrs. Oliver (Carole Healey) pays Mrs. Randolph (Christine Toy Johnson) a visit. Photo by Rahav Segev.
George Kelly’s play gets off to a slow start, but as “Philip Goes Forth,” by the second act, it gains momentum and the power to captivate. Philip’s adventure takes him to New York City, where he feels an endeavor like his to write plays should prosper.
Mrs. Oliver (Carole Healey) and her daughter, Cynthia (Natalie Kuhn) both support Philip’s desires to become a playwright. Cynthia expresses her delight that he is planning to try his hand at writing. Mrs. Oliver says, “Why not?—I mean, after all, it ‘s your life. And if it’s unexpressed, remember there’ll be nobody to blame but yourself.” And it is with that encouragement that Philip sallies off to Mrs. Ferris’ (Kathryn Kates) boarding house. There his college roommate, Tippy Shronk (Teddy Bergman) further fuels his aspirations. The other housemates gatherred in Mrs. Ferris’ drawing room include Miss Krail (Rachel Moulton) a delightfully absent-minded poetess and the tormented Haines (Brian Keith MacDonald.)
Philip (Bernardo Cubria) shares his dreams with Cynthia (Natalie Kuhn) in “Philip Goes Forth.” Photo by Rahav Segev.
Ironically, in New York, Philip finds great success at what you would call a “day job” where he labors in a novelty business. He is on the verge of a promotion when he receives visits from family and friends.
The direction, under Jerry Ruiz, seems a bit uneven, as Philip, Shronk and Mrs. Oliver are given free reign to be over the top, while the rest of the cast seems to take a more naturalistic approach. However, both Bernardo Cubria as Philip and Carole Healey as Mrs. Oliver find their place in our hearts as “Philip Goes Forth” proceeds into the later acts. Rachel Moulton is extremely fetching as the resident versifier, who “stress[es] the necessity of beauty unduly.” Natalie Kuhn is sweet as Philip’s girlfriend; her enthusiasm for the romance of a writer’s life is comic and touching.
George Kelly, who was wildly popular in the late 1920’s, is seldom staged today. Go forth, and enjoy this reclaimed little gem from a mostly forgotten master of stagecraft.