Posted in #Roundabout, adaptation, adoption, Andrew Orkin, based on a play, based on Chekhov, Chekhov, Chekhov interpretations, classic, Classic Stage Company, Conor McPherson, drama, dysfunction, Emerging Directors, Ibsen, Ibsen adaptation, Jeff Blumenkranz, love, love story, melancholy, Norwegian playwright, play, Shariffa Ali, Shariffa Chilemo Ali, storytelling, Strindberg, Strindberg adaptation, Victoria Clark, Yael Farber

Modernist Classics

Tony-winner Victoria Clark (for Light In The Piazza) was in the short-lived Broadway run of Gigi

Like our friends Chekhov and Ibsen, August Strindberg invites reinvention, interpretation and re-interpretation. Strindberg’s brooding psychological themes have not had as much stage time as those of his contemporary.**

Ibsen, Chekhov and Strindberg are modern playwrights, in the sense that Freud is modern. Our preception of the inner workings of the soul and its desires have all been clarified in their work.

We are introduced to characters, conflicts and situations which have us wondering what if? We search for their outcomes and new resolutions for them. Hence the tendency for contemporary writers to rephrase and update Ibsen, or Anton Chekhov or, now especially, August Strindberg.

In the upcoming Classic Stage Company double-bill in repertory, Conor McPerson and Yaël Farber rework two Strindberg pieces, Dance of Death and Miss Julie. This Strindberg celebration runs from January 15th through March 10th at the CSC’s theatre on East 13th Street.

Farber’s Mies Julie resets the play to the Karoo of South Africa, adding a new dimension to the social conflicts in the original. Mies Julie is directed by Shariffa Ali who brings enlightened and empassioned humanitarian activism into the play’s broader themes.

Victoria Clark is helming the production of McPherson’s interpretation of Dance of Death. You surely know her as a Broadway musical star, who won a Tony for her lead in The Light In the Piazza, and was a nominee for four of her other outings. Lately, Ms. Clark has been directing musicals and operas around the country. She brings her sense of the lyricism in words to Strindberg’s brutal vision of a marriage in decline.

** (Strindberg’s Miss Julie, for instance, was last seen at the Roundabout in 2007 with Jonny Miller and Sienna Miller, although an off-Broadway production of his lesser-known The Pelican was produced in 2016.)

Posted in based on Chekhov, drama, theater

Once again, a young playwright rises to the Chekhov challenge

EsperanceThis was true in 2016, when I first posted it, and it proves once again that Chekhov provides a model for new plays and spurs a playwright to use The Cherry Orchard as a starting point for startling new work:

Anton Chekhov, it seems, provides excellent inspiration for contemporary Americans in his line of work. As if the Chekhov challenge asks the modern playwright to match him wit for wit and build on his premises.

Chekhov teases imitators, adaptors, translators and audiences with themes of grandeur and loss. His plays are shown on stages large and small each year; his works are mimicked in pastiches, like Stupid F**king Bird at the Pearl, or  Minor Character— in Brooklyn from June 17-25, 2016. In the latter, multiple versions of Uncle Vanya merge in a mist of millenial angst.”

Breitwisch Farm cast and creative team
Breitwisch Farm cast and creative team at rehearsal

This March, The Cherry Orchard is the influence for Breitwisch Farm, a play by Jeremy J. Kamps at the Esperance Theater Company at the new Tribeca venue, Town Stages. Breitwisch Farm explores issues of displacement and immigration in the era of America First, giving Chekhov’s story a distinctly of the moment twist. The play runs from March 2nd through March 16th.

Breitwisch Farm author Jeremy J. Kamps is part of the Public’s Emerging Writers Group.  The play stars Danaya Esperanza, Joe Tapper, Katie Hartke, Will Manning, Charlie Murphy, Maria Peyramaure, Alejandro Rodriguez, and Katie Wieland, under Ryan Quinn‘s direction.

Posted in based on Chekhov, Chekhov, Chekhov interpretations, dysfunction, Ibsen, Ibsen adaptation, Lucas Hnath

Ibsen gets the full Chekhov

Source: Classics anew

Matt Harrington, Shayna Small, David Kenner, Chris Myers, Brendan Titley, Ben Mehl - Julius Caesar (Photo- Brittany Vasta) (1)
From a past Wheelhouse production: Matt Harrington, Shayna Small, David Kenner, Chris Myers, Brendan Titley, Ben Mehl – Julius Caesar (Photo: Brittany Vasta)

It is a minor obsession with me to note how many ways Ibsen and Chekhov can play for a modern audience. Chekhov gets many of our contemporary playwrights to rise to his challenge, and adapt his social commentary to our moderner times.

Of course, the comparatively dour Henrik Ibsen has also been a catalyst for imitation, adaptation, interpretation and exploration. Lucas Hnath has taken Nora’s escape from a stifling household as the point of departure, as it were, for his A Doll’s House Part 2, currently playing at the Golden Theatre (through July 23rd.)

Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People has proven to be an inspiration for our avant theaters, as well. It requires some heavy lifting, and in the past 10 years or so has had productions at MTC, and the Pearl (in a David Harrower adaptation.)

Now, An Enemy of the People comes to us from the Wheelhouse Theater Company under the direction of Jeff Wise, at the Gene Frankel Theater, beginning June 9th and running through June 24th as a meditation on the “tyranny of the majority.” Just about a perfect assessment of where this story leads.

Posted in adaptation, based on Chekhov, comedy-drama, drama, ensemble acting, favorites, friendship, girls, growing up, love story, loyalty, Playwritghts Horizons, romantic comedy, Roundabout Theatre Company, soccer, The Duke, The Mint Theatre

Short takes

Here are three shows playing “off-Broadway” but in the Times Square area you may find of interest: The Wolves at the Duke on 42nd, Yours Unfaithfully at the always brilliant Mint at Theatre Row’s Beckett Theatre, and Rancho Viejo at Playwrights Horizons.

Comeback Kids

Sports-themed stories are compelling because they are usually about fair play and, well, sportsmanship.

Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves takes place during practice sessions of a suburban girls’ soccer team as they chat, gossip, and warm-up. Part of the appeal of this show is that  The Wolves is in a reprise production at The Duke on 42nd Street through December 29th; its last sold-out run was this past August and September. It made an impact then, and it looks to make one this holiday season as well.

If you love something, set it free

The Mint is staging  Yours Unfaithfully, the never before produced comedy by Miles Malleson. The play was published in 1933 but never staged until now, when it will get its world premiere beginning on December 27th and running through February 18th at Theatre Row’s Beckett.

Malleson, an actor, playwright, screenwriter, and freethinker seems to have written about the open marriage in Yours Unfaithfully from his life experience, but this production offers much more than voyeuristic interest. Bertrand Russell reviewed the published play as being full of “humor and kindness” and “free from any taint of propaganda.” The high standards of a Mint Theatre production should bring this “well-constructed” work to life.

Neighborly

At Playwrights Horizons, Dan LeFranc brings Rancho Viejo, a small-town and its relationships and interactions to the stage. If his earlier play, The Big Meal is any indication of where he’ll be taking us, this should be an interesting journey.

Rancho Viejo, through December 23rd at the Mainstage, explores how what we do affects our friends and neighbors, who may be total strangers to us. (Check out our review of this very entertaining new play.)


Over at the American Airlines Theatre, Stephen Karam tweaked Chekhov. The Cherry Orchard, which closed on December 4th, is a challenge, as is much of Chekhov. There is melancholy mixed with hilarity in the oeuvre and it does not always play as either funny or tragic. Diane Lane (Ranevskaya) and John Glover (Gaev). the plutocratic and impoverished owners of the property at the center of the play, achieve some level of mixed despair and hysteria.

The production had its faults, and some highlights which included the second act masquerade ball with musicians (Bryaqn Hernandez-Luch, Liam Burke, Chihiro Shibayam, coordinated by John Miller) on stage. There is original music by Nico Muhly.

And most interesting is the color-blind casting in which Chuck Cooper is Pischik, a landowner always looking for a handout, and Maurice Jones is Ranevskaya’s favorite Yasha. Harold Perrineau as Lopakhin, the son of a serf who wins the estate at auction, is a particular standout in the cast.


News from the annoyance front: Impolite theater-goers of the umpteenth degree spotted recently at a matinee of The Cherry Orchard were talking quite loudly. When asked to sush, the response was “Other people are talking.” The other people in question were the characters on stage, I swear.

Also in the Roundabout repertory for this season was the frothy and likeable Holiday Inn, at Studio 54 through January 15th.

Posted in based on Chekhov, drama, theater

Rising to the Chekhov challenge

Anton Chekhov, it seems, provides excellent inspiration for contemporary Americans in his line of work. As if the Chekhov challenge asks the modern playwright to match him wit for wit and build on his premises.

Chekhov teases imitators, adaptors, translators and audiences with themes of grandeur and loss. His plays are shown on stages large and small each year; his works are mimicked in pastiches, like last season’s Stupid F**king Bird at the Pearl, or the upcoming Minor Character— in Brooklyn from June 17th-25th. In the latter, multiple versions of Uncle Vanya merge in a mist of millenial angst.

The Cherry Orchard is on sale again in the Roundabout’s 2016-17 seasonStephen Karam (whose The Humans, nominated for a Tony,  continues at the Helen Hayes on Broadway) is rising to the Chekhov challenge in this adaptation. Simon Godwin will direct Diane Lane and an as yet unconfirmed cast.

From June 17-25th, Brooklyn-based Invisible Dog presents New Saloon, an Off Broadway troupe, in Minor Character. The 16 character play also rises to the challenge, by compiling  6 translations– from a 1916 edition to one from Google — of Uncle Vanya, that connect Chekhov with millenial angst.

 

Posted in based on Chekhov, drama, musical theater

Honky Tonk Love

a guest review BY MARI S. GOLD

Have your Chekov with a side of grits and a blast of country-and-western music.

Kacie Sheik, Erin Dilly, Don Guillory, Bob Stillman, Andy Taylor, Kate Baldwin, Eric William Morris, Ephie Aardema, and Drew McVety in SONGBIRD at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Jenny Anderson Photography
Kacie Sheik, Erin Dilly, Don Guillory, Bob Stillman, Andy Taylor, Kate Baldwin, Eric William Morris, Ephie Aardema, and Drew McVety in SONGBIRD at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Jenny Anderson Photography

A bar-cum-music venue near Nashville is effectively evoked by Jason Sherwood’s bleached wooden boards with rows of liquor bottles above attesting to the trade of vodka for whiskey… Welcome to Songbird, at 59E59 Theater A through November 29, a play set in Opry land where. former singing great, well- portrayed and sung by Kate Baldwin, returns after a long absence. She’s home to help her son, Dean, (Adam Cochran), launch his own musical career.

Erin Dilly and Kate Baldwin in SONGBIRD at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Jenny Anderson Photography
Erin Dilly and Kate Baldwin in SONGBIRD at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Jenny Anderson Photography

 

 

We understand that Dean’s life is a wreck because Tammy more or less abandoned him but there’s little depth of feeling–we’re told rather than shown. Tammy comes home with her lover, Beck, a music producer described as a “Hitmaker”; as played by handsome Eric William Morris, he sings well (as do all the players) but he lacks sufficient swagger and authority.

There are a lot of other people milling around including Mia (Ephie Aardema), a young singer

Adam Cochran and Ephie Aardema in SONGBIRD at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Jenny Anderson Photography
Adam Cochran and Ephie Aardema in SONGBIRD at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Jenny Anderson Photography

who falls for Beck; Doc (Drew McVety), embroiled in an affair with Pauline, (an excellent Erin Dilly), Soren, Tammy’s alcoholic older brother (Bob Stillman), and Missy, (Kacie Sheik), dressed in black doing her Goth thing but characters are thinly written so it’s sometimes hard to keep them straight. Missy has a drinking problem –the other characters are warming up to one other than Soren who is already there.

The play, by Michael Kimmel, is based on Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull riffing on the original in which an actual bird is a symbol for a young woman’s happiness that   disappears when a man shoots the bird out of boredom and then presents it to her. In Songbird, it’s a bluebird that Dean hits with his truck.  Act I ends with Dean silhouetted in a doorway holding a noose. So much for foretelling.

As in Chekhov, many major incidents take place offstage. Songbird has interesting story developments, like Missy’s marriage to Rip but, like others twists, this is revealed abruptly and vanishes just as fast.

Lauren Pritchard, who wrote the terrific music and lyrics, comes from the small town of Jackson, TN, about 120 miles from Nashville, where Songbird takes place. Her Small Town Heart that opens the show as a prologue, lets us in on Tammy’s need to get away to a bigger place with more opportunities, a popular country-and-western sentiment. Highway Fantasy, well performed by Beck and Missy, is sort of a love song and sort of a regret for a romantic road not taken. There are lots of songs and language about disappointments about love and life in general.

The Seagull has been adapted and revamped by many writers ranging from Tennessee Williams to Emily Mann and staged as a play, a film and a ballet; it’s been set in the contemporary Hamptons and on an Australian beach. My guess is that this retelling, despite the excellent music and fine vocal performances, is probably not going to be the one worth enshrining.

For more information and tickets for Songbird, please visit 59e59.org.