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, 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, anticipation, Chekhov, Chekhov interpretations, drama, feminism, Ibsen, Ibsen adaptation, Ophelia Theatre Group, Roundabout Theatre Company, The Pearl Theatre Company

Classics anew

opheliaMankind has had the urge to tell its stories since time immemorial. The stories told in different voices all have universal themes. Theatrical history has a long time-line.

Warping that time-line is also a stage-borne tradition. Retelling Antigone’s
tale, as Ivo Van Hove did at BAM last year, for instance, is one way to honor
theatre’s lineage.

Stephen Karam has been charged with recharging Chekhov’s classic Cherry
Orchard for the Roundabout this season. David Harrower is reworking Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People into Public Enemy, currently playing through November 6th over at the Pearl.

Drama poses a problem, offers solutions and catharsis. To that end, Kelly

McCready, an actress and director we recently saw at the Mint in The New Morality has taken on Hedda Gabler. Ms McCready, who has re-imagined this Ibsen and is directing, at the Ophelia Theatre Group , starting on October 27th and running through November 19th, feels that Hedda is too often maligned. She has cut the play to 80 intermission-less minutes, and taken Hedda’s side, as an advocate and a friend. And why not? Hedda should be a feminist hero.

To quote Ms McCready, “This production seeks to throw out preconceptions of the play and the character herself. This Hedda is just a woman who tries to make her new life and relationship with Tesman work, but she can’t combat her circumstances and the expectations placed on her because she’s a woman.

She can’t change any of that.”

BTW, the Ophelia Theatre Group is in Astoria, and Ms McCready also

advocates for the “growing arts community” in this outer borough location.

She says, “Astoria has even earned the nickname “Actoria” in recent years, but it’s obviously difficult to get audiences to venture far from Manhattan. And that means people are missing out.”

The tickets for Hedda Gabler are available here; they are gently priced at $18 which should drag some of you from Manhattan to the wilds of, we might point out, nearby Astoria.

In another vein of adaptation altogether is David Stallings’ Anais Nin Goes to Hell, at The Theater at the 14th Street Y from October 14th through the 29th, which takes a comedic turn but looks at feminist icons. Imagine Andromeda, Heloise, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Queen Victoria, Ophelia, Karen Carpenter and of course Anaïs Nin, all trapped together in the afterlife. The play was a hit in the 2008 Fringe Festival, and is being re-staged here under the direction of Antonio Miniño.

Posted in Chekhov interpretations, theater

Picking up Chekhov’s Gauntlet

What is it about the work of Anton Chekhov that cries out for adaptations?

From the 59E59 production of Songbird 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
From the 59E59 production of Songbird 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

There’s Stupid F**ing Bird, and The Seagull and Other Birds, and recently a country music version called Songbird, just for starters.

Note: There are, as of today, April 19th, only 13 performances of Stupid F**ing Bird left to catch at the Pearl Theatre.

Stupid… is Aaron Posner’s “sort of” adaptation (his words, not ours) of the Chekhov classic soon to be in repertory with Georges Feydeau’s The Ding Dong at The Pearl in mid March. Posner’s play is the 2014 recipient of both the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play or Musical and the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Resident Play.

Note that it is only coincidental that a 2014 MacArthur nominee was Michael J. Bobbitt for Three Little Birds which premiered at the New Victory Theatre last February, and that Marc Acito, one of the writers for Broadway’s Allegiance, won in 2012 for Birds of a Feather. Neither Three Little Birds, which is based on a Bob Marley song, nor Birds of a Feather, which is about Central Park Zoo penguins, is based on a work by Chekhov.

From the Abrons Arts Center on-line calendar for The Seagull and Other Birds
From the Abrons Arts Center on-line calendar for The Seagull and Other Birds

Pan Pan, an irreverent Irish theatrical company, is launching …Other Birds at the Abrons Playhouse from March 23 through April 2. Their interpretation reimagines The Seagull in a variety of genres, from straight classic play to YouTube. Chekhov’s play in …Other Birds is integrated with works by Dick Walsh, Derrick Devine, Gavin Quinn and Dan Riordan specially commissioned by the company. This US premiere production will give audiences an unique take on the comic masterpiece.

Other examples of the challenge that Chekhov, perhaps unwittingly, still sends to playwrights so many years after he has left the stage abound. In the fall of 2014, Donald Margulies revisited Chekhov with his The Country House (at MTC starring Blythe Danner).

In another interesting variation on the theme, a chamber opera about fulfilling a Chekhov stage direction from The Cherry Orchard. The sound which Beethoven and Quasimodo both try to recreate is “impossible” because it is one of nostalgia for something lost or missing or not existent. This doomed collaboration is the premise in The Hunchback Variations, A Chamber Opera, which was at 59E59 Theaters in the summer of 2012.