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 aging, Beauty and the Beast, Chekhov, fairytale, improv, laughter and tears

Theater is about engagement, tears and laughter, and make believe

Fairytales make for good theater, because through them we envision a world different from the daily grind.
There is magic and mystery.

by Sheila Burnett: “Beauty and the Beast” at Abrons Arts Center

“Beauty and the Beast” is a compelling story in which the beast is misunderstood and opposites attract.
In the new production at the Abrons Arts Center, starting March 13th,  the Beast is played by Mat Fraser, a well-known disabled actor and performance artist in his native England; Julie Atlas Muz, choreographer, former Miss Coney Island and burlesque artist, is his Beauty. This moving “Beauty and the Beast” is definitely for mature audiences only.

Jim Himelsbach (live) Paul Zimet (projected)
In Mallory Catlett’s “This Was The End.”
Photo by 
Keith Skretch

Phelm McDermott, founding member of Improbable theater company, directs the live-action, improvisational and puppet pageant. Hear what the director and actors say about the development of “Beauty and the Beast”in this video.

To learn more about “Beauty and the Beast,” please visit www.abronsartscenter.org

Memory not fairytales drives Mallory Catlett’s “This Was The End,” at the Chocolate Factory from February 21s to March 8th. In Chekhov’s play the eponymous Uncle Vanya asks, “What if I live to be 60?” In Catlett’s play, a veteran cast of four, Black-Eyed Susan, Paul Zimet, Jim Himelsbach and Rae C. Wright explore the answer by looking at the manifestations of aging, from memory loss and sleep deprivation to the tolls it takes on the physical being.

Black Eyed Susan in Mallory Catlett’s “This Was The End” at the Chocolate Factory through March 8th. Photo by Keith Skretch

To find out more about “This Was The End,” and get a small sampling of the show see this and visit http://www.chocolatefactorytheater.org/

Emily Schwend’s “Take Me Back,” at Walkerspace in a Kindling Theatre Company production from February 28th through March 22nd, looks at the American dream through the eyes of a parolee back from a four-year Federal stint. To Bill, living with his diabetic mother, the dream is more like a nightmare. Or perhaps a different kind of fairy tale.

To find out more about “Take Me Back,” please visit  them at their FB page and go here for tix.

Former Czech President, Vaclav Havel’s last work “The Pig, or Vaclav Havel’s Hunt for the Pig,” witten by Havel and Vladimír Morávek, adapted into English by Edward Einhorn, presented at 3-Legged Dog in a Untitled Theater Company #61 production from March 6th through March 29th, combines food, drink, revelry, song and politics. 

Before the show, Cabaret Metropol, a New York-based ensemble specializing in classic European cabaret music, performs. The production’s “after-party” features a tribute concert of music that inspired the Velvet Revolution, from the Velvet Underground and others, performed by the members of the dynamic cast. Dinner is provided by the Slovakian restaurant Korzo.

For more information about this production and 3-Legged Dog, visit http://www.3ldnyc.org/
Posted in Burbage, Chekhov, Terrence McNally, the French, the Greeks, The Pearl Theatre Company, the Russians, theater

The vast terrain of theatrical history

Carol Schultz (seated) with Micah Stock standing behind her, Dominic Cuskern, Rachel Botchan, and Sean McNall in a scene from Terrence McNally’s “And Away We Go” at the Pearl Theatre through December 15th.
Photos by Al Foote III.

Theater has evolved over the centuries. Greek tragedies and comedies had state sponsorship, and free admission for all. Time moves on, and the theater continues to serve different audiences in different times. State assistance can also bring censorship, of course. With privatization come the headaches of raising funds to keep the shows going.  
Donna Lynne Champlin, Dominic Cuskern, Carol Schultz,
Micah Stock and Sean McNall.  Photo by Al Foote III.
Meant as a love poem to theater and its folk, Terrence McNally’s “And Away We Go,” at the Pearl Theatre Company through December 15th, mashes the traditions and tribulations of actors, acting and acting companies into a historical pastiche.

As it goes traipsing across the vast panoply of theater history, “And Away We Go,” ambles through the Greek festivals, over to Richard Burbage’s English stage, to the French and Russian revolutions and the playwrights who embodied them, to the impecunious present with a brief stop for Bert Lahr’s “Waiting for Godot” in Coconut Grove in 1956. 

“And Away We Go” succeeds at being sometimes funny, sometimes maudlin, occasionally insightful, sometimes dreary, with the French (Versailles 1789) and Russian (Moscow Art Theatre 1896) sequences gratuitous and poorly executed. Many theatrical styles and periods are overlooked, others are overbooked.

The Greeks practiced a long form that has continually been whittled down so that McNally and his contemporaries tend towards the shorter play. “And Away We Go” attempts to find its perspective and cover the full range of theatrical history in under two intermission-less hours. 

By the way, I learned that it was the French who brought us the interval. In Shakespeare’s time, the audience came and went as the actors performed.

Given the breadth of this survey, it would appear that McNally isn’t aware that you can’t do it all in one evening. Sandra Goldmark has created a scenic design that makes the stage look like a gigantic prop room. It’s also a busy day at the office for the Pearl’s troupe, all of whom are more than willing to tackle McNally’s short but expansive text. 

Sean McNall and Dominic Cuskern, both Pearl Company regulars, distinguished themselves well. Both Carol Schultz and Rachel Botchan, also long time Company members, gave fine performances, with Ms. Schultz doing a particularly nice turn as Shirley Channing, executive director of a resident theatre company.
Donna Lynne Champlin, a Broadway and off-Broadway vet making her first Pearl appearance, was very very good in all her many roles. Micah Stock, another guest at the Pearl, had some difficulty with his French playwright, Christophe Durant, but was very good as Pallas, a member of the Greek chorus, and Kenny Tobias of the Coconut Grove concession stand.

For more information about “And Away We Go,” and the Pearl Theatre Company, please visit the Pearl website.