Posted in #classism, #dystopia, #PRIDE, Center for Performance Research, Chris Cragin-Day, Classic Stage Company, CPR, Earth Day, Emily Daly, environmental degradation, Lauren DiGiulio, Marc Blizstein, Orson Welles, racism, social media, The Cradle Will Rock, unions, workshops

Troubled times

Natalia Plaza and Zac Owens in The Rare Biosphere

Sometimes, we need a little CPR as a theriac for snakebitten times.

The CPR in question here is the Center for Performance Research which is presenting its New Voices in Live Performance programs for 2019. Their announcement appropriately crossed our desk on Earth Day today, April 22nd, so Walking with Water, which centers around environmental issues, questions of racism and justice, and restoring our planet sounds like the balm we need. It is what Aya Lane + Jess Jupiter are curating for June 1 -2. (Re)Patterning Performance is Lauren DiGiulio’s curation on June 7-9.

Workshops, explorations, multi-media performances all appear on the bill.
(We’ve sent you to the Center for Performance Research in the past.) Details can be found at the CPR website.

Photo by Gabriel Frye-Behar from #yourmemorial

The shock of our dystopias seems to be wearing us down with diurnal injustices. Artists among us continue to struggle to make sense of it all. And to help us make our way through.

Theater artists in particular are organizing tales for our edification. Their efforts are appreciated, if sometimes fraught.

The Rare Biosphere is a “ripped from the headlines” story about a teenager who comes home to find her parents have been deported. Playwright Chris Cragin-Day intends to give the political a personal face in this timely new work, playing from April 25th through May 19th at Calvary St. George’s.

Despite the fact that we consider ourselves a class-less society, classism is an enduring issue in American life. Classic Stage Company (CSC) is staging an endictment of capitalism’s greatest flaw, inequality, The Cradle Will Rock written in 1937 and originally produced by Orson Welles. Marc Blizstein’s play in music was shut down by federal authoriites who feared its pro-labor stance just prior to opening night . CSC’s Artistic Director, John Doyle is at the helm of this 10-person production.

The internet has no real precursor in our lives. #yourmemorial by Emily Daly reacts to issues that only arise from what we so laughably call social media. This world premiere is produced by Pigeonholed from May 9th through 26th.

A series of PRIDE events at the Educational Alliance in association with the 14th Street Y celebrate diversity as Live Free, Love Fierce from May 31 through July 1.

This is a short list of a very few upcoming shows meant to cure what ails us. The sideshow in government and performed by a parade of politicians continues. You can follow that mostly on CNN and other cable news outlets.

Posted in Classic Stage Company, Conor McPherson, John Doyle, Strindberg adaptation, Ted Sperling, Victoria Clark

Conversation with the director

Victoria Clark is in the current parlance a multi-hyphenate talent; she is a recipient of the coveted Tony Award for her work on the Broadway stage. Her current gig as director of the excellent Conor McPherson adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Death adds lustre to a lustrous resume.

Dance of Death Classic Stage Company BY AUGUST STRINDBERG IN A NEW VERSION BY CONOR MCPHERSON DIRECTED BY VICTORIA CLARK CAST Christopher Invar Cassie Beck Rich Topol Photo (c) Joan Marcus

If you have had the privilege of seeing the play at Classic Stage Company (through March 10th), you will definitely want to hear the actress, singer, teacher and director in conversation with John Doyle on March 5th at 7 o’clock.

Doyle is CSC’s Artistic Director, and a Tony winning director himself. He is presenting the second installment of the Classic Conversation series, for March 5th featuring Clark.

Ted Sperling, who received a Tony when he worked with Clark on Light in the Piazza, will join to accompany Clark on the piano for the musical portion of the evening.

Posted in adaptation, classic, Classic Stage Company, Conor McPherson, dark drama, domestic drama, drama, naturalistic, psychological drama, Shariffa Ali, Shariffa Chilemo Ali, Strindberg, Strindberg adaptation, Victoria Clark, Yael Farber

Cruel and fierce

Photo © Joan Marcus
Patrice Johnson Chevannes as Christine and James Udom, as John

Sometimes it’s the setting, the social fabric of a place, that reflects the context of a work. August Strindberg set his plays in his native Sweden; these settings are often remote and austere; Strindberg’s characters are motivated by a psychology both familiar and alienating, sometimes even chilling. 

Photo © Joan Marcus
Patrice Johnson Chevannes as Christine, Elise Kibler as Julie and James Udom, as John

Women scared Strindberg, it would seem. By today’s standards, his psychological viewpoint is positively regressive. His Julie is neurotic and a hysteric. Her wildness drove her fiancé away.

Yaël Farber roughly covers the same plot points. Her titular Mies Julie (Elise Kibler) is a wild child, distraught and adrift since her intended left her. She turns to John (James Udom), a servant in her father’s house for the strength she needs to exorcise her demons. Their love is fierce and cruel, and motivated by a dynamic different, but not alien to Strindberg’s.

Farber has placed Strindberg’s Miss Julie in a new context  by setting her adaptation in the veldt. South Africa and its racial divide make a poignant if stereotyped backdrop for Farber’s Mies Julie.

The story is sensationalized, with lurid brutality and explicit sex. To be honest, I do not recall the Strindberg original well enough to judge, but there is nothing subtle in this heavy handed adaptation.

As I do recall, in the Strindberg version, Christine represented another betrayal; she was Jean’s girlfriend whom he abandoned for Julie. Here, Christine (Patrice Johnson Chevannes) is John’s mother who raised Mies Julie. Farber, and her director, Shariffa Ali, have also added an element of the supernatural in the figure of Ukhokho (Vinie Burrows), an ancestor whom only Christine sees.

Mies Julie, directed by Shariffa Ali plays in repertory with Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Death, directed by Victoria Clark at Classic Stage Company through March 10th.

Posted in classic, Classic Stage Company, Conor McPherson, dark comedy drama, domestic drama, family drama, in repertory, Shariffa Ali, Shariffa Chilemo Ali, Strindberg, Strindberg adaptation, Victoria Clark, Yael Farber

Torment


Love may be the antidote to death, or it may be its side dish.

Photo © Joan Marcus Christopher Innvar as Kurt, Cassie Beck as Alice and Richard Topol as Edgar

For Edgar (Richard Topol) and Alice (Cassie Beck) in Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Death, directed by Victoria Clark, it is the cruellest of emotions.

The couple, on the verge of their 25th anniversary, have never stopped torturing each other.

Photo © Joan Marcus Cassie Beck as Alice and Richard Topol as Edgar


Alice invites her hapless, if not so innocent, cousin Kurt (Christopher Innvar) to visit in their remote island home. He is readily drawn into their lies and deceptions, deceits and insinuatons.

Watching Alice and Edgar in
their exquisite mutual torment is like the proverbial trainwreck: you are horrified yet cannot look away.

The acting of all three principles is so seamless that the escalations of the hurt are palpable, subtly-defined and well-choreographed. We are enthralled by the fiendish wiles and messy tangle in Edgar and Alice’s marriage, and riveted by Kurt’s engagement with them. Victoria Clark directs with a deft, light hand that allows us to see under the surface.

Strindberg is seldom on stage. If you have not seen him, let Conor McPherson introduce you to him. Dance of Death is a must-see production.

Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Strindberg’s Dance of Death, durected by Victoria Clark, plays in repertory with Yael Farber’s Mies Julie
directed by Shariffa Ali at Classic Stage Company through March 10th.

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.)