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


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.)

Posted in #critique, athletic, ballet, balletic, classic, connectivity, dance, dance making, dancing, empowerment, high expectations, history, in repertory, joy, legacy

Howdy, Partner

Partnering has developed a new look as the 21st century progresses. Partly, this is a reflection of a more liberal social milieu. Gender fluidity is the term of art for this LGBTQ-era. Same sex marriage, mixed use bathrooms, dorms which house both boys and girls on the same floor are part of our new-age maturity.

Equality has certainly not come full-circle. The workplace and the quotidian are still often off-kilter and exhibit the same kinds of inequities that have been with us forever. We are working on it, much as the dance makers are working on many more diverse ways to partner.

Many choreographers– Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon Benjamin Millipied etc.– experiment with male on male lifts, and Jessica Lang has a woman catch and release her male partner at one point in Her Notes.

Roles can be reversed for Mr. Mom and his executive wife. We’ve come to accept that and to expect to see it in our arts and entertainments. The glass ceiling– and other prejudices and biases– will be broken and taken down in tiny steps rather than with crowbars.

Posted in ballet, balletic, balloons, children's shows, classic, dance, dancing, family, favorites

Nutcracker gift basket

This is an example of “smart regifting,” of recycling an idea, concept or suggestion: A somewhat tongue in cheek or perhaps just cheeky suggestion for a holiday gift from 2016 is reprised here. (For other holiday gift ideas, check out our suggestions at The Wright Wreport.)


What we’d put in the Nutcracker gift basket
1. a little nutcracker figure
1a. with
2. a spray of sugar plums (3-4)
3. imported hot chocolate
3a. mug optional
4. fancy coffee
4a. mug optional
5. elegant tea
5a. steeper and mug optional
6. 6 candy canes (3 red and white, 3 green and white)
7. 1/2 dozen pieces of marzipan
8. gingerbread figures (2-3)
9. a spray of dewdrops
10. a sprig of flowers and, don’t forget


11. A pair of tickets for George Balanchine’s Nutcracker

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Posted in classic, drama, May-December romance, movie with Kim Novak & Frederic March, orig Bway w Edward G. Robinson & Gena Rowlands, Paddy Chayefsky, TV w EG Marshall & Eva Marie Saint

Isn’t It Romantic: Paddy Chayefsky’s Look At Love

Is there anything sweeter than romance, or more prone to meddling?

Lillian (Melissa Miller) and her husband Jack (Todd Bartels) with Jerry (Jonahan Hadary) and his sister Evelyn (Denise Lute) first hear Jerry’s news in “Middle of the Night” by Paddy Chayefsky, directed by Jonathan Silverstein at the Keen Theatre through March 29th. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Family and friends impede on the happiness in the May-December romance at the heart of “Middle of the Night.” Paddy Chayefsky’s play at the Keen Company under Jonathan Silverstein’s direction at Theatre Row through March 29th,  is in its first revival since a Broadway run (and national tour) in the mid 1950s.

 Jerry (Jonahan Hadary) and Betty (Nicole Lowrance) in “Middle of the Night” by Paddy Chayefsky, directed by Jonathan Silverstein at the Keen Theatre through March 29th. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

“Middle of the Night” has a fine pedigree, all penned by Chayefsky. It started out as a television for the inaugural show of the seventh season of he Philco Television Playhouse where it starred E.G. Marshall and Eva Marie Saint. It then relocated in 1956 to Broadway where it starred Edward G. Robinson and Gena Rowlands, and went on to star Kim Novak and Frederic March in the Columbia Pictures version in 1959.

In “Middle of the Night,” an aging garment Manufacturer, Jerry Kingsley (Jonathan Hadary) is seduced by loneliness and the charms of the Girl from his plant, Betty Preisser (Nicolde Lowrance) into a romance he is not sure is wise. His family, with the exception of his son-in-law, Jack (Todd Bartels) — his stern sister Eveylyn (Denise Lute) and his daughter Lillian (Mellisa Miller)– try to dissuade him from continuing the affair.

On Betty’s side the objections are even louder. She is only 24 to his 53, and her mother, Mrs. Mueller (Amelia Campbell) doesn’t understand why Betty would want to divorce her husband, George (Todd Bartells again) in order to marry an old man. Betty’s friend Marilyn (Melissa Miller in the role) is equally puzzled and disapproving.

Mrs. Mueller (Amelia Campbell) and Betty (Nicole Lowrance) in “Middle of the Night” directed by Jonathan Silverstein for the Keen through March 29th. Photo by Carol Rosegg. 

The allure of Paddy Chayefsky’s slice-of-life drama is abundantly on display in this heart-warming Keen production. The cast are splendid, with Jonathan Hadary and Nicole Lowrance in especially fine form.

Betty (Nicole Lowrance) and Jerry (Jonathan Hadary) embrace in a scene from Chayefsky’s “Middle of the Night” directed by Jonathan Silverstein for Keen Company at Theatre Row through March 29th. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

To learn more about “Middle of the Night,” please visit the Keen Company website.

Posted in classic, comedy-drama, JM Barrie, Neverland, Peter Pan, satiric, two one-act plays, witty

A Trip To "Neverland" In Long Pants

Bradford Cover as Sir Harry and Rachel Botchan as Kate in “The Twelve Pound Look” from  The Pearl’s This Side Of Neverland. Photo by Al Foote III.

If it weren’t for Walt Disney, the flying, Tinker Bell and Captain Hook, “Peter Pan” would be widely recognized as the adult fairytale it truly is. Children for the most part aren’t that interested in not growing up.

Sean McNall as Charles and Rachel Botchan as Mrs. Page  in  “Rosalind” from  This Side of Neverland. Photo by Al Foote III.

In J.M. Barrie’s two one-act plays, capping the 29th season of the Pearl Theatre Company as “This Side Of Neverland,” and playing through May 19th, the tales are definitely for grown-ups.

J.M. Barrie (Sean McNall), narrating with a deep Scots brogue and a very merry twinkle, is the glue that binds “Rosalind” with “The Twelve Pound Look” in “This Side of Neverland.” The Pianist (Carol Schultz) leads a mostly failed (through no fault of hers) audience sing-along to aid in the transition between the acts.

Extended to May 26th
Rachel Botchan as Kate and Vaishnavi Sharma as Lady Sims in “The Twelve Pound Look “ from This Side Of Neverland at the Pearl Theatre. Photo by Al Foote III.

The production under J.R. Sullivan’s direction strikes the charming note of Edwardian celebration. J.M. Barrie makes mischief in the neatly-drawn, sweetly satirical two parts of “This Side Of Neverland;”although the little plays feature adult-language and adult-situations, “This Side Of Neverland”gets its PG rating. Of course, youngsters will not appreciate its mature wit nor its intelligent wisdom..

Sean McNall as Charles in “Rosalind,” the opening act of This Side Of Neverland. Photo by Al Foote III.

In the excellent small ensemble, Rachel Botchan is as delightful as Kate, the escaped wife in “The Twelve Pound Look,” as she is as the aging-ageless ingenue in “Rosalind.” Sean McNall is equally excellent in all the roles he undertakes, here as Barrie, and then as the boyish Charles, and the reserved slightly supercilious butler Tombes.

For more about The Pearl Theatre Company, and “This Side Of Neverland,” please go to