Posted in based on a novel, based on a play, cheating, cinema, comedy, comedy-drama, committment, couples, film

Isle (sic) Seats

T and B sit in aisle seats at our “in-house theater” where movies are the entertainment.

Here on our little island home, we let Showtime® or Movies!® or TMC® (among others) regale us with cinema past present and future.

Serendipitous

A little tremor passed through me when I picked up the December 3rd issue of The New Yorker to find a reprint of a Nora Ephron piece from 2006. The shudder was the thrill of serendipity.

I had just seen Heartburn and here she was chatting about cooking and food. In the article, Serial Monogamy, she acknowledges that the roman à clef upon which the film is based is a thinly disguised version of her second marriage. The ups and downs and downs of this union are played out by Meryl Streep as Rachel Samstat and Jack Nicholson as her not so faithful husband, Mark Forman.

I never take serendipity lightly or for granted but frequently have no idea what to do with it. This is such a case, a reinforcement as it were of its very randomness.

Cooking

Ephron’s story stirred another chord of memory for me. My mother had been working on a Meditterean cookbook for some time. Her manuscript sits in my closet and I wonder if I should try some of her recipes.

I wonder, but mostly I feel guilty because I know I won’t make any attempt to replicate her best-loved dishes. Then, perhaps, I should just acknowledge that I am too random a cook to follow anyone’s directions. And that I am better off not messing with her signature.

Leaving a bad taste

There are few scenes of cooking in a Woody Allen feature, notably the hilarious lobster bruhaha in Annie Hall and the feasts whipped up by the title character (portrayed by Mia Farrow)  in Hannah and Her Sisters. Allen is a frequent guest in our home–not in person, of course, although I did run into him in the neighborhood once. We generally  find his movies interesting, thought-provoking, and brilliant. We have admired his genius. 

Unfortunately, Allen has had a substantial  helping of problems of late, landing in the fire for alleged sexual misconduct of a heinous variety. His films are suggestive of a guilty verdict.

For instance, I found Play It Again, Sam funny, brilliant and moving upon a recent re-viewing. Then we came to a truly objectionable  scene in which Allen and Diane Keaton appear to exalt the virtues of rape. Is there a point, beyond being outrageous to this? How does Keaton react to the impropriety of the script, I wonder?

In Manhattan, Allen’s man-child character is dating an underage, if extremely mature Mariel Hemingway. This has always made me cringe and turned me off this film, despite its many lovely images of the city, and some very smart dialogue.

Hot Water Indeed

Then there’s Hannah and Her Sisters, a wonderful study of love and relationships in their many permutations, marred  by the introduction of pedophilia. It’s brought in as a small bit in which Allen’s Mickey, a comedy writer and show runner, is battling his network–and his assistant,  played by Julie Kavner–over including a segment in which this taboo is prominent.

Really?  The presence of this in this iconic movie has fuelled and given credence to  the allegations against Woody Allen.

 We are left with a few pictures we can whole-heartedly endorse in the backlist of Allen’s output. Broadway Danny Rose may be his most romantic venture of the earlier works.

It is a critical no-no for a critic to confuse the art with the artist, of course, but the crisis challenging Allen fans looms large.  His early oevre seems to feed into the #MeToo-related issues that plague him. Thankfully, the more recent films are here for us to reaffirm his intense dedication to the art of the cinema and his astonishing talent.

Posted in comedy-drama, dark comedy drama, premieres, serious comedy, The Women's Project, Theresa Rebeck, Women, women playwrights

Glass ceilings

WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINSTOctober 28-November 26 Off-Broadway Premiere written by Theresa Rebeck directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt with Skylar Astin, Marg Helgenberger, Jim Parrack, Krysta Rodriguez, & Damian Young
The cast of What We’re Up Against: Damian Young, Marg Helgenberger, Skylar Astin, Krysta Rodriguez and Jim Parrack take a meeting. Photo © Joan Marcus

The workplace can be a fraught setting for the battle of the sexes.

WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINSTOctober 28-November 26
Off-Broadway Premiere

written by Theresa Rebeck
directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt
with Skylar Astin, Marg Helgenberger, Jim Parrack, Krysta Rodriguez, & Damian Young
Photo © Joan Marcus

In the case of Theresa Rebeck’s What We’re Up Against, in its New York off-Broadway premiere at The Women’s Project through November 26th, the setting is a boutique architectural firm. The company’s prestige only adds to the cutthroat atmosphere in which its staff swims.

Ironically, the title crops up in a slightly drunken conversation that the “boys” in the office are having, complaining about Eliza (Krysta Rodriguez), a relatively new hire who has the absentee boss David on her side. Stu (Damian Young) manages the business as best he can; he finds Eliza an impediment and feels comfortable bitching about her to Ben (Jim Parrack) and to the other new hire, Weber (Skylar Astin.)

WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINSTOctober 28-November 26
Off-Broadway Premiere

written by Theresa Rebeck
directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt
with Skylar Astin, Marg Helgenberger, Jim Parrack, Krysta Rodriguez, & Damian Young
Photo © Joan Marcus

The irony, of course, is that it is Eliza who is up against the wall created by her craven male colleagues. The other woman architect they work with, Janice (Marg Helgenberger) is as antagonistic to Eliza as the men are; her hostility is more self-protective– Eliza stirs up trouble and Janice is eager to fit in and get along.

What We’re Up Against enjoys its ironies and has a quick-witted humor. Under Adrienne Campbell-Holt’s direction, the pace is brisk and to the point. The fact that the characters, except for Eliza and Ben, lack all charm shows its hand, making it clear who we’re supposed to root for.

WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINSTOctober 28-November 26
Off-Broadway Premiere

written by Theresa Rebeck
directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt
with Skylar Astin, Marg Helgenberger, Jim Parrack, Krysta Rodriguez, & Damian Young
Photo © Joan Marcus

The bi-level set for What We’re Up Against  are designed by Narelle Sissons personalizes and expands on the space. We were told by patrons in the first row that they were not entirely content with the design, however.

What We’re Up Against originally played at The Magic Theatre in San Francisco in February, 2011 under the direction of Loretta Greco and won the 2011 Rella Lossy Playwright’s Award. It is presented by WP Theater by special arrangement with Segal NYC Productions.

For tickets and more information, please visit WPtheater.org.

Posted in based on a Shakespeare play, comedy, comedy about a serious subject, comedy-drama, drama, Shakespeare

Idyll

1William_Shakespeare.
A portrait of William Shakespeare,

This is not what might be described as a utopian moment in history. The arts, including theater, of course, have found the need to protest the political climate. Sometimes, their response has been by providing us with dystopian visions of a world gone awry. 1984, for example, is one such production. The recently closed revival of Fucking A by Suzan-Lori Parks is another.

Arden/Everywhere, at the Baruch Performing Arts Center from October 8th to 28th, based on Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, takes aim at the dangers that face a democracy.  Jessica Baumann and her creative team see their work as a “reframing” of the original text. Their story purports to be about exile and banishment and does not want to center on the romance in this pastoral comedy.

In fact, the text for Arden/Everywhere is Shakespeare’s, embellished by references to immigrants and the plight of refugees. To that end, in its opening sequence, every greeting is a parting, and every hug and handshake bodes a separation.

The likeable cast present Shakespeare’s words with great authority and make the plot both clear and easy to follow. The principals, Rosalind (a very charming Helen Cespedes), Orlando (Anthony Cason, Jr.), Oliver (Kambi Gathesha) and Celia (Liba Vayneberg) are outstanding.

For more information and tickets, please visit Arden/Everywhere.

 

Posted in aging, comedy about a serious subject, comedy-drama, dysfunction, family, family comedy drama, family drama, mothers and sons, new dramatists, new work, Playwrights Horizons, serious comedy, spendthrift

Mom

The TreasurerSeptember 06, 2017 – October 22, 2017 Peter Jay Sharp Theater Written by Max Posner Directed by David Cromer
Pun Bandhu & Peter Friedman in a scene from The Treasurer. Photo © Joan Marcus. Note the modern industrial sets by Laura Jellinek.

Family often cuts to the heart of who we are.

Relationships that can be kind can also be cruel, as we find in Max Posner’s The Treasurer, at Playwrights Horizons through October 22nd extended to November 5th, under David Cromer’s direction, a comedy about family, aging, guilt and dying.

Caring for an aging parent who abandoned him when he was 13 is a huge and unwelcome responsibility for The Son (Peter Friedman).

His mother sees it differently. Her version is less dramatic. “Everybody gets divorced,” Ida Armstrong (the wonderful Deanna Dunagan) tells Ronette, (Marinda Anderson) a shop clerk at Talbot’s.

The TreasurerSeptember 06, 2017 – October 22, 2017 Peter Jay Sharp Theater Written by Max Posner Directed by David Cromer
Deanna Dunagan & Marinda Anderson. Photo © Joan Marcus

Ida’s charm is seductive. Her conversations, like her exchange with Julian (Pun Bandhu), a young man she memory-dials, make promises which are then also abandoned. Profligacy has left Ida penniless and dependent on the charity of The Son and his brothers, Allen and Jeremy (Marinda Anderson and Pun Bandhu on the phone). Her continued spending evades The Son’s best efforts as the titular “Treasurer” and leaves him frustrated. Friedman’s narrative is delivered with a nonchalant grace.

The Treasurer could have gone in any number of directions, but Posner’s play goes on its surreal path in an unexpected if foreshadowed course. The result, or rather, the conclusion, is not fully satisfying.

For more information and tickets, please visit the @PHnyc website.

Posted in comedy, comedy-drama, family, family comedy drama, family drama

The corner store

Soulpepper, Kim's Convenience
Ins Choi in Kim’s Convenience (c) Cylla von Tiedermann

Family relationships are a tricky business, made more so when a family business is actually involved.

Ins Choi has written a tribute to his family and the business in which he grew up. Kim’s Convenience, in repertory at the Pershing Square Signature Theatre during Soulpepper on 42nd Street’s run through July 29th, won the Toronto Fringe Festival New Play Contest and is a series on CBC-TV, co-produced by Soulpepper.

Soulpepper, Kim's Convenience
Jean Yoon, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (c) Cylla von Tiedemann

A funny and poignant play, Kim’s Convenience is about a proudly stubborn patriarch, Appa (or Dad in Korean) (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) and his family at a crossroads. Convenience stores are in fact intimate spaces, in which neighbors gather, and which tells the story of both the proprietor and his customers.

Rather than take the money offered him for the variety store by Mr. Lee (Ronnie Rowe, Jr., also in several other roles), Mr. Kim asks his daughter, Janet (Rosie Simon) to run the shop. The payout would mean he and his wife, Umma (mom) (Jean Yoon) could retire comfortably. Instead, Mr. Kim wants to pass on what he has built. He also knows that his legacy is in his children, Janet and his estranged son, Jung (Ins Choi.)

Kim's Convenience, Soulpepper
Rosie Simon, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Ronnie Rowe Jr (as Alex here.), (c) Cylla von Tiedemann

There is no mention of gentrification, yet it is palpably present in this scenario. In fact, change and cultural/generational differences and misunderstandings are a big part of the humor and the heart of Kim’s Convenience.

The set by Ken MacKenzie (who, also, designed the costumes) is fully stocked, all the details of a corner store compactly and intricately laid out.

Under Weyni Mengesha’s adroit direction, Kim’s Convenience holds our regard.

For more information, a schedule and tickets to Kim’s Convenience or any of the Soulpepper On 42nd Street offerings, please visit https://www.soulpepper.ca/new-york.

Note that their adaptation of Of Human Bondage has been particularly recommended to us.

 

Posted in comedy-drama, drama, romance

Plus one

College is kind of a demarcation line for growing up. Once past that point, you are expected to do grown up things. Get a job. Find a life mate. In short, settle down, like so many of your friends have done.

Significant Other, at the Booth Theatre through April 23rd, in a Broadway transfer, features Gideon Glick in the lead. Joshua Harmon’s play is, like its lead, eminently sweet and charming. Most of Glick’s castmates, including Lindsay Mendez, Sas Goldberg, Luke Smith, Barbara Barrie and John Behlmann are reprising their off-Broadway Roundabout roles. They are joined by Rebecca Naomi Jones as Vanessa.

Visit http://www.significantotherbroadway.com/ for tickets.

Posted in acceptance, adultery, aspiration, comedy-drama, committment, couples, dalliance, dramedy, infedility, love, love story, loyalty, premieres, romance, serious comedy, The Mint Theatre

Monogamy

Is it really cheating if your spouse approves your infidelity?

Creatives    Directing Jonathan Bank     Sets Carolyn Mraz     Costumes Hunter Kaczorowski     Lights Xavier Pierce     Original Music & Sound Jane Shaw     Projections Katherine Freer     Props Joshua Yocom     Casting Stephanie Klapper, CSA     Product
Max von Essen and Elisabeth Gray in Yours Unfaithfully by Miles Malleson. Photo © Richard Termine.

Exploring the conventions of marriage and the humbug of monogamy, Miles Malleson wrote and published Yours Unfaithfully in 1933. Mint Theater Company is giving this charming and disarming comedy/drama a premiere showing through February 18th, under the direction of Jonathon Bank. For this discovery, we owe them a great thanks.

Creatives    Directing Jonathan Bank     Sets Carolyn Mraz     Costumes Hunter Kaczorowski     Lights Xavier Pierce     Original Music & Sound Jane Shaw     Projections Katherine Freer     Props Joshua Yocom     Casting Stephanie Klapper, CSA     Product
Max von Essen and Mikaela Izquierdo in Yours Unfaithfully by Miles Malleson. Photo © Richard Termine

 

 

Stephen Meredith (Max von Essen) is blissfully enjoying his wife’s beneficence. Anne (Elisabeth Gray) has given her blessing for him to “get into some mischief” with Diana Streathfield (Mikaela Izquierdo) in the hope that an affair would rejuvenate Stephen and end his writer’s block.

Neither she nor Stephen imagine any other consequence. They are acting on their convictions that a strong marriage can withstand other and lesser alliances, just as Stephen’s father, the Rev. Meredith (Stephen Schnetzer) acts on his principles when he is shocked to learn of Stephen and Diana’s dalliance. Anne’s confidant and the Merediths’ friend, Dr. Alan Kirby (Todd Cerveris) preaches the counterbalance of the head to the heart.

The brilliantly deft production of Yours Unfaithfully is a welcome addition to the Mint archive. As is customary in a Mint production, sets and costumes have a panache as well. The scenic (by Carolyn Mraz) and costume (by Hunter Kaczorowski) design are admirable. The top-notch ensemble brings Malleson’s smart vision to life with an easy flair. It’s a tribute to all involved that one can’t peg Yours Unfaithfully as  drama, or drawing-room comedy; it transcends labels and stands on its own.

For more information and tickets, please visit the Mint website.