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

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


Posted in comedy, concert, dance, drama, musical

An embarassment of riches

Summer and theater are words often linked but less so in this big city than in summer stock country.

Pamela Mala Sinha in Crash,/b>. Photo by Michael Cooper. Soulpepper Theatre.

Theater, like some of your neighbors, heads to the Berkshires, or Saratoga, or another vaguely vacationy venue.

There are always remnants, of course, such as the hits that play the Great White Way regardless of season, and of course the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park.

Starting in July, the New York Musical Festival gives voice to new works in off-Broadway houses. This year, thanks to some visitors from Toronto, the NYMF and Soulpepper on 42nd Street, appear in such close proximity that we can only suggest you tablehop a bit.

Cage, Soulppper
Cage from Soulpepper. Diego Matamoros. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Take in as many of the NYMF premieres at Theatre Row and at Playwrights Horizons’ Peter Jay Sharp Theatre as you can. Head a little further west to sample the workshops, master classes, ensemble creations, and new plays that the Soulpepper Theatre is presenting at the Pershing Square Signature Theatre stages.

Among the other highlights of our NYC summer there is the Bolshoi Ballet dancing The Taming of The Shrew at Lincoln Center. Check out the full list of summertime offerings at the Lincoln Center Festival, another annual event.

Summer in the city can be ever so sweet!


Posted in 6 extremely short plays, comedy, Daily Prompt, drama, musical theater, theater


via Daily Prompt: Pause

NoLateSeatingThe play without pause, aka the intermissionless hour and a half (appx) drama or comedy has become a favorite of ours.

The intermission can actually ruin a play and its audience. Drawn in, as we are, by the plotline that has transpired, our attention is broken by the pause. If a piece is long, the intermission is a mercy. We need to use the bathroom, or counterintuitively, grab a drink between acts. We can discuss the suspense, and rehash the story thus far with our mates.

Of course, tradition has it that a theater-work be writ in three acts, with two intermissions. That tradition dates from the days of Marlowe and Shakespeare, days when audiences came and went at their own discretion; some of the Bard’s tragedies were even longer.  I love that in England the intermission is called an interval. More recently, most plays had one intermission; sometimes even if there were three acts, the action would just pause between the first and second, until the intermission which ushered in the final act.

And now, most recently, there have been spates of works which condensed to a pithy and intermissionless conclusion.If you’ve said all you wanted in that shorter time, why not just wrap it up.  David Mamet has a habit of putting forth his premise and its conclusion in short order with wit and alacrity. Some others are not so skillful. One comedy, whose name I cannot recall, lasted just 51 minutes and not much longer in its run.  Sometimes, the extra short play is a relief for theater-goers; sometimes it leaves them wanting more.

Posted in comedy, drama, Marlowe, Marlowe in the Park, Shakespeare, Shakespeare in the Park, tragedy

This is mine, and this is…

The Source: This is mine, and this is…

Public Domain,

Christopher Marlowe had a way with words. Underappreciated, compared to his contemporary, Shakespeare, whose greatness is undisputed and whose popularity remains unrivalled.

1. George_Cruikshank_-_The_First_Appearance_of_William_Shakespeare_on_the_Stage_of_the_Globe_Theatre_-_Google_Art_Project
By George Cruikshank – AwFKhI771c3bow at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain,

Marlowe’s plots, like Shakespeare’s, drew from history and built on themes both personal and universal. His Tamburlaine the Great is one example of a tragedy with great umph. It is the ultimate tale of an over-reaching hero.

The Jew of Malta is the lesser-known Marlowe version of The Merchant of Venice, well sort of….. It was certainly an inspiration.

Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe were contemporaries, both great Elizabethan dramatists. In fact, Marlowe was considered the greatest tragedian of his era, but somehow Will has outlasted him. Marlowe’s plays are not revived; there is no annual “Marlowe Festival” nor “Marlowe in the Park” to honor his works. There are also no commemorative postcards from Russia for Marlowe, as there are for William Shakespeare. Shakespeare is known now as The Bard, and Marlowe is an obscure reference.

1William_Shakespeare.Can Marlowe’s works ever get the scrutiny they deserve? Can he someday share equal billing with Shakespeare? Is there a “market” for a Marlowe retrospective? Would a production of Marlowe’s works meet with audience approval and critical acclaim?

Marlowe met his untimely death in an as yet unresolved murder while his personal reputation was suspect. He had been called to the Privy Council for alleged blasphemies, so perhaps you might say his professional reputation was on the line when he was stabbed to death at the end of May 1593.


Posted in acceptance, acting, artist, ballet, comedy, Daily Prompt, dancing, drama, high expectations, joy, music, musical theater, musicals and dramas, play


via Daily Prompt: Ovation

In the theater, the sounds of a crowd pleased are often accompanied by a standing ovation for those who pleased us.

It is a way of saying thanks. Our gratitude makes us feel good, too. We yell “Bravo” and are rewarded with a sense of our magnanimity. Our approbation fills the theatre.

Applause, like laughter, are contagious.

Posted in comedy, farce, screwball comedy

That way to the movies

For Pete’s Sake, What’s Up Doc? and She’s Funny That Way have more in common than an apostrophe “s”. The first two share Barbra Streisand in the lead. All three have directors named Peter, the first a Yates and the other two Bogdanovic. Add to the coincidences that both What’s Up Doc? and For Pete’s Sake use the cinematography of László Kovács, while She’s Funny That Way uses the camera work of Yaron Orbach.

All three are also zany, yet realistic farces.

She’s Funny That Way stars Imogen Poots, a completely charming British actress whose Queens –NooYawk–accent is so spot on that its hard to imagine her having success in film or theater. It also features Owen Wilson, Kathryn Hahn, George Morfogen, Austin Pendleton*, Tovah Feldshuh and Cybil Sheperd among others in its brilliant ensemble. Will Forte and Jennifer Aniston play a couple whose dysfunction is a monument to bad judgement. (*BTW, in a farceur-like coincidence Austin Pendleton is also in the 1972 film What’s Up Doc?)

In film, a farce has always been known universally as a screwball comedy, and the screwiness in the “apostrophe s trio” is just delightful. Mistaken identity, characters bumping into each other in improbable situations, and under false pretenses are all part of the plot points that move the story along. You anticipate what will happen and are surprised when it does. Grab a fake mustache, and join me for dinner at Nick’s.



Posted in comedy, couples, Dan LeFranc, new work, Playwrights Horizons

A quiet California suburb

You probably count amongst your acquaintances someone who always over-reacts.

At Rancho Viejo, Dan LeFranc’s Southern California community, it’s Pete (the flawless Mark Blum) who fills the role.

Rancho Viejo, playing at Playwrights Horizons through December 23rd, has a feel like home, but an uneasy home.

Pete is not very imaginative, but he latches onto even the flimsiest of theories that others espouse and runs with them.

His wife, Mary (impeccably played by Mare Winningham) puzzles over his existential questions and keeps a stiff upper-lip.

Have you heard about Ritchie and Lana?

Pete and Mary are clearly misfits at Rancho Viejo, over-eager to fit in with their cooler, hipper neighbors.

These neighbors tirelessly invite them to parties, at which they remain outsiders. Pete attempts to engage, taking their travails very personally. Mary is looking for a close friendship with shared interests. Hers are the art-fair, and she repeatedly asks everyone to join her.


After 2 full acts in which a generic house (in an expansive design by Dane Laffrey) doubles and triples as Mary and Pete’s livingroom, then Jack and Kelly’s, then Leon (Tyrone Mitchell Henderson) and Suzanne’s (Lusia Strus) and Patti  (Julia Duffy) and Gary’s (Mark Zeisler). the scene changes. We are in the eerie outdoors as Peter wanders the hills and the beach searching for Mochi (Marti.)

Pete’s quest is heroic; like a knight of yore, he seeks to save his neighbors’ dog (more on Marti in the coda to this review.) Along the way he encounters the mysterious “Taters” (“long for Tate,” (Ethan Dubin)) a kid with an old and spooky soul, Pete had met at one of the many neighborhood gatherings. (Lighting designer, Matt Frey meets the challenge of our not being kept in the dark as Pete and Tate ramble about the darkened stage.)

Anita (Ruth Aguilar) and Mike (Bill Buell), who translates her rapid-fire Spanish stories and jokes for the group, also hang out with the gang. Anita’s tales entertain even if they
are incomprehensible to the non-native speaker, while Mike’s translations into Spanish seem only marginally more fluent than Gary’s faux Spanish.

Reality and its discontents

Dan LeFranc has created a comedy of modern manners, and alienations, in a place filled with average folk, folks like us, perhaps. Director Daniel Aukin has found the best tempo for the inhabitants of Rancho Viejo to interact, and share their moments.

In an ensemble that works the hyper-realism of the play to splendid effect, Julia Duffy’s arch Patti and Mark Zeisler’s flirty Gary are outstanding. As everyone in this little group of friends looks to be the center of attention and glory,  Lusia Strus’ Suzanne makes a wonderful drama queen.

Let’s go by the Burt Beck rule: If you feel as if you are living their lives, the play has succeeded at suspending disbelief and you have been pulled into its reality.

For information about the Playwrights Horizons season and tickets to upcoming productions as well as for Rancho Viejo, please visit their home site.

I promised you a coda

I am often star-struck, no so much by movie star encounters but most often when I meet stage performers. It was thus a rare privilege to run into Marti getting a between performances walk after the matinee curtain for Rancho Viejo. He is a professional, of course, but also a  friendly dog and as lively off-stage as on, and very gracious to his fans.

The day we went was also the annual Santa Bar Crawl, so seeing all the young men dressed in their red nightware with Santa hats atop their heads was also a bit surreal. One young woman was talking on the way out of the theater about having spotted a flock of skinny Santas on a neighboring roof that morning before she left for Playwrights Horizons. As I said, strange doings in our very own real world.