Everything has an origin story, and Chicago, The Musical, has one in this 1926 play. Maurine Dallas Watkins provided the inspiration for the show that’s been running on Broadway since forever. Like it’s lead characters, Chicago had a rocky start, opening June 3, 1975 and closing two years later on August 27, 1977; it reopened in revival in November of that year in the West End and then hit Broadway with a flair. Ann Reinking, using the Fosse style, choreographed the revival under Walter Bobbie’s direction to resounding success.
Watkins wrote Chicago for a class assignment at the Yale School of Drama. It, too, went on to have a resounding success, not least because it provided the story for the musical. The story of Roxie Hart and her fellow inmates also inspired a 1927 film named Chicago and in 1942 one named after our anti-heroine. Watkins’ version of her the tale was based on her coverage on the crime beat of the Chicago Tribune, and opened on Broadway in 1926, where it lasted for just 172 performances, under the direction of George Abbott. It’s after-life is a matter of record.
The Gingold Theatrical Group (GTG) will perform the play that spurred the famous Broadway hit on Monday, July 23rd at Symphony Space at 7pm.
The workplace can be a fraught setting for the battle of the sexes.
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.)
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.
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 Againstoriginally 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.
Comedy is not a continuum. It is a universe onto itself; that is each comedy is unique. Buster Keaton, for instance, created a character, a type, who functioned according to his own rules. Charlie Chaplin did much the same with his sad little tramp.
At home at the cineplex
I am not a movie-goer, per se, but a movie-stayer. Put it on my tv screen and I will gladly watch. Laurel Canyon, Urban Cowboy, a few minutes of Life, all get my attention. Hidden Figures, A League of Their Own, and The Help grab my heart.
However, it is comedies that keep me most engaged. In fact, what hubby and I love best is a smart and funny film. That’s not to exclude the stupid ones, which we consume in considerable quantities as well; you know movies like Animal House or even Dude, Where’s My Car? The low-brow, like Bad Moms, can be very high on wisdom. Comedy is an escape.
How far can escapism go with comedians like Woody Allen, or Noah Baumbach, or the Coens as your guide? Mel Brooks, a smart and funny movie-maker, can take you further down the silly than these other guys.
There are some parallels we can make between Woody Allen and the Coen Brothers, like the films A Serious Man and Irrational Man, which may have more in common in than just the similarily in title. There is a tone in both films that connects their styles and content, even if the plot lines are independent of each other.
Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale tends to have more of a feel of dark whimsy, like a Wes Anderson production. It is not laugh-out-loud funny like Annie Hall or Broadway Danny Rose. It has none of the robust ridiculousness of High Anxiety, for instance, although it is definitely a tremblingly anxious work.
The Law and Order franchise, SVU, has liberalized a significant cultural taboo. Rape victims are told in each crime episode that the dignity brutally wrested from them is theirs to reclaim. The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias, Michael Yates Crowley’s play, presented in a world premiere by The Playwrights Realm at the Duke through September 23rd, is also about empowering the victim. Crowley, however, does not feel that our cultural conversation about rape has the frankness and openness we like to think it does.
“R-a-p-e” is not treated with the solemnity it is given by Lt. Olivia Benson in Crowley’s play. The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias sets a light, almost farcical tone as Grace (Susannah Perkins) recounts the assault. It begins as a sweet and rather awkward love story between two shy youngsters. Jeff (Doug Harris) is a football star with little poise off the field. Grace is an oddball 14-year old, thrilled that Jeff knows her name from class. The team quarterback, Bobby (Alex Breaux) (and Jeff’s closest friend) is jealous of the pair’s developing friendship.
It is also in that class that The Teacher (Andy Lucien) introduces an artwork by Jacques Louis David, technically called The Intervention of the Sabine Womenthat inspires Grace and circumscribes her experience.
The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias is about meeting outrage with humor. Grace’s world is not torn apart after she is raped. The Guidance Counselor (Eva Kaminsky) and Grace’s best friend Monica (Jeena Yi) both seem disappointed at how composed Grace seems. The Lawyer (Jeff Biehl) is only concerned that she deliver a coherent narrative to the Grand Jury.
Some of the storyline in The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias is delivered by The News (Chas Carey) who periodically announces the day’s events in the town of Springfield.
Under Tyne Rafaeli’s direction, The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias moves quickly; the cast smoothly characters portrays a townful of people. Andy Lucien is particularly vivid as a charismatic “preacher.” one of the many roles he undertakes. In fact, the ensemble’s ability to shift and adopt a new persona gives The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias almost the feel of improv.
There is humor and wit in Michael Yates Crowley’s The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias, which by no means undermines the seriousness of its subject matter.
For more information and tickets for The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias, please visit the Playwrights Realm website.
The kiddie show format can be very instructive, and not just for the kiddies. You and I can learn a great deal from shows like that put together by puppeteer Joshua Holden and with live music by Jeb Colwell in The Joshua Show: Episode 2, running at HERE Arts Center through September 30th. Joshua and Jeb are out to make us happy. The Joshua Show: Episode 2 plays in repertory withThe Flatiron Hex.
The latter, although a comedy with puppets, is decidedly not for children. The Flatiron Hex explores a bloody and dystopic New York City. It is a noir look at interconnective living and a world filled with intelligent mainframes and dangerous code. The Flatiron Hexstars James Godwin as computer genius Wylie Walker.
Before he became the President-Elect, Trump was still a blowhard and a bully. Now he has the ultimate “bully pulpit” from which to trumpet his ideas and plans and build more of his own empire. As he would tweet, SAD.
His ego was truly stroked when Taiwan called to congratulate him. Not content with taking the call against US interests and precedents, DJT had to tweet about it. (New developments: December 2, 2016.)
Believe me when I tell you he can certainly blow his own horn. In fact, he’s famous for it, but when the man with the yellow face and huge ego comes out, give him a trumpets-blaring welcome. …
History can sometimes revel in a very personal dynamic.
For instance, those of us who lived through and joined in protests against the Vietnam War may not share the viewpoint of the main character in Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone, currently playing at MTC’s City Center Stage I through December 4th.
Quang (Raymond Lee) was a pilot in the South Vietnamese armed forces. He was trained in the United States. He saw the North Vietnamese as a genuine threat to life and liberty and welcomed the help of American soldiers in the struggle.
Vietgone is a fast-paced kind-of-multi-media excursion into the hero’s and heroine’s, Tong (Jennifer Ikeda), survival. They meet at a state-side refugee camp where Tong and her mother (Samantha Quan, in a number of roles) have come after the fall of Saigon.
The piece is, and isn’t, narrated by the Playwright (Paco Tolson, also playing several people), who is commemorating his parents’ story. There are rapped love songs, (original music by Shane Rettig) motorcycles, a roadtrip, and a bromance– all trappings to some extent of the era portrayed in the plot.
For the most part,Vietgone is entertaining, interesting, unusual in structure, and well presented. There is room for some cuts here and there. The cast, under May Adrales’ direction, and staging, with scenic designs by Tim Mackabee and projection design by Jared Mezzocchi, are excellent.
In other subscription house news from our household:
Over at Studio 54 througfh January 15, 2017, Roundabout has mounted a vehicle for nostalgia. Holiday Inn, with no irony whatsoever, cries out for Mickey and Judy. It is well-served by the cast on hand, however, and a pleasantly tuneful production makes for a great afternoon at the movies, er theater.Bryce Pinkham and Corbin Bleu are the friends and dancing partners, along with Megan Sikora, and Lora Lee Gayer who lead the ensemble in song and dance.
MTC gives us Heisenberg at its Broadway venue, the Friedman Theatre through December 11th. Why Heisenberg? The play, so well-acted by Denis Arndt and Mary-Louise Parker as to have one puzzling over the quantum physics of it name, is an enjoyable two-hander. It’s gimmicky staging notwithstanding, the dynamic of the drama is captivating. Heisenbergis a sweet-crazy story, written by Simon Stephens, the pen behind The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Heisenberg was a transfer from Off-Off, and as such had some buzziness surrounding it.Director Mark Brokaw elicits strong performances from both his actors. Parker, who unleashes the odd-ball in her character in little bursts, is fun to watch.Arndt’s charm reveals how a pent-up man can suddenly be both impetuous and child-like. So, back to the title: Heisenberghas an underlying ifsmall principle of uncertainty that you will likely enjoy.