Posted in based on a Shakespeare play, dark drama, drama, Shakespeare

When Will We Three Meet Again?

Source: When Will We Three Meet Again?

In honor of their 20th anniversary, Dzieci Theatre will reinstate its Gypsy-infused production of Macbeth, MAKBET for a 5-Week run starting on September 6 at Bushwick’s Sure We Can. Our guest reviewer, Mari S. Gold had a chance to see it in October 2015.

Posted in #critique, dark drama, drama, historical drama, Marlowe, political drama, Shakespeare, tragedy

“Tragedy, tonight!”

1William_Shakespeare.
A portrait of William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe‘s better known contemporary.

Politics and drama are disparaged, especially by those who feel the sting of the tragedies presented.

Sometimes, even if the message is on point, the admixture has an oddly inappropriate tastelessness.

Nonetheless, as I  have often said, it is the role of art to clarify matters and comment on our foibles and the errors of our ways.

We are often led astray on the roads of life, so we should be grateful to plays, playwrights and the traditions of our theatrical history for helping to put us back on track.

Here is a plot I propose:

Tamburlaine in triplicate or triptych: played alternately by North Korean President Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin and the US President, with Benjamin Netanyahu coming in as a pinch hitter.

In the movie version of the shenanigans surrounding the recent election– the movie from my youth– the big guy is carted away in cuffs. Also, the good people of Montana go to the homes of every single Jewish family that was targeted by Richard Spencer’s crew to make sure they are protected. This is so because in 1950’s America Americans played by the rules, were patriotic and did the right thing.

June 25th addendum: The toddler in big boy pants whose got DC as his playpen may be onto something. He doesn’t care for poor folks (note to those who helped elect him–be careful what you wish for is a real thing). Is there a reality show called Lifestyles of the Poor and Unknown?

Posted in 9/11, dark drama, drama, showcase

Homeland insecurities

Is it paranoia or caution that drives us to anxiously examine any package left behind on the train seat next to us?

Bigger Than You, Bigger Than Me is Kathryn Coughlin’s play about our anxious times which has its run at the Studio Theatre at Theatre Row from May 10th through 13th. Ryan Kim, Kelly McCready and Celia Pilkington will be directed by Adam Thorburn in this Studio 28 Productions showcase.

Don’t expect this play to assuage any lurking fears you have in our post 9/11 environment. There is more information on the play’s FB page at
https://www.facebook.com/biggerthanyoubiggerthanme/. Tickets are available from the Theatre Row box office on 42nd Street at 9th Avenue.

Posted in dark drama, drama, dysfunction, family drama

Cunning and rapacious

Myth-making is an oddly populist activity. Plain men (and women) creating tall tales about themselves or their ilk, such as Paul Bunyon or Johnny Appleseed, are boosted to greater prominence by the imagination.

Little Foxes

The Hubbards in Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes, at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre extended through July 2nd, are rich but simple folks who aggrandize themselves with their own form of mythologizing.

Ben Hubbard (Michael McKean), the elder of the cold-blooded tribe, is especially deft at inventing the stories of his family’s success against adversity. His younger brother, Oscar (Darren Goldstein) is equally vicious but hapless.

Little Foxes

It’s their sister, Regina Giddens (Cynthia Nixon at the performance we saw; Laura Linney at alternate performances) who is the most ferocious and cruel-hearted romancer. She has lied to her brothers about the money her husband, Horace (Richard Thomas) will put up for their venture with Mr. Marshall (David Alford) of Chicago; she has spun an account of a future of glory in society for herself when they are all rich.

Oscar’s wife, Birdie (Laura Linney, alternating with Cynthia Little FoxesNixon for this gem of a part), speaks her own narrative of sweetness and betrayal. She tells her story to Regina and Oscar’s daughter Alexandra (Francesca Carpanni) who can still be saved from the family curse of greed. Like Birdie, Addie (Caroline Stefanie Clay), the housekeeper at the Giddens’ home, has genuine concern for Alexandra. It is also Horace’s desire to protect his daughter from her mother and her uncles. He understands the evil they can cause. Alexandra, on the other hand, is not as fragile as her aunt Birdie; she has some of her mother’s steel mixed with her father’s kind heart.

Nixon is demonic as Regina. Linney is brittle as the delicate and damaged Birdie, who dislikes her son Leo (Michael Benz) even more than her husband. Rounding out the cast is Cal (Charles Turner); like Addie, Birdie and Horace, Cal  cares for the few people in the household who are kind and decent.

Daniel Sullivan’s direction of The Little Foxes allows the plot to develop with style and at leisure. The costumes (by Jane Greenwood) are excellent; the gown Regina wears, for instance, is superbly elegant. Scott Pask’s scenery is sumptuous, drawing applause at curtain-up.

This classic tale of conniving avarice is beautifully ugly. Everything about this production of The Little Foxes is done to perfection.

For more information and tickets, please visit http://littlefoxesbroadway.com/

PS: We had seen a couple of earlier versions of Hellman’s dark drama, one of which was wonderfully abstract in its staging. That one was directed by Ivo Von Hove at New York Theater Workshop, and is worth noting for its pedigree. This Broadway production is worth seeing for its faithful adherence to Hellman’s vision and text, and the excellence of its execution of this Hubbard family history. There is no better reason to see The Little Foxes at MTC than the sheer perfection of this production.

Posted in adaptation, dark drama, David Harrower, Ibsen, Ibsen adaptation, renowned playwright, The Pearl Theatre Company

Majority rule

It rarely happens when I find myself speechless.

David Harrower’s adaptation of Public Enemy, at the Pearl Theater through November 6th, leaves me gob-smacked as our midwestern friends might say.

Populism has a way of drowning out reason, and majority rule can have unwelcome consequences. Ibsen knew this when he created An Enemy of the People, translated by Charlotte Barslund for Harrower’s re-imaging as Public Enemy.

Crowd mentality

The man of principle, Ibsen says, stands alone while the majority is lulled into serving the self-interests of the powerful. And that man, the individual, who stands alone is “the strongest man.”

Dr. Stockmann (Jimonn Cole) stands alone, of course. Stockmann’s insistence that he has discovered that the Baths which are a tourist attraction for their little burg are a health hazard threatens the town’s livelihood and prosperity. He’s alienated everyone, except his wife Katrine (Nilaja Sun) and daughter, Petra (Arielle Goldman) who both acknowledge his genius. The rest of the town, represented by his brother, Peter, the Mayor (Giuseppe Jones), the printer and small businessman, Aslasken (John Keating), the hypocritical newspaper men, Billing (Alex Purcell) and Hovstad (Robbie Tann), all turn against him.His father-in-law, Kiil (Dominic Cuskern) is especially angry since it looks like his tannery has caused the pollution.

Harrower (Good With People, Blackbird, A Slow Air) is no stranger to moral uncertainties and slippery slopes. His adaptation of Ibsen is lean and to the point. The text is thought-provoking, and anything but reassuring. Earlier productions of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, like the one at MTC several seasons back, were equally disheartening.

Standing out in this fine cast, Cole plays Stockmann’s as humbly arrogant with a fine subtlety. The Pearl’s Artistic Director, Hal Brooks directs the ensemble with a light touch, playing on both the tragedy and humor in Public Enemy.

For tickets and more information, please visit The Pearl website.

 

Posted in comedy-drama, dark comedy drama, dark drama

Going off the rails?

Moral ambiguity is familiar territory to Stephen Adly Guirgis, whose most recent play, The Motherf***er with the Hat received 6 well-deserved Tony nods, including one for Best Play.** His work is edgy, funny and thought-provoking. His heroes are flawed. Guirgis’ genre is noir.

His latest work, Between Riverside and Crazy, directed by Austin Pendleton, runs at Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theatre through March 22nd. The production originated at The Atlantic Theater, where it premiered this past summer, and most of the original cast is intact. (Junior is the main exception, being played by the excellent Ron Cephas Jones in the midtown re-mount.)

Walter “Pops” Washington (Stephen McKinley Henderson) is a recently widowed ex-cop, whose beef with the NYPD has the city kicking in on the side of a landlord seeking his eviction. His former partner, Det. Audrey O’Connor (Elizabeth Canavan) is engaged to the ambitious Lieutenant David Caro (Michael Rispo) who wants to negotiate with Walter and help settle the long unsettled case.

Photo © Carol Rosegg
Cast of “Between Riverside and Crazy” in a photo © Carol Rosegg

Walter has the impulse to do good. As Dave Caro puts in police-speak “Doing right by doing wrong.” Walter’s sense of honor and cry for justice — or retrinbution– are marred by his personal shortcomings. Walter is an imperfect man. He has made some poor choices. Everyone in Between Riverside and Crazy, even Church Lady (Liza Colon-Zayas) who visits Walter, is pulling some sort of con.

Walter tolerates odd lots of his son’s friends and acquaintances as guests in his spacious home on Riverside Drive. His son Junior lives with him along with Junior’s girlfriend Lulu (Rosal Colon) who calls Walter dad, as does Junior’s old partner in crime and fellow parolee, Oswaldo (Victor Almanzar.)

Stephen McKinley Henderson and Victor Almanzar in a scene from Guirgis' play. Photo © Carol Rosegg
Stephen McKinley Henderson and Victor Almanzar in a scene from Guirgis’ play. Photo © Carol Rosegg

Walt Spangler’s scenic design creates the sense of a generously appointed apartment, over furnished, and circling around the kitchen which is at its heart.

Between Riverside and Crazy is a powerful play. The acting is uniformly superb, with Stephen McKinley Henderson as the lead standing out in the ensemble.

To find out more about Between Riverside and Crazy, visit the 2ndStage website.

(**We anticipated that The Motherf***er with the Hat would win the Tony as is clear from our review at http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/05/poetic-is-motherfker-with-hat.html)

Posted in dark drama

My (Trite) Old Kentucky Home

By guest reviewer Mari S. Gold

Middle front: Hayley Treider as Carolyn, Back middle: Chris Funke, Left: Rebecca Kuehl, Right: Ashleé Miller Photo by Sasha Karasev,karasevstudio.com
Middle front: Hayley Treider as Carolyn, Back middle: Chris Funke, Left: Rebecca Kuehl, Right: Ashleé Miller
Photo by Sasha Karasev,karasevstudio.com

Kentucky Cantata by Paul David Young is supposed to be about issues of important issues of our time including violence against women, race and immigration. However, it doesn’t rise to the importance of these.

The most unusual and attention-demanding detail in this multidisciplinary performance was the hair on the two wind musicians. Both women, accomplished musicians Ashleé Miller who plays the clarinet, and flautist Rebecca Kuehl, sport white- blonde pageboys. Unfortunately, the music, that includes Chris Funke on guitar, does little to enhance the work, in fact, it’s rather intrusive. The play’s story deals with a young woman who dreams of being an actress, encouraged by her teacher. She leaves her rural Kentucky home for New York City where she is raped and battered by an undocumented, disaffected Egyptian cab driver in a parking lot outside a Home Depot. The girl’s parents argue over her departure and relive their experiences of meeting and the subsequent sexual encounter that resulted in the girl’s birth.

Tony Naumovski as Kareem, Hayley Treider as Carolyn Photo by Sasha Karasev,karasevstudio.com
Tony Naumovski as Kareem, Hayley Treider as Carolyn
Photo by Sasha Karasev,karasevstudio.com

Hayley Treider, as Carolyn, the young, would-be actress and Marta Reiman, playing Dora, her mother, have been ill-served by director Kathy Gail MacGowan who hasn’t extracted much genuine emotion from either. MacGowan aims to use musicians and actors as “equal storytellers” but the story they relate is a one-note rag that lacks originality. There is little nuance and although Treider aims to project the menace she’s subjected to, it doesn’t come off nor is there any chemistry between Dora and her husband, Larry, played by Dan Patrick Brady. The best performance is by Tony Naumovski as Kareen, the taxi driver who manages a reasonable accent and conveys a sense of how grim his life is and continues to be.

Installation artist Franklin Evans has provided a set illustrated with words drawn from the text, photos of the actors and pictures the actors move around that don’t relate to the action. Overall, the production is fairly predictable in a college-level, artsy fashion. I wanted to like it but, sadly, that was a challenge.

Kentucky Cantata is at HERE Arts Center through February 8th. For more information about the production, please visit http://www.kentuckycantata.com/

About Mari S. Gold:

Mari S. Gold is a freelance writer who contributes to many magazines and websites. She writes on lifestyle, food, travel, health and is a regular contributor to New York Arts, www.newyorkarts.net

Her blog, But I Digress… , on travel, food  life experiences is at www.marigoldonline.net.