Theatricality is a fraught concept. It can just be dramatic and thought-provoking, or it can be over-the-top, dramatic and thought-provoking. Kristen Childs has written a musical that is theatrical to the nth degree. Bella: An American Tall Talealso gives us a little slice of African-American history mixed in with the fable.
Politics and theater are getting a bad rep. Actually politics and their practitioners have had a reputation for honesty meaning any means that is necessary, aka I’ll lie if I have to, and theater has always been a forum for exposing truths. Ms. Nixon stirred the political pot a tiny bit in her acceptance speech at the 2017 Tony Awards Ceremonies. Now, it is the mixing of politics into theater that has caused quite the controversy (see what is happening with The Public’s Julius Caesar for instance.) It is unwarranted. Art is meant to comment on our realities.
At any rate, one of those realities, Lost and Guided, a play by Irene Kapustina about Syrian refuges in their own words, is on view at Conrad Fischer and The Angle Project, at Under St Marks (94 St. Marks Place, from August 3 through 27th. For tickets, click here.
A similar but perhaps more intitmate project is The Play Company’s Oh My Sweet Land another look at the Syrian refuge crisis. The play is due to launch this fall in private homes and communal spaces where people have been invited to host this multi-sensory experience. Those wishing to participate by providing a venue can do so by filling out the questionnaire here. Nadine Malouf stars, perhaps in your own kitchen, in Oh My Sweet Land, a play developed by Amir Nizar Zuabi with German-Syrian actor Corinne Jaber.
Shakespeare wrote plays reflecting timely events, for his time and all times. This may explain why The Public is in such hot water over their production of Julius Caesar. The brouhaha, perhaps like the staging, is way out of proportion. In Measure for Measure, Shakespeare also explores issues to do with power and justice. Theatre for a New Audience is presenting a new modernized staging by Simon Godwin from June 17th through July 16th. Tickets for this show which will be held at Polansky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn are available at TFANA’s website.
Henrik Ibsen had his own take on both the personal and the political. For instnace, Ibsen’s drama, An Enemy of the People is a play about populism and its discontents.
An Enemy of the Peoplecomes to us from the Wheelhouse Theater Company under the direction of Jeff Wise, at the Gene Frankel Theater, beginning June 9th and running through June 24th is conceived as a meditation on the “tyranny of the majority.”
Following on the success of Ibsen’s feminist tale as revisited by Lucas Hnath in A Doll’s House, Part 2, see the US Premiere of Victoria Benedictsson’s 1887 Swedish original, The Enchantment in a new English translation and adaptation by Tommy Lexen. Ducdame Ensemble introduces us to the woman behind Ibsen’s Nora; Benedictsson, who wrote under the pen name Ernst Ahlgren, was not only Ibsen’s inspiration but also Strindberg’s for Miss Julie. The Enchantment opens at HERE on July 6th, with previews beginning June 28th.
Dystopia is the normal atmosphere of an Ibsen play. It is poignantly a main event in the classic 1984. George Orwell’s novel in which Big Brother government controls its citizens has been turned into a play by the same name. The play by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan was first performed in 2013 at England’s Nottingham Playhoouse. 1984 , a place where mind control involves convincing us that up is down, “freedom is slavery,” is now at Broadway’s newly renovated Hudson Theatre, with an opening on June 22nd, and starring Olivia Wilde and Tom Sturridge.
When VP-E Mike Pence attended a performance recently, cast member Brandon Victor Dixon used the curtain call to petition his elected official on behalf of the other half of our country. P-E DJT took offense, and a sort of boycott was born.
For the record, VP-E MP said he was not offended: “And I nudged my kids and reminded them, that’s what freedom sounds like,” Pence said, according to news reports from CNN to the NY Daily News.
The play, which won 11 Tonys last year, has been a hot ticket since it started its Broadway transfer in the summer of 2015.
Henry James, who definitely had an apt way of putting things, called Washington, DC the “city of conversation.”
Kristen Bush, Michael Simpson and Jan Maxwell in a scene from “The City of Conversation,” a new play by Anthony Giardina, directed by Doug Hughes, at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. Photo by Stephanie Berger.
Our nation’s capital is the setting for Anthony Giardina’s new drama about politics and those who practice it, “City of Conversation,” at LCT’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater through June22nd. 29th.
John Aylward, Kristen Bush, Kevin O’Rourke and Jan Maxwell in a scene from “The City of Conversation,” a new play by Anthony Giardina, directed by Doug Hughes, at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. Photo by Stephanie Berger.
Actually “City of Conversation” is set in the Georgetown home of one of Washington’s movers, Hester Ferris (Jan Maxwell), a hostess with great liberal influence. Enter a young woman, Anna Fitzgerald (Kristen Bush) on the arm of Hester’s son Colin’s (Michael Simpson). She is, as Hester predicts, the rival she thinks she can easily vanquish. “I’ve seen this movie,” Hester tells Anna, referring to All About Eve.
Luke Niehaus and Jan Maxwell in a scene from “The City of Conversation,” a new play by Anthony Giardina, directed by Doug Hughes, at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. Photo by Stephanie Berger.
Anna is in fact the new Washington. She is a Reagan Republican, and, along with Colin, plans to take America back for all the “real Americans” who have been ill-served by the regulations and legislation Democrats have enacted over the years. As political drams go this one, playing itself out from 1979 to 2009, is tightly plotted and fundamentally domestic.
Michael Simpson, Phillip James Brannon and Beth Dixon in a scene from “The City of Conversation,” a new play by Anthony Giardina, directed by Doug Hughes, at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. Photo by Stephanie Berger.
Hester’s live-in lover, Senator Chandler Harris (Kevin O’Rourke) is at her side. Her sister Jean Swift (Beth Dixon) has her back. Colin and Anna come upon the scene as interlopers in the genteel world of Washington’s political wrangling. Rounding out the cast are John Aylward as Senator George Mallonee (R from Kentucky) and Barbara Garrick as his wife Carolyn, Luke Niehaus as Anna and Colin’s six year old son. The ensemble under Doug Hughes’ direction is excellent with Phillip James Brannon as Donald Logan especially charming; Beth Dixon as the self-effacing Jean gives a very gratifying performance as well. Make no mistake, every member of the cast plays his and her part in giving “City of Conversaton” its sparkle. Jan Maxwell is, as always, superb. (Full disclosure, Maxwell is one of this reviewer’s personal favorites on any stage.) Her Hester is astute and composed, but she is not prepared for Anna’s ruthlessness. John Lee Beatty’s elaborate set deserves a mention, working on a small stage to big effect. The fine costumes designed by Catherine Zuber contribute to the panache of “City of Conversation.” For more information on “City of Conversation,” please visit Lincoln Center Theater’s site.