Posted in based on Chekhov, drama, theater

Once again, a young playwright rises to the Chekhov challenge

EsperanceThis was true in 2016, when I first posted it, and it proves once again that Chekhov provides a model for new plays and spurs a playwright to use The Cherry Orchard as a starting point for startling new work:

Anton Chekhov, it seems, provides excellent inspiration for contemporary Americans in his line of work. As if the Chekhov challenge asks the modern playwright to match him wit for wit and build on his premises.

Chekhov teases imitators, adaptors, translators and audiences with themes of grandeur and loss. His plays are shown on stages large and small each year; his works are mimicked in pastiches, like Stupid F**king Bird at the Pearl, or  Minor Character— in Brooklyn from June 17-25, 2016. In the latter, multiple versions of Uncle Vanya merge in a mist of millenial angst.”

Breitwisch Farm cast and creative team
Breitwisch Farm cast and creative team at rehearsal

This March, The Cherry Orchard is the influence for Breitwisch Farm, a play by Jeremy J. Kamps at the Esperance Theater Company at the new Tribeca venue, Town Stages. Breitwisch Farm explores issues of displacement and immigration in the era of America First, giving Chekhov’s story a distinctly of the moment twist. The play runs from March 2nd through March 16th.

Breitwisch Farm author Jeremy J. Kamps is part of the Public’s Emerging Writers Group.  The play stars Danaya Esperanza, Joe Tapper, Katie Hartke, Will Manning, Charlie Murphy, Maria Peyramaure, Alejandro Rodriguez, and Katie Wieland, under Ryan Quinn‘s direction.

Posted in comedy, Daily Prompt, drama, musical theater, theater, theater lovers

Comedy tonight!


via Daily Prompt: Entertain

Theater is here to educate, illuminate, expose, engage and entertain. Sometimes it offers all five of these verbal commands, sometimes just the latter, which is the one commandment it must follow.

I am here to entertain! the thespian says, and we sit transported in a darkened house while he performs for us.

Posted in #critique, #dystopia, #pointofview, #whatdoyouthink, ambition, Beau Willimon, Blair Brown, blog at, Derek McLane, drama, fictionalization_of_real_events, history, Hudson Theatre, intrigue, Jane Greenwood, Josh Lucas, Marton Csokas, one act play, Pam MacKinnon, Phillipa Soo

Matters political

5389Politics matters, of course, since it definitely affects our daily lives–especially as recent current events have revealed. You may understand when I say that I have felt undone by politics these past couple of years.



And yet, here I go, voluntarily, to see The Parisian Woman, a tale of the DC Beltway playing at the Hudson Theatre through March 11th.

5189Initially, there were two things driving me to see this drama by Beau Willimon, the president of the Writers Guild of America East. The Parisian Woman stars Uma Thurman in her Broadway debut. Additionally, it is just the third production at the newly refurbished Hudson, following 1984 and Sundays in The Park with George. (By the by, both of these had star turns, the former Olivia Wilde and the latter starring Jake Gyllenhaal.)

So, what did the production, directed by Pam McKinnon, and also featuring Josh Lucas, Blair Brown, Phillipa Soo and Marton Csokas say to my hyper-poiliticized self about the atmosphere of power and influence in 2016?

5393Intrigues, gossip, clandestine activities, affairs, rumors all churn up Washington’s social life in The Parisian Woman. Chloe (Thurman) is looking for powerful friends to help her husband Tom (Josh Lucas) further his ambitions. She has none of her own, it seems, so she lives through those she loves. Peter (Marton Csokas) is her lover but not among the people for whom she really cares.

Thurman and Csokas give overly theatrical performances, though in their defense I will say that the material is a hard sell. The script is rough; I think of it as Noel Coward on Red Bull®. Lucas’s Tom is charming if excessively idealized. Blair Brown as one of Chloe’s power circle, Jeanette, is natural and straightforward; her acting like her character has a certain spunk. Phillipa Soo as Jeanette’s daughter Rebecca holds the stage with an easy poise.

Rebecca also gets to wear the one most singularly impressive and stunning gown (costumes designed by Jane Greenwood.) Chloe’s many outfits are attractive in the understated way of a very expensive wardrobe. The men are chic in suits except in one scene where Tom bears his six-pack, (We can assume that the latter is not courtesy of Ms. Greenwood, although her work in the show is very appealing.) The elegant sets (by Derek McLane) move in a clever fashion and feature a kind of newsfeed which is monochromatic Mondrienesque.

Polemics–even when the politics echo my own– are not inherently dramatic
Willimon’s text is stiff with an elegance manqué. Actually, both ends of the register get short shrift– The Parisian Woman is neither vulgar nor haute. The play aims so hard to be insiderish that it fails to qualify as #resist(ance). This blend of fiction with fact in Willimon’s play, could be called a “faction” drama. Many in the audience at the performance I attended seem to have come there as fans of Beau Willimon’s streaming series, House of Cards, another foray into the inner workings of the life political.

I am not saying that we should not take the excursion, just that Willimon’s The Parisian Woman is not an entirely convincing trip down this path.

For tickets and information, please visit The Parisian Woman website, or the Hudson Theatre box office at 141 West 44th Street.

Take a look at my SidewalkSuperBlog to see what I found of interest inside the new old Hudson Theatre.

Posted in #dystopia, drama, Playwrights Horizons, Robert O'Hara



We often expect uplift from our theater experiences. Playwrights are not always willing to give us exactly what we want. In these dystopian times, they are responding with different messages for us to digest.

Scott Organ’s new play, The Thing With Feathers, at the Barrow Group beginning January 13th (and running through February 10th), offers up a famous quote about hope for the title of his mystery play. Expect the story to unravel in unexpected ways when an underage teen is seduced by an older man on the internet.

The unexpected happens in Mankind, a new play by Robert O’Hara (who also directs) at Playwrights Horizons from December 15th through January 18th. The world of this drama has mistreated women so badly that they no longer exist. The play stars two time Tony nominee André De Shields, along with Anson Mount, Bobby Moreno, Stephen Schnetzer, Ariel Shafir and David Ryan Smith. Playwrights Horizons commissioned O’Hara, who has won two Obie Awards–one for Bootycandy which also played at PH– and also directs his play, to create this provocative drama for the 2017-18 season.

You could say that the genesis of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel is a story about a young woman devoted to an explosive and abusive man. Michael Weller was inspired by the same Ferenc Molnár story to create Jericho, performed by The Attic Theater Company at Wild Project, from January 18th to February 10th. Weller’s version of Lilliom is set in Coney Island during the despair and hopelessness of the depression.

It often feels as if the ’60s were a more hope-filled era, this despite the assassinations that changed the landscape of hope. Malcolm X, a radical and polarizing figure, was one of the many strugglers we lost in those days. His activism is remembered in The Acting Company’s X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. The Nation, which returns after a staging in 2017, to a full off-Broadway run from January 14th to February 18th to the Theatre at St. Clement’s. Marcus Gardley’s play, starring Obie-winner Roslyn Ruff, will be performed to coincide with Black History Month.


Posted in drama, historical musical drama, moving musical drama, Musical drama, musical theater, musical theatre, political drama, theater

Hot tickets


It’s hard to pinpoint just what makes a “hot ticket;” it could be a star turn, or 11 Tonys or just the quirky charm of the story. Whatever it is,  you might want to share it with friends or family this holiday season.

HD_KeyIn mid-January when the Divine Miss M cedes the role of Dolly Gallagher Levi to the sterling Miss Bernadette Peters, tickets for this Broadway revival might become a tad more accessible. This in no way disparages Bernadette Peters’ enormous talent and wattage. Bette Midler just has a star shine all her own. A je ne sais quoi, let’s say, that sends tickets to see her in Hello, Dolly!! into the stratosphere. (Regular price tickets ranging from $189 may still be found at Telecharge, so check on availability, but there are premium seats for nearly $1000 and “secondary market” tickets for a lot more.)


Hamilton0044rR Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton
Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton Photo © Joan Marcus

Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s American history lesson enthralls. It’s still at the Richard Rodgers on West 46th Street, and it’s on tour across the country. It may be its impressive Tony showing that is part of the draw. Lottery tickets go for just $10 per, but, like any lottery, it’s a gamble. Speaking of gambles, the Hamilton website warns against buying from resellers to avoid receiving fraudulent tickets, so use the regular channels for purchasing this sizzling ticket. In fact these tickets are so blistering hot that it might be next December before the family enjoys the show.

Another and different kind of civics lesson can be found at The Band’s Visit. This musical was created from the Cannes prize-winning Israeli film; you can watch the movie on Showtime cable on Wednesday 12/13 and Tuesday 12/19 at 7:30pm, by the way.

This modest musical is enjoying a very successful and prestigious Broadway transfer from its 2016 run at the Atlantic Theatre. (Tickets are hot enough that the producers are not offering any discounts, by the way. We have not checked in at the day of TDF kiosk.) The Band’s Visit has heart and warmth, and a promise of the possibility of peace in the middle east.

Reflecting on another facet of history, Junk at the L.C. Beaumont Theater, offers much less hopefulness than The Band’s Visit. The heat factor in Junk comes from its ripped off the front page view of the financial crisis of the 1980s. This is just the ticket if you want to reflect on America’s obsession with money. I found it worrisone when someone in the audience wanted to clarify who had “ratted” on the main character. Ayad Akhtar takes us back to the “greed is great” days in which malfeasance is the benchmark. His lead character “creates wealth” by creating debt. The “Junk” of his title refers, of course, to junk bonds, a vehicle by which you, the consumer, lend a corporation more money than its worth. Wall Street types will be drawn to the humor and pace of this drama. The rest of us will appreciate the concise lesson it offers in high finance and unbridled ambition. At its core, Junk, staged as a Greek tragedy, is just that, showcasing characters filled with hubris and arrogant conceit.

Visit a Broadway show over the holidays, if you can, with your nearest and dearest.


Posted in drama, drama based on real events, family drama, new work, New York City, The New Group

Washington Square

Moise Mordancy, Daniel Sovich, Cristian DeMeo, David Levi and Chloë Sevigny in Downtown Race Riot. For more, visit Photo credit: Monique Carboni

Riots are inherently frightening incidents.

The New Group’s presentation of Seth Zvi Rosenfeld’s Downtown Race Riot, based on true events and running through December 23rd at the Pershing Square Signature Center, resonates with menace.

It’s us against them, even for Marcel “Massive” Baptiste (Moise Morancy), a kid born in Haiti, who feels it’s his neighborhood he’s defending from other blacks and ‘Ricans who come to the Park near his Greenwich Village home.

Moise Morancy and Sadie Scott in Seth Zvi Rosenfeld’s Downtown Race Riot, directed by Scott Elliott. Photo credit: Monique Carboni

The boys Massive considers his friends are old-school, insular Italians, like his tagger buddy Jay 114 (Daniel Sovich) and  Tommy-Sick (Cristian DeMeo), whom his best friend Jimmy– aka Pnut– Shannon (David Levi) does not fully trust. Pnut does not share Massive’s community zeal, and his mother, Mary Shannon ( Chloë Sevigny) advocates for peace and love. Molly, strung out and living on welfare, maintains a kind of hippie sensibility. Her children, especially Pnut, look out for her. Mary’s daughter, Joyce (Sadie Scott) wants out of the life she sees around her and has a good chance to make it out.

Jay 114 and Tommy-Sick are among those who organized the riot meant to drive outsiders out of their stomping ground.

Josh Pais, David Levi and Chloë Sevigny in Downtown Race Riot. This Off-Broadway production by The New Group plays a limited engagement at The Pershing Square Signature Center, Nov 14 – Dec 23. Photo credit: Monique Carboni

Rounding out the cast of characters is Mary’s lawyer, Bob Gilman (Josh Pais. who is perfectly twitchy in this small role). Bob is there to help Mary out with one of the many schemes she dreams up to make the family rich.

The acting in this ensemble, under Scott Elliott’s direction, is excellent and natural. There is a leisurely pace to the piece that belies its undercurrent of tension. In its unhurried progression, Downtown Race Riot takes its time to develop the characters. Derek McLane has designed an expansive and sprawling set for Downtown Race Riot; the scene is Mary’s Section 8 home.

Don’t look for uplift in Downtown Race Riot.  This is not the genteel world of a Henry James pastiche.

For more information and tickets, please visit Downtown Race Riot

Posted in artist, drama, Hair the musical, musical theatre, politics, Seinfeld show on TV

Color divide?

Hair Tour
Hair on tour 2009. Photo by Joan Marcus.

via Daily Prompt: Black

Artists have found various expressions of racial harmony and discord. Seinfeld, a show considered famously lacking in diversity, used the black and white cookie to make its point about the cultural divide.

The musical Hair exalted in the difference with the anthem Black Boys/White Boys Its progressive themes made it an iconic operetta of the 1960s; in its most  recent revival Broadway at the St. James Theatre in 2011, Hair, with a cast of mostly relative unknowns from the road company tour of the 2009 production, was as timely and exciting as ever. (See TB’s review:  here.)

All this said, I have no intention to minimize or trivialize the real and substantial issues of race and our relationship to each other.