Posted in #Roundabout, adaptation, adoption, Andrew Orkin, based on a play, based on Chekhov, Chekhov, Chekhov interpretations, classic, Classic Stage Company, Conor McPherson, drama, dysfunction, Emerging Directors, Ibsen, Ibsen adaptation, Jeff Blumenkranz, love, love story, melancholy, Norwegian playwright, play, Shariffa Ali, Shariffa Chilemo Ali, storytelling, Strindberg, Strindberg adaptation, Victoria Clark, Yael Farber

Modernist Classics

Tony-winner Victoria Clark (for Light In The Piazza) was in the short-lived Broadway run of Gigi

Like our friends Chekhov and Ibsen, August Strindberg invites reinvention, interpretation and re-interpretation. Strindberg’s brooding psychological themes have not had as much stage time as those of his contemporary.**

Ibsen, Chekhov and Strindberg are modern playwrights, in the sense that Freud is modern. Our preception of the inner workings of the soul and its desires have all been clarified in their work.

We are introduced to characters, conflicts and situations which have us wondering what if? We search for their outcomes and new resolutions for them. Hence the tendency for contemporary writers to rephrase and update Ibsen, or Anton Chekhov or, now especially, August Strindberg.

In the upcoming Classic Stage Company double-bill in repertory, Conor McPerson and Yaël Farber rework two Strindberg pieces, Dance of Death and Miss Julie. This Strindberg celebration runs from January 15th through March 10th at the CSC’s theatre on East 13th Street.

Farber’s Mies Julie resets the play to the Karoo of South Africa, adding a new dimension to the social conflicts in the original. Mies Julie is directed by Shariffa Ali who brings enlightened and empassioned humanitarian activism into the play’s broader themes.

Victoria Clark is helming the production of McPherson’s interpretation of Dance of Death. You surely know her as a Broadway musical star, who won a Tony for her lead in The Light In the Piazza, and was a nominee for four of her other outings. Lately, Ms. Clark has been directing musicals and operas around the country. She brings her sense of the lyricism in words to Strindberg’s brutal vision of a marriage in decline.

** (Strindberg’s Miss Julie, for instance, was last seen at the Roundabout in 2007 with Jonny Miller and Sienna Miller, although an off-Broadway production of his lesser-known The Pelican was produced in 2016.)

Posted in #dystopia, dysfunction, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012, Festival Fringe-bound and Festival Fringe-found, fringe worthy, off Broadway, offbeat work

What’s up?

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Boomerang Theatre Company’s playbill art.

Inspiration comes in serendipitous doses.

That at least is the case for The Mushroom Cure by Adam Strauss and developed and directed by Jonathan Libman. In his Fringe Fesitval winner (2016 Overall Excellence for a Solo Performance,) Strauss recounts his attempts to self-medicate his crippling OCD.  Fittingly for a solo show that explores the mental health benefits of hallucigenic fungi, The Mushroom Cure is simultaneously being performed in the East Village (at Theatre 80 St. Mark’s), and in Berkeley and (fleetingly) in LA. Sponsorship for the productions is provided by The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a psychedelic research and advocacy organization.

Smith Street Stage is putting on the greatest summer comedy in the repertoire at The Actors Fund Arts Center in Brooklyn.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as directed by Jonathan Hopkins, is transported to our New York, looking at the magic in our home town in the spirit of Shakespeare.

There is more Shakespeare on offer, of course, this summer; as is its custom. the Public gives us Shakespeare in the Park, but this year, Boomerang Theatre Company is puttng on Twelfth Night (or What You Will), directed by Sara Thigpen, on the lawn in Central Park. Be grateful to the Bard as Twelfth Night is a tonic for our times.

Posted in #dystopia, Bloom's day, Bloom's Tavern, Bloomsday, Daily Prompt, dysfunction, George Bernard Shaw, Gingold Theatrical Group, Manhattan Theater Company, Origin Theatre Company, Origins Theatre Company, public performance in public spaces, Roundabout Theatre Company, Shakespeare, Shakespeare in the Park, Symphony Space, The Mint Theatre, The Public Theater, theatrical

In Retrospect

 

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By Georges Jansoone (JoJan) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
Daily Prompt: Retrospective

“The past is prologue….” It’s a saying that suggests we learn from what has transpired before. At the theater, we certainly try hard to look at history and see where it has gotten us, how we approached our problems, what solutions were on offer. Great thinkers–and dramatists are definitely philosophers in action– have made their suggestions clear.

Shakespeare confronted every manner of political upheaval as well as all the dystopias of the soul. We regularly worship at his altar. This year, The Public Theater puts on a summer in the park season with his Othello and Twelfth Night.

George Bernard Shaw looked at askew the world from a totally original perspective. The Gingold Theatrical Group celebrates his musings in their regular Project Shaw series at Symphony Space and with Shaw Club meetings on Mondays. Manhattan Theater Company and the Roundabout folks have tackled Shaw over the years with productions of Major Barbara and, currently on stage at MTC’s Friedman, Saint Joan.

The roiling and effervescent stories told by James Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake are part of the annual Bloomsday readings, here in New York with one at Bloom’s Tavern and the other at the above mentioned Symphony Space. The Bloom’s Tavern event is coordinated through Origin Theatre Company and includes both celebrities and an Irish breakfast. To be more exacting, it also features a of the Joyce period costume contest.

 

 

Posted in aging, comedy about a serious subject, comedy-drama, dysfunction, family, family comedy drama, family drama, mothers and sons, new dramatists, new work, Playwrights Horizons, serious comedy, spendthrift

Mom

The TreasurerSeptember 06, 2017 – October 22, 2017 Peter Jay Sharp Theater Written by Max Posner Directed by David Cromer
Pun Bandhu & Peter Friedman in a scene from The Treasurer. Photo © Joan Marcus. Note the modern industrial sets by Laura Jellinek.

Family often cuts to the heart of who we are.

Relationships that can be kind can also be cruel, as we find in Max Posner’s The Treasurer, at Playwrights Horizons through October 22nd extended to November 5th, under David Cromer’s direction, a comedy about family, aging, guilt and dying.

Caring for an aging parent who abandoned him when he was 13 is a huge and unwelcome responsibility for The Son (Peter Friedman).

His mother sees it differently. Her version is less dramatic. “Everybody gets divorced,” Ida Armstrong (the wonderful Deanna Dunagan) tells Ronette, (Marinda Anderson) a shop clerk at Talbot’s.

The TreasurerSeptember 06, 2017 – October 22, 2017 Peter Jay Sharp Theater Written by Max Posner Directed by David Cromer
Deanna Dunagan & Marinda Anderson. Photo © Joan Marcus

Ida’s charm is seductive. Her conversations, like her exchange with Julian (Pun Bandhu), a young man she memory-dials, make promises which are then also abandoned. Profligacy has left Ida penniless and dependent on the charity of The Son and his brothers, Allen and Jeremy (Marinda Anderson and Pun Bandhu on the phone). Her continued spending evades The Son’s best efforts as the titular “Treasurer” and leaves him frustrated. Friedman’s narrative is delivered with a nonchalant grace.

The Treasurer could have gone in any number of directions, but Posner’s play goes on its surreal path in an unexpected if foreshadowed course. The result, or rather, the conclusion, is not fully satisfying.

For more information and tickets, please visit the @PHnyc website.

Posted in dark comedy drama, dysfunction, Playwrights Realm, premieres

Victim empowered

20597526_10154504240561486_4624644961396743591_nThe 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. MatthiasMichael 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.

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Jacques-Louis David [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“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 Women that 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.

Posted in adaptation, domestic drama, drama, dysfunction, Ibsen adaptation

Nora’s home

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Laurie Metcalf, Jayne Houdyshell, Condola Rashad and Chris Cooper in a scene from A Doll’s House, Part 2 (c) Brigitte Lacombe

In his dramas, Henrik Ibsen seldom sugarcoats his messages. His plays offer cures for the human condition, but they are served in bitter pills. His Enemy of the People, for instance, (see our reviews of both the recent Broadway production and David Harrower’s off-Broadway adaptation, Public Enemy) is about populism with more than a hint of dystopia. A personal favorite among Ibsen’s works, The Master Builder is a difficult play about monomania, among other things.

Ibsen’s characters are generally entrapped by circumstances from which they must extricate themselves.

Nora’s story is perhaps Ibsen’s best-known and most often interpreted (and sometimes reimagined) work.

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Laurie Metcalf and Condola Rashad in a scene from A Doll’s House, Part 2 (c) Brigitte Lacombe

In Lucas Hnath’s reconstruction, A Doll’s House, Part 2, at the Golden Theatre through July 23rd, Nora’s liberation is full-circle. The slamming of a door can be a bridges-burning, you can’t go home again moment. Ibsen’s Nora probably meant it that way. Hnath’s Nora has ample reasons to knock on it until it opens up again. If A Doll’s House, Part 2 is a sequel, the prequel is Ibsen’s. The questions he raises remain unanswered and mysterious. Victorian puritanism, Ibsen’s foil, bolsters Nora’s soap box.

Feminism is a frequent theme of Ibsen’s. Like A Doll’s House, and Lysistrata, for instance, this is a feminist play. Unlike A Doll’s House, Hnath’s …Part 2 hones in on the perspective of each of the principals involved. Each person in the Helmer household has a different reason to open or shut the door. Hnath is not offering an explication of Ibsen’s story. His is a totally new play.

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Chris Cooper and Laurie Metcalf in a scene fromA Doll’s House, Part 2 (c) Brigitte Lacombe

Sam Gold directs a star-studded Broadway cast, with Laurie Metcalf as Nora. Chris Cooper is Torvald, the husband Nora walked out on years ago and Condola Rashad plays Emmy, her now grown-up daughter. In a post-modern mode,  the Helmers’ daughter is played with not even a nod by a black actress. This is not the only prolepsis in …Part 2, which uses very contemporary ways of expression to tell Nora’s stoty. The redoubtable Jayne Houdyshell is the housekeeper, Anne Marie, who has held the family together in Nora’s absence, and who has as much to lose as anyone in the house.

The lighting design for A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Jennifer Tipton (a freqent collaborator of Paul Taylor, among other dancemakers) has received a Tony nod. Sam Gold, the play, the costume designer, and the entire cast are also all recipients of 2017 Tony nominations.

Make no mistake, while David Zinn’s costumes are brilliantly and beautifully period (Ibsen’s that is), the language and breadth of ideas is decidely anachronistic. That is to say, Hnath’s dialogue is furiously funny and utterly contemporary.

For more information and tickets for A Doll’s House, Part 2, please visit
http://dollshousepart2.com/.

Post script, dateline May 29, 2017: Also check out the review posted at The Wright Wreport, aka Vevlynspen.com of A Doll’s House, Part 2.

 

 

Posted in based on Chekhov, Chekhov, Chekhov interpretations, dysfunction, Ibsen, Ibsen adaptation, Lucas Hnath

Ibsen gets the full Chekhov

Source: Classics anew

Matt Harrington, Shayna Small, David Kenner, Chris Myers, Brendan Titley, Ben Mehl - Julius Caesar (Photo- Brittany Vasta) (1)
From a past Wheelhouse production: Matt Harrington, Shayna Small, David Kenner, Chris Myers, Brendan Titley, Ben Mehl – Julius Caesar (Photo: Brittany Vasta)

It is a minor obsession with me to note how many ways Ibsen and Chekhov can play for a modern audience. Chekhov gets many of our contemporary playwrights to rise to his challenge, and adapt his social commentary to our moderner times.

Of course, the comparatively dour Henrik Ibsen has also been a catalyst for imitation, adaptation, interpretation and exploration. Lucas Hnath has taken Nora’s escape from a stifling household as the point of departure, as it were, for his A Doll’s House Part 2, currently playing at the Golden Theatre (through July 23rd.)

Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People has proven to be an inspiration for our avant theaters, as well. It requires some heavy lifting, and in the past 10 years or so has had productions at MTC, and the Pearl (in a David Harrower adaptation.)

Now, An Enemy of the People comes 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 as a meditation on the “tyranny of the majority.” Just about a perfect assessment of where this story leads.