Posted in 2-hander, air force, also a film, army airmen, autobiographical, based on a movie, based on a real world conflict, based on a true story or event and historical documents, based on true events, Bryce Pinkham, carpet bombing, comedy about a serious subject, dark comedy drama, drama based on real events, duped by love, ensemble acting, family, fathers and sons, holiday show, memoir, memories, musical theatre, musicals and dramas, narration, new work, Off or Off-Off Broadway Transfer, offbeat work, parents and children, play, play with music, Roundabout Theatre Company, serious comedy, storytelling, stylistic, the damaged and hurting, theater, Vietnam background, war

Legacies of war

bycarolrosegg
Jon Hoche, Raymond Lee, Paco Tolson (center), Jennifer Ikeda, and Samantha Quan. Photo © Carol Rosegg

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:

Roundabout’s Love, Love, Love (reviewed earlier and playing through 12/18) can make us feel guilty first for Brexit and now Trump as it portrays boomers resting in reactionary comfort.

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.

Heisenberg Georgie- Mary-Louise Parker and Alex-- Denis Arndt; Set Designer Mark Wendland; Costume Designer Michael Krass; Lighting Designer Austin R. Smith; Original Music and Sound Designer David Van Tieghem. Photo © Joan Marcus
Heisenberg
Georgie- Mary-Louise Parker and Alex– Denis Arndt;
Set Designer Mark Wendland; Costume Designer Michael Krass;
Lighting Designer Austin R. Smith;
Original Music and Sound Designer David Van Tieghem. Photo © Joan Marcus

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. Heisenberg is 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: Heisenberg has an underlying if small principle of uncertainty that you will likely enjoy.

Posted in Boxing, Clifford Odets, disapproving fathers, family drama, fathers and sons, Godlen Boy, Lincoln Center Theater, The Belasco Theatre, Tony Shalhoub

Odets "Golden Boy" Pulls No Punches

Certainly there were many precedents, like The Jazz Singer,  of disappointed fathers whose sons were determined to pervert their pure talent for commercial success. Clifford Odets, however, had a hand in turning the dilemma of choosing fame over art into a cliché.

Seth Numrich as Joe and Yvonne Strahovski as Lorna in “Golden Boy.” Photo by Paul Kolnik 

In “Golden Boy,” at the Belasco Theatre again for its 75th anniversary, staged by Lincoln Center Theaters, and running through January 20th, a boy forsakes music for the excitement of the boxing ring.

In the 1930s, and for many years thereafter, boxers exerted celebrity. The limelight, not fiddling under a street lamp for tips, is what Joe Bonaparte (Seth Numrich) seeks. The day when Joe decides to put on boxing gloves, his father (Tony Shalhoub) spends a small fortune on a violin for his 21st birthday.

If Joe needs convincing on the path to the fight game, he gets it from Lorna Moon (Yvonne Strahovski), the hard-boiled dame who falls for his sweetness while pushing him toward brutality.

Yvonne Strahovski as Lorna Moon and Danny Mastrogiorgio as Tom Moody. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Tom Moody (Danny Mastrogiorgio), perhaps sensing their rivalry for Lorna’s affections, doesn’t much like the kid he’s managing. Tom dubs Joe “the cock-eyed wonder” to the press and fans.

Anthony Crivello as Eddie Fuseli with Seth Numrich as Joe Bonaparte. Danny Bustein as Tokio in background.
Photo by Paul Kolnik.

The gangster, Eddie Fuseli (Anthony Crivello), on the other hand, like Joe’s trainer, Tokio (Danny Burstein), is captivated by Joe. Fuseli buys a piece of the rising star, and then showers him with gifts of clothing. After a while, Joe begins to dress like his mentor. He takes on the trappings of oppulence, flashy clothes and a fast car. The one woman Joe wants is engaged to Tom Moody. The hubbub of Joe’s life is very different from the quiet and peace he felt when he was a champion violin-player as a boy.

Tony Shalhoub as Mr. Bonaparte, Seth Numrich as Joe and Danny Burstein as his trainer, Tokio. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Given Joe’s outsized resentments and grandiosity, it’s not hard to sympathize with his detractors, like Moody, or Roxy Gottlieb (Ned Eisenberg), the other member of the syndicate backing him. The press too don’t like Joe. Even Joe says, “I don’t like myself, past, present and future.”    Joe is a discontented soul, out to “show ’em all.”

Everything about the LCT production of “Golden Boy” is true to the period it represents, from the brilliant costumes by Catherine Zuber, to the dialect. In fact, as an example of the latter, Yvonne Strahovski, an Austrailian import making her LCT and Broadway debuts, is pitch-perfect as “the tramp from New Jersey.”

Overseeing the harmonious presentation, director Bartlett Sher shows his sensitivity and appreciation for Odets’s work in all facets of “Golden Boy.”

Among the well-directed cast, Michael Aronov stands out as Siggie, Joe’s brother-in-law, whose ambitions are homier and more down-to-earth that that of the “Golden Boy.” Seth Numrich gives a nuanced performance that keeps him in balance between Joe’s insecurity and his bravado. Danny Mastrogiorgio’s Tom Moody is so completely natural it’s as if he’s living the part. Credit Tony Shalhoub for his restraint in underplaying Mr. Bonaparte whom he embues with a resolute strength and sadness.

In fact, there are very few missteps in this “Golden Boy.” The only quibble brings us back to the beginning, that the story is by now so familiar that it mostly lacks dramatic surprise. And if it has become an mundane theme, we can lay some of that blame on Clifford Odets.

For more information about “Golden Boy,” please visit www.lct.org

Posted in An Early History Of Fire, aspiration, David Rabe, family drama, fathers and sons, friendship, Gordon Clapp

Setting Hillside Fires

Theo Stockman as Danny Mueller and Gordon Clapp as his Pop, Emil in David Rabe’s “An Early History of Fire.” Photo © Monique Carboni.

Watching things burn has an almost universal fascination.

In “An Early History of Fire,” at The New Group at Theatre Row through May 26th, Danny Mueller (Theo Stockman) and his friends Terry (Jonny Orsini) and Jake (Dennis Staroselsky) have graduated from setting fires on the hillside to blue collar jobs in their small mid-western hometown.

Jake is a disgruntled, misogynistic bully. Terry reflects his sweetness on everyone. “This is a nice town,” he tells Danny, “with nice people in it. Why would you want to leave?” Danny yearns to escape from the town and his Pop, Emil’s, (Gordon Clapp) household where he feels like the family drudge.

Devin Ratray as Benji and Gordon Clapp as Emil in David Rabe’s “An Early History of Fire.” Photo © Monique Carboni.

Emil is a self-aggrandizing narcissist, who is dependent on Danny since he lost his menial job. His ego is buoyed by the mentally challenged Benji (Devin Ratray) who doggedly accompanies in his idleness. Danny rejects his father’s conventional suggestion that he finish college as a way out.

Danny is ambivalent about the rich college girl, Karen Edwards (Claire van der Boom), who fulfils his dreams of aspiration. He is both attracted and repelled by the genteel. Nonetheless, Karen and Danny get each other, even though he is not as simple as she wished when they first met.

Theo Stockman as Danny, Claire van der Boom as Karen, Jonny Orsini as Terry and Dennis Staroselsky as Jake in David Rabe’s “An Early History of Fire.” Photo © Monique Carboni

Karen, apparently an avid reader, quotes Kerouac, Salinger, and a little Ginsberg. She was looking for a bit of Lady Chatterley’s experience with someone with “a strong back and a weak mind,” she says. She is his ticket out even if he is only a diversion for her.

Theo Stockman as Danny, Dennis Staroselsky as Jake, Erin Darke as Shirley, Jonny Orsini as Terry and Claire van der Boom as Karen, in David Rabe’s “An Early History of Fire.” Photo © Monique Carboni

The atmosphere in “An Early History of Fire,” is not especially heated. There are confrontations but their intensity is banked, and they are not full-out battles. The actors all encapsulate the thin distinctions of class in an era in small-town 1960s on the brink of monumental change.

Stockman’s Danny is stolid, stumbling on a path that may give him the future for which he hopes. It’s Staroselsky’s Jake whose character is most combustible, hiding his sense of inferiority and misogyny behind a rakish charm. Gordon Clapp plays an Emil who has a capacity to disappoint anyone who relies on him.

Everyone in the fine cast treats the material in Rabe’s excellent new play tenderly.

For more information and a schedule of performances, visit www.thenewgroup.org

Posted in dance, family drama, fathers and sons, flamenco, inheritance, jazz, office, wealth and power, work

The Weekend Report

Those of us lucky enough to have a weekend, don’t have Daniel for a boss.

Rich, powerful, charismatic and abusive, Daniel is an off-stage presence in “Assistance,” at Playwrights Horizons through March 11. Daniel is unseen and unheard– calling in to his minions from London and Tokyo.

Vince’s (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe), Nick’s (Michael Esper) and Nora’s (Virginia Kull) reactions are the witness to his rants against their incompetence and grammatical failings. Meltdowns are legion as are firings.

Virginia Kull as Nora with Amy Rosoff as Jenny in background. Photo © Joan Marcus

Leslye Headland’s paean to the working classes. Well to those enthrall to the great wealth and financial success of ogreish moguls.

Lucas Near-Verbrugghe as Vince and Michael Esper as Nick. Photo © Joan Marcus

Serving a petty tyrant is a choice for these young people. Jenny (Amy Rosoff) is thrilled at the chance to work more closely with Daniel, for instance. The hapless Heather (Sue Jean Kim), on the other hand, chooses her uncle’s funeral over an assignment in Chicago, with seemingly dire consequences for her.

Sue Jean Kim as Heather. Photo © Joan Marcus

Bobby Steggert’s Justin has a short but convincing stint on stage, demonstrating just how far around the bend the Daniels of this world can take their proteges.

The players in “Assistance” under Trip Cullman’s deft direction are all splendid. In the surprise coda to “Assistance,” Amy Rosoff exhibits outstanding and completely unexpected talents.

The assistants in “Assistance” might benefit from a workplace drug like the one in Kate Fodor’s “Rx.”
(See commentary on “Rx.”)

Visit www.playwrightshorizons.org for a schedule of performances.

Over at the glassworks, power also wrests in the master’s hands.

In “Rutherford & Son,” at The Mint Theater Company through April 8th, playwright Githa Sowerby captured the tone and cadence of a miserable rural life, both in John Rutherford’s (Robert Hogan) home and his factory. He has sacrificed his children’s happiness to respectability and financial success.

See video <a href="http://

Rutherford & Son at the Mint Theater from Mint Theater Company on Vimeo.

It’s easy to see why “Rutherford & Son” was a sensation when it had its premiere at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 1912 and then again a few months later when it opened on Broadway. Githa Sowerby understood not only the mores of a small town but also the ebb and flow of business.

David Van Pelt as Martin and Sara Surrey as Janet. Photo © Richard Termine

The fine cast under Jonathan Bank’s sure-handed direction also understand the rhythms of this old-fashioned but very modern play. Sara Surrey particularly stands out as John Rutherford’s embittered spinster daughter, Janet, and Eli James is exceptional as his thwarted and feckless son, John.

For more information and a schedule of performances, please visit www.minttheater.org.

Working it in a completely different way were the guitarists (and their ensembles) Doug Wamble and Nino Joselle in Jazz Meets Flamenco at JALC’s Allen Room on February 24th and 25th, with two remarkable dancers, Jason Samuel Smith representing the jazz-tap side and Juan De Juan onboard to represent Flamenco.

See pictures from the show here.

Jazz at Lincoln Center invited the two guitarists to showcase their flamenco sensibilities. Doug Wamble rose to the occasion with a composition for reeds (John Ellis), bass (Eric Revis), drums (Rudy Royston) and most importantly tap (Jason Samuel Smith.) “The Traveler” is a song cycle, performed by Mr. Wamble and his ensemble, and punctuated by very fancy footwork by Mr. Smith.

The Flamenco side of the program, represented by the incredible and fierce Juan De Juan, dancing to the music performed by Mr. Joselle and his bassist (John Benitez) and percussionist (Horatio “El Negro” Hernandez) won the dance off despite Mr. Smith’s accomplished performance. Juan De Juan accomplishes the seemingly impossible in his Flamenco interpretations.

The special treat here was watching Jason Samuel Smith and Juan De Juan together for the finale of the program.

For more information about Jazz At Lincoln Center programs, visit www.jalc.org.
The Flamenco Festival 2012 in New York City continues this month with, among other venues, performances at New York City. Visit www.nycitycenter.org for more information.

Posted in comedy, connectivity, Craigs List, cyberspace, estranged father, fathers and sons, Google, hacker, hacking, love story, meds, techie, thriller, Twitter, video games

A Love Story for the Cyber Age: Extended to 29 October

There is so much new territory for the theater to cover in this super-connected, highly wired world–Google, Twitter, email, hackers, videogames– and a lot of it just doesn’t seem like it could be theatrical, does it? In Mangella, where a computer nerd meets a tech savvy prostitute via Craigslist, there is plenty of theatricality.

Connectivity takes on a whole new meaning in “Mangella,” a play billed as a cyber-thriller, and produced by Project:Theater at the Drilling Company extended through October 23rd 29th.

In “Mangella,” Gabriella (Ali Perlwitz) is a seductive temptress; her jealousy of Lilly (Hannah Louise Wilson)is only natural since she and Ned (Anthony Manna) have such an intimate relationship.

Gabriella is Ned’s outdated computer. Lilly is a prostitute Ned hires to visit his father, known to himself as Mangella St. James (Bob Austin McDonald), a black blues man.

Ned keeps Mangella, once a dentist named Stephen Frangipani, tethered to a wheelchair in his back room, in the hope that his father will recall memories of the mother Ned lost as a young boy.

Ali Perlwitz as Gabriella_with Anthony Manna as Ned in “Mangella.” Photo by Lee Wexler  

While all the actors are excellent, Ali Perlwitz handles a particularly Shakespearean fugue in the play with special finesse.

Ken Ferrigni has written well-observed love story.

Hannah Wilson as Lilly_with Bob Auston McDonald as MangellaSt James in “Mangella.” Photo by Lee Wexler  

Joe Jung directs the action at a lovingly fast-pace, balancing the energy and innocence of the characters with the absurdist storyline.

“Mangella” uses video to enhance its action and illustrate its plot in a very entertaining way.

Ali Perlwitz as Gabriella_with Anthony Manna as Ned in “Mangella” engage in videogaming. Photo by Lee Wexler  

For more information about and performance schedules for “Mangella” ,
go to www.projecttheater.org. Tickets may be purchased through SmartTix at www.smartix.com.

Posted in drama, estranged father, fathers and sons, infedility, memory play, narration, photography, stepmother

Careful what you wish for….

Alan (Keith Nobbs) should have heeded the old warning about being careful what you wish for….

Keith Nobbs as Alan with Kevin Kilner as Doug in a photo by Richard Termine 

What if your dad turned out to be just the sort of creep who abandoned his family as Doug (Kevin Kilner) had when Alan was five?

There is nothing Alan wants more, in Lanford Wilson’s “Lemon Sky,” playing at Theatre Row in a Keen Company production through October 22nd, than to live with the father he never had.

Doug says he has dreamed of having him out to California to be with him, but that Alan’s mother would never let Alan come. Doug also tells him that his mother hounded him and spied on him, but that his current wife, Ronnie (Kellie Overbey), lets him breathe.

Now that Alan wants to go to college, he can be with Doug and his family, 12-year old Jerry (Logan Riley Bruner) and 5-year old Jack (Zachary Mackiewicz), and the two foster children, Carol (Alyssa May Gold) and Penny (Amie Tedesco)who live with them, and maybe with Doug’s help get a part time job.

Alyssa May Gold as Carol with Keith Nobbs as Alan and Amie Tedesco as Penny in a photo by Richard Termine 

The idyllic quickly turns ugly, but expecting the dire outcome in “Lemon Sky” should not be a deterrent to enjoying the play’s unravelling. “Lemon Sky” spools out the story, using narration as a dramatic technique, and promising drama as the narrative unfolds.

Alyssa May Gold’s Carol is a sad teenage femme fatale whose fate, like much of the plot, is perhaps predictible. Kellie Overbey’s Ronnie is strong, understanding, and protective of the life she has chosen for herself.

Kellie Overbey as Ronnie with Keith Nobbs as Alan and Kevin Kilner as Doug in a photo by Richard Termine 

Lanford Wilson’s “Lemon Sky” was written in 1970 and is autobiographical. He is best known as the author of “Talley’s Folly” and
“The Fifth of July.”

“Lemon Sky” is a small play, that is nonetheless engrossing, and all the actors do their best to let it breathe.

For schedule, tickets and information, visit http://keencompany.org/