Posted in adaptation, based on Chekhov, comedy-drama, drama, ensemble acting, favorites, friendship, girls, growing up, love story, loyalty, Playwritghts Horizons, romantic comedy, Roundabout Theatre Company, soccer, The Duke, The Mint Theatre

Short takes

Here are three shows playing “off-Broadway” but in the Times Square area you may find of interest: The Wolves at the Duke on 42nd, Yours Unfaithfully at the always brilliant Mint at Theatre Row’s Beckett Theatre, and Rancho Viejo at Playwrights Horizons.

Comeback Kids

Sports-themed stories are compelling because they are usually about fair play and, well, sportsmanship.

Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves takes place during practice sessions of a suburban girls’ soccer team as they chat, gossip, and warm-up. Part of the appeal of this show is that  The Wolves is in a reprise production at The Duke on 42nd Street through December 29th; its last sold-out run was this past August and September. It made an impact then, and it looks to make one this holiday season as well.

If you love something, set it free

The Mint is staging  Yours Unfaithfully, the never before produced comedy by Miles Malleson. The play was published in 1933 but never staged until now, when it will get its world premiere beginning on December 27th and running through February 18th at Theatre Row’s Beckett.

Malleson, an actor, playwright, screenwriter, and freethinker seems to have written about the open marriage in Yours Unfaithfully from his life experience, but this production offers much more than voyeuristic interest. Bertrand Russell reviewed the published play as being full of “humor and kindness” and “free from any taint of propaganda.” The high standards of a Mint Theatre production should bring this “well-constructed” work to life.

Neighborly

At Playwrights Horizons, Dan LeFranc brings Rancho Viejo, a small-town and its relationships and interactions to the stage. If his earlier play, The Big Meal is any indication of where he’ll be taking us, this should be an interesting journey.

Rancho Viejo, through December 23rd at the Mainstage, explores how what we do affects our friends and neighbors, who may be total strangers to us. (Check out our review of this very entertaining new play.)


Over at the American Airlines Theatre, Stephen Karam tweaked Chekhov. The Cherry Orchard, which closed on December 4th, is a challenge, as is much of Chekhov. There is melancholy mixed with hilarity in the oeuvre and it does not always play as either funny or tragic. Diane Lane (Ranevskaya) and John Glover (Gaev). the plutocratic and impoverished owners of the property at the center of the play, achieve some level of mixed despair and hysteria.

The production had its faults, and some highlights which included the second act masquerade ball with musicians (Bryaqn Hernandez-Luch, Liam Burke, Chihiro Shibayam, coordinated by John Miller) on stage. There is original music by Nico Muhly.

And most interesting is the color-blind casting in which Chuck Cooper is Pischik, a landowner always looking for a handout, and Maurice Jones is Ranevskaya’s favorite Yasha. Harold Perrineau as Lopakhin, the son of a serf who wins the estate at auction, is a particular standout in the cast.


News from the annoyance front: Impolite theater-goers of the umpteenth degree spotted recently at a matinee of The Cherry Orchard were talking quite loudly. When asked to sush, the response was “Other people are talking.” The other people in question were the characters on stage, I swear.

Also in the Roundabout repertory for this season was the frothy and likeable Holiday Inn, at Studio 54 through January 15th.

Posted in friendship, Jon Fosse, Karen Allen, loss, love, melancholy, Norwegian playwright, rough waters, stylistic, tone-poem

Anxiety Looms On "A Summer Day"

Karen Allen, surrounded by memories, in “A Summer Day” at the Cherry Lane. Photo © Sandra Coudert

Angst, Scandanavian-style, made popular by Ingmar Bergman in our youth, and gently mocked by Woody Allen, is back in Jon Fosse’s “A Summer Day.”


“A Summer Day,” at the Cherry Lane Theatre, through November 25th, is getting its first-time premiere  in New York City in this affectionate production by  Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. 

“A Summer Day,”  takes anxiety and sadness to the brink. By an informal count, the words “anxious” and “sad” were celebrated more than a dozen times in the text of Jon Fosse’s play in director Sarah Cameron Sunde’s translation. 



Melancholia,  bolstered by boredom, looks to be a Norwegian pasttime, seconded only by going out onto rough waters.

Samantha Soule with McCaleb Burnett in “A Summer Day.” Photo © Sandra Coudert. 
Asle (McCaleb Burnett) likes it out there in his little boat. His wife (Karen Allen as Older Woman, and Samantha Soule as Younger Woman) finds it scary. As the play opens, the Older Woman stands at the window looking out at the pier. Her Older Friend (Pamela Shaw), visiting on this bright summer day, much as she had  on a much gloomier day years ago (Younger Friend, played by Maren Bush) when Asle went off to the water’s edge. Never to return.

Abandoned in her lovely house, the Older Woman lives a desolate life reminiscing about that day and watching the bay.

Much of the tension in “A Summer Day” comes from waiting for the other shoe to drop. It never doesAs Karen Allen’s character narrates the story, we bait our breath for something unexpected to happen.

A long, somewhat tedious, yet oddly engrossing tone-poem of mourning and loss, “A Summer Day” is lovingly executed. 

For more information about “A Summer Day,” and a schedule of performance, please visit www.rattlestick.org.

Posted in couples, friendship, three-hander, threesome

Seeing the future in "In The Summer Pavilion"

Photo by Gerry Goodstein: Ryan Barry in Paul David Young’s “In The Summer Pavilion” at 59E59 Theaters.


The future lies before you like a summer sky when you’re fresh out of college. There are endless possibilities for you and your closest friends.

In “In The Summer Pavilion,” at 59E59 Theaters through November 3rd, those endless possibilities play out as alternate realities. 

Photo by Gerry Goodstein: Meena Dimian and Rachel Mewbron in Paul David Young’s “In The Summer Pavilion.”

Ben (Ryan Barry), Clarissa (Rachel Mewbron) and Nabile (Meena Dimian), friends just graduated from Princeton, come together like a sexy stew as “In The Summer Pavilion” begins their journey.

“Mr. Premonition here thinks he can see the future,” Nabile says. Ben is wary. “You two, you’re dangerous,” he tells them.  Nabile answers him a little cryptically, “Take off your mask of sorrow and let the comedy play.”  

Barry Ryan as Ben, Rachel Mewbron as Clarissa, and Meena Dimian as Nabile in “In The Summer Pavilion.” Photo by  Gerry Goodstein.

In each scenario, Ben, Clarissa and Nabile pair off differently, as the play unfolds going forward seven years. There is a promise, unkept, of secrets being revealed. “A night full of adventure. Doors opening. Desires fulfilled. Secrets revealed,” Nabile says. Alas, they are not, but several likely outcomes are. “Do you sometimes have the feeling that we’ve been here before?”  

Paul David Young’s play is rich in imagery; it teases with snippets of poetic philosophizing, and offers a satisfying amount of adventure.     

“No, be a jerk. Say the uncomfortable thing. I’m ready for it now.” Ben says. “I am young/ Unripened hope.”

“In The Summer Pavilion” is an intriguing work. The acting under Kathy Gail MacGowan’s direction is charming and natural. Everything– sexuality, career paths, partners– is up for grabs. All of it is an a wild ride. We should probably take Nabile’ s advice and get out the Ouija board.

Bonus points for having the playwright, Paul David Young, in the audience. Young adapted  and 
directed his screenplay for  “In The Summer Pavilion,” which is due to be released in 2013.

For more information about  “In The Summer Pavilion,” visit  www.59e59.org.

Posted in Abi Morgan, accidents and miracles, boys and girls, friendship, love story, loyalty

Pop goes "Tiny Dynamite"


Photo © Carol Rosegg around the circle: Christian Conn as Lucien, Olivia Horton as Madeleine, Blake DeLong as Anthony in “Tiny Dynamite” at 59E59 Theaters.

Not all explosions are convulsive.

For instance, there is nothing cataclysmic in Abi Morgan’s “Tiny Dynamite,” which is enjoying its New York premiere at 59E59 Theaters through July 1st. There are some power surges and lightning strikes in “Tiny Dynamite,” but it’s a tiny story of loyalty, loss, love and friendship.


Photo © Carol Rosegg around the circle: Olivia Horton as Madeleine, Blake DeLong as Anthony and Christian Conn as Lucien, in “Tiny Dynamite” at 59E59 Theaters.

Lucien (Christian Conn) is a cautious man. His best friend from childhood, Anthony (Blake DeLong) lives an untamed existence. Once a year, Lucien brings Anthony to a cabin by the lake for a summer vacation. This idyl inevitably stirs memories of a woman they both loved. Madeleine (Olivia Horton) enlivens and complicates their relationship.

While the acting rivets the attention, this slight story lacks the intensity to explode in the imagination as a full-blown adventure. It diverts with anecdotes of catastrophes and fatality, without drawing a complete picture of either miracle or just happenstance. As Anthony puts it “if there’s no cause, I’d say that it was a freak fucking accident.”

Visit www.59e59.org to get a schedule of performance. To find out more about the presenter, the Origin Theatre Company, please visit www.origintheatre.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 drama, friendship

In Hard Times, Friendships Under Strain

Three men find their loyalties rattled and their friendship shaken when a strike in the plant at which they all work unravels their relationship.

In “On the Line,” playwright Joe Roland looks at how who we are is
defined by where we come from and what we do.

Dev (Jacob H. Knoll) is unpretentiously a working class guy. “Every morning I get up, I know who I am,” he says, in “On the Line,” playing through November 19th at Canal Park Playhouse. “I know where I’m going, I know what I’m gonna do when I get there….”

Jacob Knoll as Dev, Jedidiah Schultz as Mikey, and Matt Citron as Jimmy. Photo © Jim Baldassare

Dev has been best friends with Mikey (Jedidiah Schultz) and Jimmy (Matt Citron) since first grade. They work together at Mr. Dolan’s plant,and after work, they drink together at Moody’s bar.

Jacob Knoll, with a strong working class New England twang, is superb as the troubled, enraged Dev. At several points, Knoll’s voice tightens as Dev begins to lose his sense of himself.

Both Matt Citron and Jedidiah Schultz are extremely talented actors and very convincing as his buddies, Jimmy and Mikey. Michael Tisdale’s directs with a deft understanding.

When the plant is shut down by a strike, Dev’s grit is tested in the course of “On the Line.” He is a working man, and a working man has to work to be a working man. If he knows who he is, he has to stubbornly stick to that principle at any cost.

This production fills the small 55-seat space at the Canal Park Playhouse beautifully, using sound (by Colin Alexander) and projections (designed by Ryan Dickie under the Technical Direction of Vadim Ledvin) to add mood and depth.

Jacob Knoll (front) as Dev and Matt Citron (back) as Jimmy, at work in “On the Line.” Photo © Jim Baldassare

For more information and for a schedule of performances, visit http://www.canalparkplayhouse.com/home.asp

Posted in acceptance, adultery, boys in love, cheating, church, dalliance, family, football, friendship, good and evil, morality, philosophy, religion, teens, tennage boys

Unspeakable Acts?

In James Lantz’s “The Bus”, two teenage boys share a secret love in a small midwestern town.

“The Bus”, at 59E59 Theaters through October 30th, is kind of a protest play, broadly about “the love that dare not speak its name,” but with no polemics and plenty of heart.

Bryan Fitzgerald (back) withWill Roland . Photo by Carol Rosegg  

Ian (Will Roland) and Jordan (Bryan Fitzgerald) meet in an abandoned bus that serves as the landmark pointing to the Golden Rule Church looming at the top of the hill. Ian’s angry father, Harry (Travis Mitchell) owns the land on which the vehicle is parked, and its presence on his property begins to irk him.

There is a character called The Little Girl (Julia Lawler) in “The Bus” who is the scene-setter and narrator in this intentionally minimalist play. She paints vivid pictures of the surroundings as the story unfolds.
She is also Jordan’s little sister.

While Jordan is disdainful of religion, and open about who he is, Ian is conflicted. His sexuality is as much of concern to him as it is to both his parents.

Ian’s mother, Sarah (Kerry McGann), has substituted church for family since her divorce from Harry. Sarah drags an unwilling Ian to services on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Will Roland as Ian with Bryan Fitzgerald as Jordan in James Lantz’s “The Bus”. Photo by Carol Rosegg  

“The Bus” is heartfelt, intimate, and engrossing.
To learn more about and for performance schedules for “The Bus” go to www.59e59.org.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Good people, evil deeds?

You might not be comfortable setting your moral compass by this guy, but Mickey (Michael Mastro) is a great friend.

“Any Given Monday”, Bruce Graham’s award winning play, on stage at 59E59 Theaters through November 6th, explores issues of good and evil, which, in its scope, may be relative, with equal measure of insight and humor.

Paul Michael Valley as Lenny and Michael Mastro as Mickey in Bruce Graham’s “Any Given Monday.” Photo by Carol Rosegg  

Mickey and Lenny (Paul Michael Valley) have been buddies since boyhood. Mickey, it seems, will do anything for Lenny.

Michael Mastro has the physicality and delivery reminiscent of Art Carney. His sardonic manner is devastatingly funny.

When Lenny’s wife, Risa (Hilary B. Smith) leaves him for the excitement of an affair with the unseen Frank, Mickey shows up to watch Monday night football with his old pal. He is also there to assure himself that Lenny isn’t suicidal. Lenny’s daughter, Sarah (Lauren Ashley Carter)comes home from college with much the same purpose.

Lauren Ashley Carter as Sarah and Hilary B. Smith as Risa in “Any Given Monday.” Photo by Carol Rosegg  

The disimpassioned amorality in “Any Given Monday” is supported by a deep understanding of the philosophical both sides. Or as Mickey tells Sarah, all three sides– most people, he says, do neither the right thing nor the wrong, but rather do nothing.

“Any Given Monday” is good for any day of the week.

Lauren Ashley Carter as Sarah and Michael Mastro as Mickey. Photo by Carol Rosegg  

To learn more about and for performance schedules for “Any Given Monday”, please go to www.59e59.org