Posted in #whatdoyouthink, actors, African-American playwrights, artist, based on a novel, based on a true story or event, based on a true story or event and historical documents, based on true events, brutality, chronicle, deep South, empowerment, ensemble acting, famous, film, Fox Studios, historical drama, history, honky, husbands and wives, KKK, meditation on life, movie, new work, opinion, poignant, race, racism, riff, sci fi, serious, serious subject, showcase, timely, TV, Valentine's Day

Serially entertaining

Actors and screen-writers are busier these days than they have been in some time. There are “streaming” shows, 100s of cable outlets producing both series and movies, and of course Hollywood and the Indie scene all requiring their talents and services.

We are the beneficiaries of all this production. We will be enlightened, entertained and excited by the films they produce.

What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than binge watching Divorce?

Gifted, the movie with Chris Evans and Mckenna Grace, and not so incidentally Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, Lindsay Duncan, and Elizabeth Marvel, is touching without being maudlin. It is generally intelligent, with a sterling performance by young Ms. Grace, and until we saw it last night on HBO, I had not heard much about it.

The assignment for Black History Month can include the excellent Get Out, Jordan Peele’s genius defies and reinvents the “horror” genre. It should also feature a viewing of Birth of a Nation, perhaps both in its regressive D.W. Griffith 1915 version and Nate Parker’s 2016 “remake.” The contrast between a paen to the Ku Klux Klan and to Nat Turner’s slave rebellion may prove edifying. Add Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (although not our personal favorite) to your list of films for 2018. (In the New Yorker, Vinson Cunningham expresses a different view, especially of Parker’s film.)

Art is meant to engender controversy, stimulate and even incense and enrage. We should not be passively diverted in its presence. It is here to help us ponder life’s (and history’s) biggest issues.

Thanks to films and serial dramas we have a lot to consider and enjoy. And we are treated to some terrific performances in the bargain.

Posted in #critique, #dystopia, #pointofview, #whatdoyouthink, ambition, Beau Willimon, Blair Brown, blog at wordpress.com, 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.

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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 history, John Leguizamo, lessons, one man show

Class is in session

With Columbus experiencing a re-think, historically speaking, the mnemonic fed us as children seems less and less useful.

Forget the Nina, the Pinta, and “fourteen hundred and ninety two.” Sit back while Professor Leguizamo gives you a lesson in Latin History for Morons, playing at Studio 54 through February 25, 2018.

Teaching dummies about Latinos has been a John Leguizamo Broadway (and off) project for some time. 2011’s Ghetto Klown was not the first time he scored points on how little we non-Latinos know about his people. As in his Tony-nominated Freak, he talks about the deeply personal in Ghetto Klown, while revealing interesting tidbits about his Hollywood exploits. The confessional tone of many of his previous stage outings is on display in Latin History for Morons as well.

If we did not like Leguizamo so well, we might resent being called Morons, but we’ll let it pass. It must be galling to hail from one of the Hispanic isles — the Bronx or P.R. for example–and have us flaunt the myth that America was “discovered” by an Italian in service to his Spanish Queen. On top of that we’re yelling “speak English” these days and building walls to keep out other Latino groups.

Sure, his is a one-man show, but Leguizamo can’t do it all by himself. Latin History for Morons is directed by Tony Taccone, with sets by Rachel Hauck, costumes by Luke McDonough and original music/sound design by Bray Poor, and lights by Alexander V. Nichols.

For more information and tickets, please visit https://latinhistorybroadway.com/

Also see for further thoughts on:

Post: In the Classroom of Prof. Johnny Leggs, ‘Latin History for Morons’ Is Delivered With Light, Heat and a Lotta Heart
Link: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2017/11/in-classroom-of-prof-johnny-leggs-latin.html
Blog: The Wright Wreport

 

Posted in #critique, athletic, ballet, balletic, classic, connectivity, dance, dance making, dancing, empowerment, high expectations, history, in repertory, joy, legacy

Howdy, Partner

Partnering has developed a new look as the 21st century progresses. Partly, this is a reflection of a more liberal social milieu. Gender fluidity is the term of art for this LGBTQ-era. Same sex marriage, mixed use bathrooms, dorms which house both boys and girls on the same floor are part of our new-age maturity.

Equality has certainly not come full-circle. The workplace and the quotidian are still often off-kilter and exhibit the same kinds of inequities that have been with us forever. We are working on it, much as the dance makers are working on many more diverse ways to partner.

Many choreographers– Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon Benjamin Millipied etc.– experiment with male on male lifts, and Jessica Lang has a woman catch and release her male partner at one point in Her Notes.

Roles can be reversed for Mr. Mom and his executive wife. We’ve come to accept that and to expect to see it in our arts and entertainments. The glass ceiling– and other prejudices and biases– will be broken and taken down in tiny steps rather than with crowbars.

Posted in ambition, anticipation, aspiration, avant garde, based on a true story or event, based on a true story or event and historical documents, based on true events, chronicle, drama based on real events, expectations, fictionalization_of_real_events, historical drama, history, land of opportunity, play, Playwrights Horizons, storytelling, The Debate Society, theater, theater folk

Wonders never cease

The Light YearsPlaywrights Horizons February 17, 2017 – April 02, 2017
Brian Lee Huynh. Photo © Joan Marcus

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, properly named the World Columbian Exposition in honor of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in the Americas, hosted 46 countries and over 25million visitors.

The 690 acres it occupied was a city of industry that represented and presented progress to the world: Juicy Fruit gum, Cream of Wheat and Pabst Blue Ribbon were introduced at the Expo.

A Ferris Wheel, a moving walkway, an electric kitchen that included an automatic dishwasher and printing press for Braille were also innovations first seen at the 1893 Fair.The Colunbian Exposition was also home to a sprawl of original architecture.

The Light YearsPlaywrights Horizons February 17, 2017 – April 02, 2017
Rocco Sisto, Aya Cash and Erik Lochtefeld. Photo © Joan Marcus

In The Light Years, co-written by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen and directed by Oliver Butler of The Debate Society, this and the subsequent Chicago World’s Fair of 1933 provide the background for a very unusual play. The Light Years  is presented with The Debate Society at Playwrights Horizons where it is playing through April 2nd.

Steele MacKaye (a wonderfully bombastic Rocco Sisto), envisioned an ingenius theater to celebrate the arts at this grand historic event. His 12,000-seat Spectatorium, was designed by the now forgotten theatrical impresario to harness the mechanical and electrical marvels of the time.

The Light YearsPlaywrights Horizons February 17, 2017 – April 02, 2017
Aya Cash, Erik Lochtefeld and Brian Lee Huynh Photo © Joan Marcus

The Light Years is, in part, a love story, highlighted by technology and wonder and spun over 40-years. In it, we are transported to more innocent times, when novelty could inspire and awe was not an unsophisticated or naive response.

In 1893, the story centers on the progress of building and wiring MacKaye’s theater.

Hillary (Erik Lochtefeld in a star turn) and his assistant, Hong Sling (the charismatic Brian Lee Huynh) are the electricians in charge of making the Spectatorium shine. Hillary’s wife, Adeline (the appealing Aya Cash) is a very modern woman, cheerfully pedalling both iced tea and a bicycle.

The Light YearsPlaywrights Horizons February 17, 2017 – April 02, 2017
Aya Cash, Ken Barnett and Graydon Peter Yosowitz. Photo © Joan Marcus

When the scene shifts to 1933, it’s Ruthy (Aya Cash, again) who has to keep her family afloat, flipping pancakes and inspiriting her husband Lou (Ken Barnett, in an excellent awe-shucks mode) through the writing of musical ditties for this Fair’s many commercial enterprises. Their son, Charlie (the already accomplished young Graydon Peter Yosowitz) is smitten with the sensations the Fair promises.

The scenic design by Laura Jellinek and costumes design by  Michael Krass rise beautifully to the majesty of the occasion.

Every part of the theater space is treated to a bit of the performance. There are lights and things that go poof as well as narratives to explicate the drama. The ensemble engage, entertain and instruct.

The Light Years uses some of the devices Steele MacKaye introduced to turn this small-scale production into a grand spectacle.

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

 

 

 

Posted in 1-man show, dark comedy drama, discussions, drama based on real events, events, gaming, history, improv

His Trump(ets) Red Blare

Before he became the President-Elect, Trump was still a blowhard and a bully. Now he has the ultimate “bully pulpit” from which to trumpet his ideas and plans and build more of his own empire. As he would tweet, SAD.

His ego was truly stroked when Taiwan called to congratulate him. Not content with taking the call against US interests and precedents, DJT had to tweet about it. (New developments: December 2, 2016.)

Believe me when I tell you he can certainly blow his own horn. In fact, he’s famous for it, but when the man with the yellow face and huge ego comes out, give him a trumpets-blaring welcome. …

Source: His Trump(ets) Red Blare

Posted in history

It’s All American History, Isn’t It?

Black history month gives us one month a year to look at the role of African-Americans in the story of our past. Let’s face it, that still leaves us 12 months to keep the perspective white. I…

Source: It’s All American History, Isn’t It?

I confess that it probably isn’t and that is the fault of the bias of our curriculae.

Continue reading “It’s All American History, Isn’t It?”