Posted in #LaMama, #Macbeth, Bated Breath Theatre Company, Classic Stage Company, CSC, emerging playwright, George Bernard Shaw, Gingold Theatrical Group, Kate Hamill, known playwrights, LaMama, Lucas Hnath, New York Theatre Workshop, playwright, Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage Theatre, Sondheim, Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm, The Flea Theater, The Mint Theatre, Will Arbery

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David Raposo & Nicole Orabona. Photo by Mia Aguirre: Unmaking of Toulouse-Lautrec

Sure, Broadway can do it bigger and splashier. It’s Off-Broadway, and its sister wife, off-off, that can take the bigger risks.

This means that, often enough, it is the offs’ productions that are the more interesting and provocative.

This is not to say that we don’t appreciate the tone and tenor of a big show, but we are inspired by what is accomplished by the off-the-main-stem houses. Sometimes, like the Tony-favored Hadestown, there is novelty and innovation, along with a touch of provocation, on the Broadway stage as well.

Some of these are the usual suspects– Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage, The Mint, Classic Stage Company, New York Theatre Workshop, to name a few– who come up with exciting theater year in and year out.

Not all of these are “small” productions, of course. For instance at CSC, the artistic director, John Doyle, has slated big names Corey Stoll and Nadia Bowers to play the lead and his lady in the Scottish play. Shakespeare’s Macbeth will run this fall from October 10 through December 15. The season at the Classic will continue with  two new iterations of iconic tales of horror presented in repertory in January-March 2020: Dracula by Kate Hamill, adapted from the novel by Bram Stoker, and 
Frankenstein, based on Mary Shelley’s original work, and adapted by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm. In April-June 2020, it concludes with Assassinswhich completes the trilogy of Stephen Sondheim/John Weidman musicals John Doyle has staged,

Playwrights Horizons opens its main stage fall season with a play about our political dystopias. Will Arbery’s Heroes of the Fourth Turning, directed by Danya Taymor, gets its world premiere beginning September 13. Mr. Arbery is the playwright in residence for 2019-20 at PH thanks to a grant from the Tow Foundation. PH does not disappoint.

Later in the year, Lucas Hnath returns to PH with The Thin Place, beginning November 22. Consider this a Thanksgiving present from PH to you! If you are unfamiliar with this particular talent, before we saw Hnath’s The Christians at PH we were too. Then came A Doll’s House Part 2, an exceptionally imaginative reimagining of Ibsen, in which Laurie Metcalf won the 2017 Tony for Best Actress in a Play. Also on the PH bill for the 2019-20 season is a musical, An Unknown Soldier ( book and lyrics by Daniel Goldstein; music and lyrics by Michael Friedman) set to begin on Valentine’s Day. There’s more to it than just what we’ve listed, so please go to phnyc.org for more information, tickets etc etc.

Going off off the beaten path can be very rewarding. The immersive, site specific Unmaking of Toulouse-Lautrec is a kind of boheme rhapsody, and perhaps a throw-back to the Belle Epoque. This interactive production is conceived and directed by Mara Lieberman and devised by members of the Bated Breath Theatre Company . The show continues where it started in May through October 30th at Madame X in Greenwich Village, where you can imbibe cocktails along with the atmosphere of creative decadence.

Still following the path to the off off, we might stop by at The Flea to see The Invention of Tragedy, an exploration of how to tell grief by Mac Wellman. The world premiere is scheduled to run from September 7 through October 14. Or, for a limited engagement at The Tank catch the Spanish language En El Ojo de la Aguaja (In the Eye of the Needle) story of our present dystopias and how we solve them.

David Staller brings the Gingold Theatrical Group production of Shaw’s Caesar & Cleopatra to Theatre Row from September 3 through October 12. History in a Shavian warp gives us a comedy of sex, murder, intrigue. Very timely, doncha think?

LaMaMa, where it all began, in association with Theater Three Collaborative tackles the climate crisis in Other Than We, starting November 21.

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.

Posted in 6 extremely short plays, Alan Zweibel, Lucas Hnath, Marian Fontana, Michael Countryman, Neil La Bute, Paul Weitz, Tina Howe

Let Us (Mostly) Praise "Summer Shorts"

Alan Zweibel’s “Pine Cone Moment” part of Summer Shorts 2013, with Cmille Saviola as Bunny, Caroline Lagerfelt as Emma, Brian Reddy as Harry, and James Murtaugh as Brian, at 59E59 Theaters through August 31.
Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Like with tapas, you can fill up on three short plays and walk away fully satisfied. Of course, sometimes not every dish is perfectly delicious. Having one of out 3 morsels be good is not great, but 4 out of six is just fine.

“Summer Shorts,” at 59E59 Theaters throough Augsut 31, celebrates the short form with 2 sets of one act plays by some of America’s top playwrights. From past seasons of this seven year old festival, expectations may vary. Will they be diamonds in the rough or little jewels of invention?

Leaving the best for last, let’s get Series A out of the way first. It opens with Neil La Bute’s “Good Luck (in Farsi)” which is obvious and repetitious. This is the weak sister of the programsm about back-stabbing actresses, Paige (Elizabeth Masucci) and Kate (Gia Crovatin) vying for the same role. La Bute – who also directs this playlet–  hits a satirical mark or two in the overlong short play. To be fair, La Bute has had some very successful outings with the short form at past “Summer Shorts,” but really he should have quit while he was ahead. “Good Luck (in Farsi)” is too much like a sketch and too little like a fully-developed play in miniature.

In Marian Fonatana’s “Falling Short,” Kendra Mylnechuk is Lee, Shane Patrick Kearns is Eric and Others, and JJ Kandel is Nate. Photo  by Carol Rosegg

Sarah (Marisa Viola) is both the narrator and a participant in the annoying sound-bite “About A Woman Named Sarah,” by Lucas Hnath. The play is about Palin’s selection interview with John (Mark Elliot Wilson) and Cindy (Stephanie Cannon) McCain. In it  not even Todd (Ben Vigus) wants her to run.

The best of Series A is Tina Howe’s “Breaking the Spell.” A non-fariytale, tweaking the Sleeping Beauty story, with a touch of gibberish, a little tap, a lot of music, “Breaking the Spell” is a full-on vaudeville approach to the saga of the 100-year sleep. Michael Countryman is the king sitting vigil over his daughter, Cristabel (Crystal Finn) with Poor Wretched Fool (aka PWF, Evan Shinners, who also plays other parts and piano and accordian) mad over her and doing all he can to awaken the princess. Jesse Scheinin plays the sax that fails in its attempt at “Breaking the Spell.”

“Summer Shorts 2013 Series B” proves the adage that good things come in small packages.Series B features three of rhe most enjoyable short plays. These are  about love and desolation, and each hits a different rhythm, and all three stride forward towards a revelation.

“Change” doesn’t come easy to three college pals, Ted (Alex Manette), Jordan (Michael Dempsey), and Carla (Allison Daugherty), reuniting after 20 years. Paul Weitz’ sardonic look at the ways we grow up after graduation is bitterly funny.

“Falling Short” is tender and moving. Marian Fontana’s heroine, Lee (Kendra Mylnechuk) delivers some very funny bon-mots, including her pity analysis of the writer’s plight. “It’s like having a paper due everyday of your life.” Lee’s date with the over-the-top quirky Nate (JJ Kandel) whom she met on-line is charming. Well directed by Alexander Dinelaris, the playwright of Red Dog Howls, and other works.

Alan Zweibel’s “Pine Cone Moment” is a beautiful look at how to move on. The aging protagonists, Emma (Caroline Lagerfelt) and Harry (Brian Reddy) are both haunted and encouraged by their dead spouses, Bunny (Camille Saviola) and Brian (James Murtaugh).  As Bunny did in life so, with her red dress and plus-size personality Camille Saviola steals the show. Also outstanding as the boyishly wide-eyed Harry is Brian Reddy in an exceptionally fine cast.

The acting in all the pieces, good and bad, was very good. Besides the wonderful ensemble in “Pine Cone Moment,” the nice work in “Breaking the Spell,” and “Falling Short,”Alex Manette and Allison Daugherty in “Change” also made a great impression.

The best of “Summer Shorts” are one-acts with an arc. In Series B, as a case in point, this season, there was a generously fine array of succinct dramas with finely developed characters and fleshed out plots.

For more information about “Summer Shorts 2013,” please visit http://www.summershortsfestival.com/