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army airmen, autobiographical, based on a movie, based on a real world conflict, based on a true story or event and historical documents, based on true events, Bryce Pinkham, carpet bombing, comedy about a serious subject, dark comedy drama, drama based on real events, duped by love, ensemble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 A Picture of Autumn, ancestral home, comedy, down and out nobility, drama, England's Chekhov, family comedy drama, George Morfogen, memories, N.C. Hunter, theater

Home is where the heart is

Home is also where habits are respected and remembered, and memories treasured.

Jonathan Hogan as Sir Charles Denham and George Morfogen as his brother Harry in N.C.  Hunter’s “A Picture of Autumn,” in a Mint Theater Company revival. Photo by Richard Termine.

In N.C. Hunter’s “A Picture of Autumn,” revived to perfection by the Mint Theater Company and on stage through July 27th, the ancestral home is a bit of a decaying pile. In 1951, “A Picture of Autumn” was produced in England as the first in a series of gentle drawing room comedies.

Jill Tanner as Lady Margaret, George Morfogen as Harry Denham, Jonathan Hogan as Sir Charles, Paul Niebanck as Robert and Katie Firth as his wife, Elizabeth. Photo by Richard Termine.

Despite the inevitable comparison to Chekhov, Hunter brought a crisp and distinct voice. His failure to gain traction as a great English playwright may be attributed to the voices of discontent made popular by John Osborne’s “angry young men” and Joe Orton’s strange and flamboyant characters. The drawing room was replaced by the union hall, the dockside, or other more ordinary venues. The realism of the 1970s wanted a grittier reality than that of aging nobility and its bewildered children.

Paul Niebanck as Robert Denham and Barbara eda-Young as Nurse in “A Picture of Autumn.”
Photo by Richard Termine.

As in Chekhov’s works, “A Picture of Autumn” focuses on the decline of an aristocratic family, the Denhams. Sir Charles (Jonathan Hogan) and Lady Margaret (Jill Tanner) make up the household along with Charles’ brother Harry (George Morfogen) and the equally aged Nurse (Barbara Eda-Young) who is more served than servant. Sir Charles and Lady Margaret have two boys, the ne’er do well Frank (Christian Coulson) and his decent but plodding civil servant brother Robert (Paul Niebanck). Robert is appalled by the letters of complaint he’s gotten from his mother during his service in Africa. Moved by his parents’ inability to keep up the old house, has decided to help by selling Winton Manor to a governnemt agency.

George Morfogen as Harry and Helen Cespedes as Felicity in a scene from “A Picture of Autumn.
Photo by Richard Termine.

Hunter was never much produced state-side, with his only Broadway foray being A Day by the Sea featuring Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn in 1955. He fared better in England where the plight of impoverished lords and ladies dotting the post WWII country-side was better understood.

Be grateful to the Mint for bringing Hunter’s work the attention it deserves. “A Picture of Autumn” gets truly proper treatment under Gus Kaikkonen’s fine direction and with this wonderful ensemble. The performers were all top-notch, with George Morfogen adding sparkle to the production. The young Helen Cespedes as Felicity, the daughter of Robert Denham’s wife’s Elizabeth is a welcome new talent and makes a superb ingenue. Jill Tanner is wonderful as the doyenne reduced to cooking and shopping; her Margaret is a perfect unwilling  but loving caretaker.

For more information about “A Picture of Autumn,” please visit http://minttheater.org/.

Posted in family, memories, My Mind Is Like An Open Meadow, one-woman show

Remembering Her Grandmother, Sarah

Photo by Kate Sanderson Holly
The loss of a loved one can be a powerful impetus for a story-teller.
In ” My Mind is Like an Open Meadow,” at 59E59 Theaters through August 19th, Erin Leddy memorializes her grandmother through a recorded interview with Sarah Braverman and in song and dance. The one-woman production has a unique style:  Erin Leddy’s grandmother, Sarah Braverman  is her co-cast member, speaking through a boom-box.   
My Mind is Like an Open Meadow” is the briefest of excursions, lasting just about 60 minutes, and is sufficiently diverting. The symbolic significance of the carefully laid-out set is sometimes hard to comprehend.  
Photo by Kate Sanderson Holly

 While it is abundantly clear that Erin Leddy is mourning her grandmother in “My Mind is Like an Open Meadow,”  it is far from evident that she has created a cogent story line from her grief.
For more information on “My Mind is Like an Open Meadow,” please visit www.59e59.org