Posted in aging, comedy about a serious subject, comedy-drama, dysfunction, family, family comedy drama, family drama, mothers and sons, new dramatists, new work, Playwrights Horizons, serious comedy, spendthrift

Mom

The TreasurerSeptember 06, 2017 – October 22, 2017 Peter Jay Sharp Theater Written by Max Posner Directed by David Cromer
Pun Bandhu & Peter Friedman in a scene from The Treasurer. Photo © Joan Marcus. Note the modern industrial sets by Laura Jellinek.

Family often cuts to the heart of who we are.

Relationships that can be kind can also be cruel, as we find in Max Posner’s The Treasurer, at Playwrights Horizons through October 22nd extended to November 5th, under David Cromer’s direction, a comedy about family, aging, guilt and dying.

Caring for an aging parent who abandoned him when he was 13 is a huge and unwelcome responsibility for The Son (Peter Friedman).

His mother sees it differently. Her version is less dramatic. “Everybody gets divorced,” Ida Armstrong (the wonderful Deanna Dunagan) tells Ronette, (Marinda Anderson) a shop clerk at Talbot’s.

The TreasurerSeptember 06, 2017 – October 22, 2017 Peter Jay Sharp Theater Written by Max Posner Directed by David Cromer
Deanna Dunagan & Marinda Anderson. Photo © Joan Marcus

Ida’s charm is seductive. Her conversations, like her exchange with Julian (Pun Bandhu), a young man she memory-dials, make promises which are then also abandoned. Profligacy has left Ida penniless and dependent on the charity of The Son and his brothers, Allen and Jeremy (Marinda Anderson and Pun Bandhu on the phone). Her continued spending evades The Son’s best efforts as the titular “Treasurer” and leaves him frustrated. Friedman’s narrative is delivered with a nonchalant grace.

The Treasurer could have gone in any number of directions, but Posner’s play goes on its surreal path in an unexpected if foreshadowed course. The result, or rather, the conclusion, is not fully satisfying.

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

Posted in domestic drama, drama, family comedy drama, family drama, historical drama, historical musical drama, musicals and dramas, new dramatists

Mirror, mirror on the wall?

Theater reflects who we are in broad strokes and microcosms. Our identity as a people can be seen in the diversity on our stages.

The ProfaneMarch 17, 2017 – April 30, 2017 Peter Jay Sharp Theater Written by Zayd Dohrn Directed by Kip Fagan World Premiere 2016 Horton Foote Prize winner
Lanna Joffrey & Francis Benhamou in The Profane by Zayd Dohrn, at Playwrights Horizons through May 7th. Photo by Joan Marcus.

This year we’ve been introduced to many American families.  The Profane brings us two Muslim-American families in a powerful version of the old theme of star-crossed love. Zayd Dohrn’s play depicts conflicts between secularism and adherence to religious traditions. It also reveals how practitioners on either path are ultimately assimilated into America. It is who we are, a nation of many different faiths and backgrounds.

If I Forget presents a similar dilemma of identity for a Jewish-American family, for whom the crisis centers on an allegiance to Israel.

 

Bella: An American Tall TaleMay 19, 2017 – July 02, 2017 Mainstage Theater Book, Music, and Lyrics by Kirsten Childs Directed by Robert O'Hara  Choreographed by Camille A. Brown
Members of The Company of Bella: An American Tall Tale. Photo by Joan Marcus

Bella: An American Tall Tale casts a look backward at the role of African-Americans have held in our culture. Unsung contributions loom large in this musical celebration from playwright Kristen Childs. (Bella… plays at PHnyc through July 2nd.)

Napoli, Brooklyn shows an Italian-American family at a time of social flux with the matriarch admonishing herself to speak English even in her talks with God. (This Roundabout production at the Laura Pels Theatre runs through September 3rd.)

 

Sweat Studio 54

Sweat, Lynn Nottage’s take on the working classes, gives us another glimpse at what defines America. The Pulitzer Prize winning drama, which closes today at Studio 54, focused on laborers in a Pennsylvania factory; united by work, but still divided by race. America still has not found its post-racial moment; perhaps now more than in the previous nearly dozen years, it is less likely to reach that ideal.

Posted in domestic drama, drama, drama based on real events, family drama, new dramatists, Uncategorized

Home cooking

Napoli, BrooklynThe 1960s were a turning-point for and in American society.

Meghan Kennedy sets her compelling family drama
Napoli, Brooklyn, at Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre through September 3rd, in an Italian-American home in the midst of this
turbulent era.

Social change strikes close to home in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where the three Muscolino girls (Jordyn DiNatale, Lilli Kay, and Elise Kibler) and their mother Luda (Alyssa Bresnahan) are each experiencing the stirring of a new civic order in her own way.

Napoli, BrooklynThe girls’ father and Luda’s husband, Nic (Michael Rispoli) is a brutish man with old country views and a strong right hand which he often raises to threaten one or the other of his children. Luda, meanwhile, takes occassional refuge in an innocent flirtation with Mr. Duffy (Erik Lochtefeld), the family’s butcher. The youngest girl, Francesca, (DiNatale) and Mr. Duffy’s daughter, Connie (Juliet Brett ) are planning an escape to France. Tina Muscolino (Kay) works in a factory to help support her family; there she befriends a black co-worker, Celia Jones (Shirine Babb), who encourages her to get the schooling she has missed. Old-fashioned ways of dealing with the world die hard and so Vita Muscolino (Kibler) pays for being protective of her sisters by being sent away to a convent.

Napoli, BrooklynThe compact, utilitarian set designed by Eugene Lee points us to each of the locales of the story. Jane Greenwood’s period costume design fits each character’s characteristics perfectly.

Expertly acted, under Gordon Edelstein’s solid direction, Napoli, Brooklyn is an absorbing play.

For tickets and information about Napoli, Brooklyn, please go to the Roundabout website.

Posted in drama, new dramatists, new work

Title IX

We tend to think of sports teams as units, their individuality drubbed by the group.

In The Wolves, Sarah DeLappe belies our assumptions. Her suburban indoor soccer team is given voice, each one nearly drowning out the others. One expects teenage girls to trivialize serious subjects and blow up the trivial, and DeLappe’s soccer players do just that. It’s unfortunate that while letting them express themselves so eloquently, she allows them to be characterized by field position and jersey number.DeLappe fails to give them names, only personal quirks and traits.

Playwrights Realm encore production at the Duke 42nd Street follows a successful run just about a month ago. It has been spirited along by the help of producing partners Scott Rudin and Eli Bush.

The nine players on DeLappe’s field gossip, chatter, and jeer at each other as they stretch and run drills. Their adolescent speech is infectious, and engrossing, a perfect simulation of how girls talk. When the conversations hit a lull, however, it feels like The Wolves have gone into overtime.

Lila Neugebauer directs the ensemble, through pattering dialogue, superb ball handling and fancy footwork, giving each of them a standout moment. #7 (Branna Coates) shows a fiery sass, while her friend #14 (Samia Finnerty) is the perfect go-along, tag-along to her, #77’s, flamboyance. The new girl, #46 (Tedra Millan) earns her outsider status with a disarming charm. The squad works well together, and their acting very credible.

It’s a sold out run, ending after the December 29th performance, but Playwrights Realm is making it possible to see the show by making a donation. JoinThePack-Contest-01.png

To learn more about The Wolves and Playwrights Realm, visit their site.

Posted in Annie Baker, celluloid, comedy-drama, Edie Falco, ghost buyers, Kristen Greenidge, Liz Flahive, Luck of the Irish, new dramatists, runaway mom, The Flick, The Madrid

Luck and Other Choices: The Winds of Change

There is an adage that luck is what you make it. Having advantages is not the same as being advantaged.

In “The Luck of the Irish,” Kristen Greenidge’s excellent new play at LCT3’s new Claire Tow Theater that just closed March 10th, the well-educated middle class Taylors would seem to be ideal neighbors in a decent suburb of Boston, except for the redlining that keeps black families from buying in to the American dream. The Donovans, poor and uneducated have to ghost buy the property for them.

Patty Ann Donovan’s (Amanda Quaid as the younger and Jenny O’Hara in 2012) mantra “There is an order to things…” is the whine of the overlooked. Dr. Taylor (Victor Williams) and his wife Lucy (the phenomenal Eisa Davis) are sophisticated people. Mrs. Taylor and Patty Ann’s husband, Joe (Dashiell Eaves) are kindred spirits,dreamers lost in a love of words.

The winds of change that Joe foresees in the late 1950s do not serve the Taylor’s granddaughters, Nessa Charles (Carra Patterson) and Hannah Davis (Marsha Stephanie Blake) and her husband Rich (Frank Harts), as they try to negotiate among their neighbors in 2012.

Change takes on a very different form in Annie Baker’s “The Flick,” at Playwrights Horizons through March 31st, when a movie theater in the Worcester environs changes hands.

Rose (Louisa Krause) with Sam (Matthew Maher) and Avery (Aaron Clifton Moten) in “The Flick” by Annie Baker. Photo by Joan Marcus

The new owner will take it from celluloid to digital– the wave of the future, but one that has Avery (Aaron Clifton Moten) distressed.  The feel and look of film, as he points out, is meant to be on celluloid. His fellow employees are movie buffs also, but they are just working minimum wage jobs. Neither Sam (Matthew Maher) nor Rose (Louisa Krause) share his passion or intensity.

David Zinn’s set for “The Flick” is very impressive.

There is nothing wrong wth “The Flick” that some prudent editing couldn’t fix. Many of the pregnant pauses, slow takes and musical transitions, really belong on the cutting room floor.Sam Gold might have done more with his discretion in pacing the play better, Annie Baker could have been more concise.

Avery (Aaron Clifton Moten) is ever introspective in “The Flick” at Playwrights Horizons. Photo by Joan Marcus.

In “The Madrid,”  Liz Flahive’s concise and tightly written new play at Manhattan Theatre Club’s NY City Center Stage I through May 5th, on the other hand, the pacing and structure are really quite perfect. Change is something for which the main character in “The Madrid” yearns, and her family dread.

Edie Falco, as Martha, the mom gone missing, and Phoebe Strole as her daugher Satah. Photo by Joan Marcus

“The Madrid” offers an odd point of view, but one that calls for thinking and questioning. Martha (Edie Falco) is a kindergarten teacher who chooses to disappear. She moves to a somewhat derelict apartment near the lovely home she shared with her husband, John (John Ellison Conlee) and their daughter Sarah (Phoebe Strole). Her disappearance is no surprise to her mother, Rose (Frances Sternhagen) who undertakes some desperate measures to bring her back, nor to John. Sarah on the other hand is completely unmoored. She raises to the occasion, moving back to live with her dad, driving her grandmother around, and dealing with the ostreperous neighbors, Danny (Darrne Goldstein) and Becca (Heidi Schreck), who feels the loss of her friend keenly.

Martha, it seems, simply wants a timeout, from the responsibilities of her life. She likes the noise and quiet of her new life, but she misses Sarah.

John Ellison Conlee as the steady John, Phoebe Strole as Sarah, Frances Sternhagen as Rose. Photo by Joan Marcus.

For more information about LCT3, which will have another new production in April, visit lct.org
To get tickets and find out more about “The Flick,”  please visit playwrights horizons.org 
For more information about “The Madrid,” go to http://www.manhattantheatreclub.com/