A segment of New Yorkers speculate over real estate, not in the buy-sell, fix-and-flip sense, but out of a prurient inquisitivity. These folks are fascinated by how much their neighbors paid, the size of their acquisitions, whether there is a space for storage. Our curiosity is piqued by all things realty.
Judging by what can transpire when facing a coop board as witnessed in Richard Curtis’ new play Quiet Enjoyment we are right to wonder. The behaviors of those tasked with protecting their building’s integrity can prove, to put it delicately, very difficult.
Some years ago, Charles Grodin also explored the relationships of a upper east side board of coopers inThe Right Kind of People. Mr. Curtis, a multi-talented literary agent and author of a myriad of plays, a novel, a column in a publication called Locus. and some non-fiction about the publishing industry, picks up the subject and its endless fascination in his newest work.
Quiet Enjoymentruns from October18th through November 3rd at The Playrrom Theatre. For tickets click here.
Is it true that youth is wasted on the young? Perhaps not, at least this group of youngsters is making the most of their time and talents. And yes, I am a little jealous.
There is a good deal to be said for getting an early start. Youth is lithe and agile. It is a great season for dancing, Movement can be the lingua franca for the young; it is their body language as it were.
Ellen Robbins’ Dances By Very Young Choreographers at Live Arts, on January 26th and 27th, will be showcasing works by children as young as 8. The dance-makers, ranging in age from 8 to 18, study modern dance and choreography with Ms. Robbins.
The program ranges across the many styles of dance performance, from the humorous, narrative, to the lyrical. The music selections, chosen by the choreographers, include folk, jazz, classical, contemporary.
Ellen Robbins has been teaching dance sine 1966 and has received honors for her work with children. She has taught dance education at Sarah Lawrence and been on the faculties of Bennington College, the 92nd Street Y, and other distinguished institutions. In 2001, Dances By Very Young Choreographers was on the program at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
After the matinee on January 26th, there will be an evening concert by the Alumni of Dances by Very Young Choreographers, which presents work by dancers who studied with Robbins from 1982 to 2016.
Learning from our mistakes seems to be humanly impossible.
Lindsey Ferrentino’s well-wrought This Flat Earth, on the mainstage at Playwrights Horizons through April 29th, looks at the aftermath of one of our greatest failures. We repeatedly, almost routinely, fail to protect our children from gun violence.
In the wake of Parkland, FL, This Flat Earth seems a mild, even tame response.
It is very timely without being what is called these days “an issue play.” This Flat Earthaddresses the issue in its very humane, personal and intimate way. It is unsentimental and unflinching, even as it brings tears welling.
In lieu of a curtain rising, a cello is tuned by cellist Christine H. Kim, whose playing will punctuate the transitions in This Flat Earth. The Sound Design by Mikhail Fiksel under the Music Director, Christian Frederickson is integral to the production.
The cello has significance for Julie (Ella Kennedy Davis). Her and her dad Dan’s (Lucas Papaelias) upstairs neighbor, Cloris (Lynda Gravátt) was a cellist. Her music keeps Julie up, or it used to, before. Now she is spooked by all the ordinary sounds outside her window. Noone seems to know how to help her, or her friend Zander (Ian Saint-Germain) deal with the shooting at their school. Julie, sheltered by her dad, is shocked to hear that this sort of thing has happened to other kids. Julie is tactless as only a 13 year old in distress can be in her encounter with one of the grieving mothers, Lisa (Cassie Beck).
Lynda Gravátt’s Cloris puts everything into a perspective that suggests that Julie and everyone around her will move on. It is a coda to a disquieting story.
The first-rate ensemble in This Flat Earth is beautifully choreographed by director Rebecca Taichman. Ella Kennedy Davis gives a remarkable starring performance; the youngsters, Kennedy Davis and Ian Saint-Germain, are impressively natural. Kennedy Davis gets wonderful support from everyone on stage.
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.
The New Group’s presentation of Seth Zvi Rosenfeld’s Downtown Race Riot, based on true events and running through December 23rd at the Pershing Square Signature Center, resonates with menace.
It’s us against them, even for Marcel “Massive” Baptiste (Moise Morancy), a kid born in Haiti, who feels it’s his neighborhood he’s defending from other blacks and ‘Ricans who come to the Park near his Greenwich Village home.
The boys Massive considers his friends are old-school, insular Italians, like his tagger buddy Jay 114 (Daniel Sovich) and Tommy-Sick (Cristian DeMeo), whom his best friend Jimmy– aka Pnut– Shannon (David Levi) does not fully trust. Pnut does not share Massive’s community zeal, and his mother, Mary Shannon ( Chloë Sevigny) advocates for peace and love. Molly, strung out and living on welfare, maintains a kind of hippie sensibility. Her children, especially Pnut, look out for her. Mary’s daughter, Joyce (Sadie Scott) wants out of the life she sees around her and has a good chance to make it out.
Jay 114 and Tommy-Sick are among those who organized the riot meant to drive outsiders out of their stomping ground.
Rounding out the cast of characters is Mary’s lawyer, Bob Gilman (Josh Pais. who is perfectly twitchy in this small role). Bob is there to help Mary out with one of the many schemes she dreams up to make the family rich.
The acting in this ensemble, under Scott Elliott’s direction, is excellent and natural. There is a leisurely pace to the piece that belies its undercurrent of tension. In its unhurried progression, Downtown Race Riottakes its time to develop the characters. Derek McLane has designed an expansive and sprawling set for Downtown Race Riot; the scene is Mary’s Section 8 home.
Don’t look for uplift in Downtown Race Riot. This is not the genteel world of a Henry James pastiche.
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.
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.
The great divide of 2016 has made it clearer than ever before that there are liberal prejudices and conservative ones. All of them, of course, are illiberal, and results of a closed mind and set assumptions.
In his The Profane, at Playwrights Horizons through April 30th, Zayd Dohrn explores the kind of intolerance that springs in familiar territory.
Raif (Ali Reza Farahnakian) is sure he knows the people amongst whom he grew up; he came from the Middle East as a student, and stayed in the U.S. where he became a relatively celebrated author. He is a secularist. He tells his daughter Emina (Tala Ashe), who is yearning for connections, “We have no tribe.” Emina’s older sister Aisa (Francis Benhamou, in a dual role) is the wild child with whom Raif feels the greater bond.
Raif applies his internecine bigotry to Emina’s choice of a boyfriend. Sam (Babak Tafti) is the son of an observant Muslim family. Sam’s parents, Peter (Ramsey Faragallah) and Carmen (Lanna Joffrey) are just the kind of “people” Raif has prejudged, and from whom he wishes to distance himself. Emina sees her identity as tied to this “tribe.” While she seeks connection and community, both Raif and her mother Naja (Heather Raffo), see something more sinister.
Dohrn’s superb new play is written with nuance and finesse. The people in The Profaneare brought to life so fully and intelligently as to feel like our neighbors, possibly those with whom we have never bothered to interact. Dohrn shows great respect for the characters he has created.
Under the well-timed direction of Kip Fagan, the cast provokes and challenges us into countering our assumptions. Standing out in this ensemble is not easy, but we all have our partiality, and ours is for the wonderful Tala Ashe, the lovely Heather Raffo, and the delightful Ramsey Faragallah. Bias aside, everyone on this stage was inspiring.
The sets, by Takeshi Kata, for the small Peter Jay Sharp Theater are both sumptious and lavish as if ready for a Broadway production. May we suggest that @PHnyc consider taking this excellent production intact to a Broadway stage?
Please visit the PH website for more information and tickets for The Profane. NOW! (because my voice is not necessarily heard when advising re: transfers– ie Familiar.)