Posted in #Roundabout, adaptation, adoption, Andrew Orkin, based on a play, based on Chekhov, Chekhov, Chekhov interpretations, classic, Classic Stage Company, Conor McPherson, drama, dysfunction, Emerging Directors, Ibsen, Ibsen adaptation, Jeff Blumenkranz, love, love story, melancholy, Norwegian playwright, play, Shariffa Ali, Shariffa Chilemo Ali, storytelling, Strindberg, Strindberg adaptation, Victoria Clark, Yael Farber

Modernist Classics

Tony-winner Victoria Clark (for Light In The Piazza) was in the short-lived Broadway run of Gigi

Like our friends Chekhov and Ibsen, August Strindberg invites reinvention, interpretation and re-interpretation. Strindberg’s brooding psychological themes have not had as much stage time as those of his contemporary.**

Ibsen, Chekhov and Strindberg are modern playwrights, in the sense that Freud is modern. Our preception of the inner workings of the soul and its desires have all been clarified in their work.

We are introduced to characters, conflicts and situations which have us wondering what if? We search for their outcomes and new resolutions for them. Hence the tendency for contemporary writers to rephrase and update Ibsen, or Anton Chekhov or, now especially, August Strindberg.

In the upcoming Classic Stage Company double-bill in repertory, Conor McPerson and Yaël Farber rework two Strindberg pieces, Dance of Death and Miss Julie. This Strindberg celebration runs from January 15th through March 10th at the CSC’s theatre on East 13th Street.

Farber’s Mies Julie resets the play to the Karoo of South Africa, adding a new dimension to the social conflicts in the original. Mies Julie is directed by Shariffa Ali who brings enlightened and empassioned humanitarian activism into the play’s broader themes.

Victoria Clark is helming the production of McPherson’s interpretation of Dance of Death. You surely know her as a Broadway musical star, who won a Tony for her lead in The Light In the Piazza, and was a nominee for four of her other outings. Lately, Ms. Clark has been directing musicals and operas around the country. She brings her sense of the lyricism in words to Strindberg’s brutal vision of a marriage in decline.

** (Strindberg’s Miss Julie, for instance, was last seen at the Roundabout in 2007 with Jonny Miller and Sienna Miller, although an off-Broadway production of his lesser-known The Pelican was produced in 2016.)

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 acting, activists, actors, allegory, artist, aspiration, athletes, ballet, balletic, comedy-drama, committment, concert, Daily Prompt, dance, dancing, drama, empowerment, expectations, farce, film, high expectations, jazz, joy, memory play, Meryl Streep, mime, modern dance, monologues, movie, multi-disciplinary performances, music, musical theater, musical theatre, musicals, musicals and dramas, mystery, narration, off Broadway, Off or Off-Off Broadway Transfer, offbeat work, one act plays, one man show, one-woman show, opera, painting, pantomime, parody, performance art, performance piece, performance works, photography, play, play with music, public performance in public spaces, radio play, revival, revue, rock and roll, satire, scary stories, sci fi, screwball comedy, Short plays, sketches, skits, tango, tap dance, theater for the common good, theater lovers, theatrical events, tragedy, tragi-comic

Shine

via Daily Prompt: Shine with thanks to Ben Huberman, The Daily Post for the inspiration

NoLateSeatingThose who crave the spotlight most often become entertainers. Their talent demands it. It is their calling to shine.

We applaud them, and in so doing bask in the glow of their accomplishment. They are center stage with the footlights on them, but we are illuminated by their performance.

Their light shines on us as they render and interpret and presnet their truths. Greater  performers shine brightest, and we shine brighter too.

Posted in acceptance, acting, artist, ballet, comedy, Daily Prompt, dancing, drama, high expectations, joy, music, musical theater, musicals and dramas, play

Ovation

via Daily Prompt: Ovation

In the theater, the sounds of a crowd pleased are often accompanied by a standing ovation for those who pleased us.

It is a way of saying thanks. Our gratitude makes us feel good, too. We yell “Bravo” and are rewarded with a sense of our magnanimity. Our approbation fills the theatre.

Applause, like laughter, are contagious.

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 drama, family drama, play, theater

Talking turkey

First, Karam’s The Humans transferred from off-Broadway to Broadway, where it won the 2016 Tony as Best Play. Now, it is transferring to the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. The original review from December 2015 of the play when it first appeared at the Laura Pels is below:


Does it seem like dysfunctional is the new normal?

Stephen Karam’s The Humans, playing at Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre through January 3rd, might have better been named Family Festivities, or At Home with Brigid and Rich –(two possible and still lame alternatives) –as it is, it is still more than worthy of our attention.

The people gathering at Brigid Blake’s (Sarah Steele) new duplex apartment in a Chinatown basement are there to celebrate Thanksgiving. Her live-in boyfriend, Richard Saad (Arian Moayed). who is doing the cooking, is contentedly overwhelmed by her clan and their rituals. As a backdrop to the goings-on, Grandma “Momo” (Lauren Klein) mutters dementedly and somewhat angrily throughout dinner.

To call the Blakes dysfunctional is perhaps overstating the case, although Brigid’s dad, Erik (Reed Birney) might be harboring a wretched secret, while her sister Aimee (Cassie Beck) is mourning a breakup from a bad relationship. Their mother, Deirdre (Jayne Houdyshell) foists religion–not so good-naturedly– on her children. It’s easy to relate to Karam’s family drama with its sense of familiarity.

Although I find that The Humans is an off-putting name for a play, at least for this play, this is just a quibble. The Humans is engaging and well-written.

Joe Mantello gives the afternoon, and its aftermath, in The Humans a leisurely naturalistic pace. David Zinn’s two-tier staging makes The Humans feel both expansive and claustrophobic in its confinement.

The production is “Broadway-esque” and Broadway-worthy, and headed for the “great white way” in 2016.

The ensemble are luminous, with Houdyshell, Steele, and Birney stand-outs in an outstanding cast.

To find out more about The Humans,  please visit The Roundabout website.

 

 

Posted in academia, acting, drama, off Broadway, play, The Mint Theatre

(Relyin’ on) The Kindness of Women

Reading a script is a poor substitute for seeing a play in actu.  I need the actors, and their director to help guide me through the work. The written work supports my memory.

Unfortunately, on a recent occassion, when I was unable to attend Hazel Ellis’ Women Without Men, playing at City Center Stage II in a Mint Theater production through March 25th, I resorted to reading the text.

Women Without Men is not a lurid prison tale, but it may as well be. The all-female staff  in this all-girls’ boarding school are just as confined in their environment. Hemmed in in their study room, the teachers are at best unpleasant and mistrusting of one another.

Ellis brooks no nonsense about the gentler sex’s genteel interactions.

Photo: Women Without Men By Hazel Ellis Directed by Jenn Thompson presented by The Mint Theater Company; Dress rehearsal photographed: Friday, January 29, 2016; 7:30 PM at Stage II; New York City Center 131 W 55th St. (between 6th and 7th Avenues), New York, NY; Photograph: © 2015 Richard Termine. Seta by Vicki R. Davis
Photo: Women Without Men
By Hazel Ellis. Directed by Jenn Thompson, presented by The Mint Theater Company; Sets by Vicki R. Davis; Dress rehearsal photographed: Friday, January 29, 2016; 7:30 PM at Stage II; New York City Center, Photograph: © 2015 Richard Termine.

As for the staging, I have only the production photos from Richard Termine to help me envision how it is handled here. I had wondered how The Mint would fit into the new stage configuration that City Center’s Stage II provides. Its staging has always relied on a proscenium decorated with elaborate sets. What will they do with this little theater-in-the- round?

Take a look at the sets by Vicki R. Davis.

This play, with its claustrophobic theme, seems to be ideally suited as a first-in on the little Stage II for The Mint.

.Women Without Men By Hazel Ellis Directed by Jenn Thompson Cast: Mary Bacon, Joyce Cohen, Shannon Harrington, Kate Middleton, Aedin Moloney, Alexa Shae Niziak, Kellie Overbey, Dee Pelletier, Beatrice Tulchin, Emily Walton, and Amelia White Photograph: © 2015 Richard Termine.
.Women Without Men By Hazel Ellis
Directed by Jenn Thompson
Cast:
Mary Bacon, Joyce Cohen, Shannon Harrington, Kate Middleton, Aedin Moloney, Alexa Shae Niziak, Kellie Overbey, Dee Pelletier, Beatrice Tulchin, Emily Walton, and Amelia White
Photograph: © 2015 Richard Termine.

I have no way from a reading of the play of evaluating the performances or the way the cast and their director, Jenn Thompson, interpreted the story of course, but Women Without Men is compelling.

The cast, by the way, includes the likes of Mary Bacon (The Tribute Artist; Happy Birthday), Kellie Overbey  (Lemon SkyDada Woof Papa Hot), and Emily Walton (The Shaggs) to name just a few.

As is the habit at The Mint, they are resuscitating a play that has not been performed since its originally staging at Dublin’s Gate Theatre in 1938. Women Without Men is a long-overdue revival. This production of the drama is not only its first in 77 years, but also its American premiere.

For more information, and tickets, please visit The Mint website.