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:
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.
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. Heisenbergis 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: Heisenberghas an underlying ifsmall principle of uncertainty that you will likely enjoy.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, many of us turn our thoughts to couplehood– which includes love, of course, and often much more.
Cora Bissett as Helena with Matthew Pidgeon as Bob in “Midsummer [a play with songs]” by David Grieg, who also directs with songs by Gordon McIntyre. Costumes by Georgia McGuiness. at the Clurman. Photo by Douglas Robertson
Each year, Carol Tambor heads to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to sample the unusual and find the play she deems to be “Best of Edinburgh.” The Carol Tambor Theatrical Foundation then presents the play thus designated to New York audiences. Last year the work was “Leo” (See review on these pages.)This year, “Midsummer [a play with songs]”by David Grieg, who also directs, at Theatre Row’s Clurman Theatre through January 26th,shares the Award with “Mies Julie,” currently running at St. Ann’s Warehouse. “Midsummer [a play with songs]” is an early Valentine’s gift from Ms Tambor to us. In “Midsummer [a play with songs]” romance is a by-product of a quest.
Searching for meaning in booze, sex and bondage (it’s a long story!), Helena (Cora Bissett) and Bob (Matthew Pidgeon) find something far more valuable– friendship and ₤15,000.
When they meet, Bob is reading “Dostoyevsky… to cheer himself up.” Despite his overtly intellectual endeavors, Bob is “a f****** underachiever.” Their match-up is improbable. He is a low to mid level crook, and she’s a swanky divorce lawyer.
Photo by Douglas Robertson. Helena (Cora Bissett) and Bob (Matthew Pidgeon) in “Midsummer [a play with songs]” by David Grieg, who also directs with songs by Gordon McIntyre. Costumes by Georgia McGuiness.
“Midsummer [a play with songs]” is not for everyone. Love and romance mingles with philosophical asides and silliness in this not strictly linear tale. Songs are interspersed with the narrative and dialogue. “And so– when you see them — the runners,” Helena says, “weaving and glistening through the crowds– you might think, ‘look at them, the fools, they’re trying to run away from death,’ — but they’re not– they’re honestly not– they’re running towards something….” The central bed is the all-purpose set,cleverly designed by Georgia McGuiness, which also has convenient storage for some of the props the actors need.
Photo by Douglas Robertson of Matthew Pidgeon as Bob and Cora Bissett as Helena in “Midsummer [a play with songs]” by David Grieg, who also directs with songs by Gordon McIntyre. Costumes by Georgia McGuiness.
While you’re in a romantic mood, take your sweetie to see “Perfect Catch,” being reprised at Canal Park Playhouse on Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm and 4pm through February.
“Perfect Catch,” billed as “Throw-mantic Comedy” takes mime and juggling to Hollywood. Just watching Jen Slaw and Michael Karas toss umbrellas to the soundtrack of “Singing In The Rain” is worth the price of admission.
Publicity photo of singer Patti Page pre-1978 from General Artists Corporation (management)
Clara Ann Fowler’s “flip side” is Patti Page, the singer (and woman) she became through a series of happenstances.
“Flipside: The Patti Page Story,” at 59E59 Theaters in a Front Page Productions/Square 1 Theatrics, in association with The University of Central Oklahoma, through December 30th, is a biography with music.
Greg White’s script (he also directs the play) features 28 of the 111 Billboard hits Patti Page sang over the years. The popular singer was born in a small Oklahoma town in modest circumstances, and discovered under the pseudonym of a jingle singer for the Page Milk Company at KTUL radio in Tulsa.
In “Flipside…,” her story as narrated by Clara Ann Fowler (Haley Jane Pierce) on the occasion of a 1965 tribute at KTUL for Miss Patti Page “The Singing Rage” (Lindise vanWinkle) with a sweet modesty and reserve. Clara will realize that hers is the voice of Patti Page, and, as her daddy, Ben Fowler (Willy Welch) had told her, “‘Let ’em hear your voice, Clara Ann. ‘Cause there’s so much for them to hear.”
The modesty and down-hominess shrouds Patti Page’s accomplishments as an innovative musician. For instance, her recording of “Confess” has doubled up her voice for two parts — a technique born of necessity now known as overdubbing. “We can’t afford two voices,” her manager Jack Rael (Justin Larman) says. She was to sing echoing herself on a number of hits after that one was produced.
On one occasion, by way of illustration, “Flipside…” cheats in taking advantage of the technique– there are four Patti’s singing in “With My Eyes Wide Open, I’m Dreaming,” when Haley Jane Pierce and Lindsie van Winkle are joined by Jenny Rothmayer and Kassie Carroll in a Patti Page Quartet.
“Flipside…” makes the most of the sumptious array of gowns costume-designer Corey Martin has styled for it. Patti Page models a different one for each number.
There is a coda, a device not uncommon in the genre of biographical playwrighting, in “Flipside…,” which helps us catch up with the singer today. At 85, Miss Patti Page is still performing. In 1998, she won a Grammy for her Live at Carnegie Hall: The 50th Anniversary Concert.
For more information abut “Flipside: The Patti Page Story,” visit www.59e59.org
It was sad to hear that Patti Page died at the age of 85 on New Year’s day 2013.