Posted in adaptation, based on Chekhov, comedy-drama, drama, ensemble acting, favorites, friendship, girls, growing up, love story, loyalty, Playwritghts Horizons, romantic comedy, Roundabout Theatre Company, soccer, The Duke, The Mint Theatre

Short takes

Here are three shows playing “off-Broadway” but in the Times Square area you may find of interest: The Wolves at the Duke on 42nd, Yours Unfaithfully at the always brilliant Mint at Theatre Row’s Beckett Theatre, and Rancho Viejo at Playwrights Horizons.

Comeback Kids

Sports-themed stories are compelling because they are usually about fair play and, well, sportsmanship.

Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves takes place during practice sessions of a suburban girls’ soccer team as they chat, gossip, and warm-up. Part of the appeal of this show is that  The Wolves is in a reprise production at The Duke on 42nd Street through December 29th; its last sold-out run was this past August and September. It made an impact then, and it looks to make one this holiday season as well.

If you love something, set it free

The Mint is staging  Yours Unfaithfully, the never before produced comedy by Miles Malleson. The play was published in 1933 but never staged until now, when it will get its world premiere beginning on December 27th and running through February 18th at Theatre Row’s Beckett.

Malleson, an actor, playwright, screenwriter, and freethinker seems to have written about the open marriage in Yours Unfaithfully from his life experience, but this production offers much more than voyeuristic interest. Bertrand Russell reviewed the published play as being full of “humor and kindness” and “free from any taint of propaganda.” The high standards of a Mint Theatre production should bring this “well-constructed” work to life.

Neighborly

At Playwrights Horizons, Dan LeFranc brings Rancho Viejo, a small-town and its relationships and interactions to the stage. If his earlier play, The Big Meal is any indication of where he’ll be taking us, this should be an interesting journey.

Rancho Viejo, through December 23rd at the Mainstage, explores how what we do affects our friends and neighbors, who may be total strangers to us. (Check out our review of this very entertaining new play.)


Over at the American Airlines Theatre, Stephen Karam tweaked Chekhov. The Cherry Orchard, which closed on December 4th, is a challenge, as is much of Chekhov. There is melancholy mixed with hilarity in the oeuvre and it does not always play as either funny or tragic. Diane Lane (Ranevskaya) and John Glover (Gaev). the plutocratic and impoverished owners of the property at the center of the play, achieve some level of mixed despair and hysteria.

The production had its faults, and some highlights which included the second act masquerade ball with musicians (Bryaqn Hernandez-Luch, Liam Burke, Chihiro Shibayam, coordinated by John Miller) on stage. There is original music by Nico Muhly.

And most interesting is the color-blind casting in which Chuck Cooper is Pischik, a landowner always looking for a handout, and Maurice Jones is Ranevskaya’s favorite Yasha. Harold Perrineau as Lopakhin, the son of a serf who wins the estate at auction, is a particular standout in the cast.


News from the annoyance front: Impolite theater-goers of the umpteenth degree spotted recently at a matinee of The Cherry Orchard were talking quite loudly. When asked to sush, the response was “Other people are talking.” The other people in question were the characters on stage, I swear.

Also in the Roundabout repertory for this season was the frothy and likeable Holiday Inn, at Studio 54 through January 15th.

Posted in dark comedy drama, odd, offbeat work, Playwritghts Horizons

All Alone

Well-written, well-played and ultimately, well, annoying, Adam Bock’s A Life has gotten great reviews from almost everyone. We are the dessenting few.

extended2-124There is a banality in our daily lives that we want to hide behind long narratives of what we’ve done, and how we feel. We desperately want the ordinary to be extraordinary.

A Life by Adam Bock at Playwrights Horizons Directed by Anne Kaufman Starring David Hyde Pierce (pictured) and with Marinda Anderson, Brad Heberlee, Nedra McClyde, Lynne McCollough. Photo © Joan Marcus
A Life by Adam Bock at
Playwrights Horizons
Directed by Anne Kaufman
Starring David Hyde Pierce (pictured) and with Marinda Anderson,
Brad Heberlee, Nedra McClyde, Lynne McCollough. Photo © Joan Marcus

In A Life, Adam Bock’s new play at Playwrights Horizons through November 27th, the characters find it hard to connect.

Nate (David Hyde Pierce) delivers a long and (at least in my lights) tedious monologue, centering on relationships and the astrological that charts them. It’s a tribute to his talent and timing that he can hold our attention for as long as he does.

Bock engages the audience, although perhaps engage is too strong a word, involves the audience, first in

A Life by Adam Bock at Playwrights Horizons Directed by Anne Kaufman Starring David Hyde Pierce and with Marinda Anderson, Brad Heberlee, Nedra McClyde, Lynne McCollough. Photo © Joan Marcus
A Life by Adam Bock at Playwrights Horizons. Directed by Anne Kaufman. Starring David Hyde Pierce and with Marinda Anderson, Brad Heberlee, Nedra McClyde, Lynne McCollough. Photo © Joan Marcus

Nate’s soliloquy and then when his sister Lori (Lynne McCullough) thanks us all for coming. It is an irony that she is grateful that Nate had so many friends in his life, since the theme in A Life seems to be his isolation.

A Life by Adam Bock at Playwrights Horizons Directed by Anne Kaufman Starring David Hyde Pierce and with Marinda Anderson, Brad Heberlee, Nedra McClyde, Lynne McCollough. Photo © Joan Marcus
A Life by Adam Bock at Playwrights Horizons. Directed by Anne Kaufman. Starring David Hyde Pierce and with Marinda Anderson, Brad Heberlee, Nedra McClyde, Lynne McCollough. Photo © Joan Marcus

Of all the friends Nate narrates about, we meet only one in A Life.  Nate shares a coffee and man-gazing with his best friend is Curtis (Brad Heberlee) at a shop near his apartment.

Laura Jellinek’s active set pivots from one scene to another with deliberate drama. Anne Kaufman’s direction cannot keep the pace on this slow moving 85-minutes fast enough to keep the drama from sagging under its own weight.

To learn more about A Life, and for tickets, please visit the PH website.

Posted in Benja Kay Thomas, Booty Candy, Jesse Pennington, Jessica Frances Dukes, Lance Coadie Williams, Phillip James Brannon, Playwritghts Horizons, Robert O'Hara

The intoxicating mix of "Bootycandy"

Phillip James Brannon and Jessica Frances Dukes
in the openiing scene in Robert O’Hara’s
“Bootycandy” at Playwrights Horizons
through October 12th. Photo (c) Joan Marcus.

To say “Bootycandy,” written and directed by Robert O’Hara, at Playwrights Horizons through October 12th, is brilliant is an enormous understatement.

It’s hard to say which episode of the seven vignettes O’Hara created was funnier, brighter, crisper as “Bootycandy” unrolled. Suffice it to say that each segment, standing alone, had its own kind of sparkle.

If there are not enough roles (and you know there are not) for black actors to display their talents, Robert O’Hara has tried to remedy the deficit, providing ample opportunity for this wonderful group of players to shine. In a phenomenally talented cast, with Phillip James Brannon taking the lead as Sutter, it is hard to pick a stand out. All these men and women put themselves whole-heartedly before us. In one uprroariously funny and incisive scene, Jessica Frances Dukes and Benja Kay Thomas dazzle as they play four disparate characters. The one white performer, (Jesse Pennington) in the ensemble of five gets to strut his stuff too, playing a range of parts.

“Bootycandy” exposes both its process and artifice as the chapters of Sutter’s life emerge and merge as one. Sutter’s progress from boy to man in a homophobic world is about sense and sensuality. “Have you lost your mind in the real world?,” is a phrase his mother inherits from his grandmother, and uses to answer many of his life questions.

Sutter (Phillip James Brannon) with his granny (Lance Coadie Williams) in a scene from
Robert O’Hara’s “Bootycandy.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

‘I don’t write about white people,” Sutter says definitively in the “Writers Conference” sketch that closes out Act I. Sutter, the stand in for the author, is a mixture of innocence and understanding. O’Hara, too, writes about all people. His central character happens to be a young gay black man, finding his way.

Sutter (Phillip James Brannon) with his sister (Benja Kay Thomas), mother (Jessica Frances Dukes) and stepfather (Lance Coadie Williams) in a scene from Robert O’Hara’s “Bootycandy.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

“Bootycandy” is a heady cocktail of styles and wisely observed details. The fact that its humor is gently satirical does not mean that it lacks bite and insight. Did we mention that Robert O’Hara’s play is brilliant? It truly is.

For more information on “Bootycandy,” please visit www.PHnyc.org.