Posted in #benefit, political drama, politically inspired, politics

Theater of the Woke

In no way does humor (or a good beat) trivialize the necessity for a cognizant citizenry. Theater can use the power of laughter to foster and encourage us towards a better world. Ionesco was a most politically conscious satirist. Conscience leads the way to express the ideals a regressive government attempts to suppress.

Theater aspiring to inspire has always been with us. Many of us feel the need now more than ever for a side order of politically awareness with our drama. We can be grateful to the many theater artists who look to elucidate while they entertain.

This season, for instance, the New York Musical Theater Festival (NYMF) has several galvanizing works on offer. In Leaving Eden, for instnace, Jenny Waxman (Book and Lyrics) and Ben Page (Music) ask us to envision a more progressive creation (myth) than the strictly Biblical one.

Donald Rupe (Book and Music) and Cesar de la Rosa (Music) offer a historical perspective in Flying Lessons, in which their heroine, an eighth grader named Isabella finds a “recipe for greatness” by looking to the past.

George Bernard Shaw was a forward thinker, and Project Shaw which celebrates his legacy in one-night only productions is showing The Stepmother by Githa Sowerby, a protege of GBS, on July 22nd. The play will undoubtedly present a case for a more “woke” world from a 1920s stance.

This is a short list of a few upcoming shows that offer a vision for a better world. (Click on each to find out where/when to get tickets.) The number of allegories and presentations that have graced our stages over the years is long. Woke theater shows us how matters civic and social sh/could unfold.

Activist theater means someone is speaking for the 99%.

Posted in drama, historical musical drama, moving musical drama, Musical drama, musical theater, musical theatre, political drama, theater

Hot tickets

1Justtheticket

It’s hard to pinpoint just what makes a “hot ticket;” it could be a star turn, or 11 Tonys or just the quirky charm of the story. Whatever it is,  you might want to share it with friends or family this holiday season.

HD_KeyIn mid-January when the Divine Miss M cedes the role of Dolly Gallagher Levi to the sterling Miss Bernadette Peters, tickets for this Broadway revival might become a tad more accessible. This in no way disparages Bernadette Peters’ enormous talent and wattage. Bette Midler just has a star shine all her own. A je ne sais quoi, let’s say, that sends tickets to see her in Hello, Dolly!! into the stratosphere. (Regular price tickets ranging from $189 may still be found at Telecharge, so check on availability, but there are premium seats for nearly $1000 and “secondary market” tickets for a lot more.)

 

Hamilton0044rR Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton
Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton Photo © Joan Marcus

Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s American history lesson enthralls. It’s still at the Richard Rodgers on West 46th Street, and it’s on tour across the country. It may be its impressive Tony showing that is part of the draw. Lottery tickets go for just $10 per, but, like any lottery, it’s a gamble. Speaking of gambles, the Hamilton website warns against buying from resellers to avoid receiving fraudulent tickets, so use the regular channels for purchasing this sizzling ticket. In fact these tickets are so blistering hot that it might be next December before the family enjoys the show.

Another and different kind of civics lesson can be found at The Band’s Visit. This musical was created from the Cannes prize-winning Israeli film; you can watch the movie on Showtime cable on Wednesday 12/13 and Tuesday 12/19 at 7:30pm, by the way.

This modest musical is enjoying a very successful and prestigious Broadway transfer from its 2016 run at the Atlantic Theatre. (Tickets are hot enough that the producers are not offering any discounts, by the way. We have not checked in at the day of TDF kiosk.) The Band’s Visit has heart and warmth, and a promise of the possibility of peace in the middle east.

Reflecting on another facet of history, Junk at the L.C. Beaumont Theater, offers much less hopefulness than The Band’s Visit. The heat factor in Junk comes from its ripped off the front page view of the financial crisis of the 1980s. This is just the ticket if you want to reflect on America’s obsession with money. I found it worrisone when someone in the audience wanted to clarify who had “ratted” on the main character. Ayad Akhtar takes us back to the “greed is great” days in which malfeasance is the benchmark. His lead character “creates wealth” by creating debt. The “Junk” of his title refers, of course, to junk bonds, a vehicle by which you, the consumer, lend a corporation more money than its worth. Wall Street types will be drawn to the humor and pace of this drama. The rest of us will appreciate the concise lesson it offers in high finance and unbridled ambition. At its core, Junk, staged as a Greek tragedy, is just that, showcasing characters filled with hubris and arrogant conceit.

Visit a Broadway show over the holidays, if you can, with your nearest and dearest.

 

Posted in #dystopia, drama, moving musical drama, political drama

It’s a Crime

Fucking A

By Susan Lori Parks
Directed by Jo BonneyIs it crime to be poor?

In the dystopia Suzan-Lori Parks has created in Fucking A, extended through October 8th at the Signature Theatre along with her sister play In The Blood (through 10/15,)  poverty is in and of itself a criminal act.

The anguish of the impoverished and uneducated is fundamental. A trespass leads to delinquincy, then to ever greater villainies. With a stellar cast, under the expert direction of Jo Bonney, Fucking A cuts to the bone.

The actors play instruments during the musical numbers, also written by Parks. Standouts among the ensemble include Christine Lahti as Hester Smith, Raphael Nash Thompson as Butcher, and Joaquina Kalukango as Canary Mary. The staging is simple and stirringly stark.

Parks’ ultra-Brechtian musical drama has both blood and guts.

There is still time to see Fucking A. Tickets and info at the Signature website.

Posted in #critique, dark drama, drama, historical drama, Marlowe, political drama, Shakespeare, tragedy

“Tragedy, tonight!”

1William_Shakespeare.
A portrait of William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe‘s better known contemporary.

Politics and drama are disparaged, especially by those who feel the sting of the tragedies presented.

Sometimes, even if the message is on point, the admixture has an oddly inappropriate tastelessness.

Nonetheless, as I  have often said, it is the role of art to clarify matters and comment on our foibles and the errors of our ways.

We are often led astray on the roads of life, so we should be grateful to plays, playwrights and the traditions of our theatrical history for helping to put us back on track.

Here is a plot I propose:

Tamburlaine in triplicate or triptych: played alternately by North Korean President Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin and the US President, with Benjamin Netanyahu coming in as a pinch hitter.

In the movie version of the shenanigans surrounding the recent election– the movie from my youth– the big guy is carted away in cuffs. Also, the good people of Montana go to the homes of every single Jewish family that was targeted by Richard Spencer’s crew to make sure they are protected. This is so because in 1950’s America Americans played by the rules, were patriotic and did the right thing.

June 25th addendum: The toddler in big boy pants whose got DC as his playpen may be onto something. He doesn’t care for poor folks (note to those who helped elect him–be careful what you wish for is a real thing). Is there a reality show called Lifestyles of the Poor and Unknown?

Posted in 2017 Tony Nominations, DC politics, drama, drama based on real events, historical drama, historical musical drama, historically-based musical, Ibsen, Ibsen adaptation, Kristen Childs, Playwright, Musical drama, political drama, politically inspired, politics, Shakespeare, Shakespeare in the Park, The Tony Awards, Tony, Tony Awards

Tidbits, tall tales, and short truths

EnemyPeople_IMG_1355
From The Wheelhouse Theatre’s production of An Enemy of the People, playing through June 24th. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Theatricality is a fraught concept. It can just be dramatic and thought-provoking, or it can be over-the-top, dramatic and thought-provoking. Kristen Childs has written a musical that is theatrical to the nth degree. Bella: An American Tall Tale also gives us a little slice of African-American history mixed in with the fable.

In other theatrical news, not as dramatic, I believe that Cynthia Nixon and Laurie Metcalf ruined my perfect record of being wrong on the Tonys. Ah well, maybe next year.
 
Politics and theater are getting a bad rep. Actually politics and their practitioners have had a reputation for honesty meaning any means that is necessary, aka I’ll lie if I have to, and theater has always been a forum for exposing truths. Ms. Nixon stirred the political pot a tiny bit in her acceptance speech at the 2017 Tony Awards Ceremonies. Now, it is the mixing of politics into theater that has caused quite the controversy (see what is happening with The Public’s Julius Caesar for instance.) It is unwarranted. Art is meant to comment on our realities.
At any rate, one of those realities, Lost and Guided, a play by Irene Kapustina about Syrian refuges in their own words, is on view at Conrad Fischer and The Angle Project, at Under St Marks (94 St. Marks Place, from August 3 through 27th. For tickets, click here.
A similar but perhaps more intitmate project is The Play Company’s Oh My Sweet Land another look at the Syrian refuge crisis. The play is due to launch this fall in private homes and communal spaces where people have been invited to host this  multi-sensory experience. Those wishing to participate by providing a venue can do so by filling out the questionnaire here. Nadine Malouf stars, perhaps in your own kitchen, in Oh My Sweet Land, a play developed by Amir Nizar Zuabi with German-Syrian actor Corinne Jaber.
Shakespeare wrote plays reflecting timely events, for his time and all times. This may explain why The Public is in such hot water over their production of Julius Caesar. The brouhaha, perhaps like the staging, is way out of proportion. In Measure for Measure, Shakespeare also explores issues to do with power and justice. Theatre for a New Audience is presenting a new modernized staging by Simon Godwin from June 17th through July 16th. Tickets for this show which will be held at Polansky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn are available at TFANA’s website.
Henrik Ibsen had his own take on both the personal and the political. For instnace, Ibsen’s drama, An Enemy of the People is a play about populism and its discontents.
An Enemy of the People comes to us from the Wheelhouse Theater Company under the direction of Jeff Wise, at the Gene Frankel Theater, beginning June 9th and running through June 24th is conceived as a meditation on the “tyranny of the majority.”
Following on the success of Ibsen’s feminist tale as revisited by Lucas Hnath in A Doll’s House, Part 2, see the US Premiere of Victoria Benedictsson’s 1887 Swedish original, The Enchantment in a  new English translation and adaptation by Tommy Lexen. Ducdame Ensemble introduces us to the woman behind Ibsen’s Nora; Benedictsson, who wrote under the pen name Ernst Ahlgren, was not only Ibsen’s inspiration but also Strindberg’s for Miss Julie. The Enchantment opens at HERE on July 6th, with previews beginning June 28th.
Dystopia is the normal atmosphere of an Ibsen play. It is poignantly a main event in the classic 1984. George Orwell’s novel in which Big Brother government controls its citizens has been turned into a play by the same name. The play by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan was first performed in 2013 at England’s Nottingham Playhoouse.
1984 , a place where mind control involves convincing us that up is down, “freedom is slavery,” is now at Broadway’s newly renovated Hudson Theatre, with an opening on June 22nd, and starring Olivia Wilde and Tom Sturridge.
Posted in opinion, political drama, politically incorrect, politically inspired

Vox Populi

This election year is reality TV, or, perhaps, unreality theater, unscripted and unwelcome in so many ways. The circus atmosphere in no way diminishes the importance of the choice we make on November 8th:

(c) Tamara Beck
(c) Tamara Beck

The people have spoken. Who says no one listens to you. You said you did not want professional politicians running the country.  Congratulations. The tea party congress has consistently acted most …

Some of us are saying, this can’t be happening. Others are pleased to see it unfold as it has.

Source: Vox Populi

 

Posted in 59E59, drama, love story, political drama, theater

Three’s a crowd: two plus one just doesn’t add up

Karan Oberoi, Alia Attallah and Quinn Franzen in Threesome, part of the 5A Season at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Hunter Canning
Karan Oberoi, Alia Attallah and Quinn Franzen in Threesome, part of the 5A Season at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Hunter Canning

Having  problems in your relationship? It’s pretty unlikely that bringing a third person into your bed will solve them.

In Threesome, written by Yussef El Guindi, and directed by Portland Center Stage Artistic Director Chris Coleman, at 59E59 Theater A, through August 23rd, the discords between a couple are exacerbated when they try this awkward fix.

Leila (Alia Attallah) and Rashid (Karan Oberoi) choose to bring a relative stranger into their relationship, and not surprisingly this proves disruptive.

Quinn Franzen, Alia Attallah and Karan Oberoi in Threesome,/ part of the 5A Season at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Hunter Canning
Quinn Franzen, Alia Attallah and Karan Oberoi in Threesome, part of the 5A Season at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Hunter Canning

Leila and Rashid are Americans of Egyptian descent. Doug (Quinn Franzen) is intrigued by the exotic possibilities of the Arabian nights he envisions. Doug’s seeming insensitivity can be forgiven. He is no more clueless about the core issues between Leila and Rashid than they themselves are.

El Guindi’s cogent and often perceptive story is well-executed by the ensemble, who all premiered their roles in Portland and are under Coleman’s direction here as well.

The interactions between the characters create a cringe-worthy atmosphere that elevates this tale beyond the “funny” with which it starts, and carries us deeper into Leila’s life, which is not an open book.

What looks at first like a romp is more like an exorcism. Women may find Leila’s heavy-handed attempt to restore fun and equilibrium to her relationship with Rashid improbable. The excellent Attalah makes it credible.

Threesome is about giving voice to our realities not our fantasies. “Fantasies fuck things up,” Leila says.

The design team, which includes Erinn McGrew (scenic design), David McCrum and Seth Chandler, further the tenor of the play.

Be advised that there is full frontal nudity in Threesome. For more information, visit 59e59.org.