Posted in domestic drama, drama, family drama, revival, Tennessee Williams

Unicorns

Handle with care

Memories are amongst our most personal possessions.

The Glass Menagerie
Finn Wittrock and Madison Ferris in The Glass MenageriePhoto by Julieta Cervantes

The Glass Menagerie, at the Belasco through July 2nd, is Tennessee Williams look backwards with love and regret. His reminiscences could also be said to have the brittleness of glass ornaments.

Amanda Wingfield (Sally Field) lives in fantastical remembrance. Her son, Tom (Joe Mantello) spins a web of care and concern. His sister Laura (Madison Ferris) and a Gentleman Caller, Jim O’Connor (Finn Wittrock) are fragile figments of  Tom’s and Amanda’s collective and conflicting recollection.

Mother Love

 

The Glass Menagerie
Joe Mantello and Sally Field in a scene from The Glass Menagerie Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

Not all overprotective mothers who have delusional expectations for their children are of one kind. We’ve seen Amanda intrepreted in any number of revivals.

Sally Field’s rendition is tender-tough. She has just enough steel to bend when disappointed, and a sense of downtrodden grandeur befitting the role.

The Glass Menagerie is a wondrous articulation of poetry written in prose. As its narrator, Mantello plays Tom as straightforward and unsentimental. He is down-to-earth and practical but not unfeeling.

Unadorned

The Glass Menagerie
Madison Ferris and Sally Field in The Glass MenageriePhoto by Julieta Cervantes

Under Sam Gold’s direction, The Glass Menagerie is presented in bare bones style. Except for a pink ballgown in which Amanda flirts with the Gentleman Calling on her daughter, the actors are for all intents and purposes in rehearsal clothes (costumes courtesy of Wojciech Dziedzic). The minimalism extends to the sets (by Andrew Lieberman) and the lighting (designed by Adam Silverman).

This is one of my favorite of Williams’ masterpieces, but this production is not among my favorites. That is not to say that the cast are not at ease in their characters’ skins; they are convincing and comfortable, showing affection for each other, as the memories unfurl. Like the setting, however, it just all feels too plain, simple and no-frills.

Theirs is an interesting interpretation, of course, and it could be concluded that the simplicity of the decor and costumes, and perhaps even the candle-lit scenes, may force us to concentrate on the words.

My take leans towards the view that rather than underscoring the beauty of the language, the lack of stage embellishments undercuts Williams’ intent.

For more information and tickets, please visit http://glassmenagerieonbroadway.com

 

 

Posted in musical revivals, revival, theater

Revivals and transfers

Originality is always prized, but is it always good box office?

Back by popular acclaim

On Broadway, the revival is generally a vehicle that’s had tried-and-true success. The public likes the play or its author, and adding a marquee name will probably bring them in again. An eager new cast and crew doing the hard bits is probably a formula that will minimize a producer’s risk.

There are no guarantees, of course, in the theater. The audiences can be fickle. Is O’Neill still a draw? Will Arthur Miller appeal? Do they want to see Neil Simon, or Ibsen? Is Chekhov a lock for their full attention?

Setting the stage

Les Miz and Miss Saigon (currently in a revival at The Broadway Theatre) cycle through periodically, generally with good success. Cats is bringing back “Memory” at the Neil Simon Theatre at the moment. Sondheim gets out quite a bit too– from revivals of Follies to Sweeney Todd to Gypsy, to mention a few, and of course the current revival of Sunday in the Park with George starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford at the refurbished Hudson Theatre.

Bette Midler is expected to be a very effective matchmaker in Hello Dolly! Given her fanbase,  she should attract a loyal audience to the Shubert Theatre, running through January 7, 2018, and in fact, the website’s performance calendar is already offering tips on availability.

On the dramatic side, Tennessee Williams gets his share of the Broadway air. His works are often produced, and not just at the not-for-profit subscription houses. So many roles tempt actresses to climb the mountains of his beautiful poetic prose that The Glass Menagerie has seen a number of recent renditions. In 2014, Cherry Jones tackled the part of Amanda Wingfield; in 2010 it was Blythe Danner. Currently, it’s Sally Fields taking on the mother of all roles (sorry Mama Rose) in the Broadway run of The Glass Menagerie
through July 2nd.

Crossing over

Broadway transfers create a very different equation for the money behind productions. The show did well in, say, a 300-seat house. How will it fare in one with 500+?

We caught In Transit in its off-Broadway run at 59E59 in a Primary Stages production, and the move to Broadway for this gritty a cappella musical should be interesting to watch. It’s at Circle in the Square through June 25th.

Often, Broadway’s bookmakers like the odds. They’ve taken The Humans, for instance, out of Roundabout’s Laura Pels and plucked it onto the Helen Hayes where it has flourished. Stephen Karam’s domestic drama won the 2016 Tony® as Best Play. Significant Other, another Roundabout vehicle is heading over to Broadway’s Booth Theatre, through July 2nd.

Dear Evan Hansen is doing very well, thank you, since moving around the corner from 43rd Street’s 2nd Stage to the Music Box in an open run. A dramusical with lots of heart and the off-Broadway cred of its creative group, Steve Levenson (book) and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (music and lyrics.) It’s attracting Broadway audiences. Its lead, Ben Platt, who like Significant Other‘s Gideon Glick , has star quality; both transferred with the pvehicles they lead.

Big ticket

Avenue Q took a circuitous route, after transferring from off Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre, it landed off a well-received Broadway run (it won 3 Tony®s in 2004) at New World Stages for seven years.

The most famous name in Broadway transfers came from the Public Theater to win 11 Tony Awards®. It is, of course, Hamilton, a story onto itself. Another recent  Public Theater production, Sweat, opens at Studio 54 on March 26th; Lynn Nottage’s timely drama about the dystopia of working class America should do well on a bigger stage.

For my money…

If you were putting up money for a Broadway produciton, would you opt for a revival or take a fly on bringing a production uptown? Tough call. And a big thanks to all the folks who do put their money in and bring theater to us.

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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 Allen Moyer, Darren Pettie, domestic drama, Donald Marguiles, Heather Burns, Jeremy Shamos, Marin Hinkle, Pam McKinnon, Pulitzer Prize winning play, revival

How well do we know even our closest friends?

Domesticity can make for a very dull subject.

In Donald Marguiles’ Pulitzer Prize winning play,  in a Roundabout Theatre Company revival, at Laura Pels Theatre through April 13th,“Dinner With Friends,” it is laced with the spice of infidelity.

Beth (Heather Burns) spills her misery to her old friend Karen (Marin Hinkle) and her husband’s best friend Gabe (Jeremy Shamos) even before the dessert is served. Tom’s (Darren Pettie) absence from this regular gathering is actually due to his going to see his girlfriend, and not because he is off on another business trip.

When his travel plans are snowed out, Tom returns home to discover that Beth told Gabe and Karen that he wanted a divorce. Late as it is, Tom drives over to to set the record straight with Karen and Gabe, who feel betrayed by the dissolution of Beth and Tom’s marriage.

Gabe and Karen had fixed Beth and Tom up, spent vacations with them and their kids together over the years. While Beth was clearly blind-sided, they were the last to know. Beth muses,  “He was moody. Yes. Distracted. I thought it was work. Or jet lag…” Tom tells Gabe he has never been happier than he has since his marriage ended. He doesn’t want therapy, or need advice.

“Dinner With Friends” tells a simple tale of four friends, two couples, each looking to keep passion alive or rekindle it, despite the grind of the day to day domesticity of their lives.

As Tom, Darren Pettie manifests an appropriately defensive menace. He is the the bullying poster boy for leaving your wife. When Tom tells Gabe about his new girlfriend, he sounds as if he is proselytizing: “She saved my life, Gabe. She really did; she breathed life back into me ” His enthusiasm for the new is like a slap at the friendship he and Gabe have shared.

Jeremy Shamos has the gift of likability that make his Gabe vulnerable and approachable. He is a content with the life he’s chosen: “We’ve all made sacrifices to our kids. It’s the price you pay for having a family,” he tells Tom.

Under Pam MacKinnon’s direction, the ensemble breathes fresh life into this ordinary story. Heather Burns plays Beth as both put-upon and manipulative. The subtlety in her characterization contrasts with Marrin Hinkle’s straightforward portrayal of the judgemental and down-to-earth Beth.

“Dinner With Friends” covers the twelve plus years of marriages and friendships with ease and panache. The attractive sets, designed by Allen Moyer, travel through the many locales “Dinner With Friends” inhabits, from Martha’s Vineyard to rooms in the protoganists’ homes.

If you have seen the 2001 Emmy-nominated film version or the original 1999 production, you will find this one charmingly done and nicely staged. (Need more opinion? Check out TB review on VP.com.)

To learn more about “Dinner With Friends,” please visit http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/