Posted in The Pearl Theatre Company

Mourning The Pearl

08. Pearl_Vanity Fair(c)Russ Rowland
(Back: L-R) Brad Heberlee, Debargo Sanyal, Tom O’Keefe (Front: L-R) Zachary Fine, Kate Hamill. Photo (c) Russ Rowland. From the last production at the Pearl Theatre: Vanity Fair

It is not easy being a theater company, least of all in a city so very full of performance groups.

You might think that having so much theater around us would make it easier to sustain a company like The Pearl, but sadly that is not true.

The Pearl survived after losing its home at 80 St. Mark’s Place nearly a decade ago. It found space at City Center’s Stage II for a while and landed a neat space when the Signature moved down the block.

This 160-seat space on far west 42nd Street would be its last home.

Thank you to The Pearl Theatre Company for providing 33 seasons of interesting, memorable and well-thought out productions. You will be missed.

Vanity Fair was the last production, and A Taste of Honey, Public Enemy, were just a few of those earlier. (Reviewed under links.)


Posted in based on a novel, drama, reimagined classic novel, The Pearl Theatre Company

Mind your manners


14. Pearl_Vanity Fair(c)Russ Rowland
(L-R) Tom O’Keefe, Brad Heberlee, Zachary Fine, Kate Hamill, Joey Parsons, Ryan Quinn, Debargo Sanyal in Vanity Fair(. Photo (c) Russ Rowland

We like to believe that we are a classless society; that myth goes hand-in-glove with the narrative of American exceptionalism. Actually, a story in which overcoming one’s birth and breeding and using one’s abilities to rise above is timely and relatable.

Thackeray redux

08. Pearl_Vanity Fair(c)Russ Rowland
(Back: L-R) Brad Heberlee, Debargo Sanyal, Tom O’Keefe (Front: L-R) Zachary Fine, Kate Hamill. Photo (c) Russ Rowland

The subject or perhaps object of Masterpiece Theatre envisionings, William Makepeace Thackeray’s socially-astute novel, Vanity Fair as reimagined  by Kate Hamill, now finds a place in a theater adaptation as wellClass and birthright are important themes here as they were in Hamill’s adaptation of  Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

Tales from the drawing room

Vanity Fair, under the direction of Eric Tucker, at the Pearl Theatre already extended through April 30th May 14th, is both a comedy of manners and a costume drama (designed by Valérie Thérèse Bart.)

Hamill (along with Tucker) has tread similarly social astute ground in the well-dressed and zany drawing room play she wrote based on Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

The kernel of the Thackeray is expanded and expounded. The characters maintain their identities, while Vanity Fair has them dance to hip hop and then waltzing. It’s a morality play, even though the Manager (Zachary Fine) asks us not to judge. “There are no morals here,” he narrates.

That wicked, wicked girl

10. Pearl_Vanity Fair(c)Russ Rowland
(L-R) Debargo Sanyal, Joey Parsons, Kate Hamill, Ryan Quinn, Tom O’Keefe. Photo by Russ Rowland

Becky Sharp (Kate Hamill) proves the point, being at once protagonist and anti-heroine. Her character (in the sense of rectitude) is questionable; her behavior imprudent. She is an ambitious opportunist. Yet, she marries for love. Her affections are drawn to Rawdon Crawley (Tom O’Keefe) despite his being impecunious. His prospects are tied to the possibility that his Aunt Matilda (Zachary Fine, again) will include him in her will.

In contrast to the aggressive Becky is her sweet schoolmate, Amelia Sedley (Joey Parsons), whose acquiescence to every nasty turn of fate is met with guileless trust. Amelia’s love is a solipsistic fellow named George Osborne (Debargo Sanyal) whom she marries, ignoring the heartfelt admiration of William Dobbin (Ryan Quinn.)

02. Pearl_Vanity Fair (c)Russ Rowland
(L-R) Brad Heberlee, Joey Parsons, Tom O’Keefe, Kate Hamill. Photographer: Russ Rowland

Rounding out the cast is Brad Heberlee, who like his cohorts in the ensemble takes on a variety of roles. His best is as the bumbling and extremely sheepish Jos Sedley at whom Becky first aims her attentions.

Adapted to the stage

Adaptations of this type are risky, dare I say it,  ambitious business, but Hamill manages to capture the spirit of the original in a modern context with wit and charm. She also creates an extremely theatrical theater experience.

The pace, under Eric Tucker’s able direciton, is swift. The actors, despite often intermingling speeches, offer clearly defined personae.  There is music, and singing (Kate Hamill has a very pleasing voice,) including some originally composed by Carmel Dean. Sets (by Sandra Goldmark) are both elaborate and minimal; their versatility enhancing the event that is Vanity Fair.

For more information, please visit the Pearl website.



Posted in adaptation, dark drama, David Harrower, Ibsen, Ibsen adaptation, renowned playwright, The Pearl Theatre Company

Majority rule

It rarely happens when I find myself speechless.

David Harrower’s adaptation of Public Enemy, at the Pearl Theater through November 6th, leaves me gob-smacked as our midwestern friends might say.

Populism has a way of drowning out reason, and majority rule can have unwelcome consequences. Ibsen knew this when he created An Enemy of the People, translated by Charlotte Barslund for Harrower’s re-imaging as Public Enemy.

Crowd mentality

The man of principle, Ibsen says, stands alone while the majority is lulled into serving the self-interests of the powerful. And that man, the individual, who stands alone is “the strongest man.”

Dr. Stockmann (Jimonn Cole) stands alone, of course. Stockmann’s insistence that he has discovered that the Baths which are a tourist attraction for their little burg are a health hazard threatens the town’s livelihood and prosperity. He’s alienated everyone, except his wife Katrine (Nilaja Sun) and daughter, Petra (Arielle Goldman) who both acknowledge his genius. The rest of the town, represented by his brother, Peter, the Mayor (Giuseppe Jones), the printer and small businessman, Aslasken (John Keating), the hypocritical newspaper men, Billing (Alex Purcell) and Hovstad (Robbie Tann), all turn against him.His father-in-law, Kiil (Dominic Cuskern) is especially angry since it looks like his tannery has caused the pollution.

Harrower (Good With People, Blackbird, A Slow Air) is no stranger to moral uncertainties and slippery slopes. His adaptation of Ibsen is lean and to the point. The text is thought-provoking, and anything but reassuring. Earlier productions of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, like the one at MTC several seasons back, were equally disheartening.

Standing out in this fine cast, Cole plays Stockmann’s as humbly arrogant with a fine subtlety. The Pearl’s Artistic Director, Hal Brooks directs the ensemble with a light touch, playing on both the tragedy and humor in Public Enemy.

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


Posted in adaptation, anticipation, Chekhov, Chekhov interpretations, drama, feminism, Ibsen, Ibsen adaptation, Ophelia Theatre Group, Roundabout Theatre Company, The Pearl Theatre Company

Classics anew

opheliaMankind has had the urge to tell its stories since time immemorial. The stories told in different voices all have universal themes. Theatrical history has a long time-line.

Warping that time-line is also a stage-borne tradition. Retelling Antigone’s
tale, as Ivo Van Hove did at BAM last year, for instance, is one way to honor
theatre’s lineage.

Stephen Karam has been charged with recharging Chekhov’s classic Cherry
Orchard for the Roundabout this season. David Harrower is reworking Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People into Public Enemy, currently playing through November 6th over at the Pearl.

Drama poses a problem, offers solutions and catharsis. To that end, Kelly

McCready, an actress and director we recently saw at the Mint in The New Morality has taken on Hedda Gabler. Ms McCready, who has re-imagined this Ibsen and is directing, at the Ophelia Theatre Group , starting on October 27th and running through November 19th, feels that Hedda is too often maligned. She has cut the play to 80 intermission-less minutes, and taken Hedda’s side, as an advocate and a friend. And why not? Hedda should be a feminist hero.

To quote Ms McCready, “This production seeks to throw out preconceptions of the play and the character herself. This Hedda is just a woman who tries to make her new life and relationship with Tesman work, but she can’t combat her circumstances and the expectations placed on her because she’s a woman.

She can’t change any of that.”

BTW, the Ophelia Theatre Group is in Astoria, and Ms McCready also

advocates for the “growing arts community” in this outer borough location.

She says, “Astoria has even earned the nickname “Actoria” in recent years, but it’s obviously difficult to get audiences to venture far from Manhattan. And that means people are missing out.”

The tickets for Hedda Gabler are available here; they are gently priced at $18 which should drag some of you from Manhattan to the wilds of, we might point out, nearby Astoria.

In another vein of adaptation altogether is David Stallings’ Anais Nin Goes to Hell, at The Theater at the 14th Street Y from October 14th through the 29th, which takes a comedic turn but looks at feminist icons. Imagine Andromeda, Heloise, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Queen Victoria, Ophelia, Karen Carpenter and of course Anaïs Nin, all trapped together in the afterlife. The play was a hit in the 2008 Fringe Festival, and is being re-staged here under the direction of Antonio Miniño.

Posted in #Roundabout, Manhattan Theater Company, Playwrights Horizons, The Flea Theater, The Mint Theatre, The Pearl Theatre Company, theater, theater lovers

Happy New Year

Black Moon Theatre presents Bliss based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead September 8-25, 2016 Photo by Steven Pisano
Black Moon Theatre presents Bliss based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead
September 8-25, 2016
Photo by Steven Pisano

The moment between December 31st and January 1st so widely celebrated, and especially so at the hub on Broadway’s Times Square, is not the real new year.

Every summer-tired kid can tell you that the new year starts in September when school opens. Theater nerds will likewise say that this is the beginning of the year. Broadway will have two openings on the 20th with The Encounter at the Golden and The Front Page at the Broadhurst. Manhattan Theatre Company also starts previews for Heisenberg, a Broadway transfer to the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on the 20th. Holiday Inn started previews at Roundabout’s Studio 54 on September 1st, while their The Cherry Orchard previewed on the 15th at The American Airlines.

Off-Broadway has already been perky this season. Playwrigths Horizons opened its first show of the season, Julia Cho’s Aubergine. PH’s second show, A Life, which begins previews on September 30th, and features David Hyde Pierce in the cast, has already extended its run to November 27th. The Mint has  A Day By The Seaplaying since July 22nd and through October 23rd. The Pearl’s A Taste Of Honey began previews on September 6th and has already extended the run through October 30th. Starting on September 29th, it will be running in repertory with David Harrower’s Public Enemy, an adaptation of Ibsen’s Enemy of the People.

Further off the great white way, there is also a good deal of action, too. The list is too long to include every production, but we’ll sample a few here:

Black Moon Theatre Company presents Bliss based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead with performances on September 8-25, 2016, at The Flea Theater.
Core Creative Productions presents an updated version of ariveting and award-winning drama about police brutality called Chokehold at the 14th Street Y Theater from September 16th through October 8th.
Playwrights Realm started their 2016-17 season on August 29th with the world premiere of The Wolves by Sarah Delappe, and will also present a collab with (and at) the New York Theatre Workshop when it shows Mfoniso Udofia’s Sojourners & Her Portmanteau later in the Spring.
Meanwhile, currently playing at the New York Theatre Workshop is Nathan Alan Davis’ provocative new play Nat Turner in Jerusalem.
A musical with illusions promises to be a happy ride when On The Rails opens on September 29th, at The Actor’s Temple where it will continue through November 20th.
On The Rails is part of the Lady Liberty Theater Festival, as is Missed Connections, playing sporadically (aka check the scheds) from September 27th through the end of November at the Kraine.
A cinematic and live dance/theater work combines in Geoff Sobelle’s Pandaemonium, directed by Lars Jan with music composed and performed by Brooklyn musician Xander Duell looks to be a unique experience at New York Live Arts from September 28th through October 1st.
The no-holds barred comedy about race and American history, Underground Railroad Game began previews at Ars Nova on September 13th for an opening on September 26th and running through October 15th.  extended to October 29th! now in a final extension to November 11th!
Followung up on the introduction they made in 2014New Light Theater Project  is featuring playwright Ross Howard, a Brit indie sensation, in rep from October 19th through November 12th at the Access Theater.
In other festival news, the Flea is presenting a pair of A.R. Gurneys, Squash and Ajax, beginning October 10th.
EDWIN, The Story of Edwin Booth is at Theatre at St. Clement’s through September 18th, so hurry. The musical is about the most famous American actor of the nineteenth century, and, famously, brother to Abraham Lincoln”s assassin.
This list could go on and on, but you don’t want to hear that. Check out Soho Rep, and MCC, for example, and the Ensemble Studio Theatre.The Vineyard Theatre deserves a visit, too, especially for their kid-friendly productions. Lincoln Center’s The Claire Tow Theater deserves a visit if for nothing but its view, but its productions have been spectacular, too. Downtown, there’s also the Classic Stage Company, the Public, and for Off-Broadway in the heart of Broadway, the Signature Theatre Company and the resident New Group. Just to name a few theatrical companies waiting to entertain you.
Posted in 9/11, existentialism, George Bernard Shaw, NYSX, PAC at World Trade Center, Paul Taylor, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Sartre, Shakespeare, The Pearl Theatre Company, Thomas F. Flynn, WTC

Around town

Thomas F. Flynn recounts his
esperiences on September 11th
in the new play based on his book of
the same name. At BMCC Tribeca
Performing Arts Center.

1. Raise a glass to the Bard 

2. King Lear for “A New Audience”

3. A noteworthy new venue takes shape at WTC

4. Remembering the day the Towers fell

5.  What would Sartre do?

6. Paul Taylor, Dancemaker

7. Project Shaw
8. Grifting, game theory and comics

Shakespeare and beer….
New York Shakespeare Exchange has come up with another brilliant way to promote the Bard of Avon: The first ShakesBEER of 2014 will kick off in March, with two “Stone Street” crawls scheduled for Saturday, March 1 and Saturday, March 8 with additional Shakespearean bar crawls scheduled throughout the year– 10 in all.

At each pub, the actors, cheek by jowl with the audience, break out a scene from one of the Bard’s works. The ShakesBEERean acting company includes many a Shakespeare hand from the city, NYSX past performances, and from around the country.

In case you need a remindeer, NYSX recently held The Sonnet Project as a tribute to William Shakespeare, and a way to encourage appreciation of his work in a modern context.

For tickets and information, visit

Kings in their dotage
For fans of “King Lear,” there can’t be too many productions of the great Shakespearean tragedy. There’s another one in Brooklyn this spring, following Frank Langella’s at BAM. This one features Michael Pennington, two-time Olivier Award nominee, an artist of international stature and one of England’s greatest classical actors, in the title role in William Shakespeare’s tragedy. Mr. Pennington leads a company of 22 actors. This is the second production in Theatre for a New Audience’s inaugural season, which kicked off with “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” at its first permanent home, the new Polonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Place in Brooklyn, directed by Arin Arbus. “King Lear” begins previews March 14 for an opening March 27 and a run through May 4.

Find out more by visiting

The PAC at WTC
A new and noteable venue is emerging at the World Trade Center with the appointment of a core team to lead the The Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center (PAC.) David Lan, Artistic Director of London’s Young Vic, has been appointed as Consulting Artistic Director alongside Lucy Sexton as Associate Artistic Director. Andy Hayles, Managing Partner of innovative theater consultancy Charcoalblue, will be the theater design consultant. Film director Stephen Daldry has joined the PAC’s Board of Directors.

The artistic team is collaborating with the PAC’s staff, board and numerous consultants to create a global center that will produce and present new work, in multiple disciplines. All of this will take place in an adaptable venue with unprecedented digital connectivity.

Where were you on 9/11?
Thomas F. Flynn jumped on his bicycle outside his Greenwich Village home and followed the first plane downtown. There he became not a witness and reporter, but a participant, caught up in surviving the tragedy that rocked New York a little over a dozen years ago. In “Bikeman,”  Flynn, a veteran journalist, and an award winning writer and producer for the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, recounts his experiences on 9/11.  Flynn was there at the fall of the south tower. “Bikeman,” based on Flynn’s book, is  directed by Michael Bush and features Robert Cuccioli, Irungu Mutu, Angela Pierce, Elizabeth Ramos, and Rich Topol.

“Bikeman” began performances on January 26th and is set for an opening on February 18th at BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers Street.
For information, go to  

“Hell is other people.”– Sartre
Can an existential attitude help us cope? Or might it drive us to solitude?  Find out when the Pearl Theatre presents Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit,” from February 25th through March 30th. Linda Ames Key directs this adaptation from the French by Paul Bowles.

To find out more, please visit

Fill your March with dance. 
Paul Taylor is still turning out modern dance classics with attitude, verve and abandon. Beginning in mid March, his company, PTDC begins its diamond anniversary season at Lincoln Center, with the sponsorship of Tiffany’s for its Spring gala. The repertory includes two newly minted pieces, so look for Marathon Cadenzas and American Dreamer on your dance card.

For a performance schedule and tickets, please visit

And another thing….
Check out the Gingold Theatrical Group’s “Project Shaw” at Symphony Space. Each production is one Monday night only, with “The Philanderer” coming up on February 24th.

For more information and tickets, go to Project Shaw.

Cons are a family affair in “Fast Company”

Blue (Stephanie Hsu) is the daughter who is excluded from the family business of grifting and sent off to college. There she discovers that you can run a con using advanced mathematical theory.

Carla Ching’s new comedy “Fast Company,” under the direction of Robert Ross Parker, begins previews March 12th for a run through April 6th at the Ensemble Studio Theatre.

For tickets for “Fast Company,” please visit Ovation Tix.

Posted in Burbage, Chekhov, Terrence McNally, the French, the Greeks, The Pearl Theatre Company, the Russians, theater

The vast terrain of theatrical history

Carol Schultz (seated) with Micah Stock standing behind her, Dominic Cuskern, Rachel Botchan, and Sean McNall in a scene from Terrence McNally’s “And Away We Go” at the Pearl Theatre through December 15th.
Photos by Al Foote III.

Theater has evolved over the centuries. Greek tragedies and comedies had state sponsorship, and free admission for all. Time moves on, and the theater continues to serve different audiences in different times. State assistance can also bring censorship, of course. With privatization come the headaches of raising funds to keep the shows going.  
Donna Lynne Champlin, Dominic Cuskern, Carol Schultz,
Micah Stock and Sean McNall.  Photo by Al Foote III.
Meant as a love poem to theater and its folk, Terrence McNally’s “And Away We Go,” at the Pearl Theatre Company through December 15th, mashes the traditions and tribulations of actors, acting and acting companies into a historical pastiche.

As it goes traipsing across the vast panoply of theater history, “And Away We Go,” ambles through the Greek festivals, over to Richard Burbage’s English stage, to the French and Russian revolutions and the playwrights who embodied them, to the impecunious present with a brief stop for Bert Lahr’s “Waiting for Godot” in Coconut Grove in 1956. 

“And Away We Go” succeeds at being sometimes funny, sometimes maudlin, occasionally insightful, sometimes dreary, with the French (Versailles 1789) and Russian (Moscow Art Theatre 1896) sequences gratuitous and poorly executed. Many theatrical styles and periods are overlooked, others are overbooked.

The Greeks practiced a long form that has continually been whittled down so that McNally and his contemporaries tend towards the shorter play. “And Away We Go” attempts to find its perspective and cover the full range of theatrical history in under two intermission-less hours. 

By the way, I learned that it was the French who brought us the interval. In Shakespeare’s time, the audience came and went as the actors performed.

Given the breadth of this survey, it would appear that McNally isn’t aware that you can’t do it all in one evening. Sandra Goldmark has created a scenic design that makes the stage look like a gigantic prop room. It’s also a busy day at the office for the Pearl’s troupe, all of whom are more than willing to tackle McNally’s short but expansive text. 

Sean McNall and Dominic Cuskern, both Pearl Company regulars, distinguished themselves well. Both Carol Schultz and Rachel Botchan, also long time Company members, gave fine performances, with Ms. Schultz doing a particularly nice turn as Shirley Channing, executive director of a resident theatre company.
Donna Lynne Champlin, a Broadway and off-Broadway vet making her first Pearl appearance, was very very good in all her many roles. Micah Stock, another guest at the Pearl, had some difficulty with his French playwright, Christophe Durant, but was very good as Pallas, a member of the Greek chorus, and Kenny Tobias of the Coconut Grove concession stand.

For more information about “And Away We Go,” and the Pearl Theatre Company, please visit the Pearl website.