Without understudies, there is no one to pick up the slack if someone falls ill. Is this acceptable? Is it just how it is, as a couple of patrons told me in the elevator on the way out? I think not.
The postman no longer rings twice, and you will not get your mail in a storm despite the USPS motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
Now, you also can’t rely on the theatre’s most famous promise.
There are so many social challenges that confront us these days that you would think we need no more provocations. Some of us, for good or ill, welcome them nonetheless.
I can’t speak for you but among the ones I am most looking forward to are provocations by Robert O’Hara. He has written and will direct Mankind, which starts its world premiere run on December 15th at Playwrights Horizons.
O’Hara’s recent works for @PHnyc included directing Kristen Childs’ raucus and insightful Bella: An American Tall Tale. He also directed his own exhilirating romp, Bootycandya few seasons ago. O’Hara’s plays tear at the fabric of our reality to offer exciting new views and cogent, perceptive outlook. He is provocative in the best and biggest sense of the word.
Likewise, reimagining As You Like It for a new world stage resonates in the era of travel bans. Arden/Everywhere, at the Baruch Performing Arts Center from October 8th through the 28th, turns Shakespeare into a playwright of the diaspora. As conceived by Jessica Bauman, this refugee-centric version of the classic comedy, is about giving welcome to the unwelcome and finding a home for the exiled.
Signature Theatre is rounding out the Suzan-Lori Parks’ revision of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Fucking AandIn The Blood, both extended to October 8th and 15th respectively, and known collectively as The Red Letter Plays.
In In The Blood, Hester LaNegrita (a luminous Saycon Sengbloh) is punished for sins she did not commit alone, sins in which society is hypocritically complacent. Hester not only does not get “the leg up” she needs but she is consistently kicked down. She is not an innocent, but she is a naif. A transgression may only be an error in judgement, and should not be judged so harshly as it is in Hawthorne and in The Red Letter Plays. As for the other play in this set, the title alone has some not giving its full name. I recall the stir when it first played The Public in 2003.
Man, realizing that he could not remain forever young, bestowed immortality on his gods and let them frolic in their gardens. Then he became jealous of their frivolity, and searched for the fountain of youth, for his own opportunity to act with irresponsibility.
For J.M. Barrie, the hunt for that “Neverland” was led by Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up. Peter Pan was played by a number of actresses over the years– Mary Martin, Sandy Duncan, among them– and spawned a psychiatric syndromenot listed in the DSM.
In For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday, at Playwrights Horizons previewing August 18th and running through October 1st, Sarah Ruhl examines issues of immortality.
Her titular Peter is Ann (Kathleen Chalfant), an actress in community theater who played the boy 50 years ago in her youth. Those seeking to find their youth along with Ann are the “lost boys,” Wendy (Lisa Emery), Michael (Keith Reddin), Jim (David Chandler), John (Daniel Jenkins) and a dog named Macy. The cast, under Les Waters direction, is rounded out by The Father (Ron Crawford.)
For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday is the first play of the season at @PHnyc on their mainstage. On September 6th, the world premiere of a Playwrights Horizons commission, The Treasurerby Max Posnerwill begin at their Peter Jay Sharp space.
Fashions come and go in clothing, in the arts, even in the theater, which also experiences changing styles. In the Greek amphitheater, plays would last all day. For Shakespeare’s and Marlowe’s audiences, there were often five act tragedies or comedies.
A few years ago, T and B sat in utter surprise when a play ended in just 51 minutes. Today, the drama, comedy, or musical without an intermission is quite common. Likely, it will be longer than an hour, but nonetheless, it will be a one-act play.
Currently running without an interval….
This is far from an exhaustive tour of 90-minute shows currently playing New York City, but it has breadth.
For instance, on stage at the Golden Theatre is Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2, clocking in at under 90 minutes. Laurie Metcalf, this year’s Tony winner for Best Actress, is leaving the production on July 23rd, when there will also be other cast changes. Although Jayne Houdyshell stays on as the family housekeeper, Julie White will take over as Nora Helmer; Stephen McKinley Henderson will replace Chris Cooper as Torvald, and Erin Wilhelmi comes aboard as the Helmer’s daughter, Emmy, replacing Condola Rashad.
Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s 1984 comes to Broadway’s recently redecorated Hudson Theatre from a successful UK run. and is advertised as a “chilling 101 minutes.” 1984, a play adapted from George Orwell’s oft-quoted novel, delivers its abject view of a world in which our minds are controlled by an ubiquitous Big Brother without an intermission.
Pipeline at Lincoln Center’s Newhouse Theater, a new and timely play by Dominique Morisseau, directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, confronts the realities that pit opportunity against community and identity. Pipeline also plays without an intermission.
At Soulpepper on 42nd Street, the Toronto troupe is performing a repertoire of plays and musicals, ensemble pieces, and cabaret. Some of this repertory, like Kim’s Convenience is performed in a brisk 85 minutes at Pershing Square Signature Center, giving you plenty of time to run out to the corner market before dinner. The musical adaptation of Spoon River also runs without pause, and is a mere hour and 35 minutes.
For tickets, scheduling and information, please click for the show sites:
You might think that Will (now a TV series, seemingly inspired by our friends at Something Rotten!, in which The Bard is a Rock Star) would not approve.
In truth, though his plays had many acts, folks walked in and out as they saw fit. The audience were a rowdy bunch we probably would not tolerate in our theaters today. Theatrical etiquette is far more decorous these days.
I make that statement despite having to sit through a show next to an apple-chewing patron once upon a matinee. Cell-phone incidents are another of the annoyances that Shakespeare’s contemporaries would not have had to contend with, but that are very common among today’s audiences.
All this off the beam, however, as I was lauding the show without an interval. In that vein, I will admit that the above mentioned Something Rotten! was NOT a musical without an intermission. Many of the plays I have enjoyed over the years have been multi-acts with the obligatory pause for the audience to find refreshment and stretch their legs.
more shortly, so come on back, after this brief intermission…. and it’s July 11th, so we are back in 1, 2, 3:
n William Shakespeare’s (and Kit Marlowe’s) time, eating oranges and throwing tomatoes were not unusual activities during the course of a theatrical performance. The audience hardly needed a pause in the action to eat or drink or wander about. The interval was not for the patrons but the actors to regroup. It was for a change of scene; the groundlings bustled about throughout the show.
Get to the point, we say, and so the one act does. It suits our times as a longer play fit other eras and fashions.
A story told in one breath, without a break has a different arc from the one that follows the convention of three (or five) acts. It is shaped and shared differently. In some ways, it packs more intensity by providing a continuity of action.
And 90 minutes or an hour and forty-five is a manageable chunk of time for those of us whose attention spans have been shortened by social media.
A one-act play is a haiku, often the more beautiful for being succinct.
Avant-garde theater was once the province of the French– the Samuel Becketts, Antonin Artauds and Guillaume Appolinaires and their ilk– who also gave it its name. Theater at the vanguard of social change, social commentary, and experimentalism in staging, subject and presentation has a long 20th century history.
Now, out of the north comes Soulpepper Theatre of Toronto with a brief festival of experimental plays and concerts which it brings to New York’s Pershing Square Signature Theater in July.
The troupe dedicates itself to creating innvoative works of all kinds, in cabaret, cafe and theater formats. Its 65 artists will perform in rep, giving workshops and holding symposia and performances. Billed as Soulpepper on 42nd Street, the month-long event will coincide with Canada’s 150th birthday as a nation. Mainstage productions include Kim’s Convenience, written by Ins Choi, and set in a Korean-run variety store; Vern Thiessen’s adaptation of W. Somerset Maughn’s Of Human Bondage; an immersive musical adaptation of Spoon River by Mike Ross and Albert Schultz. Ensemble pieces like Alligator Pie, created and performed by Ins Choi, Raquel Duffy, Ken MacKenzie, Gregory Prest, and Mike Ross with poems by Dennis Lee; and the (Re)Birth: E.E. Cummings in Song, created and developed by the rebirth collective: Ins Choi, Tatjana Cornij, Raquel Duffy, Matthew Kabwe, Ken MacKenzie, Gregory Prest, Karen Rae, Mike Ross, Jason Rothery, and Brendan Wall, take place on other stages in the Signature Theatre complex. A concert New York-The Melting Potis a tribute from the Toronto group to its New York hosts.