Posted in #whatdoyouthink, actors, African-American playwrights, artist, based on a novel, based on a true story or event, based on a true story or event and historical documents, based on true events, brutality, chronicle, deep South, empowerment, ensemble acting, famous, film, Fox Studios, historical drama, history, honky, husbands and wives, KKK, meditation on life, movie, new work, opinion, poignant, race, racism, riff, sci fi, serious, serious subject, showcase, timely, TV, Valentine's Day

Serially entertaining

Actors and screen-writers are busier these days than they have been in some time. There are “streaming” shows, 100s of cable outlets producing both series and movies, and of course Hollywood and the Indie scene all requiring their talents and services.

We are the beneficiaries of all this production. We will be enlightened, entertained and excited by the films they produce.

What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than binge watching Divorce?

Gifted, the movie with Chris Evans and Mckenna Grace, and not so incidentally Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, Lindsay Duncan, and Elizabeth Marvel, is touching without being maudlin. It is generally intelligent, with a sterling performance by young Ms. Grace, and until we saw it last night on HBO, I had not heard much about it.

The assignment for Black History Month can include the excellent Get Out, Jordan Peele’s genius defies and reinvents the “horror” genre. It should also feature a viewing of Birth of a Nation, perhaps both in its regressive D.W. Griffith 1915 version and Nate Parker’s 2016 “remake.” The contrast between a paen to the Ku Klux Klan and to Nat Turner’s slave rebellion may prove edifying. Add Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (although not our personal favorite) to your list of films for 2018. (In the New Yorker, Vinson Cunningham expresses a different view, especially of Parker’s film.)

Art is meant to engender controversy, stimulate and even incense and enrage. We should not be passively diverted in its presence. It is here to help us ponder life’s (and history’s) biggest issues.

Thanks to films and serial dramas we have a lot to consider and enjoy. And we are treated to some terrific performances in the bargain.

Posted in comedy, George Morfogen, Gus Kaikkonen, James Riordan, Jules Romains, Mitch Greenberg, Price Johston, Roger Hanna, scam, The Mint Theatre, timely

The Mistaken Country

There is something about the lure of the unknown that will turn men into adventurers.

James Riordan in “Donogoo” by Jules Romains. Directed
by Gus Kaikkonen
at The Mint. Photo: Richard Termine

“Donogoo,” at the Mint Theater through July 27th, is a tale of greed, mistaken geography, and the triumph of the imagination. Jules Romains’ delightful play originally opened in 1930 to great acclaim, saving the floundering Théâtre Pigalle from dissolution. 

Land speculation, gold fever, all roads lead to Donogoo Tonka, an error that turns into a scam. Benin (the superb Mitch Greenberg) plucks a suicidal Lamendin (James Riordan, who is fantastic) back to life. At the direction of the quack psychologist Miguel Rufesque (George Morfogen) to whom Benin sends him, Lamendin seeks out a stranger,  Le Trouhadec (the ever versatile Morfogen again), a disgraced geographer, to assist.

Le Trouhadec’s discovery, the lost city of Donogoo Tonka  may not exist. Lamendin sees an opportunity.With the help of a questionably honest banker, Margajat (Ross Bickell in top form), Lamendin forms a stock company to develop the mineral-rich city and its environs. Shareholders (Megan Robinson, playing all the women in the play, and Kraig Swartz, among them) begin to question the existence of Donogoo, but prospectors have already begun to turn the fiction into a reality.Le Trouhadec is vindicated.

The translation by Gus Kaikkonen, who also directs with a deft delicacy, is impeccable and elegant. The applause the sets, by Roger Hanna, and special effects, by Hanna with Price Johnston, elicit are well-merited. The exceptional ensemble are all in perfect step, doing justice to the material’s subtle and satiric humor. Among these standouts, Scott Thomas as Joseph, the sensible pioneer, catches the eye.

“Donogoo” is seriously funny, with a sharp and sincere wit. And this production is terrific.
The Mint Theater doesn’t just “find lost plays,” it uncovers their relevance.

For tickets and to learn more about “Donogoo,” visit The Mint’s website.