Posted in musicals, musicals and dramas, The Tony Awards, Tony, Tony Awards, Tony nominee, Tony winner, Tony winning play

$$ Rewarded $$

Lack of Tony® love has done to The Prom what it usually does. The show, with music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, and a book by Bob Martin and Beguelin and based on an idea of Jack Viertel, is set to close on August 11th.

At the Walter Kerr, across the street from the unappreciated The Prom (the cast and creatives got nods but no statuettes) is Tony® darling Hadestown, There, you will see lines waiting for tickets by lottery early on any given day. (Actual ticket distribution for Rush is around 5pm, so the folks sitting outside the theater at noon are really eager.) The musical’s ticket price skyrocketed thanks to the warm welcome it got at the Awards ceremonies. André De Shields was not the only winner from the cast of this musical, written by Anaïs Mitchell and developed with director Rachel Chavkin, also a winner that night. The scenic designer, Rachel Hauck, and the sound designer, jessica Paz, also won for their contributions to the musical as well.

Of course, if you must close, you must. The Ferryman, Broadway’s Best Play of 2019, is closing tomorrow, July 7th. Tickets for the play put it in the million dollar range over its run. Tickets for Sunday’s final performances run at $224 and up.

It’s expensive to mount a Broadway production, and that explains some of the high prices. There is also a reseller’s premium for some of the hotter shows, of course, but also the fact that demand drives costs allows the producers to write their own ticket, as it were. In fact, for the 2018-19 season, audiences ponied up an average of $123.84 for a seat at a Broadway show.

Posted in 1965, Frank Marcus, The Actors Company Theatre, The Killing of Sister George, Tony winning play

"The Killing of Sister George" Revives at TACT

When The Killing of Sister George played rural England in the mid-1960s, it met with opprobium. Its ascent to the London stage, however, brought it considerable acclaim. In fact, Frank Marcus’ comedy was so well-received that it was turned into a movie, with an X-rating. Despite its fame, and a transfer to Broadway, where its star won the Tony, The Killing of Sister George has not been produced in New York in 30 years. Marcus, whose subsequent plays did not fare as well, was forced to turn from playwrighting to criticism.

Margot White and Caitlin O’Connell in The Killing of
Sister George
in a revival by The Actor’s Company
Theatre through November 1 at The Beckett.
Photo by Marielle Solan Photography.

TACT (The Actors Company Theatre, under the artistic lead of Scott Alan Evans and Jenn Thompson) has undertaken a revival of the once ever so controversial satirical piece, which runs through November 1 at the Beckett Theatre.

Ill-tempered and decidely domineering, June Buckridge (Caitlin O’Connell) voices the character of Sister George on a much loved BBC radio drama called Applehurst. She comes home to Alice “Childie” McNaught (Margot White,) the “Martha” to her “Arthur,” with a premonition that she will be cut from the program. Her mood, fouler than usual, invites humbling attentions from the generally submissive Childie.

In the midst of all this domestic turmoil, Mrs. Mercy Croft (Cynthia Harris,) a producer on the show, calls with her intention to pop by. The visit is cruelly civil. Sister George is more than a persona June adopts. She has come to identify with the character, and to be identified as the popular nurse from the small town in radio-land. Alice calls her George.

Caitlin O’Connell and Cynthia Harris.
Photo by Marielle Solan Photography.

Rounding out the cast is the downstairs neighbor, a soothsayer named Madame Xenia (Dana Smith-Croll) whom George calls upon in her moment of doubt.

Under the direction of Drew Barr, the cast recreates the times and atmosphere in which The Killing of Sister George first found its way. Questions of sexual identity and personal identity are broached in The Killing of Sister George. Childie’s behavior suggests that  George may have reason for her jealousies.

Dana Smith-Croll, Caitlin O’Connell and Margot White.
Photo by Marielle Solan Photography.

The play’s title is still powerful, of course. Despite the success of this production, what was once a sensation is now only a curiousity.  In its time, The Killing of Sister George had the power to shock with its testosterone laden script. — played out by  a woman-only cast.

For more information about TACT and The Killing of Sister George, please visit http://tactnyc.org/.

Posted in 1987 Pulitzer Prize nominee, A Walk in the Woods, cold war, detente, disarmament, Kathleen Chalfant, Keen Company, Lee Blessing, Paul Niebanck, peace talks, Tony winning play, USSR vs USA

Peace in our time

Peace is elusive. Not the concept of peace. Everyone buys into that. The actual absence of war or threats of war is difficult to find. In part, it’s hard to come by because war and peace are so much about posturing: “How dare they!” “We have to defend our values.”

Paul Niebanck as John Honeywell and Kathleen Chalfant  as Irina Botvinnick in “A Walk in the Woods”
by Lee Blessing. At the Keen in a production directed by Jonathan Silverman. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

In Lee Blessing’s vision in “A Walk in the Woods,” at the Keen through October 18th, arms negotiations are a game leading to “Nyet” on one side, and “No” on the other.

Paul Niebanck as John Honeywell and Kathleen Chalfant  as Irina Botvinnick in “A Walk in the Woods”
by Lee Blessing. At the Keen in a production directed by Jonathan Silverman. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Irina Botvinnick (Kathleen Chalfant) understands this. John Honeyman (Paul Niebanck), her naive counterpart from the USA, expects to save the world from itself.

Detente is an old-fashioned word. It melted with the ice of the Cold War. Blessing’s play, ably directed by Keen’s Artistic Director, Jonathon Silverstein, is about people–specifically about two people whose business is politics and whose mission is useless. The two are negotiators for the great and well-armed superpowers of the Soviet Union and the United States of America.

Chalfant’s Irina is charming as she eggs Honeyman into trivial conversations as they walk and talk in a Geneva park.  The play, which was nominated for both a Tony and the Pulitzer Prize in 1987, echoes he futility and frustration of arms-race peace talks. It also drags to a point where it loses focus and our interest.

Is “A Walk in the Woods” dated in the post-Cold War era? Much of what it has to say about the unwillingness to scale down and give up weapons rings true. The opponents have changed shape and geography, perhaps. Despite its real-politik plot, however, the play lags. The leads are never anything but compelling to watch, but the outcome is evident and protracted.

The costumes by Amanda Jenks and Jennifer Paar are lively, and provide a nice rhythm to the seasons of the plot.
For more information on “A Walk in the Woods,” and the Keen Company, please visit http://www.keencompany.org/.