Posted in 2-hander, air force, also a film, army airmen, autobiographical, based on a movie, based on a real world conflict, based on a true story or event and historical documents, based on true events, Bryce Pinkham, carpet bombing, comedy about a serious subject, dark comedy drama, drama based on real events, duped by love, ensemble acting, family, fathers and sons, holiday show, memoir, memories, musical theatre, musicals and dramas, narration, new work, Off or Off-Off Broadway Transfer, offbeat work, parents and children, play, play with music, Roundabout Theatre Company, serious comedy, storytelling, stylistic, the damaged and hurting, theater, Vietnam background, war

Legacies of war

Jon Hoche, Raymond Lee, Paco Tolson (center), Jennifer Ikeda, and Samantha Quan. Photo © Carol Rosegg

History can sometimes revel in a very personal dynamic.

For instance, those of us who lived through and joined in protests against the Vietnam War may not share the viewpoint of the main character in Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone, currently playing at MTC’s City Center Stage I through December 4th.

Quang (Raymond Lee) was a pilot in the South Vietnamese armed forces. He was trained in the United States. He saw the North Vietnamese as a genuine threat to life and liberty and welcomed the help of American soldiers in the struggle.

Vietgone is a fast-paced kind-of-multi-media excursion into the hero’s and heroine’s, Tong (Jennifer Ikeda), survival. They meet at a state-side refugee camp where Tong and her mother (Samantha Quan, in a number of roles) have come after the fall of Saigon.

The piece is, and isn’t, narrated by the Playwright (Paco Tolson, also playing several people), who is commemorating his parents’ story. There are rapped love songs, (original music by Shane Rettig) motorcycles, a roadtrip, and a bromance– all trappings to some extent of the era portrayed in the plot.

For the most part, Vietgone is entertaining, interesting, unusual in structure, and well presented. There is room for some cuts here and there. The cast, under May Adrales’ direction, and staging, with scenic designs by Tim Mackabee and projection design by Jared Mezzocchi, are excellent.

In other subscription house news from our household:

Roundabout’s Love, Love, Love (reviewed earlier and playing through 12/18) can make us feel guilty first for Brexit and now Trump as it portrays boomers resting in reactionary comfort.

Over at Studio 54 througfh January 15, 2017, Roundabout has mounted a vehicle for nostalgia. Holiday Inn, with no irony whatsoever, cries out for Mickey and Judy. It is well-served by the cast on hand, however, and a pleasantly tuneful production makes for a great afternoon at the movies, er theater.Bryce Pinkham and Corbin Bleu are the friends and dancing partners, along with Megan Sikora, and Lora Lee Gayer who lead the ensemble in song and dance.

Heisenberg Georgie- Mary-Louise Parker and Alex-- Denis Arndt; Set Designer Mark Wendland; Costume Designer Michael Krass; Lighting Designer Austin R. Smith; Original Music and Sound Designer David Van Tieghem. Photo © Joan Marcus
Georgie- Mary-Louise Parker and Alex– Denis Arndt;
Set Designer Mark Wendland; Costume Designer Michael Krass;
Lighting Designer Austin R. Smith;
Original Music and Sound Designer David Van Tieghem. Photo © Joan Marcus

MTC gives us Heisenberg at its Broadway venue, the Friedman Theatre through December 11th. Why Heisenberg? The play, so well-acted by Denis Arndt and Mary-Louise Parker as to have one puzzling over the quantum physics of it name, is an enjoyable two-hander. It’s gimmicky staging notwithstanding, the dynamic of the drama is captivating. Heisenberg is a sweet-crazy story, written by Simon Stephens, the pen behind The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Heisenberg was a transfer from Off-Off, and as such had some buzziness surrounding it.Director Mark Brokaw elicits strong performances from both his actors. Parker, who unleashes the odd-ball in her character in little bursts, is fun to watch.Arndt’s charm reveals how a pent-up man can suddenly be both impetuous and child-like. So, back to the title: Heisenberg has an underlying if small principle of uncertainty that you will likely enjoy.

Posted in based on a film, cruelty, moving musical drama, musical, second look, Vietnam background

Ugly is as ugly does in ‘DOGFIGHT" — gets a second look

This is an update since we had a chance to give “Dogfight” a second look!
For some, cruelty is a birthright. For others a rite of passage. 
“Dogfight,” the new musical  playing at Second Stage Theatre through August 19th, doesn’t examine the fine points of meanness and callousness. It does offer an improbable, or on second peek moving, redemption for Eddie Birdlace (Derek Klena.) Rose Feeney (Lindsay Mendez) sees past the ugliness of his actions and his physical good looks.

Lindsay Mendez as Rose with Derek Klena as Birdlace and company in the musical “Dogfight.” Photo © Joan Marcus.
In “Dogfight,” with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and a book by Peter Duchan based on the 1991 indie film of the same name, male bonding is mostly abusive and nasty. The girls, like Marcy (Annaleigh Ashford) and Chippy (Deirdre Friel, who also plays a number of other cameos) and even Rose are either victims, or just wanna have fun. Eddie and his pals, Boland (Josh Segarra) and Bernstein (Nick Blaemire), the three Bs, are marines on the eve of shipping out. Their destinaton is Vietnam. 
F. Michael Haynie as Fector, Nick Blaemire as Bernstein, Adam Halpin as Stevens, Josh Segarra as Boland, and Steven Booth as Gibbs in “Dogfight.” Photo © Joan Marcus.
This last night in San Francisco is for them to have “Some Kinda Time,” as the opening number suggests. The songs are not unpleasantly generic ’60s style pop, maybe with a bit of an edge to match the subject matter. The acting is good, particularly Derek Klena and Lindsay Mendez as the leads, and Annaleigh Ashford’s Marcy is tough as nails and terrific.
DeirdreFriel as Bernstein’s silent date, Nick Blaemire as Bernstein, Derek Klena as Birdlace, Lindsay Mendez as Rose, Josh Segarra as Boland, and Annaleigh Ashford as Marcy in the musical “Dogfight.” Photo © Joan Marcus.  
“Dogfight” is about insensitivity and heartlessness. Why are we not championing the women these marines treat so badly? It seems like we should be more concerned. The story line while both disturbing and satisfying, still manages to be bland. “Dogfight” uses the familiarity of its musical style, the dancing, and the wrap-around sets of staircases and catwalks, designed by David Zinn, to bolster the weakness of its plot.

So, about that second look: “Dogfight” was much more engaging the second time around. Its central characters were touching and its storyline was poignant. Even the music flowed better and was more interesting.  

  Derek Klena as Birdlace, James Moye as the party singer, Lindsay Mendez as Rose in the musical “Dogfight.” Photo © Joan Marcus.
To find out more about “Dogfight” visit