With Columbus experiencing a re-think, historically speaking, the mnemonic fed us as children seems less and less useful.
Forget the Nina, the Pinta, and “fourteen hundred and ninety two.” Sit back while Professor Leguizamo gives you a lesson in Latin History for Morons, playing at Studio 54 through February 25, 2018.
Teaching dummies about Latinos has been a John Leguizamo Broadway (and off) project for some time. 2011’s Ghetto Klown was not the first time he scored points on how little we non-Latinos know about his people. As in his Tony-nominated Freak, he talks about the deeply personal in Ghetto Klown, while revealing interesting tidbits about his Hollywood exploits. The confessional tone of many of his previous stage outings is on display in Latin History for Morons as well.
If we did not like Leguizamo so well, we might resent being called Morons, but we’ll let it pass. It must be galling to hail from one of the Hispanic isles — the Bronx or P.R. for example–and have us flaunt the myth that America was “discovered” by an Italian in service to his Spanish Queen. On top of that we’re yelling “speak English” these days and building walls to keep out other Latino groups.
Sure, his is a one-man show, but Leguizamo can’t do it all by himself. Latin History for Morons is directed by Tony Taccone, with sets by Rachel Hauck, costumes by Luke McDonough and original music/sound design by Bray Poor, and lights by Alexander V. Nichols.
Artists have found various expressions of racial harmony and discord. Seinfeld, a show considered famously lacking in diversity, used the black and white cookie to make its point about the cultural divide.
The musical Hair exalted in the difference with the anthem Black Boys/White Boys. Its progressive themes made it an iconic operetta of the 1960s; in its most recent revival Broadway at the St. James Theatre in 2011, Hair, with a cast of mostly relative unknowns from the road company tour of the 2009 production, was as timely and exciting as ever. (See TB’s review: here.)
All this said, I have no intention to minimize or trivialize the real and substantial issues of race and our relationship to each other.
This is the season when grandma and grandpa, mom and dad, all look for entertainment that will please their youngsters. Lots of shows, like Balanchine’s Nutcracker at NYCB, are not just kid- but also adult-friendly. Here is a short list of some of the things you might want to do to occupy the holidays:
Bookish children will enjoy hearing their favorite authors read to them in Symphony Space’s interactive Thalia Kids Book Club series, produced in cooperation with Bank Street Bookstore. The series unites eager young readers with the creators of the books that inspire their imaginations. Each event includes a creative writing project, a discussion with the audience, and fun.
On December, 2 Newbery Award-winning author Katherine Paterson visits the series, and on Monday, December 4, Neil Patrick Harris will celebrate his middle-grade novel The Magic Misfits. More events, including a Judy Blume birthday celebration, are planned for winter and spring 2018.
Click on the link above for more information.
Christmas Past, Future and Present will make their appearance in a new site-specific parlor performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Caroltaking place in the Chelsea townhouse and theater space, Torn Page from Thursday November 30 to Friday December 15.
Produced by Origin Theatre Company, the one-man version of the story, uses an adaptation of Dickens’ own little-used original performance text. The Origin’s A Christmas Carolfeatures the distinguished African-American opera singer and actor Elmore James, and is directed by Erwin Maas and is set in the Chelsea home of the actors Rip Torn and Geraldine Page. The immersive staging transforms the Chelsea home, filling the 19th century townhouse with the sights, sounds and smells of both a large Victorian home, and a more modest dwelling circa 1853. Mince pie and mulled wine, prepared on the premises, will be served during the performance. A small, multi-racial chorus singing period carols, will also evoke the season.
More information can be found on the Origin Theatre’s website.
This December, Axis Theatre Company will present the 16th annual production of its beloved family holiday show, Seven in One Blow, or the Brave Little Kid. Written and directed by Axis Artistic Director Randy Sharp in an adaptation of the classic fairy tale by The Brothers Grimm, this festive, interactive winter play was created for kids, but resonates equally well for adults and features a Video Cameo from Debbie Harry.
Axis will stage Seven in One Blow, or the Brave Little Kid on Fridays at 7pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm, with an additional performance on Tuesday, December 19 at 7pm.
Click on the link to the Axis webpage above to find out more.
Puppetry that blends the avant-garde, pirates and Pinocchio at Just Kidding.
During the 2017-18 season at Symphony Space, families are invited to experience marionette shows with three acclaimed practitioners: November brings the antic Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers in Everybody Loves Pirates; December will see the expert National Marionette Theatre with the children’s classic Pinocchio, and the New Year brings the ingenious Milo the Magnificentto the stage.
Information and tickets is found on the links above.
This A Christmas Carol is playing more to the parents (and grands) than to the kiddies, but come see David Hyde Pierce as the iconic curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge in Crispin Whittell’s adaptation of the beloved Charles Dickens novella, directed by Joe Dowling. Joining David Hyde Pierce are John Glover, Harriet Harris, Edward Hibbert, Julie White, Matthew Amendt, Matt Bradford Sullivan, and Kaliswa Brewster, plus others to be announced. The occasion is The Acting Company’s one-night-only benefit reading on December 11 at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College. Following the reading, the evening will continue with an exclusive cast dinner (jacket and tie required) at the nearby Union Club.
There is a long and storied tradition that links stage presentation with hyper-theatricality. The Noh theater of Japan is part of such a history. Masks, themes that involve predestined events, plots both complicated and ritualized are all part of the theatrical environment created in this genre of theater.
In 1955, the controversial author Yukio Mishima wrote Hanjo, based on a 14th Century Noh play by Motohiko Zeami. The SITI Company (co-founded by Anne Bogart) production of Hanjo, is presented in Japanese and English at the Japan Society on December 7th-9th as part of the NOH-NOW series.
Mishima’s Hanjo, directed by SITI’s co-artistic director, Leon Ingulsrud, is stripped of the extravagant presentation and modernized. In some ways, this simplified staging actually heightens the stylized other-worldliness of the play. Hanjo is a tale in which love leads a young woman deeper and deeper into insanity.
For tickets, and additional information, you may go online or visit the Japan Society at 333 East 47th Street.
The workplace can be a fraught setting for the battle of the sexes.
In the case of Theresa Rebeck’s What We’re Up Against, in its New York off-Broadway premiere at The Women’s Project through November 26th, the setting is a boutique architectural firm. The company’s prestige only adds to the cutthroat atmosphere in which its staff swims.
Ironically, the title crops up in a slightly drunken conversation that the “boys” in the office are having, complaining about Eliza (Krysta Rodriguez), a relatively new hire who has the absentee boss David on her side. Stu (Damian Young) manages the business as best he can; he finds Eliza an impediment and feels comfortable bitching about her to Ben (Jim Parrack) and to the other new hire, Weber (Skylar Astin.)
The irony, of course, is that it is Eliza who is up against the wall created by her craven male colleagues. The other woman architect they work with, Janice (Marg Helgenberger) is as antagonistic to Eliza as the men are; her hostility is more self-protective– Eliza stirs up trouble and Janice is eager to fit in and get along.
What We’re Up Against enjoys its ironies and has a quick-witted humor. Under Adrienne Campbell-Holt’s direction, the pace is brisk and to the point. The fact that the characters, except for Eliza and Ben, lack all charm shows its hand, making it clear who we’re supposed to root for.
The bi-level set for What We’re Up Against are designed by Narelle Sissons personalizes and expands on the space. We were told by patrons in the first row that they were not entirely content with the design, however.
What We’re Up Againstoriginally played at The Magic Theatre in San Francisco in February, 2011 under the direction of Loretta Greco and won the 2011 Rella Lossy Playwright’s Award. It is presented by WP Theater by special arrangement with Segal NYC Productions.
The “Great Puppet,” a French theatrical tradition that spanned nearly a century, made horror an everyday over-the-top phenomenon.
The Grand Guignol was a small theater, seating just under 300, that left a huge impact on atrocity and terror. Their mayhem took the ghoulish to its apex, a level Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk try to mimic with some success in their televised American Horror Story.
Our American stages have never had a great tradition of frightening the audience. Phantom of the Opera is the closest thing to a scary story on Broadway right now. It is a crowd pleaser with its lush music and eccentric anti-hero.
There is nothing genuinely ghoulish about Phantom, which has had a nearly 30-year run at The Majestic Theatre
and has gone around the globe in many touring companies.
Your children, dressed as ghosts and ghouls, witches and werewolves, may be scarier than anything you’ll see on stage this year. The movies, well, they are another story; many as truly blood-curdling, scream-inducing as anything the Grand Guignol came up with in their heydey. Hitchcock’s works are subtler than the Saw franchise, and therefore much much spookier. I spent the shower scene of Psychounder the chair in the cinama house when I saw it.