Theatricality is a fraught concept. It can just be dramatic and thought-provoking, or it can be over-the-top, dramatic and thought-provoking. Kristen Childs has written a musical that is theatrical to the nth degree. Bella: An American Tall Talealso gives us a little slice of African-American history mixed in with the fable.
Politics and theater are getting a bad rep. Actually politics and their practitioners have had a reputation for honesty meaning any means that is necessary, aka I’ll lie if I have to, and theater has always been a forum for exposing truths. Ms. Nixon stirred the political pot a tiny bit in her acceptance speech at the 2017 Tony Awards Ceremonies. Now, it is the mixing of politics into theater that has caused quite the controversy (see what is happening with The Public’s Julius Caesar for instance.) It is unwarranted. Art is meant to comment on our realities.
At any rate, one of those realities, Lost and Guided, a play by Irene Kapustina about Syrian refuges in their own words, is on view at Conrad Fischer and The Angle Project, at Under St Marks (94 St. Marks Place, from August 3 through 27th. For tickets, click here.
A similar but perhaps more intitmate project is The Play Company’s Oh My Sweet Land another look at the Syrian refuge crisis. The play is due to launch this fall in private homes and communal spaces where people have been invited to host this multi-sensory experience. Those wishing to participate by providing a venue can do so by filling out the questionnaire here. Nadine Malouf stars, perhaps in your own kitchen, in Oh My Sweet Land, a play developed by Amir Nizar Zuabi with German-Syrian actor Corinne Jaber.
Shakespeare wrote plays reflecting timely events, for his time and all times. This may explain why The Public is in such hot water over their production of Julius Caesar. The brouhaha, perhaps like the staging, is way out of proportion. In Measure for Measure, Shakespeare also explores issues to do with power and justice. Theatre for a New Audience is presenting a new modernized staging by Simon Godwin from June 17th through July 16th. Tickets for this show which will be held at Polansky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn are available at TFANA’s website.
Henrik Ibsen had his own take on both the personal and the political. For instnace, Ibsen’s drama, An Enemy of the People is a play about populism and its discontents.
An Enemy of the Peoplecomes to us from the Wheelhouse Theater Company under the direction of Jeff Wise, at the Gene Frankel Theater, beginning June 9th and running through June 24th is conceived as a meditation on the “tyranny of the majority.”
Following on the success of Ibsen’s feminist tale as revisited by Lucas Hnath in A Doll’s House, Part 2, see the US Premiere of Victoria Benedictsson’s 1887 Swedish original, The Enchantment in a new English translation and adaptation by Tommy Lexen. Ducdame Ensemble introduces us to the woman behind Ibsen’s Nora; Benedictsson, who wrote under the pen name Ernst Ahlgren, was not only Ibsen’s inspiration but also Strindberg’s for Miss Julie. The Enchantment opens at HERE on July 6th, with previews beginning June 28th.
Dystopia is the normal atmosphere of an Ibsen play. It is poignantly a main event in the classic 1984. George Orwell’s novel in which Big Brother government controls its citizens has been turned into a play by the same name. The play by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan was first performed in 2013 at England’s Nottingham Playhoouse. 1984 , a place where mind control involves convincing us that up is down, “freedom is slavery,” is now at Broadway’s newly renovated Hudson Theatre, with an opening on June 22nd, and starring Olivia Wilde and Tom Sturridge.
It is a minor obsession with me to note how many ways Ibsen and Chekhov can play for a modern audience. Chekhov gets many of our contemporary playwrights to rise to his challenge, and adapt his social commentary to our moderner times.
Of course, the comparatively dour Henrik Ibsen has also been a catalyst for imitation, adaptation, interpretation and exploration. Lucas Hnath has taken Nora’s escape from a stifling household as the point of departure, as it were, for his A Doll’s House Part 2, currently playing at the Golden Theatre (through July 23rd.)
Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People has proven to be an inspiration for our avant theaters, as well. It requires some heavy lifting, and in the past 10 years or so has had productions at MTC, and the Pearl (in a David Harrower adaptation.)
Now, An Enemy of the Peoplecomes to us from the Wheelhouse Theater Company under the direction of Jeff Wise, at the Gene Frankel Theater, beginning June 9th and running through June 24th as a meditation on the “tyranny of the majority.” Just about a perfect assessment of where this story leads.
David Harrower’s adaptation of Public Enemy, at the Pearl Theater through November 6th, leaves me gob-smacked as our midwestern friends might say.
Populism has a way of drowning out reason, and majority rule can have unwelcome consequences. Ibsen knew this when he created An Enemy of the People, translated by Charlotte Barslund for Harrower’s re-imaging as Public Enemy.
The man of principle, Ibsen says, stands alone while the majority is lulled into serving the self-interests of the powerful. And that man, the individual, who stands alone is “the strongest man.”
Dr. Stockmann (Jimonn Cole) stands alone, of course. Stockmann’s insistence that he has discovered that the Baths which are a tourist attraction for their little burg are a health hazard threatens the town’s livelihood and prosperity. He’s alienated everyone, except his wife Katrine (Nilaja Sun) and daughter, Petra (Arielle Goldman) who both acknowledge his genius. The rest of the town, represented by his brother, Peter, the Mayor (Giuseppe Jones), the printer and small businessman, Aslasken (John Keating), the hypocritical newspaper men, Billing (Alex Purcell) and Hovstad (Robbie Tann), all turn against him.His father-in-law, Kiil (Dominic Cuskern) is especially angry since it looks like his tannery has caused the pollution.
Harrower (Good With People, Blackbird, A Slow Air) is no stranger to moral uncertainties and slippery slopes. His adaptation of Ibsen is lean and to the point. The text is thought-provoking, and anything but reassuring. Earlier productions of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, like the one at MTC several seasons back, were equally disheartening.
Standing out in this fine cast, Cole plays Stockmann’s as humbly arrogant with a fine subtlety. The Pearl’s Artistic Director, Hal Brooks directs the ensemble with a light touch, playing on both the tragedy and humor in Public Enemy.
For tickets and more information, please visit The Pearl website.