Posted in #LaMama, #Macbeth, Bated Breath Theatre Company, Classic Stage Company, CSC, emerging playwright, George Bernard Shaw, Gingold Theatrical Group, Kate Hamill, known playwrights, LaMama, Lucas Hnath, New York Theatre Workshop, playwright, Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage Theatre, Sondheim, Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm, The Flea Theater, The Mint Theatre, Will Arbery

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David Raposo & Nicole Orabona. Photo by Mia Aguirre: Unmaking of Toulouse-Lautrec

Sure, Broadway can do it bigger and splashier. It’s Off-Broadway, and its sister wife, off-off, that can take the bigger risks.

This means that, often enough, it is the offs’ productions that are the more interesting and provocative.

This is not to say that we don’t appreciate the tone and tenor of a big show, but we are inspired by what is accomplished by the off-the-main-stem houses. Sometimes, like the Tony-favored Hadestown, there is novelty and innovation, along with a touch of provocation, on the Broadway stage as well.

Some of these are the usual suspects– Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage, The Mint, Classic Stage Company, New York Theatre Workshop, to name a few– who come up with exciting theater year in and year out.

Not all of these are “small” productions, of course. For instance at CSC, the artistic director, John Doyle, has slated big names Corey Stoll and Nadia Bowers to play the lead and his lady in the Scottish play. Shakespeare’s Macbeth will run this fall from October 10 through December 15. The season at the Classic will continue with  two new iterations of iconic tales of horror presented in repertory in January-March 2020: Dracula by Kate Hamill, adapted from the novel by Bram Stoker, and 
Frankenstein, based on Mary Shelley’s original work, and adapted by Tearrance Arvelle Chisholm. In April-June 2020, it concludes with Assassinswhich completes the trilogy of Stephen Sondheim/John Weidman musicals John Doyle has staged,

Playwrights Horizons opens its main stage fall season with a play about our political dystopias. Will Arbery’s Heroes of the Fourth Turning, directed by Danya Taymor, gets its world premiere beginning September 13. Mr. Arbery is the playwright in residence for 2019-20 at PH thanks to a grant from the Tow Foundation. PH does not disappoint.

Later in the year, Lucas Hnath returns to PH with The Thin Place, beginning November 22. Consider this a Thanksgiving present from PH to you! If you are unfamiliar with this particular talent, before we saw Hnath’s The Christians at PH we were too. Then came A Doll’s House Part 2, an exceptionally imaginative reimagining of Ibsen, in which Laurie Metcalf won the 2017 Tony for Best Actress in a Play. Also on the PH bill for the 2019-20 season is a musical, An Unknown Soldier ( book and lyrics by Daniel Goldstein; music and lyrics by Michael Friedman) set to begin on Valentine’s Day. There’s more to it than just what we’ve listed, so please go to phnyc.org for more information, tickets etc etc.

Going off off the beaten path can be very rewarding. The immersive, site specific Unmaking of Toulouse-Lautrec is a kind of boheme rhapsody, and perhaps a throw-back to the Belle Epoque. This interactive production is conceived and directed by Mara Lieberman and devised by members of the Bated Breath Theatre Company . The show continues where it started in May through October 30th at Madame X in Greenwich Village, where you can imbibe cocktails along with the atmosphere of creative decadence.

Still following the path to the off off, we might stop by at The Flea to see The Invention of Tragedy, an exploration of how to tell grief by Mac Wellman. The world premiere is scheduled to run from September 7 through October 14. Or, for a limited engagement at The Tank catch the Spanish language En El Ojo de la Aguaja (In the Eye of the Needle) story of our present dystopias and how we solve them.

David Staller brings the Gingold Theatrical Group production of Shaw’s Caesar & Cleopatra to Theatre Row from September 3 through October 12. History in a Shavian warp gives us a comedy of sex, murder, intrigue. Very timely, doncha think?

LaMaMa, where it all began, in association with Theater Three Collaborative tackles the climate crisis in Other Than We, starting November 21.

Posted in theater

Speaking of no intermission…

Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes
Reed Birney, Olivia Wilde and Tom Sturridge in a scene from 1984 at the Hudson Theatre on Broadway. Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Fashions come and go in clothing, in the arts, even in the theater, which also experiences changing styles. In the Greek amphitheater, plays would last all day. For Shakespeare’s and Marlowe’s audiences, there were often five act tragedies or comedies.

A few years ago, T and B sat in utter surprise when a play ended in just 51 minutes. Today, the drama, comedy, or musical without an intermission is quite common. Likely, it will be longer than an hour, but nonetheless, it will be a one-act play.

Currently running without an interval….

This is far from an exhaustive tour of 90-minute shows currently playing New York City, but it has breadth.

For instance, on stage at the Golden Theatre is Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2clocking in at under 90 minutes. Laurie Metcalf, this year’s Tony winner for Best Actress, is leaving the production on July 23rd, when there will also be other cast changes. Although Jayne Houdyshell stays on as the family housekeeper, Julie White will take over as Nora Helmer; Stephen McKinley Henderson will replace Chris Cooper as Torvald, and Erin Wilhelmi comes aboard as the Helmer’s daughter, Emmy, replacing Condola Rashad.

Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s 1984 comes to Broadway’s recently redecorated Hudson Theatre from a successful UK run. and is advertised as a “chilling 101 minutes.” 1984, a play adapted from George Orwell’s oft-quoted novel, delivers its abject view of a world in which our minds are controlled by an ubiquitous Big Brother without an intermission.

Pipeline at Lincoln Center’s Newhouse Theater, a new and timely play by Dominique Morisseau, directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, confronts the realities that pit opportunity against community and identity. Pipeline also plays without an intermission.

At Soulpepper on 42nd Street, the Toronto troupe is performing a repertoire of plays and musicals, ensemble pieces, and cabaret. Some of this repertory, like Kim’s Convenience is performed in a brisk 85 minutes at Pershing Square Signature Center, giving you plenty of time to run out to the corner market before dinner. The musical adaptation of Spoon River also runs without pause, and is a mere hour and 35 minutes.

For tickets, scheduling and information, please click for the show sites:

A Doll’s House, Part 2

1984

Pipeline

Soulpepper on 42nd Street‘s:

Kim’s Convenience and

Spoon River

 

Posted in adaptation, domestic drama, drama, dysfunction, Ibsen adaptation

Nora’s home

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Laurie Metcalf, Jayne Houdyshell, Condola Rashad and Chris Cooper in a scene from A Doll’s House, Part 2 (c) Brigitte Lacombe

In his dramas, Henrik Ibsen seldom sugarcoats his messages. His plays offer cures for the human condition, but they are served in bitter pills. His Enemy of the People, for instance, (see our reviews of both the recent Broadway production and David Harrower’s off-Broadway adaptation, Public Enemy) is about populism with more than a hint of dystopia. A personal favorite among Ibsen’s works, The Master Builder is a difficult play about monomania, among other things.

Ibsen’s characters are generally entrapped by circumstances from which they must extricate themselves.

Nora’s story is perhaps Ibsen’s best-known and most often interpreted (and sometimes reimagined) work.

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Laurie Metcalf and Condola Rashad in a scene from A Doll’s House, Part 2 (c) Brigitte Lacombe

In Lucas Hnath’s reconstruction, A Doll’s House, Part 2, at the Golden Theatre through July 23rd, Nora’s liberation is full-circle. The slamming of a door can be a bridges-burning, you can’t go home again moment. Ibsen’s Nora probably meant it that way. Hnath’s Nora has ample reasons to knock on it until it opens up again. If A Doll’s House, Part 2 is a sequel, the prequel is Ibsen’s. The questions he raises remain unanswered and mysterious. Victorian puritanism, Ibsen’s foil, bolsters Nora’s soap box.

Feminism is a frequent theme of Ibsen’s. Like A Doll’s House, and Lysistrata, for instance, this is a feminist play. Unlike A Doll’s House, Hnath’s …Part 2 hones in on the perspective of each of the principals involved. Each person in the Helmer household has a different reason to open or shut the door. Hnath is not offering an explication of Ibsen’s story. His is a totally new play.

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Chris Cooper and Laurie Metcalf in a scene fromA Doll’s House, Part 2 (c) Brigitte Lacombe

Sam Gold directs a star-studded Broadway cast, with Laurie Metcalf as Nora. Chris Cooper is Torvald, the husband Nora walked out on years ago and Condola Rashad plays Emmy, her now grown-up daughter. In a post-modern mode,  the Helmers’ daughter is played with not even a nod by a black actress. This is not the only prolepsis in …Part 2, which uses very contemporary ways of expression to tell Nora’s stoty. The redoubtable Jayne Houdyshell is the housekeeper, Anne Marie, who has held the family together in Nora’s absence, and who has as much to lose as anyone in the house.

The lighting design for A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Jennifer Tipton (a freqent collaborator of Paul Taylor, among other dancemakers) has received a Tony nod. Sam Gold, the play, the costume designer, and the entire cast are also all recipients of 2017 Tony nominations.

Make no mistake, while David Zinn’s costumes are brilliantly and beautifully period (Ibsen’s that is), the language and breadth of ideas is decidely anachronistic. That is to say, Hnath’s dialogue is furiously funny and utterly contemporary.

For more information and tickets for A Doll’s House, Part 2, please visit
http://dollshousepart2.com/.

Post script, dateline May 29, 2017: Also check out the review posted at The Wright Wreport, aka Vevlynspen.com of A Doll’s House, Part 2.

Posted in drama, theater

“A Radical Change”

I went to church on Sunday. Those who know me even slightly may wonder why.

 If I were in want of saving, I believe that Pastor Paul (Andrew Garman) would be the man to lead me there.

Lucas Hnath’s thought-provoking new play, The Christians, at Playwrights Horizons through October 25th, is about religious teaching and faith. When Paul preaches “a radical change,” Hnath never states the obvious. Paul’s charisma as a pastor is rivalled by his associate pastor, Joshua (Larry Powell) whose views differ from Paul’s. There is always more than a touch of the unexpected: in Paul’s sermon to his mega-flock, and in his elders’, represented by Jay (Philip Kerr,) response to him, as well as in the way Paul’s wife Elizabeth (Linda Powell) reacts.

Emily Donahoe as a congregant named Jenny delivers her confusion over the new direction in which Pastor Paul is leading his flock in a brilliantly simple scene with equally brilliant simplicity.

In fact, the ensemble, under Les Waters’ direction, meet the challenges of Hnath’s intelligent play with superbly intelligent performances.

The Christians is flawless.

For more information about The Christians, please visit PH’s website.

Note: as this is the first play of the 2015-16 season, you can still get a subscription for the year.