Posted in #critique, #dystopia, #pointofview, #whatdoyouthink, ambition, Beau Willimon, Blair Brown, blog at wordpress.com, Derek McLane, drama, fictionalization_of_real_events, history, Hudson Theatre, intrigue, Jane Greenwood, Josh Lucas, Marton Csokas, one act play, Pam MacKinnon, Phillipa Soo

Matters political

5389Politics matters, of course, since it definitely affects our daily lives–especially as recent current events have revealed. You may understand when I say that I have felt undone by politics these past couple of years.

5387

 

And yet, here I go, voluntarily, to see The Parisian Woman, a tale of the DC Beltway playing at the Hudson Theatre through March 11th.

5189Initially, there were two things driving me to see this drama by Beau Willimon, the president of the Writers Guild of America East. The Parisian Woman stars Uma Thurman in her Broadway debut. Additionally, it is just the third production at the newly refurbished Hudson, following 1984 and Sundays in The Park with George. (By the by, both of these had star turns, the former Olivia Wilde and the latter starring Jake Gyllenhaal.)

So, what did the production, directed by Pam McKinnon, and also featuring Josh Lucas, Blair Brown, Phillipa Soo and Marton Csokas say to my hyper-poiliticized self about the atmosphere of power and influence in 2016?

5393Intrigues, gossip, clandestine activities, affairs, rumors all churn up Washington’s social life in The Parisian Woman. Chloe (Thurman) is looking for powerful friends to help her husband Tom (Josh Lucas) further his ambitions. She has none of her own, it seems, so she lives through those she loves. Peter (Marton Csokas) is her lover but not among the people for whom she really cares.

Thurman and Csokas give overly theatrical performances, though in their defense I will say that the material is a hard sell. The script is rough; I think of it as Noel Coward on Red Bull®. Lucas’s Tom is charming if excessively idealized. Blair Brown as one of Chloe’s power circle, Jeanette, is natural and straightforward; her acting like her character has a certain spunk. Phillipa Soo as Jeanette’s daughter Rebecca holds the stage with an easy poise.

Rebecca also gets to wear the one most singularly impressive and stunning gown (costumes designed by Jane Greenwood.) Chloe’s many outfits are attractive in the understated way of a very expensive wardrobe. The men are chic in suits except in one scene where Tom bears his six-pack, (We can assume that the latter is not courtesy of Ms. Greenwood, although her work in the show is very appealing.) The elegant sets (by Derek McLane) move in a clever fashion and feature a kind of newsfeed which is monochromatic Mondrienesque.

Polemics–even when the politics echo my own– are not inherently dramatic
Willimon’s text is stiff with an elegance manqué. Actually, both ends of the register get short shrift– The Parisian Woman is neither vulgar nor haute. The play aims so hard to be insiderish that it fails to qualify as #resist(ance). This blend of fiction with fact in Willimon’s play, could be called a “faction” drama. Many in the audience at the performance I attended seem to have come there as fans of Beau Willimon’s streaming series, House of Cards, another foray into the inner workings of the life political.

I am not saying that we should not take the excursion, just that Willimon’s The Parisian Woman is not an entirely convincing trip down this path.

For tickets and information, please visit The Parisian Woman website, or the Hudson Theatre box office at 141 West 44th Street.

Take a look at my SidewalkSuperBlog to see what I found of interest inside the new old Hudson Theatre.

Posted in comedy, drama, theater

Join the swap meet

The Qualms at Playwrights Horizons/Mainstage Theater. Pictured,  Chinasa Ogbuagu, John Procaccino, Sarah Goldberg, Jeremy Shamos and Donna Lynne Champlin. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The Qualms at Playwrights Horizons/Main stage Theater. Pictured,
Chinasa Ogbuagu, John Procaccino, Sarah Goldberg, Jeremy Shamos and Donna Lynne Champlin. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Swinging is by definition a casual-about-sex lifestyle.

The Qualms, in its New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons through July 12th, (so hurry), presents the tantalizing proposition that switching partners is painless and uncomplicated. That this promise of free love appeals to a couple just starting their marriage suggests that this party will inevitably go awry. (The “preview” is here: http://wp.me/p5jq0w-uh.)

Pulitzer-prize winning playwright, Bruce Norris (for Clybourne Park), is a master of the suburban story. In The Qualms, Chris’ (Jeremy Shamos) reluctant participation in Gary (John Procaccino) and Teri’s (Kate Arrington) sexcapades ultimately puts a damper on the proceedings. Chris and Kristy (Sarah Goldberg) are newly weds, who met their hosts on a vacation last winter, and came by to explore this novel option in their relationship.

The Qualms at Playwrights Horizons. Pictured are: Andy Lucien, Kate Arrington. and   John Procaccino
The Qualms at Playwrights Horizons. Pictured are:
Andy Lucien, Kate Arrington. and
John Procaccino

The regulars at these soirees, Deb (Donna Lynne Champlin), her beau Ken (Andy Lucien), Regine (Chinasa Oginbuagu) are all, with the exception of the macho “alpha male” Roger (Noah Emmerich), welcoming.

Shamos’ Chris practically twitches with the weight of his discomfort and disapproval. Under Pam MacKinnon’s direction, the ensemble is seductively perfect. Kate Arrington is particularly affecting as the surprising Teri.

There are many types of couples. The Qualms focuses on two: those who swap with impunity and those who just can’t adapt to carefree swinging.

While Kristy appears ready to accept the “polyamourous” lifestyle, Chris remains put-off. He may be right. After all, sex with strangers is unlikely to improve matters in a floundering relationship.

Head on over and join the party. Unlike Chris, you won’t be disappointed.

For tickets and information, please visit http://www.playwrightshorizons.org/shows/plays/qualms/ 

More opinions about this show also here.

Posted in comedy, drama, theater

Change Partners And….

Qualms, The Playwrights Horizons/Mainstage Theater;  Chinasa Ogbuagu and Jeremy Shamos. Photo by Joan Marcus Production Credits: Pam MacKinnon (director) Todd Rosenthal (scenic design) Jessica Pabst (costume design) Russell H. Champa (lighting design) Rich Sims (sound design) Other Credits: Written by: Bruce Norris
The Qualms, at Playwrights Horizons/Mainstage Theater;
Chinasa Ogbuagu
and Jeremy Shamos. Photo by Joan Marcus
Pam MacKinnon (director)
Written by: Bruce Norris

Swingers are by definition casual about sex.

The Qualms, in its New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons through July 12th, presents the tantalizing proposition that swapping is fun and easy. The temptation of free love to a couple just starting their marriage suggests that this party will inevitably go awry.

Relationships are notoriously difficult. Sex with strangers can demarcate the fault lines in even an established union.

There are many phyla in coupledom. The Qualms focuses on two: those who swap and those who don’t. For those who do, swinging is integral to their relationships. For those who don’t, it’s cheating even when both partners agree to try it. Nothing slows a party down like a man with qualms about cheating on his wife.

Review shortly… In the meantime, for tickets and information, please visit http://www.playwrightshorizons.org/shows/plays/qualms/ 

Posted in comedy, drama, theater

Heidi rides again

Elisabeth Moss and Jason Biggs Photo by Joan Marcus
Elisabeth Moss and
Jason Biggs
Photo by Joan Marcus

Theater is often a realm for nostalgia.

The Heidi Chronicles, Wendy Wasserstein’s Pulitzer-winning play, in revival at the Music Box Theatre, is a time capsule. Yes, it’s dated but it also reflects the season of its making.

First produced in 1988 at Playwrights Horizons, The Heidi Chronicles soon transferred to Broadway’s Plymouth Theatre, garnering Tony noms for Joan Allen (Best Actress,) Joanne Camp (Featured Actress,) designer  Thomas Lynch, and director, Daniel J. Sullivan, and wins for Boyd Gaines (Best Actor) and for Best Play. Wasserstein won her Pulitzer in 1989 as well.

Tracee Chimo, Jason Biggs, Elisabeth Moss and Bryce Pinkham. Photo by Joan Marcus
Tracee Chimo, Jason Biggs, Elisabeth Moss and Bryce Pinkham.
Photo by Joan Marcus

The Heidi Chronicles was Wasserstein’s seminal feminist play, and in its time, it was acknowledged as both funny and on-point. For the most part this production lives up to the play’s prior reputation.

The story follows Heidi Holland (Elisabeth Moss) from her senior year of high school to mid-life. Along the way, she encounters and embraces the newly emerging feminist movement; she plays her part in it as a professor of art history who abhors the lack of recognition for women artists.

Heidi Chronicles, despite a Tony nod for Elisabeth Moss, closed on May 3rd. It was not the only victim of low Tony esteem, and Living on Love also departed on the 3rd.

Earlier in the week before Heidi left the stage, VP ran our review:
http://www.vevlynspen.com/2015/03/the-heidi-chronicles-returns-with-new.html

Jason Biggs is exceptional as the over-confident bad boy Scoop Rosenbaum; Eliasabeth Moss’ Heidi is perhaps appropriately a cool-mess. The talented Tracee Chimo plays a number of roles including Fran, the dedicated Lesbian, and finds her groove  as the hard-driving TV host, April. Ali Ahn as Heidi’s girlhood friend Susan Johnston deftly works her transition from silly high-schooler to sincere activist and back to a shallow pillar of Hollywood society. Bryce Pinkham is funny, camp, and genuinely touching as Heidi’s pal Peter Patrone. John Lee Beatty’s scenic design creates minimalist variety. Each decade is nicely depicted with montage of headlines, thanks to projection design by Peter Negrini.

Towards the end of the play, director Pam MacKinnon allows the action to drag for all of the last three scenes. The intent is to allow emotions to grow, but the effect is just the opposite.  Unfortunately, as the play slows, The Heidi Chronicles loses all the connection it has labored to build.

Just as it is too early to applaud oursekves as a post-racial country, we cannot yet claim a full victory for feminism. As Wasserstein’s Heidi, Peter and Scoop say –Everyone should fulfill their potential. Almost there, Wendy.

To find out more about The Heidi Chronicles, please visit http://www.theheidichroniclesonbroadway.com/