Posted in based on Chekhov, drama, theater

Once again, a young playwright rises to the Chekhov challenge

EsperanceThis was true in 2016, when I first posted it, and it proves once again that Chekhov provides a model for new plays and spurs a playwright to use The Cherry Orchard as a starting point for startling new work:

Anton Chekhov, it seems, provides excellent inspiration for contemporary Americans in his line of work. As if the Chekhov challenge asks the modern playwright to match him wit for wit and build on his premises.

Chekhov teases imitators, adaptors, translators and audiences with themes of grandeur and loss. His plays are shown on stages large and small each year; his works are mimicked in pastiches, like Stupid F**king Bird at the Pearl, or  Minor Character— in Brooklyn from June 17-25, 2016. In the latter, multiple versions of Uncle Vanya merge in a mist of millenial angst.”

Breitwisch Farm cast and creative team
Breitwisch Farm cast and creative team at rehearsal

This March, The Cherry Orchard is the influence for Breitwisch Farm, a play by Jeremy J. Kamps at the Esperance Theater Company at the new Tribeca venue, Town Stages. Breitwisch Farm explores issues of displacement and immigration in the era of America First, giving Chekhov’s story a distinctly of the moment twist. The play runs from March 2nd through March 16th.

Breitwisch Farm author Jeremy J. Kamps is part of the Public’s Emerging Writers Group.  The play stars Danaya Esperanza, Joe Tapper, Katie Hartke, Will Manning, Charlie Murphy, Maria Peyramaure, Alejandro Rodriguez, and Katie Wieland, under Ryan Quinn‘s direction.

Posted in #Roundabout, domestic drama, drama, family drama, philosophy, Roundabout Theatre Company

Time, space, continuum

Our lives, no matter how long their time spans, are all just one continuous moment.

If this premise had been posited before the party that is the first scene of Time and the Conways, at Roundabout’s American Airlines Theatre through November 26th, how much more endurable the charades the family played would have been!

Time and the Conways rattles on, not unagreeably because as it does it gains depth and perspective. J.B. Priestley’s play, written in 1937 has a timelessness. It endures for us under the direction of Rebecca Taichman, who might have given it a brisker flow.

Gabriel Ebert, Anna Baryshnikov, and Anna Camp were standouts in an excellent ensemble. Paloma Young’s lovely costumes are as true for 1919 as for 1937. The set design, by Neil Patel, is both solid and ethereal in keeping with the tone of Priestley’s story.

Please pardon the spoilers unspooled in our description and review below. 

Alan Conway (Gabriel Ebert) is the soul of this family. His sister Kay (Charlotte Parry) is its brittle intelligence.Carol (Anna Baryshnikov) carries the family’s heart. Hazel (Anna Camp), in contrast to her brothers Alan, and Robin (Matthew James Thomas), the family’s ambition. Robin, Mrs. Conway’s (Elizabeth McGovern) favorite child, is a self-destructive wastrel. The giggly girl who marries him, Joan Helford (Cara Ricketts) is deceived into thinking there is more to him by his swagger.

The self-important tyrant Hazel marries, Ernest Beevers (Steven Boyer) is obscenely mean-spirited. Madge Conway (Brooke Bloom) is the polemical sister, idealistic and down-to-earth at once. Her thwarted interest in Gerald Thornton (Alfredo Narcisco) may have soured her and etched her practical preferences.

For tickets to Time and the Conways, please visit the Roundabout website.

Posted in adaptation, based on Chekhov, comedy-drama, drama, ensemble acting, favorites, friendship, girls, growing up, love story, loyalty, Playwritghts Horizons, romantic comedy, Roundabout Theatre Company, soccer, The Duke, The Mint Theatre

Short takes

Here are three shows playing “off-Broadway” but in the Times Square area you may find of interest: The Wolves at the Duke on 42nd, Yours Unfaithfully at the always brilliant Mint at Theatre Row’s Beckett Theatre, and Rancho Viejo at Playwrights Horizons.

Comeback Kids

Sports-themed stories are compelling because they are usually about fair play and, well, sportsmanship.

Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves takes place during practice sessions of a suburban girls’ soccer team as they chat, gossip, and warm-up. Part of the appeal of this show is that  The Wolves is in a reprise production at The Duke on 42nd Street through December 29th; its last sold-out run was this past August and September. It made an impact then, and it looks to make one this holiday season as well.

If you love something, set it free

The Mint is staging  Yours Unfaithfully, the never before produced comedy by Miles Malleson. The play was published in 1933 but never staged until now, when it will get its world premiere beginning on December 27th and running through February 18th at Theatre Row’s Beckett.

Malleson, an actor, playwright, screenwriter, and freethinker seems to have written about the open marriage in Yours Unfaithfully from his life experience, but this production offers much more than voyeuristic interest. Bertrand Russell reviewed the published play as being full of “humor and kindness” and “free from any taint of propaganda.” The high standards of a Mint Theatre production should bring this “well-constructed” work to life.

Neighborly

At Playwrights Horizons, Dan LeFranc brings Rancho Viejo, a small-town and its relationships and interactions to the stage. If his earlier play, The Big Meal is any indication of where he’ll be taking us, this should be an interesting journey.

Rancho Viejo, through December 23rd at the Mainstage, explores how what we do affects our friends and neighbors, who may be total strangers to us. (Check out our review of this very entertaining new play.)


Over at the American Airlines Theatre, Stephen Karam tweaked Chekhov. The Cherry Orchard, which closed on December 4th, is a challenge, as is much of Chekhov. There is melancholy mixed with hilarity in the oeuvre and it does not always play as either funny or tragic. Diane Lane (Ranevskaya) and John Glover (Gaev). the plutocratic and impoverished owners of the property at the center of the play, achieve some level of mixed despair and hysteria.

The production had its faults, and some highlights which included the second act masquerade ball with musicians (Bryaqn Hernandez-Luch, Liam Burke, Chihiro Shibayam, coordinated by John Miller) on stage. There is original music by Nico Muhly.

And most interesting is the color-blind casting in which Chuck Cooper is Pischik, a landowner always looking for a handout, and Maurice Jones is Ranevskaya’s favorite Yasha. Harold Perrineau as Lopakhin, the son of a serf who wins the estate at auction, is a particular standout in the cast.


News from the annoyance front: Impolite theater-goers of the umpteenth degree spotted recently at a matinee of The Cherry Orchard were talking quite loudly. When asked to sush, the response was “Other people are talking.” The other people in question were the characters on stage, I swear.

Also in the Roundabout repertory for this season was the frothy and likeable Holiday Inn, at Studio 54 through January 15th.

Posted in drama, family drama, love story, Roundabout Theatre Company, theater

Boom boom boom

Love Love Love OFF BROADWAYDRAMA LAURA PELS THEATRE 111 W. 46TH S., NEW YORK, NY 10036 Sparked in the haze of the 60s, Love Love Love explores a relationship charred by today's brutal reality, paranoia and passion. Starring: Richard Armitage, Alex Hurt, Zoe Kazan, Ben Rosenfield, Amy Ryan Director: Michael Mayer PLAYWRIGHT: MIKE BARTLETT
Love Love Love Richard Armitage, Amy Ryan, and Alex Hurt Director btMichael Mayer; Play by Mike Bartlett Photo by Joan Marcus
Love Love Love OFF BROADWAYDRAMA LAURA PELS THEATRE 111 W. 46TH S., NEW YORK, NY 10036 Sparked in the haze of the 60s, Love Love Love explores a relationship charred by today's brutal reality, paranoia and passion. Starring: Richard Armitage, Alex Hurt, Zoe Kazan, Ben Rosenfield, Amy Ryan Director: Michael Mayer PLAYWRIGHT: MIKE BARTLETT
Love Love Love Richard Armitage, Amy Ryan, Ben Rosenfield and, Zoe Kazan. Photo by Joan Marcus

One of the many pleasures of theater is when the familiar turns into the unexpected.

When there’s Beatles’ songs, and a character starts rolling a joint, it’s clearly shorthand for the ’60s. And where do we go from the youthful exuberance of that era?

Playwright Mike Bartlett paints an unsentimental portrait of the generation that emerged from the summer of love. Can the disruption promised by the3 enthusiasms of the young be delivered?

Love Love Love OFF BROADWAYDRAMA LAURA PELS THEATRE 111 W. 46TH S., NEW YORK, NY 10036 Sparked in the haze of the 60s, Love Love Love explores a relationship charred by today's brutal reality, paranoia and passion. Starring: Richard Armitage, Alex Hurt, Zoe Kazan, Ben Rosenfield, Amy Ryan Director: Michael Mayer PLAYWRIGHT: MIKE BARTLETT
Richard Armitage, and Amy Ryan in a scene from Love Love Love. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Love Love Love OFF BROADWAYDRAMA LAURA PELS THEATRE 111 W. 46TH S., NEW YORK, NY 10036 Sparked in the haze of the 60s, Love Love Love explores a relationship charred by today's brutal reality, paranoia and passion. Starring: Richard Armitage, Alex Hurt, Zoe Kazan, Ben Rosenfield, Amy Ryan Director: Michael Mayer PLAYWRIGHT: MIKE BARTLETT
A scene from Love Love Love with Richard Armitage and Amy Ryan. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Love, Love, Love at Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre through December 18th, looks at what happens when the pendulum moves and years pass.

While Henry (Alex Hurt) fancies Sandra (Amy Ryan), his brother Ken (Richard Armitage) is the one she hones in on. Ken is at Oxford as she is, and Henry is just a working bloke. At 19, Sandra knows what she wants, weed and freedom.

Twenty years on, the revolutionary road has led Ken and Sandra to a home in the suburbs with two teenage kids, Jamie (Ben Rosenfield) and Rose (Zoe Kazan). Through it all, Ken and Sandra, still cheerful, seem unfazed by time and change. How have their offspring fared?

Boomers, take note, we might not have succeeded in saving the planet.

Walk down the path with Love, Love, Love to its clear-eyed and unflattering conclusion. It will prove most rewarding. We are always impressed by what Roundabout offers visually in its off-Broadway productions, and the sets by Derek McLane and time-inspired costuming by Susan Hilferty are no exception.

Michael Meyer deftly directs his flawless ensemble in Love, Love, Love. Richard Armitage and Amy Ryan stand out for their

Posted in adaptation, anticipation, Chekhov, Chekhov interpretations, drama, feminism, Ibsen, Ibsen adaptation, Ophelia Theatre Group, Roundabout Theatre Company, The Pearl Theatre Company

Classics anew

opheliaMankind has had the urge to tell its stories since time immemorial. The stories told in different voices all have universal themes. Theatrical history has a long time-line.

Warping that time-line is also a stage-borne tradition. Retelling Antigone’s
tale, as Ivo Van Hove did at BAM last year, for instance, is one way to honor
theatre’s lineage.

Stephen Karam has been charged with recharging Chekhov’s classic Cherry
Orchard for the Roundabout this season. David Harrower is reworking Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People into Public Enemy, currently playing through November 6th over at the Pearl.

Drama poses a problem, offers solutions and catharsis. To that end, Kelly

McCready, an actress and director we recently saw at the Mint in The New Morality has taken on Hedda Gabler. Ms McCready, who has re-imagined this Ibsen and is directing, at the Ophelia Theatre Group , starting on October 27th and running through November 19th, feels that Hedda is too often maligned. She has cut the play to 80 intermission-less minutes, and taken Hedda’s side, as an advocate and a friend. And why not? Hedda should be a feminist hero.

To quote Ms McCready, “This production seeks to throw out preconceptions of the play and the character herself. This Hedda is just a woman who tries to make her new life and relationship with Tesman work, but she can’t combat her circumstances and the expectations placed on her because she’s a woman.

She can’t change any of that.”

BTW, the Ophelia Theatre Group is in Astoria, and Ms McCready also

advocates for the “growing arts community” in this outer borough location.

She says, “Astoria has even earned the nickname “Actoria” in recent years, but it’s obviously difficult to get audiences to venture far from Manhattan. And that means people are missing out.”

The tickets for Hedda Gabler are available here; they are gently priced at $18 which should drag some of you from Manhattan to the wilds of, we might point out, nearby Astoria.

In another vein of adaptation altogether is David Stallings’ Anais Nin Goes to Hell, at The Theater at the 14th Street Y from October 14th through the 29th, which takes a comedic turn but looks at feminist icons. Imagine Andromeda, Heloise, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Queen Victoria, Ophelia, Karen Carpenter and of course Anaïs Nin, all trapped together in the afterlife. The play was a hit in the 2008 Fringe Festival, and is being re-staged here under the direction of Antonio Miniño.

Posted in #Roundabout, Manhattan Theater Company, Playwrights Horizons, The Flea Theater, The Mint Theatre, The Pearl Theatre Company, theater, theater lovers

Happy New Year

Black Moon Theatre presents Bliss based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead September 8-25, 2016 Photo by Steven Pisano
Black Moon Theatre presents Bliss based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead
September 8-25, 2016
Photo by Steven Pisano

The moment between December 31st and January 1st so widely celebrated, and especially so at the hub on Broadway’s Times Square, is not the real new year.

Every summer-tired kid can tell you that the new year starts in September when school opens. Theater nerds will likewise say that this is the beginning of the year. Broadway will have two openings on the 20th with The Encounter at the Golden and The Front Page at the Broadhurst. Manhattan Theatre Company also starts previews for Heisenberg, a Broadway transfer to the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on the 20th. Holiday Inn started previews at Roundabout’s Studio 54 on September 1st, while their The Cherry Orchard previewed on the 15th at The American Airlines.

Off-Broadway has already been perky this season. Playwrigths Horizons opened its first show of the season, Julia Cho’s Aubergine. PH’s second show, A Life, which begins previews on September 30th, and features David Hyde Pierce in the cast, has already extended its run to November 27th. The Mint has  A Day By The Seaplaying since July 22nd and through October 23rd. The Pearl’s A Taste Of Honey began previews on September 6th and has already extended the run through October 30th. Starting on September 29th, it will be running in repertory with David Harrower’s Public Enemy, an adaptation of Ibsen’s Enemy of the People.

Further off the great white way, there is also a good deal of action, too. The list is too long to include every production, but we’ll sample a few here:

Black Moon Theatre Company presents Bliss based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead with performances on September 8-25, 2016, at The Flea Theater.
Core Creative Productions presents an updated version of ariveting and award-winning drama about police brutality called Chokehold at the 14th Street Y Theater from September 16th through October 8th.
Playwrights Realm started their 2016-17 season on August 29th with the world premiere of The Wolves by Sarah Delappe, and will also present a collab with (and at) the New York Theatre Workshop when it shows Mfoniso Udofia’s Sojourners & Her Portmanteau later in the Spring.
Meanwhile, currently playing at the New York Theatre Workshop is Nathan Alan Davis’ provocative new play Nat Turner in Jerusalem.
A musical with illusions promises to be a happy ride when On The Rails opens on September 29th, at The Actor’s Temple where it will continue through November 20th.
On The Rails is part of the Lady Liberty Theater Festival, as is Missed Connections, playing sporadically (aka check the scheds) from September 27th through the end of November at the Kraine.
A cinematic and live dance/theater work combines in Geoff Sobelle’s Pandaemonium, directed by Lars Jan with music composed and performed by Brooklyn musician Xander Duell looks to be a unique experience at New York Live Arts from September 28th through October 1st.
The no-holds barred comedy about race and American history, Underground Railroad Game began previews at Ars Nova on September 13th for an opening on September 26th and running through October 15th.  extended to October 29th! now in a final extension to November 11th!
Followung up on the introduction they made in 2014New Light Theater Project  is featuring playwright Ross Howard, a Brit indie sensation, in rep from October 19th through November 12th at the Access Theater.
In other festival news, the Flea is presenting a pair of A.R. Gurneys, Squash and Ajax, beginning October 10th.
EDWIN, The Story of Edwin Booth is at Theatre at St. Clement’s through September 18th, so hurry. The musical is about the most famous American actor of the nineteenth century, and, famously, brother to Abraham Lincoln”s assassin.
This list could go on and on, but you don’t want to hear that. Check out Soho Rep, and MCC, for example, and the Ensemble Studio Theatre.The Vineyard Theatre deserves a visit, too, especially for their kid-friendly productions. Lincoln Center’s The Claire Tow Theater deserves a visit if for nothing but its view, but its productions have been spectacular, too. Downtown, there’s also the Classic Stage Company, the Public, and for Off-Broadway in the heart of Broadway, the Signature Theatre Company and the resident New Group. Just to name a few theatrical companies waiting to entertain you.
Posted in based on Chekhov, drama, theater

Rising to the Chekhov challenge

Anton Chekhov, it seems, provides excellent inspiration for contemporary Americans in his line of work. As if the Chekhov challenge asks the modern playwright to match him wit for wit and build on his premises.

Chekhov teases imitators, adaptors, translators and audiences with themes of grandeur and loss. His plays are shown on stages large and small each year; his works are mimicked in pastiches, like last season’s Stupid F**king Bird at the Pearl, or the upcoming Minor Character— in Brooklyn from June 17th-25th. In the latter, multiple versions of Uncle Vanya merge in a mist of millenial angst.

The Cherry Orchard is on sale again in the Roundabout’s 2016-17 seasonStephen Karam (whose The Humans, nominated for a Tony,  continues at the Helen Hayes on Broadway) is rising to the Chekhov challenge in this adaptation. Simon Godwin will direct Diane Lane and an as yet unconfirmed cast.

From June 17-25th, Brooklyn-based Invisible Dog presents New Saloon, an Off Broadway troupe, in Minor Character. The 16 character play also rises to the challenge, by compiling  6 translations– from a 1916 edition to one from Google — of Uncle Vanya, that connect Chekhov with millenial angst.