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 Conwaysrattles 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.
The 1960s were a turning-point for and in American society.
Meghan Kennedy sets her compelling family drama Napoli, Brooklyn, at Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre through September 3rd, in an Italian-American home in the midst of this
Social change strikes close to home in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where the three Muscolino girls (Jordyn DiNatale, Lilli Kay, and Elise Kibler) and their mother Luda (Alyssa Bresnahan) are each experiencing the stirring of a new civic order in her own way.
The girls’ father and Luda’s husband, Nic (Michael Rispoli) is a brutish man with old country views and a strong right hand which he often raises to threaten one or the other of his children. Luda, meanwhile, takes occassional refuge in an innocent flirtation with Mr. Duffy (Erik Lochtefeld), the family’s butcher. The youngest girl, Francesca, (DiNatale) and Mr. Duffy’s daughter, Connie (Juliet Brett ) are planning an escape to France. Tina Muscolino (Kay) works in a factory to help support her family; there she befriends a black co-worker, Celia Jones (Shirine Babb), who encourages her to get the schooling she has missed. Old-fashioned ways of dealing with the world die hard and so Vita Muscolino (Kibler) pays for being protective of her sisters by being sent away to a convent.
The compact, utilitarian set designed by Eugene Lee points us to each of the locales of the story. Jane Greenwood’s period costume design fits each character’s characteristics perfectly.
Expertly acted, under Gordon Edelstein’s solid direction, Napoli, Brooklyn is an absorbing play.
Ticket prices are a frequent topic of discussion among theater-goers. Not much wonder when the cost of a seat to see Hello Dolly!or Hamilton for instance can go as high as $1600+. Of course, the savvy buyer will find tickets for these attractions at better prices as well. Even the less hyped Broadway show sells in the range of $99 (discount for the orchestra) and $239 (premium). I get it, it’s expensive to mount a Broadway attraction. When a show closes before its scheduled time, the producers don’t get back their investment.
The fact that the arts are a business in no way detracts from their art. In any given season, despite the iffy-ness of ROI, there are some 35+ (this 2016-17 season, it’s 39) productions put on the Broadway stage.
For the for-profit theater, revivals and transfers of off-Broadway hits seem like the better bet. Musicals always seem to drive the market, although I read a stat that those who go to musicals, generally go to 4 vs those who like a straight play see 5 in the same period. The not-for-profit houses have different mandates: Playwrights Horizons produces new, often commissioned, work, for instance.
On the other hand, The Mint revives plays that have not seen the stage for a long while, with the motto, “Lost Plays Found Here.”
The struggle to get investors to back a project can be complicated. Predicting the public’s taste can be a risky business. For producers, raising money for each production involves looking beyond their own pocket. Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU), for instance, has an annual bootcamp for perspective investors. This past February the workshop was called Raising Money for Theater: Who, How and When to Ask. TRU offers seminars on the business all year round.
Ticket prices at the profit-making theaters are certainly a ticket to recouping the cost of mounting a production. How do the not-for-profit productions–both on and off-Broadway– make ends meet? Concerns over government defunding of the arts makes this year a particularly critical one for the not-for profit theater and its counterparts in dance.
Asking for money becomes an art of its own. Inventive ways of getting donations crop up all the time. A gala is, often, called for, and will attract a reasonable amount of money. Galas usually include dinner and a chance to mingle with the talent after a performance. Some galas have themes, like for instance the Ballet Hispanico’s 2017 Carnival Gala Celebrating Trailbrazing Latina Leaderswhich honors Rita Moreno and Nina Vaca. The black-tie event is on May 15th at the Plaza Hotel.
The honored guest is a standard approach. Keen Company, a subscription house with a long history off-Broadway, for instance, holds its 2017 Benefit Gala on May 22nd with guests Molly Ringwald and Amy Spanger. The Pearl Theatre Company and Playwrights Horizons are under similar constraints to raise funds beyond the monies brought in by subscribers by throwing parties for patrons and offering opportunities to support them. The latter brings Patti Lupone, Christine Ebersole and Kelli O’Hare to the Playwrights Horizon gala on May 8th. The Pearl offers classes through its Conservatory.
Most of the dance troupes hold Galas at season kickoff; for New York City Ballet this corresponds with the Fall and the Spring openings. Paul Taylor American Modern Dance generally has theirs on the second night of performance each spring at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. (The theater is in itself an example of major fund-raising efforts, with Koch having paid for a renovation of the house which is home to @NYCballet and visiting dance cos.)
Youth America Grand Prix galas are a little like a serues of awards ceremonies. (We’ve talked of past YAGP galas on several occasions at VP.com.) The American Ballet Theater, although they have a gala as well, takes a slightly different approach to year round fundraising. It has patrons supporting dancers, an individual member of the troupe can be billed as being sponsored by a donor.
Subscription tickets are supplemented by sales of regularly priced tickets but that is far from enough to cover the costs of running a theater. Roundabout Theatre Company and MTC hold benefit evenings, inviting their subscribers and other patrons to dine with theater luminaries. Second Stage are holding their “Spot On” gala with honorary chair Bette Midler on May 1st. They also hold an annual bowling with the artists event; you can’t spell fundraising without fun.
Subscription houses depend on membership support (see the Pearl’s program of offers) to be able to offer their programming; subscribers are asked to give a little more. Seat-naming is another popular–and fairly democratic– way to bring cash into the house; the average donor can generally afford to put a plaque on a seat. On a grander scale, we have patrons who fund an auditorium or a theater (see David H. Koch above) or a patron’s lounge. Sometimes the sponsor is corporate like American Airlines for whom Roundabout’s 42nd Street house is named. With sponsorship come other perks, of course, like good seats, and access to staff.
Theater is a demanding artform. Give a little, get a lot.
For the Fischer family in Steven Levenson’s new play, If I Forget, closing at the Laura Pels on April 30th, the realities of their identity are fraught.
Of the siblings, Michael (Jeremy Shamos), sees the Jewish Studies he teaches at an university from the perspective of liberal politics gone awry. He is not observant, and his book on Jewish ties to Israel is causing a rift with his sisters, Sharon (Maria Dizzia) and Holly (Kate Walsh) and their father, Lou (Larry Bryggman). Michael also feels that the connection to Israel that his non-Jewish wife, Ellen Manning (Tasha Lawrence) encourage in their daughter is not in keeping with his beliefs.
To suggest that this is a controversial position for a play on a Jewish subject to voice is a gross understatement. The subtlety of Michael’s arguments is lost on his family, but not on the audience.
Rounding out the cast of characters in this excellent production under Daniel Sullivan’s direction are Holly’s husband, Howard Kilberg (Gary Wilmes) and her son Joey (Seth Michael Steinberg).
If I Forgetis thoughtful and thought-provoking, although it loses some credibility with a mystifying and seemingly mystical ending.
For tickets and information, please visit the Roundabout production’s website.
“Staying out of the dark ages,” as Michael would have it, may be the cri du coeur for secularists of all stripes.
In The Profane, playing at Playwrights Horizons through May 7th, identity is as much a tetter-totter for the Arab-American Raif (Ali Reza Farahnakian) who has distanced himself from his heritage, and his daughter Emina (Tala Ashe) who is running to connect with it, as it is for the Fischers.
Zayd Dohrn’s intelligent play is inspiring and provocative. (For my more in depth analyses, click here, or here, or here.
For moe information and tickets, please visit PHnyc’s website.
Originality is always prized, but is it always good box office?
Back by popular acclaim
On Broadway, the revival is generally a vehicle that’s had tried-and-true success. The public likes the play or its author, and adding a marquee name will probably bring them in again. An eager new cast and crew doing the hard bits is probably a formula that will minimize a producer’s risk.
There are no guarantees, of course, in the theater. The audiences can be fickle. Is O’Neill still a draw? Will Arthur Miller appeal? Do they want to see Neil Simon, or Ibsen? Is Chekhov a lock for their full attention?
Setting the stage
Les Miz and Miss Saigon (currently in a revival at The Broadway Theatre) cycle through periodically, generally with good success. Catsis bringing back “Memory” at the Neil Simon Theatre at the moment. Sondheim gets out quite a bit too– from revivals of Follies to Sweeney Toddto Gypsy, to mention a few, and of course the current revival of Sunday in the Park with Georgestarring Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford at the refurbished Hudson Theatre.
Bette Midler is expected to be a very effective matchmaker in Hello Dolly!Given her fanbase, she should attract a loyal audience to the Shubert Theatre, running through January 7, 2018, and in fact, the website’s performance calendar is already offering tips on availability.
On the dramatic side, Tennessee Williams gets his share of the Broadway air. His works are often produced, and not just at the not-for-profit subscription houses. So many roles tempt actresses to climb the mountains of his beautiful poetic prose that The Glass Menagerie has seen a number of recent renditions. In 2014, Cherry Jones tackled the part of Amanda Wingfield; in 2010 it was Blythe Danner. Currently, it’s Sally Fields taking on the mother of all roles (sorry Mama Rose) in the Broadway run of The Glass Menagerie through July 2nd.
Broadway transfers create a very different equation for the money behind productions. The show did well in, say, a 300-seat house. How will it fare in one with 500+?
We caught In Transit in its off-Broadway run at 59E59 in a Primary Stages production, and the move to Broadway for this gritty a cappella musical should be interesting to watch. It’s at Circle in the Square through June 25th.
Often, Broadway’s bookmakers like the odds. They’ve taken The Humans, for instance, out of Roundabout’s Laura Pels and plucked it onto the Helen Hayes where it has flourished. Stephen Karam’s domestic drama won the 2016 Tony® as Best Play. Significant Other, another Roundabout vehicle is heading over to Broadway’s Booth Theatre, through July 2nd.
Dear Evan Hansenis doing very well, thank you, since moving around the corner from 43rd Street’s 2nd Stage to the Music Box in an open run. A dramusical with lots of heart and the off-Broadway cred of its creative group, Steve Levenson (book) and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (music and lyrics.) It’s attracting Broadway audiences. Its lead, Ben Platt, who like Significant Other‘s Gideon Glick , has star quality; both transferred with the pvehicles they lead.
Avenue Q took a circuitous route, after transferring from off Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre, it landed off a well-received Broadway run (it won 3 Tony®s in 2004) at New World Stages for seven years.
The most famous name in Broadway transfers came from the Public Theater to win 11 Tony Awards®. It is, of course, Hamilton, a story onto itself. Another recent Public Theater production, Sweat, opens at Studio 54 on March 26th; Lynn Nottage’s timely drama about the dystopia of working class America should do well on a bigger stage.
For my money…
If you were putting up money for a Broadway produciton, would you opt for a revival or take a fly on bringing a production uptown? Tough call. And a big thanks to all the folks who do put their money in and bring theater to us.
There is a national disease of dis-ease which calls upon those disturbed by current events to voice their conscience. This creates controversy.
Some agree, some disagree. It makes for debate. And discussion panels, which proliferated right after the 2016 elections.
Aside from theatrical activists deliberating on the results in November, dramas and musicals often stand on their own in enlightening the social issues and controversial subjects of our time.
Kinky Boots, and in a more straight-forward vein, Hamilton are musicals with a politically and socially conscious bent.
Naturally since differences make for drama, the play can often use “ripped from the headlines” issues to elaborate.
Political inclinations may vary, but the playwright as provocateur is an old meme. Roundabout’s off-Broadway production of Mike Bartlett’s Love Love Lovelate last year created an unexpected carousel of the Boomer generation from the self-absrobed go-go ’60s to a self-absorbed and conservative present era.
Timely subjects are all around us, and authors are told to “write what they know.” And so, adding a twist for P.O.V, they often do.
The Profane, which just began previews on March 17th at Playwrights Horizons (running through April 30th), covers a timely topic that pits secularism against religious tradition. In Zayd Dohrn’s new play the plot has roots going way back to the originals behind Shakespear’s Romeo and Juliet. The characters in The Profane who must confront their mutual prejudices are Muslim. Kip Fagan directs a cast that features Tala Ashe, Francis Benhamou, Ramsey Faragallah, Ali Reza Farahnakian, Lanna Joffrey, Heather Raffo and Babak Tafti.
We are often distanced from a theater piece by the curtain, the proscenium, the conventions of the fourth wall. These theatrical traditions are all well and good, and extremely pleasing.There is also another path that theatrical productions can take.
There were always immersive entertainments. In the 1960s, stage craft incorporated randomness as it never had before.Improvising and enveloping the audience in the event that was theater was truly what was Happening!
Some performances can use both the protocol of the curtain, and the range of the theatrical space. The Debate Society’s The Light Years is an excellent example of a show that uses both distance and intimacy; the play opens behind a plush red curtain and winds up using every nook and cranny of the Playwrights Horizons auditorium to engage. Characters walk through or speak from above the stage. This is just one example of a production that immerses.
For instance, opening soon, theater activist and provocateur Tom Block’s new play Sub-Basement is having its world premiere at Athena Theatre Company, beginning March 24th through April 15th. Block’s absurdist theater-works often feature his art as part of the set. In this production, the artwork is in the lobby.
Roundabout’s production of the wonderful The Mystery of Edwin Droodhad cast members mingling, in character (of course) with the audience before the show, and wandering through the aisles. Some patrons, in the front rows at Studio 54, were addressed by The Princess (Chita Rivera) or The Chairman (Jim Norton.) The capper, it was the audience that voted on who killed Edwin Drood.
It’s not for everyone, but Target Margin Theater invites 70 theater lovers (at a time) to participate in their 6-hour prodution of O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra. The staging under the direction of David Herskovits offers an immersive theatrical experience that takes the audience through the spaces of the Abrons Art Center to witness the entire Eugene O’Neill trilogy. The marathon Mourning… runs from April 26 through May 20th.
At its best, all theater– the novel and inclusive, the long-practiced and habitual, in the round or squared– involves and captivates.
For more information and tickets for on the Playwrights Horizons/TheDebate Society production of The Light Years, please visit the @PHnyc website.