FOR MARGARET CROYDEN'S MOST RECENT ARTICLES
Margaret Croyden is a theater reviewer and essayist for the New
York Theatre Wire.
Reviews of the 2013-2014 Season
Margaret Croyden reviews "A Midsummer Night’s Dream,"
"The Suit," "Fragments," "Matilda," "King
Lear," "Richard III," "Twelfth Night," "Waiting
for Godot," "No Man’s Land," "Betrayal,"
"The Glass Menagerie" and "A Raisin in the Sun."
Reviews of the 2012-2013
Margaret Croyden reflects on "Matilda," "I'll Eat You Last,"
"The Nance," "The Testament of Mary," "Lucky
Guy," "The Suit," "Picnic," "Cat on a Hot
Tin Roof," "Chaplin," "An Enemy of the People,"
"The Heiress," "Golden Boy," "Heartless,"
"Clybourne Park," "Other Desert Cities," "The
Best Man," "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "Who's Afraid
of Virginia Woolf?"
Reviews of the 2011-2012
Margaret Croyden has gathered this summary of her reflections on Peter
Brook's "A Magic Flute," four plays by The Royal Shakespeare,
Langella in "Man and Boy," "Follies," "Private
Lives," Peter Brook's "Fragments," "Krapp's Last Tape"
at BAM, "Bonnie and Clyde," "Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway,"
Athol Fugard's "Road to Mecca," "Seminar" by Theresa
Reebeck, "Columnist" by David Auburn and "Death of a Salesman"
directed by Mike Nichols.
If you’re in a dark mood and want to travel back in time to the
1930s in a frivolous world of glitz and glam, cocktails, and England’s
upper crust, then go see Private Lives by Noël Coward.. In this production,
directed by Richard Eyre, glamour is the word.
Newly out of her corner
Margaret writes, "Friends, I’ve been away a long time writing
a new book, “The Years In Between – A Reporters Journey: World
War II-The Cold War." Here are some or her brief thoughts on "Follies,"
Frank Langella and Peter Brook's "Magic Flute."
Yet another Broadway musical closes even though it recieved high rated
reviews. Can a Broadway show continue today without Hollywood or TV Stars?
By Margret Croyden.
Brighton Beach Memoirs
This has been a strange season indeed. Shows close unexpectedly, shows
are postponed unexpectedly, and actors are thrown out of work without
much notice, but how did Neil Simon's production of Brighton Beach Memoirs
only manage to last 3 days? By Margret Croyden.
The Royal Family
"The Royal Family" by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, produced
by the Manhattan Theater Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, is the
latest addition to the spate of revivals that has characterized contemporary
theater in the Times Square area. Can Rosemary Harris make this one succeed?
By Margaret Croyden.
It is no wonder that "Billy Elliot" won so many Tony awards.
Rightly so. If you want to have a total theater experience and a memorable
evening full of joy and exuberance, see "Billy Elliot, " a remarkable
achievement. Although "Billy Elliot" is listed as a Broadway
musical, it is not an ordinary one. With a poignant story and some terrific
acting, besides unusual dancing, and gifted young people who make up the
plot, I assure you will be happy when you come out of the theater and
will long remember it. By Margaret Croyden.
Waiting For Godot
What a pleasure to see grown up theater once again, to listen
to a play with ideas, and to be in the presence of Samuel Beckett, the
literary genius who knew how to express man's deepest feelings about existence,
and inability to accept it for what it is, and always will be. The story
is simple. Two tramps are on a bleak road waiting for someone called Godot.
By Margaret Croyden.
Desire Under The Elms
The current production of O'Neill's "Desire Under The Elms, "
which originated in the Goodman Theater of Chicago, illustrates the perils
of cutting down a masterpiece, as well as other producing issues. By Margaret
Political history aside, the play while historically misleading gives
two actors, Jane Mcteer and Harriet Walter, an opportunity to act up a
storm. And they do. Each has a big scene, and each dominates the stage
in her own way. By Margaret Croyden.
Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit" has always been a favorite vehicle
for those who love English drawing room comedies and English manners.
This is the kind of play that on matinee days in London, when the house
was full of women, tea was served in the intermission, and the audience
was quite adept in handling tea on their lap. By Margaret Croyden.
"Happiness" is about ten people who find themselves on
a train that stops on the tracks and won't move. All are trapped. But
one by one they get out. But getting out means they are about to meet
their maker. So the train has been a stop to heaven or to hell. Take your
pick. By Margaret Croyden.
"Exit The King"
Ionesco wrote "Exit the King" as a farce. But sometimes for
an accomplished comic, virtuosity can have its price. Australian screen
actor Geoffrey Rush, with his admirable physical abilities, errs on the
side of too much clowning in this production. By Margaret Croyden.
"God of Carnage"
"God of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza, who gave us the delightful
play "Art, " is a memorable work, full of humor, gaiety, and
a certain madness all within the framework of a hilarious farce. Underneath
the comedy are Reza's ideas on marriage, children, Wall Street, do-gooders,
poseurs, liars and fools--emblems of the bourgeois class which she patently
scorns. By Margaret Croyden.
Mathis, left, Colin Hanks, and Jane Fonda perform in "33 Variations,
" currently running at Broadway's Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New
in 33 Variations"
Fonda undertakes a most unusual character. She plays a music scholar who
has a deadly disease with little time to live. Nevertheless, obsessed
with Beethoven's many years of writing the 32 variations based on Anton
Diabelli's little waltz, she wants to ferret out why Beethoven spent so
much time with this project. She decides she must go to Bonn to research
the master's life. An interesting idea to be sure. By Margaret Croyden.
"Speed the Plow"
In "Speed the Plow, " running at the Barrymore Theater, David
Mamet is still ranting about the evils of American business. The actor
Raul Esparza portrays a nasty overly ambitious, unfaithful friend remarkably.
His fast pace, his terrific body language, his movements are unique. In
fact, it is one of the most worked-out performances this season. By Margaret
About Hedda Gabler
Mary Louise Parker has taken on one of Ibsen's greatest dark heroines.
This is admirable in itself, but there is a gap between what's realized
in this Roundabout Theater production and what happend when there is a
deep understanding of the play and the role. By Margaret Croyden.
Meditations on being
charged by an American Buffalo
David Mamet is one of the most successful contemporary playwrights and
has always created a stir in the theater. With a good deal of positive
recognition, he continues to work in all the media."American Buffalo"
is a case in point. First produced in 1977 on Broadway, it has been revived
yet again this year. After so many years, can Mamet be evaluated differently?
By Margaret Croyden.
"The Grand Inquisitor
With "The Grand Inquisitor, " Peter Brook has forsaken big productions
for simple storytelling on an almost bare stage. In his earliest book,
"The Empty Space, " he declared that his main effort in theater
would be storytelling (not dominated by great pyrotechnical inventions)
by actors on a simple stage who, by themselves, could make theater come
alive. In "The Grand Inquisitor" he has carried out his long
desired wish tell a story (without complicated theatrics) with actors
who can live on stage who can be present, and just "be." By
The real man in "A
Man for All seasons"
Frank Langella is a real thoroughbred. An actor whose presence dominates
the stage, he captures every moment, displaying an honesty and theatricality
that few actors can achieve. More importantly, he has the energy to give
life to a work what might otherwise be boring. "A Man For all Seasons,
" a revival of many years, patently comes to life because of Langella.
Not that the play is uninteresting. It is about nobility of a certain
kind, the kind that remains constant. It is about consistency of beliefs,
no matter the price. Perhaps some might find the subject talky and overly
intellectualized, which can be hard to take, but Langella overcomes all
the pitfalls of the play. By Margaret Croyden.
Yawning at "The
If one is bored by Chekhov, something is wrong. First of all, London's
Royal Court theater director Ian Rickson failed to energize the actors.
They stand around, sit around, and talk without much obvious motivation
although the text, as written, is full of life and vigor. To be sure,
Chekhov's characters do talk, but beneath the conversations are the characters'
complicated feelings. What they say is not as important as their inner
life, in opposition to their talk. Chekhov's dialogue may be bizarre,
amusing, illogical, even insensible but none of it can be played at face
value. At the heart of the play are the contradictions of the characters,
their underlying emotions, sometimes hidden, sometimes exposed, so that
they say is not as important to what they really feel. This is what gives
a Chekhov play its demensions. By Margaret Croyden.
Girls by Caryl Churchill
Caryl Churchill, the British playwright has always had a successful run
with her body of work. Her plays have been presented in New York several
times and received with great enthusiasm and respectable notices. This
revival of "Top Girls" which opened twenty years ago at the
Public Theater under the directorship of the great Joe Papp, also received
unanimous praise. Last year one of Ms. Churchill's plays "Drunk Enough
to Say I love You" had a similar approval. In fact Ms. Churchill's
entire body of work since the nineteen seventies has won large audiences
and much acclaim. Each time one of her plays is announced in New York,
she is sure to create a fuss; she caters to a very special audience.
Opera production of “Peter Grimes.” Photo by Andrea Mohin.
The Metropolitan Opera
has started a new program: great opera on PBS television
The Met's "Peter Grimes" is a masterful, poignant production
directed by John Doyle, who is known for his many Broadway accomplishments.
The singers can really act as well as sing (which is rare in opera), particularly
Anthony Dean Griffey in the title role. One must thank Peter Gelb, the
fearless new opera manager, who has shown that he will not only expand
the opera experience to television and film, but that he will employ artists
with real theater experience who can bring together the exquisite combination
of great acting and great singing. For that is a great accomplishment.
Linney and Ben Daniels in "Les Liasons Dangereuses." Photo
by Joan Marcus.
Les Liaisons dangereuses
Christopher Hampton's "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" is based on
the epistolary novel by the Frenchman, Choderlos de Laclos who wrote the
book in 1782. Hampton's adaptation was first produced in l987, followed
by the movie, 1988. The film achieved a good deal of attention and was
a huge success, particularly for the work of Glen Close and John Malkovich
in the leads. In this current production both Laura Linney and Ben Daniels
as the two unscrupulous schemers are miscast. Which leaves the play an
empty shell. By Margaret Croyden.
Satyagraha, an Opera
by Philip Glass at the Lincoln Center
The Metropolitan Opera should be congratulated for reviving Philip
Glass's well known master work "Satyagraha, " a minimalist opera
depicting the early years of the heroic Indian leader, Mahatma Ghandi.
Peter Gelb, the new managing director, is unafraid to produce work that
at one time had been considered experimental--out of bounds for the classical
repertory of the venerable opera house. But now into his second season,
Gelb's desire to present opera as a theatrical experience is justified
by this stunning Glass work. The music remains the same; nothing is changed
from its original intention. What is changed is the production: the staging
by the gifted director Phelim McDermott and set designer Julian Crouch
who have used brilliant theatrical elements to produce a thrilling asthetic
La Traviata at the
"Croyden's Corner" has been devoted mostly to theater, although
Margaret has written about music and dance in the past. She does it not
as a conventional critic but as one going to the event for the first time
and discussing it only from a theatrical vantage point. So it seems logical
that she should now write about opera, for it encompasses everything theatrical--music,
singing, dancing, and spoken dialogue. Besides, this is a most interesting
time, since Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, is
undertaking new and remarkable events to bolster this most gorgeous art.
For her first Opera column, Margaret has picked one of the most famous
and lovable operas in the world to discuss: Verdi's "La Traviata."
Sunday In the Park
With George, the musical
By now everyone knows the story of this famous Stephen Sondheim's musical
(for this its third revival) that deals with Georges Seurat's remarkable
pointillist painting of "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande
Jatte." Using the painting as a background (actually the main subject),
Sondheim ingeniously attempts to dissect Seurat's egomaniacal obsession
with his art, an obsession that leads to the painter's neglect of mother,
lover, child, friend--anyone who may distract him from his all consuming,
passionate commitment to painting. The most inventive aspect of this production
is not so much its story (although that is fascinating too) but the director's
(Sam Buntrock) use of modern technology: computerized images, digital
projections, clever animations that show the painting coming to life,
its beginning, its progress and its glorious end.
by David Mamet
If you love the great Nathan Lane then you will love this show because
its another chance to see a superb comedian work. Whatever Lane does,
even his appearances in unremarkable plays, he always stands out. He has
had a fabulous career judging from his credits that fill almost two pages
in the program. Who can forget Nathan Lane in "The Producers"
or in the movie "The Birdcage, " or his many comic antics in
Terrence McNally's plays. An accomplished performer with perfect timing,
perfect character traits, perfect movement, (like his hero, Jackie Gleason)
even a lift of his eyebrows, or his smirk, or rage, can intrigue the audience
no matter how insignificant the play. Plainly he is the whole show. And
Margaret Croyden is always happy to see him.
August: Osage County
Margaret asks, What were the critics thinking? They called "August:
Osage County" the most exciting new American play Broadway has seen
in years. (That from The New York Times.) It has always been impolite
to criticize one's colleagues (even if you hate them) or disparage their
reviews. But this time, Margaret is breaking the rule and offering her
own version of what she saw.
A Hundred Characters
for " The 39 Steps"
If you are old enough to remember Alfred Hitchcock's fabulous script,
its intricate design, its suspense, and amusing chase between the hero
and the spy masters, then you will certainly appreciate this spoof of
Hitchcock. Imagine three man and a single woman playing all the roles
that encompasses the entire movie from the beginning to the end. And this
they do so brilliantly that it is impossible to tell that the actors are
playing multiple characters.How does this production, so cleverly directed
by Maria Aitken, get this story in shape. She had only four actors who
seem as if they are improvising. Within a minute they change from one
character to another. Sometimes they run across the stage, existing from
the right only to re-enter left, almost instantly. These actors have the
agility of clowns as they depict changes of scenery with a variety of
body movements. They walk, glide, run, exit, enter. Few props are used:
a wooden frame becomes a window, certain body movements by the cast indicate
a moving train, or a mountainous climb all this is accomplished by the
actors' perfect timing. By Margaret Croyden.
-- At last, a Winner!
If you want to see terrific acting on the Broadway stage (which is rare)
you must see Conor McPherson's new play, "The Seafarer" at the
Booth theater. There, five actors will show you how group acting can make
a simple drama compelling. As expected in a McPherson play, the story
takes place in a provincial town outside of Dublin where four friends
meet to celebrate Christmas, beginning with Christmas Eve morning and
ending Christmas Eve night. In Richard's (Jim Norton) run down, shabby
house, each man is eager to indulge his ritual--playing poker and drinking.
Drinking, the endless talk about it, the search for it, are the principle
obsessions of this besotted group. And they will do anything to procure
the precious alcohol which unites them in a common bond. By Margaret Croyden.
"Rock 'N' Roll"
by Tom Stoppard
In "Rock 'N' Roll, " Tom Stoppard, Britain's most erudite and
scholarly playwright, has once again tackled political and historical
problems on repression and revolution in 20th century Czechoslovakia during
the Cold war--a perfect background for arguments about Marxism, socialism,
Soviet oppression, and revolution and its effect on human character. By
Cyrano de Kevin Kline
Edmond Rostand's 19th century classic play "Cyrano de Bergerac"
has always attracted stars and over the years many have tried their hand
at it. In the past Jose Ferrer played it on stage and screen, and even
the French leading man Gerard Depardieu stared in the original French
version. Margaret Croyden assesses Kevin Kline's stab at the role.
Pygmaleon in the Roundabout
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, Directed by David Grindley Margaret
Croyden attends Shaw's "Pygmaleon, " directed by David Grindley
at the Roundabout, and comes out filled with praise for the author. The
production, she relates, was enjoyable but not without its flaws.
Robert Wilson and
the Comedie Francaise
No international festival would ever be complete without the great Robert
Wilson. No matter what his work is, he is sure to be invited, and he is
sure to create a stir--and sell out the theater. His version of the 17th
century "Fables de la Fontaine, " performed in French (with
English subtitles) by the famous Comedie Francaise actors, who double
in numerous roles, was the Festival's premiere piece. As expected, it
did attract full houses and standing ovations.
The Lincoln Center
Attending the Lincoln Center Festival each year is always
a pleasure. The productions presented are unavailable on Broadway or any
other venue and always begin when the Broadway season closes, so we can
enjoy another month of theater going. This year the Festival director,
Nigel Redden, concentrated mostly on international productions--a welcome
gift. Not many people travel to Japan, China, or Russia to catch the theater,
which are countries well represented in this festival. By Margaret Croyden.
Croyden's reflections on the New York Philharmonic, ranging from what
makes a composer a "genius, " to the future of the organization,
to her own experience at the concert.
At last we have the best play of the season, the best performances, the
best director, and best of all--Frank Langella in the role of Nixon. And
what a performance. Actually I hesitated going to see this play. I lived
through the Nixon period and was not anxious to have it in front of me
again. Furthermore I thought it would be a straight docu-drama with question
and answers and that's all. But much to my surprise it turned out to be
a most fascinating psychological examination of one of our worst presidents.
By Margaret Croyden.
Kurt Weill will forever be remembered for his great score for "Three
Penny Opera" and "Mahagonny, " for his music from his pre-Hitler
days in Germany, and numerous others when he escaped to the USA. "LoveMusik,
" with a book by Alfred Uhry, is based on his letters and those of
his wife, the brilliant chanteuse Lotte Lenya, who, appearing in many
Weill productions including the unforgettable "Three Penny Opera,
" became as famous as her husband. Alfred Uhry traces their 25 year
relationship as they fall in love, marry, divorce, marry again, despite
their violent arguments and various tempestuous affairs. By Margaret Croyden.
Moon For the Misbegotten"
The story deals with O'Neill's unhappy brother, Jim Tyrone, an
alcoholic. He owns what looks like broken down property, part of which
is the home of Josie and her father. On the surface, Jose is a rough,
vulgar, earthy farm worker, but underneath she is a woman dying for love.
On the surface, Jim Tyrone is similar but is incapable of achieving love
or even accepting his longing for it. By Margareth Croyden.
Kurt Weill will forever be remembered for his great score for "Three
Penny Opera" and "Mahagonny," for his music from his
pre-Hitler days in Germany, and numerous others when he escaped to
the USA. "LoveMusik," with a book by Alfred Uhry, is based
on his letters and those of his wife, the brilliant chanteuse Lotte
Lenya, who, appearing in many Weill productions including the unforgettable
"Three Penny Opera," became as famous as her husband. Alfred
Uhry traces their 25 year relationship as they fall in love, marry,
divorce, marry again, despite their violent arguments and various
tempestuous affairs. By Margaret Croyden.
Moon For the Misbegotten "
The story deals with O'Neill's unhappy brother, Jim Tyrone,
an alcoholic. He owns what looks like broken down property, part of
which is the home of Josie and her father. On the surface, Jose is
a rough, vulgar, earthy farm worker, but underneath she is a woman
dying for love. On the surface, Jim Tyrone is similar but is incapable
of achieving love or even accepting his longing for it. By Margareth
Year of Magical Thinking'' starring
Vanessa Redgrave is a striking figure: her white hair brushed
back, grey skirt, bland top, a little necklace--she is quite beautiful,
especially her eyes. She manages to hold the audience's attention,
but the writing is the problem. By Margeret Croyden.
"Dying City" has received splendid notices. Almost every
reviewer favored this two person play that originated in London at
the Royal Court Theater last year. The plot is simple: Peter (Pablo
Schreiber) comes to visit his sister-in-law, Kelly (Rebecca Brooksher).
They haven't seen each other since Peter's twin brother Craig (also
played by Schreiber) has been killed in Iraq. The double casting is
the problem. By Margeret Croyden.
starring Liev Schreiber
Everyone knows that Liev Schreiber is a good actor. He appeared in
numerous movies, won Tonys and other acting awards, and is much in
demand. Everyone in theater knows that Eric Bogosian's "Talk
Radio" was produced by the Public Theater in 1987 when the great
Joe Papp was running the place. Margareth Croyden ascertains how the
two forces match in teh current revival at the Longacre Theater.
''Alfred Molina in the lead role is a gifted actor. Strong
on stage with a commanding voice and a commanding presence. His energy
is superb. After reading the press release distributed by the P. R.
on the show, I was struck by Molina's huge career. The man's credits
took up almost an entire page.'' Molina starring in ''Howard Katz'',
directed by Dough Hughes and reviewed by Margareth Croyden.
The Coast of Utopia
Part Two: Shipwreck
"The Coast of Utopia, Part Two-The Shipwreck" is appropriately
named. Not only is it a metaphor for the ruined lives of the Russian
thinkers of Part one, but it illustrates that Stoppard's adventure
into history has hit the rocks. "Shipwreck" begins in 1846
two years after Part One. Alexander Herzen (Brian F. O'Byrne) is now
the central character. He has married, has had two sons, is still
meeting his colleagues at ice skating rinks and cafes, or at fancy
parties and is still talking the same talk: the dangerous situation
in Russia, the work of the spying police, the tyranny of the Czar,
and how to escape imprisonment. By Margaret Croyden.
The Vertical Hour
David Hare is one of England's most produced playwrights. Not only
has his plays appeared regularly in London, but ten of them have been
performed on Broadway, including his solo performance about his experience
in Israel. Besides "The Vertical Hour" at the Music Box,
his play "Stuff Happens" premiered earlier at the Public
Theater. Later this season he is to direct Joan Didion's "The
Year of Magical Thinking" starring Vanessa Redgrave. With a resume
like this, his plays cannot be missed. By Margaret Croyden.
Brian Friel is one of Ireland's most famous playwrights. His
resume is huge--too huge to list here. So are his awards: a Tony for
his magnificent "Dancing at Lughnasa," a Lifetime Achievement
Award from the "Irish Times" and best of all, favorable
reviews for most of his work. Only last season his "Faith Healer,"
a revival with Ralph Fiennes and Cherry Jones was a huge success on
Broadway. Brian Friel is well loved in New York, so that theater goers
looked forward to his revival of "Translations." By Margaret
The Coast of Utopia--A Trilogy
The most serious play
of the season is without question Tom Stoppard's "The Coast of
Utopia," a trilogy now playing in repertory. Each part can be
seen separately, or in one sitting later in the month. As we know,
Stoppard is accepted by the cognoscenti as one of Britain's most important
playwrights. To be sure he has a huge body of work: dramas, comedies,
TV scripts, and movies but "Utopia" is his opus magnum.
Not too many writers would have the nerve, the temperament, or the
confidence to embark on such an ambitious enterprise. A success in
London despite mixed notices, "Utopia" was enough of an
inducement for the Lincoln Center guys--Andre Bishop and Bernie Gersten--to
bring it to New York. A giant production, the play requires more than
40 actors, elaborate scenery and costumes, original music, extravagant
lighting, and unique theatrical effects. The scheduling of the rehearsals
and repertory performances would drive any management crazy. So it
is with great expectations that one went to see this much publicized
event. By Margaret Croyden.
Cameron Mackintosh, the program says, has produced "hundreds
of productions." His well known "Cats," "The Phantom
of the Opera," "Les Miserables" (the first) were the
three longest running musicals in Broadway history. It may be more
than fifteen years since the original "Les Mis" (as is commonly
known) hit Broadway and resulted in millions of dollars that Mackintosh
and his associates have garnished from these enterprises. Mackintosh
has still another production on Broadway, "Mary Poppins"
that had already been playing in London for some time and undoubtedly
will reap more profits. So what does Cameron Mackintosh want? More.
By Margaret Croyden.
The New York Philharmonic
One of the recent surprises for concert patrons this season was the
New York Philharmonic's presentation of an old Soviet film "Alexander
Nevsky" accompanied by the Prokofiev's score written for the
movie, played live by the orchestra. By Margaret
Shaw's House On the rocks
Bernard Shaw's "Heartbreak House" received excellent notices
from most of the critics, so one was very anxious to see this all
star cast. But lets get to the point. This play lasts close to three
hours and there is virtually no action on the stage. A group of actors
either stand, sit, or lie on a couch and talk--and talk, talk, talk.
By Margaret Croyden.
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