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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, December 25, 2004
Caricature of Glenn Loney
by Sam Norkin.
Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
Neil LaBute's FAT PIG [*****] *
John Patrick Shanley's DOUBT [*****] *
Michael Frayn's DEMOCRACY [****] *
Caryl Churchill's A NUMBER [*****] *
Daniel Goldfarb's MODERN ORTHODOX [****] *
Woody Allen's A SECOND HAND MEMORY [**] *
Richard Nelson's RODNEY'S WIFE [**] *
John Patrick Shanley's DANNY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA [***] *
Paula Vogel's THE BALTIMORE WALTZ [*****] *
Marsha Norman's 'night, MOTHER [***] *
Larry Shue's THE FOREIGNER [****] *
John Patrick's THE HASTY HEART [****] *
Max Frisch's THE FIREBUGS [***] *
Tennesee Williams' FIVE BY TENN [****] *
LONE STAR LOVE [***] *
THE IMMIGRANT [***] *
PEOPLE ARE WRONG [**] *
PACIFIC OVERTURES [*****] *
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES [****] *
AFTER THE BALL [***] *
SINGING ASTAIRE: A Fred Astaire Songbook [****] *
DAME EDNA BACK WITH A VENGEANCE [****] *
WHOOPI—The 20th Anniversary Show [**] *
EVE ENSLER—THE GOOD BODY [**] *
pieces™ (of ass) [**] *
WITH WHAT ASS DOES THE COCKROACH SIT? [***] *
Basil Twist's DOGUGAESHI [*****] *
Martha Clarke's BELLE ÉPOQUE [***] *
David Gordon's (After Ionesco) THE CHAIRS [*] *
Jan Lauwers' ISABELLA'S ROOM [**] *
John Jasperse's CALIFORNIA [***] *
Rennie Harris' LEGENDS OF HIP-HOP [***] *
Dimitri Bogatirev's AGA-BOOM [****] *
At the Manhattan School of Music: Lee Hoiby & Bill Ball's A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY [*****] *
Holiday Musicales: *
At the Cathedral of St. John the Divine: Paul Winter's 25th Annual Winter Solstice Celebration [****] *
The Waverly Consort's THE CHRISTMAS STORY AS TOLD IN THE MUSIC OF THE MIDDLE AGES [*****] *
Lionheart's TYDINGS TREW: Medieval English Carols & Motets [*****] *
Plays New & Old—
New Dramatic Novelties:
Neil LaBute's FAT PIG [*****]
Although I have been previously put off by Neil LaBute's sour & cynical vision of contemporary young Americans—especially of women—his new drama, Fat Pig, is both perceptive and moving. His The Shape of Things has received professional productions around the world—I've seen it in both Sydney and Salzburg—so this provocative play is sure to win even more attention.
A good-looking, good-natured young office-worker [Jeremy Piven] meets by chance a sweet, charming, witty, self-deprecative young woman [Ashlie Atkinson]. She is overweight—but gorges on comfort-food.
He is drawn to her, and they become lovers, but there is a problem. He is hounded about this affair by his "best friend" at the office [Andrew McCarthy] and a pretty but shrewish former office girlfriend [Keri Russell]—who is 28 and desperate to get married.
Ultimately, the bond is broken—even though Helen is even willing to get her stomach stapled—because Tom is too embarrassed by her appearance among his office-mates. He hasn't the courage to seize what could have been a life-saving relationship for both of them. He's more concerned about appearances than substance.
In a recent interview, LaBute noted that he is especially interested in the young Losers of our society. Their lives are going nowhere—and they know it. After dealing with young trailer-trash types, LaBute now skewers Blue State Elitist Achievers.
Jo Bonney directed this compelling production—which has its comic moments as well as compassionate ones.
John Patrick Shanley's DOUBT [*****]
It was high time someone dealt in drama with the current Major Problem of the Roman Catholic Church. Not the Crisis of Faith, but the emerging details of Priestly Paedophilia. In an atmosphere where people rush to judgment, John Patrick Shanley now suggests that false accusations can be made which will destroy a priest's reputation and his vocation.
In Doubt, Cherry Jones plays the vigilantly virtuous Sister Aloysius, head of a Bronx parochial school, fighting for survival. There is only one young black student, and Father Flynn [Brían F. O'Byrne] seems to have taken a special interest in this altar-boy. Sister Aloysius resents the popularity of the priest, and she plants a seed of doubt in the mind of the boy's teacher, the sweet, impressionable Sister James [Heather Goldenhersh].
She even summons the boy's parents to express her concerns. Only his mother [Adriane Lenox] comes—his abusive father couldn't be bothered—but she is grateful that Father Flynn has shown the boy some thought and caring. Any kind of caring at school is better than beatings and neglect at home.
Confronted, the priest hotly denies Sister's accusations. At the close of this unsettling drama, even Sister Aloysius begins to experience doubts. She has, in fact, no evidence of sexual misconduct. Was this only her dark imaginings? Her deep dislike of the priest's modernist, questioning, doubt-filled sermons?
Doug Hughes directed this taut and timely drama.
As a Bronx-bred Irish-American Catholic, Shanley certainly knows about parochial schools—in the 1960s, at least—and about the Sisters of Charity. Charity seems to have been in short-supply.
[I learned typing and book-keeping from the Sisters of Mercy, and I can testify that they showed little mercy if you didn't hold your fingers just so over the keyboard! Also: You should put a nickel under the statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague to ace the timed-typing test…]
Michael Frayn's DEMOCRACY [****]
When I saw Democracy in London at the Royal National Theatre in September, I wondered whether it could survive a Trans-Atlantic Transfer. I was sitting in the first row of the intimate Cottesloe Theatre, with the actors almost in my face, as the saying goes. Even though the Brooks Atkinson is not immense, the production loses impact on the larger stage, reaching out into a much larger auditorium.
But there was, it seemed, a Larger Problem. Even in London, how many people remembered the West German political scandal caused by Günter Guillaume? He was a spy from the DDR who infiltrated himself into Chancellor Willy Brandt's Inner Circle.
For that matter, who remembered Willy Brandt—or a time when there were such political entities as East & West Germany?
On Broadway, would audiences even know where Bonn was located? Isn't the German capital Berlin? Wasn't Brandt some kind of Commie Pinko?
Michael Frayn has called his drama Democracy—and it indeed does show how Dieter Genscher, Helmut Schmidt, Herbert Wehner, and other politicos operated with an electorate which had recently lived over a decade under the Fascism of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
But the play is really more about the developing relationship between an obsequious, needy man [Richard Thomas] and a needy, doubtful leader [James Naughton], increasingly estranged from his people and from himself.
And just where is Bonn, anyway? [Down the Rhine from Cologne: Beethoven was born there.]
Michael Blakemore directed, as he did for the London premiere.
Some critic-colleagues—who said they had more problems understanding Frayn's Copenhagen—were still baffled about the reason for writing this play. Possibly, Frayn should leave the real living & dead alone and write dramas about compelling imaginary characters in crisis? More of a challenge?
In Copenhagen, he showed nuclear physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg's former teacher-student friendship coming to an abrupt end after a wartime walk in the Danish woods.
In fact, after World War II, they met at annual summer conferences in Lindau, organized by their friend, Dr. Hein—whose daughter, Dr. Beata Hein Bennett, has photo-albums with pictures of both these scientists and other nuclear greats.
When Frayn lectured at the CUNY Graduate Center, my friend Beata took her album to show him. He of course knew that they continued to see each other postwar, but, for Frayn, this would have detracted from the drama's impact. So do not go to the theatre to learn about History…
Caryl Churchill's A NUMBER [*****]
Sam Shepard returns to the stage! Currently, he is taciturnly playing Salter at the New York Theatre Workshop, down on East 4th Street—across from LaMaMa ETC.
The Workshop's boxy space has been transformed into a quasi-Greek Theatre, with steeply raked amphitheatre seating. In front of this is a very shallow stage with a sofa and floor-lamp. Behind these spare furnishings—"designed" by Eugene Lee—is a brick wall with a single door in it.
This door is the portal through which Dallas Roberts enters and exits, as several of the cloned sons of Salter/Shepard.
Salter's beloved son died, so he was eager to have him cloned as an even more Perfect Son. Part of the Faustian Bargain, however, was that the doctors could use some of the scraped skin-cells for further experiments.
When Caryl Churchill's disturbing drama opens, Salter's son Bernard is extremely distressed, having discovered that there are more of Them out there. Do They have distinctive human identities—or are They only copies of him? But then, is he only a copy of the dead son?
In the course of this short shocker, son Michael also turns up, distraught by the same questions. And, even when Bernard returns, can the audience be certain that he is the original Bernard they first encountered?
After the intermissionless show, intense discussions were to be heard in the Workshop's tiny lobby: "But how did his mother really die?" "How many sons do you think there are out there?" "You mean how many clones, don't you?" "I didn't understand it." "George Bush would never allow cloning to happen!"
That last was my line.
Churchill's intriguing drama was premiered in 2002 at the Royal Court in London. It has taken a long time to reach Manhattan—and it may be totally unwelcome in the Red States. Unless it is offered as a cautionary tale of the Awful Perversions of God's Plan that can result from Stem-Cell Research—or similar tamperings with Nature.
James Macdonald directed. He didn't have to worry about filling the stage with movement for he kept his duo largely in situ on the sofa.
Daniel Goldfarb's MODERN ORTHODOX [****]
This is a lively social & romantic comedy, vigorously acted by Molly Ringwald, Craig Bierko, Jason Biggs, & Jenn Harris. Biggs is the needy, disoriented young Orthodox Jew, Hershel Klein. Craig and Molly are the non-observant "Ersatz Jews," lovers living together, but as yet unmarried.
As Ben, Craig buys an engagement-ring diamond from "Hersh," and soon discovers he's personally responsible for him, to the point of having him move in with the young lovers. All because Ben made Hersh remove his yarmulke as the clincher in the diamond-sale.
The only way to get rid of Hersh is to find him a girl-friend—preferably a wife. The rituals of Orthodox Jewish Internet Dating provide some hilarious comedy. This may seem a distinctively "New York" show—or a farce only Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Ersatz Jews would understand—but it could prove very instructive to goys who know little or nothing about Keeping Kosher.
James Lapine staged Daniel Goldfarb's ingenious sex-farce amusement. Best remembered as the very musical con-man, Harold Hill, in The Music Man, Craig Bierko is also very handsome romantic comedian. Molly Ringwald proves herself a lovely and talented trouper who has artistically matured far beyond those teen flicks of yesteryear.
Woody Allen's A SECOND HAND MEMORY [**]
Had the program not given Woody Allen credit in print as playwright and director, an innocent spectator could have been forgiven for thinking A Second Hand Memory was some playwriting-student's attempt to recycle Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.
The usually admirable Dominic Chianese was insufferable as the Willy Loman character. It did not help that the drama was narrated by a disaffected daughter who had fled father and Brooklyn. This is not a Memory Play on the order of Glass Menagerie, alas.
What has happened to the creator of Annie Hall?
Richard Nelson's RODNEY'S WIFE [**]
Richard Nelson is a great favorite at Playwrights Horizons, as well as the Royal Shakespeare Company. Although I have not been transfixed by such works as Vienna Notes and The General from America, I did find Some Americans Abroad mildly interesting. And his books for the musicals My Life with Albertine and James Joyce's The Dead have proved effective.
But Rodney's Wife seems a bad play, badly acted. Unfortunately, Nelson directed as well.
Rodney [David Strathhairn] is an American movie-actor currently working in Rome on a Spaghetti-Western. [Could this be Clint Eastwood, before he was "discovered"?] He is entirely self-centered, to the despair of his neglected second wife [Haviland Morris]. Her unease is increased by the pushy presence of his endlessly grieving widowed sister [Maryann Plunkett].
Even though the set-panels have shadows of Roman poplars on them, there is no real sense of Rome—or Americans adrift in Rome. Nonetheless, it would seem that all these people are known to Nelson, and he doesn't like them very much. His problem, as with some of his other plays, is not bringing his characters to brilliant, vibrant life, even if they are odious. They not only don't seem real, they aren't interesting.
Old Plays Brought Back To Life:
John Patrick Shanley's DANNY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA [***]
This fall was Shanley-Time, with three of his plays on view. Danny is an early play, drawing on his experiences growing up in the Bronx—and it's quite different from Doubt, although the bruised Roberta and the damaged Danny do have their doubts about each other. And about Commitment.
This drama is more direct, less cute than McNalley's Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune, but it might have played like gangbusters with that recent revival's cast of Edie Falco & Stanley Tucci. Rosemarie DeWitt and Adam Rothenberg, however, did themselves proud.
Paula Vogel's THE BALTIMORE WALTZ [*****]
After Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart, Paula Vogel's The Baltimore Waltz was the first important play to deal imaginatively with the AIDS Crisis as it affects specific people. In Vogel's surreal imaginings of a brother-sister tour of Europe—desperately searching for AIDS medicines or cures—she invoked all kinds of social, medical, sexual, and national clichés. Not to overlook evoking Orson Welles and The Third Man. By their stuffed rabbits ye shall know them!
When this ingenious work was premiered some years ago at the late, lamented Circle Rep, it seemed initially that sister Anna [Kristen Johnston] was the doomed sibling, desperate for a sexual fling or two before dying. This often comedic displacement thinly disguised her frantic concern for her beloved brother, Carl [David Marshall Grant], recently fired from the San Francisco Public Library, essentially for being gay.
That Paula Vogel was so imaginatively able to transform or transmute her own personal grief for the death of her brother Carl—and her rage at the political/public indifference to the AIDS epidemic—is both admirable and amazing. But that she was also able to tell their own story in such hilariously farcical and satirical situations is nothing short of genius.
Jeremy Webb, as the Third Man, performs a wide variety of character stereotypes with comic aplomb, very rapid costume-changes, and astonishing command of a number of accents and languages. Although the Signature Theatre—doing a Paula Vogel Retrospective this season—is way Off-Broadway and cannot hope for Tonys, Webb should surely get Best Supporting Actor nominations from both the Outer Critics Circle and the Drama Desk!
Mark Brokaw staged brilliantly. He also should get a slew of nominations!
Marsha Norman's 'night, MOTHER [***]
Yes, Broadway's premiere cast in Marsha Norman's own version of Whose Life Is It Anyway? was stunning, arguably better than that of the current revival. Nonetheless, Edie Falco and Brenda Blethyn make the roles of the determined about-to-be suicide, Jessie Cates, and her nagging mother, Thelma, their very own.
Although their prefab apartment looks a bit more spacious than a house-trailer, it has the same depressing aura of failure, meanness, and poverty about it as the cramped quarters of Trailer Trash. Before Jesse shoots herself—tired of Life, Mother, Son, and Misfortune—she makes every effort to ensure that her dependent mother will be able to cope. The immediate problem in this Michael Mayer production is that Blethyn seems more than able to cope. She could drive almost anyone to end it all.
After 'night, MOTHER opened originally, the Drama Desk hosted the two-hander cast: only two lunches to pay for! Anne Pitoniak, who played Thelma, was the guest at my table. I told her I'd often debated whether I should kill myself or my dreadful mother when I was young. In the event, I did neither. Anne nodded in agreement: "My daughter told me the same thing. I was really surprised."
Larry Shue's THE FOREIGNER [****]
Audiences are loving Matthew Broderick as a mild-mannered man who pretends he cannot speak or understand English in The Foreigner. Considering the ongoing stream of egregious fictions issuing from the White House, there well may be some among the spectators who wish they had the same problem. Certainly some members of the "Coalition of the Willing" may now wish they had understood American English better.
Larry Shue's vintage farce-melodrama centers on a diabolic plot by a terminally deceptive & dishonest Born-Again Christian Evangelist to join with a rural Georgian Ku Klux Klan Coven to launch a massive White Christian Ethnic Cleansing of America.
This may seem either dated or ridiculous to some, but current events in the Red States makes Shue's vision of murderous racist horrors almost prophetic. [For that matter, it should be remembered that—when the AIDS Crisis first became apparent—no less an Elitist Blue State Pundit than William F. Buckley, Jr, suggested that homosexuals be rounded up and tattooed. His intention was to protect decent God-Fearing heterosexuals from infection. Incarceration in camps was also mooted. At that time, Gay Marriage was the least of the worries of the Editor of the National Review. Not to be confused with the National Enquirer or The Nation.]
Fortunately, in Shue's play, the Forces of Evil are foiled at the last minute. Frances Sternhagen is a joy as the embattled owner of a woodsy bed & breakfast. She has obviously moved to the Redneck Hinterlands of Georgia from Atlanta, where she was once Alfred Uhry's Miss Daisy—in Driving Miss Daisy. The entire cast is excellent, and Anna Louizos' majestic log-cabin set makes one want to book for a whole week! Scott Schwartz staged.
John Patrick's THE HASTY HEART [****]
Could John Patrick Shanley have been named for the playwright John Patrick? Or is that combination of Saints' Names merely serendipitous? But who now remembers John Patrick at all? Not to mention as the author of The Curious Savage or The Hasty Heart?
In fact, I do, for I did the lighting on the Hasty Heart production we did at UC/Berkeley half a century ago!
Today, this World War II drama of wounded Allied servicemen in a British military hospital somewhere in the Pacific Theatre may seem a bit formulaic: there is the stereotypical Yank—called Yank, the New Zealander Kiwi, the British Tommy, the English-challenged Native, the lovely young Nurse, the all-purpose Orderly, the ramrod stiff Colonel, and the prickly, stand-offish, suspicious, friendless Scot, Lachlen.
Lachlen is doomed to die soon, but he doesn't know it: his one surviving kidney is failing. Will his ward-mates' efforts to make friends with him succeed? Will he finally put on the regimental kilt they have gifted him?
The various accents were believably approximated by the Keen Company's admirable cast. More to the point, they all inhabited their roles and made the somewhat dated drama come to life. Jonathan Silverstein staged.
Max Frisch's THE FIREBUGS [***]
Along with his Swiss Landsmann Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Max Frisch was one of the mid-20th century's most imaginative playwrights. In The Firebugs, he offered a parable that has resonance even today. Perhaps even more so now…
Originally known as Biedermann und die Brandstifter, Frisch's fable showed a well-meaning bourgeois Hausherr allowing arsonists to take up residence in the family's attic, along with barrels of inflammables.
Long before there was such a concept as Political Correctness, Frisch's Biedermann wanted to be tolerant, without prejudice, open and helpful to others. And, as the plot develops, it is apparent that he is foolish, stupidly uncritical, and blind to immediate dangers to himself and his neighbors. This play can also be read as a metaphor for the Rise of Nazism in Germany in the late 1920s.
As recently revived by TACT—The Actors Company Theatre—the play lacked the impact it might have had in a fully-staged production, rather than as a staged-reading. Indeed, as semi-staged by Scott Alan Evans, the deployment of actors on stage—including a quasi-Greek Chorus—was even a bit distracting. And the usually admirable Simon Jones was almost stereotypically stuffy and obtuse as Biedermann.
Considering the recent insidious incursions into American Democratic Freedoms by those who wrap themselves in the American Flag and hold the Holy Scriptures aloft, Frisch's Arsonists may now not be Nazis in the Attic, but NeoCons in the White House Basement.
So TACT's revival was certainly timely. Unfortunately, it lacked relevant resonance.
Tennesee Williams' FIVE BY TENN [****]
In the wake of Food for Thought's presentation of Tennesee Williams' alternate scenes for Streetcar Named Desire—some of them astonishingly different from the canonical script—it was instructive to see five relatively unknown—except to scholars—short Williams dramas fully staged by the Manhattan Theatre Club, mounted by Michael Kahn.
The heroic Kathleen Chalfant was variously radiant and reclusive as three of Tenn's heroines. Cameron Folmar was amazing as a New Orleans decorator/drag-queen. And Jeremy Lawrence was very Thomas Lanier-like as the Playwright Himself.
Some critic-colleagues wished Williams' drag-drama, And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens, had been made into a full-length play. On the contrary, I thought it was overlong for the point he had to make.
Other short dramas included Summer at the Lake, The Fat Man's Wife, I Can't Imagine Tomorrow, and Adam and Eve on a Ferry, featuring D. H. Lawrence and the appalling Frieda. A more interesting Lawrencian choice might have been Williams' I Rise in Flames Cried the Phoenix.
Williams once told me in an interview—as he surely must have told others: "You can't retire from being an artist." That's why he wrote and wrote and wrote, even when his reviews were going from bad to worse and worst.
There are other plays Out There that we should see: My late Brooklyn College office-mate, Dr. William Prosser, had staged some of Williams' late plays in Key West, working closely with the playwright. He prepared an excellent book-length manuscript on the plays and this experience, but "Lady," Williams' effectual heir and executor, forbade using any quotes and thus prevented publication of this valuable, insightful work. Bill, alas, died of the Plague…
Musicals Old & New—
LONE STAR LOVE [***]
Entering the John Houseman Theatre lobby, spectators are welcomed—accosted might be a more accurate term—by actors pretending to be cow-country Texans and their long-skirted ladies. Entering the actual auditorium, ticket-holders are invited to partake of a mini-barbecue onstage. Actually, the chili and the cornbread are quite good. And you may also love Lone Star Love!
The occasion of all this hospitality is the determination of this costumed community of ranchers and farmers to present a Wild West Version of Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor. If you can imagine the Bard's very Frenchified Dr. Caius as a Lone Star farmer, you have a [pan] handle on the concepts of this lively show. Of course, what could Falstaff be but a Confederate soldier, moving on from one Lost Cause to another.
What doesn't quite work is the abrupt departure from a quasi-Texan vernacular into the actual phrases of Shakespeare in some specific scenes, grounded in the original text. And, if you have ever walked in Windsor Great Park, you will know how far off it is from trees under which you would want to sing Prairie Moon. Or Lone Star Love…
This is certainly not the first time anyone has had the idea to relocate Shakespeare—or his dramas—from his native land to Italy or to the Wild West. How about The Taming of the Shrew in the Texas Panhandle?
Some years ago, I spent an entire summer checking out all the Shakespeare Festivals in Canada and the United States for Theatre Crafts. This resulted in an entire issue devoted to the many festivals and how they were then organized, produced, and marketed. In fact, there was so much material that I and Theatre Crafts' Editor, Patricia J. Mackay, made it into a book, The Shakespeare Complex. [Drama Books—now out of print.] Five new festivals developed from this information.
Several American Shakespeare festivals are distinguished by attempting to recreate the kind of open-air theatre for which Shakespeare wrote his plays. No one really knows exactly what the Globe Theatre looked like—although I photographed a corner of its actual foundations when they were briefly excavated on the former Courage Brewery site, only to be reburied for a postmodernist condo development.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, in Ashland, wisely offers its handsome open-air stage modestly as "America's First Elizabethan Theatre." San Diego's Old Globe Theatre was devised by Thomas Wood Stevens for Chicago's 1933 Century of Progress Exhibition. In 1936 , it was set up in Dallas for the Texas Centennial. Here the young actor, Sam Wanamaker—who would much later create the Globe III on the South Bank of the Thames in London—got his first taste of performing Shakespearean drama on a Globe-type stage. This structure was moved to San Diego for a Pan-Pacific Fair.
But only in Texas would anyone dare to present a modern mockup as "The World's Most Authentic Replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre." This amazing folly is in Odessa, near Big Spring, Texas. Of course, a replica is by definition authentic: there is no such thing as being most authentic.
Oddly enough, this Globe of the Great Southwest is not open-air. And its lobby, when I was there, was graced not with a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, but with a full-length paining of Ladybird Johnson in her inaugural gown.
The Bardic production on view was Shakespeare's Shrew, set in the wide open spaces of the Great Southwest. Actually, this worked rather well: especially that part about Petruchio and Kate on horseback!
THE IMMIGRANT [***]
There are those who loved Mark Harelik's drama of his Jewish immigrant grandfather's Texas transformation from peddler to prosperous clothier. I also thought it effective, even affecting. But some of my colleagues thought it a bad idea to transform the book into a musical: they may have been right, for it did not survive long at the Dodger Stages.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed this production, staged by Randal Myler and ingeniously set by designer Brian Webb, with costumes by Willa Kim and lighting by Don Darnutzer.
Adam Heller initially seemed too mature for the young Yiddish-speaking peddler, but he was in his element as a solid citizen, facing unspoken prejudices, including those of his longtime patron, a prosperous small-town banker, played by Walter Charles. Cass Morgan was this banker's piously Christian but good-hearted wife, with Jacqueline Antaramian as Leah Harelik, fearful, Orthodox, and almost alone in a strange new world.
PEOPLE ARE WRONG [**]
OK, so I missed Woodstock—on purpose. And I was never remotely attracted to the idea of Swamis, Prophets, or Ashrams, in Oregon or Upstate New York. And, as for Alien-Sightings, I have seen only one Flying Saucer, but the night was so completely dark that I couldn't see the shape of that Thing which generated a glowing cloud, with bright searchlights boring down on a meadow in the High Sierras. This was long before black helicopters—although the thought did cross my mind that it might have been some kind of unseen hovering aircraft.
So I couldn't entirely sympathize with Chainsaw Dick, in People Are Wrong, when he sang I Know What I Saw.
But later, when Russ & Terri—the New-Age-Groupie-Threatened Homeowners—sang Jesus Christ, Xanthus Fucked Us, I could understand their problems and the damage to their Property Values.
How would you like to leave Manhattan behind on a bucolic retreat to the Catskill Mountains—and find your space overrun with New Age Crazies?
The title of this unusual musical—with many numbers but NO INTERMISSION—suggested that not only are People Wrong, but the combined forces of the Vineyard Theatre and Target Margin Theatre could not make an avant-garde musical out of a Sow's Purse. Target Margin's customarily ingenious director David Herskovits wasn't able to salvage this material visually or conceptually.
PACIFIC OVERTURES [*****]
Before the long-ago Broadway premiere, I had some reservations about John Weidman's book for Pacific Overtures, but I was overwhelmed by Boris Aronson's scenic vision, especially his Japanese-style Four Black Dragons American warships.
But I missed the ironic significance of Someone in a Tree the first time round: One man sees Commodore Perry's Treaty Negotiations, but hears nothing; the other man hears under the floorboards, but sees nothing to give context. Now this Stephen Sondheim gem seems most ingenious.
As a great fan of director Hal Prince, I admired the brilliance of his original staging, only disappointing in the finale, Next, showing young contemporary Japanese striving to Out-west the West.
With A Bowler Hat, the transformation of a traditional Samurai into a Western Oriental Gentleman—WOGs, the racist Colonial Brits called them, from Beirut to Hong Kong—the historical point has been made, so that the Vision of the Future seems a bit out-of-key with what preceded it.
There are only 12 musical numbers in the show, but they are all Vintage Sondheim—one of his finest scores. There Is No Other Way and Pretty Lady are especially effective.
Pacific Overtures did not enjoy a long run on Broadway, and some critics were notoriously unadmiring of both the material and the production. Later, there was an elegant, small-scale revival, more Japanese in its theatrics, which won more admirers. And, recently, there was a sparely powerful Kabuki-style staging in London at the Donmar Warehouse. This may also be the staging shown in Chicago on the Navy Pier.
The "foremost Japanese director of musicals," Amon Miyamoto, has both staged and choreographed the Studio 54 revival. Generally, his work is effective—and suggestive of Japanese theatre-modes, including the Theatre of Shutters or Sliding-Screens, recently evoked by Basil Twist's new show at the Japan Society.
But, because Roundabout Theatre persists in preserving the uncomfortable conglomeration of tiny cabaret tables and chairs in the orchestra, views of stage-action were often blocked by the director's penchant for posing actors in silhouette downstage on the sloping Kabuki playing-surface.
B. D. Wong was admirable as the Japanese Reciter/Narrator, even though his ancestors probably did not originate in the Floating Kingdom. Nevertheless, there were a number of fine Japanese-American performers in the cast, including Sab Shimono.
LA CAGE AUX FOLLES [****]
Jerry Herman's score for La Cage is Vintage Jerry, which is not quite the same thing as Vintage Sondheim. Nonetheless, I Am What I Am has become almost the Gay National Anthem.
Although the initial French film, the Broadway musical, and the Hollywood film-version all have enjoyed great success—supposedly winning more tolerance and understanding from upright, even uptight, heterosexual citizens—the basic comedic premise still mocks gay drag-queen affectations—for the amusement or contempt of straight audiences. At the very least, they can feel superior to Albin's Nervous Nellie feminine mannerisms.
In fact, the central focus of the comedy in this revival is still on Albin—played by Gary Beach—trying to dress, walk, and act like a Real Man. The central farcical concept is, however, confronting a fiercely Conservative—and powerful—French Provincial Politician and his repressed wife with a pair of middle-aged homos who may soon be part of their Immediate Family, if their daughter Anne marries Georges' snotty, priggish son, sired in a one-night-fling. As Georges, Daniel Davis proves a genial cabaret proprietor, concerned lover, and dutiful father.
As Four-Time-Tony-Winner Harvey Fierstein wrote the book, he bears some responsibility for perpetuating the essentially Gay-Mocking devices of the original French film—which are what made it so generally and hilariously popular with the General Public all those years ago. In fact, Fierstein-in-drag has been wowing Broadway audiences for some months now in Hairspray. How he will make the sex-change to replace Alfred Molina as Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof will be interesting to behold. Or maybe he's going to play Golde—or Yenta, the Matchmaker? Frumme Sarah is dead, fortunately.
Jerry Saks has staged, with Jerry Mitchell choreographing Jerry Herman's musical numbers. What is this: a Jeremiad or a Jericho? The production-numbers are lavish and fabulous, largely thanks to William Ivey Long's gorgeous, outrageous costumes, as well as Scott Pask's serviceable settings. Donald Holder provided colorful lighting schemes, with the stunning wigs by Paul Huntley.
When Georges' son redecorates the couple's chichi living-room for the Alien-Straights—the salon features a naked Grecian male statue, whose penis is the light-switch—he chooses an oppressive Neo-Gothic Cathedral Theme.
Curiously, hanging on the upstage wall is an immense dark bronzed Crucifix with a near naked Christ agonizingly sagging from its crossbar. Considering the sculptor's attention to muscular detail under ultimate stress shown in this image, it could also serve as an S&M stimulus to really weird Gay Catholics.
Fortunately, the conventionally correct hetero Catholic guests don't get that message. But, considering the obviously erotic devotional poetry pious cloistered nuns such as Saint Theresa have penned over the centuries, some do sense that this image is [psychosexually] more than an icon of The Man of Sorrows.
AFTER THE BALL [***]
Why Noël Coward felt it necessary to turn Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan into a period-musical remains a puzzle. Unfortunately, After the Ball lacks the genius of both men. Wilde's wit is self-consciously dropped into the dialogue like a clump of raisins in badly kneaded bread-dough.
Nor are the songs on a par with some of Coward's great hits. Nonetheless, the generally attractive cast makes the most of them, as the cliché would have it. But Coward's decision to have the Duchess of Berwick as a Narrator to string scenes together really breaks up any dramatic tension which threatens to emerge.
Of course, the plot is essentially the most turgid kind of Victorian Melodrama, with Lady Windermere saved from Social Disgrace by her own mother—who has made the same mistake years ago and been expelled from Polite Society, which she is only now trying to re-enter. Of course, Lady Windermere has contempt for this flashy Social Climber—Mrs. Erlynne—whom she does not know as her mother. And she's horrified when she discovers her husband has been writing big checks for this dubious woman.
Kathleen Widdoes heads the cast as the worldly Duchess. Tony Walton has both designed and directed for Charlotte Moore's admirable Irish Repertory Theatre. His costumes are splendid, but the setting on the tiny stage is really low low-budget elegance.
Warbling at Birdland:
SINGING ASTAIRE: A Fred Astaire Songbook [****]
Singing Astaire is a charming show, with the same talents who brought you Our Sinatra. Eric Comstock is at the keyboard, but he also sings, mimes, and explains. Christopher Gines suggests the suavity of Astaire, while Hilary Kole could be any one of his glamorous partners.
In addition to a dance-step or two—this is no Ginger Rogers Tribute, after all—all three interpret songs Astaire sung and/or danced in his many, many films. They also provide running commentary on the context of the musical numbers and the development of Astaire's amazingly long career.
Among the Evergreen Astaire Hits: Puttin' On the Ritz, Funny Face, The Way You Look Tonight, Night and Day, Something's Gotta Give, My Shining Hour, Shall We Dance, A Fine Romance, The Continental, Dancing in the Dark, & Never Gonna Dance.
You can also enjoy good food and drinks during the show at Birdland!
Monologues, MonoDramas, Monotony:
DAME EDNA BACK WITH A VENGEANCE [****]
Where does Dame Edna Everage find all those colorful gladiolas for her "Possums" to wave about the auditorium of the Music Box Theatre? You cannot find them in the markets at this time of year…
Yes, Dame Edna is back—and her alter-ego, Barry Humphries, has the best pair of legs now on show on Broadway! Last time in New York, this internationally beloved Dame was booked into what she then called "the tiny little Booth Theatre." Irving Berlin's historic Music Box isn't much larger—as she has noted—but she makes it seem like the Hippodrome or the Palladium as she draws her audiences into her show.
In fact—in addition to some salty commentaries and her attractive backup dancers—Dame Edna's show is largely playing off and with her audience. She even has some of them get up on stage and read from scripts of a drama of her devising. It is hilarious—but you do not want to sit in the first few rows if you are shy.
Dame Edna's gaudy but glamorous gown are by Will Goodwin and Stephen Adnitt. Brian Thomson has designed the equally gaudy production. Understated tasteful simplicity was never a Hallmark of Dame Edna's shows. Indeed, when she spots a woman in the audience wearing a simple, understated frock, she muses: "I don't know how to describe your dress, Possum… Perhaps, Affordable?"
WHOOPI—The 20th Anniversary Show [**]
Those who still remember Whoopi Goldberg as a monologist two decades ago must have been as disappointed as I was with her new/old show at the Lyceum Theatre. Fame & Celebrity have dulled her edge.
Mike Nichols was accorded a very large name-citation at the top of the program as the major producer. He might have spent some time working with his star to make the event more impressive. Oprah Winfrey she is not—and never was. When will we finally get Oprah on Broadway anyway?
EVE ENSLER—THE GOOD BODY [**]
Recently Mario Cantone—in his one-person show, Laugh Whore—saluted the plethora of other monologists on Broadway, among them Dame Edna and Eve Ensler, of Vagina Monologues fame. Indeed, Cantone's most amusing shtick was impersonating famous dead stars who never had the opportunity to appear in Ensler's Vagina: Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford.
And that may be the major problem with Ensler's new show, The Good Body. Instead of her vagina, Ensler is now more concerned with the tout-ensemble of her body, especially tummy and thighs. Frankly, I found this less than riveting and thought the management should have posted a warning outside the tiny little Booth Theatre: FOR WOMEN ONLY!
But no, that's not the real problem. Dame Edna would have had us rolling in the aisles had she described any attempts at dieting. If Barbara Stanwyck were up on stage, telling us about her trip to Asia to inquire about health and diets, we would have been fascinated. Had Joan Crawford come out to talk about how Mommy Dearest helped Christina to slim down and keep her fat mouth shut, we would have been transfixed!
My colleague and guest at this show, Dr. Cynthia Allen, of NYU, summed it up: "She has no Charisma!" Also: she's not very interesting performing her own not very interesting material…
pieces™ (of ass) [**]
After Barry Humphries, the best legs you will see On or Off-Broadway this season are currently on view at the Dodger Stages over on West 50th Street, downstairs in an abandoned Loewes movie-theatre. There are eleven of these leggy ladies, and they are supposedly monologising their own stories about being perceived by salivating men as pieces of ass.
For me, initially the title of this show was as off-putting as that of Urinetown. Unfortunately, this performance-piece is hardly as imaginative and satirical as that runaway hit. I found it hard to believe that the various monologues had not been crafted by Brian Howie, who is credited as Creator and Director.
The eleven lovelies are indeed attractive and talented. No question. That they may also be—as reported by one of them—"Eminently Fuckable" I cannot judge.
The effect was rather more Las Vegas—or a "Gentlemen's Club"—than that of legitimate theatre in the heart of Broadway. Those who are offended by common or vulgar names for various body-parts and sexual activities—or crude audience responses—should plan to see Little Women instead!
WITH WHAT ASS DOES THE COCKROACH SIT? [***]
What is it with common vulgar terms for body-parts this season? Tits-and-Ass we got used to, thanks to A Chorus Line. And we already knew about that Biblical Injunction Not To Covet Our Neighbor's Ass. But who knew that Cockroaches even had asses?
The ingenious satiric/comedic monologist Carmelita Tropicana has all the answers. And she shares them with great wry vitality, although her visions verged on the surreal at times.
This show was commissioned for Gordon Davidson's Mark Taper in Los Angeles and was dramaturged by Lisa Kron, also a talented monologist/playwright. If you missed Carmelita's Cockroach, she will surely be booked at the Public Theatre in the near future, as she has scored successes there in the past.
Unusual Performance Pieces:
Basil Twist's DOGUGAESHI [*****]
Basil Twist's earlier breakthrough production, Symphonie Fantastique, is still packing them in at the Dodger Stages. Toy-Theatre enthusiast and puppet-experimenter Twist's novel idea for that marvelous show was to have all the action confined inside a large glass tank of water, through which lights, garlands, ribbons, and objects swirl and sway, to the music of Hector Berlioz.
One of his most amazing toy-theatre creations, however, was shown at HERE some time ago, but not moved to the Big-Time. With tiny furniture and objects, Twist evoked the imaginative but claustrophobic world of the fictions of Edgar Allen Poe. Visually—even enlarged on an overhead video-screen—this lapidary production was just too small, too intimate, to translate to an Off-Broadway theatre.
It was also, perhaps, too precious for general audiences. Even Symphonie Fantastique is a big stretch for some viewers.
That may also be a problem in finding a wider audience for Twist's amazing new creation, DOGUGAESHI. It has a score—but no narrative. But that is also true of Symphonie, so there may be hope of future sightings—or even "screenings"—of this Japanese-inspired new work.
Screening is an apt term, for Dogugaeshi is known in the theatre-history books as the Theatre of Shutters or the Theatre of Sliding Screens. Indeed, the effect is used on a very large scale in the current Pacific Overtures production at Studio 54!
Japan's famed traditional Bunraku Puppet Theatre has been shown in New York, but Dogugaeshi is a very special aspect of the ancient Awaki Puppet Theatre tradition. Twist went to Japan on a Japan Society commission to study this almost archaic form of small-scale theatre, with its magnificent series of sliding, reversing, and transformative decorative screen-panels.
In his new show, Twist provides some astonishing visions of Japanese scenes, designs, and patterns. Fascinating interiors are created, into which hand-puppets can be introduced.
These small but spacious rooms resemble the wings, borders, and backdrops of the much, much larger European 18th century Court Theatres. The difference is that in the West the decors were changed by an intricate system of "chariots," ropes, and pulleys, operated beneath the stages by stage-hands. In Dogugaeshi, the panels are slid on and off or variously manipulated by unseen backstage handlers.
Twist's scene-changes are accompanied by original shamisen compositions created and performed by Yumiko Tanaka, an authorized Master Musician from Japan.
A QUESTION: Is there an Oliver Twist perching somewhere up on a branch in Basil Twist's Family Tree? Would he, perhaps, be saying: "Please, sir, may I have some more?" I can hardly wait for Twist's next innovative, thought-provoking, and certainly beautiful intimate new Theatre-Work.
But the problem with small-scale, almost Toy-Theatre productions is that they are not adaptable to larger theatres and the wider audiences Twist's work deserves. Symphonie Fantastique is large enough in scale to play in a bigger theatre than that at HERE, but Dogugaeshi needs an intimate performance-space, and it requires almost as many unseen handlers as Symphonie.
Martha Clarke's BELLE ÉPOQUE [***]
If you have ever admired the Parisian posters of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, you can see them come to vibrant life at Lincoln Center. What is more, you can see Mark Povinelli as Lautrec himself. This diminutive actor is marvelous as the tormented and vertically-challenged artist. And, unlike Jose Ferrer, who once impersonated Henri on his knees, Povinelli is actually a dwarf, with appropriate costumes to match.
Martha Clarke stalwarts such as the long-legged Rob Besserer are again admirably on view in this colorful performance-piece. Kudos to set-designer Robert Israel, costume-designer Jane Greenwood, and lighting-designer Christopher Akerlind for recreating the look and ambiance of Lautrec's cabaret-poster-world. Indeed, the most impressive stage-visions are those reflected in the smoky mirrors of the bar.
What does not quite work, however, are the period-songs, weakly vocalized by a shadow of the famed chanteuse, Yvette Guilbert. I couldn't believe that this woman was actually Joyce Castle, who should have been stronger in the role.
More annoying than compelling was the script of Charles L. Mee, working with Clarke. Mee was determined that the evening should be a chronicle of the various passions and sufferings of Henri. Despite his many grants, awards, honors, and commissions, Mee—it seems to me—lacks essential dramatic instinct. He wills himself to write avant-garde theatre-works, possibly knowing he is more apt to be reviewed by art-critics than theatre-mavens.
Over time and through a series of her creations, Martha Clarke has made it clear—but not intentionally—that her genius is for visual images, not for texts.
NEXT WAVE Novelties at BAM:
David Gordon's (After Ionesco) THE CHAIRS [*]
This was an occasion for David Gordon & Valda Satterfield to expose themselves artistically in an inane & unnecessary reduction of Eugène Ionesco's Absurdist drama, The Chairs. In the original, a lighthouse keeper, at the end of his tenure, has invited guests to the tower for a presentation of the wisdom he has gained from a long, long life.
As the invisible guests arrive, he and his wife scurry about to provide enough chairs for their audience. Even the Emperor comes to hear the Message! But, alas, the Keeper of the Lighthouse has not the skills to articulate what he has learned, so he has engaged an Orator to deliver his wisdom.
The address itself is a catalogue of incomprehensible babble. After all, what can a man so remote from the rest of Humanity really have learnt?
Satisfied that his Message has been passed on, the old man and his wife jump to their deaths from the lighthouse window.
This is obviously an Absurdist Metaphor for self-important nobodies who mistakenly believe they have something of value to share with posterity. A LESSON TO US ALL!
That should also be a lesson for the Gordons, whose Artistic Exposure in this needlessly noisy, busy, poster-prone production is a Metaphoric Nakedness.
Jan Lauwers' ISABELLA'S ROOM [**]
Even more self-indulgent is Jan Lauwers' stage-filling performance-piece, Isabella's Room, dis-embodied by his Belgian Needcompany. Lucky for them that they are subsidized by the Flemish Community and the National Lottery. Real audiences would not pay real money for such work in the commercial theatre.
On the circuit of International Festivals, ensembles such as this from Belgium—and even more bizarre ones from Catalonia—are the current darlings of the Avant-Garde. Some of these productions have been described in previous Show Notes from the Salzburg and Edinburgh Festivals.
What the audiences saw on-stage at the Harvey Theatre in darkest Downtown Brooklyn were three large tables, covered with white cloths and massed with African Artifacts—possibly a visual metaphor for the rape of the Belgian Congo under King Leopold of the Belgians? [Oddly enough, there is an African Artifact shop just down Fulton Street from the Harvey!]
Isabella's story—and those of her close friends—were variously narrated or acted-out by members of the company, all of them obviously talented and often attractive. When they were not the centers of attention, they posed, danced, contorted, or froze on the large Harvey stage.
Had Isabella [Viviane De Muynck] had the wit to sell off all those artifacts the moment she unlocked that room in Paris, the evening would have been much shorter. Even at the end of her life, when she really needs some sous to pay the bills, she refuses to sell even a mummified porpoise-head.
As Isabella's saga unfolds—narrated by Ludde Hagberg—the many artifacts are laboriously displayed, examined, described, and even put under a tiny video-camera so they can be shown on a TV-monitor behind one of the tables.
Ultimately, Isabella learns that her Life-line is a lie. She is not the daughter of a Desert Prince, but of the drunken Arthur and the discarded Anna. But by now she is actually blind, which may be a reverse-metaphor for her not being able to see the truth much earlier.
The Needcompany is based in Brussels, not, as you might have thought, in Brugge/Bruges, the Dead City…
John Jasperse's CALIFORNIA [***]
John Jasperse's dance-vision is a State of Being, not the State of California. It was visually dominated by an overhead translucent abstract sculpture of panels which were later deconstructed by removing laces which held them in place. This was the inspired creation of Ammar Eloueini.
The four corners of the Harvey's open stage were anchored by four grand pianos, from which single notes were loudly sounded, mingling with the electronically-amplified sounds of balls or other objects being dropped on contact-points. These musical means voiced the score of Jonathan Bepler.
Elegantly abstract and fluidly metaphoric dance-movements were executed by Steven Fetherhuff, Eleanor Hullihan, Rachel Poirier, Katy Pyle, and Jasperse himself! It would be begging the [critical] question to say the movement was indescribable…
At the New Victory:
Rennie Harris' LEGENDS OF HIP-HOP [***]
This lively show would probably not be booked into most of America's Children's Theatres, but the New Victory is different. Not only were the adults/parents delighted, but the kids were almost in the aisles with the pounding beats of Hip-Hop.
Among the talents producer/director Rennie Harris assembled for this touring show are Don Campbell, the Electric Boogaloos, Buddah Stretch, Pop Master Fabel, Tony Tee, Tokyo City Lockers, Kenny Muhammad, and the DJs: Evil Tracy, Ran, & Razor Ramon!
Film-footage of Yesterday's Legends was integrated into the performances on stage.
Dimitri Bogatirev's AGA-BOOM [****]
Seldom has the New Victory been so filled with snowstorms of flying confetti, great snatches of torn paper, and bouncing balloons. A leaf-blower with a special wire-fitting even spewed out the entire contents of a roll of toilet-paper. [You could rig this one at home!]
Aga-Boom, with its young, talented, and mostly Russian clowns and acrobats, is a charming wordless show. It bears some resemblance to Slava's Snow Show, so those cold winter nights along the River Neva must have been deeply imprinted. Or imported from Siberia?
Kids and adults went wild when the entire orchestra space was filled with immense balloons which bounced down on heads—if they weren't immediately pushed upward and outward. One hit me squarely on top, and I think my spinal-column must have contracted a full inch. There could be lawsuits when this kind of thing gets out of hand.
Nonetheless, this is a colorful & charming show.
At the Manhattan School of Music: Lee Hoiby & Bill Ball's A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY [*****]
When I first saw Lee Hoiby's operatic version of Turgenev's A Month in the Country at the New York City Opera way back in 1964, I liked it but thought that William Ball's libretto was more suited to a Broadway musical than to a serious opera. Certainly some of Hoiby's musical settings had much more verve and wit than were to be found in the new American operas of Samuel Barber and others of his ilk.
Now, in the handsome Manhattan School of Music revival, I realize what a splendid work this really is. Unfortunately, although beautifully set, costumed, acted, and sung, the production was performed only three times—as is the custom at both Juilliard and the Manhattan School.
Ned Canty cannily staged the talented young cast in Michael Schweikardt's striking evocation of a great Russian country-house, complete with a grand unsupported curving staircase and conservatory glass-windows. There was even a light-generated but totally convincing rainstorm, thanks to designer Peter West. The handsome period costumes were the work of Elizabeth Hope Clancy.
This physical production would not look out of place on the stage of the Met or the New York State Theatre. Even the cast would be a welcome treat, for these young artists already have some professional experience and are getting the finishing touches at the Manhattan School up on Convent Avenue
As Turgenev's Natalia Petrovna, Jenny Rebecca Winans was both captious and moving as the bored countess Islaev, trapped on a country estate far from the brilliant society of the capital. Liam Bonner was handsomely ingenuous as Belaev, the tutor who unwittingly wins the love of both the countess and her young ward, Vera [Yoosun Park].
Also outstanding were Jon-Michael Ball as Doctor Shpigelsky, Charles Temkey as Rakitin, a longtime platonic lover of the countess, and Alex Boyer as the countess' loving but oblivious husband, more interested in improvements on his estate than in improvements in his marital relationship.
Steven Osgood conducted Hoiby's sparkling score with appropriate brio.
At the Cathedral of St. John the Divine: Paul Winter's 25th Annual Winter Solstice Celebration [****]
Into the dark unfinished cavernous voids of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, Paul Winter brought some radiant light, in celebration of the Winter Solstice. He and his Shamans, Musicians, Singers, and Dancers have been doing this for some 25 seasons.
Central to the decor was Winter's Solstice Tree, symbolic of The Journey Through the Longest Night. [Have you noticed that the days are now growing longer?] There was also the Slavic Golden Boat. And the Moon Gong, made in Wuhan, China—where I was only a month ago.
Among the performers was high-wire artist Philippe Petit, but he only slid down a rope from the cathedral vaultings. Also on hand were the dynamic vocalist Theresa Thomason, Irish piper Davy Spillane, the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble, and the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre Company.
At one point, the Dean of the Cathedral thanked Paul Winter for helping fill this great church. He noted how its clergy and laity have been reaching out to various ethnic and social groups, open to all faiths, or lack of them.
As Winter's Winter Solstice is essentially a Pagan Celebration, this seemed a bit strange. After all, the History of the Church Militant is rich with episodes of stamping out Heathens, their Beliefs, and their Sites of Worship. Unless, of course, the mystical powers of such sites suggested great cathedrals should replace the pagan temples and shrines.
The ceremonies concluded with the vast audience joining the performers in a Wolvian, Vulpian Howlelluja Chorus.
At The Cloisters: The Waverly Consort's THE CHRISTMAS STORY AS TOLD IN THE MUSIC OF THE MIDDLE AGES [*****]
The Cloisters is the ideal setting in Manhattan for musical recreations of Medieval dramas and songs celebrating The Nativity. The Waverly Consort's selection of centuries-old music and lyrics was admirable, and they were splendidly performed.
One can even say that the music was evoked on Authentic Instruments, although they were not necessarily ancient. In the style, shape, sound, and form of the period, if not actually dating from the Middle Ages.
Years ago, every December was highlighted by Pro Musica Antigua's impressive presentations of The Play of Daniel. This was variously performed at the Riverside Church or St. Georges Episcopal, near Gramercy Park. For a time, I shared the ANTA Theatre attic [now the Virginia Theatre] with the late Noah Greenberg and Pro Musica. One sad day, one of their really authentic instruments was stolen right out of the office. I consoled him with the thought that any instrument that can make music is certainly "authentic." Even a reproduction of a Medieval Therebo…
Lionheart's TYDINGS TREW: Medieval English Carols & Motets [*****]
In the small Medieval Chapel of the Cloisters the six voices of the Lionheart ensemble resonated with solemn magic. Major Feasts were celebrated in song: The Annunciation, The Nativity, Saint Stephen, Saint John Evangelist, The Holy Innocents, Saint Thomas of Canterbury, and The Epiphany.
The splendid black-garbed singers were: Lawrence Lipnick, John Olund, Michael Ryan-Wegner, Jeffrey Johnson, Richard Porterfield, and Kurt-Owen Richards.
Copyright Glenn Loney, 2004. No re-publication or broadcast use without proper credit of authorship. Suggested credit line: "Glenn Loney, New York Theatre Wire." Reproduction rights please contact: email@example.com.
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