GLENN LONEY'S ARTS RAMBLES
Chiori Miyagawa's I CAME TO LOOK FOR YOU ON TUESDAY *
Randy Johnson's A NIGHT WITH JANICE JOPLIN *
Belvoir & JM Barrie's PETER PAN *
Stephen Stahl's LADY DAY *
Will Power's FETCH CLAY, MAKE MAN *
Thomas Lanier Williams' THE GLASS MENAGERIE *
The Bard of Avon's ROMEO & JULIET [Not Seen In Full, Owing to MTA Delays] *
Mario Fratti's THE VATICAN KNOWS *
Terence Rattigan's THE WINSLOW BOY *
Jon Robin Baitz's THE FILM SOCIETY *
David Dorfman's COME, AND BACK AGAIN *
Sharr White's SNOW GEESE *
Kron & Tesori's FUN HOME *
Mike Daisey's THE SECRET WAR  *
Harold Pinter's BETRAYAL*
Zimmerman & de Perrot's HANS WAS HEIRI *
Donald Margulies' THE MODEL APARTMENT [???] *
The Foundry Theatre's GOOD PERSON OF SZECHWAN *
TR Warszawa & Teatr Narodny's NOSFERATU *
Kinosian & Blair's MURDER FOR TWO *
Making Music at the Manhattan School of Music in October: *
The MSM Chamber Sinfonia on 16 October: *
The American String Quartet on 20 October: *
The MSM Celebrates Verdi & Wagner on 24 October: *
The MSM Symphony on 25 October: *
Report for The Month of October 2013
THIS WAS THE MONTH THAT WAS…
So much for Columbus Day—on 14 October—which date was also shared this year by Eid al Adha & Canadian Thanksgiving.
The Muslim Eids move around in the Calendar, just like Yom Kippur: They dance to a Non Western Drummer…
But what are we to think of Columbus Day, when—at least on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan—Proud Italians & less aggressive Spaniards & Caribbean Americans cannot agree to march on the Same Day?
Although Columbus set sail under the Authorization & Funding of Queen Isabella of Spain, you don't see the Spanish Embassy to the UN demanding that it be allowed to join the Italian Columbus Day Parade on Fifth.
No, indeed. This October, they had to march the Day Before…
When Columbus set out across the Atlantic—in the Pinta, Niña, & Santa Maria—there was no Unified Italy. That came later, about 1860…
So, where is the Overall Italian Justification to Own Columbus?
The Vatican wasn't into Funding Voyages of Discovery & Plunder, although they did send along Missionary Priests to convert the Heathens & make more Confessants at their Altars.
Chris Columbus was nominally a Genovese: that's the Italian Link.
But the Doge of Genoa wasn't about to give him some free Sailing Ships to sail Ever West into Uncharted Waters.
There Be Dragons & Sea Monsters—if the Doge was to believe the Cartography of the Day.
It's a Wonder that Isabella had Spare Cash for the Ships, for she was already so busy with the Spanish Inquisition—eagerly endorsed by the Vatican—rooting out Infidels & Heresy.
Only recently had she & King Ferdinand driven the Moors out of Spain, across the Straights, back into North Africa. But some Pockets of False Belief still survived, including the Sephardic Jews.
Festive Saturdays! What a Wonderful Day for an Auto da Fé, as the Ritual Body Burnings were so Lyrically Celebrated in Leonard Bernstein's Candide.
What if Queen Isabella had known that Columbus had used secret Salutations & Messages in Hebrew Characters at the top of his Letters to his Son?
What if Her Most Catholic Majesty had in Her Service a Secret Genovese Jew?
It doesn't bear Thinking About…
As for 31 October, which in America has become a K Mart Sale of Plastic Pumpkins & Witches Pointy Hats, the True Meaning of Hallowe'en has been almost forgotten.
Fortunately—in Manhattan, at Major Subway Stations—Smiling Evangelicals are glad to give you a Free Pocket Book that will explain what this Initially Religious Festival is all about.
It is the Eve of All Hallows, when the Spirits of the Dead are free—once a year—to walk about, possibly hoping that some Descendant or other may remember them & Pray for their Souls?
But Who—Catholic or Otherwise—will Pray for the Soul of Dracula & Others of the Undead Underworld?
George Romero? Roger Corman?
PASSING GLANCES AT SHOW SCENES SEEN:
Time was when some Major Broadway Theatres were Standing Empty, for Months on End. Some still are, of course.
But this Autumn, even the Belasco has Tenants!
With the Proliferation of Productions both Off & Off Off Broadway, there doesn't seem to be an Evening or a Matinée that is Free…
Not to Complain, however, when so many Shows are so Strong!
We Got Separated When The Tsunami, Earthquake, Hurricane, Tornado Struck: Where Are You?
Initially inspired by the 2011 Earthquake in Northwest Japan—where on both TV & the Internet, Desperate People were searching for Lost Loved Ones—Playwright Chiori Miyagawa & Director Alice Regan began to think about the Concept of Reunion.
Working with some very Talented Actors—who bring their own Stories of Neglect, Alienation, & Epic Loss to the Series of Mini Dramas that is I Came To Look for You—they have crafted a simple but deeply moving drama of Human Interactions: both Failures & Successes…
Central to the Fabric of the Drama is Maia, who lost her Mother when she was a very small child.
But—as we move Forward & Backward in Time—Maia's Mother, Naomi, is somehow always there for her, even if only in Imagination.
Even the Shortest Scene is a Small Drama in itself: A Fond Farewell to a School Boy, boarding an Evacuation Bus, is a Long Goodbye from the Mother who will never see him again…
Almost every kind of Natural Disaster is here: excepting Volcanoes…
War is a Man Made Disaster, but it is even more devastating in its Losses: Is My Brother or My Son among those Inert, Shattered Bodies laid out in rows in Body Sacks?
But it's not all about Loss: There is also Healing, Reunion, Hope for the Future…
A very long, long time ago, Chiori Miyagawa took a Class with me.
In those days, I'd made a Rash Promise to see any Show any Student might have written, directed, appeared in, stage managed, or designed.
So, I rushed off to see her first show at LaMaMa—where I Came To Look for You is now playing.
Chiori did Ellen Stewart proud that night!
Today—even though I have missed some of her plays, for which she has won a long series of Playwriting Grants & Awards—I am so proud of both her Insights into the Human Soul & her Dramatic Achievements.
This Is Definitely a Night of Stars! Not Only Janice Herself, But Also Aretha, Odetta, & Chantel!
How the remarkable Mary Bridget Davies can manage to do Two Shows on Matinée Days, is a Wonder & a Challenge!
Not to Worry: Her Understudy does the Afternoons, they say…
The Energy! The Determination! The Conviction!
Also: The Great Backups—who do spot on Show Stoppers as Bessie Smith, Odetta Felious, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Chantel, & Nina Simone—who was also appearing at Circle in the Square in Soul Doctor.
Randy Johnson has orchestrated this Dynamic Show as a kind of History of the Blues, turning into Soul, & on into Rock. Hip Hop, thank the Gods, was Beyond Janice…
Janice's Joplinaires are the Totally Admirable Taprena Michelle Augustine, De'Adre Aziza, Allison Blackwell, & Nikki Kimbrough.
Justin Davidson—who is responsible for the Video Enhanced Stage Environment & the Lighting—certainly deserves an Award Nomination for the Most Lighting Effects Ever Used in a Broadway Show.
The Multiplicity of Lighting Instruments is never Still nor Subtle: Always on the Move, Always darting here & there…
Along with Janice Joplin's Own Songs, we also get Summertime, Down on Me, & Nobody Knows You When You're Down & Out.
On the way to the Lyceum Theatre, a nice Actress Lady—who had given me a Cab Ride down Fifth—asked me if I knew how Janice had died?
I'd never really thought about it…
"Well, she died, choking on a Sandwich!"
Watching Mary Bridget Davies perform—with that Hand Held Mike almost in her Mouth—I thought Janice might have choked to death, giving the Mike some Oral Sex.
The very next day—waiting for a 42 Crosstown Bus—I encountered another Lady, to whom I told the Sandwich Story.
She told me she had been Janice Joplin's Therapist in Beaumont, TX.
"Janice died of an Overdose. But she may have also choked on a Sandwich…"
Jim Morrison is buried in a very modest grave in Paris, in Père Lachaise. I have no idea where Janice lies.
This was a Very Lively Show, with the Audience Totally Engaged.
But it's a Good Thing that Oprah Winfrey is not a Black Soul Singer.
Just imagine what a Joplinesque Night with Oprah Winfrey might be like…
Good Idea To Read the Book Before Exploring the Darling Nursery with Those Aussie Belvoirs.
At the New Victory—on New 42—all the shows are programmed for Children First.
But the Management doesn't want to bore the Moms & Dads who have dragged their Kids all the way in from, say, Union City, & Baldwin.
Initially, I was worried that only Older Folks—who had already read James M. Barrie's varied tales of Peter Pan, Inept Pirates, & the Lost Boys—would understand that was going on in this Australian Version of the Darling Family Nursery.
The Doghouse for Nana was OK. But what was that Drum Set doing on stage?
Fortunately, the Belvoirians were so charming & so apt & ept in transforming such Stage Props as Beds & Wardrobes into all kinds of Things & Places—including Captain Hook's Pirate Ship—that you could well imagine that no Bedroom in Baldwin would be safe from being Transformed into Neverland.
Never has a Wardrobe been so scooted about a stage. Unless in that CS Lewis Fantasy about a Wardrobe…
Dee Dee Bridgewater in Stahl's Vision of Billie Holliday: Bad Parenting Can Drive You Onward.
There is no real comparison between the Janis Show & the Billie Show, either in Structure or in Production Values.
True, both Show's Stars give their All, but Lady Day is an onstage Biopic, charting Billie Holliday's Rise & Fall as a Blues Singer.
Abandoned by her Birth Mother, Billie soldiered on, determined somehow to Survive.
In the Framework of a First Act Rehearsal, we relive all those Early Years along with Billie & some Signature Songs.
On the Backstage Wall, some depressing Images of Childhood Environments are projected.
In the Second Act, we find a White Ermine Clad Billie onstage in a London Appearance that is going very badly, owing to Drink & Drugs.
Elegance is suggested by a Huge Silver Urn—Stage Left of Billie—filled to bursting with Huge White Flowers.
She is Touring Europe as she can no longer perform in New York, her Cabaret Card having been pulled, owing to Drug Charges.
Despite what appear to be both Drunkeness & Drug Effects, Billie rallies—amidst more Recycling of the Past—to sing some more Signature Songs.
Wearing Lady Day's Signature Magnolias, close to the left side of her head, Dee Dee Bridgewater certainly gives the much abused Billie—the Narcs were always after her—a Shot.
Where There's a Will, There's a Clay Play: Cassius & Stepin Fetchit Need To Move To Broadway.
Cassius Clay & Stepin Fetchit certainly do seem the All Time Odd Couple.
The Self Absorbed & Self Loving Cassius—newly minted as a Son of Islam, Muhammad Ali—is facing a Title Fight with Sonny Liston.
When he learns that Hollywood's Essential Shuffling Negro was a friend of the Legendary Black Champion Jack Johnson, he summons Stepin Fetchit to his Muslim Guarded Training Enclave, to discover if he has any of Jack's Boxing Secrets stored up.
An odd kind of Tentative Friendship develops, as the Rhyme Chanting Ali tries to pry Secrets from the wary Fetchit.
They are both Using Each Other, as are all the Major Characters in this Taut Drama by Will Power.
Yes, that's his Real Name…
Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam is using/managing Ali/Cassius, much as Scientology uses/manages Tom Cruise.
That the Followers discarded Malcolm X—after he found Enlightenment on the Hadj to Mecca—temporarily worries Ali, but there is this Big Fight Ahead & his Lovely & Adoring Wife really doesn't want to be a White Clad Daughter of Islam, among Other Problems.
Will Power does not neglect to take us back to William Fox in Hollywood & the Creation of Stepin Fetchit, who soon became the First Successful Black Movie Actor, while, at the same time, being excoriated by His Own People as a White Man's Negro Stereotype.
There are Issues & Anger here. Des McAnuff has staged this Exemplary Cast so tautly that even the Dialogue Whips & Snaps.
Ray Fisher is remarkable as the Self Deluding Ali, with K. Todd Freeman a study in Conflicted Emotions as Fetchit, now a Hollywood Discard.
Also impressive: Nikki M. James, as Mrs. Ali/Cassius, John Earl Jelks as the ragingly disciplined Rashid, & Richard Masur as the foxy Fox.
This is a Powerhouse Production that should soon move Uptown from East Fourth Street's NY Theatre Workshop, long a Seed Bed of Dynamic Shows.
Don't Sit on That Sofa! It Just Ate Laura Whole! One Horse Menagerie Is Over the Top…
Don't blame Tennessee Williams entirely for what you will see onstage at the tiny little Booth Theatre.
As a long faded Southern Belle—the long abandoned Amanda Wingfield—Cherry Jones comes on like a Tornado of Ante Bellum Graciousness, sweeping though St. Louis, determined that her Handicapped Daughter, Laura, will somehow Survive.
If Secretarial Skills are not The Answer—the Super Shy Laura has been hiding out in Architectural Remnants of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair—then perhaps her Long Suffering Would Be Poet Brother, Tom, can find a Gentleman Caller for her?
At the Shoe Warehouse where he toils & secretly scribbles, he invites a former High School Hero home to an ill fated Get Acquainted Candlelight Dinner.
Although the deeply moving Laura of Celia Keenan Bolger has to make her Initial Entrance by wiggling through the back of the Wingfield Sofa—she also makes her Final Departure through the same Upholstered Portal—once she is tentatively ensconced, her Fear & Need are almost palpable.
Is it Fate—or Tom Williams' nascent Sense of Dramaturgy—that the Caller in Question is the Only Boy at High School who was ever nice to Laura, whom he called "Blue Roses"?
For some Odd Reason, Director John Tiffany & Designer Bob Crowley have reduced the Animals in Laura's Glass Menagerie to a Single Unicorn.
That could not have been caused by Budget Problems?
There was certainly Cash Enough to construct—if not a Stairway to Heaven—then at least a Fire Escape into the Ethers.
The Tender Scene between Laura & her Gentleman—engagingly played by Brian J. Smith—is a Heart Breaking Brief Encounter.
As Tom—who, like his Long Gone Dad, is about to Fall in Love with Long Distance—Zach Quinto initially takes his Cue from Tiffany & Jones, also going Over the Top.
Low Key is Not in Play…
At the Close, Tom is at last somewhat Defused, leaving Laura to Blow Out Her Candles…
Unfortunately, they are still Bravely Flaming on the Forestage—flanked by Muddy Water which may represent the "Big Muddy," flowing through Saint Louie?
Laura has already disappeared through the Back of the Sofa, so she cannot Do the Honors.
Is There a Traffic Jam on the Road to Verona? Broadway Competes with Off Broadway…
Full Disclosure: I had left West End Avenue & 102nd at 5:30pm, surely Time Enough to make it all the way down to East 13th & CSC for their new R & J…
Fifth Avenue, these Tourist Bus Ridden Days, is a Stand Still Trap.
So, when I finally staggered into the CSC Lobby, the Show was in Full Flow & I had to watch Part One on a TV Monitor above the Entrance Door.
So I saw Tybalt killed & Mercutio slain on a Very Small Screen.
Fortunately, the Radiant Perfomance of Elizabeth Olsen as Juliet was a Revelation.
In fact, almost all of the Cast outbloomed the Orlando Bloom Starred Broadway Ensemble.
Daphne Rubin Vega was definitely a New Kind of Nurse, with Daniel Davis a More Mature Friar Laurence.
Until she donned Mourning Black, however, Lady Capulet looked like she had just flown in from Miami Beach…
Director Tea Alagic—who fled Civil Strife Torn Bosnia—has set her Star Crossed Lovers in a Post Modernist Arena, free of Place Defining Furniture & Props.
The Vision is rather like Peter Brook's Empty Space inhabited by Jerszy Grotowski's Poor Theatre.
In a Program Interview, Alagic suggests another way of Understanding the Lover's Dilemma: How about a Bosnian Muslim falling in Forbidden Love with an Ethnic Serbian?
Who Knew That Polish Pope Had a Daughter? Did Arab Terrorists Kill Her Baby in the Vatican?
Even long before John Paul became The Holy Father, there were rumors in his Native Poland that he had somehow fathered a Girl.
In The Vatican Knows, the distinguished dramatist Mario Fratti effectively validates those Whispers by presenting us with a lively young Woman who has easy access to the Papal Throne Room, where the Affectionate Pontiff caresses her Hair.
She lives in The Vatican, with her Adoptive Parents, who are blindly obedient to the Pope. Even somewhat fearful…
Unfortunately, she has become Pregnant. But not—like the Holy Virgin Mother—by God the Father.
No. A Swiss Guard has come through the Window.
The Pope knows nothing of these Nocturnal Visits. But at least it should lay to rest those Rumors about the Swish Guards…
What the Holy Father does know, however, is that there are some Priestly Pedophiles among his Nominally Celibate Flock.
Watching a Video of a Priestly Encounter with an Under Ager, in the company of Cardinal Ratzinger—later Pope Benediktus—he is Outraged, but also Horrified to learn that this kind of Behavior has been going on for a Long Time.
But these are not the only Shockers that Mario Fratti shows us on stage!
We see the Pope get Shot!
Well, you might already have even seen the Aftermath of that Actual Event on Television.
What you did not see was Muslim Terrorists kidnapping the Pope's Daughter & killing her Newborn Babe, effectively the Pope's Grandchild…
That Scene is the Culmination of The Vatican Knows—handsomely produced down at the Theatre for the New City.
Stephan Morrow has done a fine job of staging this Unsettling Drama, using a Seasoned Cast
My Longtime Friend & Colleague, Mario Fratti, is just back from his Native Italy, where he received the Capri Award before the Italian Parliament.
This Honor was accorded him for the recent publication of Diario Prohibido, or Forbidden Diary.
Written when Fratti was only Twenty, it offers a Personal Account of the Horrors of the Nazi Invasion of Italy—especially in his home town of L'Aquila—as well as what followed when the Communists took over.
Fratti's Testimony includes his drama, Martyrs, about Nine Young Freedom Fighters—Childhood Friends—executed by the Nazis in 1943.
Although Mario Fratti has written many plays with Political Themes, he is perhaps best known for Nine, his version of Federico Fellini's 8 1/2
Let Right Be Done! Also: Don't Forget the William Morris Wallpaper & the Period Frocks!
In Terence Rattigan's taut Family Drama, the Handsome Young Officer who plans to marry the Lovely Feminist Sister of The Winslow Boy is ready to Break Off the Engagement, rather than be known as the Brother in Law of That Boy.
Just Imagine The Embarrassment: Being married into That Clan & That Name!
He need not have worried: There was no real Winslow Boy.
His name was George Archer Shee.
Only in his Early Teens, he had been wrongly dismissed from the Naval Academy at Osbourne, falsely accused of cashing a Stolen Five Shilling Postal Order.
Archer Shee—whose Petition that Right Be Done made that Family Name famed in its day—was unshakable in his insistence that he'd done No Wrong.
He was transformed by Rattigan into Ronnie Winslow, stalwartly played in the current Roundabout Production by Spencer Davis Milford.
Instead of dragging his West End Audiences through the Inns of Court, the House of Commons, & the Highest Court in the Nation, Rattigan was ingenious in making this a Family Drama.
All the Important Events in the Archer Shee Case are recycled in the Winslow Sitting Room, handsomely furnished with William Morris Arts & Crafts Décor.
Roger Rees is impressive as the Outraged Father who insists that his Son be Vindicated. Aging handsomely, Rees has come a Long Way from his Broadway Debut as Nicholas Nickleby.
For some Moderns, it may seem an Endless Wait until the Core of the Conflict comes into Focus.
But, for Rattigan & the Audiences of his time, it was necessary that they got to know the Winslows, their Social Situation, & the Customs of the Country, prior to the Outbreak of The Great War of 1914 1918.
Everything turns on the decision of Sir Robert Morton—the Greatest Barrister of his day—to take on the Case of The Winslow Boy, even though the Family really cannot afford his Legendary Fees.
What is now astonishing Audiences at the American Airlines Theatre—No In Flight Meals!—is the Excellence of the Cast & the Dynamism of the Drama—they don't write Plays like this anymore!—as well as the Stylishness of the Period Frocks & the Interior Decoration.
As Lindsay Posner is credited with the Stage Direction, this may well be the same Posner Production recently unveiled at London's Old Vic Theatre.
Peter McKintosh is the Ingenious Evocator of those Period Interiors & Styles.
Bravos for Rees, as well as for Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Charlotte Parry, Alessandro Nivola, & Michael Cumpsty.
Now, perhaps both the Old Vic & the Roundabout might want to think about a Rattigan Revival?
How about The Browning Version…
Footnotes: Rattigan was the First Brit Playwright to recognize the Odd Genius of the late Joe Orton—who was also my Personal Pen Pal.
Because I knew Rattigan slightly in London, I was chosen to be the Dissertation Advisor of a CUNY Grad School PhD Candidate who was determined to Analyze every Drama that Rattigan had ever written.
So I got to know even more about Terry Rattigan than I ever wanted to know.
Trying To Hew To British Values in Apartheid South Africa, Surrounded by Boers & Blacks…
It was not easy, trying to Be Somewhat British in Durban during South African Apartheid.
On the edge of Southeast Africa, Durban is the City where Ghandi began his Law Practice & his eventual transformation into the Saint of Human Rights & Civil Disobedience.
At the faltering & somewhat shabby Durban Public School of Blenheim—run by two now very Old Gentlemen—young Jonathan Balton [the excellent Euan Morton] enriches the Curriculum with Vintage Films, shown for his Film Society.
But there is a Problem looming…
His Two Best Friends—also on the Teaching Staff—are Ardent & Vocal Supporters of Change.
It is Made Clear to Jonathan that he can Advance His Career—eventually to Headmaster—by discharging his Chums—the Married Team of Terry & Nan Sinclair [David Barlow & Mandy Siegfried].
He is No Ghandi, but he does Mature as he is forced to Make Choices…
This Challenging Drama—set in 1970, in the Darker Days of Apartheid—frames what were once Burning Political Issues in Specific Human Terms.
Who now remembers why We in the West were not eating Outspan Oranges?
The Accent Secure Cast has been artfully staged by Jonathan Silverstein—another Jonathan!—who is Artistic Director of the Keen Company, which always mounts Keen Productions.
He doesn't have to Betray His Friends to become Headmaster of Anything…
As for Film Societies & Theatre Evenings in Durban, when I was last there—after Apartheid had been dismantled—we were not permitted to leave our Luxury Hotel to go out at night.
In Cape Town—on the Southwest Coast—I was mugged by Three Black Teens on my first day there…
More Than Just a Bunch of Merce iful Cunning Hams: Dorfman's Dancers Wave Goodbye…
This unusual & eclectic Dance Driven Installation/Production was devised by David Dorfman Dance—conceived & directed by David Dorman—with Choreography & Text by David Dorfman Dance.
Just in case you might have thought you were looking at Warmed Over Merce Cunningham, with a nod to Pina Bausch…
Patti Smith & Smoke are lingering in the background, with their Music Live On Stage.
David Dorfman likes to save Old Plastic Bags. He just cannot throw them away. But his Wife dumps Three of them each year…
According to a Note from David Dorfman in the BAM Program, this Show is about Mess, Joy, Loss, & the Persistence of Love.
Dorfman & his Dedicated Dancers seem to Wave Goodbye a lot. They also whirl like Dervishes from time to time.
In addition to Dancing & Reminiscing, Dorfman also plays the Accordian & other instruments.
In a sense, the Real Star of the Show is the Upstage White Found Object Wall created by Jonah Emerson Bell, in consultation with Callie Curry aka Swoon.
While the Dorfman Dancing & Video Inserts are going on, a Guy in White Overalls is busily touching up the White Collage of House Parts & Furnishings.
Could this be the Actual Emerson Bell? He is a Brooklyn Based Sculptor, whose Work has been seen at SF MoMA!
Well, you really had to be there to Take It All In…
No, Those Trees Standing in the Living Room Aren't Cherry Trees & Sharr White Isn't Chekhov…
Whatever else may be said about Snow Geese as a play, its Dan Sullivan Staging has terrific Production Values, thanks to the Ambling Settings of John Lee Beatty & the Borealis Lighting of Japhy Weidman.
But Crazed & Irresponsible as Mary Louise Parker seems to be—as the Recently Widowed Elizabeth Gaesling—she is no Ranyevskaya & the Family Hunting Lodge outside Syracuse [New York, not Sicily] is not in the middle of a Cherry Orchard.
Nor do the Gaesling Brothers—when they go out Hunting—shoot any Snow Geese, which would at least have suggested Anton Chekhov's The Seagull.
This could have reinforced the Assertion that Sharr White has somehow inherited—or plundered—the Mantle of Chekhov.
America is entering the War Against the Hun & the especially privileged Older Gaesling Son is headed for the Trenches in France.
His Stay at Home Brother has been looking over the Family Account Books & has discovered that the Gaeslings are Bankrupt!
Despite a Hardworking Cast—including Victoria Clark & Danny Burstein—it is difficult to generate any Real Interest in the Fortunes & Misfortunes of the Gaeslings.
With, for instance, a frustrated man like Uncle Vanya or Three Sisters, dying to go off to Moscow, the Playwright makes one care…
The Country Doctor, Anton Chekhov, knew the People he was writing about. He'd stayed in their Homes, walked about their Estates, & treated them for Real & Imagined Illnesses.
Sharr White couldn't possibly have stayed with the Gaeslings, even had he been a Traveling Accountant way back in 1917.
Can a Funeral Home Really Also Be a Fun Home? Yes! When Everyone Is Singing & Dancing!
Being Gay, a Married Man, a Father, a Fixer Upper, & a Funeral Director in a Town where Everyone knows Everyone can be an Ongoing Disaster Waiting to Explode…
This remarkably Tuneful Musical is based on Alison Bechdel's book, now brought to Vibrant Life down at the Public Theatre, with Book & Lyrics by the estimable Lisa Kron & Dynamic Music by the talented Jeanine Tesori.
The Show arrives just in time for Lesbian Awareness Month—or was I misinformed about what kind of Month October actually is?—which would make Good Sense as Lisa Kron was formerly one of the Five Lesbian Brothers!
In this Stunning Production—staged inventively by Sam Gold—we have Three Alisons: Young, Teen Age, & Mature & Narrative Prone.
Alison discovers that she is a Lesbian. Wow! What a Productive Artistic Life she is going to have!
But that doesn't mean that she has inherited the Gay Syndrome from her Corpse Beautifying Dad, who also likes to Make Over Old Houses, filling them with Ornate Furnishings.
Then there's Dad's Long Suffering Wife, who tries to Hold Everything Together.
It's Not Easy, being married to a Man who has Other Interests—as well as Home & Family…
Who knew such Characters & Situations could produce colorful All Singing All Dancing Production Numbers!
Rodgers & Hammerstein!
Wherever you are in Musical Comedy Heaven, Eat Your Hearts Out!
Fun Home is no Sound of Music, but it Works!
Whistle Blowers or Traitors? Mike's Take on Ellsberg, Manning, Snowden, & State Secrets!
Mike Daisey—after his successful Faces/Phases of the Moon 29 Monologue Evenings down at the Public Theatre—invited Those who had been on his Initial E Mail List to hear him try out the First of a Three Part Series on Our War Industry.
This was to be One Night Only, down at the IRT, on Christopher Street.
He did warn us that their Auditorium had only Thirty Seats.
But—as we responded the second we got Mike's E Mail—we thought we'd hear some Good Words about Chelsea Manning & Edward Snowden, who are being treated like Traitors at the Highest Levels of Our Government.
Well, Mike was flooded with Requests: Over 300 wanted to fill those 30 Seats…
So we'll catch the Entire Series when Mike brings it back to Joe's Pub, after a Nation Wide Try Out…
Look! Look Up! Here Comes Another Set of Room Walls! With Furnishings Sliding In from SL…
Were it not for the Dynamic Performances of Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, & Rafe Spall—in Harold Pinter's Drama of Stolen Afternoon Fucks in a London Suburb—Kilburn? Camden Town?—this could be an Optical Seminar in Scene Changing from Overhead…
Ian MacNeil designed the Varied Interiors; Ann Roth, the Costumes, & Mike Nichols directed…tautly.
Perhaps the Greatest Interest in this Pinter Revival is seeing Our Current James Bond Surrogate Alive & On Stage…
Craig & Spall play Best Friends who were once Poetry Editors—or was that just Literature?—as Uni Students, One at Oxford, the Other at Cambridge.
As Adults, they have become Book Publishers. The Friendship endures, despite Questions of Who knew Who knew What & When about those Thursday Afternoons of Erotic Joy…
It's all Very British, you know…
Pinter himself must have known a Lot about Betrayal.
When he & his wife, Vivian Merchant—whom he later Dumped—were Provincial Rep Actors in the Midlands, his Stage Name was David Baron.
Makes You Wonder…
Among the Host of Producers were Barry Diller, Eli Bush, Scott Rudin, Roger Berlind, & Daryl Roth!
Look Out! Here comes another Set of Set Walls from Above!
Drama Critical Footnote: I was seated—as usual—on the Aisle: D 1, to be precise…
The Gent in front of me turned around. It was John Simon!
The famously—or infamously—witty & acerbic Drama Critic, John Simon.
When I first came to Manhattan, in 1960—after four years of Teaching Overseas—I began working as an Editorial Staffer & Book Reviewer for the late, lamented Theatre Arts.
John Simon was our Play Reviewer, but he also filed Hilarious Reports for the Hudson Review.
Seeing John again On the Aisle, I was reminded that We Two are the Longest & Oldest Surviving New York Drama Critics.
Where, now, are Brooks Atkinson & Walter Kerr?
They have Broadway Theatres named for them, but their Bylines are Long Gone.
For that matter, where is the Clive Barnes Theatre?
Clive was a Fearsome Critical Power in his Time. In fact, at The New York Times!
Why not re name the Samuel J Friedman Theatre—formerly The Biltmore Theatre, where Hair made its memorable Broadway Debut—for Clive Barnes!
Zany Clowning In & Out of The Box: Manic Activity with Dark Doors & Chair Fragments…
This Exhausting Exercise in Frenetic Motion came to BAM—with some delays along the way—from Lausanne's Théâtre Vidy Lausanne, where it debuted in 2012.
But the moment I heard the word Lausanne, my only Relevant Memory was that this was the Swiss City where my Passport was stolen…
When Hans Was Heiri came into Motion, for a moment I thought I was back in Prague, with the Black Theatre or Laterna Magika.
Zimmerman & de Perrot understand very well the Power of Darkness, of Being in the Black…
But—with de Perrot at the Son et Lumière Console—the Radiance of Light is also not Lost on Them.
Amazing what can be accomplished—Entertainment wise—with Six Clowns who are also Contortionists, Tumblers, & Acrobats.
Not only do Dark Doors mysteriously scoot around the Stage, but Fractured Furniture flies about the Arena as well.
The Big Prop, however, is a Giant Revolving Box, somehow suspended Up Center Stage.
This Antic Square contains a Four Square Conformation, which the Rollicking Roisterers use ingeniously, defying Gravity, in the service of Hilarity.
The BAM Audience at the Harvey Theatre was alternately convulsed with Gasps & Guffaws.
Your Roving Reporter, however—who is a Veteran of Cirque du Soleil Spectacles galore—had the Uneasy Feeling, not only that he had seen all this before, but also that it was Going on Too Long.
The Unquestionably Gifted Performers seemed to be Trying Too Hard: Desperate to Please?
No Question, also, that they are Miles Ahead of Marcel Marceau, not to mention that Venerable Swiss Institution, Mummenschanz…
Primary Stages Stages a Raging Ranting Obscenly Obese Angry Daughter's Dilemma…
Neil Simon! Where are you, now that we need you?
Gene O'Neill, anyone…
The Otherwise Admirable & Multi Award Winning Playwright, Donald Margulies, has just opened the Door to Optical & Verbal Horrors in a Miniscule Retirement Condo way down in Florida.
His Model Apartment—in the words of a Play Listing—"may not be real."
Max—who seems to be a Holocaust Survivor—has fled to Florida with his Motor Mouth Wife, Lola.
They are ostensibly going to Enjoy Retirement in the Florida Sun—although the Headlight Glare of Rumbling Traffic outside provides another kind of Illumination.
Max is actually running away from his Severely Overweight & Fantasy Plagued Daughter, Debby—who now & then appears to Max as Thin.
This Deborah may not be real…
Curses! Foiled Again!
Max cannot escape his Parental Responsibility, for Debby has followed him to Florida, to his Condo, with her Black Boyfriend in tow.
Debby's noisy Rants are filled with references to the Nazis & Their Final Solution to the "Jewish Problem."
At one point, she even tells Max that the Reason she's so Fat is that she's been Eating for all those who Starved to Death in the Holocaust…
At least that's what I thought she said, but then she never stopped Talking.
Perhaps I should have stayed for the Post Performance Talk Back, to discover what this Theatre Adventure was All About?
Around me, the largely Senior Audience seemed entranced.
But then, in Manhattan, you can never go wrong with Klezmer & the Holocaust…
Parading at the Public: A Galary of Grotesques, Masquerading as Bert Brecht Characters.
For a Good Time, call Taylor Mac, currently playing an Archly Female Role & a Hard Hearted Male down at the Public Theatre.
As the Good Hearted Prostitute, Shen Te, Mac strives to see that everyone is Fed; that No one goes Hungry, if she can avoid it.
Three Stylishly White Clad Gods—all Women, looking rather like Club Ladies—arrive, looking for a really Good Person. If such a Mensch actually exists, here in Szechwan…
Shen Te fills the bill, so the Gods give her some Money, with which she buys a Tobacco Shop.
Unfortunately, Everyone seems determined to Cheat or to Con her, so she adopts the Maleness of Mr. Shui Ta, who knows the Ways of the World.
Thanks especially to the Costume Designs of Clint Ramos—Taylor Mac makes a Wonderful Geisha, as Shen Te prepares to marry the Would be Pilot who only wants her Money—this Foundry Theatre Production is a Colorful Carnival of Brechtian Social Stereotypes.
Its Cast even includes Lisa Kron, whose new Lesbian Oriented Musical, Fun Home, is currently occupying another Public Theatre Venue!
Hilariously Staged by Lear de Bessonet, this Show has Production Values Galore, including what appears to be a Hill Billy Country & Western Band.
Bert Brecht was a Poet as well as a Political Playwright, so Songs belong.
But Brecht was also a Marxist—No Friend of Capitalism, although he sat out World War II safely in Santa Monica—so he intended his Dramas to be Teaching Plays.
In fact, he did not want any of his Lehr Stücke to be gussied up with Production Values.
He demanded the Plainest of Stages, with a Half Curtain running across the Stage Space.
Brecht did not want his Worker Audiences distracted by Artful Settings or Colorful Costumes.
When he fled Amerika—shortly after appearing before HUAC, the House Committee on Un American Affairs—he found a Home in East Berlin, with the Communist Regime as his Patron, at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, where he established The Berliner Ensemble.
Whatever Charles Laughton may have done with Galileo in Los Angeles, in East Berlin, Brecht wanted Things Done Right…
So he had Every Production photographed, Scene by Scene.
The Brechtian Model Bücher showed exactly how Brecht wanted his Dramas to be staged.
Even then—to those of Us from the West who crossed over into East Berlin at Friedrichstrasase or Checkpoint Charlie to spend an evening with Mutter Courage or Polly Peachum—this seemed Folly.
Surely, as a Man of Theatre, Brecht should have known that he could not set Productions in Stone?
Well, when you have been assiduously Sucking Up to Stalin, you may have Delusions about Your Legacy decades hence…
The Doctrinaire Brecht with whom I spoke would have hated the Current Production.
But his Widow, Helene Weigel—who had to keep the Seats at the Berliner Ensemble filled—surely would have admired, even envied it.
On one occasion, in the Berliner Ensemble Canteen, Weigel asked me if I knew her son, Stefan Brecht, who was a Pastry Cook in Greenwich Village.
[Stefan's wife, Mary Brecht, was a Designer for Robert Wilson, so I knew them both…]
"Stefan is crazy," said Weigel.
I was shocked: "You say this of your Own Son? Crazy? How so?"
"He could be living here in East Berlin, working in his Father's Theatre!"
Oddly enough, despite His Patrimony, Stefan never sought to work Off Broadway, even with such a World Famed Name as BRECHT…
Poland Is Not So Far Off from Dracula & Transylvania—But No Cell Phones Way Back When…
There's a real Carpathian Feeling to this Polski Version of Bram Stoker's evergreen Vampire Legend.
But Stoker—who was the Personal Secretary of that famed English Actor, Sir Henry Irving—could not have known about Mobile Phones nor Digital Cameras.
In this interesting East European Interpretation, someone named Quincey is always taking Photographs—especially of the Doomed But Soon Undead Lucy, who wants always to be Beautiful.
Vampires, however, as is widely known, cannot see their Faces in Mirrors.
But surely Lucy could have looked at the Digital Camera Monitor Screen to see her Bloody Loveliness?
Instead of in Count Dracula's Mountain Top Castle—which Your Reporter visited this past summer—this Warsawed Production seems to be set in a large Modern Living/Dining Room.
The Usual Suspects are here, including the Demented Renfield, ever hungry for Crunchy Flies…
Watching Van Helsing at work, I wondered whether he had considered the Probable Risk to Vampires, if they should sink their Fangs into the Carotids of AIDS Victims?
But, as they are already Dead—or Undead—what harm would a little HIV Infection do to them?
At one point, Vampire Fang Marks are discovered near Lucy's Groin!
Crotch Munching? Muff Diving?
In the excellent Explanatory Texts in BAM's Nosferatu Program, it is suggested that Bram Stoker was stoking a Forbidden Victorian Appetite for the Sexually Taboo…
Indeed, the Program Notes are almost as interesting as what one sees on stage.
This New Vision of Old Blood is the handiwork of Grzegorz Jarzyna—quite a Workout for the Digits on the Keyboard!—who has enlisted the Talents of both TR Warszawa & the National Teatr to bring the Undead to Life.
As for his Title, it is borrowed from that famous 1922 black & white film of FW Murnau: Nosferatu…
Interestingly, in a Program Interview, he suggests that he is now at the Mid Point of his Life.
But how can he know that? An Unlucky Bite from a Cast Member & he might Live Forever?
On the Other Hand—Five Fingers?—he could be hit by a Snapple Delivery Truck on Fulton Street, in Downtown Brooklyn…
He must already know Brooklyn, for he staged 2007: Macbeth on a Special Stage underneath the Brooklyn Bridge!
Wasn't it Thomas Wolfe—of You Can't Go Home Again Fame—who said; "Only the Dead know Brooklyn."
Grzegorz Jarzyna makes an Interesting Point about the Surge in Creativity in Poland, following the Collapse of the Berlin Wall & the abrogation of the Warsaw Pact: It is as if the Dead had come back to Life…
But his Dracula also makes a Point: After 400 Years, He has Seen It All. The Repetition becomes almost Unbearable…
While American Teen Age Girls may dream of having a Bite with Robert Pattison, Sucking Blood may become finally Tiresome.
Think of all that Bloody Flossing!
Has The Man with a Thousand Faces Returned? Not Only Murder, But also a Musical for Two!
The Multi Talented Jeff Blumenkrantz plays all the Suspects in Joe Kinosian & Kellen Blair's Musical Murder Melodrama.
Unlike Lon Chaney—who used Make Up to achieve his Thousand Faces—Blumenkrantz does it all with "Grimacing his Phiz."
He has obviously also had Ballet Training—at the Bar & the Barre—worthy of such Grande Ballerinas as Pavlova & Margot Fonteyn.
Contorting his wiry frame into a Thousand Poses, he is also able to confound the Investigative Interrogations of the Terminally Cute Brett Ryback, who wants to make Full Detective Rank.
They both play the Steinway Grand on a stage that looks like an Old Time Vaudeville Framework, with Side Doors for sudden Entrances & Exits.
There are Production Values galore, but there is also more Mugging than Music…
The Premiere Audience enjoyed it hugely, especially when a Front Row Spectator was hauled up on stage to play a Victim.
Scott Schwartz staged, but he could have edited a bit: the Twin Volcanoes of Onstage Energy were beginning to gush Lava Overflows seeping toward my Seat…
Transit Warning: The Entire Intersection at 122nd & Broadway has been closed off.
This means—if you are taking either the M104 or the M4—the Bus Stop at 122nd, right by the Hebrew Theological Seminary, has been closed as well.
So, you need to get off at 120th & Broadway—at Columbia University—by that Ugly Post Post Modernist Building they recently opened.
Then, you have to cross over Broadway & walk down to MSM alongside the Union Theological Seminary.
For some Idiotic Reason, the Bus Stop at MSM & 122nd—going back downtown on Broadway—has been not only closed but sealed with Orange Mesh.
This means that Seniors, Golden Agers, & the Handicapped now have to walk all the way downhill to the Bus Stop at 124th & Broadway. Or hike Uphill, to the first Bus Stop at Barnard College.
Because so many of the Patrons of the Always Excellent Concerts at MSM are now Eligible for Medicare, this is a Real Disadvantage.
It also Makes No Sense to Close this Stop, for it in no way interferes with the Road Work at the Intersection.
The Subway emerges at this Intersection, becoming an Elevated.
All along Broadway downhill but moving Uptown, the Elevated Walls are also Oranged, so perhaps the Stonework will receive some Attention?
MSM's New President ought to speak to MTA & get the MSM Bus Stop re opened!
Conducted by George Manahan—longtime NY City Opera Stalwart—the Sinfonia showcased the Considerable Talents of Chloé Kiffer, who played Stravinsky's Violin Concerto to Lusty Bravos.
But even more Bravos erupted from the Enraptured Audience in the Borden Auditorium when Tracy Chen astonished with a Magnificent Exultate, Jubilate, composed when Wolf Mozart was only 17.
The Program opened with a somewhat Pastoral Account of Aaron Copeland's Appalachian Spring.
Ah! The Gift to be Simple…
In the Intermission, several Student Members of the Sinfonia were overheard complaining about the Closing Offering, Ottorino Respighi's Ancient Airs & Dances.
"Why do we have to play that stuff? It's so boring!"
"Respighi… Didn't he write all that music about Rome? Why couldn't we have played The Pines or The Fountains of Rome?"
They had a Point!
MSM Student Violinists & Cellists joined the American Foursome—the Quartet in Residence this Season—for a very Varied Program.
The Sextet from Richard Strauss' Opera about Making Opera, Capriccio, proved a charming Challenge.
But Charles Ives' String Quartet No. 2—which was only Publicly Performed when Ives was 72—was fiendishly difficult but also intrinsically amusing, as Ives briefly quoted from Dixie, Marching Through Georgia, Hail, Columbia, & Columbia, The Gem of the Ocean.
The Sonic Chaos was stepped up in the Second Movement—which Ives titled Argument—juxtaposing quotes from Beethoven's Ode to Joy, Tchaikovsky's Sixth, & Massa's in de Cold Ground, among other European vs American Snippets.
Finally, in the Third Movement, Ives' Musicians obey The Call of the Mountains, rising upward to the Sound of Westminster Chimes & Nearer, My God, To Thee…
But how do String Players respond to such Ives Marginal Notations: Con Scratchy, Allegro con Fisto, or Largo Sweetota?
This Vibrant Concert closed with Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence, which is also most challenging, but not much about Firenze, aside from the fact that Tchaikovsky sketched some of it there, a Favored Escape from St. Petersburg.
Lots of Pizzicato… Plenty of Arco!
For the Record: Peter Winograd & Laurie Carney are the Violinists, Daniel Avshalomov the Violist, & Wolfram Koessel the Cellist of the American String Quartet.
Not only did Lisa Yui launch this charming Bi Centennial Celebration—with a Running Narration to introduce both the Talented Pianists & the Wagner/Verdi Inspired Keyboard Delights—but she also echoed the Genius of Franz Liszt in playing his Rigoletto Concert Paraphrase.
For those Verdi Fans devoted to the Miserere from Trovatore, Joseph Smith offered Louis Moreau Gottschalk's Paraphrase, followed by—a bit later—by Franz Liszt's own Miserere Paraphrase, played by Golda Tatz.
Wagner was parodied by Claude Debussy—in a Fantasy worthy of Gottschalk—in the Golliwog's Cakewalk. It was brought back to life by Azusa Ueno at the Steinway.
Just before Nadejda Vlaeva came out to play Franz Liszt's Isoldens Liebestod—the Hungarian Master's Concert Paraphrase of his future Son in Law's Great Death Aria—a Stage Hand put a small black Foot Clicker next to the Piano Pedals.
What could this be?
When Vlaeva prepared to play—brilliantly, of course!—she put an iPad on top of the turned down Music Rack.
Instead of Printed Sheet Music, she had only to tap her foot on the Clicker to turn a Page!
Signs of the Times: As Printed Newspapers disappear, so also is Sheet Music being replaced by Digital…
Other Distinguished Pianists—who made this Fall Edition of Lisa Yui's Lives of the Piano so rewarding—included Bradley Burgess, Alessandra Rose Johnson, Kenneth Cooper, Pacien Mazzagatti, & Peter Fancovic—who was dynamically driven in re creating Wagner's Venusberg Bacchanale, as re imagined by Moritz Moszkowski.
What is it with Romeo & Juliet this Fall?
Not only do we have Orlando Bloom booming in on a Motorcycle on Broadway, but we have also had quite a Different Pair of Star Crossed Lovers down on East 13th Street at CSC.
Think of it! Thirteenth Street!
Not to be Outdone in their Fascination with Shakespeare's Doomed Lovers, the MSM Symphony—way up on Broadway at 122nd Street—has just presented an All R & J Program, conducted by the much honored Philippe Entremont.
Hector Berlioz' Roméo et Juliette provided the Opener, with Roméo seul, Tristesse, Bruits lointains de Concert et de Bal, & the rousing Grande fête chez Capulet.
Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Fantasy Overture from his version of R & J followed.
Seven selections from Sergei Prokoviev's Romeo & Juliet brought this Symphonic Salute to a Thundering Close.
Would Stalin have changed his mind about Prokoviev had he been at this Concert?
What would Vlad Putin have to say…
Caricature of Glenn Loney in header is by Sam Norkin.
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