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Croyden's Corner


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Margaret Croyden is a theater reviewer and essayist for the New York Theatre Wire.

Reviews of the 2013-2014 Season
Margaret Croyden reviews "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," "The Suit," "Fragments," "Matilda," "King Lear," "Richard III," "Twelfth Night," "Waiting for Godot," "No Man’s Land," "Betrayal," "The Glass Menagerie" and "A Raisin in the Sun."

Reviews of the 2012-2013 Season
Margaret Croyden reflects on "Matilda," "I'll Eat You Last," "The Nance," "The Testament of Mary," "Lucky Guy," "The Suit," "Picnic," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "Chaplin," "An Enemy of the People," "The Heiress," "Golden Boy," "Heartless," "Clybourne Park," "Other Desert Cities," "The Best Man," "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Reviews of the 2011-2012 Season
Margaret Croyden has gathered this summary of her reflections on Peter Brook's "A Magic Flute," four plays by The Royal Shakespeare, Langella in "Man and Boy," "Follies," "Private Lives," Peter Brook's "Fragments," "Krapp's Last Tape" at BAM, "Bonnie and Clyde," "Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway," Athol Fugard's "Road to Mecca," "Seminar" by Theresa Reebeck, "Columnist" by David Auburn and "Death of a Salesman" directed by Mike Nichols.

Private Lives
If you’re in a dark mood and want to travel back in time to the 1930s in a frivolous world of glitz and glam, cocktails, and England’s upper crust, then go see Private Lives by Noël Coward.. In this production, directed by Richard Eyre, glamour is the word.

Newly out of her corner
Margaret writes, "Friends, I’ve been away a long time writing a new book, “The Years In Between – A Reporters Journey: World War II-The Cold War." Here are some or her brief thoughts on "Follies," Frank Langella and Peter Brook's "Magic Flute."

Finian's Rainbow
Yet another Broadway musical closes even though it recieved high rated reviews. Can a Broadway show continue today without Hollywood or TV Stars? By Margret Croyden.

Brighton Beach Memoirs
This has been a strange season indeed. Shows close unexpectedly, shows are postponed unexpectedly, and actors are thrown out of work without much notice, but how did Neil Simon's production of Brighton Beach Memoirs only manage to last 3 days? By Margret Croyden.

The Royal Family
"The Royal Family" by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, produced by the Manhattan Theater Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, is the latest addition to the spate of revivals that has characterized contemporary theater in the Times Square area. Can Rosemary Harris make this one succeed? By Margaret Croyden.

"Billy Elliot The Musical"
It is no wonder that "Billy Elliot" won so many Tony awards. Rightly so. If you want to have a total theater experience and a memorable evening full of joy and exuberance, see "Billy Elliot, " a remarkable achievement. Although "Billy Elliot" is listed as a Broadway musical, it is not an ordinary one. With a poignant story and some terrific acting, besides unusual dancing, and gifted young people who make up the plot, I assure you will be happy when you come out of the theater and will long remember it. By Margaret Croyden.

Waiting For Godot
What a pleasure to see grown up theater once again, to listen to a play with ideas, and to be in the presence of Samuel Beckett, the literary genius who knew how to express man's deepest feelings about existence, and inability to accept it for what it is, and always will be. The story is simple. Two tramps are on a bleak road waiting for someone called Godot. By Margaret Croyden.

Desire Under The Elms
The current production of O'Neill's "Desire Under The Elms, " which originated in the Goodman Theater of Chicago, illustrates the perils of cutting down a masterpiece, as well as other producing issues. By Margaret Croyden.

"Mary Stuart"
Political history aside, the play while historically misleading gives two actors, Jane Mcteer and Harriet Walter, an opportunity to act up a storm. And they do. Each has a big scene, and each dominates the stage in her own way. By Margaret Croyden.

"Blithe Spirit"
Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit" has always been a favorite vehicle for those who love English drawing room comedies and English manners. This is the kind of play that on matinee days in London, when the house was full of women, tea was served in the intermission, and the audience was quite adept in handling tea on their lap. By Margaret Croyden.

"Hapiness, " a Musical
"Happiness" is about ten people who find themselves on a train that stops on the tracks and won't move. All are trapped. But one by one they get out. But getting out means they are about to meet their maker. So the train has been a stop to heaven or to hell. Take your pick. By Margaret Croyden.

"Exit The King"
Ionesco wrote "Exit the King" as a farce. But sometimes for an accomplished comic, virtuosity can have its price. Australian screen actor Geoffrey Rush, with his admirable physical abilities, errs on the side of too much clowning in this production. By Margaret Croyden.

"God of Carnage"
"God of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza, who gave us the delightful play "Art, " is a memorable work, full of humor, gaiety, and a certain madness all within the framework of a hilarious farce. Underneath the comedy are Reza's ideas on marriage, children, Wall Street, do-gooders, poseurs, liars and fools--emblems of the bourgeois class which she patently scorns. By Margaret Croyden.
Samantha Mathis, left, Colin Hanks, and Jane Fonda perform in "33 Variations, " currently running at Broadway's Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York.

"Jane Fonda in 33 Variations"
Fonda undertakes a most unusual character. She plays a music scholar who has a deadly disease with little time to live. Nevertheless, obsessed with Beethoven's many years of writing the 32 variations based on Anton Diabelli's little waltz, she wants to ferret out why Beethoven spent so much time with this project. She decides she must go to Bonn to research the master's life. An interesting idea to be sure. By Margaret Croyden.

"Speed the Plow"
In "Speed the Plow, " running at the Barrymore Theater, David Mamet is still ranting about the evils of American business. The actor Raul Esparza portrays a nasty overly ambitious, unfaithful friend remarkably. His fast pace, his terrific body language, his movements are unique. In fact, it is one of the most worked-out performances this season. By Margaret Croyden.

About Hedda Gabler
Mary Louise Parker has taken on one of Ibsen's greatest dark heroines. This is admirable in itself, but there is a gap between what's realized in this Roundabout Theater production and what happend when there is a deep understanding of the play and the role. By Margaret Croyden.

Meditations on being charged by an American Buffalo
David Mamet is one of the most successful contemporary playwrights and has always created a stir in the theater. With a good deal of positive recognition, he continues to work in all the media."American Buffalo" is a case in point. First produced in 1977 on Broadway, it has been revived yet again this year. After so many years, can Mamet be evaluated differently? By Margaret Croyden.

"The Grand Inquisitor "
With "The Grand Inquisitor, " Peter Brook has forsaken big productions for simple storytelling on an almost bare stage. In his earliest book, "The Empty Space, " he declared that his main effort in theater would be storytelling (not dominated by great pyrotechnical inventions) by actors on a simple stage who, by themselves, could make theater come alive. In "The Grand Inquisitor" he has carried out his long desired wish tell a story (without complicated theatrics) with actors who can live on stage who can be present, and just "be." By Margaret Croyden.

The real man in "A Man for All seasons"
Frank Langella is a real thoroughbred. An actor whose presence dominates the stage, he captures every moment, displaying an honesty and theatricality that few actors can achieve. More importantly, he has the energy to give life to a work what might otherwise be boring. "A Man For all Seasons, " a revival of many years, patently comes to life because of Langella. Not that the play is uninteresting. It is about nobility of a certain kind, the kind that remains constant. It is about consistency of beliefs, no matter the price. Perhaps some might find the subject talky and overly intellectualized, which can be hard to take, but Langella overcomes all the pitfalls of the play. By Margaret Croyden.

Yawning at "The Seagull"
If one is bored by Chekhov, something is wrong. First of all, London's Royal Court theater director Ian Rickson failed to energize the actors. They stand around, sit around, and talk without much obvious motivation although the text, as written, is full of life and vigor. To be sure, Chekhov's characters do talk, but beneath the conversations are the characters' complicated feelings. What they say is not as important as their inner life, in opposition to their talk. Chekhov's dialogue may be bizarre, amusing, illogical, even insensible but none of it can be played at face value. At the heart of the play are the contradictions of the characters, their underlying emotions, sometimes hidden, sometimes exposed, so that they say is not as important to what they really feel. This is what gives a Chekhov play its demensions. By Margaret Croyden.

Top Girls by Caryl Churchill
Caryl Churchill, the British playwright has always had a successful run with her body of work. Her plays have been presented in New York several times and received with great enthusiasm and respectable notices. This revival of "Top Girls" which opened twenty years ago at the Public Theater under the directorship of the great Joe Papp, also received unanimous praise. Last year one of Ms. Churchill's plays "Drunk Enough to Say I love You" had a similar approval. In fact Ms. Churchill's entire body of work since the nineteen seventies has won large audiences and much acclaim. Each time one of her plays is announced in New York, she is sure to create a fuss; she caters to a very special audience.


The Metropolitan Opera production of “Peter Grimes.” Photo by Andrea Mohin.

The Metropolitan Opera has started a new program: great opera on PBS television
The Met's "Peter Grimes" is a masterful, poignant production directed by John Doyle, who is known for his many Broadway accomplishments. The singers can really act as well as sing (which is rare in opera), particularly Anthony Dean Griffey in the title role. One must thank Peter Gelb, the fearless new opera manager, who has shown that he will not only expand the opera experience to television and film, but that he will employ artists with real theater experience who can bring together the exquisite combination of great acting and great singing. For that is a great accomplishment.
Laura Linney and Ben Daniels in "Les Liasons Dangereuses." Photo by Joan Marcus.

Les Liaisons dangereuses
Christopher Hampton's "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" is based on the epistolary novel by the Frenchman, Choderlos de Laclos who wrote the book in 1782. Hampton's adaptation was first produced in l987, followed by the movie, 1988. The film achieved a good deal of attention and was a huge success, particularly for the work of Glen Close and John Malkovich in the leads. In this current production both Laura Linney and Ben Daniels as the two unscrupulous schemers are miscast. Which leaves the play an empty shell. By Margaret Croyden.


Satyagraha, an Opera by Philip Glass at the Lincoln Center
The Metropolitan Opera should be congratulated for reviving Philip Glass's well known master work "Satyagraha, " a minimalist opera depicting the early years of the heroic Indian leader, Mahatma Ghandi. Peter Gelb, the new managing director, is unafraid to produce work that at one time had been considered experimental--out of bounds for the classical repertory of the venerable opera house. But now into his second season, Gelb's desire to present opera as a theatrical experience is justified by this stunning Glass work. The music remains the same; nothing is changed from its original intention. What is changed is the production: the staging by the gifted director Phelim McDermott and set designer Julian Crouch who have used brilliant theatrical elements to produce a thrilling asthetic experience.

La Traviata at the Met Opera
"Croyden's Corner" has been devoted mostly to theater, although Margaret has written about music and dance in the past. She does it not as a conventional critic but as one going to the event for the first time and discussing it only from a theatrical vantage point. So it seems logical that she should now write about opera, for it encompasses everything theatrical--music, singing, dancing, and spoken dialogue. Besides, this is a most interesting time, since Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, is undertaking new and remarkable events to bolster this most gorgeous art. For her first Opera column, Margaret has picked one of the most famous and lovable operas in the world to discuss: Verdi's "La Traviata."

Sunday In the Park With George, the musical
By now everyone knows the story of this famous Stephen Sondheim's musical (for this its third revival) that deals with Georges Seurat's remarkable pointillist painting of "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte." Using the painting as a background (actually the main subject), Sondheim ingeniously attempts to dissect Seurat's egomaniacal obsession with his art, an obsession that leads to the painter's neglect of mother, lover, child, friend--anyone who may distract him from his all consuming, passionate commitment to painting. The most inventive aspect of this production is not so much its story (although that is fascinating too) but the director's (Sam Buntrock) use of modern technology: computerized images, digital projections, clever animations that show the painting coming to life, its beginning, its progress and its glorious end.

"November" by David Mamet
If you love the great Nathan Lane then you will love this show because its another chance to see a superb comedian work. Whatever Lane does, even his appearances in unremarkable plays, he always stands out. He has had a fabulous career judging from his credits that fill almost two pages in the program. Who can forget Nathan Lane in "The Producers" or in the movie "The Birdcage, " or his many comic antics in Terrence McNally's plays. An accomplished performer with perfect timing, perfect character traits, perfect movement, (like his hero, Jackie Gleason) even a lift of his eyebrows, or his smirk, or rage, can intrigue the audience no matter how insignificant the play. Plainly he is the whole show. And Margaret Croyden is always happy to see him.

August: Osage County
Margaret asks, What were the critics thinking? They called "August: Osage County" the most exciting new American play Broadway has seen in years. (That from The New York Times.) It has always been impolite to criticize one's colleagues (even if you hate them) or disparage their reviews. But this time, Margaret is breaking the rule and offering her own version of what she saw.

A Hundred Characters for " The 39 Steps"
If you are old enough to remember Alfred Hitchcock's fabulous script, its intricate design, its suspense, and amusing chase between the hero and the spy masters, then you will certainly appreciate this spoof of Hitchcock. Imagine three man and a single woman playing all the roles that encompasses the entire movie from the beginning to the end. And this they do so brilliantly that it is impossible to tell that the actors are playing multiple characters.How does this production, so cleverly directed by Maria Aitken, get this story in shape. She had only four actors who seem as if they are improvising. Within a minute they change from one character to another. Sometimes they run across the stage, existing from the right only to re-enter left, almost instantly. These actors have the agility of clowns as they depict changes of scenery with a variety of body movements. They walk, glide, run, exit, enter. Few props are used: a wooden frame becomes a window, certain body movements by the cast indicate a moving train, or a mountainous climb all this is accomplished by the actors' perfect timing. By Margaret Croyden.

"The Seafarer" -- At last, a Winner!
If you want to see terrific acting on the Broadway stage (which is rare) you must see Conor McPherson's new play, "The Seafarer" at the Booth theater. There, five actors will show you how group acting can make a simple drama compelling. As expected in a McPherson play, the story takes place in a provincial town outside of Dublin where four friends meet to celebrate Christmas, beginning with Christmas Eve morning and ending Christmas Eve night. In Richard's (Jim Norton) run down, shabby house, each man is eager to indulge his ritual--playing poker and drinking. Drinking, the endless talk about it, the search for it, are the principle obsessions of this besotted group. And they will do anything to procure the precious alcohol which unites them in a common bond. By Margaret Croyden.

"Rock 'N' Roll" by Tom Stoppard
In "Rock 'N' Roll, " Tom Stoppard, Britain's most erudite and scholarly playwright, has once again tackled political and historical problems on repression and revolution in 20th century Czechoslovakia during the Cold war--a perfect background for arguments about Marxism, socialism, Soviet oppression, and revolution and its effect on human character. By Margaret Croyden.

Cyrano de Kevin Kline
Edmond Rostand's 19th century classic play "Cyrano de Bergerac" has always attracted stars and over the years many have tried their hand at it. In the past Jose Ferrer played it on stage and screen, and even the French leading man Gerard Depardieu stared in the original French version. Margaret Croyden assesses Kevin Kline's stab at the role.

Pygmaleon in the Roundabout
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, Directed by David Grindley Margaret Croyden attends Shaw's "Pygmaleon, " directed by David Grindley at the Roundabout, and comes out filled with praise for the author. The production, she relates, was enjoyable but not without its flaws.

Robert Wilson and the Comedie Francaise
No international festival would ever be complete without the great Robert Wilson. No matter what his work is, he is sure to be invited, and he is sure to create a stir--and sell out the theater. His version of the 17th century "Fables de la Fontaine, " performed in French (with English subtitles) by the famous Comedie Francaise actors, who double in numerous roles, was the Festival's premiere piece. As expected, it did attract full houses and standing ovations.

The Lincoln Center Festival
Attending the Lincoln Center Festival each year is always a pleasure. The productions presented are unavailable on Broadway or any other venue and always begin when the Broadway season closes, so we can enjoy another month of theater going. This year the Festival director, Nigel Redden, concentrated mostly on international productions--a welcome gift. Not many people travel to Japan, China, or Russia to catch the theater, which are countries well represented in this festival. By Margaret Croyden.

Reflections August 1, 2007
Croyden's reflections on the New York Philharmonic, ranging from what makes a composer a "genius, " to the future of the organization, to her own experience at the concert.

At last we have the best play of the season, the best performances, the best director, and best of all--Frank Langella in the role of Nixon. And what a performance. Actually I hesitated going to see this play. I lived through the Nixon period and was not anxious to have it in front of me again. Furthermore I thought it would be a straight docu-drama with question and answers and that's all. But much to my surprise it turned out to be a most fascinating psychological examination of one of our worst presidents. By Margaret Croyden.

Kurt Weill will forever be remembered for his great score for "Three Penny Opera" and "Mahagonny, " for his music from his pre-Hitler days in Germany, and numerous others when he escaped to the USA. "LoveMusik, " with a book by Alfred Uhry, is based on his letters and those of his wife, the brilliant chanteuse Lotte Lenya, who, appearing in many Weill productions including the unforgettable "Three Penny Opera, " became as famous as her husband. Alfred Uhry traces their 25 year relationship as they fall in love, marry, divorce, marry again, despite their violent arguments and various tempestuous affairs. By Margaret Croyden.

"A Moon For the Misbegotten"
The story deals with O'Neill's unhappy brother, Jim Tyrone, an alcoholic. He owns what looks like broken down property, part of which is the home of Josie and her father. On the surface, Jose is a rough, vulgar, earthy farm worker, but underneath she is a woman dying for love. On the surface, Jim Tyrone is similar but is incapable of achieving love or even accepting his longing for it. By Margareth Croyden.

Kurt Weill will forever be remembered for his great score for "Three Penny Opera" and "Mahagonny," for his music from his pre-Hitler days in Germany, and numerous others when he escaped to the USA. "LoveMusik," with a book by Alfred Uhry, is based on his letters and those of his wife, the brilliant chanteuse Lotte Lenya, who, appearing in many Weill productions including the unforgettable "Three Penny Opera," became as famous as her husband. Alfred Uhry traces their 25 year relationship as they fall in love, marry, divorce, marry again, despite their violent arguments and various tempestuous affairs. By Margaret Croyden.

"A Moon For the Misbegotten "
The story deals with O'Neill's unhappy brother, Jim Tyrone, an alcoholic. He owns what looks like broken down property, part of which is the home of Josie and her father. On the surface, Jose is a rough, vulgar, earthy farm worker, but underneath she is a woman dying for love. On the surface, Jim Tyrone is similar but is incapable of achieving love or even accepting his longing for it. By Margareth Croyden.

''The Year of Magical Thinking'' starring Vanessa Redgrave
Vanessa Redgrave is a striking figure: her white hair brushed back, grey skirt, bland top, a little necklace--she is quite beautiful, especially her eyes. She manages to hold the audience's attention, but the writing is the problem. By Margeret Croyden.

"Dying City"
"Dying City" has received splendid notices. Almost every reviewer favored this two person play that originated in London at the Royal Court Theater last year. The plot is simple: Peter (Pablo Schreiber) comes to visit his sister-in-law, Kelly (Rebecca Brooksher). They haven't seen each other since Peter's twin brother Craig (also played by Schreiber) has been killed in Iraq. The double casting is the problem. By Margeret Croyden.

''Talk Radio'' starring Liev Schreiber
Everyone knows that Liev Schreiber is a good actor. He appeared in numerous movies, won Tonys and other acting awards, and is much in demand. Everyone in theater knows that Eric Bogosian's "Talk Radio" was produced by the Public Theater in 1987 when the great Joe Papp was running the place. Margareth Croyden ascertains how the two forces match in teh current revival at the Longacre Theater.

Howard Katz
''Alfred Molina in the lead role is a gifted actor. Strong on stage with a commanding voice and a commanding presence. His energy is superb. After reading the press release distributed by the P. R. on the show, I was struck by Molina's huge career. The man's credits took up almost an entire page.'' Molina starring in ''Howard Katz'', directed by Dough Hughes and reviewed by Margareth Croyden.

The Coast of Utopia Part Two: Shipwreck
"The Coast of Utopia, Part Two-The Shipwreck" is appropriately named. Not only is it a metaphor for the ruined lives of the Russian thinkers of Part one, but it illustrates that Stoppard's adventure into history has hit the rocks. "Shipwreck" begins in 1846 two years after Part One. Alexander Herzen (Brian F. O'Byrne) is now the central character. He has married, has had two sons, is still meeting his colleagues at ice skating rinks and cafes, or at fancy parties and is still talking the same talk: the dangerous situation in Russia, the work of the spying police, the tyranny of the Czar, and how to escape imprisonment. By Margaret Croyden.

The Vertical Hour
David Hare is one of England's most produced playwrights. Not only has his plays appeared regularly in London, but ten of them have been performed on Broadway, including his solo performance about his experience in Israel. Besides "The Vertical Hour" at the Music Box, his play "Stuff Happens" premiered earlier at the Public Theater. Later this season he is to direct Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking" starring Vanessa Redgrave. With a resume like this, his plays cannot be missed. By Margaret Croyden.

Brian Friel is one of Ireland's most famous playwrights. His resume is huge--too huge to list here. So are his awards: a Tony for his magnificent "Dancing at Lughnasa," a Lifetime Achievement Award from the "Irish Times" and best of all, favorable reviews for most of his work. Only last season his "Faith Healer," a revival with Ralph Fiennes and Cherry Jones was a huge success on Broadway. Brian Friel is well loved in New York, so that theater goers looked forward to his revival of "Translations." By Margaret Croyden.

The Coast of Utopia--A Trilogy
The most serious play of the season is without question Tom Stoppard's "The Coast of Utopia," a trilogy now playing in repertory. Each part can be seen separately, or in one sitting later in the month. As we know, Stoppard is accepted by the cognoscenti as one of Britain's most important playwrights. To be sure he has a huge body of work: dramas, comedies, TV scripts, and movies but "Utopia" is his opus magnum. Not too many writers would have the nerve, the temperament, or the confidence to embark on such an ambitious enterprise. A success in London despite mixed notices, "Utopia" was enough of an inducement for the Lincoln Center guys--Andre Bishop and Bernie Gersten--to bring it to New York. A giant production, the play requires more than 40 actors, elaborate scenery and costumes, original music, extravagant lighting, and unique theatrical effects. The scheduling of the rehearsals and repertory performances would drive any management crazy. So it is with great expectations that one went to see this much publicized event. By Margaret Croyden.

Les Miserables, the Musical
Cameron Mackintosh, the program says, has produced "hundreds of productions." His well known "Cats," "The Phantom of the Opera," "Les Miserables" (the first) were the three longest running musicals in Broadway history. It may be more than fifteen years since the original "Les Mis" (as is commonly known) hit Broadway and resulted in millions of dollars that Mackintosh and his associates have garnished from these enterprises. Mackintosh has still another production on Broadway, "Mary Poppins" that had already been playing in London for some time and undoubtedly will reap more profits. So what does Cameron Mackintosh want? More. By Margaret Croyden.

The New York Philharmonic
One of the recent surprises for concert patrons this season was the New York Philharmonic's presentation of an old Soviet film "Alexander Nevsky" accompanied by the Prokofiev's score written for the movie, played live by the orchestra. By Margaret Croyden.

Heartbreak House--- Shaw's House On the rocks
Bernard Shaw's "Heartbreak House" received excellent notices from most of the critics, so one was very anxious to see this all star cast. But lets get to the point. This play lasts close to three hours and there is virtually no action on the stage. A group of actors either stand, sit, or lie on a couch and talk--and talk, talk, talk. By Margaret Croyden.




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