On paper, Annie Baker’s The Flick is 122 pages long. For a typical play this would mean a running time somewhere between two hours and fifteen minutes and two and a half hours at the most. On stage at Playwrights Horizons, the performance I attended of director Sam Gold’s production of The Flick ran a bit over three hours and fifteen minutes.
This is by design. In promoting her new piece, the playwright has expressed a preference for dialogue and pacing that more accurately reflects real life over the elevated reality generally associated with live theatre. As in her past plays, all of which have had their premiere productions mounted by Gold, The Flick includes conversations that skirt around points instead of making them. There are also many scripted pauses and silent moments where the audience can’t clearly see what is going on. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s a lot to be said for finely presented subtext, but Baker’s tale of the purity of art form giving way to modern, money-making technology as seen through the eyes of three awkward employees of a single-screen Massachusetts movie theatre doesn’t carry the necessary weight to justify the lengthy attention span requested.
The play is set in designer David Zinn’s realistic auditorium, complete with rows of red chairs and holes in the upstage wall where the projector is set. The theatre audience sits where the screen would be. As described in Baker’s script, the play opens in darkness, the only light coming from the projector hitting above the theatre audience’s heads. We hear Bernard Herrmann’s introductory film scoring for The Naked And The Dead, though all we see of the film is the bright white light flashing for, as specified by the playwright, two minutes.
Finally, actors appear. The tragic center of the piece is 35-year-old Sam (terrifically empathetic Matthew Maher), a thickly-accented, not especially bright, regular guy who is the senior member of the three-person crew. The first scene has him training Avery (Aaron Clifton Moten), a college student taking a semester off, in the ritual of sweeping the floors in between screenings; a simple task that the new guy gets down far quicker than his supervisor. While Avery, an introvert except when it comes to expressing his passion for movies, may have a better future ahead of him, Sam is pretty much stuck where he is. Though he has a crush on the punkish Rose (Louisa Krause), he also resents the fact that she was promoted to projectionist despite his seniority.
After letting these characters simmer for a while, revealing bits of their backgrounds and developing an attraction between Avery and Rose, Baker introduces the news that the art house is being sold to a chain that plans to replace the projector and go digital. While Sam and Rose are concerned for their jobs, Avery is infuriated with the switch to modern, less-artistic technology.
Although there is enough in The Flick to keep an audience satisfied for a more standard two-hour length, Baker and Gold’s commitment to their interpretation of realism – including repetitious scenes and long silences that do not speak volumes – alienates attention from the sweet, humorous story of the day-to-day lives of three troubled people. This love letter to the movies could afford to incorporate a bit of theatre's elevated reality.
Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: Matthew Maher; Bottom: Louisa Krause and Aaron Clifton Moten.
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Posted on: Saturday, March 16, 2013 @ 02:01 PM Posted by: Michael Dale
Neva & Mary Foster Conklin
Guillermo Calderón’s comic drama, Neva, begins with a monologue that any actress over 35 with a decent knack for self-effacing humor will want to grab.
It’s spoken by Olga Knipper, the widow of Anton Chekhov, as she contemplates how unprepared she feels to soon be starring in a production of her beloved late husband’s The Cherry Orchard. (“Rasputin is more truthful than I am.”) In her anxiety she imagines audience members praising her to her face, but scorning her publically for not being worthy of the roles written for her. (“Because for me this is a punishment. It humiliates me when people look at me. That said, I like it when they call me and they say, “We’d like you to play this role.”)
Those two pages, played by Bianca Amato with the type of tragic self-centeredness that made the Russian dramatist’s plays subtly funny, is by far the highlight of the Public Theater’s production, as translated by Andrea Thome.
The play is set in Saint Petersburg, through which the Neva River flows, on a Sunday morning in 1905 that has Olga nervously waiting in the theatre for rehearsal to begin. However, it’s not only unlikely that the director and much of the cast will arrive, it’s also very likely that they are all dead, as this is the 22nd of January -- later to be known as Bloody Sunday – when the Tsar’s soldiers fired upon thousands of unarmed protestors and uninvolved passers-by.
The only two who come to join her are the charismatic Aleko (Luke Robertson) and the introverted Masha (Quincy Tyler Bernstine). The trio spends the bulk of the play improvising a scene based on Chekhov’s death from tuberculosis (trying to get the cough just right), criticizing Masha’s artistic inadequacies (““Do you think I would be a better actress if I enjoyed sex?”) and rejecting the value of theatre when there’s blood on the streets. The play climaxes with Masha emotionlessly shouting a long speech summarizing the issues addressed in the previous 75 minutes. (“I hate the audience, those simpletons who come to entertain themselves while the world ends. They come to seek culture, to sigh. They should be ashamed. They should give that money to the poor.”)
It’s to the credit of the three actors involved that Neva can hold attention for even its brief running time. Calderón, who also directs, has costume designer Susan Hilferty dress them all in dark tones. There is no designer credited for the small elevated platform, not nearly large enough for any substantial movement, where the entire play is performed, nor for the one moveable footlight that allows anything to be seen. By the time the evening’s clichéd pretentiousness has covered all its artsy bases, the light is forcefully directed into the faces of the audience, symbolizing… Oh, whatever the hell that’s supposed to symbolize.
Photo of Bianca Amato, Luke Robertson and Quincy Tyler Bernstine by Carol Rosegg.
I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of being conceived back when Fran Landesman began writing the lyrics and poetry that would earn her the title of the beat generation’s “poet laureate of lovers and losers.” And I’m quite certain the same can be said for Mary Foster Conklin, but in her tribute to the scribe best known for “Ballad of the Sad Young Men” and “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” the sly and smoky jazz vocalist creates a mood that one can imagine replicates the feel of low-key cool and coffee house worldliness that accompanied the material when it was a young woman’s reaction to the masculine sensitivity of 1950s Greenwich Village and the hipster side of St. Louis.
Titled Life Is A Bitch after a comically fatalistic poem that was a favorite of Bette Davis, Conklin is joined by music director/pianist John di Martino and bassist Greg Ryan for 90 minutes of wisdom, anecdotes and some ravishing words and music presented with knowing dramatics and warm intelligence.
The trickily rhythmic "Nothing Like You" (music by Bob Dorough) opens the program, followed by the creamy “Never Had The Blues” (also Dorough), setting us up for an evening of flippantness and emotional colors. “In A New York Minute” (Simon Wallace) highlights the jumpy, unexpected rhythms of the city, “Scars” (also Wallace) has Conklin at her most beautifully intimate, assuring a new lover that they can freely expose each other to the evidence of their past wounds (“Don’t be ashamed, everybody’s got scars. / That’s the way we keep score on this planet of ours.) and in “Small Day Tomorrow,” her “anthem of the unemployed,” the singer lounges in a relaxed playfulness.
That last selection, as Conklin explains, was inspired by an evening where Landesman was left alone in a favorite watering hole because all of her friends had a “big day tomorrow.” She quips, “Out came a bar napkin and the rest is history.” And “Ballad of the Sad Young Men” (Tommy Wolf), best known as a gay anthem, she explains was actually inspired from the lyricist’s learning that one of her obsessive artist friends was about to marry a 16-year-old girl and she was thinking how someone so young couldn’t possibly be prepared for what she had in store.
The charming between-song patter not only expresses Conklin’s personal appreciation of the songs, but gives a rather thorough history lesson of her subject’s life and career; her open marriage of 61 years to Jay Landesman (founder of the beat lit magazine Neurotica), their years in St. Louis, mingling with the likes of Lenny Bruce and Barbra Streisand at the Crystal Palace, and writing The Nervous Set with Tommy Wolf, the musical about New York’s beatnik culture that was a smash in St. Louis but failed to win over Broadway audiences.
The brief Metropolitan Room run of Life Is A Bitch has sadly concluded, but any future opportunities to hear the perfect match of Landesman’s hip observations and Conklin’s stylish interpretations is certainly worth a listen.
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Posted on: Thursday, March 14, 2013 @ 03:33 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Cinderella Occupies Broadway
“This is like children’s theatre for 40-year-old gay people!”
So wisecracked a character in Douglas Carter Beane’s Broadway adaptation of the film, Xanadu. As Al Jolson might have observed, we had ain’t seen nothing yet.
While there’s certainly enough of the traditional story, at least as we know it here in America, to keep the kiddies occupied, Beane’s adaptation of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s Cinderella, significantly inspired by the movement started by Zuccotti Park’s 99-percenters, is a rollickingly fresh and funny new take on the tale mounted with spirited zest by Mark Brokaw; a little bit campy, a little bit sharp musical satire and a whole lot romantic, but from a different angle.
And it is, in fact, a new musical comedy. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella premiered as a live television special starring Julie Andrews in 1957 and was presented again in a 1965 revised version as another TV event starring Leslie Ann Warren. There have been previous stage adaptations that used these two broadcasts as their source (plus a Disney-produced revised TV adaptation starring Brandy) but while they all share the same core of songs, Beane’s new script takes nothing from them. Unlike last season’s rewritten revival of Porgy and Bess, that just softened the impact of material that already existed as a theatre piece, this production uses the television score (plus lifting some unknowns from the Rodgers and Hammerstein trunk) and only the most basic necessities of the teleplay’s story to invent something new for the stage.
Prince Topher, played with a genuine nice-guy appeal by Santino Fontana, doesn’t slay the dragon or the angry tree-like creature that challenges his soldiers in the opening scene, but rather humanely incapacitates them; perhaps thinking they can be rehabilitated. He’s an orphan who has been naively spending his short reign controlled by a Lord Protector (Peter Bartlett, delightfully droll and dry as always) who has been passing laws to protect the wealth of the upper class at the expense of the poor. A brief chance encounter with Cinderella convinces her that he’s a compassionate person who may not be aware of what is being done in his name.
The title character’s relationship with her step-family is fleshed out a bit more. In fact, her actual name is Ella. The “Cinder” part is a derogatory nickname, though she eventually “takes back the word.” Her step-mother (Harriet Harris, grandly resembling a combo of Bette Davis and Dorothy Loudon) married her first husband for love, but when she was widowed with two daughters to raise, she married Cinderella’s now deceased father for money. (“He died. I got a house!”) Though Ann Harada’s Charlotte is a self-centered little dynamo, Marla Mindelle’s Gabrielle is shy, bookish and has a crush on Jean-Michel (Greg Hildreth), a local activist who organizes soup kitchens and makes speeches on behalf of those who have lost their homes due to unfair financial practices.
The Lord Protector decides to hold the ball that will find a bride for Topher as a way of distracting the public from the lad’s accusations and in a very clever scene, Jean-Michel’s attempt to rally the public with “Now Is The Time” (an unused anthem written for South Pacific) is drowned out by the merry song and dance, “The Prince Is Giving A Ball.” And while Ella is as excited as any other young lady in town to attend, her main motivation for wanting to go is not to snag a royal husband, but to warn Topher to open his eyes to the way his people are being treated. It’s her selfless qualities and her generosity that earn her a visit from the fairy godmother (charmingly ethereal Victoria Clark) and once she arrives at the palace, she wins over both the prince and his subjects simply by being a nice, friendly person. (Costume designer William Ivey Long’s gorgeous and often comic creations include a stunner of a quick transformation into Cinderella’s ball gown, which seems to be assisted by lighting designer Kenneth Posner.) There’s still the pesky matter of the midnight deadline, but when happily ever after eventually arrives it comes with a message of valuing kindness, forgiveness and charity over physical beauty and to work for what you wish to achieve instead of depending on magical solutions to just appear.
In the six years since Laura Osnes won Broadway stardom as a TV game show prize, she’s gradually developed into quite the skilled and endearing ingénue lead, primarily though fine performances in Rodgers and Hammerstein vehicles. (She was Kelli O’Hara’s replacement in South Pacific and headed concert productions of Pipe Dream and The Sound of Music.) In Cinderella she more than fills the expected requirements of sweet, pretty looks and a soft lovely soprano, but adds to them admirable assertiveness, maturity and a sly sense of humor. Adults wishing to expose young girls to a positive fictional role model should be pleased.
At its best, the contrast between Rodgers and Hammerstein’s traditionally romantic, operetta-like score and the satirical jabs of Beane’s book balance well, much like the similar contrast found in Finian’s Rainbow, but there remain a few awkward moments. The love-at-first-sight waltz “Ten Minutes Ago” and the lush “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful (Or Are You Beautiful Because I Love You?)” don’t quite fit the kind of attraction for each other that the bookwriter establishes and the comical “Stepsister’s Lament” (changed from “Stepsisters’ Lament” because Gabrielle is too involved with her romantic subplot to feel jealousy) would be better off as a solo for Harada’s Charlotte instead of having her funny antics backed up by a chorus of ladies who, ten minutes ago, were admiring Cinderella’s kindness and sincerity.
Still, having music director David Chase visibly conducting twenty musicians in Danny Troob’s rich orchestrations for these beloved compositions from a real orchestra pit helps teach kiddies whose minds may have been corrupted by Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark another important lesson; Broadway orchestras belong in the same room as the actors.
Photos by Carol Rosegg: Top: Laura Osnes, Santino Fontana and Company; Center: Marla Mindelle and Greg Hildreth; Bottom: Victoria Clark.
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Posted on: Thursday, March 14, 2013 @ 01:14 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 3/10/13 & Theatre Quote of the Week
"It was a different planet in 1967, the Broadway theatre. It had a little ashtray clamped to the back of every seat and the author got 10% of the gross."
-- Tom Stoppard
The grosses are out for the week ending 3/10/2013 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: ANN (10.1%), CHICAGO (6.9%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (5.3%), ONCE (4.5%), THE LION KING (3.4%), CINDERELLA (3.1%), THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (1.3%), MAMMA MIA! (1.0%), NEWSIES (0.7%), ROCK OF AGES (0.6%), JERSEY BOYS(0.5%),
Down for the week was: ANNIE (-14.6%), HANDS ON A HARDBODY (-9.9%), CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (-5.6%), KINKY BOOTS (-3.2%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-2.0%), LUCKY GUY (-1.9%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (-1.7%), WICKED (-1.0%),
Posted on: Monday, March 11, 2013 @ 05:24 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
The North Pool
The North Pool is certainly the most conventional piece to hit New York from imaginative playwright Rajiv Joseph. There are no philosophical tigers, no imaginary Holden Caulfield’s giving advice and no relationships built on mutual physical injuries. But the traditional two-hander is a neatly crafted, tense and juicy theatrical ride.
Set in 90 minutes of real time, the play takes place in 2007 (April 13th, to be exact), in the office of high school vice-principal, Dr. Danielson (Stephen Barker Turner). It’s the last few minutes before spring break begins but first the VP needs to meet with 18-year-old Syrian transfer student Khadim Asmaan (Babak Tafti) over what seems to be a trivial offense. Danielson asks a lot of questions he already knows the answer to and when Asmaan is caught lying he’s assigned to serve detention.
The student accepts the administrator’s offer to make it a quick detention right then and there, most likely making them the only two people left in the building. But while Asmaan would rather serve his time quietly, Danielson has more questions for him regarding his family, his participation in school activities and items found in his locker which may or may not be related to threats made against the school.
The anxious student counters by bringing up some well-known rumors about the vice-principal. To go further would reveal too much but it all leads up to each one’s relationship with another student.
The upper hand keeps bouncing back and forth and under director Giovanna Sardelli neither character can claim the audience’s sympathy for very long. Turner’s Danielson is a pompous authority figure grounded in traditional (white) American values, unconvincingly trying to let the teenager know that he’s his friend. Tafti’s Asmaan first appears as a polite and timid fish out of water until his arrogance and ruthlessness surface.
There are a couple of points that defy logic a bit, and a slight hint of a sadistic act involving the title location that never develops, but despite those stumbles, The North Pool proves a well-acted and entertaining cat and mouse game.
Photo of Stephen Barker Turner and Babak Tafti by Carol Rosegg.
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Posted on: Friday, March 08, 2013 @ 05:27 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Candy Tastes Nice
The woman who went by the pseudonym Natalie Dylan, a self-described feminist with a B.A. in women’s studies, hasn’t been the only one to attempt to put her virginity up for auction, but being attractive, American and willing to appear on national television to explain how she wished to use the money to pay for her further education most likely helped her become the best-known in this country.
In these days where government legislation of morality and a woman’s right to control her own body stirs up controversy, Dylan’s story is still extraordinarily relevant. Playwright/performer Miranda Huba took from it her inspiration to create Candy Tastes Nice, a fictional solo piece about a woman wishing to pay off her student loans by holding such an auction.
Directed by Shannon Sindelar, the play was previously performed in New York in a traditional theatre setting, but this new production is placed in the upstairs lounge of the bordello-themed bar, Madame X, with customers welcome to bring their drinks into the playing space (no minimum) where they sit on cozy couches and can sample from small bowls full of sugary treats. There are elevated areas on both ends of the room but for the most part Huba struts across the floor up close to her listeners as she tells her tale, which turns out to be an awkward mix of sexual politics overwhelmed by outlandish fantasy.
Huba’s writing style frequently echoes the crass titillation of a letter to Penthouse (“The series of boyfriends that I had selfishly blue balled had never done anything other than some heavy petting.”) performed with an off-putting sense of arrogance. The play works best when she’s seriously critical of the media’s insistence of shaping her story to suit its needs, regardless of the truth, such as in a scene inspired by Dylan’s appearance on the Tyra Banks show. Huba has her unnamed narrator repeatedly asked by a model/talk show host why she’s doing it and she repeatedly answers that she wants to pay off her student loans. It isn’t until she changes her answer to express a yearning for celebrity love and attention that the model/host is satisfied that she’s come to the heart of the matter.
Huba does touch on significant topics such as the theory that women have been auctioning off their virginity to the highest bidder since the beginning of time and the moral culture that automatically sees prostitutes as a victims (She doesn’t go into the high cost of education, though.) but only lightly. Instead of exploring issues thoroughly, she ventures off into fuzzy symbolism with a scene involving a young boy and her internal organs and cartoonish satire which has world leaders bidding on her as part of complicated deals involving oil, hostages and nuclear weapons. Despite her effort to make a statement, the subject of auctioning off one's virginity and the issues surrounding it are so unusual that what comes out of the playwright’s inventiveness never seems like it would be as interesting as a realistic approach.
Also, the title is confusing. There’s a character in the narrative named Candy, which can lead one to wrongly believe the title might be referring to her. And frankly, the words Candy Tastes Nice suggests a sex act that has nothing to do with the play.
Photo of Miranda Huba by Michael Weintrob.
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Posted on: Thursday, March 07, 2013 @ 06:01 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Belleville & The Revisionist
As a public service for playgoers who do not understand French, nothing of any importance takes place in the final scene of Amy Herzog’s Belleville.
Don’t worry, it’s not a spoiler to say that the actions that end the next to last scene pretty much complete the play and that the final pages, spoken entirely in French, do nothing but leave those of us who only know English wondering what the hell they missed. (For the record, I cut and pasted the scene from my press script onto one of those web sites that performs translations.)
Perhaps I’ll never be satisfied with the way Ms. Herzog chooses to end her plays, but like her After The Revolution and The Great God Pan, she has a terrific way with dialogue that both entertains and stings and characters and situations that are at least initially grabbing. Director Anne Kauffman and an excellent cast greatly contribute to keeping attentions fixed, despite a couple of lapses in believability and a dearth of content to sufficiently fill the play’s 95 minutes.
The Belleville section of Paris fills in for Park Slope, Brooklyn (The Seine, the Gowanus… What’s the dif?) as represented by the attic apartment (fine work by Julia C. Lee) rented by twentysomething American couple, Zack and Abby (Greg Keller and Maria Dizzia). The first thing we learn about their marriage is that Abby has been holding back any physical intimacy since going off her anti-depressants. It goes downhill from there.
After drawing the audience in with some amusing observations about the irony of an Eiffel Tower onesie and Abby’s failure at her chosen career (“To be an actress you have to love to suffer and I only like to suffer.”) the playwright spends the rest of the evening hinting at, and eventually revealing in tiny morsels, the many issues involving these two arrested adolescents, including addiction, deception, finances and commitment. Eventually, things start getting seriously dangerous. Keller and Dizzia do a great job of initially coming off as a cute, if somewhat quirky, couple and slowly blending into the transitions that reveal the darker sides of their marriage.
Serving as a representation of maturity is Phillip James Brannon as their landlord, Alioune, who Abby is shocked to discover – since he’s happily married with two children and a successful business – is only 25. In the relatively small role of his wife, Amina, Pascale Armand has little more to do than to appear pissed off, which she does nicely.
Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: Maria Dizzia and Greg Keller; Bottom: Pascale Armand and Phillip James Brannon.
If actor/playwright Jesse Eisenberg isn’t going to bother much with projecting his lines loud enough to reach row M of the cozy and acoustically fine Cherry Lane Theatre, then I’m not going to bother much with reviewing them.
To be fair, I checked with others and the hearing problem wasn’t just mine, and to be doubly fair – since his voice projection skills have nothing to do with his playwriting – I did review a copy of the script before concluding that The Revisionist, though given a fine production by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and director Kip Fagan, is far too familiar and unpolished to engage, though the presence of Vanessa Redgrave will undoubtedly fill the 179-seat playhouse.
Eisenberg plays rude, obnoxious bad-boy writer David suffering a block while trying to revise his sophomore effort. He decides to get some undistracted work time by traveling to Poland to stay with his second cousin, Maria (Redgrave), whom he’s never met. Why Poland? Why Maria? Why do they bond over a vodka-soused recitation of “Who’s On First?” I don’t know.
The overly patient and generous Maria puts up with David’s spoiled nonsense because she is longing to release to some relation a family secret from her childhood during the German occupation. (Who’s the revisionist now?) Providing breaks from their implausible scenes are nice moments between Maria and a gregarious cab driver pal, played by Daniel Oreskes.
Photo of Vanessa Redgrave and Jesse Eisenberg by Sandra Coudert.
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Posted on: Wednesday, March 06, 2013 @ 05:17 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 3/3/13 & Theatre Quote of the Week
"Art is science made clear."
-- Wilson Mizner
The grosses are out for the week ending 3/3/2013 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: MANILOW ON BROADWAY (12.3%), WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (7.6%), ANNIE (5.9%), THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (5.0%), WICKED (4.1%), MARY POPPINS (3.8%), CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1.8%), ANN (1.4%), ROCK OF AGES (0.6%), MAMMA MIA!(0.3%),
Down for the week was: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-12.1%), CHICAGO (-7.9%), NEWSIES (-7.6%), JERSEY BOYS (-7.0%), ONCE (-6.9%), HANDS ON A HARDBODY (-5.5%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (-4.9%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-2.2%), THE LION KING (-2.1%), CINDERELLA (-1.9%), THE OTHER PLACE (-0.5%),
Posted on: Monday, March 04, 2013 @ 09:17 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Out of necessity, people tend to fall in love rather quickly in musical theatre. Trying to jam a relationship into a two and a half hour entertainment often means a good thirty-two bars of lush music and romantic lyrics is all it takes to establish a lasting emotional bond.
People toss around the word “love” quite a bit in Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s chamber musical, Passion, based on Ettore Scola's film Passione d'Amore, but the more prominent emotions displayed by the piece’s main trio – at least on the outset – are lust, obsession and perhaps more than a bit of self-centeredness. (Pity the press agent assigned to promote a show titled Self-Centeredness.)
Take the musical’s opening duet, a post-coital reflection on individual happiness set to a melody that seems to echo the couple’s exhausted afterglow. The authors tell us precious little about the relationship between the 19th Century Italian bedmates Georgio, a military man, and his lover Clara except that they met at one time or another after a glance in the park when each was taken with the other’s look of sadness. “How quickly pity leads to love,” they sing, somewhat prophetically.
Georgio sings of Clara’s captivating qualities, all of which are part of her physical beauty, and since in director John Doyle’s moody and equally captivating mounting for the Classic Stage Company the role is played by Melissa Errico, his enchantment at her physical charms is certainly believable. (Errico also brings her gorgeously light soprano and subtle acting skills to the role, but Georgio is probably less concerned with such matters.)
Ryan Silverman, who expected to be starring on Broadway in Rebecca around this time, is certainly a looker himself, and it’s quite possible that Clara’s love for Georgio is no more than a surface appreciation. The plot is set in motion when the handsome officer is transferred out of town, leaving the couple only able to communicate through letters. His new commander (the fine Stephen Bogardus in a largely functional role) has a reclusive, terminally ill cousin named Fosca, who is considered hideously ugly by the other soldiers. As played by Judy Kuhn, she looks more like an attractive woman who doesn’t wear makeup. A simple act of kindness on Georgio’s part leads to Fosca’s obsessive desire to win his love, through pity, her wits, or whatever means she can muster.
Is it Georgio that Fosca wants, or just someone who will treat her passionately in the short amount of time she has left? Kuhn’s marvelously low-key performance makes Fosca less of a tragic figure and more of a clever woman willing to play a tragic role to secure her needs. And as the one-act musical proceeds, we learn more about Georgio’s complicated relationship with Clara.
Passion contains the most plainspoken of Sondheim’s lyrics and music that supports the conversational tone of the text. There’s a seamless blend in and out of the sung and spoken words and no breaks for applause.
The minimalist setting was designed by Doyle – an elevated black marble floor – with Jane Cox’s delicate lighting effectively embracing the drama’s somber moods.
Despite winning the 1994 Tony Award for Best Musical, the original Broadway production of Passion only lasted a disappointing eight months. This first major New York revival may prove the piece worthier of a more cerebral Off-Broadway audience.
Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: Ryan Silverman, Melissa Errico and Judy Kuhn; Bottom: Judy Kuhn and Ryan Silverman.
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Posted on: Saturday, March 02, 2013 @ 11:33 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
While several of New York’s non-profit theatre companies have been pursuing the noble cause of creating more exposure for contemporary women playwrights, the Mint Theatre Company has been cornering the market on the dead ones. Fourteen of the company’s forty productions were scripted by women, a statistic that gains stature when you consider that they’re reviving from a pool of material with a percentage of work by women far below that rate. A prime case in point is the nearly forgotten Irish playwright Theresa Deevy, arguably the most famous female playwright of the first half of the 20th Century.
After mounting terrific productions of her Temporal Powers and Wife to James Whelan, Producing Artistic Director Jonathan Bank now stages what was considered her most popular work, Katie Roche; the only Deevy play to ever find its way to Broadway, playing a handful of performances in 1937 when the Abbey Theatre Company crossed the Atlantic with a repertory of productions.
As with many of Deevy’s works, the central character is a woman trying to maneuver her way out of her low station using the limited options available. Played with naïve feistiness by Wrenn Schmidt, Katie is a servant in a lovely country cottage (beautifully rendered by Vicki R. Davis), tending to the needs of unmarried, middle-aged Amelia Gregg (delightfully sweet and timid Margaret Daly) and her frequently out-of-town businessman brother, Stanislaus (Patrick Fitzgerald).
Though she is fond of the charming local lad, Michael Maguire (Jon Fletcher), when Katie learns the truth about her parentage, she decides she’s had enough of the humble life (“I was meant to be proud.”) and accepts Stanislaus’ marriage proposal, though he is much older and, as played by Fitzgerald, stiff, outwardly unemotional and seriously lacking in personality.
The play’s three acts depict the changes in Katie as she exercises her new authority as lady of the house (such as her choice to cover the walls with religious paintings) while remaining obedient to her overbearing husband during his limited time back home. It’s clear that Katie is attracted to the life Stanislaus can provide for her, not for the man himself, but she does little about it as the evening progresses. The play also makes some oddly sharp turns from naturalistic drama to almost farce; in one scene Katie is violently struck by an authoritative male, in another she’s hiding a suitor from her husband by having him stand behind the window curtains.
Still, the very fine production makes its way through the rough spots. There’s a very sweetly played, hesitantly romantic scene between Daly’s Amelia and John O’Creagh as a nervous, marriage-minded friend and Fiana Toibin makes a strong impression as Amelia and Stanislaus’ judgmental sister.
Photos by Richard Termine: Top: Patrick Fitzgerald and Wrenn Schmidt; Bottom: Margaret Daly and John O'Creagh
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Posted on: Friday, March 01, 2013 @ 06:02 PM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 2/24/13 & Theatre Quote of the Week
"The freedom of any society varies proportionately with the volume of its laughter."
-- Zero Mostel
The grosses are out for the week ending 2/24/2013 and we've got them all right here in BroadwayWorld.com's grosses section.
Up for the week was: MARY POPPINS (8.7%), NEWSIES (8.7%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (8.0%), JERSEY BOYS (6.6%), PICNIC (5.7%), MANILOW ON BROADWAY (5.6%), ANNIE (4.3%), ONCE(2.5%),
Down for the week was: MAMMA MIA! (-16.4%), CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (-14.6%), THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (-9.3%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (-4.8%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-3.8%), THE LION KING (-3.6%), ROCK OF AGES (-3.3%), CHICAGO (-2.6%), WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (-2.6%), THE OTHER PLACE (-2.3%), WICKED (-1.6%), CINDERELLA (-0.3%),
Posted on: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 @ 10:42 AM Posted by: Michael Dale | Leave Feedback
About Michael: After 20-odd years singing, dancing and acting in
dinner theatres, summer stocks and the ever-popular
audience participation murder mysteries (try
improvising with audiences after they?ve had two hours
of open bar), Michael Dale segued his theatrical
ambitions into playwriting. The buildings which once
housed the 5 Off-Off Broadway plays he penned have all
been destroyed or turned into a Starbucks, but his
name remains the answer to the trivia question, "Who
wrote the official play of Babe Ruth's 100th
Birthday?" He served as Artistic Director for The
Play's The Thing Theatre Company, helping to bring
free live theatre to underserved communities, and
dabbled a bit in stage managing and in directing
cabaret shows before answering the call (it was an
email, actually) to become BroadwayWorld.com's first
Chief Theatre Critic. While not attending shows
Michael can be seen at Shea Stadium pleading for the
Mets to stop imploding. Likes: Strong book musicals
and ambitious new works. Dislikes: Unprepared
celebrities making their stage acting debuts by
starring on Broadway and weak bullpens.