Paulanne Simmons Unscripted

Why Video?

March 7, 2020: Projections have been part of theater for a long time. But recently we have begun to see video take over a good number of plays.

Why Video?

March 7, 2020: Projections have been part of theater for a long time. But recently we have begun to see video take over a good number of plays.

Last season, Network, directed by Ivo Van Hove, featured enough video to almost upstage the formidable Bryan Cranston. Nevertheless, video made sense in a show about a world overwhelmed by media. What’s more Network was originally a1976 film. But this season, we are seeing video in some unexpected places.

At BAM, we have Simon Stone’s rewrite of Euripides’ Medea, staring Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale. Here. Stone (who also directs) turned Medea’s two unfortunate sons into videographers, which perhaps he thought justified the use of video throughout the show.

And Van Hove is back. This time he’s directing the iconic West Side Story. And he somehow got the estates of Leonard Bernstein, and Arthur Laurents to agree to a radical reworking of their masterpiece. As for poor Jerome Robbins, his choreography is entirely missing. Apparently, Stephen Sondheim, the only living person involved with the show’s creation, is enthusiastic about the revival. Sure, “I Feel Pretty” is missing. But everyone knows he never liked that song in the first place.

Van Hove doesn’t even give us a reason for the huge video screen that dominates the set of the new West Side Story. Sometimes we do see people (gang members?) with video cameras. Why are they there? Your guess is as good as mine, whether or not you’ve seen the show.

But in the long run, it doesn’t really matter why a director thinks theatergoers need closeups of what they’re seeing onstage projected on a screen. Or how video makes up for a bare set. Or the reason a videoscape has to dominate a love scene.

The result is always the same. The audience has no idea where to look. And because the screen is so large, hanging over the actors like the sword of Damocles, we look at that screen.

I’m quite sure these directors have all sorts of high-minded reasons for their choices: the relevance of multimedia work, the importance of bringing theater into the 21st century, the necessity of expanding the theater audience. But the bottom line is they seem to have little faith in live performance.

On the other hand, filmmakers don’t have that problems. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself if you’ve ever seen a film that featured actors jumping out of the screen to sing and dance down the aisles of the movie theater. I don’t think so.

Cambodian Rock Band ***, Suicide Forest ***

By: Isa Goldberg

March 7, 2020: Lauren Yee’s new musical, Cambodian Rock Band at the Signature Theatre introduces a style of popular music that emerged around the country’s capital, Phnom Penh, in the 1960s and ‘70s. A mix of traditional Cambodian music with the jukebox songs American soldiers introduced to Vietnam, along with influences from Europe and Latin America, it defined a flourishing musical movement. 

By: Isa Goldberg

March 7, 2020: Lauren Yee’s new musical, Cambodian Rock Band at the Signature Theatre introduces a style of popular music that emerged around the country’s capital, Phnom Penh, in the 1960s and ‘70s. A mix of traditional Cambodian music with the jukebox songs American soldiers introduced to Vietnam, along with influences from Europe and Latin America, it defined a flourishing musical movement. 

A fusion of electric guitars, drums and Cambodian lyrics, the music sounds like a culture twang expressing sharp dissonance. In this production, songs written by the Los Angeles based Cambodian band Dengue Fever are performed live. Here the musical style blends more easily with an American ear. Along with songs in Cambodian, the production includes popular tunes like The Times They Are A-Changin’

Courtney Reed and Joe Ngo in “Cambodian Rock Band

As we know, the music that proliferated then came to an abrupt halt in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge put a stop to it and just about every other form of personal expression. In fact, many musicians were among the two million victims killed by Pol Pot’s regime.

Interestingly, the story here is told by the daughter of a survivor of the Cambodian genocide. Born and bred in Seattle, Neary (Courtney Reed) is a strong-willed young woman working for an NGO in Phnom Penh. Her official mission – to bring the Khmer Rouge to justice. Part superwoman, but mostly her father’s daughter, her research leads us on the trail to the Khmer Rouge in present day Cambodia and her family’s past. 

Joe Ngo and Francis Jue in Cambodian Rock Band

On her trail is her equally persistent father, an American immigrant Chum played by Joe Ngo. We meet him in 2008 visiting his daughter and travel back to his youth (1975) as a musician in the onstage rock band. The story telling that weaves all of these stories into one beautiful outcome is obviously sentimental. But as directed by Chay Yew, it’s tightly woven, expressing the urgency of survival.

Particularly well cast as Chum, Joe Ngo has a rubbery physicality – morphing his slender frame from a cartoon etching that bends and sways, to a victim jolted by electronic shock, to an ageing dad trying to hold on to his only child.

In addition, Courtney Reed portrays the singer in the rock band her father played in as a youth. Her voice is soft, sultry and subtly sexy.

Better known to Broadway audiences, Francis Jue (M. Butterfly, Thoroughly Modern Millie, etc.) portrays the dreaded head of the cruelest and most dangerous camp of the Khmer Rouge. He also narrates the story with an omnipresence that turns from clownish to outright evil.

It’s fun to cheer for the good guys. 

The company of “Cambodian Rock Band”

SUICIDE FOREST

The surrealism that abounds in Haruna Lee’s work, Suicide Forest, seems hermetic, obtuse and off-putting for much of the play’s 90-minutes. Confounded by the fact that the play is in Japanese and English, the audience may find better clues in the pink stripped wallpaper that contrasts with a glowing blue picture of Mount Fuji than in the dialogue. Jian Jung’s scenic design is a Pandora’s Box of imagery.

 “Suicide Forest

Or perhaps one is better dwelling on the bizarre costumes by Alice Tavener. The most outré – worn by two women portraying themselves as kids with peppermint stripped hair – are poufy pink dresses, platform sneakers and white lace gloves. 

The daughters of a suicidal Salaryman (Eddy Toru Ohno), portrayed in modern dress, the two girls, played by Akiko Aizawa and Dawn Akemi Sasito, act like slaves to a giddy sensibility. They’re definitely coy, obsessed with femininity and submissive to the point of perversity. In their own way they’re stereotypes of teenagers.

Later, after a journey into the forest where people are known to commit suicide, the actors drop their characters and become themselves. At this point the playwright’s commentary becomes more reflective and revelatory. It addresses the barriers of language and culture that are obviously defining of the Japanese-American immigrant experience. 

 “Suicide Forest

When Haruni describes masturbating to a sex scene in the movie, Boys Don’t Cry while noticing her father’s ashes on the bookshelf, she’s describing a primal coming of age experience. And one that takes place at the crossroads of juxtaposing cultures.

At its best, Lee’s writing is sensitive and lyrical. She explains, “within the divided parts of myself- Japanese, American, Taiwanese- I’ve always felt a phantom pain…” It’s that pain which she asks her mother (Aoi Lee), a Butoh dancer, how to face. Is it “demon, or ghost, or god?”

More performance art than structured play, Suicide Forest evokes a completely different kind of theatrical vision. Still, it delves into the most elementary questions of identity – where we come from, what created us, and where we can go from there.

Cambodian Rock Band ***
The Pershing Square Signature Center
480 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036
Tickets: (212) 244-7529
Photography: Joan Marcus

Suicide Forest ***
A.R.T./New York Theatres (Off Broadway)
Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.
Photography: Maria Baranova

“Suicide Forest”

The Armory Show

ACA is showing Aminah Robinson: Bears Witness, booth 305 at pier 90, through Sunday.

March 6, 2020: ACA Galleries is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of work by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson at The Armory Show on view from March 5 through March 8, 2020.   

ACA is showing Aminah Robinson: Bears Witness, booth 305 at pier 90, through Sunday.

March 6, 2020: ACA Galleries is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of work by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson at The Armory Show on view from March 5 through March 8, 2020.   

While Robinson’s work celebrates human commonalities, it is also a cautionary tale about persistent racism and social injustice.  The artist’s work articulates childhood memories; the struggles and triumphs she knew as a single mother and black female artist; African American ancestral history from Africa, the Middle Passage, slavery in the American south, emancipation, and migration to the present; and her travels to Africa, the Middle East, and South America. In 2010, she summarized the purpose of more than six decades of work as “To celebrate the everyday lives of black people and their endurance through centuries of injustice.”   When Robinson died in 2015, she left her estate to the Columbus Museum of Art. The Museum has established an artist residency in Robinson’s home and will present a major solo exhibition and book, Raggin’ On: The Art of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson’s House and Journals (July 10, 2020January 3, 2021).


Crow Man, 1985, mixed media sculpture, 54 x 66 x 36 in.

On Saturday, March 7 from 11am to 12pm Carole Genshaft and Deidre Hamlar, curators at the Columbus Museum of Art, will discuss Robinson’s work—a reflection of art school training and handed-down traditions from her elders–and the passion that drove her to make art from the predawn hours to late at night each day.      MacArthur Award recipient Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson (1940 – 2015) used both traditional and unconventional media and processes to create drawings, watercolors, button-beaded books and dolls, illustrated texts and journals, “hawgmog” sculpture, and rag paintings to celebrate cultural identities of African Americans.  

Since 1932 the American Contemporary Art Galleries (ACA) has been at the vanguard of American Art. As one of the oldest galleries in New York, its pioneering interest in progressive art was established early on in exhibitions, often introducing the work of artists Giorgio Cavallon, Aaron Douglas, Philip Evergood, Rockwell Kent, Alice Neel, Barnett Newman, Irene Rice Pereira, David Smith, Theodoros Stamos and Charles White, among many others.  Today, ACA Galleries continues to break new ground, supporting new artists, representing established artists and estates; and presenting several exhibitions per year that honor the gallery’s historical roots by re-imagining them in a contemporary context.

Dancin’ in the Street, 2005, black and white woodcut, 47 1⁄2 x 36 in.

Armory Show Public Hours:
Thursday, March 5:    12 to 8pm
Friday, March 6:         12 to 8pm
Saturday, March 7:     12 to 7pm
Sunday, March 8:        12 to 6pm

About Love Opens

About Love, a play with songs and music, opened at the Sheen Center.

March 5, 2020: The Culture Project is presenting About Love, a new play by Nancy Harrow and Will Pomerantz, which opened last night at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture. Based on an exquisite short story, “First Love,” by Ivan Turgenev, About Love follows a young man on a quiet summer vacation with his parents in the Russian countryside, but he soon discovers those months will be the most consequential of his life. 

About Love, a play with songs and music, opened at the Sheen Center.

March 5, 2020: The Culture Project is presenting About Love, a new play by Nancy Harrow and Will Pomerantz, which opened last night at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture. Based on an exquisite short story, “First Love,” by Ivan Turgenev, About Love follows a young man on a quiet summer vacation with his parents in the Russian countryside, but he soon discovers those months will be the most consequential of his life. 

The play features a haunting jazz score by Nancy Harrow played by a quartet of guitar, bass, drums, and violin, and a versatile cast of six actors playing eighteen characters, all within a bold staging by Will Pomerantz, the associate Artistic Director of Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor.

Best known for his novel Fathers and Sons, and his play, A Month in the Country, Ivan Turgenev was one of the first Russian writers to achieve international fame. About Love is a fresh re-telling of one of his most memorable stories.

The cast includes Silvia Bond, Helen Coxe, Dan Domingues, Jeffrey Kringer, Tom Patterson, and Jean Tafler.  The musicians are Misha Josephs on guitar, Ryan Berg on Bass, Steve Picataggio on drums, and Ben Sutin on violin.

About Love is now playing at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture, 18 Bleecker Street, through March 22, 2020.

For tickets and more information go http://www.aboutlovetheplay.com/ 

Photography: Barry Gordin

Jeffrey Kringer, Silvia Bond
Dan Domingues, Jeffrey Kringer, Tom Patterson, Silvia Bond, Jean Tafler, Helen Coxe
Tom Patterson
Helen Coxe
Dan Domingues
Silvia Bond
Patrick Christiano, Will Pomerantz
Tracy Mitchell
Tracy Mitchell and Bay Street Theater fans
Nancy Harrow, Patrick Christiano

Mr. Toole Opens @ 59E59

Off- Broadway Premiere of an inspirational new play by Vivian Neuwirth opens at 59E59 Theaters

March 5, 2020:   Mr. Toole, written by Vivian Neuwirth and directed by Cat Parker, opened at 59E59 Theaters. The play, produced by Articulate Theatre Company, in association with Lagniappe Productions, will play a limited engagement through Sunday, March 15.  

Off- Broadway Premiere of an inspirational new play by Vivian Neuwirth opens at 59E59 Theaters

March 5, 2020:   Mr. Toole, written by Vivian Neuwirth and directed by Cat Parker, opened at 59E59 Theaters. The play, produced by Articulate Theatre Company, in association with Lagniappe Productions, will play a limited engagement through Sunday, March 15.  

The teacher a student will never forget becomes a legend the world will always remember.   Before he was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, John Kennedy Toole (The Confederacy of Dunces) was a teacher. That’s how Lisette, one of his students at an all-girls college in New Orleans knew him and loved him. Through her eyes, amid the music, magic, and mystery of the Big Easy we, too, learn to love “Mr. Toole.”  

Thomas G. Waites Linda Purl

Playwright Vivian Neuwirth was one of Toole’s students when he taught literature at St. Mary’s Dominican College in New Orleans, during which time he was writing what would be his first and only novel. “He was an amazing teacher,” says Neuwirth. “He had such theatrical flair.”  

 While she had heard about his death, she never realized he had written a book, until she stumbled on A Confederacy of Dunces in the window of a bookstore. “His name leaped out at me,” she says. “I dove into the store, bought the book, took it home and devoured it. It was like I had him back again.” After reading the book, Neuwirth was inspired to write a play about this extraordinary man.  

 The cast features John Ingle (The Death and Life of Jesse James with the Lion Theater Company); Linda Purl (Broadway’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; Getting and Spending); Julia Randall (Off Broadway debut); Stephen Schnetzer (Oslo and The Waverly Gallery on Broadway); Ryan Spahn (How to Load a Musket at 59E59); and Thomas G. Waites (cult-film The Warriors, Broadway’s Search and Destroy). 

Vivian Neuwirth, Stephen Schnetzer

The design team includes George Allison (set/video/sound designer) and Kia Rogers (lighting designer). The Production Stage Manager is Liz Richards Krebs. 

The performance schedule is Tuesday – Saturday at 7:30 pm; Sunday at 2:30 pm. There is an added performance on Saturday, March 7 at 2:30 pm. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison). Single tickets are $25 ($20 for 59E59 Members). Tickets are available by calling the 59E59 Box Office at 646892-7999 or by visiting www.59e59.org. The running time is 120 minutes, including intermission. 

Photography: Barry Gordin

Ryan Spahn
Michael Urie, Ryan Spahn
Stanley Steinberg, Ryan Spahn, Ken Fallin, Linda Purl
Michael Urie

About Love **1/2

By: Samuel L. Leiter

“Summer of ‘33”

March 4, 2020: In 1860, the great Russian writer Ivan Turgenev wrote a semiautobiographical novella called First Love that beautifully captured the agony and ecstasy of a teenage boy’s sexual and romantic coming of age. While on vacation with his parents, a boy falls in love with a beautiful, older woman only for his heart to be broken. Even after he grows up, the memory of that first rush of longing and its poignant outcome remains with him so indelibly he’s compelled to put it down in writing. 

By: Samuel L. Leiter

“Summer of ‘33”

March 4, 2020: In 1860, the great Russian writer Ivan Turgenev wrote a semiautobiographical novella called First Love that beautifully captured the agony and ecstasy of a teenage boy’s sexual and romantic coming of age. While on vacation with his parents, a boy falls in love with a beautiful, older woman only for his heart to be broken. Even after he grows up, the memory of that first rush of longing and its poignant outcome remains with him so indelibly he’s compelled to put it down in writing. 

Silvia Bond, Jeffrey Kringer

Sensing a dramatic pulse in Turgenev’s tale, Nancy Harrow (music and lyrics) and Will Pomerantz (script and direction), using the title About Love, have adapted it for Culture Project as a modest, 90-minute chamber piece they call “a play with songs and music.” Now on view at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture, their work fails to find that pulse, resulting in a story theatre-style presentation blanketed in a gently woven blend of theatrical blandness. 

Perhaps the story will remind you of other semiautobiographical works, set in the summertime, about a boy’s first crush, such as the 1971 movie Summer of ’42, or A.R. Gurney’s play, What I Did Last Summer, where the boy-woman relationship is platonic. Elements of this material can also be found in the boy-man affair depicted in the 2018 movie Call Me by Your Name

Helen Coxe

The tale concerns 16-year-old Peter (Jeffrey Klinger), looking back in 1853 on what happened in the summer of 1833, which he spent with his mother (Jean Tafler) and father (Tom Patterson) in the countryside. The neighbors that fateful summer were a down-on-her-heels princess (Helen Coxe) and her beautiful, 21-year-old daughter, Zina (Silvia Bond).

Zina is an outrageous flirt, stringing four older men along like toys. There’s an aristocrat named Count Molevsky (Coxe), a doctor named Lushin (Don Domingues), a military officer named Markov (Patterson), and a poet named Maidonov (Tafler). Peter falls under her spell as well. He takes her sisterly attentions more seriously than they’re intended only to discover that the man to whom Zina has given her heart is someone much closer than he could ever have imagined. In the coda, set in 1853 St. Petersburg, Peter closes his account by noting a recent series of sad events.

Dan Dominques

While being faithful to the outlines of Turgenev’s tale, the adaptation attempts to theatricalize it by  creating a six-actor ensemble, four of them not only playing multiple roles—including women as men—but also sharing the storytelling. This is done by dividing it up with Peter, which occasionally can be confusing. Peter will be telling his story only for each of the others to step in and do so as well. It gives director Pomerantz opportunities for moving his actors about in differing patterns but is of little help in increasing dramatic interest. 

Tom Paterson

Thinning such interest even more is the adaptation’s dependency on direct address, using a relative paucity of dialogue in favor of exposition, which is often delivered during the physical enactment of what it’s describing. It’s a type of self-conscious theatre making, useful perhaps in children’s theatre, but more effective at drawing attention to itself than to dramatizing material like Turgenev’s story.

Harrow’s incidental music, provided by a small, upstage orchestra of guitar (Misha Josephs), bass (Ryan Berg), drums (Steve Picataggio), and violin (Ben Sutin), offers atmospheric sweetness, and her half-dozen songs, all in melancholy modes (one is actually a blues number), have an attractive quality reminiscent of jazz-inflected 50s-style torch songs. Their lyrics, though, are about feelings, and do little to enhance, explain, or advance the plot. 

Jean Tafler

On the other hand, the music is engaging enough to suggest that Harrow’s talent might have been exploited to create a full-fledged musical, with a more varied melodic and rhythmic score, and with lyrics less emotionally generic and more connected to the characters and events.

A scene from “About Love

In keeping with the minimalist approach, Brian C. Staton’s set is little more than a square platform of wooden planks, the scenery just an assortment of chairs, and the props all imagined through mime (except for a few actual ones, like books and a riding crop). Allen Hahn’s lighting helps create the right moods and Whitney Locher’s costumes are a simplified assortment of 19th-century styles that allow for quick changes to designate different characters. The modern hipster’s pork pie hat worn by one character, though, is distractingly anachronistic.

About Love’s ensemble is adequate to its tasks, the songs are well sung, and the staging smoothly attractive. Instead of accelerating one’s pulse rate, however, the show only slows it down, making it impossible to fall in love with About Love.

About Love **1/2
Sheen Center for Thought & Culture
18 Bleecker St., NYC
Box Office: (212) 925-2812
Through March 22
Photography: Russ Rowland

No Strings ***

By: Paulanne Simmons

March 1, 2020: For many people, the most significant fact about the 1962 musical, No Strings, is that it has the only Broadway score for which Richard Rodgers wrote both the music and the lyrics. In fact, the book was written by Samuel A. Taylor (more famous for screenplays for films such as Vertigo and The Eddy Duchin Story), and was arguably the first Broadway musical to address the Civil Rights movement that was about to coalesce in the 1963 March on Washington.

By: Paulanne Simmons

March 1, 2020: For many people, the most significant fact about the 1962 musical, No Strings, is that it has the only Broadway score for which Richard Rodgers wrote both the music and the lyrics. In fact, the book was written by Samuel A. Taylor (more famous for screenplays for films such as Vertigo and The Eddy Duchin Story), and was arguably the first Broadway musical to address the Civil Rights movement that was about to coalesce in the 1963 March on Washington.

Diahann Carroll and Richard Kiley in 1962 Broadway Musical No Strings

The show was not particularly successful. Perhaps Broadway audiences were not yet ready to confront racism. Or perhaps Taylor and Rodgers referenced the subject so obliquely many people just didn’t get what they were doing. (Other than casting the black actress, Diahann Carroll, as the love interest of a white man, played by Richard Kiley, there is no direct allusion to race.) Or, maybe it was simply that Rodgers needed a Larry Hart or Oscar Hammerstein as lyricists. At any rate, No Strings ran for a brief 580 performances, securing for Carroll the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, a first for an African-American.

No Strings has a shaky plotline: Barbara Woodruff, a black model living in Paris falls in love with David Jordan, a Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist who’s assuaging a severe case of writer’s funk with a lot of Parisian fun. She tries to get him back on track, only to discover they really have no future together. The music, while not Rodgers’ best, is certainly pleasant. And the lyrics are serviceable, although Rodgers is not Hammerstein or Hart.

Emilee Theno, Heather Klobukowski, Cameron Bond, Anne Otto, Ashley Lee

This is a musical that can only work with excellent direction and a really good cast. It’s probably not for a newly formed company such as J2 Musical Theater Company.

Deidre Goodwin directs and choreographs. She is an actress who does not seem to have any directing credits. If she had, she would certainly have realized the stage at Theatre Row’s Kirk Theatre is much too small for No Strings. She has far too many people moving around on that stage. Sometimes we pray actors won’t fall over each other while just walking, let alone dancing.

Keyonna Knight, Cameron Bond

Keyonna Knight as Barbara Woodruff and Cameron Bond as David Jordon have good voices, but they lack the passion necessary for a love story. Tim Ewing as the rich Frenchman who’s keeping Barbara until David comes along, seems about as French as American cheese. The ensemble works hard, but they have no room to kick up their heels.

No Strings is not a terrible show. But it belongs in a regional theater in the outer boroughs or a church basement. We can applaud J2 Spotlight Musical Theater Company for its ambition. But the company just doesn’t yet have the resources for the big time.  

No Strings ***
Theatre Row
410 West 42 Street, NYX 10036
Between 8th and 10th Avenues
212-239-6200
Through March 8, 2019
Photography: Clay Anderson

Sandy York, Anne Wechsler

West Side Story ****

By: David Sheward

February 23, 2020: When it was announced controversial director Ivo van Hove would be staging a revival of  the beloved West Side Story, you could practically hear the screams of musical theater purists. While many classic tuners have undergone significant reinterpretation—My Fair Lady and Oklahoma! being the latest—the classic street-gang remake of Romeo and Juliet has never been altered in a major way. Since its 1957 opening, all four of its previous Broadway revivals, as well as numerous touring companies, have featured Jerome Robbins’ original choreography. Robbins also directed all of those revivals expect for the one in 2009 (he died in 1998). That last one was staged by Arthur Laurents, the author of the book and his staging retained most of Robbins’ concepts. Van Hove has turned such non-musical classics as The Little Foxes, A Streetcar Named Desire, A View From The Bridge, and The Crucible inside out, so a radical reimagining of this firmly established favorite was in the offing. Then news leaked during rehearsals that there would be no intermission and the charming “I Feel Pretty” and the “Somewhere” ballet would be cut, eliciting further moans of despair from the traditionalists. Something was coming but would it be something good?

By: David Sheward

February 23, 2020: When it was announced controversial director Ivo van Hove would be staging a revival of  the beloved West Side Story, you could practically hear the screams of musical theater purists. While many classic tuners have undergone significant reinterpretation—My Fair Lady and Oklahoma! being the latest—the classic street-gang remake of Romeo and Juliet has never been altered in a major way. Since its 1957 opening, all four of its previous Broadway revivals, as well as numerous touring companies, have featured Jerome Robbins’ original choreography. Robbins also directed all of those revivals expect for the one in 2009 (he died in 1998). That last one was staged by Arthur Laurents, the author of the book and his staging retained most of Robbins’ concepts. Van Hove has turned such non-musical classics as The Little Foxes, A Streetcar Named Desire, A View From The Bridge, and The Crucible inside out, so a radical reimagining of this firmly established favorite was in the offing. Then news leaked during rehearsals that there would be no intermission and the charming “I Feel Pretty” and the “Somewhere” ballet would be cut, eliciting further moans of despair from the traditionalists. Something was coming but would it be something good?

Amar Ramasar, Yesenia Ayala 

Now that this bracing, decidedly different production has opened, it can be reported that van Hove maintains the rough, raw spirit of Robbins’ creation while making it relevant, real and riveting for today’s audiences. Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s score retains its muscular beauty with a full-bodied orchestra under music supervisor and director Alexander Gemignani. The Black Lives Matters and Me Too movements are evoked without seeming shoehorned into Laurents’ pithy and pungent take on 1950s juvenile delinquency and race relations. At first Van Hove’s innovations seem distracting and pretentious, but, as you get used to them, their power and immediacy become overwhelming. The opening ballet lets us know right away that is not your father’s West Side Story

Dharon E. Jones 

The Jets walk onto an empty stage and suddenly the gang members’ images are projected on a giant screen (Luke Halls designed the sharp video projections), staring blankly at the audience. Bernardo of the Sharks walks on. Territorial movement ensues as the Puerto Rican Sharks encroach on the American-born Jets’ neighborhood. Then the two competing squads erupt into Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s animalistic, angular choreography, replacing Robbins’ ballet-based dances. As the story of the Jets’ Tony dangerously falling for Bernardo’s sister Maria emerges, the huge screen images alternate with the live actors. That’s because Jan Versweyveld’s detailed settings of the interiors such as Doc’s drugstore, Maria’s bedroom and the dress shop where she works, open up behind the screens, backstage and into dressing rooms, and the camera follow the actors. The videos initially take away from the live action on stage but they are gradually integrated into the staging and accentuate the explosive emotions rather than dominating them. 

You may be a bit confused as to the setting and time. Youthful street fighters pull out I-phones to record police brutality and at times a Jet or a Shark can be seen wielding a sophisticated video camera to project the rumble or the dance at the gym on the big screen. These racially polarized gangs still speak in Laurents’ 1950s street slang, but the casting is integrated and “woke.” The Jets are now a diverse mix of African-American and white kids while the Sharks feature an openly gay couple who appear to be totally accepted by their peers (would that really happen, even in 2020?)

Dharon E. Jones and Amar Ramasar with the company

These choices are Van Hove’s equivalent of placing a Shakespearean production in a contemporary setting and retaining the Elizabethan language and references. Despite these confusing bumps, the basic plot still moves tremendously and the superb, intense performances would work, both dramatically and musically, in a more conventional production. Isaac Powell conveys Tony’s yearning passion for Maria and a life beyond the dead-end neighborhood. He’s also convincingly tough as a former gang member and displays a strong voice. Shereen Pimentel gives Maria bite and humor as well as a glorious soprano. It’s a shame “I Feel Pretty” was taken from her.

Dharon E. Jones and Amar Ramasar are blazing volcanoes of energy as the rival gang leaders Riff and Bernardo while Yemeni Ayala gives Anita a combination of compassion and spice. In this update, the taunting dance features graphic explicitness as Anita is sexually assaulted by the Jets and Ayala delivers a fiery depiction of victimization and a intense volley of hatred as a response. Elijah A. Carter, Matthew Johnson, Zuri Noelle Ford, and Jacob Guzman create memorable individual portraits of gang members and Daniel Oreskes, Thomas Jay Ryan, Danny Wolohan, and Pippa Pearthree lend dimension and empathy to the adults who are powerless to stop the tragedy. 

Isaac Powell and Shereen Pimentel (center) & company 

This production is both a refreshingly radical take on a classic and an emotionally effective appeal to the tear ducts. In one searing sequence, Tony and Maria are literally pulled apart by their conflicted communities. Yet the two lovers struggle to be together. Van Hove employs presentational, symbolic staging to deliver the authors’ message and it’s just as much of a gut punch as a more traditional choice, demonstrating this is a West Side Story for all tastes and ages. 

West Side Story ****
Opened Feb. 20 for an open run. Broadway Theater, 1681 Broadway, NYC. Tue 7pm, Wed 2pm & 8pm, Thu 7pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 3pm. Running time: one hour and 45 mins. with no intermission. $39—$199. (212) 239-6200. www.telecharge.com
Photography: Jan Versweyveld

Shereen Pimentel and Isaac Powell (center) with company

A Soldier’s Play ****

By: Isa Goldberg

February 20, 2020: Charles Fuller’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize winning drama, A Soldier’s Play, finally makes its Broadway debut. An intense murder mystery that digs deep into the racism in our country, has found its day.

By: Isa Goldberg

February 20, 2020: Charles Fuller’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize winning drama, A Soldier’s Play, finally makes its Broadway debut. An intense murder mystery that digs deep into the racism in our country, has found its day.

Set in a segregated U.S. army camp in Louisiana during WWII, the story is told by an ensemble of twelve actors, most of whom portray African American soldiers. It opens on the murder of Sargant Waters played with alcoholic self-loathing by David Alan Grier. Grier certainly brings the baggage of internalized racism to this role. As Waters, he treats his men brutally; usurps their sense of dignity; and destroys the weak among them. He’s out to save his race, apparently.

Directed by Kenny Leon, the action is focused and intense. Regardless of lengthy exposition, the pacing is clean and rapid. The politics of racism as we see it here has such presence that it’s hard to objectify. But it’s racism clearly that defines, fuels and frames their interactions. This is war time. Murder is the plan.

 David Alan Grier, Blair Underwood, Billy Eugene Jone

It’s astonishing actually to see the sense of dedication and patriotism these young soldiers display even though they are giving their lives for a country that has never protected theirs. Each of Fuller’s characters are beautifully drawn. 

Most of the first act revolves around the success of the camps’ baseball team at a time when the Negro league was at a height of popularity. Curiously, they are all undermined by a player named Peterson, artfully portrayed by NFL All-Pro Nnamdi Asomugha. J. Alphonse Nicholson plays the role of Peterson’s victim delicately and sensitively. 

Jerry O’Connell, Blair Underwood

A stressed-out white captain cleverly played and awkwardly by Jerry O’Connell overseas the Waters murder case. When Captain Richard Davenport, an uncontrived Blair Underwood enters the picture the scales of justice shift to protect justice. 

He is one powerful actor.  As the lawyer Davenport, he leads the courtroom drama, interviewing everyone who was there at the time of the murder. His observations and conclusions he reports directly to the audience. Underwood’s oracular style is honest and spellbinding. 

There isn’t anything simplistic about this particular murder mystery. It’s expressed simply and it’s performed eloquently, but the conclusions are baffling. 

Through the process of this investigation a racist, Sargant Waters, is disclosed. The murderers, however, are equally threatened by their own racial identity. It’s not even about black and white. It’s more about the psychological effects of racism. It’s about hatred. 

A Soldier’s Play ****
American Airlines Theater
Photography: Joan Marcus

Warner Miller, Nnamdi Asomugha, Blair Underwood

Boom ***1/2

By: Isa Goldberg

February 20, 2020: An unusually engaging piece of theater, Boom, at 59E59 St Theaters takes on the older generation from a Gen Xer’s point of view. That is the perspective of the Writer/Director/Performer Rick Miller. 

By: Isa Goldberg

February 20, 2020: An unusually engaging piece of theater, Boom, at 59E59 St Theaters takes on the older generation from a Gen Xer’s point of view. That is the perspective of the Writer/Director/Performer Rick Miller. 

A consummate researcher, Miller’s selection of archival imagery, data and anecdotes allows him to paint post WWII society in quick, colorful strokes. At the same time, the performer tells very personal stories culled from interviews he conducted with boomers. These personal revelations support sociological truths, and wed the human and the cultural with finesse. 

Rick Miller

Plot wise, there are a few recurring characters that help the Narrator weave a story. It’s a mashup of a few quirky boomers with celebrities – Perry Como to David Bowey – and politicians, Winston Churchill to Lyndon Johnson, and all the news people and gossips columnists who reported on them. 

At the end of the 90-minute whirligig of a show, the personal stories come together, bringing resolution to this entertaining history lesson.  The intimate connection that’s made between two of the central characters, Miller expressed in a post-show talk back, is based on interviews with his parents.   

Rick Miller

Performed in a cylinder, a tight space indeed, Miller does the time capsule thing with extraordinary aplomb. He’s a great impressionist, imitating Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life, Jerry Lee Lewis at the piano and both Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in the first ever televised presidential debate. Many scenes are acted out through shadow play. 

While the production is minimalist, the use of video and projections (Ardon Bess and David Leclerc) and lighting (Bruno Matte) unifies a multitude of diverse elements. Singing The Eve of Destruction, for instance, Miller is accompanied by slides reporting the USSR’s 1st walk in space, followed 3 months later, by the US spacewalk. 

The production utilizes intense messaging. And it renders a sense of society then, in a way that sparks nostalgia, but more importantly sheds light on the times we live in now. 

As a culture critic, Miller’s observations are well chosen. A character named Rudi opines, “Kennedy’s inauguration was a lot like Obama’s first inauguration. Full of hope that would very soon dissolve.” 

And as an observer of people he also hits on some primal issues – family outings to the A&W drive-in and a teenager with her hula hoop – carry a different kind of immediacy to hiding under the desk in elementary school.

Miller has been performing this show across the country for several years. This is his New York debut. 

Boom ***1/2
59E59 Theaters
59 East 59th Street between Madison and Park Avenues
Photography: David Leclerc

Happy Birthday Doug ****

By: Patrick Christiano

Michael Urie presents Drew Droege’s hysterical solo show, Happy Birthday Doug, at the SoHo Playhouse. 

February 16, 2020:  Happy Birthday Doug, a very funny and frequently insightful new one man-show by Drew Droege, RuPaul’s “AJ and the Queen” on Nexflix, opened at the SoHo Playhouse on Sunday.  Happy Birthday Doug is a follow up to Droege’s 2018 hit, Bright Colors and Bold Patterns directed by Michael Urie, which The New York Times hailed as “hilarious” during its five-month run at the SoHo Playhouse in 2018. The show was captured by BroadwayHD for its streaming platform. That time the setting was a gay wedding in Palm Springs, this time it’s a gay birthday celebration in the back room of a wine bar in the Silverlake section of Los Angeles. 

By: Patrick Christiano

Michael Urie presents Drew Droege’s hysterical solo show, Happy Birthday Doug, at the SoHo Playhouse. 

February 16, 2020:  Happy Birthday Doug, a very funny and frequently insightful new one man-show by Drew Droege, RuPaul’s “AJ and the Queen” on Nexflix, opened at the SoHo Playhouse on Sunday.  Happy Birthday Doug is a follow up to Droege’s 2018 hit, Bright Colors and Bold Patterns directed by Michael Urie, which The New York Times hailed as “hilarious” during its five-month run at the SoHo Playhouse in 2018. The show was captured by BroadwayHD for its streaming platform. That time the setting was a gay wedding in Palm Springs, this time it’s a gay birthday celebration in the back room of a wine bar in the Silverlake section of Los Angeles. 

Doug, the guest of honor, who is turning 41, has recently published a novel and is throwing himself a birthday party/celebration. His guests, who for the most part have come to party hardy, feature an array of gay men, friends, former lovers, ticks, a wanabe friend, a bartender and even a ghost, Oscar Wilde, who materializes at the end of the evening when Doug is sufficiently inebriated to let his imagination take full flight.

The play, a scathing commentary on gay culture, is little more than a series of hysterical monologues, which are not really monologues because the characters are usually speaking to Doug or the assembled guests, which makes them actually dialogues. Any of these one person dialogues could easily stand alone, but they all share a commonality, in that, the characters are present at Doug’s birthday party and they are, all, astute observers with wickedly funny comments on their feelings and observations, all, delivered with an unbridled flare that is mind-bogglingly funny. 

Drew Droege

Droege has an encyclopedia-like knowledge of gay culture and current social mores. He is also immensely clever.  He allows his characters, when speaking to Doug, to hear him, when we, the audience, do not. This is especially affective with Jason, the crasher, who is the first to arrive. His responses crescendo at furiously funny pace, which serves the material beautifully by keeping the action vitally alive from moment to moment. 

Droege and director, Tom DeTrinis keep the evening moving at a rapid-fire pace, which adds enormously to the evening’s zaniness. All the characters, of course, are played by the immensely talented Drew Droege with a shatteringly witty flair that embodies each of his riotous creations. They are here to celebrate modern gay culture in a wickedly crazy hour-long ride called Happy Birthday Doug.

Happy Birthday Doug is now playing at the SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, through March 29, 2020.For tickets call 212-691-1555.
Production Photos: Russ Rowland

Presenters, Riki Kane Larimer, Michael Urie, Jamie deRoy, Zak Laks
Photo: Patrick Christiano

Jamie deRoy & friends

MAC Award-winning Variety Show, Jamie deRoy & Friends, returns to Birdland.

February 17, 2020:  Jamie DeRoy, a seven- time Tony Award winning producer, brought her multi-MAC Award-winning Variety Show, Jamie deRoy & friends, back to Birdland last night. The entertaining evening, part of the Broadway at Birdland concert series, benefited The Actors Fund: Jamie deRoy & friends Cabaret Initiative which assists those in the cabaret industry who have medical needs and concerns. The Actors Fund annual gala will honor Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, along with Brian Stokes Mitchell, chairman of The Actor’s Fund, and producer philanthropist, Steve Tisch at the New York Marriott Marquis on April 6th.
Photography: Barry Gordin

MAC Award-winning Variety Show, Jamie deRoy & Friends, returns to Birdland.

February 17, 2020:  Jamie DeRoy, a seven- time Tony Award winning producer, brought her multi-MAC Award-winning Variety Show, Jamie deRoy & friends, back to Birdland last night. The entertaining evening, part of the Broadway at Birdland concert series, benefited The Actors Fund: Jamie deRoy & friends Cabaret Initiative which assists those in the cabaret industry who have medical needs and concerns. The Actors Fund annual gala will honor Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, along with Brian Stokes Mitchell, chairman of The Actor’s Fund, and producer philanthropist, Steve Tisch at the New York Marriott Marquis on April 6th.
Photography: Barry Gordin

Sierra Boggess, Paula Dione Ingram

Special guests for Jamie’s show at Birdland were Sierra Boggess (The Little Mermaid, Phantom of the Opera), Rick Crom (Newsical, Urinetown),  comedian Harrison Greenbaum (“America’s Got Talent”), Paula Dione Ingram (Carmen Jones/West End, Porgy & Bess, PBS), and the Billboard chart-topping singing and stinging Quartet, Well Strung. The show directed by Barry Kleinbort featured musical director, Christopher Denny, on the piano and Tom Hubbard on bass.

Jamie opened the evening with  a witty “ Start of Something Big,” a parody of Steve Allen’s “This Could Be The Start of Something Big,” with parody lyrics by Barry Kleinbort before introducing her first guest, Paula Dione Igram, who will be bringing her own cabaret show to Brirdland later this year. After her last guest, Well Strung, the dynamic American string quartet known for fusing classical music with pop music, Jamie closed out the evening with her riotous signature song, “Jews Don’t Camp.”

This colorful cabaret series has been thrilling New York City audiences for the past 25 years and serves as the basis for deRoy’s award-winning cable television show which spotlights well-known entertainers and newcomers that are lighting up the marquees of cabaret, theater, music and comedy. Jamie deRoy has won three Tony Awards, eight MAC Awards, four Back Stage Bistro Awards and ten Telly Awards for her extensive work on both stage and screen. She has appeared onstage with Joan Rivers and has headlined at many of New York’s major clubs. She has produced nine CDs in the Jamie deRoy & friends series, all of which are available on Harbinger and PS Classics labels.

Check out photos from the evening.

Michael Urie, Jim Caruso
Chris Marchant, Daniel Shevlin, Brenda Vaccaro, Edmund Bagnell
Tom Hubbard, Barry Kleinbort, Chrstopher Denny
Jamie deRoy, Brenda Vaccaro
Lee Roy Reams, Michael Urie
Susie Mosher, Ryan Spahn, Michael Urie, Jim Caruso
Dr. Judith Kuriansky, Jamie deRoy
Kate Edelman, Ted Seifman, Riki Kane Larimer
Paulo Martino, Jamie deRoy, Donna Soloway, Mika Sterling, Richard Soloway
Paula Dione Ingram, Patrick Christiano
Dan Schifman, Nancy Ozelli
Lee Roy Reams, Ron Abel, Douglas Denoff , Richard Maltby, Jr.
Jamie deRoy, Brenda Vaccaro
Judy Katz, Brenda Vaccaro
Jim Caruso, Brenda Vaccaro
Jamie deRoy & friends Sierra Bogess, Paula Dione Ingram, Rick Crom, Harrison Greenbaum, Edmund Bagnell, Chris Marchant, Daniel Shevlin, Trevor Wadleigh, Tom Hubbard, Christopher Denny
Brenda Vaccaro, Anna DiGregorio
Susie Mosher, Sandy McFarland
Ryan Spahn, Jamie deRoy, Michael Urie
Gary Springer, Errol Rappaport, Christine DeLisle

Barb Jungr: Bob, Brel and Me *****

By: Paulanne Simmons

February 17, 2020: Several times a year, British chanteuse Barb Jungr comes to New York City. On those occasions she lights up the cabaret stage like few other performers. You can fall in love with Jungr because of her tremendous talent as a raconteur, her wicked sense of humor, and her insightful jazz and blues inflected interpretations of familiar and not so familiar songs. Or you can just thrill to her beautifully expressive voice that can be tender, vulnerable or furious.

By: Paulanne Simmons

February 17, 2020: Several times a year, British chanteuse Barb Jungr comes to New York City. On those occasions she lights up the cabaret stage like few other performers. You can fall in love with Jungr because of her tremendous talent as a raconteur, her wicked sense of humor, and her insightful jazz and blues inflected interpretations of familiar and not so familiar songs. Or you can just thrill to her beautifully expressive voice that can be tender, vulnerable or furious.

Jungr came to Joe’s Pub on Feb. 14 and 15 because her traditional Valentine’s Day venue was not available. This was extremely fortuitous for longtime fans of Jungr in New York City. The gig undoubtedly also earned her many new fans. The show coincides with the release of Jungr’s newest album, “Bob, Brel and Me.”

Although Jungr claims she’s an incurable romantic, many of her choices for her Valentine’s Day repertoire are hardly regarded as love songs: Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Brel’s “Jacky.” But Jungr is so convincing we start to reconsider our previous assessment.

In fact, Jungr herself is constantly reassessing her work. The Brel translations are all new. And the Dylan songs are ones she’s never tackled before.

When Jungr does sing a truly romantic song, such as Brel’s “If We Only Had Love,” she tears our heart apart. And Jungr’s “No-One Could Ever Wear Your Shoes” is a searing testament to love lost.

Not many performers can physically command the stage in the way Jungr does. She struts. She leaps, She bends. She waves her arms. She seems to be welcoming us into her world.

And if all that weren’t enough, Jungr has once again engaged an extraordinary pianist, Mark Hartman, who knows how to let Jungr soar without ever suppressing his own considerable talent.

If you didn’t catch this tremendous show, don’t worry. Jungr will be back!

Joe’s Pub is located at 425 Lafayette Street @ Astor Place in NYC.

Barb Jungr

Hamlet ****

Hamlet: Dane in Pain

By: JK Clarke

February 16, 2020: There’s a moment in the Gate Theatre of Dublin’s production of Hamlet (at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn through March 8) when one realizes there are some very different, very unorthodox, things going on in this play.

Hamlet: Dane in Pain

By: JK Clarke

February 16, 2020: There’s a moment in the Gate Theatre of Dublin’s production of Hamlet (at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn through March 8) when one realizes there are some very different, very unorthodox, things going on in this play. No, it’s not the appearance of a woman (Ruth Negga) playing the titular role—that’s been done, and we’ll get to that later. Rather, it’s the beginning of the scene when Hamlet visits his mother, Queen Gertrude, in her bedroom, to discuss his madness. Gertrude (Fiona Bell) is wheeled onto the stage on a blood red bed tilted at a 45 degree angle in a pose that can only be described as Christ on the Cross. There’s no mistaking it. But why? Is she being sacrificed for the sins of her unkind men? At the very least, the staging is befuddling, and certainly out of the realm of the play’s original intent or any known stage directions from the Bard himself. It’s just one of several incongruities in this production of Hamlet that is nonetheless quite enjoyable. 

Ruth Negga

To be clear, director Yaël Farber (who directed last year’s unusual Mies Julie at CSC) doesn’t deviate from the script, but there are edits (several scenes are cut and blended together and some famous speeches appear considerably earlier in the play than they’re supposed to) and staging that unequivocally announce an interpretation. This is a play about a character bent on righting a wrong, and making others understand what he’s doing and why. In the bedroom scene, upon coming down from her cross, Gertrude seems to be ready, readier than in most productions, to take Hamlet as his word. And by the play’s denouement, she doesn’t need any more convincing. Her usual (and famous) stunned words, “Hamlet, the drink, the drink!” which she utters as she realizes she’s been poisoned, are eliminated here; rather, she drinks what she knows to be poison instead of continuing to be complicit in her second husband’s great crime. 

Ruth Negga

Despite the play’s contemporary setting (reminiscent of the filmed version of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2009 version starring David Tenant), featuring characters in contemporary dress—tie-less dark suits with collarless nehru-style shirts, the occasional bowler hat and 50s or 60s style dresses for the women—it is darkly Scandinavian and foreboding, relying on John Torres’ moody and powerful lighting to create innumerable extra dimensions on Susan Hilferty’s set (she also was responsible for the simple, elegant costumes) which consists of a wall of dark doors (this has been done before) representing perhaps the myriad directions these characters lives could go, depending on which they choose to open . . . “To be, or not to be.“

Aoife Duffin, Gavin Drea,

Perhaps this production’s greatest asset is the flawless acting and terrific casting. Laertes (Gavin Drea) is swashbuckling and handsome, a bit of a remove from his father Polonius (Nick Dunning), who is here not such a fool as he’s often portrayed. Ophelia (Aoife Duffin) is convincingly vulnerable (with a thicker Irish brogue than others, perhaps identifying her as a lower class level than the royals with whom she consorts) and then broken, particularly once she realizes her relationship with Hamlet is over and simultaneously her reputation is destroyed. When she comes unglued, she seems to feel that she may as well seduce anyone who comes along because all will see her as promiscuous anyway. Upon handing out symbolic flowers to all those witnessing her breakdown, she makes sure to hand rue to Gertrude, playing with the double meaning of “regret” and the flower’s noted use at the time for causing miscarriages, or abortions. She knows both she and Gertrude have made very bad mistakes in their choice of men. 

King Claudius (Owen Roe)—jowly and scowling, walking a delicate line between libertine old goat and evil traitor—is ideally cast. As are the three actors who play both The Players and a trio of ominous Gravediggers (Will Irvine, Ger Kelly, Gerard Walsh), sharing the (usually reserved for one character) famous banter with Hamlet during the “Alas poor Yorick” scene, which is both poignant and effectively hilarious here. 

Owen Roe

But it’s perhaps one of the best performances of the bunch, Negga’s Hamlet, that is the one unfortunate casting choice. Negga is powerful, delivering the seven soliloquies with depth and meaning, but also effectively demonstrating her rage against her uncle, Ophelia or her mother as adeptly as she engages in sword fighting in the final scene. But she doesn’t come across as *Hamlet*. Gender isn’t the issue. Many women have played Hamlet quite successfully in the past, starting over a hundred years ago with the great Sarah Bernhardt. But Negga is a small woman with a rather high voice who comes across as a pre-adolescent boy, something of a mashup of PeeWee Herman and Ellen DeGeneres. That’s not at all who Hamlet is. This isn’t a commentary on Negga’s acting, which was absolutely stunning. She’d have been better cast as, say, Romeo. Or Richard II. Even Prince Hal. But Hamlet she’s not. Either way, her performance is riveting. But Farber has made it Hamlet’s play, so it should have been better cast. There’s no “Goodnight sweet prince” from Horatio, or the arrival of Norway’s army to take control of Denmark. That’s all been cut. Instead, Hamlet (and Negga) get the last word. The rest, truly, is silence. 

Ger Kelly, Gerald Walsh, Will Irvine

But outside any Shakespeare purists’ objections to liberties being taken with the play’s interpretation, Farber and company have produced an outstanding, fast-paced and gripping Hamlet—one that will re-inspire audiences’ love for the play. In a season with a dwindling number of major Shakespeare productions (so far Theater for a New Audience’s Timon of Athens has been the only other), this is raw meat to hungry lions. And it’s certainly not to be missed.

Hamlet. Through March 8, 2020 at St. Ann’s Warehouse Theatre in Brooklyn (45 Water Street, DUMBO, Brooklyn). Three hours 15 minutes, one intermission.  www.stannswarehouse.org 
Photography: Teddy Wolff

Gavin Drea, Aoife Duffin, Ruth Negga, Fiona Bell, Owen Roe
The Ensemble (Ruth Negga in the Green Chair)
Ruth Negga
Ruth Negga