Sunday in the Park with George **** – Linda ***1/2

By: David Sheward

“Stop worrying if your vision/Is new/Let others make that decision/They usually do/You just keep moving on.” When Stephen Sondheim wrote these lyrics for Sunday in the Park with George (1984), he was faced with a creative crisis similar to that of his lead character, the revolutionary impressionist painter Georges Seurat. The legendary composer-lyricist had just broke with his longtime collaborator Harold Prince after their short-lived production Merrily We Roll Along.

By: David Sheward

“Stop worrying if your vision/Is new/Let others make that decision/They usually do/You just keep moving on.” When Stephen Sondheim wrote these lyrics for Sunday in the Park with George (1984), he was faced with a creative crisis similar to that of his lead character, the revolutionary impressionist painter Georges Seurat. The legendary composer-lyricist had just broke with his longtime collaborator Harold Prince after their short-lived production Merrily We Roll Along. The songwriter was starting a new partnership with director-playwright James Lapine and moving in a new direction. Sunday, their first work together, was unlike any other American musical before it. Lapine’s book and Sondheim’s songs resembled Seurat’s pointillist canvases with bits of story, words, and tunes assembled to create an unconventional examination of the creative process and a meditation on art itself and how it affects the artist and those around him. The love story between George (in the musical the final “s” is removed from his name) and his model Dot ends unhappily in the first act and the second act takes up new characters 100 years later as George’s descendent unveils a kinetic light show in a modern museum. Hardly material for the “tired-businessman” crowd.

Sunday did achieve a run of 604 performances on Broadway after an Off-Broadway workshop at Playwrights Horizons and won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize. But, by and large, the public and critics didn’t quite know to make of it. Sondheim was accused of coldness just as George is in the song “No Life” as a disdainful fellow artist and his wife pick apart Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières. The show lost the Best Musical Tony to Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein’s more comfortable La Cage Aux Folles. There was a successful 2008 Sunday revival from the Menier Chocolate Factory in London and New York. This presented a warmer and more scaled-down vision than the high-tech original with its pop-up set pieces and elaborate projections. Now more than three decades after the original, Sunday is back and the new production by Sarna Lapine (James’s niece) is even more intimate and touching than the 2008 version. This is an expansion of Lapine’s Encores! concert staging. The projections of Seurat’s massive work A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte are now on a scrim lowered just in front of the onstage orchestra, and the production is simple and direct. Stripped to its barest essence, the musical becomes an emotional feast as well as an intellectual one.

Annaleigh Ashford, Jake Gyllenhaal

As George, Jake Gyllenhaal proves you can be a major movie star as well as a musical talent. (Maybe he should have been cast in La La Land.) After performances in straight stage works such as If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet and Constellations, Gyllenhaal widens his range with a dazzlingly intense vocal and dramatic rendition of George’s conflict between his art and his personal life. Annaleigh Ashford displays exquisite pipes, timing and presence as his determined muse Dot and, a century later, her granddaughter Marie, here given a sassy Southern accent. The large company also includes stand-out work from Brooks Ashmanskas, Liz McCartney, Penny Fuller, and Philip Boykin. Ironically, the show’s producers have withdrawn it from Tony Award consideration because of the shortness of the run. That’s too bad because the two leads probably stood an excellence chance of winning and this Sunday could have taken the Musical Revival award to avenge the original’s Best Musical loss.

Meanwhile, Off-Broadway, Manhattan Theatre Club takes on women’s changing roles in a flinty, daring new work from England called Linda. Janie Dee, who hasn’t appeared in New York since Alan Ayckbourn’s Comic Potential in 2000 on the very same stage, makes a dynamic return as the titular business executive whose personal and professional worlds disintegrate simultaneously. Penelope Skinner’s sharp script does tend to wander a bit in the second act, but otherwise, it’s a spot-on dissection of the sexist trap ensnaring its heroine. The play opens with Linda pitching a new campaign for her cosmetic company’s anti-aging cream aimed at women over 50, like her. It seems Linda has it all—a fabulous career, a loving husband, and two wonderful daughters. But cracks in the perfect facade are slowly revealed as a younger rival sets her sites on Linda’s corner office and traumatic events from the past begin to surface. Linda soon finds herself becoming one of the “invisible women” her campaign is targeting, but she refuses to be ignored. The devastating mess that results indicates Skinner’s pessimistic view of women’s progress, but it’s frighteningly real. Dee deftly displays Linda’s charismatic energy as well as the shaking insecurity she keeps so well hidden. Kudos also to Jennifer Ikeda and Molly Ranson as Linda’s damaged daughters, Donald Sage Mackay as her waffling husband, and Molly Griggs as Amy, her shark-like competitor who wields cyber technology like a weapon.

MTC artistic director Lynne Meadow delivers a tightly-paced production with immeasurable aide from set designer Walt Spangler’s versatile, revolving set.

Sunday in the Park with George: ****
Feb. 23—April 23. Hudson Theatre, 139 W. 44th St., NYC. Tue, Thu, 7 pm; Wed, Fri—Sat, 8 pm; Wed, Sat, 2 pm; Sun, 3 pm. Running time: two hours, 40 mins. including intermission. $49—$375. (855) 801-5876. www.thehudsonbroadway.com.
Photos: Mathew Murphy

Linda: ***1/2
Feb. 28—April 2. Manhattan Theatre Club at City Center Stage I, 131 W. 55th St., NYC. Tue, Wed, 7 pm; Thu—Sat, 8 pm; Wed, Sat, Sun, 2 pm. Running time: two hours and 30 mins. including intermission. $90. (212) 581-1212. www.nycitycenter.org.
Photo: Richard Termine

Originally Published on February 28, 2017 in ArtsinNY.com

Dear World @ The York

The  York Theaters’ Winter 2017 Musicals in Mufti Series concludes with Dear World, book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, new version by David Thompson (based on an adaptation by Maurice Valency of the play The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux), music and lyrics by Jerry Herman starring 6-time Emmy® Award and Tony® Award-winner Tyne Daly as Countess Aurelia. 

The  York Theaters’ Winter 2017 Musicals in Mufti Series concludes with Dear World, book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, new version by David Thompson (based on an adaptation by Maurice Valency of the play The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux), music and lyrics by Jerry Herman starring 6-time Emmy® Award and Tony® Award-winner Tyne Daly as Countess Aurelia.

When a group of businessmen scheme to drill for oil in Paris, there is only one force in the world that can stop them: Countess Aurelia, the Madwoman of Chaillot. With the help of idealism, love, and poetry—not to mention two other madwomen, a local sewerman, and a pair of young lovers—the Countess fights to save Paris and the world from greed.

With Dear World‘s opening on Broadway in 1969, Mr. Herman became the first composer-lyricist to have three productions simultaneously running on Broadway, and for her performance 2015 Oscar Hammerstein Honoree Angela Lansbury received the second of her five Tony® Awards.  Michael Montel directs, with music direction by Christopher McGovern.  The York Theatre Company’s acclaimed Musicals in Mufti series of musical theatre gems, performed in a simply-staged, book-in-hand concert format, celebrates its twenty-second historic year of shows from the past that deserve a second look.  Mufti means “in street clothes, without the trappings associated with a full production.”

Tyne Daly

The final presentation of the three shows in the Winter 2017 Musicals in Mufti Series  also features Alison Fraser (March of the Falsettos) as Constance, Ann Harada (Avenue Q) as Gabrielle, and Lenny Wolpe (Wicked) as The Sewerman, with Dewey Caddell (Finian’s Rainbow) as The Sergeant, J. Bernard Calloway (Memphis) as President 2, Ben Cherry (Fiddler on the Roof) as The Waiter, Stephen Mo Hanan (Jolson & Co.) as President 3, Erika Henningsen (Les Misérables) as Nina, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka (A Little Night Music) as Julian, Peter Land (My Fair Lady) as President 1, Gordon Stanley (Ragtime) as The Prospector, and Kristopher Thompson-Bolden (The Nutty Professor) as The Mute. Casting for the series is by Geoff Josselson

 The limited engagement of Dear World will play 12 performances only, February 25 – March 5, 2017 at The York Theatre Company at Saint Peter’s (619 Lexington Avenue, entrance on East 54th Street, just east of Lexington Avenue).  Opening Night is Sunday, February 12, 2017 at 7:00 p.m.

Photography: Maryann Lopinto 

Curtain Call
Peter Land with wife Gillian Lynne (Who choreographed Phantom of t he Opera)
Sheldon Harnick
J Bernard Callaway
Hunter Ryan Herdicka
Bill Casttellino, Christopher McGovern
Gordon Stanley
Ericka Henningsen
Lenny Wolpe
Michael Montel
Alison Fraser
Ben Cherry

 

Theatre District Menu:

Theatre District Menu: Fresh, Tasty Five-Star Options

By: Ellis Nassour

Here are resources to help you find reliable, clean, and distinguished restaurants in and around the Theatre District that stress highest quality, friendly service, and use the freshest ingredients in traditional recipes. All have extensive wine lists, from affordable California and international vintages to, well, ones you might consider when you hit the Lottery. Both are great for before-and-after dinner and when you’re looking for a place to dine on a special occasion.

Fresh, Tasty Five-Star Options

By: Ellis Nassour

Here are resources to help you find reliable, clean, and distinguished restaurants in and around the Theatre District that stress highest quality, friendly service, and use the freshest ingredients in traditional recipes. All have extensive wine lists, from affordable California and international vintages to, well, ones you might consider when you hit the Lottery. Both are great for before-and-after dinner and when you’re looking for a place to dine on a special occasion.

Plataforma Churrascaria Rodizio

Brazilians love their meat and flock to this high-end rodizio [all you can eat] steakhouse. Partner João de Matos says, “It’s a 75-year tradition. A festival near Sao Paulo attracted thousands and the few restaurants were overwhelmed. Orders got confused and there was almost a riot. The owner had waiters pass the various meats around and let customers select. Before you knew it, rodizios sprung up all over Brazil.”

With Plataforma Churrascario Rodizio, De Matos and partner Luis Gomes have brought tradition to the Theatre District – and it’s authentic. “Our goal is value for your money, exceptional food, and service,” states Senor Gomes. “We’ve been consistent for 20 years!”

It’s hard to resist the gourmet salad station with four casseroles from old-world recipes and 40 rotating international choices: carpaccio (thinly- sliced, pounded meat), sal picão (chicken salad), sushi, shrimp, tabouli, rolled grape leaves, cheeses, and veggies. 

Don’t go overboard because it’s hard to resist the endless skewers of succulent cuts of perfectly grilled prime beef, lamb, pork loin, chicken, ribs, and sausages. Wednesday and Saturday, there’s something extra special: Brazil’s famed national dish, long-simmering feijoada, made with black beans, savory pork, and fresh, and fresh, native herbs.

Sides include broccoli, potatoes, and fried bananas. Should you make it to dessert, passion fruit mousse is delicioso! And, yes, there’s Brazil’s national drink, the otic Caipirinha, made with cachaca.

Plataforma Churrascaria Rodizio,  316 West 49th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. 7 days. Voted #1 Brazilian steakhouse in America/The Daily Meal. Live music, Friday and Saturday; Check website for prix fixe specials and validated parking.  Zagat, Gourmet, NYTimes-recommended.  Reservations, (212) 245-0505 or www.plataformaonline.com.

La Masseria Ristorante

The name translates “farmhouse.” For 15 years Pino Colandonato (executive chef), Peppe Iuele, and Enzo Ruggiero’s La Masseria, boasting a Michelin rating, has been vastly popular for its authentic Puglia-inspired recipes – many carried down
for generations.

“Masseria is peasant cooking – simple, fresh, flavorful, everything home-made, including our mozzarella,” Says Pino. “Whatever the land or sea offers.” Peppe adds “Anything we won’t eat, we don’t serve!”

A popular salad is the mesculin with string beans, cherry tomatoes, and warm goat cheese. Antipasti change daily, but a must is fresh, stuffed smozzarella  and stuffed  eggplant with smoked mozzarella. Pasta standouts are scialatielli (short cut thick fettuccine with eggplant and smoked mozzarella); and potato gnocchi with radicchio in taleggio cheese sauce.

Entrées include veal chop Milanese, grilled t-bone, aged prime rib eye, grilled salmon,  Mediterranean branzino, and risottoes. A Pino specialty is oven-roasted rabitt Caprese. In addition, there’re 15 daily specials.

Must desserts are ricotta cheese cake and fresh fruit tarts. Enzo, the wine expert, is passionate about pairing the perfect wine with the right dish. He’s crafted an excellent selection of Southern Italy wines.

La Masseria Ristorante, 235 West 48th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue s.7 days. Visit website for validated parking option. Concierge Choice Award: Best Pre-Theater Restaurant. Zagat rated, NYTimes- recommended. Reservations: (212) 582-2111, www.opentable.com,
and www.lamasserianyc.com.

Orphans ****

By: Paulanne Simmons

Lyle Kessler’s 1983 play, Orphans, features three actors in some of the most intense moments you could ever expect to see onstage. The play premiered at The Matrix Theatre Company in Los Angeles. Since then it has been produced by Steppenwolf Theatre and on Broadway in 2013. 

By: Paulanne Simmons

Lyle Kessler’s 1983 play, Orphans, features three actors in some of the most intense moments you could ever expect to see onstage. The play premiered at The Matrix Theatre Company in Los Angeles. Since then it has been produced by Steppenwolf Theatre and on Broadway in 2013. 

The play was the first Steppenwolf production to be performed on London’s West End at the  Apollo Theatre. On Broadway, it was directed by Daniel Sullivan and starred Ben Foster as Treat and Tom Sturridge as Phillip, the two orphans, and no less than Alec Baldwin as Harold, the Chicago gangster who takes the two young men under his wing.

This impressive history does not seem to have deterred director Aaron Latham and his cast from staging a small-scale but artistically noteworthy production at The Bridge Theater @ Shetler Studios.

The production features Fady Kerko as Treat, the extremely violent petty thief who protects and terrorizes his younger brother, Phillip (Alex Montaldo). Phillip hides in the closet when his brother is out, afraid to venture into the street because he once had an almost fatal allergic reaction.

Gregg Prosser (Harold), Alex Montaldo (Phillip), Fady Kerko (Treat)

Gregg Prosser is Harold, an older man whom Treat brings home one day and intends to hold for ransom, having decided Harold is wealthy and must have rich friends. The benevolent Harold was an orphan himself and knows exactly what these two young men need: love and self-confidence.

Harold buys Treat new clothes and makes Treat his assistant. He gives Phillip a map and tells him he needs to get out of the house. Treat chafes a bit under Harold’s fatherly advice, but Phillip basks in Harold’s affection.

There’s something more than a little ridiculous about this whole setup. If the ever-present brutality were not so overwhelming, we might be tempted to a laugh a bit more than we do at this black comedy. But often when we’re trying to figure out whether we’re going to chuckle or shudder, Lathm introduces singer/songwriter Alla Ray as a mysterious, otherworldly figure (probably the dead mother) who haunts the apartment. 

Ray’s lyrical singing emphasizes the surreal quality of the play but contrasts uncomfortably with very realistic set and dialogue. This is a note that somehow doesn’t ring true.

More effectively, the stage has been turned into a shabby North Philadelphia apartment, with a worn couch and a clothesline strung across the back wall. And the cast works with impeccable synergy.

Montaldo leaps and cringes with great acrobatic grace, and Kerko is menacing but not entirely unsympathetic as his psychopathic brother. Prosser’s deadpan performance is the fulcrum that makes the relationships (and the play) work.

Orphans is a much needed reminder that good theater needs only an intriguing script, skilled direction and a talented cast. 

Orphans plays through March 4 at The Bridge Theater @ Shetler Studios, 244 West 54 St., www.orphans17.com.
Photography: Chris Pasatieri

Gregg Prosser (Harold) Alex Montaldo (Phillip)

If I Forget ***1/2

By: Paulanne Simmons

What’s the difference between a good family drama and soap opera? Depends on whom you ask. But for the most part, if a playwright can write really good dialogue and insert some meaningful observations on life, and the director can gather a cast of really good actors, it’s a safe bet the play will avoid being cast into the unredeemable world of daytime drama.

By: Paulanne Simmons

What’s the difference between a good family drama and soap opera? Depends on whom you ask. But for the most part, if a playwright can write really good dialogue and insert some meaningful observations on life, and the director can gather a cast of really good actors, it’s a safe bet the play will avoid being cast into the unredeemable world of daytime drama.

Such is surely the case with Steven Levenson’s well received If I forget. The play is not only about the trials and tribulations of the three Fischer siblings, their spouses, children and father, but also the political situation under George W. Bush, the Arab-Israeli dispute and the dilemma of assimilated Jews in the United States. This is quite a bit to handle, but in the hands of director Daniel Sullivan and his more than excellent cast, this play succeeds even where it shouldn’t.

Michael (Jeremy ) is Jewish; his wife Ellen (Trisha Lawrence) is not. But despite Michael’s antagonism toward religion (especially Judaism), their emotionally troubled daughter, Abby, seems to have found stability and a source of strength in her father’s abandoned religion.

As the play opens, Abby is in Israel through the Birthright Israel Experience. And Michael, who for some reason that is never made clear, is a professor of Jewish studies, has made the foolish (and unlikely) decision to publish a book suggesting it’s time to forget about the Holocaust at the exact moment when he is up for tenure at his university.

Michael’s elder sister Holly (Kate Walsh) lives a comfortable life with her second husband, Howard (Gary Wilmes), and her son, Joey (Seth Seth Steinberg), an adolescent who may be somewhere on the autism spectrum, but may be just suffering from a serious case of nerdishness. When Holly is not arguing with her two siblings, she’s dreaming of becoming an interior designer, or she’s nagging her son about his consumption of sugary beverages and the way he wears his pants.

The youngest, Sharon (Maria Dizzia), is a kindergarten teacher who is having an affair with Rodrigo, one of the Guatemalans who rent their father’s store. When their mother was dying of cancer, Sharon was her mother’s main caregiver, and in the declining years of their father, Lou (Larry Bryggman), she has now taken on the same job, something she never lets the others forget.

Jeremy Shamos, Kate Walsh

Derek McLane has created a wonderful rotating, two level set that allows for the siblings to argue all over their father’s Washington, DC house: upstairs in the bedroom, downstairs in the dining room. They argue over their Jewish identity, Israel, U.S. politics, and old grudges and griefs. Levenson has provided witty, swiftly moving dialogue that keeps the audience both thinking and laughing. Each of the siblings has cogent arguments and a good deal of evidence to back their beliefs, both political and personal. And they certainly know how to get under each others’ skin.

If nothing much happens in the first half of the play, the second half makes up for this shortage with a dizzying series of events that are more unbelievable than surprising. These events (involving, strokes, credit cards and pregnancy) test the family’s love, their loyalty and their values.

One could say If I Forget is messy because life is messy. Playwrights are not required to provide solutions to the problems they raise. But they are required to take on only what they can handle.

Levenson does an admirable job juggling the many issues he brings up. But even with this tremendous cast and accomplished direction, there are more than a few issues that could have easily been left out.

If I Forget ***1/2
Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre
111 West 46 Street
Through April 30, 2017
2 hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission
Photos: Joan Marcus
For Tickets Click Here

Jeremy Shamos, Seth Steinberg, Maria Dizzia, Larry Bryggman, Kate Walsh

 

HIFF Presents “To Kill A Mockingbird”

Alec Baldwin hosts screening at Guild Hall in East Hampton.

On Saturday February 25, 2017 Andrea Grover, the Executor Director of Guild Hall, introduced the evening’s screening of To Kill A Mockingbird, a 1963 Academy Award-winning film based on Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as Scout was screened at Guild Hall in East Hampton as part of the long running HIFF Winter Classic series. The film nominated for eight Academy Awards is considered one of the best-ever made and won three Academy Awards including Best Actor for Gregory Peck.

Alec Baldwin hosts screening at Guild Hall in East Hampton.

On Saturday February 25, 2017 Andrea Grover, the Executor Director of Guild Hall, introduced the evening’s screening of To Kill A Mockingbird, a 1963 Academy Award-winning film based on Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as Scout was screened at Guild Hall in East Hampton as part of the long running HIFF Winter Classic series. The film nominated for eight Academy Awards is considered one of the best-ever made and won three Academy Awards including Best Actor for Gregory Peck.

To Kill a Mockingbird  has a screenplay by Horton Foote and marked the film debuts of Robert Duvall, William Windom, and Alice Ghostley. Guild Hall Board President & HIFF Co-Chairman Alec Baldwin with HIFF Artistic Director David Nugent held a discussion afterwards with the audience.

Photography: Barry Gordin

David Nugent, Alec Baldwin
Andrea Grover, Anne Chaisson
Brook Howard, DIrector of Marketing and Communications @ Guild Hall Barbara Jo Howard
Assistant Technical Director, John Drew Theater @ Guild Hall with IVY

 

 

 

Sunset Boulevard *** – Everybody ***

By: David Sheward

Most Broadway revivals of classical musicals featuring the original stars have been museum pieces vainly attempting to recreate the first incarnation’s magic. The resurrections of Yul Brynner in The King and I, Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly! and Angela Lansbury in Mame are some examples of this waxwork genre.

By: David Sheward

Most Broadway revivals of classical musicals featuring the original stars have been museum pieces vainly attempting to recreate the first incarnation’s magic. The resurrections of Yul Brynner in The King and I, Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly! and Angela Lansbury in Mame are some examples of this waxwork genre. Fortunately, Glenn Close’s returning to her Tony-winning role of the demented silent-film diva Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard two decades later does not fall into this category of delusional retreads—which would have been ironic since Desmond is foolishly striving to revive her faded cinema stardom. Not only has Close deepened her interpretation, but Lonny Price’s new staging, imported from London, is an imaginative stripped-down retake of Trevor Nunn’s gargantuan 1994 edition.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s synthetic score and the simplistic book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton still fail to approach the noir nightmare vision of Hollywood created in Billy Wilder’s legendary 1950 film. But with Price’s more intimate staging, Close’s magnificent performance is even more striking. She is no longer competing with a massive set. Designer James Noone has placed a spooky soundstage around the onstage orchestra with grainy projections of vintage film premieres adding to the ghostly atmosphere. Perhaps inspired by Sondheim’s Follies, Price has added a ghost of Norma’s younger self to haunt this tragic tale. Close also takes a cue from Follies and goes deeper into Norma’s dementia both psychologically and vocally. She actually sounds like an aging star whose singing range has diminished, often going into a falsetto. At once a narcissistic monster and a frightened child, Close’s creation is so much more than an above-the-marquee turn, it’s a shattering portrait of dashed fame, endless ego, and voracious lust. Like a boa constrictor, she grips her victim, the young writer Joe Gillis, and never lets go. She’s also totally convincing when Norma makes her claim that “With One Look” she can manufacture any emotion.

Glenn Close
Michael Xavier in “Sunset Boulevard”

Obie-wining playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (An Octoroon, Inappropriate, Gloria) also revitalizes some old material—some really OLD material. His Everybody, now at the Signature Theatre Center, takes the 15th century allegorical play, Everyman and transforms it into an intense meditation on modern mortality and morality. In the original, the titular symbolic figure is summoned by God’s messenger, Death, to give an accounting of his life to his creator. He is allowed to bring a companion along the journey from which there is no returning. Characters representing Friendship, Family, and Possessions all turn him down. Only Love will make the trek as all earthly connections disappear.

Jacobs-Jenkins gives this relic a modern twist and adds the somewhat gimmicky element of having five of the roles assigned at random at every performance. This could have come across as a shallow parlor trick, but director Lila Neugebauer and her sharp company endow these abstract concepts with weighty detail, as does the playwright, making an intellectual exercise into a visceral experience. The grandmotherly Marylouise Burke is a delightfully unexpected Death, Jocelyn Bioh miraculously transforms from a friendly usher to the ominous voice of God, and Chris Perfetti is a compassionate Love. Brooke Bloom, Michael Braun, Louis Cancelmi, David Patrick Kelly, and Lakisha Michelle May take up the remaining roles. At the performance attended Cancelmi made a moving Everybody, Bloom was a sassy Friendship, and Kelly was a riot as Stuff, Everybody’s material possessions. Both productions show that even dusty plays and musicals can have new life if the right cast and director get to work.

Sunset Boulevard: ***
Feb. 9—June 25. Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway, NYC. Wed, Sat, 2 and 8pm; Thu 7pm; Fri, 8pm; Sun, 3pm. Running time: two hours and 30 mins. including intermission. $65—$199. (877) 250-2929. www.ticketmaster.com. Photos: Joan Marcus

Everybody: ***
Feb. 21—March 19. Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St., NYC. Tue—Fri, 7:30pm; Sat, 8pm; Wed, Sat, Sun, 2 pm. Running time: 100 minutes with no intermission. $30—$40. (212) 244-7529. www.signaturetheatre.org. Photo Monique Carboni

Louis Cancelmi, MaryLouise Burke in “Everybody”

 

Evening at the Talkhouse ***

By: Isa Goldberg

Entering the soiree at the Signature Center off Broadway, we’re greeted with cocktails (colored water) and some sugary snacks. Indeed, EVENING AT THE TALK HOUSE, written by Wallace Shawn, who also plays Dick, one of the central characters, is a gathering of theater’s most illustrious. We meet Robert (Matthew Broderick), Annette (Claudia Shear), Tom (Larry Pine), Nellie (Jill Eikenberry), and Ted (John Epperson), among others. The occasion is the 10th anniversary of a show they had all worked on, and which had been a flop. 

By: Isa Goldberg

Entering the soiree at the Signature Center off Broadway, we’re greeted with cocktails (colored water) and some sugary snacks. Indeed, EVENING AT THE TALK HOUSE, written by Wallace Shawn, who also plays Dick, one of the central characters, is a gathering of theater’s most illustrious. We meet Robert (Matthew Broderick), Annette (Claudia Shear), Tom (Larry Pine), Nellie (Jill Eikenberry), and Ted (John Epperson), among others. The occasion is the 10th anniversary of a show they had all worked on, and which had been a flop. 

Like the notorious, MOOSE MURDERS, which opened and closed on Broadway on the same night, February 22, 1983, Shawn’s play is a mystery farce. Here the conversation about inexplicable violence evokes images as bizarre as those acted out in that one night of MOOSE MURDERS, where a mummified paraplegic rose from his wheelchair to kick a man dressed as a moose.

Murder and a societal penchant for violence and abuse are the Zeitgeist in Shawn’s dark comedy. Described by one character as “an age of mercy”, the targets of these murders are often the elderly, along with other vulnerable people. Indeed, when the ageing Dick (Wallace Shawn) enters in his pajamas, we notice the bruises on his face from “a short informal battering” by friends – “which he loved”, he says.

Meanwhile, the cast of characters continues to opine about the theater, dismayed by its demise. They discuss politics, focusing on the multitude of elections – at least one every three months. Clearly, the absurdity of violence, and the rash of unexpected deaths, is paired with the demise of the theater. In fact, they talk about a leading politician, who is also a theater producer, for whom Robert (Broderick) and others in the room are currently working.  It’s he, we’re told, who has put in place a program for murder.

To confuse matters even more, ample hypocrisy abounds among these friends. Characters express great fondness for one another, then stab them figuratively and sometimes literally in the back. Some of the guests approve of this behavior, while others appear uncertain. “How do we know we’re killing the right people?”  one guest asks.

There is no greater clarity to the whys and wherefores of these assassinations than there would be in a remake of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. One can never be sure who the murderers are, what their motives happen to be, or what side  – good or evil – they represent. In fact, the moral compass among these friends is so out of whack that the play becomes a kind of silly tragedy.

“What if everyone just started throwing bombs at one another?” the hostess Nellie (Jill Eikenberry) queries. It’s best not to address her particular fate    lest we kill the surprise – but her query is certainly a timely one for all Americans. In THE TALK HOUSE, to boot, we hear about it with the kind of elitism and snobbery that keeps the proverbial ball rolling.

THE NEW GROUP AT THE PERSHING SQUARE SIGNATURE CENTER
The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre
480 West 42nd StreetJ
January 31, 2017 – March 12, 2017

Tuesday at 7:30pm Wednesday at 7:30pm Thursday at 7:30pm Friday at 7:30pm Saturday at 2pm and 8pm Sunday at 2pm Added performances February 22 at 2pm, February 26 at 7:30pm, March 1 at 2pm, March 8 at 2pm No performance February 21

 

Academy Awards

The Best of 2016 Vie for the Gold at the Very Diverse 89th Academy Awards Telecast Sunday on ABC

By Ellis Nassour

The 89th Academy Awards will telecast live from L.A.’s Dolby Theatre Sunday, hosted by late night’s Jimmy Kimmel and presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, recognizes excellence in cinematic achievements in the film industry as assessed by the Academy’s voting membership. But … and there always is one … there’s the rub. 

The Best of 2016 Vie for the Gold at the Very Diverse 89th Academy Awards Telecast Sunday on ABC

By: Ellis Nassour

The 89th Academy Awards will telecast live from L.A.’s Dolby Theatre Sunday, hosted by late night’s Jimmy Kimmel and presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, recognizes excellence in cinematic achievements in the film industry as assessed by the Academy’s voting membership. But … and there always is one … there’s the rub. 

The Oscars will air on ABC, beginning at 8:30 P.M. and run on to or past three-and-a half hours. Prior to the Awards, there’ll be lots of glitz and glamour with the red carpet arrivals.

Compared to last year and its lack of diversity, this year it’s the difference of day v. night – with an overload of all sorts of diversity. To avoid another brouhaha, the Academy, led by president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, initiated numerous changes in the make-up of the committees and membership [increasing the youth or younger factor].

2016 was also a big year for indies – several of which made it into the Top Nine.

Jimmy Kimmel

The Academy will welcome the nominees in 24 categories and presenters with these words: No matter who you are or where you live, movies bring us together. Through indelible, fearless performances you extraordinary actors help make it happen. And the world listens. [Bring to the screen your tired, your poor, your huddled masses and let it infuse them with buttered popcorn, Sno-caps, and iced-cold Coke.]

There’s a new prez and not all of Hollywoodland is pleased with DJT, so expect loud protests and anti-testimonials. Several stars have announced they won’t attend; however, by attending, they could make an impact and be heard worldwide.

The Oscars, live and on tape, are seen by an estimated 35 million worldwide. At press time, President Trump and Pope Francis hadn’t been added to the presenter’s list or weighed in on the nominations – some of which must displease both.

The fate of Best Picture is in the hands of the Hollywood caucus. Leading the pack in nominations are La La Land (Lionsgate) received a record-tying 14   (1950’s All About Eve) and 1997’s Titanic also achieved this distinction).  Arrival and Moonlight (A24/Plan B) came in second with eight.

Actress in a leading role will be the category where the winner could be anybody’s guess. Of course, there’s been so much hype about Emma Stone in La La Land, but Isabelle Huppert turned in a memorable performance in Elle (Sony Pictures Classics), and the incredible Natalie Portman turned herself inside out to create a harrowing impersonation of Jackie (Fox Searchlight), our former first lady. Three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep continued to break records with her 20th nomination (Best Actress, Supporting Actress) for Florence Foster Jenkins.

Over in the men’s category, Casey Affleck outshined older brother, rising to star status at the top of the pack with his extraordinary performance in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios).

Often it’s puzzling how nominators nominate. For instance, when she is billed as a co-star in bold lettering and carries at least, if not more, of the screen adaptation of August Wilson’s Tony and Drama Desk-winning Fences, starring the leads of the 2010 Broadway revival, Tony-nominated Denzel Washington and Viola Divas, how does two-time nominee (Doubt, The Help) Davis get regulated to the Supporting Actress category? And wasn’t Jeff Bridges an equal star with Ben Foster and Chris Pine in Hell and High Water?

Presenters will include: five-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams, Riz Ahmed, Oscar winner Javier Bardem, Oscar winner Warren Beatty, Golden Globe winner Gael Garcia Bernal, Oscar winner Halle Berry, John Cho, Oscar and Golden Globes winner Faye Dunaway, Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio, GG nominee Scarlett Johansson, Dakota Johnson, Dwayne Johnson, Oscar nominee Felicity Jones, Oscar and Drama Desk winner Shirley MacLaine (seven nominations), David Oyelowo, Oscar and Tony winner Mark Rylance, two-time Oscar nominee Emma Stone, Oscar winner Charlize Theron, and Oscar and SAG winner and GG and BAFTA nominee Alicia Vikander.

Artists will be Waitress composer [and soon-to-be-star of the musical] Sara Bareilles, performing the In Memoriam tribute. Auli’l Cravalho and Lin-Manuel Miranda will sing the nominated “How Far I’ll Go” from Animated nominee Moana, Rock’s John Legend, who was featured in nominated La La Land will perform “City of Stars” and “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” Sting sings “The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story (HBO); and Justin Timberlake will perform “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from Trolls (Dreamworks Animation).

The Academy’s Board of Governors voted Honorary Awards, given “to honor extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.”

Honorees were Jackie Chan, the Hong Kong martial artist, actor, director, producer, and singer; Oscar-winning British editor (Lawrence of Arabia, many more) who has four nominations and four BAFTA nods; veteran casting director Lynn Stalmaster; and Frederick Wiseman, filmmaker, Emmy-winning documentarian, and Off Broadway and international theater director.

Oscar certainly hasn’t always been perfect, so you might anticipate an upset. Citizen Kane, now considered one of the greatest movies of all time, didn’t catch on with audiences of its day, but it got a Best Picture nod – only to be outgunned by the Welsh mining drama How Green Was My Valley Best Picture. Star Orson Welles co-wrote the screenplay with the great Herman J. Mankiewicz, but through some maneuver Welles got sold credit and, on winning, didn’t even have the largesse to mention, much less credit Mankiewicz [which may have marked the beginning of his slow downfall].

Could there be a tie as in 1969, when two Best Actress winners were announced: Katharine Hepburn/The Lion in Winter and Barbra Streisand/ Funny Girl. With Hepburn absent, Streisand had the stage all to herself for her famous quip, “Hello, Gorgeous!”

Could there have been a more celebrated film and director in 1973 than Francis Ford Coppola and The Godfather, which captured Best Picture. However, it was Broadway’s Bob Fosse who grabbed the director gold for the screen adaptation of Best Picture nominee Cabaret.

The Academy Award, nicknamed “Oscar,” was first presented in 1929. Tickets were $5, 15 statuettes were awarded in a dinner ceremony that ran 15 minutes. The annual Awards were broadcast on radio in 1930; and first televised in 1953. Bob Hope became the host dejour.  The Oscars are now seen live in more than 200 countries and can be streamed online.

Open those darn envelopes, please. Got your ballot?  Vote. Let the winner be your winner! Nomination highlights:

Best picture
Arrival, Fences, Hackshaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, and Moonlight

Actor in a leading role
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea; Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge; Ryan Gosling, La La Land; Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic; Denzel Washington, Fences

Actress in a leading role 
Isabelle Huppert, Elle; Ruth Negga, Loving; Natalie Portman, Jackie; Emma Stone, La La Land; Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Actor in a supporting role
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight; Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water; Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea; Dev Patel, Lion; Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Actress in a supporting role
Viola Davis, Fences; Naomi Harris, Moonlight; Nicole Kidman, Lion; Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures; Michelle Williams,Manchester by the Sea

Directing
Damien Chazelle, La La Land; Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge; Barry Jenkins, Moonlight; Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea; Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

Documentary (feature)
13
th, Fire at Sea, I Am Not Your Negro, Life Animated, O.J.: Made in America

Foreign language film
Land of Mine, Denmark; A Man Called Ove, Sweden; The Salesman, Iran; Tanna, Australia; Toni Erdman, Germany

Animated feature film
Kubo and the Two Strings; Moana; My Life as a Cougarette; The Red Turtle; Zootopia

For the full list of nominations, visit www.oscars.com.

For heightened drama watch those scary moments when winners exit the stage all pumped with adrenalin and are ambushed by Kelly Ripa sticking a mike in their face. “How does it free to win?” Reply, “Gee, I don’t know, pretty good, I think; but I do feel sorry for the losers – I mean, the ones who didn’t win.”

At www.oscars.org, check out the full list of nominees and play against your friends in the Official Oscars Challenge; and participate in Oscars Backstage 2017, a second screen experience where you choose from four channels pulling from more than 20 cameras on the red carpet and backstage at the Dolby.

The 2016 Academy Awards are produced by
Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd and directed by Glenn Weiss. Tony nominee and DD-winning orchestrator Harold Wheeler (music director, Dancing with the Stars) will do orchestrations and music direct.

 

Fade ***

By: Isa Goldberg

Set in “Trump’s America”, Tanya Saracho’s new play, FADE, produced by Primary Stages at the Cherry Lane Theatre, is a soulful, engrossing two-person drama. Portraying the newcomer on a staff of television writers in LA, Lucia (Annie Dow) befriends the only person who will give her the time of day.  That’s Abel (Edie Martinez), a janitor who wears his tough edge with noticeable tattoos. A Mexican American worker, Abel sticks to himself, until he gets swept up in Lucia’s overtures of friendship.

By: Isa Goldberg

Set in “Trump’s America”, Tanya Saracho’s new play, FADE, produced by Primary Stages at the Cherry Lane Theatre, is a soulful, engrossing two-person drama. Portraying the newcomer on a staff of television writers in LA, Lucia (Annie Dow) befriends the only person who will give her the time of day.  That’s Abel (Edie Martinez), a janitor who wears his tough edge with noticeable tattoos. A Mexican American worker, Abel sticks to himself, until he gets swept up in Lucia’s overtures of friendship.

Insisting that as Latinos they share a commonality, Lucia lures Abel with stories of the racism and sexism that dominate in the room of white male television writers. It seems odd, somehow, that Lucia, who was born and raised in Mexico, looks and talks more like a Gringo than the LA born Abel.  In spite of her complaints, she is the mirror image of a young successful American woman. And so the die is cast.

As a playwright, Saracho has an easy honest feel for dialogue. In this story about race, gender, class and how they collide, her message is forthright and unambiguous. Truthfully, for a fair share of this 90-minute production, one might imagine that FADE is an all too obvious tale. That it is not, is a credit, both to the efficacy of the narrative and the adeptness of the actors. Similarly, director Jerry Ruiz brings the inherent conflict to the fore, accentuating the hypocrisy that prevails and pervades in the work place, and among the people who exist in it.

That Mariana Sanchez’s design of the office space transforms from borderline dingy to openly magnificent brings a nifty reveal. But overall, this small stage production is unpretentious. Mostly, it’s a really a feat for these two engaging actors, who pull off a simple tale with exceptional finesse.

Primary Stages at the Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce Street in the West Village
866-811-4111 primarystages.org
Running Time: One hour and 30 minutes, no intermission
Photos: James Leynse

Annie Dow, Eddie Martinez

 

Actor’s Temple Hits 100

HOSTS GALA CELEBRATION AT FRIARS CLUB MARCH 13

Theater District institution the Actors’ Temple celebrates its centennial with an entertainment-packed dinner and show at the Friars Club, 57 East 55th Street, on Monday March 13 at 6pm.  The Temple, which has served as a spiritual home, meeting place and performance venue serving generations of show business professionals, luminaries and their friends, honors the beloved actresses Tovah Feldshuh and Jackie Hoffman (both of whom will perform), and Barbara Bova.  Featured entertainers are Andrew Beall (composer of “Song of Solomon”), the singers Anna Bergman and Adrienne Haan, comedian Bob Greenberg, and concert violinist Marina Kifferstein.

HOSTS GALA CELEBRATION AT FRIARS CLUB MARCH 13

Theater District institution the Actors’ Temple celebrates its centennial with an entertainment-packed dinner and show at the Friars Club, 57 East 55th Street, on Monday March 13 at 6pm.  The Temple, which has served as a spiritual home, meeting place and performance venue serving generations of show business professionals, luminaries and their friends, honors the beloved actresses Tovah Feldshuh and Jackie Hoffman (both of whom will perform), and Barbara Bova.  Featured entertainers are Andrew Beall (composer of “Song of Solomon”), the singers Anna Bergman and Adrienne Haan, comedian Bob Greenberg, and concert violinist Marina Kifferstein.

 

Anna Bergman

The event, produced by Carol Ostrow, supports the Actors’ Temple mission to provide a dynamic spiritual home for Jews, and a creative home for Jewish and non-Jewish artists who can use its affordable jewel-box theatre — a unique resource for New York’s wide-ranging theatre community, right in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen.  A 100th Year Capital Campaign to preserve the Temple’s historic building at 339 West 47th Street is also being launched. Constructed in 1923 the Actors’ Temple building is a federally designated national landmark.

 

Adrienne Haan

Congregation Ezrath Israel is led by Rabbi Jill Hausman. Progressive, egalitarian, eclectic, and post-denominational, Actors’ Temple offers Shabbat services on Friday and Saturday; Hebrew School instruction; adult education classes, and is affiliated with the Professional Performing Arts School (PPAS) one of the City’s distinguished select-admission public schools focusing on the arts.  Hausman champions fresh approaches to enliven worship, and actively encourages the congregation to see the Temple as a vehicle of self-expression, and deeds of kindness.  The shul’s motto is “Cool Shul, Warm People.”

Historical and Current PHOTOS

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B06eMYbUvaAVTkNBdHhZZEVVQnc

The remarkable roster of members and congregants includes legends from vaudeville, cabaret, nightclubs, radio and television, Broadway and even professional sports: Sophie Tucker, Red Buttons, Al Jolson, Edward G. Robinson, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Henny Youngman, Alan King, Joe Franklin, Eddie Cantor and numerous composers, musicians, stagehands, and talent agents, rubbed shoulders with sports figures like Sandy Koufax, Barney Ross, and Jake Pitler. Led for many years by Rabbi Bernard Birstein, who actively recruited (with Cantor Louis Malamud), show business professionals, the Actors’ Temple received foundational early support from mega-star Sophie Tucker, who headlined an annual benefit on Broadway, and Joe E. Lewis a stalwart supporter. Non Jews like Ed Sullivan (whose wife was Jewish), and Frank Sinatra were also friends… all were happy to kibbitz with Academy Award-winner Shelly Winters, the 3 Stooges, and a talkative Harpo Marx, before or after services.

Jackie Hoffman

Stained-glass memorials, bronze plaques and an Actors Photo Gallery lining the stairwell walls are just some of the many tributes festooning the Actors’ Temple in honor of its illustrious roll call of members and friends.

The Actors’ Temple celebrates its unique role in American, Jewish and show business history (as well as its tradition of being a place of acceptance, spirituality, creativity) at The Actors’ Temple 100th Anniversary Gala Celebration on Monday, March 13 at 6pm, at the Friars Club, 57 East 55th Street, New York City.  Tickets are $350 and are on sale now, by calling (917) 796-3121 or visiting http://www.theactorstemple.org 

Kid Victory Opens

The New York premiere of KID VICTORY, book and lyrics by Greg Pierce, music by John Kander with story by John Kander and Greg Pierce, and directed by Liesl Tommy began previews on Wednesday, February 1 and opened on Wednesday, February 22 at the Vineyard Theatre, announced by the company’s Artistic Directors, Douglas Aibel and Sarah Stern.

The New York premiere of KID VICTORY, book and lyrics by Greg Pierce, music by John Kander with story by John Kander and Greg Pierce, and directed by Liesl Tommy began previews on Wednesday, February 1 and opened on Wednesday, February 22 at the Vineyard Theatre, announced by the company’s Artistic Directors, Douglas Aibel and Sarah Stern.

Vineyard Theatre is located at 108 E. 15 St. in New York City. Member tickets for KID VICTORY will be available today, Monday, November 14 at 1pm, and tickets will be available to the general public on Monday, December 5 at www.vineyardtheatre.org or by calling 212-353-0303.

 In KID VICTORY, seventeen-year old Luke returns to his small Kansas town after a wrenching one-year absence. As his friendship grows with the town misfit, Emily, his parents realize that in order to truly find their son, they must confront some unnerving truths about his disappearance.  

 Four-time Tony Award winner John Kander, with the late Fred Ebb, wrote the legendary musicals CHICAGO, CABARET, and THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS, which premiered at Vineyard Theatre.  John Kander and Greg Pierce’s first collaboration, the musical THE LANDING, premiered in 2013 at The Vineyard. Liesl Tommy received a Tony Award nomination for her direction of ECLIPSED on Broadway. KID VICTORY is a co-production with Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia. 

 KID VICTORY  features an outstanding cast which are ANN ARVIA, JOEL BLUM, LAURA DARRELL, JEFFRY DENMAN, BRANDON FLYNN, DANIEL JENKINS, DEE ROSCIOLI, KAREN ZIEMBA, BLAKE ZOLFO and choreography by Christopher Windom (Dallas Theater Center’s LES MISERABLES), scenic design by Tony Award winner Clint Ramos (ECLIPSED), costumes by Jacob Climer (INFORMED CONSENT), lighting by David Weiner (Vineyard’s THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY), and sound design by Tony Award nominee Peter Hylenski (AFTER MIDNIGHT). David Loud (THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS) serves as music supervisor, Michael Starobin (FALSETTOS) as orchestrator, and Jesse Kissel (THE VISIT) as music director.

Photography: JK Clarke/Theater Pizzazz

Chita Rivera, John Kander
Chita Rivera
Chita Rivera, Terrence McNally

 Vineyard Theatre is located at 108 E. 15 St. in New York City.
For Tickets for KID VICTORY go to www.vineyardtheatre.org or by calling 212-353-0303.

The Great Comet of 1812 ****

By Isa Goldberg

Seeing THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 for the third time, and now with Josh Groban as Pierre at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway, I found the story itself so much clearer. Based on a segment of Tolstoy’s WAR AND PEACE, the musical’s plot is dense, and the relationships between the characters so tangled, that the story gets lost in the epic scope of the show. While its impact lies in this sense of endearing mystery, the underlying human experience remains inexplicable and otherworldly.

By Isa Goldberg

Seeing THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 for the third time, and now with Josh Groban as Pierre at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway, I found the story itself so much clearer. Based on a segment of Tolstoy’s WAR AND PEACE, the musical’s plot is dense, and the relationships between the characters so tangled, that the story gets lost in the epic scope of the show. While its impact lies in this sense of endearing mystery, the underlying human experience remains inexplicable and otherworldly.

But Groban, an operatic pop singer, has the gift of a great storyteller. In his own soul-searching performances, he sings about intimate experiences, opening the door for the audience to see who he is. Often these songs are about the quest for love or failed love. Here, in his Broadway debut, his silvery, well-balanced voice paints pictures so vividly, we don’t get lost in the on-stage mania, which is nearly bacchanalian at times. In the Russia of 1812 after all, we’re on the threshold of Napoleon’s invasion and the Great War of 1812.  Events are spiraling out of control.

Enter Groban’s Pierre – an existential anti-hero, a brooding man, in an unhappy marriage. As in Tolstoy’s novel, it’s he who brings the human dimension to the story. His surprising transformation, inspired by the realization of his love for Natasha and his apocryphal vision of the Comet of 1812, speak to the restorative power of love and faith.  Groban, an awesome romantic lead, pulls it off.

Imperial Theater
249 W 45th St, New York, NY 10036
(212) 239-6200
Running time: Two Hours, 35 Minutes
Photo: Chad Batka

Monopoly ****

Monopoly: Singing the Lives  from Baltic Avenue to Boardwalk

By: Paulanne Simmons

From its earliest beginnings in 16th century France, cabaret has always been the purlieu of writers and artists. So it should not be surprising that cabarets have always been subversive. Billie Roe must have had this in mind when she created her newest theme show, Monopoly: Singing the Lives from Baltic Avenue to Boardwalk, which she brought to Don’t Tell Mama on Feb. 12

Monopoly: Singing the Lives  from Baltic Avenue to Boardwalk

By: Paulanne Simmons

From its earliest beginnings in 16th century France, cabaret has always been the purlieu of writers and artists. So it should not be surprising that cabarets have always been subversive. Billie Roe must have had this in mind when she created her newest theme show, Monopoly: Singing the Lives from Baltic Avenue to Boardwalk, which she brought to Don’t Tell Mama on Feb. 12

As anyone who has ever played Monopoly knows, Baltic Avenue is cheap and probably where the undesirables live, while Boardwalk is prime real estate. Thus Roe’s show becomes not only a means for her to tell the story family vacations and family rivalry but also the story of our nation’s struggles with class. 

As directed by Mark Nadler, Roe is an excellent storyteller. Her vacations in upstate New York come alive, along with all the characters she creates to sing the songs: the aging Jewish woman, Sophie Gerstein; a hipster; a homeless woman.

Roe has chosen an eclectic mix of old and new songs. She begins very appropriately with Mark Mitchell’s “Cone on! Let’s Play Monopoly.” From there it’s not a huge jump to Ted Koehler and Harold Arlen’s Depression era “Raisin’ the Rent.”

Not surprisingly, many of the songs are about finances or the lack of them: Rickie Lee Jones’ “Easy Money,” John Fogerty’s “Fortunate Son.” But Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s “September Song” and U2 Bono’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” are an apt reminder that the loss of love can be more painful than the lack of money.

Although Roe creates numerous characters, it is her own personality and her formidable pipes that dominate the show. Part actress, part singer, with a strong dose of the vixen, Roe makes us remember that the purpose of cabaret is not only to make us smile. It’s also supposed to make us think.


Don’t Tell Mama – 343 West 46 Street – 212 757-0788

Billie Roe

The Object Lesson ***

By: Patrick Christiano

Be forewarned The Object Lesson created by Geoff Sobelle and directed by David Neumann, also a choreographer, dancer and actor, is a performance art piece running roughly 100 minutes at the New York Theatre Workshop. Sobelle is also the only credited actor, although another person in the guise of an audience member interacts with him.  In his biography Sobelle calls himself an actor, director and maker of absurdist performance art, and the press release says he is mainly interested in moments of “the sublime ridiculous.” 

By: Patrick Christiano

Be forewarned The Object Lesson created by Geoff Sobelle and directed by David Neumann, also a choreographer, dancer and actor, is a performance art piece running roughly 100 minutes at the New York Theatre Workshop. Sobelle is also the only credited actor, although another person in the guise of an audience member interacts with him.  In his biography Sobelle calls himself an actor, director and maker of absurdist performance art, and the press release says he is mainly interested in moments of “the sublime ridiculous.”

For The Object Lesson, which played at BAM’s 2014 Next Wave Festival to much acclaim, the NYTW’s open space resembles a warehouse full of clutter filled with piles upon piles of cardboard boxes and objects of all sorts, impressively designed by Steven Dufala. In fact, the scenic installation may be the best part of the show as audience members are encouraged to go early to roam the setting and sift through the debris. “Enjoy yourself,” a program notes says “All this stuff has been waiting for you! Take a box and open it. Explore. Find someone curious in the room and give them something…” Indeed, if you want a good seat, you must go early.  Many audience members settled for sitting on hastily arranged boxes since there is a limited number of actual seats available on the sofas or chairs that are part of the design.

Photo: Barry Gordin

When we finally meet Sobelle he talks at the audience as opposed to engaging them in the performance piece that is basically five vignettes not actually connected to one another. There is a clever one where the guest makes a phone call, and then the phone calls back repeating the first call to create a second conversation.

The highlight and most inventive is when Sobelle in ice skates prepares dinner for an audience member, which consists of chopping the lettuce and carrots for her salad with his skates before launching into a dance on top of the table.

The final piece has Sobelle unpacking a bottomless box giving us a glimpse of his life from the present to the past. Part clown, part magician and highly athletic Sobelle cuts an entertaining figure, however for my taste the show is too long. Give me old fashioned theater with real dramatic impact.

Lighting design by Christopher Kuhl and sound design by Nick Kourtides were more than serviceable.

The Object Lesson is now playing at the New York Theater Workshop, 79 East 4th St. through March 5, 2017.
For Tickets Click Here
Photos: Joan Marcus