It is difficult to find anything flattering to say about the Off Broadway musical “The Tin Pan Alley Rag” which opened at Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre. That is especially disappointing because it celebrates the works of two iconic American composers, Irving Berlin (Michael Therriault) and Scott Joplin (Michael Boatman).
Well known for his political and social satire, playwright Christopher Durang is at it again with “Why Torture Is Wrong, And The People Who Love Them”. Like the unwieldy title, this new work at the Public Theater takes up a litany of topical issues from terrorism, American militarism and spousal abuse, to suburban life, Hooters (the restaurant), Looney Tunes and Jane Fonda.
Any play that begins by projecting the word “theme” across the stage must be making a statement. In Moises Kaufman’s new drama that statement leads to some thick soup.
In “33 Variations”, Fonda portrays Dr. Katherine Brandt, a musicologist who is writing a monograph about the birth of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, how it came about, and what it is. Sadly, this academic quest which frames the story, also dominates it. Parallels between Beethoven’s deafness and Brandt’s terminal illness, between Beethoven’s creative process and Brandt’s personal revelations proliferate.
Geoffrey Rush’s portrayal of the megalomaniacal ruler, King Berenger, in the Broadway revival of Eugene Ionesco’s 1962 absurdist comedy Exit the King is pure genius. Granted Ionesco may be an acquired taste, but working with a new translation by Neil Armfield , who also directs, Rush’s brilliant interpretation of the dying monarch carries the rarely seen play to tragicomic heights. The King’s incompetence has left his country in near ruin, giving the evening a timeliness that feels all the more relevant in the wake of the Bush administration.
Call it the “wow” effect. Or, in the idiom of “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”,“Hosanna”. For what a glorious revival this is of August Wilson’s play about African Americans in a Pittsburgh boarding house in 1911. Here the melody of daily life juts up against religious and folkloric ritual, symbolism blends with realism, human and divine comedies merge.
When stage and screen legend Angela Lansbury makes her first entrance in the Broadway revival of Noel Coward’s frothy 1941 comedy Blithe Spirit nearly fifteen minutes into the performance, the multiple Tony award winning grande dame practically stops the show. The extended applause comes in waves that ebb and flow for a full two minutes or more drowning out the dialogue as the actors move right along with the enthusing action without skipping a beat. They carry on as if unaware of the stupendous outpouring of love coming across the footlights. The Broadway icon, now 83 years old, inhabits the eccentric Madame Arcati, the psychic medium who is the catalyst for the unfolding action.
When PAL JOEY star, Cristian Hoff, injured his foot prior to the show’s opening, it revealed to me something about the old saying “break a leg” that lies at the heart of all superstitions, namely “be careful of what you wish for”.
The bracing revival of Martin McDonagh’s black comedy, The Cripple ofInishmaan, with a deeply moving Aaron Monaghan as the twisted orphan Billy at the center of the bleak tale, may be the least violent of McDonagh’s plays, even his most wistful infused with charming depictions of Gaelic eccentricities. But amidst McDonagh’s sweet ironic humor there is also his trademark pathos and savagery that becomes all the more disturbing in this quiet, yet unpredictable world set on the isolated Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland.
Now in prieviws at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway. Scheduled to open on April 2, 2009. (see listings). What follow is a a review of the Off Broadway production
Neil LaBute’s new comedy Reasons to be Pretty continues his examination of our obsession with physical beauty in what may be his most mature work to date. Making its world premier at the Lucille Lortel Theater in Greenwich Village, the MCC production is expertly directed by Terry Kinney. And while the play may not add up completely the actors with thrilling authority deliver visceral performances that hilariously cover the evening’s shortcomings.
Richard Greenberg’s drama The American Plan, set at a lakeside home in the Catskills during the summer of 1960, is an engrossing play with interesting spins on love and identity. When a handsome young man swims across the lake from a nearby resort hotel, he sets in motion an escalating series of conflicts between a beautiful young heiress and her German-Jewish emigrant mother.
That the revival of “Guys and Dolls” that opened at Broadway’s Nederlander Theater reflects merely the conventional and uninspired should come as no
surprise. Frank Loesser’s 1950 musical comedy ranks as one of the greatest in the American theatrical canon. So it brings a well-prepared audience and one with haughty expectations. A notorious gambler himself, Frank Sinatra made a hit of “Luck Be A Lady”, popularizing it with his signature smoothness. In the show’s 1992 Broadway revival, Nathan Lane brought such bold physical comedy to the role of Nathan Detroit that New York Times theater critic Frank Rich compared him to a young Jackie Gleason.
“All the world’s a stage”, so said Shakespeare. But this season in New York City, all the world’s a circus. Amidst the multitude of goings on for children, there are a couple of new and revised circus shows of note.
Liza Minnelli is in rare form and performing an audacious miracle at the Palace Theater with her brand new show that runs well over two hours and includes many of her memorable standards including “Cabaret.” The charismatic three time Tony Award winning superstar “razzle dazzled” the opening night audience with a confident, gritty and of often magical display of showmanship.
Daniel Radcliffe, the star of the five "Harry Potter" films, acquits himself admirably with a confident Broadway debut as the disturbed adolescent Alan Strang at the core of Peter Shaffer’s 1973 psychodrama Equus. The revival directed by Thea Sharrock debuted at London’s National Theatre earlier this year with the same theatrically impressive design team. John Napier, set and costume designer, merely takes a fresh look as his original 1970’s sketches, but the staging is nonetheless dazzling with effectively haunting lighting and sound by David Hersey and Gregory Clarke respectively.
Mary-Louise Parker cuts a handsome figrue as the trapped herione, Hedda Gabler, in the Roundabout Theater Company’s odd production of Ibsen’s classic character study. Christopher Shinn’s new adaptation is more direct and the evening helmed by Ian Rickson has an aggressive contemporary tone that is uneven and obvious.