A Long and Winding ‘Road to Mecca’ By Isa Goldberg/Chief Theater Critic
Quoting Albert Camus, the English teacher (Carla Gugino) exclaims, “Rebellion starts with just one man or woman standing up and saying: No. Enough!” In “The Road to Mecca,” playwright Athol Fugard explores that “rebellion” in terms of one septuagenarian’s survival.
By Patrick Christiano The luminous Rosemary Harris is a joy to behold in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s handsome production of Athol Fugard’s poetic tale, The Road to Mecca. The play directed by Gordon Edelstein is set in 1974 at the home of an elderly widow, Miss Helen (Harris), and the story focuses on her uncertainty and her struggle to live alone in a rural spot of South Africa’s remote Karoo region. The drama probes the challenges of the creative spirit in a climate infused with a lack of tolerance for anything different. The atmosphere in this remote area is dominated by a go to church every Sunday mentality and a limiting mindset.
By Patrick Christiano Canadian hip-hop theater artist Baba Brinkman has returned to the SoHo Playhouse with The Canterbury Tales Remixed, following a successful run at the theater this past fall of his The Rap Guide to Evolution. In his current hip-hop show Binkman, who has toured his work worldwide including the Edinburgh Fringe, directs an assorted mix of three of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales interwoven with some pieces of the epic poems, Gilgamesh and Beowulf. The resourceful evening is a shrewd blending of hip hop and poetry for a clever effect. Unfortunately the huge video background competes with his performance almost dominating the proceedings.
Jackie Hoffman’s “A Chanukah Charol” or I’m the greatest kvetch!
By Sandi Durell
Patrick Stewart thought he had the holiday season covered with “A Christmas Carol.” Nah, it was only part of the story. It takes a self-loathing Jew to complete the episode; specifically Jackie Hoffman. Who else could take a good hard look at herself, display her flaws and unashamedly trash herself in front of an audience – – she’s one-of-a-kind. Charles Dickens would turn over if he got a glimpse of this 50 laugh-a-minute show, as Hoffman brings her own brand of Ghosts of Chanukah Past, Present and Future into focus.
By Isa Goldberg / Chief Theater Critic There are lots of reminders in “Follies.” Some of them are wonderful.
Sally and Ben and Buddy and Phyllis are a throwback to the swinging couples of the early 70s, which is when the show premiered. When we meet them in this revival of the Stephen Sondheim/James Goldman classic, the middle-aged ex- chorus girls and their husbands are reunited to celebrate their lives as Ziegfeld Follies-like dancers in the theater, now on the eve of destruction. Evoking the Golden Age of Broadway, “Follies” vamps on that lavish theatricality.
By Isa Goldberg/Chief Theater Critic More than smoldering guns, it’s the criminal attraction between Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan that is holding audiences captive. Playing the titular lovers in the new musical “Bonnie & Clyde” the two actors ignite each other. Osnes, who appeared on Broadway most recently as Hope in “Anything Goes,” made her Broadway debut in the revival of “Grease,” a role she won through a reality television competition. Now, as the gangster’s moll, (and Clara Bow wannabe), Osnes tears away at the straight-laced charm which characterized her earlier Broadway roles. Finally, her satiny singing voice feels easy and consistent.
‘Godspell’ is in its Second Coming By Isa Goldberg/Chief Theater Critic One of the bigger energy rushes in Manhattan right now, “Godspell,” with an updated text, an ethnically diverse young cast, and on stage baptisms, is making a splash on Broadway. Although at times it looks more like “America’s Got Talent” than The Gospel According to Matthew, it’s still the most entertaining Sunday school lesson I’ve seen, and great entertainment for kids (more so than for their parents).
By Isa Goldberg/Chief Theater Critic Nina Arianda’s New York stage debut was mind blowing. This, I mused, must have been what it was like to see Barbra Streisand when she was just starting out. Since her New York debut Off Broadway in “Venus in Fur,” Arianda’s career has taken off. A Tony nod for her reprisal of the Judy Holliday role in “Born Yesterday,” and a stand out part in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.”
‘Chinglish,’ An American in China By Isa Goldberg / Chief Theater Critic A masterful piece of investigative reporting, Mike Daisey’s “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” currently at the Public Theater, addresses the exploitation of factory workers in Shenzhen outside of Hong Kong where electronics devices from Apple’s to Dell’s are manufactured. Daisey demonstrates how American consumerism, our need for more and better products, drives the insufferable conditions in China’s factories. An indictment of the economic forces that lead to slave labor, Daisey’s new monologue is well documented, forceful, and humanizing.
By Isa Goldberg / Chief Theater Critic The entertainment value of Broadway seems to have peaked with concert performances by Hugh Jackman, and Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin making the headlines. So far, the season is more style than substance. To that end, “Relatively Speaking,” a group of one-act plays, (the kind of fare that would fit more comfortably off Broadway), now arrives with top guns Woody Allen, Ethan Coen and Elaine May as the authors of three comedy sketches that are just a cut above borsht belt variety acts.
At “The Mountaintop” and Beyond By Isa Goldberg / Chief Theater Critic In London where “The Mountaintop” premiered last season, playwright Katori Hall was granted the Olivier Award, making her the first African American woman to receive England’s highest theatrical honor. Now arriving on the Great White Way, the production boasts the prominent marquis names: Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett. Fortunately, both actors deliver outstanding performances.
The Playwright and His Double By Isa Goldberg / Chief Theater Critic Playwright Jeff Talbott makes his debut with “The Submission,” a play which just happens to be about a playwright’s breakthrough work. It’s an intriguing premise: Written under the pseudonym Shaleeha G’natamobi, Danny’s (Jonathan Groff’s) new play is about a black family that is trying to find a way of the projects.
A Nightmarish Dinner Party Kicks Off ‘Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling’ By Isa Goldberg / Chief Theater Critic
In the elegant formal dining room of the Cabot’s opulent Connecticut home, the dinner party that unfolds is as savage an affair as one can find, even in an Adam Rapp play. His latest, “Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling,” transplants scenes of insufferable depravity from his familiar venues – a squalid cabin in the backwoods (“Ghosts in the Cottonwoods”), a roadside motel room where the blood squirts around like ketchup (“Animals and Plants”), or a seedy East Village apartment inhabited by naked men (“Finer Nobler Gases”).
Director Stephen Daldry’s Billy Elliot the Musical, based on his beloved 2000 movie, about a boy in a small mining town, who discovers his love for ballet, is simply sensational. Without a doubt the best musical we have seen in years, a truly inspired work of magic. Every element of Daldry’s meticulously thought out transfer from celluloid to stage has been brought to brilliant musical fruition and the dancing is spectacular. The result is an electrifying big, bold, socially relevant Broadway musical told with real heart and soul.