Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Julie Feeney: Live Off Broadway for 10 Nights

Julie Feeney, the dramatic, flamboyant Irish star and prodigious singer, conductor, and performer is set to touch down in New York to perform for 10 nights off-Broadway (April 25 – May 6) in a music and theatrical show at the Irish Arts Center, to be co-directed by PS122’s Vallejo Gantner.Winner of the Choice Music Prize (Ireland’s equivalent of the Mercury Prize) Feeney made her New York debut at Joe’s Pub in 2011 before the US release of her album ‘pages’. Since then she has quickly amassed critical acclaim for her uncompromising sound that both Village Voice and Time Out New York called “captivating,” drawing comparisons to everyone from Sufjan Stevens and Elvis Costello to Lady Gaga and Bjork.

Feeney’s music, melding elements of Laurie Anderson, David Bowie, June Tabor and Philip Glass, is complemented by an ethereal stage show that features outrageous fashion and unconventional instrumentation arranged by Feeney. The highly distinguished Feeney has been called "charming, urbane and dreamy" by the New York Times, "the Emerald Isle's Original" by the Washington Post and "an eccentric pop genius" by Hot Press.

At the Irish Arts Center each night, Feeney will be joined by a small orchestra of strings, singers, recorders, sticks, guitar, keyboards, and trumpet.

KEY DETAILSWho: Julie FeeneyWhere: Irish Arts Center (553 West 51st Street [between 10th and 11th Avenues]; Subway C, E to 50th Street
When: April 25th – May 6th, 2012 | Time:  Wednesday to Sunday at 8pmTickets: $20/$18 | Booking: 866 811 4111 More info:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review, HIM: More than Meets the Eye

HIM @ Soho Playhosue
HIM, has moved to the Soho Playhouse from a sold-out run at the Cherry Lane theater.  The show is a look at the price we are willing to pay to achieve our dreams; in this case, the dream of stardom versus the dream of happily ever after.  
Jon Fleming and Todd Alan Crain discuss Nick's career in HIM
Jon Fleming is Nick, a handsome young actor, who is on the cusp of breaking to the ranks of Hollywood leading men.  Todd Alan Crain is Matthew, his gay partner, confidant, and emotional rock.  There is a very obvious story here, Nick gets famous and has to give up Matthew.
But HIM has more on its mind than the obvious.  Matthew isn’t a demure and quiet lover, pining away in silence and self-doubt.  Matthew, excellently played by Mr. Crain, is a true partner of Nick, with a career outside of “husband”.  They have plotted out their journey together. And, when the glamour goes to Nick’s head, Matthew takes action.  Matthew confronts Nick’s Manager, Lindsay Goranson throwing herself into the role with venom, about the choices she is making.  She is sidelining Matthew not just to promote Nick, but to ruin their relationship.  It is over the top, but if you have dealt with Hollywood, it is also totally believable.
There is a great supporting cast in Julian Mercer, Georgia X Lifsher and James Sautter.  They bring life and honesty to the proceedings that, sometimes, threaten to veer into caricature.  Julian Mercer delivers the gay comic quips with aplomb.  Georgia Lifsher plays the Latinia beard just this side of Charo.  And James Sautter actually brings some warmth to the eye candy role, which could have easily become a “naked man #2” billet.
The emotional weight of HIM depends on Jon Fleming, who must be self-confident, but desire validation.  Jon Fleming plays Nick as dim, but not stupid – it sometimes seems that young Nick has made a choice to ignore things that bother him, to be blissfully unaware.  And circumstances force him to confront what he doesn’t want to.  Mr. Fleming brings a natural warmth to the role.
HIM isn’t a deeply tragic play, but it is a very well written and performed piece with a real emotional center.
HIM at SoHo Playhouse
Playwright: Clifford Streit
Director: Clifford Streit
Cast: Jon Fleming, Todd Alan Crain, Lindsay Goranson, Julian Mercer, Georgia Lifsher, James Sautter
Runs Through: April 7

The Wonders of New York (check your town)

So, yesterday I was reminded how amazing New York can be.  I attended a workshop of M – The Musical.
It was a very early reading – and in this case singing – of a work in progress for a new musical.  It was arranged by The Fundamental Theater Project as part of the development process for new works.  I didn’t attend as a critic, but as person able to see and hear something new, and give constructive feedback. 
Anastasia Barzee:
A Killer Lady MacBeth (in the best way)
So, the amazing part?  Well, I cannot believe the creative and talent of Garth Kravits (who did the Music and Lyrics) as well as Laurie Wessely who adapted the book.  It is a pleasure to hear this so early.  And who knows where it goes.  Some things go on to be great, and some never go on.  But to see it this early was a treat.
Also amazing, the talent of the people that sang this and brought it together out of respect for the piece.  The talent was stupendous, really.  New York is awash in people trying to make it in the theater; and too few get the big break.  I wish more people could have heard these voices, some of which are known and some, unknown.  They were great.
If you are interested in seeing some works being developed, keep an eye pealed for theater groups that do this in your neighborhood.  If you happen to be in, or visiting, New York you can contact the Fundamental Theater Project which runs think-tanks regularly (website). 

Monday, March 26, 2012

One Acts in Provincetown

PROVINCETOWN 2012, four one-act plays by the prolific writing team of Eugene O’Neill, Louise Bryant, Floyd Dell and Pendelton King, all writers of one-acts originally produced by the historic PROVINCETOWN PLAYERS performs on Tuesdays March 27th & April 3rd, under the auspices of New York’s Group Theatre Too. Visit: for tickets. Media:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Broadway Review: Jesus Christ Superstar (ish)

If you don’t know Jesus Christ Superstar, one of the preeminent rock operas, then you have been well out of the world of musical theater.  It is a famous show that has been made into a famous movie.  You may not have seen either one, but it is the rare person that doesn’t know the music, and even more rare, a person that doesn’t know the story.  And so, everyone enters with an idea of what the show will be like.
Chilina Kennedy, Josh Young and Paul Nolan
It is the story of the 5 days before Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, from the viewpoint of Judas – a devoted apostle beginning to question the turn of events.  Judas sees the celebrity of Jesus overshadowing the message he brings.  Judas watches the action with a wary eye, noticing every misstep.  Chilina Kennedy plays Mary Magdalene as a counterpoint.  Mary watches the action seeing only the good; casting a loving gaze at Jesus and his teachings.  Ms. Kennedy is excellent in bringing a silent poignancy to the action.

Paul Nolan plays Jesus as a cipher, a choice of the original writers, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, redoubled here by director Des McAnuff.  Mr. Nolan’s Jesus is weary and ready to lay down his burden.  But, more than that, Jesus is a real dud here, coasting through his entry to Jerusalem based on his out of town notices.

As Judas, Josh Young is captivating.  His frustration with the proceedings grows, as Jesus won’t listen to his advice.  Judas is torn and looks for a way to correct the course of events.  But he has been chosen by God to do the ultimate betrayal. Mr. Young uses a powerful voice to bring his emotions out.  However, like Mr. Nolan and Ms. Kennedy, the singing voices are inconsistent.  Usually they are excellent – particularly Mr. Young’s, but they occasionally wander into odd directions simply to be different from the previous incarnations of the show.  That rarely works. 

Bruce Dow does Herrod
Tom Hewitt, as Pontius Pilate, is marvelous.  He captures both the ambivalence and frustration of the character and manages the stage with tremendous presence and voice.  Bruce Dow does a similar yeoman’s job with the showy King Herod role.  Together they illustrate what a frustrating and empty character Jesus is in this show.  Where their characters fill the stage, Jesus disappears into thin air right before us.

Artistically, the stage is wonderful, all modern steel that gives a defiant feel of an occupied land.  Musically, someone needs to turn down the orchestrations.  It was often difficult to hear the words of the songs as they were overpowered by the orchestra. 

Back to expectations.  It is impossible to go into this show without some serious ideas of what it should be.  (Indeed, along with the message to turn off cell-phones, there should be an announcement that this is not a sing-a-long!)  And so Jesus Christ Superstar has to compete with the audience’s expectations and memories.  This presentation is very good, but not good enough to overcome the problems inherent in the show.
Jesus Christ, Superstar at Neil Simon Theatre
Music and Lyrics: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice
Director: Des McAnuff
Cast includes: Paul Nolan, Josh Young, Chilina Kennedy, Tom Hewitt, Bruce Dow, Marcus Nance, Aaron Walpole
Runs Through:

David Burnham in Mostly Broadway - a Cabaret

I was lucky enough this last week-end to see David Burnham in cabaret at a venue called Hyde at Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort.  It was a special event week-end and Mr. Burnham played one evening.

Mr. Burnham is a veteran Broadway actor and singer, having played in Light in the Piazza, Wicked, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat among others.  At Hyde, he serenaded the audience with some stories, some jokes and some amazing singing.

Cabaret can be a challenge, particularly in a non-traditional venue.  Although Hyde had a nice little stage, the set up was awkward.  However, after Mr. Burnham took the stage, that hardly mattered.  He brings a stagecraft that draws your attention and he has the serious pipes to keep your interest at all times.  He would share an anecdote, usually about a show he was in or a casting disaster, then sing a song from the show or related to it.  It is a time tested formula that never felt formulaic with him.  He made the story feel fresh, and the audience like a group of friends that happened over to see him.

Mr. Burnham has a love of the theater and traditions that is contagious.  He told a story of the famous John Raitt, a role model of his in many ways.  Years later he played in the same theater that John Raitt played in Carousel, and was visited backstage by Mr. Raitt’s widow.  It was a touching story that felt real and unforced.

Mr. Burnham was accompanied by a keyboardist who sang a few songs with him, an excellent Mark Vogel.  In one of those cabaret moments, a Broadway friend, Jonathan, joined him for a cool as ice rendition of “Africa”.  He also brought up a drag entertainer and they sang a medley of I Am Who I Am and Born This Way.  It was a fitting, friendly, fun way to wrap up a tremendous evening.

You can find more out about David Burnham, including his album collection and upcoming appearances at

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Big Meal; A Tasty Treat

The Big Meal, is an ambitious and emotional telling of the life of Sam and Nicole – from first date, through their marriage and children.  It isn’t just the scope of the story that is so ambitious; it is the use of 4 talented couples that play the characters at various points in their life.  As each character matures, the responsibility for playing these character shifts to another talented actor.  And Sam and Nikki have a full life of parents, in-laws, children, and grandchildren, so the 
character flow is nearly constant.

Cameron Scoggins and Phoebe Strole
The Big Meal sounds confusing in this way, but it is not.  The actors are marvelous, switching roles easily, without the audience getting lost.  And it isn’t the use of big gimmicks that these characters transfer. There is no ruffled boa, or top hat.  But somehow the essence of each character is transferred simply and effectively.

The action, really tiny vignettes, is played out a in a series of restaurants – where the highlights of life occur.  Sometimes entire days or weeks are captured with just a line or two, before we move on to the next date.  

This is particularly true in the early part of the show, where Sam and Nicole are played as young people navigating the dating scene and introducing themselves – we see both who they are and what they are trying to project.  Cameron Scoggins and Phoebe Strole set the tone with these two people falling, cautiously, in love.  As the show progresses, the pieces grow to larger scenes – to accommodate the family we create and gather as Sam and Nicole become a couple, then a family.  As the adult Nicole, Jennifer Mudge anchors much of the action.  And, since children arrive and her mother-in-law drinks and her father-in-law tells racist jokes, a mooring place is needed.  Ms. Mudge is excellent in a terrific cast.  Anita Gillette is equally great, inhabiting the characters of several older women – each different from each other, but all with a solid family foundation.

The sharing of a meal can be humdrum and casual, but is also one of the last communal activities, particularly when taken outside of the home.  A meal is often where people gather and talk of the day.  It is where promises are made, lies come out, and positions are negotiated with in-laws.  It is relatable, everyone eats, and everyone has had the awkward, wonderful or hopeful meal. 

However, The Big Meal is a taunt 90 minutes, and there have to be some compromises.  So, the emotion depends on experiences of the audience for emotional impact.  An older father dies and a family loses a young child.  We care because everyone has lived through something like that.  These great actors, and by being able to transfer characters between them argue for the commonality of people.  It works, but it lessens the emotional impact when something happens to a particular character.  If you take a character from her 20s to her 90s, someone is going to pass on - actually quite a few people.  And the audience often does feel the impact.  But it is a short-hand impact; presentation, heartache and catharsis as we quickly move on to the next life changing event.
The cast of The Big Meal portraying three generations

It is an interesting piece written by Dan LeFranc, handled excellently by director Sam Gold.  Together with a cast up to the challenge, it is a meal that will stay with you long after you have left the theater.
The Big Meal at Playwrights Horizon
PlaywrightDan LeFranc
DirectorSam Gold
Cast: David Wilson Barnes, Griffin Birney, Tom Bloom, Anita Gillette, Jennifer Mudge, Rachel Resheff, Cameron Scroggins, Phoebe Strole, Molly Ward
Runs Through:

Monday the 26th - M: The Musical Reading

Garth Kravits as in
"Music and Lyrics by"
The Fundamental Theater Project will present a free developmental reading of M: The Musical, a new musical with music and lyrics by Garth Kravits and book adapted from the Shakespeare text by Laurie Wessely, on Monday, March 26 at 8pm at Pearl Studios. The reading will feature musical direction by Mark Hartman.
In addition to Kravits, the cast will feature, Susan Ancheta, Anastasia Barzee, Sean Dougherty, Sean Haberle, Jonathan Holtzman, Nehal Joshi, Michael Kostroff, Kim Marable, Selloane Nkhela, Godfrey L. Simmons Jr, Thom Christopher Warren, and Joanna Young.
Reservations are required by emailing
For more information, visit

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Broadway Stars Join 3rd Annual Earth Day Benefit Concert

Broadway Stars Join 3rd Annual Earth Day Benefit Concert
Sunday, April 22 at Joe's Pub

AT HAND THEATRE COMPANY's 3rd annual Earth Day concert, BROADWAY RECYCLED,will take place on Sunday, April 22nd at 7pm at Joe's Pub. The concert of songs cut from musicals – songs that shouldn't go to waste - benefits the Broadway Green Alliance and At Hand Theatre Company. The concert will be directed by Jennifer Ashley Tepper with musical direction by Julie McBride.

This year's BROADWAY RECYCLED concert will feature performances by Alexis Field (Angelina Ballerina, 4th Wall's Spitfire Grill), J. Michael Friedman (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Saved), Annie Golden (The Full Monty, Xanadu), Randy Graff (City of Angels, A Class Act), Curt Hansen (Next To Normal, Hairspray), Jessica Kent (The Joe Iconis Christmas Spectacular), Kait Kerrigan (The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown, Henry and Mudge), Nikka Lanzarone (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Chicago), Jeremy Morse (Bloodsong of Love, Engeman's A Wonderful Life), Jacey Powers (Our Town, The Shanghai Gesture), Krysta Rodriguez (The Addams Family, In The Heights), Jason Tam (A Chorus Line, Lysistrata Jones), Marty Thomas (Xanadu, Wicked), Kate Wetherhead (Legally Blonde, Ordinary Days), Jason SweetTooth Williams (Bloodsong of Love, Things To Ruin), and Alex Wyse (Lysistrata Jones, Academy).

Concertgoers at BROADWAY RECYCLED can expect to hear songs cut from Anyone Can Whistle, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Cabaret, Carrie, Elegies: A Song Cycle, Follies, The Full Monty, Hair, The Last 5 Years, Legally Blonde, Little Shop of Horrors, The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown, Vanities, and Working.

At Hand Theatre Company (Dan Horrigan, Artistic Director; Justin Scribner, Executive Director) was founded in 2007 with a mission to produce new plays using environmentally conscious means. They explore creative, eco-friendly solutions that engage the imagination of the audience. Past productions include the World Premieres of As Wide As I Can See and Lila Cante by Mark Snyder, Anton Dudley's Letters to the End of the World, Dan Horrigan's My AiDS, Brian Dykstra’s Silence!, Andrea Lepcio’s One Nation Under, Jono Hustis’ Cake and Plays... But Without the Cake, and the New York Premiere of Trickster at the Gate by John Patrick Bray. For more information visit

BROADWAY RECYCLED will be presented Sunday, April 22nd at 7pm. Joe's Pub is located in The Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street at Astor Place -- accessible from the N/R trains at 8th Street or the #6 train at Astor Place. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door (subject to availability); a limited number of $75 tickets, which include preferred table seating and a poster autographed by the cast. For tickets call 212-967-7555 or visit

Monday, March 19, 2012

Upcoming: The Caretaker comes to BAM with Jonathan Pryce

If you've never seen The Caretaker, but love either Harold Pinter or Jonathan Pryce, here is the show for you.  BAM does amazing work. (from the BAM Website)

The Caretaker

Part of the 2012 Winter/Spring Season

May 3—Jun 17, 2012 (click on Performance Schedule tab above for details)

By Harold Pinter
Directed by Christopher Morahan
Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse/Theatre Royal Bath

“Pryce gives a first-rate performance that gradually reveals the viper lurking underneath the vagrant” —The Guardian (UK)

Jonathan Pryce—two-time Tony and Olivier Award winner (Miss SaigonHamlet) and film actor (BrazilPirates of the Caribbean)—leads a compelling cast in this major revival of Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker. This superb production by Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse/Theatre Royal Bath won glowing reviews in London and Liverpool for its penetrating new take on the play—and for Pryce’s tour-de-force performance as a repellant, darkly funny, and deeply human Davies.

A pair of working-class brothers allows a homeless man to stay in their decrepit London flat, an act of compassion that sparks a cycle of cruelties, delusions, and shifting loyalties in a desperate struggle over territory. Pinter’s first great success, this work powerfully displays his sharp intelligence, masterful and spare use of language, and uncompromising exploration of life’s menace and comedy.

BAM Harvey Theater
Run time: 2hrs 30min with intermission
Season ticket price*: $20—80 (May 10—27 only)
Full price*: $25—100

Upcoming: You Are In An Open Field

I love the Neo-Futurists - so I was excited to hear about this show.
The New York Neo-Futurists power up their first Nerdcore musical YOU ARE IN AN OPEN FIELD

New York, New York March 7, 2012—Downtown theater adventurers the New York Neo-Futurists are proud to present the world premiere the Nerdcore musical, YOU ARE IN AN OPEN FIELD, with book and lyrics by Kevin R. Free, Eevin Hartsough, Marta Rainer, and Adam Smith, music composed by Carl Riehl, and directed by Christopher Dippel. YOU ARE IN AN OPEN FIELD begins performances on Thursday, April 26 for a limited engagement through Saturday, May 19. The performance schedule is Thursday – Saturday at 7 PM, with added performances on Monday, April 30; Wednesday, May 9; Monday, May 14; and Wednesday, May 16 all at 7 PM. Press Opening is Thursday, May 3 at 7 PM. The regular ticket price is $18. Performances are at HERE (145 6th Avenue, enter on Dominick, one block south of Spring Street). For tickets, which will be on sale beginning on March 19, call Ovation Tix on212-352-3101 or visit For more information, visit

Three New York Neo-Futurists create their own versions of Zork, Minecraft and Zelda live on stage in their first Nerdcore musical. Acquiring treasures, meeting bosses and possessing their very own sage, Kevin, Marta and Adam build their own utopian universe set to a Nerdcore beat. YOU ARE IN AN OPEN FIELD is a modern hip-hoperetta that explores community and identity while trying to defeat the kickball monsters.  Will they win? Or is it game over, reset?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Upcoming: House Of Ghostly Haunts

Taking its cue from the classic Spook Shows of the past, Canal Park Playhouse revives this thrilling, chilling popular entertainment for the 21st Century. Kicking off with trailers from classic cult horror films from the 1950s, the magician Cardone takes the stage for a spellbinding magic show that embraces the strange, the macabre and the fantastical.

While HOUSE OF GHOSTLY HAUNTS is family friendly, no one under age 7 is permitted. The show ends in 10 minutes of complete darkness.  Performances of HOUSE OF GHOSTLY HAUNTS take place at Canal Park Playhouse (508 Canal Street, between Greenwich and West Streets in Tribeca).

HOUSE OF GHOSTLY HAUNTS begins performances on Tuesday, March 27 for a limited engagement through Tuesday, April 17. The performance schedule is Tuesdays at 7 PM. The regular ticket price is $20. For tickets or more information, call OvationTix on 1-866-811-4111 or visit

Monday, March 12, 2012


The Civilians Debut Latest Theatrical Investigation
Off-Broadway Engagement Begins Previews April 7

The Flea Theater and The Civilians present the New York Premiere of The Civilians'  YOU BETTER SIT DOWN: TALES FROM MY PARENTS’ DIVORCE, by Anne Kauffman, Matthew Maher, Caitlin Miller, Jennifer R. Morris, Janice Paran and Robbie Collier Sublett. Conceived by Jennifer R. Morris and directed by Anne Kauffman, previews begin April for this limited-run Off-Broadway engagement, with opening night slated for April 12.

Four members of The Civilians sat their parents down and asked them for the real story behind their divorces. Each actor assumes the role of their own mother or father (or in one case, both) in a show crafted entirely from those verbatim interviews.  YOU BETTER SIT DOWN: TALES FROM MY PARENTS’ DIVORCE is shockingly candid, unexpectedly hilarious, and proves that what we want to know about our parents’ lives and what we actually should know are two totally different things.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Upcoming: In Masks Outrageous and Austere

Tennessee William's final work is on slate for the Culture Project next month.  The play "In Masks Outrageous and Austere" runs April 6th to May 26th.  The play is described as:

Tennessee Williams goes for broke in his final work, exploring the surreal, the nefarious, and the erotic in ways never before attempted by the great American master.  The richest woman in the world, her gay husband and his young lover are thrust into a mystery world, defined by disorientation and paranoia, where they are held captive by omnipotent corporate forces.  A cast of bizarre characters enters their increasingly threatening environment, and tensions reach a fever pitch as trust among the three protagonists begins to disintegrate.  In Mask Outrageous and Austere takes its characters -- and its audience -- to a wholly unique theatrical realm that’s every bit as thrilling as it is dangerous.
Full Information and the Website after the jump.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Eternal Equinox: A Passion for Life on the Cusp

Eternal Equinox, now on stage at 59E59 Theatres, is a delicious look at love, jealousy and commitment in Edwardian England.  It is a feast of language, vivid descriptions and emotions, which are lovingly spread out for the audience.  The three-player piece is set within a group of actual friends who were talented, accomplished, famous, and deeply in love with both each other and with life.

The trinity of characters is comprised of Vanessa Bell, sister of Virginia Woolf, and a founding member of the “Bloomsbury Group”, Duncan Grant, an eminent painter, avowed homosexual and companion to the married Vanessa Bell, and George Mallory, a mountain climber who mapped one of the most famous routes up Mt. Everest.  From the perspective of 2012, this might read like a B list of 1920 celebrities – but the production illuminates a very different perspective.  These are radiant personalities, alive with promise and a fantastic futures awaiting them.
It is set on eve of George Mallory’s latest (and, ultimately, final) attempt to conquer Mt. Everest.  George arrives unexpectedly at the Sussex country house - the day after Vanessa Bell’s 45th birthday.  Duncan and Vanessa’s relationship is complex, to say the least.  Vanessa is married to another man and has sons with her (unseen) husband.  She also has a daughter by Duncan Grant, her homosexual companion.  Duncan and Vanessa love each other, even though Vanessa is married and Duncan is gay.  Duncan, although true in his love of Vanessa, never the less sleeps with a steady stream of men.  This relationship works, for the most part, although it can be fraught with occasional jealousies and slights.  The arrival of the handsome George Mallory is an occasion for both celebration and trepidation for Duncan and Vanessa; each of them have longed for George at one time or another.

Eternal Equinox takes this triangle, and explores it in fascinating and unexpected ways.  Of course, the expected jealousies rise up and threaten relationships. But these characters are fierce in their determination to stay true to themselves and in their affection for one another.  The zest they have for love and life forces them to examine their own motivations.

The actors do a great job of inhabiting these characters.  As Vanessa Bell, Hollis McCarthy brings a level of venerability to the role that illuminates, rather than diminishes Vanessa.  Michael Gabriel Goodfriend plays the impetuous Duncan Grant, a painter and free spirit that needs to be nurtured in order to fully develop.  And Christian Pedersen is spot on as George Mallory.  George is a handsome man, used to sweeping people along with him through the force of his vision.  Mr. Pedersen portrays a man extremely self-confident, but aware of his own shortcomings.  None of these characters are perfect, but all are engaging.

The sets, by Leonard Ogden, are based on “Charleston”, the actual house that Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant kept in Sussex, and the house is full of memories and hints about the occupants.  Director Kevin Cochran keeps the action moving, and the story rolling along, so that no previous knowledge of these characters is necessary.

Although we imagine these words, which flowing so smoothly from these people, to be spontaneous - it takes some real talent to write this and make appear so effortless.  Playwright Joyce Hokin Sachs provides a wonderful vehicle for these actors.  It is a tribute that the next day, I was moved to investigate more about the people these characters are based on.  A lovely piece.

(Two more pictures, and details after the jump)

Carrie Extended

For fans of Long Lost Musicals...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Romeo & Juliet Sparkles Anew

Romeo & Juliet @ Chernuchin Theater
For the first 30 minutes or so of the Tragedians of the City’s production of Romeo And Juliet, it isn’t clear why this play has been mounted with an all male cast.  This version of Romeo And Juliet is not done from a gay angle, nor is it camp.  The female roles are played by men, simply dressed as women, no extra padding wigs or make up.  And, in the beginning, this causes some distracting titters among the audience.
But as the story proceeds, the casting brings fresh illumination to the story, as it is stripped to its most basic elements.  Everyone knows the story, so much that we barely notice it anymore.  It is the basis of stories diverse as West Side Story, Shakespeare in Love and Gnomeo & Juliet; as well as multiple different filmed versions of the original, edited for time and rewritten.
John Early (left) as Juliet captures Romeo's attention (Michael Piazza)
But in this essential format, the focus is on the story and the play. Romeo And Juliet is, at its heart, a beautiful play; which sometimes get lost in the event.  This production makes excellent use of the Chernuchin Theater’s, often difficult, layout; constructing a multilevel venue, and then utilizing it effectively (Scenic / Lighting Design excellently done by Garbriel Evansohn).  The Director, Anya Saffir, and the actors make dynamic use of the stage, filling the theater with life, energy and testosterone.
As Romeo, Michael R. Piazza, is wonderful.  Mr. Piazza brings to life the young hero, impetuous and lovesick.  His transformation from jilted lover of Rosaline to devoted admirer of Juliet occurs in an instant - when he glances to see Juliet, and then pulls her gaze by shear force of will.  It is in that scene, that the audience forgets that a young man is playing Juliet.
As Juliet, John Early has the more difficult task.  Juliet is a child, not yet 14 in the play, and Mr. Early must be both innocent and aware of Juliet’s sexual awakening. Mr. Early pulls it off, and is never distracted by the scattered laughter in the opening scenes.  A few of his mannerisms, the flutter of hands or straightening of the dress, seemed a bit forced early on, but as Juliet is consumed by love, his performance grows.
Most of the remaining performances are good to great.  Paul Corning is correctly dashing and rakish as Mercutio.  And nowhere is the casting of men in the female roles as successful as it in with Glenn Hergenhahn as The Nurse.  Mr. Hergenhahn plays the nurse for all the laughs that Shakespeare has written into the part, and doesn’t go over the top.  When The Nurse’s emotions and love of Juliet are expressed later, his dramatic timing is as perfect as his comic timing.  It is a wonderful performance that makes Juliet, her charge, all the more real to the audience.
Well though-out music has been written and incorporated into the play, by Cormac Bluestone.
This Romeo And Juliet will bring the story to life for the audience anew, and is recommended for anyone who thinks they know the story too well.
Romeo And Juliet at The Chernuchin Theater at American Theater of Actors
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Director: Anya Saffir
Cast: Michael Piazza, Paul Corning, Sam Dash, John Early, Paul Eddy, Chris Hale, Matt Hanson, Glenn Hergenhahn, Will Irons, Dan Johns, Vladimir Margolin, John-Michael Scapin, Scott Walker and Ben Weaver
Runs Through: March 17th

The Lady From Dubuque: An Unnecessary Revival

The Lady From Dubuque @ Pershing Square Signature Center
Edward Albee’s early work, The Lady From Dubuque, is getting a revival from the new Signature Center Theater.  It is a rarely seen work, which even the author admits is difficult.  “Difficult” might be putting it too kindly.  The Lady From Dubuque doesn’t work on multiple levels.
Jane Alexander as The Lady From Dubuque
The story opens with 3 couples playing a 20-questions like game called “Who Am I?”  The game gives ample opportunity to flesh out these characters; but instead we are given a set of unpleasant stereotypes.  A milquetoast couple, a thrice divorced man and his new young girlfriend, and Sam and Jo, the hosts.  Jo is terminally ill, which has turned her nasty disposition into hurtful shrewishness.  Beyond putting in a polite, perfunctory appearance, there is no reason any neighbor would stray within spitting distance of Jo.  Her nasty asides to the audience are sometimes humorous.  But the biting comments to her guests are purposeless attempts to pull everyone down to her level.  It is unpleasant to watch.
As to her illness, Jo appears to be dying of terrible menstrual cramps.  It is a quibble to argue for reality in a surrealist show, but Jo’s pain is both so loud and so intermittent, as to be unbelievable.  She is remarkably agile in the first half, popping out to the front yard to comfort Lucinda - before walking back in the house, only to scream and hold her lower stomach.  Then she pulls out of the pain long enough to berate her husband.  This on-again off-again wouldn’t be a problem, but the next morning (in Act 2), Jo is so delirious as to not recognize anyone and has suddenly arrived on death’s doorstep. 
The second half is where the real trouble starts.  At the end of the first act, strangers Elizabeth and Oscar show up in the house, uninvited and mysterious.  In the second half they act as a catalyst to set up existential questions – as the characters from last night drop by for no particular reason.  But because no character acts as they would in reality, the questions are exercises in passing time.
Oscar is an African-American, and his dialog is where the play often shows it’s age.  Peter Francis James does a good job making the dialog acceptable, but it still veers occasionaly into uncomfortable for no reason.  C.J. Wilson’s character, Fred, - as the strong alpha male, has also aged poorly.  What was once “manly” is now bullying and misogynistic. 
Jane Alexander does a fine job as the ethereal Elizabeth, but the problems with motivation and actions doom not just her character, but the entire proceedings.   Elizabeth, The Lady From Dubuque, is a cypher and it is hard to create a connection to this type of character.
All in all, it is hard to recommend this show to anyone but a devoted Edward Albee fan.
The Lady From Dubuque at The Pershing Square Theater, at the Signature Center
Playwright: Edward Albee
Director: David Esbjornson
Cast: Jane Alexander, Catherine Curtin, Michael Hayden, Peter Francis James, Tricia Paoluccio, Thomas Jay Ryna, Laila Robins, C.J. Wilson
Through April 1