Theater

Mind AND Matter: Sam & Dede, or My Dinner with André the Giant at 59 E 59

Brendan Averett as Andre the Giant and Dave Sikula as Samuel Beckett in Sam & Dede, or my Dinner with Andre the Giant at 59E59 Theaters. Photo Jay Yamada.

True story: Irish writer Samuel Beckett, who lived most of his life in France, met and befriended the son of a neighbor, a very large young man known as Andre the Giant. Beckett drove Andre, called Dede, to school in his truck because Dede’s huge size made riding the regular school bus impossible. During the drives together, Beckett and Andre spent a lot of their time talking about cricket.

Martin McDonagh at his Beginnings and Today: The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Druid at BAM and Hangmen Projected.

Marie Mullen and Ailsing O'Sullivan in the Beauty Queen of Leenane by Druid at BAM.

I only managed to get to The Beauty Queen of Leenane on its very last day at BAM, a Sunday matinee—in fact Super Bowl Sunday. This momentous annual event seemed to have little effect on McDonagh fans, and BAM’s Harvey Theater was nearly full. The audience was of more than the usual interest, because, as the play took its course, many members of the audience seemed to know what was going to happen in advance. Only the special decorum of legitimate theater seemed to prevent some of them from calling out the lines ahead of the actors, as was the practice of denizens of the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square at the Study Period screenings of Casablanca. These people had seen the show at the BAM run at least once before, and in many cases, I’m sure, back in the late 1990s, when it catapulted its author Martin McDonagh to fame and fortune. On the other hand, the audience was alive to the affecting events in the story, gasping or ahhing at unpleasant turns of events, as they unfolded.

Ibsen, Strindberg and their Acolytes – a Retrospective

John Douglas Thompson and Maggie Lacey in A Doll's House. Photo Henry Grossman.

The double bill of early plays by Eugene O’Neill, brilliantly directed by Alex Roe, which recently closed at the Metropolitan Playhouse, appears as the answer to a question posed by another double bill (of sorts, one would have to say, since they are paired in repertory but not in a single performance) presented by the Theater for a New Audience of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House (1879) and Strindberg’s The Father (1887), and it makes sense to discuss them all together. The question is, “What next?”

New Ohio Theatre presents George & Co. in HOLDEN, written and directed by Anisa George

Scott Sheppard, Jaime Maseda. Photo plate3.com.

J. D. Salinger has been dead for seven years, and his admirers have long given up hope of an unpublished masterpiece emerging from the bunker in which he spent the greater part of his last forty years, struggling with drafts, ideas, and obsessions. His much-publicized life in isolation, where he vainly attempted to wring out another success of the order of The Catcher in the Rye acquired a universality as a Promethean myth of the agonies of the creative life. Whether the artist manages to keep inspiration alive or has in truth dried up, life is by no means easy. Salinger’s was a particularly American myth, foreshadowed by Ernest Hemingway and his decline in his later years and perhaps Melville, by those would discount Pierre and The Confidence-Man.

Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, Cheek by Jowl, at BAM

Orlando James as Leontes, Natalie Radmall-Quirke as Hermione. Photo Rebecca Greenfield.

The Winter’s Tale has had a checkered career over the centuries. Its bipartite structure, with two lines of action, separated by many years, of strongly contrasting character offended the Aristotelian canon all-too-blatantly for the classicizing generations of the Restoration and Enlightenment. Acts I through III have every promise of ending with the most bitterly tragic outcome. This current is diverted to a happy ending in the last two acts, introduced by yet a third genre, the pastoral, in a staged enactment of a sheep-shearing festival. When the play began to find its way to the stage in the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, producers and actors saw in it a vehicle for over-the-top, classically inspired spectacle, as well as one of the great Shakespearean roles, Leontes, who is Iago and Othello rolled into one. It provided a powerful vehicle for Garrick, Kemble, and Kean. And three rich female roles as well, None of which were lost on the great actresses of the past 250 years.

I Giullari di Piazza and Alessandra Belloni to Perform La Cantata dei Pastori (The Shepherd’s Cantata) at the Theater for the New City, December 16-18, 21, 22

Come back in time to Southern Italy with Alessandra Belloni and I Giullari di Piazza, the renowned Italian music/theater/dance company, when they present their traditional Southern Italian “La Cantata dei Pastori,” (The Shepherd’s Cantata) a musical family holiday delight, at Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue (between 9th & 10th Streets). Five performances, December 16 & 17 at 8 PM; December 18 at 5 PM; December 21 & 22 at 8 PM.   Starring as Mary in this unique production is the internationally renowned singer, percussionist, author, and director, Alessandra Belloni, an acknowledged authority on traditional Southern Italian arts, co-founder of I Giullari di Piazza (The Jesters of the Square), and solo guest performer in venues around the world.

Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd at Glimmerglass

Greer Grimsley in the title of The Glimmerglass Festival production of Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd." Photo Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival.

Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is dark, dark musical theatre. A vengeful barber returns to Victorian London, slits the throats of those who have wronged him and with his accomplice turns their bodies into the stuffing of meat pies. Todd’s London is as menacing as he is …

“There’s a hole in the world
Like a great black pit
And it’s filled with people
Who are filled with shit
And the vermin of the world inhabit it …”

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