Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category
For several years now, one of the joys of the Williamstown Theatre Festival has been the revivals of obscure, but cherishable British plays of the 1960’s and 70’s, David Storey’s Home, for example or Simon Gray’s Quartermaine’s Terms, to name two examples. Bernard Pomerance’s The Elephant Man is a late (1979) product of the period, even if it is by no means obscure today, thanks mostly to David Lynch’s remarkable film (1980), and even if it was written by an American.
The original Side Show was an anomaly on Broadway. Although it opened to rave reviews in 1997, it was a mega-flop. Hardly anyone wanted to see a show about “Siamese” twins, freaks, and it closed after only 122 performances and a $6.8 million loss.
Now Side Show has been totally reimagined with a new director, a new choreographer, and several new songs. The show has evolved. And so has its audience. We’re a more diverse, open, and tolerant society with a much broader definition of “normal.” The headline of the original review in The New York Times said “Illuminating the Freak in Everyone.” The perspective of that headline today would surely change the words to “Illuminating the Humanity in …”
Vivian Nesbitt, born in Ohio and currently active in Albuquerque New Mexico, where she is Director of the Sol Acting Academy, studied acting in New York, and has been working in theater for many years as an actor, writer and teacher. Her play, The Bark and the Tree, is substantially autobiographical, but it transcends her personal perspective and the specifics of her own life into potent themes, like what is passed down in families, ancestry, history and its deliberate remaking, one’s debt to the past, art, creativity, and, ultimately, our spiritual lives, which form a continuum beyond life and death. She addresses all this from deep personal experience, which gives all these different aspects of her play substance and ballast, so that one would have to be a total clod, or stone drunk, not to be engulfed by her story and enlightened by it. You know what it’s like when the faeries and leprechauns come out. I assure you there are none of them here.
This is probably the best occasion for me to come out of the closet and confess my secret vice—a mild fondness for the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. A viewing of NYGASP’s The Yeomen of the Guard with an entirely unvictorian companion set me to thinking about certain genres of theatre and opera in which performance practices are prescribed by tradition or even some legal entity. NYGASP is well-known for throwing in a few uncanonical details, but basically they cleave to D’Oyly Carte’s no longer legally binding restrictions, because their audience of devotees expect that—in fact they derive great pleasure from stage routines which have no meaning whatsover in contemporary theater outside of a G & S. Perhaps the tastes of loving audiences have proven more binding than the D’Oyly Carte copyrights.
Stephen Sondheim was just 24 years old when he wrote three songs on spec for the Broadway-bound musical Saturday Night. It became his first post-collegiate musical. The show, based on the play Front Porch in Flatbush by Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein never made it to Broadway – then or now. Death, disease, and lack of funding all got in its way. The late 1990s saw both a London and Chicago production. In February of 2000 the show finally had its New York premiere to celebrate Sondheim’s 70th birthday. By then he had written Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd (1979), Sunday in the Park with George (1984) and Into the Woods (1987) to name a few.
Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s You Can’t Take It With You first premiered on Broadway in late 1936, midway through FDR’s first term in office and still the Great Depression. The subject of the title – the It you can’t take with you when you die – is money. It’s a negative statement that’s […]
You’ve doubtless read somewhere or another or heard someone say that our relationship to novels is much like our relationships to people (our relationships to their authors, living and dead, are a whole other thing). That may sound trite, but it has its degree of truth. In no case is it so true as in the case of Finnegan’s Wake. In most cases James Joyce’s last novel is like some celebrity academic, who jets constantly between, say, Paris and Berkeley, but never crosses our path. Others may have approached the great man at the podium after a lecture and tried to ask a private question, only to be
Port Authority, by Conor McPherson, with Billy Carter, Peter Maloney & James Russell, by the Irish Repertory Theatre, New York
There seemed something symbolic in the front doors and lobby of the DR2 Theatre, temporary home of the Irish Repertory Theatre. As one walks in off the street, one finds a shallow vestibule followed by another shallow space occupied by the ticket office and the concession stand, liberally stocked with alcohol, as it should be in an Irish theater, after two or three steps, a small waiting room, then down a short black corridor into the auditorium. I don’t think I’ve had quite that sense of openness and accessibility before in entering a theater. Irish theater is everywhere, and, apart from being a powerful force simply on the quality and scope of the work that’s being done, it is open and accessible to all. New York continues to be in the thrall of the London stage, as always, and certainly not for the worse, but when London comes to these shores, as in last winter’s visit of the Globe company, the event is highly publicized, tickets are expensive and hard to get, and the Broadway theaters claustrophobic, as New Yorkers crowd in to contemplate Shakespeare and his heirs as if it were the theatrical equivalent of the Crown Jewels. It seems like two different worlds.