Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category
very character in The Insurgents, a new play by Lucy Thurber at The Bank Street Theater, is or has been disenfranchised. Sally Wright, played by Cassie Beck, has lost her athletic scholarship and returns to a dead-end, no hope town in the rural Northeast, joining her father, a drinker and womanizer and her brother who can’t get anything right.
After its impressive fall production of Conor McPherson’s Port Authority (2001), the Irish Rep has moved on to an older play from an older generation, Hugh Leonard’s Da (1978), which was a huge success in New York and on a ten-month American tour, winning all three of the major Best Play awards in 1978, the Drama Desk, New York Drama Critics’ Circle, and the Tony. It premiered off-off Broadway, soon transferred to the Morosco Theatre on Broadway (which fell prey to the wrecker’s ball shortly afterwards) and almost became a New York institution over its 687 performances. It was made into an American film in 1988, with Martin Sheen playing Charlie opposite Barnard Hughes, who created the role of Da on stage.
Kentucky Cantata by Paul David Young is supposed to be about issues of important issues of our time including violence against women, race and immigration. However, it doesn’t rise to the importance of these.
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.