Theater

Hangmen by Martin McDonagh, at Wyndham’s Theatre, London

Andy Nyman and David Morrissey in Hangmen at Wyndhams Theatre. Photo Tristram Kenton.

After a stunning stretch of plays set in the West Country of Ireland, the playwright Martin McDonagh found himself saddled with literary freight. Could he—or did he even want to—extend the legacy of Irish drama into unforeseeable territory? From Yeats onward, the audience for Irish drama had quaffed a brew of poverty and poetry, blarney and eloquence, myth and the kitchen sink. Suddenly, like the young Sam Shepard and his equally meteoric rise, McDonagh found a style no one anticipated, as viscerally violent as Shepard’s, as psychologically edgy, and as recklessly antagonistic toward the audience’s comfort zone.

Husbands and Sons by D. H. Lawrence, National Theatre, London—until Feb. 10

Julia Ford & Lloyd Hutchinson. Photo Manuel Harlan.

Down in the pit. The misery of being a woman in Nottinghamshire back when coal was king forms the preoccupation of Husbands and Sons, a composite of three one-act plays by D. H. Lawrence. Before they were rediscovered and staged, Lawrence’s dramas were an obscure part of his output, and now they risk being too dated to be vital. Like early Eugene O’Neill, the stage-minded Lawrence of 1911 to 1913, when these plays were written, aimed at naked social realism. The women trapped by brutal husbands working in the colliery stand on the brink of ruination from mining accidents, impending strikes, the cruel work hours that destroyed men’s bodies, and always the shadow of poverty.

King Charles III – A future history play by Mike Bartlett, Music Box Theatre, New York (11/01/2015 – 1/31/2016)

Tim Pigott-Smith as King Charles III. Photo © Joan Marcus.

When Mike Bartlett conceived the idea for this play, according to an article he wrote about it in The Guardian, his thoughts centered on the figure of Prince Charles at “the moment Charles takes the throne, and how his conscience would lead him to refuse to sign a bill into law. An epic royal family drama, dealing with power and national constitution, was the content, and therefore the form had surely to be Shakespearean.” He was not approaching it with any particular ideas about monarchy, or the royal family, or the state of Britain. He was thinking, not as a political creature or a satirist, but as a playwright. From this mindset, it immediately occurred to him that the form had to be Shakespearean, down to the blank verse—and this terrified him, because he had virtually no experience with the meter, or with any verse.

Fiddler on the Roof: In Revival—Again!—at the Broadway Theatre

Fiddler on the Roof
Broadway Theatre. 
Danny Burstein 
(Tevye), Jessica Hecht (Goldie), and daughters.

Why would anyone want to attend yet another revival of Fiddler on the Roof? Since its premiere in 1964 it has had five major Broadway revivals and who knows how many regional theatre, school and amateur productions. Millions of us have seen this show or its film version at least once.

So—you want to know why go again? I’ll tell you why.

Half Moon Bay by John Jiler

Brennan Taylor, Ben Gougeon, and Jean Goto in John Jiler's Half Moon Bay. Photo Theik Smith.

A man and a woman, Richie and Pam, presumably somewhere in their early thirties, that is, just at the point in life where their next successful projects will bring them to a prominent and prosperous stage in life, decide to get married. They seemed full of love and enthusiasm for one another, as well as the impending event. Their friends are full of love and enthusiasm for them, above all, Richie’s best friend and best man, Tom, a lawyer, a rather hard-nosed, cynical lawyer, and a loner. He seems perfectly likable and basically all right, but he has difficulty forming close relationships with women. He hasn’t met one yet who finds him attractive, it seems. But the story is not about him, he is there to tell the story, as a sort of chorus-participant, sometimes in dialogue with the other characters, sometimes engaging the audience directly, sometimes narrating and responding rather like a sports announcer. The story is about love. As Tom begins the play, “I want to tell you about love.” …and mainly about his friend Richie, who is a love fiend, or so it should say in his obituary, as Tom informs us: “Because that’s what drove him. Like the wind drove the old ships. He thought everything else was irrelevant.”

Lisa Lewis’ “Schooled,” at the Soho Playhouse — closes October 17

Lilli Stein as Claire and Quentin Maré as Andrew. Photo Andrea Reese.

A jaded film professor and two students form a love and work triangle in Schooled, winner of the 2015 NY International Fringe Festival Overall Excellence Award for Playwriting and part of the Fringe Encore Series at Soho Playhouse. Claire (Lilli Stein) is a smart young woman marked by her hard life background, Jake (Stephen Friedrich) plays her boyfriend born into wealth and privilege, a guy to whom everything has always come easy. The play, written by Lisa Lewis and very well directed by James Kautz, delves into the lengths we go to get ahead as the students compete for the same grant to make a film.

The United Solo Theatre Festival 2015: Two Reviews and an Exhortation

Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet

The sixth United Solo Theater Festival has already been underway for over three weeks, but it will continue on up to November 22, offering an even greater wealth and variety of stage work than its predecessors. When its founder and artistic director, Omar Sangare, first considered the name, I was sceptical, but I’m happy to say that I’ve been proved wrong many times over. The name actually describes the nature of the festival to perfection, for every autumn, Dr. Sangare and his team unite the world of solo theater, bringing together over 150 fiercely independent actors, playwrights, directors, and other theater workers at Theatre Row from Canada, Australia, Ireland, the UK, Poland, Romania, all over the United State, and other countries.

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