Theater

“She Loves Me” at Roundabout’s Studio 54, until June 12

Zachary Levi and Laura Benanti in She Loves Me. Photo Joan Marcus.

The great challenge of any musical revival is ourselves—specifically, our memories of the cast we first saw, the scenery and costumes. It’s even worse if we have a cast album and know by heart not only the words and music, but also the musical dynamics, phrasing and inflections. This is the challenge I faced attending the final preview the current Roundabout revival of She Loves Me. Will it be as good as I remember?

Revivals Past 2015, Part I: The Roots of English Theater — Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine at TFANA

Tamburlaine on his chariot, drawn by conquered rulers. Photo Gerry Goldstein.

can think of one, perhaps two or three people, who might possibly know all the theaters in New York City. I certainly don’t, although I make it my business to know as many as I can. It really is quite an active scene, with more new plays than one can keep track of, much less attend…even works improvised in front of our eyes, but this all rests on a bedrock of revivals, which may be in the minority, although they seem to flourish everywhere. There is always the question of how good the new shows actually are and whether the the revivals are filling a yawning gap. If you talk to actors and directors, you’ll consider the issue seriously. You’ll find the entire mixture in New York Arts—good, bad, and indifferent—with a healthy component of revivals, ranging from high-profile visiting companies, for example Sophocles’ Antigone with an internationally-celebrated star to the Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama Group’s unforgettable production of a lesser-known play by Euripides in ancient Greek. In this retrospective article, I’d like to discuss a few productions and a few companies which have brought me particular pleasure over the past year. Their productions were important enough, in their different ways, and excellent enough, to make a difference in how I view our theatrical landscape. What they all share is a deep devotion to serving the text and historical character of the works they produce, whether they are classics or long-forgotten obscurities.

Utility: Mundane Made Meaningful — Closes at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater February 20, 2016

Vanessa Vache as Amber and Alex Grubbs as Jim. Photo Russ Rowland.

Hats off to playwright Emily Schwend who, aided by an excellent cast, manages to make an eighty-five minute script about nothing in particular hold our interest—almost all the time. In a small Texas town, Amber, (Vanessa Vache) struggles to keep her family fed and provide a few nice moments like a birthday party for her eight-year old daughter. Amber works two jobs that don’t make ends meet and has an on-going sparring war with her mother, Laura, hilariously played by Melissa Hurst.

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.

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