As I wrote and revised this review. The news of the terrible shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh unfolded, reminding us that there is nothing funny about anti-Semitism. Following the hijacking of the US government in the 2016 election, so many topics any of us might use in black or tasteless humor have lost their potential for even sardonic laughter. These are grim times. (My Parsifal Conductor was clearly not made for them.) But we mustn't forget the power of satire in emergencies like the present one. As artists, it is our duty to keep people awake, and laughter, especially painful laughter, is one way to accomplish that.
Emilie du Châtelet was born in Paris in 1706, in an era when women were raised to be ornamental wives and mothers. Luckily for her and for the ages, she was educated by her father, a high official in the court of Louis XIV, and showed a strong interest in and an aptitude for science and mathematics at a young age. The play centers on the difficulties of being a woman intellectual in a time when being a wife—and often a mistress—were what counted. We see Ėmilie and Voltaire, her lover, in various situations as well as Ėmilie and her husband, the Marquis du Châtelet, who was conveniently absent a great deal of the time due to his position in the French army. Ėmilie also dallies with Pierre-Louis Maupertius, in actuality a scholar although portrayed here as a young courtier.
The violent reign of Richard III was a popular subject from the time of Henry VIII on, according to the several chronicles and plays that preceded Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Richard III (ca. 1592), and his own play was an immediate success with the public, as the five quarto editions published before his death attest, and has continued to be a favorite until the present day—not least because of the rich meat it provided for star actors, from Richard Burbage on. Popularity creates expectations. Richard's opening monologue is one of the purple passages that sticks in the mind of even the most casual Shakespearean, and Shakespeare gives some hint of the story's rootedness in the minds of his audience by meticulously chronicling all ten of Richard's most heinous murders, recapping them in Act V in the successive entrances of their ghosts. Even though some of Shakespeare's predecessor felt no compunction to be so thorough, he felt the need to satisfy his audience's appetite for guilt and gore with each and every one of them, and that may well have been one of the keys to the play's success.
This is a muddle from start to finish, laced with clichéd language and performances. The “action” shifts between a California motel room and a hotel room in Reno, Nevada, centering around Kate Maguire, a hugely successful playwright. At least we’re told she’s successful: how anyone who says things like “you have to write what is cut into your own heart” can write well beats me. Kate isn’t the only caricature in this work: Richard, the too-naïve- to- be- true A/C repair man who yearns to write plays and struggles with being a seminarian studying for the priesthood, and Rich’s father/Kate’s agent/Kate’s long-time squeeze and—hold on, it’s true—an actual Father complete with brown robe and rope belt are equally one dimensional. Kate is played by attractive Leenya Rideout; Rich by John Zdrojeski and the others by Jay Russell. Emily Juliette Murphy handles small roles as Kate’s mother, a motel clerk and a waiter.
The nicely slimmed-down production of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever at Irish Rep is a tidy delight. The show has been revived numerous times since originally opening in the fall of 1965; along the way it has lost several songs (with good reason—they were terrible) and had several interpretations including one by The Vineyard Theater at Vassar College’s Powerhouse Theater that changed the female lead to a gay male. Other versions have added or subtracted characters who weren’t central to what has to be called the “story line.”
Margery Kempe, as portrayed by the excellent, feisty Andrus Nichols, would indeed try the patience of a saint. Nichols, part of the splendid cast of The Saintliness of Margery Kempe, plays the title role which is loosely based on the real fourteenth century woman who wrote what is often considered the first English language autobiography, abandons her husband and six children, (the real Kempe had fourteen), to find herself in the larger world.
You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s and you don’t have to be Jewish or speak Yiddish to enjoy The New Yiddish Rep’s production of The Labor of Love. This is a tale of existential angst although the play boils down to a man who is bored with his wife of thirty years and thinks he wants to leave her. For the umpteenth time.
Noisy, energetic, sometimes exuberant and frequently chaotic, it’s hard to encapsulate this performance at St. Ann’s Warehouse. It was also difficult to follow the actors as the “supertitles” were on screens on either side of the stage requiring me to move my eyes away from the Greek-speaking performers. (That the words on the titles were often ahead of the action also didn’t help.)