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8 Characters in Search of a Play: ‘The Whirlgig’

May 28th, 2017 No comments

By Samuel L. Leiter

'The Whirligig.' (Photo: Monique Carboni via The Broadway Blog.)

‘The Whirligig.’ (Photo: Monique Carboni via The Broadway Blog.)

At the opening of The Whirligig, Hamish Linklater’s rambling but often richly listenable new play presented by The New Group at the Pershing Square Signature Center, Julie (Grace Van Patten), a 23-year-old drug addict dying from Hep C and stage 5 non-Hodgkin’s, is in a hospital in the Berkshires, where her family lives. Seeking to comfort her are her doleful, divorced parents, Michael (Norbert Leo Butz) and Kristina (Dolly Wells), who soon bring her home for hospice care.

The hospital bed and its appurtenances are set on a turntable whose movement reflects the play’s title; one scene after the other slides into place as the episodic plot, a bit confusingly at times, mingles flashbacks from as long ago as 15 years with scenes in present time. By the end of Act One we’ve met all eight of the play’s characters, each miserable for one reason or the other, most with or fighting their own addictions, and each with some connection to the dying Julie.

Michael, a wisecracking drama teacher and director, struggles with the bottle; Kristina, a writer and professor on antidepressants, berates herself for failing her daughter. The other characters are Julie’s childhood friend Trish (Zosia Mamet), who turned Julie on to drugs when they were 17, making an enemy of Kristina; Derrick (Jonny Orsini), Julie’s first drug dealer, later imprisoned for possession with intent to sell; Patrick (Noah Bean), Derrick’s brother and, later, Julie’s doctor, with a guilty secret of his own; Greg (Alex Hurt), a reformed alcoholic who not only married Trish but tends the bar where many of the others gather; and, finally, Mr. Cormeny (Jon DeVries), a local high school teacher who adds little more to the plot than booze-inspired, comic bloviating.

'The Whirligig.' (Photo: Monique Carboni via The Broadway Blog.)

‘The Whirligig.’ (Photo: Monique Carboni via The Broadway Blog.)

Much of Act One is occupied with peripheral color—the Red Sox, Russian literature, character exposition, blah, blah—it takes a long time to get an inkling of where the play is going, what the stakes are, or why we should be concerned enough to return for Act Two. Before the act ends, though, Linklater establishes his concern with the issue of pointing fingers, assigning blame, for Julie’s condition, something several guilt-burdened characters seem quite ready to accept.

Gradually, in Act Two, the numerous character interconnections slowly come together to reach a tidy conclusion reminiscent of a Shakespearean romantic comedy. Much as the play may wish the audience to be deeply moved, the artificiality and contrivance of this ending—with the cast lined up too obviously across the stage—stand in the way.

Under Scott Elliott’s direction, the action tends to plod, progressing in tiny increments. However, the dialogue often has a nimble, smartass flavor that, while sometimes registering more as clever stage talk than believable conversation, nevertheless helps sustain interest and spark laughter. There’s also some mildly whimsical if thoroughly implausible business involving Trish and Derrick climbing onto a tree branch to chat while getting stoned, a position they’re forced to remain in for long stretches when other scenes are being performed.

The Whirligig offers considerable meat for its actors to chew on. Noteworthy are Van Patten’s vulnerable yet determined Julie, and Orsini’s appealingly clueless (if inconsistently so) Derrick. Mamet’s Trish is like a slightly slowed-down, smarter version of her Shoshana on Girls. Reliable veterans Butz and DeVries could do with a tad less overdoing.

The Whirligig is given an attractive production, beginning with Derek McLane’s simplified set, with a house’s façade at the back and a hanging bower overhead. Jeff Croiter offers beautiful lighting, there are well-chosen costumes by Clint Ramos, and Duncan Sheik’s original music is nicely attuned to the play’s emotional needs.

Hamish Linklater, best known as an actor, hasn’t struck playwriting gold here but dedicated playgoers may find enough nuggets in its two and a half hours to give The Whirligig a whirl.

The Whirligig
The Pershing Square Signature Center
480 W. 42nd St., NYC
Through June 18

Samuel L. Leiter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus (Theater) of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He has written and/or edited 27 books on Japanese theater, New York theater, Shakespeare, and the great stage directors. For more of his reviews, visit Theatre’s Leiter Side (www.slleiter.blogspot.com).

 

Play it Again, Phil: ‘Groundhog Day’

May 26th, 2017 Comments off

By April Stamm

The cast of 'Groundhog Day.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of ‘Groundhog Day.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

When the whole point is inane, frustrating, and annoying repetition, how could there possibly be hope for entertainment? Moviegoers asked themselves the same question in 1993, but the leap of faith was easier to take at around $5 a ticket for the film, for theatergoers today making the jump into a seat at the August Wilson Theatre to see Groundhog Day, the investment looks more like a C-note or two. With vivacious energy, a lot of cockeyed optimistic humor, and a surprisingly poignant moment or two, Groundhog Day pays out at least 70 percent on your big investment.

The premise is dangerously simple. Phil Connors (Andy Karl), a successful TV weatherman from the big city, is forced to do the yearly February 2 remote broadcast in Punxsutawney, PA, home to the famous all seeing groundhog Punxsutawney Phil. The pinnacle of small towns, Punxsutawney is Phil Connors’ worst nightmare; a town with one restaurant, one bar, one store, and full of friendly, exuberant and seemingly simple people who all know each other.

Phil is accompanied by his cameraman and a somewhat green producer, Rita Hanson (Barrett Doss), who actually like the town and its kitsch. A blizzard comes; the crew is stuck for one more night, when Phil Connors wakes up the next morning it’s Groundhog Day… again and again and again…

Andy Karl in 'Groundhog Day.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Andy Karl in ‘Groundhog Day.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Happy diversions from the necessary monotony come by way of some clever and downright adorable set work by designers Rob Howell (scenic and costume) and Paul Kiev (illusions) and overseen by Matthew Warchus (direction). Their work with miniature set pieces alone, including a brilliantly hysterical and impressive tiny car chase through the streets of Punxsutawney, is original and perfectly fits the quirkily sweet, but slightly irreverent nature of the show.

The music in Groundhog Day is a mostly forgettable, nothing wows or sticks with you as you leave the theatre. However, lyrically and conceptually Tim Minchin’s score strikes some interesting chords. A choral ensemble of “healers” near the end of the first act is amusingly tongue and cheek and for some, squirm-worthy in is topicality.

One of the standout moments, at the opening of the second act, is Nancy’s (Rebecca Faulkenberry) solo. Heretofore, Nancy is the blond to be ogled at and flirted with, a blip in the plot, a diversion, which is exactly what this song looks at in a meta sort of way.

Rightly so, Andy Karl steals the show as Phil Connors. It takes big talent and a huge amount of charisma to carry this role, and Karl makes it happen vocally and physically, enthralling the audience even as we hate him a little, and all with a substantial looking knee brace (Karl injured himself during previews). Counter to Karl, Barrett Doss plays producer and eventual love interest Rita Hanson succinctly. Vocally, she doesn’t falter, however, she is overshadowed by almost everyone else on stage in the charisma department. This makes for little chemistry between the two leads and what is equally problematic, little chemistry between the character of Rita Hanson and the town of Punxsutawney.

So back to the question: to shell out a bill or two for Groundhog Day or not? It is not groundbreaking thematically and is musically tepid. However, the musical is warm, funny, and quirky. It will make you giggle, perhaps shed a brief tear, and has some moments of delightful theatrical spectacle. Is it worth

Groundhog Day
August Wilson Theatre
245 W 52nd Street, NYC
Open-ended run.

April Stamm is a theater, food, and lifestyle journalist. She is a regular contributor to The Broadway Blog and Edge Media Network and is a Chef Instructor at the International Culinary Center.

Theater Buff: ‘Miss Saigon”s Christopher Vo

May 25th, 2017 Comments off

Every month, a fabulous actor/singer/dancer fills out editor Matthew Wexler’s questionnaire and offers a glimpse of what he looks like from a bit closer than the mezzanine. “The heat is on in Saigon” — especially with Christopher Vo in the cast of the Tony-nominated revival of Miss Saigon.

Christopher dishes with The Broadway Blog about what it means to be part of this critically-acclaimed revival, where he grabs a post-show cocktail, and his secret saltwater crush.

Christopher Vo (Billy B. Photogrpahy via The Broadway Blog.)

Christopher Vo (Billy B. Photogrpahy via The Broadway Blog.)

Name:
Christopher Vo

Hometown:
Dallas, TX

Can you describe what the audition process was like for Miss Saigon?
Pretty standard. What I remember most from my auditions was how proud I was of our Asian American theater community absolutely killing it at the auditions. #AsianPride

You mention your parents’ immigration to the U.S.  in your Playbill bio — how has their journey impacted your experience with this show?
Hearing stories about the Vietnam War firsthand from my parents’ point of view has really helped color my perspective as a Vietnamese American in the show. “I’d give my life for you” is a sentiment that I can connect with deeply. My parents sacrificed a lot to come to America, and I feel I have a tremendous duty to represent my people and the Vietnamese language with the utmost integrity and honesty.

'Miss Saigon' (Photo: Michael Le Poer Trench and Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

‘Miss Saigon’ (Photo: Michael Le Poer Trench and Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

You’ve had a successful few years! On The Town (The Lyric), The King and I (Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center), and now Miss Saigon (The Broadway)… how would you describe the difference in the physical space of these three legendary theatres?
The Broadway feels like it is the most vintage space out of the three, having last been renovated in 1986 with a seating capacity of 1761.

Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont is unique in that the stage feels at the same time both small/intimate and vast/grand. This is because there is a thrust stage with stadium seating in conjunction with a traditional stage and proscenium arch. Its seating capacity is 1,200.

The Lyric was rebuilt in 1998, feels like the most updated and has the second largest seating capacity of all Broadway theaters accommodating 1,938 seats.

Christopher Vo (Billy B. Photography via The Broadway Blog.)

Christopher Vo (Billy B. Photography via The Broadway Blog.)

Eight show a week – that’s a lot! You’re also a fitness professional. How do you take care of yourself for such a demanding schedule?
I try to get a healthy amount of sleep and staying hydrated is key!

If I weren’t a performer, I would be: 
Some kind other of artist. I’m an artist through and through.

Places, Intermission or Curtain Call?
I love places! I get to wish everyone a wonderful show and look forward to all my favorite moments in the show. Also, my dog Kobi knows “places” to mean, “run to your crate!”

The best post-show cocktail in New York City is at:
Ericka Hunter hosts a Broadway industry night at The Dream in midtown (210 West 55th Street).

After you’ve hit all the traditional sites of New York City, you should totally:
Bike through Manhattan to connect the dots between the subway stops. It took me years to mentally fill-in the gaps between subway stops. There are so many cool buildings and streets you don’t normally see just walking from station to destination.

Christopher Vo (Photo: Dirty Sugar via The Broadway Blog.)

Christopher Vo (Photo: Dirty Sugar via The Broadway Blog.)

If I could live anywhere else in the world it would be:
Anywhere I can have access to good scuba diving and good food.

When I’m looking for a date, nothing attracts me more than:
A great communicator with a gorgeous smile.

My favorite website to visit that you may not have heard of is:
LiveAquaria.com where you can learn all about saltwater creatures!

People would be surprised to learn that I . . .
Have a beautiful 50-gallon saltwater reef tank. #obsessed

When I was 10, I wanted to be just like:
I’m pretty sure at 10 I wanted to be a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger

Ten years from now I’d like to be:
Still involved in the arts. If not performing, creating.

Miss Saigon is playing at the Broadway Theatre through January 14, 2018.
Read our exclusive interview with Miss Saigon star and Tony nominee Eva Noblezada.

Actors’ Equity Says Save the National Endowment for the Arts

May 24th, 2017 Comments off

Kate Shindle, President of Actors’ Equity Association, the national labor union representing professional actors and stage managers, released the following statement in reaction to President Trump’s proposed budget for 2018. The new budget plan again proposes to close the National Endowment for the Arts. The new budget includes just enough funding for “necessary expenses to carry out the closure of the National Endowment for the Arts.”

Kate Shindle (Photo: Sam Aronov / Shutterstock.com)

Kate Shindle (Photo: Sam Aronov / Shutterstock.com)

“The last thing we need to do is slash a program that creates and sustains jobs in small and regional theaters all over America. Thousands of our members have already spoken up about how the NEA is an economic lifeline in so many places. Members of Congress heard us loud and clear when they decided to maintain the NEA’s funding for the rest of 2017. As Congress takes up the new budget, Actors’ Equity will continue our fight to protect the NEA’s critical seed funding that helps productions get off the ground in small and regional theaters.”

Equity has historically fought for increased funding and recognition of the NEA. Over the last few months, Equity launched an aggressive campaign to preserve the NEA after media reports emerged that President Trump might slash funding for the program.

Shindle passionately demanded that Congress fund the NEA in a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the very same day President Trump announced his proposed budget. The following week, Equity councilors and rank and file members lobbied on the hill during National Arts Advocacy Day.

Equity members across the country gathered to support the NEA, from rallies in New York to community discussions in Minneapolis. Equity gathered thousands of petitions from members and supporters of the arts asking Congress to fund the NEA. Equity also joined with a coalition that included 11 other national unions representing 4 million workers demanding that Congress fund the NEA.

To Read or Not to Read: ‘Can You Forgive Her?’

May 23rd, 2017 Comments off

By Samuel L. Leiter

Darren Pettie, Ella Dershowitz and Amber Tamblyn in 'Can You Forgive Her?' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Darren Pettie, Ella Dershowitz and Amber Tamblyn in ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Gina Gionfriddo’s dark comedy, Can You Forgive Her?, now at the Vineyard Theatre after premiering last year at Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company, takes its title from a 19th-century novel by Anthony Trollope. Directed in both productions by Peter Dubois, this slow-to-get-started piece, despite socially relevant thoughts couched in passably entertaining gambits, is structurally shaky and fraught with character and plot implausibilities; its most provocative feature is its title.

Graham (Darren Pettie), a feckless, heavy-drinking, twice-divorced 40-year-old, stopped working six months ago. That’s when his sad, long-divorced mother, with whom he had a strained relationship, died. A wannabe but unpublished writer, she left him not only her shabby home, valuable because of its proximity to the Jersey shore, but boxes and boxes of manuscripts—literary and autobiographical—which dominate a portion of the set. Graham has read enough to trash it (an opinion no one ever confirms). Yet the ho-hum question persists: to read or not to read.

Can You Forgive Her Vineyard TheatreGraham’s girlfriend, Tanya (Elsa Dershowitz), a single mom inspired by a self-help book she’s always touting, is far more determined to do something, both about her future (she’s a bartender hoping to become an accountant) and his (either renovate the house and rent it or return to his old job). Tanya won’t commit to marriage until he snaps out of his funk and takes positive action.

Set on Halloween, the fairly brief first scene suggests a conventional light romantic comedy with family implications. In scene two, which occupies the rest of this hour and 35-minute play, we move into quirkier territory when we find Graham alone at 1 a.m. with 28-year-old hottie Miranda (TV/film actress Amber Tamblyn in her stage debut), dressed for the holiday as a sexy witch. Looks prove deceiving; she’s actually a self-hating neurotic, a former teacher who nearly got her Ph.D. in poetry (yeah, right); she strongly defends using her sexual allure to survive while rejecting the label of prostitute. It’s just one stretch among many.

Graham, at Tanya’s suggestion, has brought Miranda home after an altercation at Tanya’s bar between Miranda and her date, Sateesh (Eshan Bay), a young Indian immigrant she’s been dating but not sleeping with, who drove her from New York to the local festival. The well-educated but racially narrow-minded Miranda, who calls Sateesh “the Indian,” needs to hide; she’s somehow convinced Sateesh is a potential murderer. The dubious background for all this is recounted in a shaggy-dog exposition.

Meanwhile, we learn of Miranda’s relationship with David (Frank Wood), a sugar daddy she met online, who’s also nearby (which is what got Sateesh riled up). When David, a wealthy, married, plastic surgeon, eventually arrives, comedy blends with farce as the characters grapple with financial and personal issues.

The action basically stops as Gionfriddo moves into discussion mode regarding women’s choices, responsibility, and agency within the construct of the American dream. The essential contrast is between Miranda’s irresponsible decisions (like choosing a “ritzy” private college), which forced her into so much debt she needed to become a rich man’s mistress, and the more practical thinking of the micromanaging Tanya, who overcame bad choices to become debt-free.

We also have to wade through the emotional morass of Miranda and David’s unique relationship—he accepts her abuse because she’s the only one who can make him feel anything—and wonder whether the desperate Miranda will, instead, turn for love to Graham. Finally, we return to the burning question of the damned boxes: throw them out or read what’s in them? As if we still care.

Frank Wood and Amber Tamblyn in 'Can You Forgive Her?' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Frank Wood and Amber Tamblyn in ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Can You Forgive Her? too often bogs down in exposition, has a ludicrous premise for why Miranda opens up to Graham, makes Miranda both insightful and clueless, and, among other things, takes forever for us to care about the stakes, if we ever do.

Allen Moyer’s living room set, nicely lit (including several surreal effects) by Russell H. Champa, suggests that Graham’s mother’s decorating tastes were as poor as her writing. Jessica Pabst’s costumes help characterize the people who wear them; Miranda’s little black outfit is a knockout.

Amber Tamblyn ensures that the flamboyant Miranda catches our eye, with her constant hair tossing and glam poses, while Ella Dershowitz (Alan’s daughter, in case you’re wondering) is believably persistent in making her points. Although his presence is nicely grounded, nothing about Darren Pettie’s Graham suggests a man afraid of dealing with life, but veteran Frank Wood brings an amusing comic edge to David.

Why David comes all the way downstage to deliver some of his lines as if talking to—not through—the fourth wall, while blocking those behind him, is puzzling. When Sateesh does the same thing, we know it’s director Peter Dubois who’s to blame. And, like several other things on view, it’s not easy to forgive.

Can You Forgive Her?
Vineyard Theatre
108 E. 15th St., NYC
Through June 11 

Samuel L. Leiter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus (Theater) of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He has written and/or edited 27 books on Japanese theater, New York theater, Shakespeare, and the great stage directors. For more of his reviews, visit Theatre’s Leiter Side (www.slleiter.blogspot.com).

 

 

 

 

 

Provincetown Art House Lines Up Stars for Summer Season

May 23rd, 2017 Comments off
Headliners this summer at Provincetown Art House.

Headliners this summer at Provincetown Art House.

Mark Cortale, Producing Artistic Director of Provincetown’s famed Art House theater, has announced four more additions to his largest music and comedy lineup yet. Alice Ripley, winner of the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for “Next to Normal” joins the Broadway @ The Art House series on July 16 with Seth Rudetsky as pianist and host. Perennial favorites, the singing string quartet Well-Strung bring their new show for five performances only, from July 23 – 27. Drag comedy star Peaches Christ will host “Idol Worship,” a special, one-night-only show starring cult film icon Mink Stole on July 25. And “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 8 star Bob The Drag Queen will make her Art House debut August 15 – 31.

Topping the bill again this season will be the internationally renowned “Broadway @” series, which dynamic duo Cortale and creative partner Seth Rudetsky began in Ptown in 2011 and now makes its home in more than 15 major venues worldwide.

Summer 2017’s series at Town Hall produced by Cortale will include Bianca Del Rio, RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6 winner, on July 10 at 8:30pm; Megan Hilty, breakout star of NBC TV’s “Smash” and Broadway’s “Wicked” and a Tony nominee for the recent Broadway production of “Noises Off”, on August 6 at 6:30pm, with Seth Rudetsky as pianist and host; Sutton Foster, Tony Award winner for “Anything Goes” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and star of the hit TV Land series “Younger” by “Sex and the City” creator Darren Star, on August 13 at 6:30pm, with Michael Rafter at piano; Laura Benanti, Tony Award winner for “Gypsy” and star on Broadway in “She Loves Me!”, and TV’s “Nashville”, on September 3 at 6:30pm, with Seth Rudetsky as pianist and host.  The Town Hall series will be raising funds this year for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

The seventh annual “Broadway @ The Art House” series for Ptown features another Summer avalanche of Broadway stars: Michael Cerveris, Tony Award winner as Best Featured Actor in a Musical for “Assassins” as John Wilkes Booth and Tony Award winner as Best Actor in a Musical for “Fun Home” as Bruce Bechdel, opens the series on July 1 & 2, with Seth Rudetsky as pianist and host; Alice Ripley, Tony winner for the Pulitzer Prize-winning hit “Next to Normal” as well as the first-ever Tony co-nomination (with her co-star Emily Skinner) as the conjoined Hilton sisters in “Side Show”, takes the stage on July 16; Melissa Errico, Broadway star of “Finian’s Rainbow” “High Society,” “Anna Karenina,” and a Tony nominee as Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady”, stars on July 28 & 29, with Seth Rudetsky as pianist and host.

Further highlights include: Christine Pedi, star of Broadway’s “Chicago,” “Talk Radio” and “Little Me” and daily host of SiriusXM Radio’s On Broadway channel, takes the stage on July 30 with Seth Rudetsky at the piano; Marilyn Maye, living legend cabaret singer and perennial Art House favorite returns from August 4 – 7 with Billy Stritch at the piano; Beth Malone, Broadway star of “Ring of Fire” and Tony nominee for 2016’s smash hit “Fun Home,” makes her Art House debut on August 20 & 21; Faith Prince, Tony Award winner for “Guys and Dolls” stars on August 25 & 26 with Seth Rudetsky as pianist and host; Ana Gasteyer, star of TV’s “Grease Live” “Saturday Night Live” and “Suburgatory” and Broadway’s “Wicked” closes the Art House season on September 9 with Seth Rudetsky as pianist and host.

Provincetown Art House

Provincetown Art House

More music and comedy stars will fill The Art House’s twin stages than ever: Indie music rock star and perennial Provincetown favorite Melissa Ferrick will once again make Memorial Day Weekend her Ptown performance home on May 27 & 28; Varla Jean Merman, the grande dame of Ptown, returns with an all-new solo show “Bad Heroine” running June 23 through September 1, with Gerald Goode at piano; Steve Grand, a singer who burst onto the scene with his video An All American Boy and his #3 Billboard Independent Album, returns to The Art House for an extended stay this summer from July 5 – August 31.

Summer 2015’s smash hit “Return to Grey Gardens” will return for a summer run starring Jinkx Monsoon and Peaches Christ from July 5 through September 7; “5 to 9” a hilarious parody of the hit movie “9 to 5”, set in our even MORE absurd Oval Office! starring Varla Jean Merman, Ryan Landry and Peaches Christ and running from July 7 through September 9; Tori Scott, hailed as one of Time Out New York’s Top 10 Cabaret Artists, returns after her triumphant debut last summer, on July 8 & 9, featuring Jesse Kissel at the piano; RuPaul’s Drag Race Season Five winner Jinkx Monsoon returns to The Art House with a new show together with cohort Major Scales from July 8 through September 10; Kitten N’ Lou, fresh from a critically-acclaimed, sold-out smash run at Fringe World in Australia and Joe’s Pub in NYC, everyone’s favorite gay-married superduo dyke darlings, debut their  “Holier Than Thou” at The Art House from July 9 to 24; international touring pop-classical quartet Well-Strung bring their new show for five performances only, from July 23 – 27; “Idol Worship” a one-night-only happening in the form of a chat-variety show premieres on July 25 starring Peaches Christ and Mink Stole; Burlesque Supertroupe The Atomic Bombshells return to Provincetown celebrating their 10th Anniversary with an all new show entitled “Cream” from July 28 to August 29; Bob the Drag Queen, star of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 8 debuts at The Art House August 15 – 31; internationally acclaimed opera star Marisol Montalvo premieres her new show “Mad Scene” in Provincetown, directed by Jeffery Roberson, on August 27.

Ben Rimalower’s hit comedy tribute to Patti LuPone, “Patti Issues” which was the NY Times’ “Critic’s Pick” and Patti LuPone herself called “fantastic” comes to The Art House on August 28; Unitard, the comedy trio returns to Ptown by popular demand with “Tard Core! (There Are No Safe Words)”- which Time Out NY called “incredibly vicious and relentlessly hilarious” – starring Mike Albo, Nora Burns and David Ilku, directed by Paul Dobie, on September 1 & 2; and the Afterglow Festival – the live performance arts festival – takes up residence at The Art House from September 12 – 16.

For Tickets and information, visit www.ptownarthouse.com or call 800-838-3006.

Inside Royal Caribbean’s Royal Theatre

May 19th, 2017 Comments off

Broadway-caliber technology is raising the bar for at-sea entertainment. Take a look!

Oh, Brother!: Mint Theater’s ‘The Lucky One’

May 18th, 2017 Comments off

By Samuel L. Leiter

'The Lucky One' at Mint Theater Company. (Photo: Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

‘The Lucky One’ at Mint Theater Company. (Photo: Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

By 1922, British writer A.A. Milne (1882-1956), soon to become world-famous for his Winnie the Pooh children’s stories, was already recognized as a promising, prolific playwright for adults. Between 1920 and 1922 Broadway saw four of his comedies of British manners, including The Truth about Blayds and Mr. Pim Passes By. Both were revived in 2004 by the Mint Theater Company, dedicated to “worthwhile plays from the past that have been lost or forgotten.”

That noble purpose explains the Mint’s exhumation of Milne’s The Lucky One, which certainly has been “lost or forgotten”; whether it’s “worthwhile” is debatable. Written in 1917 but unable to land a London showing, this dramedy about sibling rivalry premiered under the banner of New York’s then rising Theatre Guild. It opened on November 20, 1922, at the now vanished Garrick Theatre. The production, which had only 40 showings, was staged by famed Russian director Theodore Komisarjevsky, making his American debut.

Paton Ashbrook and Ari Brand in 'The Lucky One.' (Photo: Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

Paton Ashbrook and Ari Brand in ‘The Lucky One.’ (Photo: Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

Arthur Hornblow in Theatre Magazine thought that “The piece is a job-lot of scene wrenched out of a Milne note-book and fastened together without much thought to the general picture.” The general opinion was that the play was middling and its weaknesses made worse by a miscast production.

With a few exceptions, the casting of the Mint’s production, efficiently directed by Jesse Marchese, is likewise problematic, as are the set and costumes. The three-act play, clumsy, old-fashioned, and dotted with unanswered plot questions, nevertheless contains enough lively dialogue and dramatic confrontations to make its two hours pass by entertainingly enough. It even contains a line concerning the sharing of secrets with a foreign power that will tickle your topical funnybone. Otherwise, Milne’s play can’t be described as an unfairly overlooked treasure.

Milne’s title points to Gerald, a Foreign Service officer and the younger brother of Bob (Ari Brand). Gerald’s the one everyone loves for his good looks, his sportsman’s abilities, his exceeding charm, and his superior intelligence. The unlucky sibling is “poor old Bob,” as others keep referring to him because he pales in the light of his brother’s accomplishments. Bob’s in love with the beautiful Pamela Carey (Paton Ashbrook); guess who her fiancé is.

Bob’s seething jealousy sits on him like a badly tailored suit; it becomes even more unflattering when the self-pitying fellow, a complete mismatch for his business career in the City (London’s Wall Street), goes to jail for three months after being implicated in his partner’s shady dealing. He continues to prate about his need for Pamela, who’s written in a way suggesting that maybe she really doesn’t love Gerald after all. At the end the brothers engage in a sharply honed climactic dialogue; when it’s over, you can take your pick as to which is the lucky brother.

Surrounding the fraternal squabbles are a familiar lot of drawing-room stereotypes. Best is veteran Cynthia Harris as the wise, aged great-aunt, Miss Farringdon, who has her doubts about Gerald. Paton Ashbrook is warmly affectionate as Pamela, although—it’s the script that’s to blame—she never convinced me such an intelligent woman would fall for either of the brothers.

Robert David Grant and Peggy J. Scott in 'The Lucky One.' (Photo: Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

Robert David Grant and Peggy J. Scott in ‘The Lucky One.’ (Photo: Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

Wynn Harmon and Deanne Lorette as the doting parents, Sir James and Lady Farringdon, are suitably obtuse, while Michael Frederic is believably advisory as the family’s barrister friend, Henry Wentworth. In the comic relief roles of young, golf-obsessed Thomas Todd and his girlfriend Letty Herbert, Andrew Fallaize and Mia Hutchinson are stymied by their unfunny lines and business, but Peggy J. Scott is fine as Mason, a faithful maidservant.

Least lucky are Robert David Grant and Ari Brand as the Farringdon brothers. It’s hard to reconcile the superior qualities we keep hearing about Gerald with their existence in the person of Grant, whose vaunted charisma seems more like smugness. Poor old Bob, on the other hand, is portrayed as a single note of resentment in search of a maternal breast on which to suckle away his grievances.

Martha Hally’s costumes are attractive enough but those for the women, with their skirts nearly to the ground, seem more like 1917, when the play was written, than 1922, when it was produced. More awkward is Vicki R. Davis’s unit set, which needs to represent a country house in the first and third acts, and a London hotel room in the second.

Davis’s physically impressive design consists of a pair of sweeping staircases, backed by sheer curtains, with open risers and banisters made of conventional steel pipes. A large photo of two kids, presumably the brothers, dominates the upper level. None of it, though, has a period feeling.

Moreover, the only effort made to differentiate the locales is the change of flowers made by a stagehand in the drearily overlong scene-shift; otherwise, it takes some time before you realize the locale has moved from the country to the city.

Regardless of the relative success of The Lucky One, New York is fortunate to have the Mint providing several opportunities each season to evaluate neglected plays like this one. In that sense, we, the audience, are indeed the lucky ones.

The Lucky One
Beckett Theatre/Mint Theater Company
410 W. 42nd St., NYC
Through June 25

Samuel L. Leiter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus (Theater) of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He has written and/or edited 27 books on Japanese theater, New York theater, Shakespeare, and the great stage directors. For more of his reviews, visit Theatre’s Leiter Side (www.slleiter.blogspot.com).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Miss: National Theatre Live – ‘Angels in America’

May 17th, 2017 Comments off
Andrew Garfield in The National Theatre's 'Angels in America.' (Photo: Helen Maybanks via The Broadway Blog.)

Andrew Garfield in The National Theatre’s ‘Angels in America.’ (Photo: Helen Maybanks via The Broadway Blog.)

The National Theatre’s 2017 revival of Tony Kushner’s two-part landmark work Angels in America starring Academy Award nominee Andrew Garfield and Tony Award winner Nathan Lane opened last week to widespread critical acclaim. National Theatre Live will broadcast the sold-out production, directed by Tony and Olivier Award-winner Marianne Elliott, this July to cinemas in the U.S. and internationally from the National’s Lyttelton Theatre. The first part, Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, will be broadcast on Thursday, July 20 with the second part, Angels in America: Perestroika, broadcast the following Thursday, July 27.

In addition to Garfield and Lane, Angels in America stars Stuart Angell, Mark Arnold, Arun Blair-Mangat, Susan Brown, Laura Caldow, Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough, Kate Harper, John Hastings, Claire Lambert, Amanda Lawrence, James McArdle, Becky Namgauds, Mateo Oxley, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Russell Tovey, Paksie Vernon, Stan West and Lewis Wilkins.

Angels in America is designed by Ian MacNeil, with costume by Nicky Gillibrand, lighting by Paule Constable, choreography and movement by Robby Graham, music by Adrian Sutton, sound by Ian Dickinson, puppetry designers Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell, puppetry director and movement Finn Caldwell, illusions by Chris Fisher, aerial direction by Gwen Hales and fight director Kate Waters.

Click here to find out where Angels in America will be playing in your area.

Denise Gough and Russell Tovey in 'Angels in America.' (Photo: Helen Maybanks via The Broadway Blog.)

Denise Gough and Russell Tovey in ‘Angels in America.’ (Photo: Helen Maybanks via The Broadway Blog.)

Just Announced: Off Broadway Alliance Award Winners

May 16th, 2017 Comments off

The Off Broadway Alliance, the organization of Off Broadway producers, theaters, general managers, press agents, and marketing professionals, today announced the winners of the 7th Annual Off Broadway Alliance Awards, honoring commercial and not-for-profit Off Broadway productions that opened during the 2016-2017 season.

Wade McCollum and Valerie Vigoda in 'Ernest Shackleton Loves Me.' (Photo: Jeff Carpenter via The Broadway Blog.)

Wade McCollum and Valerie Vigoda in ‘Ernest Shackleton Loves Me.’ (Photo: Jeff Carpenter via The Broadway Blog.)

Best New Musical
Ernest Shackleton Loves 

Best New Play
Indecent

Best Musical Revival
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Best Play Revival
The Emperor Jones

Dan Rosales in 'Spamilton.' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Dan Rosales in ‘Spamilton.’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Best Unique Theatrical Experience
Spamilton

Best Solo Performance
Joe Morton, Turn Me Loose

Best Family Show
The Commedia Cinderella (Ragtag Theatre Company)

Legend of Off Broadway Honorees
Harvey Fierstein
Athol Fugard
Israel Horovitz
Charlotte Moore
Estelle Parsons
Paula Vogel

Hall of Fame Award
James Houghton

The Off Broadway Alliance is a non-profit corporation organized by theater professionals dedicated to supporting, promoting and encouraging the production of Off Broadway theater and to making live theater increasingly accessible to new and diverse audiences. The Alliance holds monthly meetings and membership is open to everyone in the Off-Broadway theater community.

Among its initiatives, The Off Broadway Alliance sponsors 20at20, the event that runs twice a year for 20 days and lets theatergoers purchase $20 tickets to dozens of Off Broadway shows 20 minutes before curtain. It also produces a free Seminar Series focusing on the culture, business and history of Off Broadway featuring major players from the Off Broadway scene. And the Alliance created the Off Broadway Economic Impact Report, which outlines Off Broadway’s over $500 million annual impact on the economy of the City of New York.

The 2017 Off Broadway Alliance Awards will be presented on Tuesday, June 20 at 4 p.m. at Sardi’s.

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