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Three to See: October

October 5th, 2015 Comments off

What does October have in store for Broadway and beyond? Our picks include a violent romantic obsession, epic sci-fi trilogy, and good old-fashioned musical revival. Go to the theater!

Fool For Love

Fool For Love
Sam Shepard’s searing romantic drama premiered in San Francisco in 1983 starring Ed Harris and Kathy Baker before transferring to New York with the same cast. This revival features Manhattan Theatre Club favorite Nina Arianda and Sam Rockwell. Be prepared for plenty of sparks as these two former lovers hole up in a seedy motel on the edge of the Mojave Desert and unpack the deep secrets and dark desires of their tangled relationship.

Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street, NYC
Opening night: October 8
Through December 6

The Honeycomb TrilogyThe Honeycomb Trilogy
Last year brought us the Royal Shakespeare Company’s epic Wolf Hall, a massive two-part theatrical endeavor that explored the reign of King Henry VIII. Not to be outdone, Off Broadway welcomes Gideon Productions’ sci-fi extravaganza, The Honeycomb Trilogy by Mac Rogers.

Advance Man centers on the family of Bill Cooke, the leader of a group of astronauts who have returned from the first manned mission to Mars bearing secrets and illicit cargo that could forever alter not only their lives, but all of humanity. Blast Radius follows a brother and sister on opposite sides of an extraterrestrial occupation as each rushes to carry out plans that will change the human race forever. In Sovereign, the final installment, the human race is slowly rebuilding. Ronnie, now a battle-scarred Governor, must decide the fate of the greatest war criminal still living: her brother Abbie, whose last desperate measure on behalf of the aliens forces a confrontation between species that will forever change the future of the human race.

The Gym at Judson
55 Washington Square South
Opening night: October 13
Through November 14

 

(l to r) Lesli Margherita, Eloise Kropp and Mara Davi in 'Dames at Sea' (Photo: Nathan Johnson via The Broadway Blog.)

(l to r) Lesli Margherita, Eloise Kropp and Mara Davi in ‘Dames at Sea’ (Photo: Nathan Johnson via The Broadway Blog.)

Dames at Sea
There’s plenty of genre-busting theatrical innovation this season on Broadway with the arrival of Hamilton and Spring Awakening revival, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a warm-fuzzy show that celebrates the golden era of movie musicals with dazzling dames and a heart as big as the ocean. Dames at Sea originally starred legendary performer Bernadette Peters in its Off Broadway run. This is the show’s first appearance on Broadway.

Follow Ruby as she steps off a bus in Manhattan and into her first Broadway show. Hours before the opening night curtain is to rise, the cast learns their theater is being demolished, so it is “all hands on deck” to find a stage to put on the show. Featuring rollicking tap dancing, love at first sight, joyful music and a boatload of laughs, this glittering musical extravaganza has everything you need to sweep your glooms away.

Helen Hayes Theatre
240 West 44th Street, NYC
Opening night: October 22
Open ended run.

Review Round-Up: Tales From Red Vienna

March 27th, 2014 Comments off
Nina Arianda and Michael Esper in "Tales From Red Vienna" (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

Nina Arianda and Michael Esper in “Tales From Red Vienna” (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

What happens when you combine The Scarlet Letter and A Doll’s House and set it in Vienna, Austria circa 1920? You end up with Manhattan Theatre Club’s latest venture: Tales From Red Vienna by David Grimm.

Things aren’t easy for Heléna Altman (Nina Arianda), who must find a way to support herself after her husband is presumably killed in the war. She resorts the world’s oldest profession until by chance one of her johns, Béla (Michael Esper) turns into a love interest. Picnics in the graveyard of her missing husband ensue and the plot twists as Heléna’s past returns to haunt her.

Kathleen Chalfant in "Tales From Red Vienna" (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

Kathleen Chalfant in “Tales From Red Vienna” (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

Supporting the action is longtime friend (in a Real Housewives of Vienna kind of way) “Mutzi” von Fessendorf (Tina Benko), housekeeper Edda (Kathleen Chalfant) and local grocery boy Rudy (Michael Goldsmith). The trio provide terrific comedic reprieve as Edda nips from any bottle close at hand and Mutzi manipulates Heléna until her cougar-like actions backfire.

As a woman on the verge of implosion, Arianda taps into a range of emotions from desperation to desire, but isn’t able to embrace the period style of Grimm’s script. In fact, the setting itself feels obsure. Beyond a few off-handed references to the war and a dollop of “schlag” (an Austrian term for heavy cream) in their coffee, the period doesn’t seem to serve the play. Arianda’s movement and carriage—even her vocal delivery—feel idiosyncratic to the script, and I couldn’t help but think how wildly dynamic her performance may have been if the entire thing was reset outside of McCoy Air Force Base in central Florida during the Vietnam War. The rest of the ensemble fares better, but this is Heléna’s tale to tell.

What did the critics think?

“Arianda, so striking in her comic roles in Born Yesterday and Venus in Fur, which deservedly won her a Tony, makes very little impression. The show is a telling reminder that actors are only as good as the material. Tales From Red Vienna is the second World War I-era drama from MTC. It joins The Snow Geese, a Broadway turkey from the fall. If these shows made the cut for the company’s season, one wonders what the rejects were.” Daily News

“Astonishing curtain revelations (there are three acts) can be fun in a farce, or effective when handled with care in serious material. But Grimm, so adept with period pastiche in works like Measure for Pleasure and The Savages of Hartford, can’t seem to keep his eyes on the road here. The tone — now romantic, now schmaltzy, now Ibsenesque — wheels round and round, circling the plot as the Gürtel does Vienna.” Vulture.com

“It may have been the sexual kink factor in Mr. Ives’s play that made Ms. Arianda seem a natural choice for “Tales.” But the kind of mannered, genteel humility she’s required to assume here doesn’t become her. She has a couple of bracingly spontaneous moments — a sudden whoop of surprised laughter in a rainstorm, an escaped sigh of desire in a graveyard — that remind you how talented she is. Mostly, though, she seems as confined by this play’s stale artifice as the fresh young Heléna is by her suffocating layers of mourning.” New York Times

Tales From Red Vienna
Manhattan Theatre Club
Stage I, New York City Center
131 West 55th Street
Through April 27

Matthew Wexler is the Broadway Blog’s editor. 

Stars, Snubs and Surprises at the 2012 Tony Awards

June 11th, 2012 Comments off

James Corden, Audra McDonald, Nina Arianda & Steve Kazee. Photo by Walter McBride/Retna.

All that’s left of this year’s Tonys is a trail of body glitter left on the 1 train by some hungover chorus boy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t relive them with a look back at the night’s big winners and losers. (Get the full list of Tony winners here.)

Biggest Winner: With a pack leading eight wins, Once, the little show that could proved to be a freight train mowing down the competition. Given that it was based on a small independent film, expect Sundance to be swarmed by music theater writers next year. Pack extra leg warmers.

Best Reason to Watch the Tonys vs. the Oscarsother than dancer butt: The Tonys aren’t afraid of comedy. James Corden’s triumphant, masterclass in low comedy wouldn’t even have been nominated for an Oscar let alone won one. Somewhere, Steve Martin is shaking his fist and thinking, “Why didn’t I do All of Me on Broadway?!”

Best Audition for the Next Spider-Man Villain: When the every-peppy cast of Godspell jumped into the audience, Andrew Garfield was seen recoiling in fear from a swirling apostle attempting to pull him into the aisle. It would seem that all you need to stop Spidey is a tube of greasepaint and a follow spot.

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SHOW FOLK: David Ives on “Venus”, Dirty Books & Calls from Sondheim

May 9th, 2012 Comments off

Nina Arianda & Hugh Dancy in "Venus in Fur". Photo by Joan Marcus.

“There’s nothing in that.”

Those were the sage words of advice David Ives received from his father as the young playwright headed off to the Yale School of Drama. We should all have such nothing. With a career spanning influential comedies like All in the Timing and acclaimed translations of classics like the Moliere “rewrite” School for Lies, to his current Tony-nominated, Broadway hit Venus in Fur, Ives has proven those words wrong and made a life working in the theater.

During a recent discussion moderated by famed critic John Lahr at the 92nd Street Y Tribecca, Ives opened up about the highs and lows of his career in sparklingly articulate and, at times, raucously deadpan stories — from his tragically lost first play to his current much-anticipated collaboration with Stephen Sondheim.

On his unfortunate debut as a playwright: 

I got bitten by the theater bug quite early and I wrote my first play when I was nine. I took this three hundred page, sort of noir novel out of my parents’ library and I turned it into a ten minute play. For my cub scout troupe. I was going to play the lead, of course, and all my friends were going to play the secondary roles which were much smaller. But what I didn’t know is that everyone in the play has to get a copy of the script. And so I learned my lines, I passed the script on and he lost it. And it was probably my best work ever. I’m still looking for it.

On the thrill of discovering his love for theater:

The stinger really stuck in my flesh when I was seventeen and I went to see Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy in A Delicate Balance. It came through Chicago. I well remember the sensation that I had sitting in the front of the balcony for $3.65 and watching Cronyn & Tandy and feeling like I was in the front car of the Cyclone in Coney Island. Because I had never seen anything like this, something so extraordinarily passionate and eloquent. I might as well have just gone home that day and written my parents a note that said, “Dear Mom & Dad, I’m going to be a playwright. Nothing can stop me.”

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