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Three to See: February

February 3rd, 2016 Comments off

It’s been a mild winter but things are heating up Off Broadway. Take a look at our top picks of the month!

Company XIV's 'Snow White' (Photo: Steven Trumon via The Broadway Blog.)

Company XIV’s ‘Snow White’ (Photo: Steven Trumon via The Broadway Blog.)

Company XIV’s Snow White
Artistic director Austin McCormick is back with another voluptuous, adult-only fairly tale inspired by the Brothers Grimm. Expect a dark, dangerous and decadent evening of circus, opera, dance, theatre, music, high fashion and lavish design. The show contains partial nudity—16 and over admitted.

Company XIV’s work is a unique mash up of classical texts, Baroque choreography, eclectic music, pop culture, opera, burlesque, ballet, gender bending, high fashion, theatrical staging and sumptuous design that has wowed both audiences and critics. Taking his cue from theatre/dance/opera under the reign of Louis XIV, director/choreographer Austin McCormick creates a compelling 360-degree experience for audiences. The players of Company XIV are theatrical libertines, who tempt, delight and fully immerse their audiences in the experience of their performances, inviting them to be seduced and liberated!

Snow White
Minetta Lane Theatre
18-22 Minetta Lane, NYC
Opening night: February 3
Through March 12

(l to r) Bill Irwin, Shaina Taub, and David Shiner in 'Old Hats.' (Photo: Kevin Berne from the ACT production in San Francisco.)

(l to r) Bill Irwin, Shaina Taub, and David Shiner in ‘Old Hats.’ (Photo: Kevin Berne from the ACT production in San Francisco.)


Old Hats

What’s old is new again at Signature Theatre Company, where Bill Irwin and David Shiner bring their whimsical theatrical combination of music, technology and movement back to the state. This production reunites the clowns with original director Tina Landau and introduces their new songstress and comic foil Shaina Taub, hailed as “a young Judy Garland meets grown-up Lisa Simpson” by the San Francisco Chronicle.

 

Old Hats
Signature Theatre Company
The Pershing Square Signature Theatre
480 West 42nd Street, NYC
Opening night: February 18
Through April 3

Dot Vineyard Theatre

Dot
Susan Stroman momentarily puts her dancing shoes aside and sidesteps from musical theater to helm Dot, a new play by Colman Domingo. The holidays are always a wild family affair at the Shealy house. But this year, Dotty and her three grown children gather with more than exchanging presents on their minds. As Dotty struggles to hold on to her memory, her children must fight to balance care for their mother and care for themselves. This twisted and hilarious new play grapples unflinchingly with aging parents, midlife crises, and the heart of a West Philly neighborhood.

Domingo (Wild With Happy) reunites with Stroman at The Vineyard following his solo show A Boy And His Soul and his Tony Award-nominated performance in The Scottsboro Boys, also directed by Stroman.

Dot
The Vineyard Theatre
108 East 15th Street, NYC
Opening night: February 23
Through March 20

Review: ‘Incident at Vichy’

November 15th, 2015 Comments off

by Samuel L. Leiter

(l to r) Darren Pettie, Jonny Orsini and Evan Zes in 'Incident at Vichy' (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

(l to r) Darren Pettie, Jonny Orsini and Evan Zes in ‘Incident at Vichy’ (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Howard Taubman of The New York Times praised Arthur Miller’s Incident at Vichy when it first premiered in 1964, but it was an opinion not widely shared and most other critics agreed with Richard Gilman that the play was “a windy, dated sermon” and Martin Gottfried that it was “awful.” This (together with a cast of 17 males) may explain why there’s been only one previous New York revival of the play (The Actors Company Theatre in 2009), despite the esteem in which its author is universally held. Like TACT’S revival, the present one—part of a centennial celebration honoring Miller’s birth—both reinforces early impressions of the play as a didactic exercise while also demonstrating its rhetoric’s ability to hold an audience in its grip during an intermissionless 95 minutes.

It’s September 1942 and ten men—eight Jews (one uses the word “Peruvians” as a cautious euphemism), a gypsy (Evan Zes), and an Austrian nobleman named Von Berg (Richard Thomas)—are rounded up in the streets of Vichy, headquarters of unoccupied France, and made to wait in a dingy detention room where a Nazi major and French officials will determine if they’re Jews.

Richard Thomas in 'Incident at Vichy' (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Richard Thomas in ‘Incident at Vichy’ (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

The Jews are Marchand (John Procaccino), a wealthy businessman; Bayard (Alex Morf), a Communist electrician; a boy of 14 (Jonathan Gordon, too old); Lebeau (Jonny Orsini), a starving artist whose nervousness drives much of the conversation; Monceau (Derek Smith), an actor; a waiter (David Abeles); Leduc (Darren Pettie), a psychiatrist who studied in Vienna; and a pious, bearded old man (Jonathan Hadary), wordless except when quietly praying.

As, one by one, they’re summoned to an office by Professor Hoffman (Brian Cross), a “racial anthropologist,” they fearfully discuss the evils of Nazism, the implementation of “racial laws,” rumors of concentration camp-bound trains and furnaces, labor vs. capital, the disputable integrity of the working classes, Jewish identity based on nose size and circumcision, their chances of survival, the psychology of victimization, and the possibility of escape. The major (James Carpinello) shows a degree of sympathy but is a victim of his military duty. Miller contrives to have the mistakenly arrested Von Berg, the refined, compassionate, if somewhat politically naïve Austrian prince, who despises the Nazis for their “vulgarity,” and the intellectual Leduc be the last two victims (both were inspired by actual people); this provides an opportunity for Miller to air his biggest arguments about guilt and responsibility, thus setting up the melodramatically implausible denouement that brings the play to its dark finale.

It’s hard not to hear in the play’s preoccupations echoes of atrocities in the Middle East and Africa, international terrorism, mass deportations and migrations, racial and religious hatred, and many other continuing cruelties that show how little we’ve evolved since the Holocaust. In his climactic scene with Von Berg, Leduc insists that the problem is not anti-Semitism but man’s fear of “the other,” so that all men have their Jews, including the Jews themselves (the gypsy’s presence underlines the point); we’re all guilty, in other words.

Michael Wilson’s unhurried, suitably suspenseful staging—set within the dank surroundings of the Vichy holding quarters, designed by Jeff Cowie and lit by David Lander to emphasize its squalid atmosphere—allows the characters to come into focus and for their respective points of view to be aired. Still, despite their convictions, fears, and occasional outbursts, it’s hard to avoid the faint smell of greasepaint rather than the stink of humanity wafting toward us; everyone’s a theatrical construct, a mouthpiece for an idea or attitude, speaking dialogue that’s often clouded and stiff.

No one, though, seems in the least European—a problem perhaps insurmountable when an American creates an entire cast of European roles to be acted by Americans. Even casting an actor with a small nose as the one who gets measured draws attention to the difficulty. Given the noteworthy proboscises on many Frenchmen, it’s a wonder Charles de Gaulle wasn’t mistaken for the Grand Rabbi of Free France.

Incident at Vichy is a discussion play whose ideas are more stimulating than the way they’re dramatized. While this may not be its dream production, it nonetheless conveys those ideas efficiently and, for some, I’m sure, movingly.

Incident at Vichy
Signature Theatre Company
Pershing Square Signature Center
480 West 42nd Street
Through December 20

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).

Three to See: February

February 3rd, 2014 Comments off

 

"The Bridges of Madison County"

“The Bridges of Madison County”

The Bridges of Madison County
If you’re looking for a lush, romantic Broadway musical, the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning team of Marsha Norman and Jason Robert Brown hope to score big with The Bridges of Madison County. Directed by Barltett Sher (South Pacific) and starring

Four-time Tony nominee Kelli O’Hara (Nice Work If You Can Get It, The Light in the Piazza) and Steven Pasquale (“Rescue Me”, reasons to be pretty), star in the soaring tale of romance and lost love takes place on the plains of the Iowa landscape circa 1965.

The Bridges of Madison County
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th Street
www.bridgesofmadisoncountymusical.com

Take a sneak peek…

Kung Fu

Cole Horibe stars in David Henry Hwang's new play, "Kung Fu." (photo: Gregory Costanzo)

Cole Horibe stars in David Henry Hwang’s new play, “Kung Fu.”
(photo: Gregory Costanzo)

Incorporating dance and music into an exciting new form, Cole Horibe (“So You Think You Can Dance”) takes on the iconic role of real-life Bruce Lee, a young martial artist who comes to America from Hong Kong in the 1960’s with a dream as audacious as his talent: to become the biggest movie star in the world. To do so, he must struggle to overcome the West’s view of China as weak and backwards, and of Asian men as less than truly masculine.

The world premiere play by David Henry Hwang and directed by Leigh Silverman has created so much buzz that the production has already been extended. Also keep your eye out for choreography by Sonya Tayeh. 

Kung Fu
The Irene Diamond Stage at The Pershing Square Signature Center 480 West 42nd Street
Through March 30.
www.signaturetheatre.org

 

pageantPageant – The Musical Comedy Beauty Contest
Returning for the first time to the New York stage in more than twenty years, Pageant features contestants desperately vying for a glittering tiara. With swimsuit, talent, and evening gown competitions – the show includes both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat! Unlike some beauty pageants you’ve seen before, the female contestants are all played by men. And the audience gets to select the winner each night.

Fifty percent of ticket sales benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. By drawing upon the talents, resources and generosity of the American theatre community, since 1988 BC/EFA has raised more than $250 million for essential services for people with AIDS and other critical illnesses across the United States.

Pageant
The Red Lacquer Club
240 West 52nd Street
Monday nights; February 3, 10, 17, 24

Take a peek at Pageant in rehearsal…