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Don’t Miss: Tennessee Williams Festival, May 3-7

April 17th, 2017 Comments off

Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

St. Louis again celebrates its world-renowned Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright—Tennessee Williams—with the 2nd Annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis, May 3 – 7, in venues across the Grand Center Theatre District.

“The magic of the other” is a thread through all of his hundreds of plays, poems, stories, and essays. “Some of us fear and reject strange people and ideas. Williams understood that by confronting and embracing the other, we can be elevated and mysteriously transformed. This is not just the magic of theater… it is the magic of the other,” explains TWFSTL Executive Artistic Director, Carrie Houk.

Tennessee Williams FestivalHighlights include the unacknowledged Williams masterpiece Small Craft Warnings, a breathtaking Spanish-language (with English supertitles) production of Deseo; and “The Playwright and the Painter,” an exhibition of acclaimed Tennessee Williams’ paintings on loan from Key West. There is something for everyone: plays, live music, movies, paintings, readings, panel discussions, and tours.

“We thrive on the vibrancy of Grand Center. Mary Strauss and Ken and Nancy Kranzberg have embraced us. We are thrilled to have been invited by the Kranzbergs to be an anchor arts organization at the .ZACK!” boasts Board President, Scott Intagliata. “We premiere Small Craft Warnings at the .ZACK theater and it will be our hub. Patrons can settle in to discuss the festival and enjoy a drink or a meal.”

Anita Jackson in 'Bertha in Paradise.' (Photo: TWFSTL via The Broadway Blog.)

Anita Jackson in ‘Bertha in Paradise.’ (Photo: TWFSTL via The Broadway Blog.)

All programming is within walking distance of the .ZACK. “Bertha in Paradise,” featuring St. Louis’s Grammy-winning Anita Jackson, kicks off the festival on Wednesday, May 3, at the Curtain Call Lounge. In a bluesy cabaret performance, Jackson conjures up a continuation of her hauntingly unforgettable character of last year’s “Hello from Bertha.” An opening night party follows.

The remarkable showcase, “Tennessee Williams: The Playwright and the Painter,” is a major coup for St. Louis. These 18 deeply personal paintings, only once before shown outside of Key West, illustrate how William’s magical poetry brilliantly suffuses every art form he undertakes. Exhibited at the St. Louis University Museum of Art, they are on loan from the Key West Art & Historical Society and the owner of the paintings, Williams’s longtime friend David Wolkowsky.

The marquee, must-see production of the festival is the little-known but critically heralded Williams play Small Craft Warnings. Richard Corley, one of America’s most praised Williams directors, directs a cast of St. Louis’s top performers. The cast is headlined by New York’s much-lauded Williams interpreter Jeremy Lawrence as Doc, a role Williams himself played in its original New York City run.

Deseo, the festival’s first-ever international entry, provides a thrilling re-interpretation of Williams’s most famous play from the perspective of the Cuban experience. It remains true to the essence of Williams, while freshly channeling the unfamiliar challenges faced by of immigrants and exiles. It is a co-production of Lilian Vega’s Miami-based El Ingenio and the world-renowned Teatro Beundia in Havana, guided by Raquel Carrio and Flora Lauten. In Spanish, with English supertitles, at the Marcelle.

The historic Stockton House, everyone’s favorite venue last year, returns as the stage for Will Mr. Merriweather Return from Memphis? Local favorite Jeff Awada directs the first professional production in fifty years of this intimate, funny, poignant play. The scarcest ticket in town last year was for the immersive St. Louis Rooming House Plays at the Stockton House, so theater-goers should get their tickets early and often.

The Tennessee Williams New Playwrights Initiative makes its debut this year. The winner is Jack Ciapciak’s Naming the Dog, also the recent winner of NYU’s Goldberg New Playwright Award. The play presents us with millennials who live near Ferguson, veering between attempts to cope with racial unrest and the apparently more consequential task of naming their new puppy. Ciapciak leads a Q&A after the staged reading at the Kranzberg Studio.

Tennessee Williams Tribute: Magic of the Other features scenes, songs, and poetry as interpreted by special guests including Ken Page, Lara Teeter, Elizabeth Teeter, Anita Jackson, Michael James Reed, Jeremy Lawrence, and a surprise vocalist from the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. This program will again be curated by Thomas Keith, editor of the continuing series of Williams’s newly collected works for the New Directions Press in New York.

The festival’s 17 distinct elements, receiving 39 performances, include many of last year’s favorites: educational panels, a bus tour of Williams locations, Beatnik Jam, films at the Nine Media Commons, a photo exhibit, and, of course, the crowd-pleasing Stella Shouting Contest (to win Stella beer!).

The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis looks forward to building on last year’s critical success and exceeding its 2016 attendance. “I’m gratified that Tennessee’s hometown is now embracing our greatest playwright,” says Houk. We look forward to continuing to offer theatrical, artistic, and educational programming to the community, and becoming a major destination event.”

The Family Ties That Bind: ‘The Glass Menagerie’

March 10th, 2017 Comments off
Sally Field and Joe Mantello in 'The Glass Menagerie' (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

Sally Field and Joe Mantello in ‘The Glass Menagerie’ (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

I have no doubt that Sam Gold’s stark, contemporary interpretation of Tennessee Williams’ masterwork, The Glass Menagerie, will polarize audiences and critics alike. The current Broadway revival, which opened last night at the Belasco Theatre, is a muscular, often anachronistic work. “The play is memory,” says the son, Tom (Joe Mantello), “Being a memory play, it is dimly lighted, it is sentimental, it is not realistic.” If you believe those words at face value, as I did, you will discover a production that bristles with familial uncomfortability. That pushes your boundaries beyond the suspension of disbelief. And that, ultimately, breaks your heart as the ties that bind unravel before your eyes.

Set in an alley in St. Louis, “Now and in the Past,” The Glass Menagerie reveals the layered dysfunction in the Wingfield household, helmed by matriarch Amanda (Sally Field) and her two children, Tom (Joe Mantello) and Laura (Madison Ferris). A gentleman caller, Jim O’Connor (Finn Wittrock) later appears, but it is the unseen fifth character of the father, “a telephone man who fell in love with long distances,” who looms over the proceedings like an emotional grim reaper.

Madison Ferris, Sally Field, and Joe Mantello in 'The Glass Menagerie.' (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

Madison Ferris, Sally Field, and Joe Mantello in ‘The Glass Menagerie.’ (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

Williams’ construct is quite simple, really. During the day, Tom is trapped in a warehouse job at Continental Shoemakers while his wanderlust slowly simmers away. At home, his recluse sister plays with her glass menagerie as his mother tries to pine and manipulate her way toward an idealistic vision for a charmed life for herself and her two wayward adult children. When Tom invites his colleague, Jim, home for dinner, Amanda sets a social entrapment in the hopes that the young man will find Laura suitable for the taking. Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans…

As narrator and son, Mantello is wiry, perhaps more middle-aged neurotic New Yorker than down-on-his-luck warehouse worker. Putting “type” aside, it makes no difference. Mantello bites into Williams’ language with a ferocity that some might remember from his Tony award-nominated performance in Angels in America. Mantello has no fear of unhinging Tom’s squelched life. And it helps that he has a terrific sparring partner in Sally Field.

Last seen on Broadway in Edward Albee’s 2002 The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, most of Field’s body of the work has been on the screen, both big and small. The two-time Academy Award winner and three-time Emmy Award winning actress as spanned half a century. Once again, the actress delivers a watershed moment, the culmination of more of a decade of yearning to return to the role, which she played at a Tennessee Williams Festival at the Kennedy Center in 2004. Gold guides her through a fluid vacillation between aging southern belle and contemporary matriarch.

Finn Wittrock and Madison Ferris in 'The Glass Menagerie.' (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

Finn Wittrock and Madison Ferris in ‘The Glass Menagerie.’ (Photo: Julieta Cervantes via The Broadway Blog.)

Making her Broadway debut, Ferris is tasked with perhaps the play’s most challenging role. Laura, often portrayed as waif-like with a non-discriminant limp or another physical challenge, is lost in the world of her menagerie. Drifting in and out of life’s social demands, it is easy to shroud her as a victim. But Ferris, who was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in her teens but hasn’t let that stop her from pursuing a theater degree from Muhlenberg College and moving to New York City, often as difficult to navigate as Williams’ masterwork. This conflict of strength and vulnerability sheds new light on Laura, who seems almost flippant at her mother’s eccentric pursuit of a gentleman caller. But Ferris tends to, at times, vacantly drift, nearly consumed by Mantello and Field’s master class.

But when Wittrock arrives as her gentleman caller, Ferris lights up. And who wouldn’t? He embodies an easy, All-American façade, but don’t be fooled by his good looks. Wittrock mines Jim for all he’s worth, clutching to a gem given by the playwright, who pegs Jim as a man in pursuit of upward mobility. Jim is taking a night course in public speaking, and Wittrock joyfully nudges this character detail to the forefront with a bellowing voice.

Stripped down to its bare walls, scenic designer Andrew Lieberman and lighting designer Adam Silverman create a barren theatrical landscape at the Belasco. But there is plenty to feast on in this eighth Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie.

The Glass Menagerie
Belasco Theatre
111 West 44th Street, NYC
Through July 2

Breaking: Sally Field to Star in ‘The Glass Menagerie’ on Broadway

June 6th, 2016 Comments off
Sally Field (Photo: Ga Fullner / Shutterstock.com via The Broadway Blog.)

Sally Field (Photo: Ga Fullner / Shutterstock.com via The Broadway Blog.)

Producer Scott Rudin announced today that two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field and two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello will return to the Broadway stage next season to star in Tennessee Williams’s most cherished play, The Glass Menagerie. Tony Award winner Sam Gold will direct the production, which will also star Finn Wittrock and Madison Ferris, who will be making her Broadway debut in the role of Laura Wingfield. The Glass Menagerie will begin performances at Broadway’s Golden Theatre on Tuesday, February 14, 2017, with an official opening night set for Thursday, March 23, 2017.

“To say this is a dream come true is an understatement,” Ms. Field said. “Working with the best of the best, from Sam Gold to Joe Mantello to Scott Rudin, on one of the greatest plays ever written is beyond thrilling. Right now I can barely breathe. Hopefully that’ll pass.”

Mr. Gold first directed this production of The Glass Menagerie with an entirely Dutch cast at Toneelgroep Amsterdam (Ivo van Hove, Artistic Director) in an engagement that garnered rave reviews and massive international attention.

Mr. Gold said, “The experience I had doing this play in Amsterdam was life-changing, and the fact that we’ve managed to put together this cast to do it on Broadway is the most perfect outcome I could have imagined. Like any sane person, I’ve been hoping for Sally Field to carve out some time to do a play again. When I saw her Mary Todd Lincoln, I started dreaming of her as Amanda Wingfield. As for Joe Mantello, seeing that original production of Angels in America, in which he starred, was a great source of inspiration for me at the time. Because Joe is such a wonderful director, he has had very little time to act. I’m incredibly lucky that he has agreed to come back to the stage to play Tom.”

The Glass Menagerie is the play that brought a brilliant young writer named Tennessee Williams to national attention, and, in his own words, “changed my life irrevocably” when it first premiered on Broadway in 1945. More than seventy years later, Williams’s most personal work for the stage continues to captivate and overwhelm audiences around the world.  

Review Round-Up: “The Glass Menagerie” Returns to Broadway

September 30th, 2013 Comments off
"The Glass Menagerie" (photo: Michael J. Lutch)

“The Glass Menagerie” (photo: Michael J. Lutch)

Broadway’s favorite dysfunctional family is back in a revival of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. What do the critics think of this classic tale of overbearing mother, waif-like daughter and handsome suitor? This is what they have to say…

“How can something be this delicate and this strong, so elusive and yet so tenacious? That question radiates from John Tiffany’s stunning production of Tennessee Williams’s “Glass Menagerie,” which opened on Thursday night at the Booth Theater and promises to be the most revealing revival of a cornerstone classic for many a year to come.

More than any interpretation I’ve seen of the 1944 drama that made Williams’s name, this “Menagerie” — which stars Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto in career-defining performances — finds the brute force in a play often described, a bit condescendingly, as lyrical, wispy, elegiac. Yes, the tapered fingers of poetry shape “The Glass Menagerie.” But when these fingers curl into a fist — and they do so again and again in this production, before you quite realize it — be prepared to have the breath knocked out of you.” The New York Times

“Memory floats on a giant plane of regret in American Repertory Theater’s epic and intimate production of “The Glass Menagerie,” trapped forever between a shimmering black sea and an endless void that even an infinite fire escape can’t reach. Tennessee Williams’ world of poetry and prose is presented gracefully, even wondrously, in this distinctive production — helmed by John Tiffany (“Once”) and starring Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto — that no doubt will have Gotham’s gentlemen and women coming to call, even if sometimes it’s just awkward and disconnected.” Variety

Cherry Jones in "The Glass Menagerie." (photo: Michael J. Lutch)

Cherry Jones in “The Glass Menagerie.” (photo: Michael J. Lutch)

“There’s magic from start to finish at the Booth Theatre, where the new production of Tennessee William’s great play about regret opened Thursday starring a superb Cherry Jones and a revelatory Zachary Quinto. It’s evocative, sometimes surreal and sublimely organic — the perfect package for a play about faded and frayed memories.” The Associated Press

“The overbearing matriarch in Tennessee Williams’ semi-autobiographical classic The Glass Menagerie can, in the wrong hands, emerge as something of a monster. But as played by Cherry Jones in the magnificent and harrowing new revival… Jones, one of the greatest stage actresses alive, conveys this in a performance that will amaze even her most ardent admirers in its depth and compassion. Her Amanda is warm and funny and, without question, dedicated to her offspring; watching Jones scrunch her wonderfully expressive face into a broad grin when she is happy for Tom or Laura, you’ll bathe in Amanda’s maternal pleasure.” USA Today

The Glass Menagerie
Booth Theatre
222 West 45th Street

Meow. “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”‘s Scratchy Revival

January 18th, 2013 Comments off

Scarlett Johansson as Maggie in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." (photo: Joan Marcus)

Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” is perhaps one of his most personal, diving into the complex undercurrents of sexuality that peppered his own life as well as the dynamics of illness and dysfunction in a family.

The latest incarnation of his work opened last night at the Richard Rogers Theatre for its sixth Broadway revival. All eyes have been on Scarlett Johansson as “Maggie” but the bigger question prevails: How many lives does this cat have? Apparently not as many as one would hope according to the critics. Here’s what they have to say:

Benjamin Walker, Scarlett Johansson (photo: Joan Marcus)

“Ms. Johansson is also the only major player in “Cat” who appears to have a fully thought-through idea of the character she’s portraying. With a palatial bedroom of a set by Christopher Oram and vivid period costumes by Julie Weiss, the show is as light on persuasive acting as it is saturated in Southern Gothic atmosphere.” The New York Times

“One can discern this Maggie’s unhappiness — Johansson is in an energetic rage throughout — but not the vulnerability that causes a woman who well knows she is beautiful to throw off her very dignity and, well, beg for attention. Hardly walking on scorching tin, this Maggie doesn’t really seem to need anything from anyone; you don’t believe that any of those around her could stop her present trajectory, which feels entirely of her own design.” Chicago Tribune

“Somebody spayed the cat. And it wasn’t the hard-working main attraction Scarlett Johansson, who plays Tennessee Williams’ tenacious feline title character in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The star and her similarly marooned fellow cast members are all at the mercy of Rob Ashford, a director out of his depth and reaching for any floatation device he can grab in this sinking Broadway revival, which manages to be both thunderously emphatic and curiously flat.” Hollywood Reporter

“Fireworks light up the night sky during Big Daddy’s birthday party in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” That’s it for the sparks, unfortunately. Broadway’s starry but misguided new take on Tennessee Williams’ 1955 Pulitzer winner about secrets, lies and love is a dim and soggy affair.” Daily News

 

 

TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “Ghost” & “A Streetcar Named Desire”

April 24th, 2012 Comments off

The mad rush to make Tony eligibility becomes a full on avalanche this week. Let’s ride the wave of openings with multiple review round-ups today and tomorrow. First up, two shows that earn gasps from the audience — when their leading men take off their shirts. (I’m not kidding.)

Caissie Levy & Richard Fleeshman in "Ghost". Photo by Sean Ebsworth Barnes.

GHOST

The teary-eyed “classic” film about romance in the afterlife, sexy pottery throwing and sassy mediums, makes it to Broadway as a visually spectacular musical with songs by pop heavyweights Glen Ballard and Dave Stewart.

…thrill-free singing theme-park ride.” New York Times

“Overall, it’s an ambitious, carefully orchestrated work that raises the bar on technological innovation.” Associated Press

“…a lumbering megatuner with little to offer beyond a limitless array of dazzling effects.” Variety

“Much of Ghost is loud and tacky enough to wake the dead, yet there are undeniable signs of vitality from the machine side of this Broadway cyborg.” New York Magazine

Read more…

SHOW FOLK: The Cast of “A Streetcar Named Desire”

April 3rd, 2012 Comments off

Wood Harris, Nicole Ari Parker, Blair Underwood & Daphne Rubin-Vega in "A Streetcar Named Desire". Image via streetcaronbroadway.com.

Spend just a few minutes in a room with the company of A Streetcar Named Desire and one thing is immediately clear: this is the hottest cast on Broadway. And I don’t just mean physically attractive, though Blair Underwood (In Treatment), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent), Nicole Ari Parker (Boogie Nights) and Wood Harris (The Wire) are a stunning foursome . No, their heat is also a product of their passion for the work and an outspoken determination to make this revival, the first multicultural Streetcar on Broadway, a richer, deeper experience.

In the run-up to their first preview (tonight at the Broadhurst), the entire cast and their director Emily Mann gathered at B. Smith’s to talk about the genesis of this production, the ghosts of prior versions of the play and why this will be one of the steamiest stage trips to New Orleans you’ll ever take. (And just to sweeten the deal, check out our special discount code for tickets at the end of the post!)

On the decision to do an interracial production:

Mann: “It’s sort of why not? What took so long? It’s such an obvious way to do this play. It’s the meaning of New Orleans; to have that gumbo of ethnicities and races makes the city the incredible and unique place it is in America. …Tennessee [Williams] himself wanted always to see the play done this way. He had hoped it would be done on Broadway in 1955 but it was Sweet Bird of Youth, I think, that was premiering and they didn’t want two of his own shows to be competing on Broadway. So it never happened. But he gave permission all through his life to have this done and I think he’d be thrilled by what we are doing today.”

On the draw of Streetcar

Underwood: “…it’s Tennessee Williams. It’s beautiful. Poetry. It’s human. It’s brutal. It’s vulnerable. It’s passionate. It’s desire. It’s all of those things. That’s why it’s an iconic play. That’s why it’s a classic. That’s why people should come see it.”

Read more…