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“August: Osage County” Live Broadcast in L.A.

July 12th, 2014 Comments off

augustIt won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2008 and was made into a feature film starring Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep in 2013. Fans of August: Osage County can hear members of the original Steppenwolf and Broadway companies perform the play live in a special reading that will be broadcast on public radio and streamed on demand at www.latw.org.

Deanna Dunagan (Tony Award®, Best Leading Actress), Rondi Reed (Tony Award®, Best Featured Actress), Kimberly Guerrero, Francis Guinan and Mariann Mayberry reunite to record Tracy Letts’ dark, Pulitzer Prize winning comic epic, joined by National Tour cast member Shannon Cochran and directed by Bart DeLorenzo. The Weston family gathers during a brutal summer heat wave to provide comfort to their bitter, substance-abusing matriarch and find their missing father. It’s an unforgettable theatrical journey that offers a painfully funny look at a family struggling in the desolate heart of America. All performances will be recorded live in front of an audience (without sets or costumes) to air on L.A. Theatre Works’ syndicated radio theater series, which broadcasts weekly on public radio stations nationwide (locally, in Southern California, on KPFK 90.7 FM).

Remaining Performances:
Saturday, July 12 – 3 p.m., 8 p.m.
Sunday, July 13 – 4 p.m.


James Bridges Theater 
UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television
235 Charles E. Young Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90095
(enter UCLA from Hilgard just south of Sunset Blvd.; park in Lot 3 on the lower level)

For tickets, call 
310-827-0889 or www.latw.org

Review: “The Realistic Joneses” Move Into the Neighborhood

April 7th, 2014 Comments off

Contributor Lindsay B. Davis takes a look at 21st century suburbia with the help of playwright Will Eno and the superb cast of  The Realistic Joneses.

Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall and Tracy Letts in "The Realistic Joneses" (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall and Tracy Letts in “The Realistic Joneses” (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

Characters in The Realistic Joneses, Will Eno’s absurdist new dramedy at the Lyceum Theatre, spend a great deal of time looking up. Whether at the constellations, fireworks, or a hot air balloon, the choreography of their gazes work like Pinter pauses, helping to define the rhythm of this swiftly moving piece by emerging at specific times, in this case when one must gather thoughts, avert the close gaze of a counterpart or find comfort in the safety of living somewhere nestled in the mountains.

I am often struck by how content I am to watch certain actors do very little and in this case, the talent – a gifted, four-person ensemble cast featuring veterans Toni Collette (Muriel’s Wedding, Hostages, The Wild Party), Tracy Letts (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Homeland), Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny, The Wrestler, Top Girls, Salome) and Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under, Cabaret, Chicago) – can look up all day and I would watch. Beyond that, they leverage virtuosity into simplicity, lifting Eno’s crafty dialogue and vignette-like structure into laughs and poignant emotional punches.

Toni Collette in "The Realistic Joneses" (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

Toni Collette in “The Realistic Joneses” (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

We meet the first set of Joneses, Jennifer (Collette) and Bob (Letts), chitchatting in their backyard surrounded by tall pines and the silence of suburbia (beautifully realized by scenic designer David Zinn.) “What are your fears?” asks Jennifer, who wants to dive deep, much to Bob’s chagrin. Letts flexes comedic muscles from the get-go, his rather salty, hefty deliveries calling out the obvious without condescension. To Bob’s relief, the conversation can’t plunge into terribly deep emotional valleys because it is interrupted by the arrival of a second set of Joneses, the upbeat Pony (Tomei) and John (Hall), who have just to moved into a house down the road and arrive as if fresh off the bus from a day at camp. Besides a shared last name, the couples don’t appear to have much in common. Pony is jovial and neurotic while Jennifer is weighted and direct. John is bemused and delighted to make their acquaintance, while Bob can’t wait to go to sleep.

After the requisite getting-to-know-you’s (Bob works for the Department of Transportation, Jennifer makes her living as a bookkeeper, Pony works for an online greeting card company and John does something with heating and A/C installations) things start getting real. Why do Bob and Jennifer prefer living in this town with a good school district? “Because,” Jen says, “Bob hates stupid children.” When Pony and John are leaving, the latter says, “This was fun. Not fun, some other word.” And after their new neighbors go home for the night, Jennifer says to Bob, “It was nice watching you with people.”

Marisa Tomei in "The Realistic Joneses" (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

Marisa Tomei in “The Realistic Joneses” (photo: Joan Marcus) via The Broadway Blog.

What follows are eleven more scenes in which a plot lightly unfolds as if from the hand of a Blackjack dealer flipping cards. One by one, a series of reveals, we learn of illness (both men have a similar and rare disease called HLS, which Jennifer explains is congenital and Pony is relieved can’t be caught), medical treatments, attractions to each other’s spouses, deep anxieties that manifest as comedic neurosis (again, Pony, “I feel like I should go to med school or get my hair cut”) and all the Joneses varied attempts to find peace through such outlets as prayer, meditation and medication. But, to quote two tourists I overhead while exiting the theater—

“What the heck was that just about?”

“I don’t know!”

—this is not a play that is most appealing for reasons of story. Rather, it is one that draws you in because its characters are beholden to language, using it to observe, avoid and engage, heavily relying upon it to connect, but ultimately looking for things in themselves and from each other that cannot be put into words.

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TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “Virginia Woolf” & “Cyrano”

October 18th, 2012 Comments off

There were two big Broadway openings in the last week and just because I haven’t had a chance to see them, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! Let’s see what the critics have to say:

Tracy Letts, Amy Morton, Madison Dirks & Carrie Coons in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf". Photo by Michael Brosilow.

WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF

In celebration of its fiftieth anniversary, the Edward Albee classic of marital gamesmanship returns to Broadway in a blistering Steppenwolf production starring Amy Morton (August: Osage County) and Tracy Letts (Pulitzer-winning playwright of August:Osage County).

“…the soul ache this superlative staging leaves behind is accompanied by a feeling far more emotionally enriching: the exhilaration of a fresh encounter with a great work of theater revitalized anew.” New York Times

“The story, in which two married couples share a boozy, increasingly unhinged night, has lost none of its power to keep an audience on edge.” New York Post

“These are both exciting, rich performances, and while they capture a different dynamic, they get the game-playing nature of Albee’s dialogue just right…” Variety

“In Letts’ and Morton’s capable hands, George and Martha emerge as historic icons, America’s first couple of passive-aggressive dysfunction.” Entertainment Weekly

Mizer’s Two Cents: I haven’t made it to the Broadway staging but I saw this production (with this same cast) when it was at the Arena Stage last year; I was astonished and riveted. Judging by the reviews, this sensational revival of a true American classic is still firing on all blazing cylinders.

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TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: 2012 Fall Preview, The Plays

September 12th, 2012 Comments off

Steppenwolf's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?". Photo by Michael Brosilow.

If the fall season’s crop of musicals is a sparse and eccentrically planted lot, the roster of plays is lush with big ideas, big stars and must-see events (if a few too many “didn’t we just see that” revivals). So let’s dig into the harvest feast…

"Grace". Image via O+M Co.

An Enemy of the People (September 27): Henrik Ibsen’s sturdy study of personal pressure and politics kicks things off just in time for election season. Class acts Boyd Gaines and Richard Thomas play brothers, a mayor and a doctor, on opposite sides of an environmental disaster in the making. (Yeah, this was written when?)

Grace (October 4): As I’ve said before…Paul Rudd. I lerve him. Toss in the always magnetic Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) and my interest is more than peaked for this surreal comedy-drama about a couple’s plans for religious-themed motels and their less than faithful neighbor.

Running on Empty (October 9): Comedian and professional ranter Lewis Black brings his stand-up to Broadway for a week of performances.

Cyrano de Bergerac (October 11): The French war horse (no, not that one) gets trotted out for another display of witty banter, actorly showmanship and much-needed rhinoplasty. Tony-winner Douglas Hodge (La Cage aux Folles) takes on the title role in a Roundabout Theatre revival.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (October 13): The revelatory Steppenwolf production starring playwright (and seriously accomplished actor) Tracy Letts and the incomparable Amy Morton finally makes it to Broadway. Check my review from when I saw it at Arena Stage last year and tell me you aren’t a wee bit excited to see the Albee classic again.

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