MARIA IRENE FORNES: ‘WHAT OF THE NIGHT?’ (SV PICK, CHI) ·

(Hedy Weiss’s article appeared in the Chicago Sun-Time, 1/18.)

“What of the Night?,” Maria Irene Fornes’ raw, blistering tale of love, loss, betrayal, sacrifice, isolation, violence, poverty, the currency of sex, and the power of language, is not for the meek.

The Cuban-American playwright (now 86, and a victim of Alzheimer’s for many years), was a major figure on the Off Off Broadway scene from the 1960s to the early 1990s. During that time she wrote more than 40 plays, many of them experimental in form, of which only a handful are produced on any regular basis. Watching the brave, immensely ambitious and profoundly disturbing revival of “What of the Night?” — a rarely seen 1989 work now receiving a riveting co-production by Cor Theatre and Stage Left Theatre — you understand just how difficult it can be to perform this weave of four interconnected one-act plays titled “Nadine,” “Springtime,” “Lust” and “Hunger.”

Not only does its nearly three-hour chain of storytelling demand actors willing to bare their souls, conjure an intense sense of intimacy, and suggest deep wells of pain. But they also must be able to play with words that are at once poetic and oddly offbeat, and strung together in the manner of a masterful writer for whom English will always be marked by signs that it is a second language. (A simple riff on the word “impeccable” might just be one of the play’s most beguiling moments.) Fornes’ play, boldly directed and skillfully directed by Carlos Murillo, is one of those pieces that leave you wondering how its cast of 11 actors can emotionally gear up to repeat their performances for weeks on end.

(Read more)

http://chicago.suntimes.com/entertainment/what-of-the-night-a-blistering-fantasia-on-love-loss-poverty/

ROLAND SCHIMMELPFENNIG : ‘WINTER SOLSTICE’ (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/19.)

The timing is perfect. With Ukip eagerly endorsing Theresa May’s Brexit strategy and Donald Trump about to be inaugurated as US president, along comes a transfixing play by Roland Schimmelpfennig about the historic danger of extremism. Translated by David Tushingham, the play addresses specific German concerns; yet what gives it universal relevance is its portrait of liberal impotence in the face of unvanquished certitude.

The work is deeply radical in form: spoken dialogue is mixed with scene-setting and description of characters’ thoughts as if it were a mix of play, film and novel. Five people, in Ramin Gray’s superb Actors Touring Company production, sit round what might be a cluttered rehearsal-room table. We learn that it is Christmas Eve in a bourgeois, intellectual household. Albert, a writer, is engaged in a ferocious spat with Bettina, a film-maker, over the arrival of the latter’s mother, Corinna. But it is Corinna who sparks the dramatic crisis by inviting a man she met on the train, Rudolph, to stay with the family. Rudolph is urbane, civilised, polite and entertains everyone by playing Chopin and Bach on the piano, but when he reveals that he is a doctor with Paraguayan connections, we realise that he is the silken embodiment of a past Germany has long thought buried.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/jan/19/winter-solstice-review-ronald-schimmelpfennig-germany

Photo: Deutsches Theater Berlin

MARTHA SWOPE, REST IN PEACE (1928-2017) ·

(Sylviane Goldman’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/12; via Pam Green.)

Martha Swope, whose crisp, compelling photographs of dancers and actors at work recorded nearly half a century of stage history, died on Thursday in New York. She was 88.

The cause was Parkinson’s disease, said Jeanne Fuchs, her longtime friend and executor.

From 1957, when Ms. Swope was invited by Jerome Robbins to shoot rehearsals of “West Side Story,” to 1994, when she shut down her Times Square studio and sold her archive, Ms. Swope produced hundreds of thousands of images of performers in action, capturing Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov in full flight, the cast of “La Cage Aux Folles” in full drag and John Travolta in full Saturday night fever.

Those photographs made their way into newspapers (the arts pages of The New York Times frequently featured her work), magazines and books. They decorated sales brochures, posters and programs.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/12/arts/design/martha-swope-88-who-etched-dance-and-theater-history-in-photographs-dies.html

Photo: The New York Times

***** SIMON/FIELDS/COLEMAN: ‘SWEET CHARITY’ (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Clare Brennan’s article appeared in the Observer, 1/15.)

Some people see Neil Simon’s 1966 musical comedy (with lyrics by Dorothy Fields and music by Cy Coleman) as anti-feminist. I’m not so sure. The tweaks given by director Derek Bond and designer James Perkins to fit Sweet Charity into this theatre-in-the-round sharpen its focus. In their production, Charity is an Everywoman figure who, in the face of trials and tribulations, manages to maintain faith in her creed: “Without love, life has no purpose.” The addition of a chorus, commenting on the action, points up Charity’s struggle: to make a decent life in a cynically indifferent city.

In the opening scene, Charity flounders (offstage) in the lake in the park, pushed in by her boyfriend as he snatches her bag. Passers-by gather to watch, as if at a spectacle: “I’ll get my brother. He’s never seen a drowning.” It’s slick, it’s funny, but it is also, as the actors’ gaze takes in the auditorium (with us watching them watching her), nudging us towards a question: how to be good, in a world such as this?

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/jan/15/sweet-charity-review-royal-exchange-manchester-kaisa-hammarlund

THE GENDER’S THE THING: HARRIET WALTER PLAYS SHAKESPEARE’S HEROES AS HEROINES ·

(Elisabeth Vincentelli’s article appeared in the New York Times, 1/11; via Pam Green.)

Back in 2007, Harriet Walter thought she was done with Shakespeare. Over the decades, the British actress had taken on some of his major female characters, including Viola, Lady Macbeth and Beatrice, and she had just completed a successful West End run in “Antony and Cleopatra” opposite Patrick Stewart. “I felt I was just getting comfortable,” Ms. Walter recently said, smiling slightly. “But then — basta!”

The problem wasn’t that this actor’s actor, revered by her peers, had lost interest. The problem was that she was nearing 60 and the playwright just didn’t offer big roles for older women.

So she turned to his men.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/11/theater/harriet-walter-the-tempest-shakespeare.html?_r=0

MICHAEL CRAWFORD READS HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY—LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 4 ·

Listen at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b019dh51

Frank Spencer-like moments at the births of his two daughters, as Michael Crawford begins the first of a five-part reading of his autobiography.

Celebrated for his roles as the hapless Frank Spencer in the BBC TV sitcom, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em – and as the man in the mask in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, The Phantom of the Opera – Michael Crawford is one of Britain’s best loved entertainers.

Abridged by Pat McLoughlin.

Producer: Penny Leicester

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1999.

DICK GAUTIER DIES; BROADWAY’S CONRAD BIRDIE, ‘GET SMART’S HYMIE THE ROBOT WAS 85 ·

(Jeremy Gerard’s article appeared on Deadline Hollywood, 1/14; via Pam Green.)

As a swivel-hipped rock and roller, Conrad Birdie had a lot of living to do, the unknown actor Dick Gautier sang in the 1960 Broadway smash Bye Bye Birdie. At first a reluctant leading man, Gautier played many roles, including cabaret singer, stand-up comic, character actor and caricaturist. He was best known to TV audiences as Hymie The Robot on six episodes of the Mel Brooks/Buck Henry-created spy spoof Get Smart, culminating in Hymie’s role as best man at the wedding of Don Adam’s bumbling spy to Barbara Feldon’s Agent 99. Gautier died “quietly” Friday in Arcadia, California, his wife, psychologist Tess Thompson, posted in a brief Facebook announcement.

(Read more)

http://deadline.com/2017/01/dick-gautier-dies-original-conrad-birdie-hymie-the-robot-obituary-1201887093/

JEAN COCTEAU’S ‘THE INFERNAL MACHINE’ IN STAGED READINGS JAN 27 & JAN 28 PRESENTED BY PHOENIX THEATRE ENSEMBLE @ WILD PROJECT ·

 

RARE PRESENTATION OF THIS WITTY AND URBANE RETELLING OF OEDIPUS STORY

He’s arrogant, cocky, virginal and he doesn’t know it yet, but he’s going to have a thing for mom in Jean Cocteau’s witty and urbane retelling of the Oedipus story,The Infernal Machine. In this magical modernization of the Greek tragedy the enigmatic Sphinx is a bored young girl who slips him an answer to that  tricky riddle because well,… she’s bored and he’s handsome and a welcome diversion.

The Infernal Machine lives comfortably between the worlds of mid-century farce and Greek tragedy in the sparkling translation by Albert Bermel. The staged reading performances are on Friday, January 27 at 7:30 pm and Saturday January 28 at 2:00 pm at The Wild Project in New York’s East Village. These readings are supported by the Florence Gould Foundation.

The Infernal Machine is being directed by NYIT nominee Karen Case Cook. The cast includes  Avondre Beverely, Desmond Confoy, Serigo Fuenzalida, John Lenartz, Zach Lusk, Lori Parquet, Morgan Rosse, Craig Smith, Jim Sterling, Elise Stone, Antonio Edwards Suarez, and Josh Tyson.

Tickets are $25 and may be purchased at 212-352-3101 or at http://www.phoenixtheatreensemble.org/

What:   The Infernal Machine by Jean Cocteau Translation by Albert Bermel

Schedule: Friday January 27 @  7:30 pm;  Saturday January 28 @ 2:00 pm

Information: http://www.phoenixtheatreensemble.org/;   212-465-3446

Tickets:   Tickets are $25 each; Call 212-352-3101 or visit www.PhoenixTheatreEnsemble.org.

Where: The Wild Project @ 195 East 3rd Street (Avenue A and Avenue B); http://thewildproject.com/

Transportation: By Subway: F Train to 2nd Avenue; by Bus A14 to 4th Street and Ave A; 8th Street Crosstown.

CELEBRATING ARTISTRY, EXCELLENCE, COMPANY & COMMUNITY

One of the Best!”  – Wall Street Journal

Six 2014-15 NYIT Award Nominations

Top Ten Shows of 2016 New York Theatre Guide

Winner Best Revival 2014 NYIT Award

Winner Best Performance by a Leading Actor

Winner Best Solo Production Audelco Award

Craig V. Smith
Producing Artistic Director
Phoenix Theatre Ensemble

www.PhoenixTheatreEnsemble.org

 

STUART SLADE: ‘BU21’ (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/12.)

How would we react to a future terrorist attack? What impact would it have on our lives and personalities? Those are just two of the questions raised by this extraordinary new play by Stuart Slade, which arrives in the West End after an acclaimed run at Theatre 503. It even questions our own complicity in seeking entertainment in stories about a horrific disaster.

Slade’s play takes the form of what in TV terms would be called a mockumentary. We seem to be watching a verbatim piece in which six members of a survivors’ group relive their reaction to an attack in which a passenger plane has been brought down over Fulham, southwest London, by a surface-to-air missile. Although the story is told through interlocking monologues, the six characters, who take their names from the actors, seek to form mutual bonds. Alex, an arrogant banker whose girlfriend has died in the disaster, hooks up with Izzy, who has lost her mother. Floss, a posh student, is linked by bizarre circumstances to Clive, a devout Muslim whose cardiologist dad died in the crash. Roxana, a Romanian with severe burns, secretly despises Graham, a bigoted van driver who profits from his eyewitness account of the event.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/jan/12/bu21-review-terror-attack-trafalgar-studios

AUGUST WILSON ON BROADWAY: A HISTORY ·

(Erik Piepenburg’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/10; via Pam Green.)

When “Jitney” opens in New York City this month, it will be the final work in August Wilson’s 10-play cycle about African-American lives in the 20th century to reach Broadway. Wilson, who died in 2005, wrote plays with many storytelling elements in common — they almost all took place in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, the playwright’s hometown; they bracingly examined issues of racism, friendship, romance and memory; the shadow of slavery was ever-present, if sparingly depicted; and they were also vibrantly distinct in their settings, ambitions and theatrical destinations. All of them received Tony Award nominations for best play. (“Fences” is the only one to win.)

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/11/theater/august-wilson-on-broadway-a-history.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_cu_20170111&nl=theater-update&nl_art=2&nlid=68469194&ref=headline&te=1