Monthly Archives: April 2009


(Dan Kois’s review appeared in New York Magazine April 23, 2009.)

Diary of a Marathon

On seeing uproarious three-part farce The Norman Conquests in one M&M-fueled day.

11:25 a.m. It’s the most beautiful day of the spring, and I’m descending into the dark Circle in the Square Theatre for a marathon viewing of The Norman Conquests, Matthew Warchus’s revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s 1973 comic trilogy. On Saturdays throughout the run, all three shows of the trilogy are being performed for audiences who wish to spend six and a half hours in the company of neurotic middle-aged Brits in heat.

11:40 a.m. “It’s what we all need now and then: a nice dirty weekend somewhere,” says busybody Sarah (Amanda Root) to her sister-in-law Annie (Jessica Hynes), at the beginning of the first play, Table Manners. All three shows in The Norman Conquests tell the story of Annie’s dirty weekend gone wrong, each from a different area of the shabby English country house where she lives. Sarah and her husband, Reg (Paul Ritter), have come to look after things while Annie’s away. But when Sarah learns that Annie’s traveling partner is not Tom (Ben Miles), the quiet local vet who’s been failing to court Annie for years, but Norman (Stephen Mangan), the maddening husband of Annie and Reg’s sister Ruth (Amelia Bullmore), she goes thoroughly off the rails. As Root’s eyes bug out beneath her absurdly coiffed hair, I already feel confident that no one in The Norman Conquests will be funnier than she.

11:55 a.m. Props to Matthew Warchus, who’s got his actors playing everything with absolute conviction and commitment—whether it’s an uncomfortably realistic fight between Sarah and Reg or comically spluttering reactions to homemade dandelion wine.

12:10 p.m. Norman, shaggy and charismatic, “a gigolo trapped in a haystack,” makes his first appearance. The overarching plot of The Norman Conquests is, of course, Norman’s conquests—the game attempts of a simple assistant librarian to brighten the lives of the women of his family with a bit of romance. Mangan is a shambling Lothario in the role—clearly the funniest performer in the play . . .

(Read more)


(Patrick Healy's article appeared in the New York Times 4/28/09)


An Out-of-Town Overhaul Helps a Musical Find Focus


Michael Greif sensed something was wrong. It was February 2008, and Mr. Greif — the director of the Tony Award-winning musicals “Rent” and “Grey Gardens” — was watching his latest production, “Next to Normal,” night after night during its Off Broadway run at Second Stage Theater. In a recent interview he recalled feeling that many audience members were not gasping or flinching at a pivotal revelation in Act I: the main character had just tried to kill herself.


“Everything on stage looked pretty — people weren’t getting that Diana had just bled out all over the living room,” Mr. Greif said, referring to the character Diana Goodman, whose struggle with bipolar disorder is at the heart of this musical. “It was one of several moments where the tone of the show was off. Big moments just weren’t landing.”

That led the lead producer of “Next to Normal,” David Stone, to take an unusual step: he moved a show that had already opened in New York to an out-of-town theater (Arena Stage, in Washington) for an overhaul. There, the creative team and actors changed songs, swaths of dialogue, aspects of the characters and the overall tone in hopes of  . . .

(Read more)



(The following information on Berlin/Wall is from

Headlines: Hare and Daldry's Acclaimed Berlin/Wall to Play Public Theater

The Public Theater will present David Hare’s Berlin/Wall for a limited run of four days, beginning May 14 and running through 17. The one-man show of contrasting monologues, starring Hare, is directed by Academy Award nominee and Billy Elliot helmer Stephen Daldry.

In Berlin/Wall, Hare visits the place where the infamous wall has come down, presenting a meditation about Germany’s restored capitol and what it represents in European history as well as his own life. The actor then “travels” to Israel, where the Israeli/Palestine security fence will one day stretch the 489 mile border of the country. Four times as long as its Berlin counterpart, the wall inspires Hare to explore the philosophy of its building and personal accounts of those who live on either side. Berlin premiered at London’s National Theatre in February 2009, followed shortly thereafter by Wall, which debuted at The Royal Court Theatre in March 2009.

(Read more)

(David Hare’s work is represented in Duo!:  The Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century due out from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books in August.)


(Brian Parks’s talk with Craig Lucas ran in the Village Voice, 4/22/09.)

Q&A With Playwright Craig Lucas, the Man Who Would Have Written Peter Pan

It's been a big theater season for playwright Craig Lucas. In November, his Prayer for My Enemy made its New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons, and now comes The Singing Forest, currently in previews at the Public Theater. The new piece–directed by Mark Wing-Davey and featuring Olympia Dukakis and Jonathan Groff among its cast–explores sexual desire, psychiatry, family history, and the legacy of the Holocaust in both grave and farcical tones. On the occasion of the new play, we sent Lucas a few questions….

Tell us about the impetus for The Singing Forest.

I wrote the first scene for Uta Hagen's 80th birthday. I sent it to her and she wrote back, "Can you really imagine me saying all these filthy things?" Olympia Dukakis does not apparently share these qualms.

A program note by Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis mentions that you've been working on the play for almost a decade. Is that an unusually long time for one of your plays?

There was never a time when I was not writing The Singing Forest. I will be writing The Singing Forest in my next life.

Are there any newer or younger playwrights with whom you are especially impressed??

I just spent some time with four MFA playwriting students at Brown University. Their names are Mallery Avidon, Jackie Sibblies, Mia Chung, and Joe Waechter. Absolutely amazing, all of them.


(The following article appeared in the Daily Mail 4/26/09.)

ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: The last thing this country needs is a pirate raid on the wealth creators who still dare navigate our stormy waters

(…And don't lynch me as a rich b*****d flying a kite for his own cause – I really fear an exodus of talent)

The opinion polls have uttered. The country loves the new 50 per cent top rate of income tax. Soak the rich. Smash the bankers. So Government spin doctors are in second heaven. The Conservatives' silence redefines a tomb. And I suppose there'd be quite a turnout for the public flogging of Sir Fred the Shred.

But before you book your tickets, hold hard. And before you lynch me as a rich b*****d flying a kite for my own cause, let me beg you to believe that I am not.

I believe that this new top rate of tax could be the final nail in the coffin of Britain plc.

I am 61 years old. I have lived and worked in Britain all my life. Not even in the dark days of penal Labour taxation in the Seventies did I have any intention of leaving the country of my birth.  (read more)—d.html






Anne Hathaway (Twelfth Night)

Brian d’Arcy James (Shrek)

Gavin Creel (Hair)

Karen Olivo (West Side Story)

John Shea

Brian d’James (Shrek)

Kate Mulgrew

Marc Kudisch (9 to 5)

The Village Voice, the nation’s largest alternative weekly newspaper, announced today the 54th Annual OBIE awards will take place on Monday, May 18, 2009 at the newly landmarked Webster Hall in the East Village. 

The OBIES will be co-hosted by Martha Plimpton and Daniel Breaker at an invitation-only ceremony.  A list of notable presenters will be released soon.  

Martha Plimpton won an OBIE in 2002 for her performance in Hobson's Choice. She charmed us as Gladys Bumps in this season’s revival of Pal Joey. Ms. Plimpton moves elegantly between the stage, television and film. 

Daniel Breaker is a 2008 OBIE Award winner for his performance in the ensemble cast of Passing Strange and is appearing on Broadway now in the musical Shrek. Trained at Juilliard, Mr. Breaker is an accomplished actor, singer and dancer.  

For the past half-century, the The Village Voice Obie Awards have honored the best of Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway. Structured with informal categories that change annually, The Village Voice Obie Awards recognize persons and productions of excellence.  Unlike most theater awards, The Village Voice Obie Awards have no nominations. In the conviction that creativity is not competitive, judges may give several Obies in each category, and may even invent new categories to reward artistic merit.   

The Voice’s chief theater critic, Michael Feingold, chairs the Obie Awards committee again this year. His fellow judges include Voice critic Alexis Soloski and six guest judges: Eric Grode, freelance critic and Voice contributor; critic Andy Propst,, also a frequent Voice contributor; Eisa Davis, actress-playwright, Obie Award winner for her performance last year in Passing Strange, and author of the upcoming Angela’s Mixtape; Ty Jones, actor-playwright, 2003 Obie Award winner for his performance in The Blacks (Classical Theatre of Harlem); Moises Kaufman, playwright-director, 2004 Obie Award winner for his direction of I Am My Own Wife, and author of current Broadway hit 33 Variations Chay Yew, playwright-director, 2007 Obie Award winner for his direction of Durango (Public Theater) and currently directing  Obie winner Robert O'Hara's Antebellum. Propst will also serve as secretary to the committee.



(The following interview with Jane Alexander appeared 4/14/09 in New York Magazine.)

Jane Alexander on Snoring Through Chasing Manet and Simulating Sex in Tell Me You Love Me

Jane Alexander is, at 69, perhaps the oldest person ever to simulate oral sex onscreen (in HBO's, Tell Me You Love Me). She's back on the New York stage in Primary Stages' Chasing Manet, a nursing-home caper that opened last week. Alexander spoke to Vulture about napping on the set, why she was never drawn to The Golden Girls, and how it feels to break into action flicks as a near septuagenarian.

In Chasing Manet you play a famous modernist Boston painter. Are you from fancy Boston stock?
Oh, no. In fact, my mother was a Boston Southie and my dad was from North Platt, Nebraska. My character, Catherine Sargent, is from the old-world Bostonians — she married a Lowell. It's clear she has a gusto for life and she's rather egocentric, but she's a survivor and she's wants to live life to the fullest.

Did you have experiences with your own parents aging?
My father, Bart Quigley, was a very well-known surgeon in Boston, a doctor for the Harvard football team. He had a massive stroke. To make a long story short, a lot of doctors are not good patients. He was in seventeen nursing homes in the course of three years. I got a call from the woman who ran one of them, who said, "Come get your father today. He rang the night bell 72 times." A lot of my character's feistiness and mischievousness is totally relatable to my dad.

You're sleeping in bed for the first few minutes of the play. Is that relaxing?
I can't really go to sleep, because I have to listen for my cue. But I found it a delightful rehearsal process because I was in bed most of the time. And it's an extremely comfortable bed. [Co-star] Lynn Cohen and I are of a certain age that we like to take a nap, so in between matinees and evening shows, we crawl into our beds onstage and go to sleep. We have a fabulous stage manager who announces, "Quiet time!"

Do you snore loudly like your character does?
I'm not a snorer. And it's not an easy thing to do [onstage]. It requires a lot of breath.

(Tina Howe’s work appears in DUO!:  The Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century out from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books in August.)


(Dwight Garner’s article appeared in the New York Times April 17, 2009.)


Celebrating Yeats, Revered for Verse, but Who Aspired to a Life in the Theater


William Butler Yeats, born in County Dublin, Ireland, won the Nobel Prize in 1923 and was almost certainly, as his biographer Richard Ellmann put it, “the dominant poet” of the first half of the 20th century.” But what Yeats really wanted to do was write plays. 


“I believe myself to be a dramatist,” he declared in 1919. “I seem to myself most alive at the moment when a roomful of people have the one lofty emotion.” (Read more)


Visit Irish Rep’s Web site:


War Horse at New London Theatre, WC2

Benedict Nightingale

If any theatregoers are currently carting grannies about town in hopes of flogging the old ladies for enough cash to buy their children tickets to War Horse, they are almost certainly wasting their time. Even touts and scalpers won’t find it easy to get seats this Easter holiday.

But I’m sure that Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris’s revival of their National Theatre production will be in the West End for quite a while, so my advice to parents is, first, to plan ahead and, second, to be sure not to miss this stunning show . . . (read more)