Monthly Archives: December 2010


Goodbye New York, Goodbye Heart, by the Australian dramatist Lally Katz and directed by Oliver Butler, has been brought to New York by Mark Armstrong and The Production Company as part of a cultural exchange of “challenging new work” from the U.S. and Oz.  Katz’s play, written in code (we hear about avalanche dwellers and suicides and the need to migrate from MySpace New York), also blurs the line between real and cyber landscapes (the work reminded me of a Web site called Second Life, where members are asked to assume avatars and live out their fantasies).  It might, additionally, be the kind of play which does best as a film—Goodbye New York, Goodbye Heart seems to want to grab a camera and roam the streets of the dirty city (you’ll also feel its apocalyptic darkness will appeal to cinema artists who loved the Blade Runner movie and the different film grades of Sex, Lies, and Videotape).  At the downtown theatre Here, where the show is playing, the tone is hip and trendy, dark and dangerous, even if the look of a high-tech, sci-fi world is sacrificed.  For all the work’s allusions to death and the end of everything, however, the plot stays targeted on a conventional girl-loses-boy romance. Katz’s structuring and playwriting are sensible and straightforward, as is her central character, Caroline (Nicolle Brandford), who is homesick for her more natural life back in Australia. I couldn’t help thinking it wouldn’t have hurt if the playwright ramped up the danger and sex, let her main character be too human rather than strong, but I think part of the point is that the new generation of twenty- and thirty-somethings are dealing with life from worlds only as deep as computer screens. Best in Goodbye New York, Goodbye Heart is when the bullying ex-boyfriend (Brian Robert Burns) shows up—here’s where the actors have the most to dig into; you’ll also love Katz’s way with her quirky young women, for example, the neurotic owners of the failing gluten-free restaurant where Caroline works.

      WALES039_C.ROSEGG (3)

For those who can’t get back to Australia in the next few weeks, or to their country of origin or of decent, a decidedly non-electronic holiday gathering is taking place at Irish Repertory Theatre—it’s of interest especially to people of Celtic lineage.  A Child’s Christmas in Wales in Concert, based on Dylan Thomas’s short story–about the “little world” of a traditional Christmas with goose and mince, aunts and uncles, children and cats–makes an appropriate background for favorite carols and good cheer—it’s been well adapted and directed by Charlotte Moore.  You’ll be reminded of what a beautiful song “The Holly and the Ivy” is and enjoy the high spirits of “I Saw Three Ships.”  I know it’s blasphemy, but I’m not really one for “Silent Night,” probably from overkill at this time of year.  Here, I liked it. You’ll also hear secular standards, including, “White Christmas,””It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,”  “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”  In another sense, if the show feels like a homecoming, it may be because you’ve  seen several of the actors involved in the production in your theatregoing over the years—I can recall watching Victoria Mallory, for example in 1973, when she played Anne, the virgin bride, in the original cast of A Little Night Music.  There she sang Sondheim’s classic “Every Day a Little Death,” but you may know her from West Side Story or Follies . . . well, her credits go on and on.  Most probably, you’ll also have run into Simon Jones (The Real Thing, Benefactors to start) and Martin Vidnovic (Baby and Brigadoon and more) over the years.  Kerry Conte, Ashley Robinson, and John Bell are performers to keep track of, too.  For people ready to unplug the Christmas machinery, here’s a simple, yet festive, way to get into the holiday spirit.   

© 2010 by Bob Shuman

GOODBYE NEW YORK, GOODBYE HEART: Pictured Polly Lee (Miss Jacklyn), Nicolle Bradford (Caroline). Photograph by Rick Ngoc Ho.

A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES IN CONCERT: Pictured (left-right): Martin Vidnovic, Simon Jones, Victoria Mallory, musical director John Bell, Ashley Robinson, Kerry Conte at Irish Repertory Theatre (Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg)

by Lally Katz
Directed by Oliver Butler

@ HERE Arts Center
145 Sixth Avenue, NYC

December 2-21, 2010
Preview: Dec. 1; Opening: Dec. 2
Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8:30pm
Sundays at 4pm

Tickets: $25
Call (212) 352-3101
or buy tickets online!

What does it mean to be "alive" when we spend our lives in virtual worlds? In Goodbye New York, Goodbye Heart, Lally Katz plunges us into a phantasmagorical yet oh-so-recognizable cyber-universe where the living and the dead jostle, time doesn’t pass, and food never seems to fill you up. You can download almost anything — even emotions — and the dead still live, but you can’t bring them back to the real world… or can you? Caroline, a real live young woman, falls for a suicidal prophet who lives in a virtual simulacrum of New York that’s about to come crashing down like a house of cards. Can she go Orpheus one better and write her own happy ending? Or will she get stuck in a fragile virtual world with the rest of the seekers of the impossible? Along Caroline’s emotional journey through love and loss on the edge of reality, Katz offers some intriguing new, up-to-the-minute answers to the question: What happens when we die?


The Irish Repertory Theatre continues its 23rd Season with Dylan

Thomas's holiday classic


Adapted and Directed by Charlotte Moore.

Limited Run! Performances through January 2 Only!


Martin Vidnovic, Victoria Mallory, Simon Jones, musical director John Bell, Ashley Robinson and Kerry Conte. 

A thousand starry lights will envelop the stage in The Irish Repertory Theatre's re-invention of Dylan Thomas's A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES – set to open December 12 at The Irish Repertory Theatre (132 West 22nd Street). Charlotte Moore, who recently helmed ERNEST IN LOVE, THE IRISH…AND HOW THEY GOT THAT WAY and WHITE WOMAN STREET at Irish Rep and a concert version of BRIGADOON on Broadway, directs.  

The iconic piece, starring both Irish Repertory favorites and Broadway veterans, features both traditional and contemporary Christmas music interwoven within the classic story of the famous snowy Christmas Day in Wales. Kerry Conte and Ashley Robinson star along with Broadway favorites: Victoria Mallory, Martin Vidnovic, and Simon Jones. Musical Direction is by John Bell.

A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES features costume design by David Toser and lighting design by Mary Jo Dondlinger. Production Stage Manager is April A. Kline; Assistant Stage Manager is Naomi Anhorn.

A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS IN WALES runs December 8-January 2 (opening December 12), at The Irish Repertory Theatre (132 West 22nd Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues): Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm; plus 3pm matinees on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday (with the following exceptions: added 8pm performances on Tuesday, December 21 and 28; 3pm matinee on Friday, December 24; no 8pm performance on Christmas Eve; no performance Saturday, December 25; and no 3pm matinee on Saturday, January 1). Tickets are $55 and $65, and are available by calling 212-727-2737 or online at

For more information about Irish Rep, call 212-727-2737 or visit

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(Robert Hurwitt’s article appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, 12/11.)

The gods are almost as messed up as they are mesmerizing in "Of the Earth: The Salt Plays: Part 2" at Shotgun Players' Ashby Stage. In the final chapter of Jon Tracy's two-play Homeric epic, Odysseus' long voyage home is as engrossing and suspenseful as the entire Trojan War was in the first.


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(Alistair Smith’s article ran in The Stage, 12/15,)

Judi Dench has topped The Stage’s reader poll to discover the greatest stage actor of all time.

Dench was followed by Maggie Smith in second place, and Mark Rylance, the youngest actor in the list, in third.

Earlier this year, The Stage canvassed a selection of industry experts, who were each asked to put forward their own ten greatest stage actors. The experts’ nominations could be from any country and from any period of history. These were aggregated into an overall experts’ top ten, which was then put to a reader vote over a ten-week period. During that period, The Stage ran a series of features with leading theatre figures advocating each of the top ten. West End producer Bill Kenwright served as Dench’s advocate.


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(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 12/15.)

Back in 1966 Feydeau's masterpiece erupted on to this very stage in a production by Jacques Charon that ushered in a major re-evaluation of farce. At a time when the genre is once again languishing, I just hope Richard Eyre's fine revival, using the identical John Mortimer translation, has a similar restorative impact.


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(Feingold’s article appeared in the Village Voice, 12/15)

Americans’ desire to blot out the past has always puzzled me. For most of my fellow citizens, it seems that history, barring a few easily recognizable names and dates, does not exist. Culture, likewise with a few icons excepted, consists strictly of this season’s hot attractions. It makes no sense. American history and American culture have, for good or ill, permanently changed the world’s. But Americans’ response to their own past, increasingly, can be summed up in the sentence, “I don’t know who (or what) that was.”


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(Hedy Weiss’s article appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, 12/13.)

The no-holds-barred combat begins long before the actual declaration of war. But when that formal acknowledgment of the brutal bloodletting is announced, it is enough to make your hair stand up on end.

“Total war?” asks George, the still-standing but long-battered husband in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” — a play that unfolds on the explosive front lines of a marriage in which love and loathing are wedded with equal ferocity.


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Openings and Previews 

Event: Alice . . . Alice . . . Alice!

Venue: Irondale Centre

The audience is led through the set of Irondale Ensemble Project’s environmentally . . .


Event: Blood from a Stone

Venue: Acorn

The New Group presents the première of a play by Tommy Nohilly . . .


Event: Brits Off Broadway

Venue: 59E59 Theatres

Inspector Sands presents “If That’s All There Is,” a comedy directed by . . .


Event: Dracula

Venue: Little Shubert Theatre

Michel Altieri, Thora Birch, and George Hearn star in this adaptation of . . .


Event: The Importance of Being Earnest

Venue: American Airlines Theatre

Brian Bedford directs Oscar Wilde’s farce from 1895, for the Roundabout Theatre . . .


Event: Korach

Venue: Living Theatre

Living Theatre presents a new drama written and directed by Judith Malina . . .


Event: NEWSical the musical

Venue: Kirk Theatre

A comedy revue lampooning the current headlines returns, with music and lyrics . . .


Event: Other Desert Cities

Venue: Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater

Stockard Channing, Stacy Keach, Linda Lavin, Thomas Sadoski, and Elizabeth Marvel star . . .


Event: Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Venue: Foxwoods Theatre

Julie Taymor directs a musical based on the Marvel Comics series, with . . .


Event: Three Pianos

Venue: New York Theatre Workshop

Rick Burkhardt, Alec Duffy, and Dave Malloy wrote and perform in this . . .

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If it’s possible, see The Great Game, a three-part cycle of plays running through December 19. Watch it to convince people like me that the U.S. should get out of Afghanistan. I will tell you that I didn’t go into the Public Theater at NYU’s Skirball Center with that predisposition, however.  I also want to make it clear that the production, which comes to us through Britain’s Tricycle Theatre, is not didactic, it doesn’t advocate such a point of view—in fact, Simon Stephens’s final A Canopy of Stars contradicts it. What I am saying is that art can change minds.  

Nicolas Kent, who directed most of the pieces (Indhu Rubasingham is also represented) envisioned the enormity of the concept, which tells the history of Afghanistan from the 1800s to the present (it’s one I wish somebody would also use regarding works on Iraq and Tibet–we need these artistic perspectives). For The Great Game, he commissioned twelve playwrights to write one acts, monologues, introductory materials, and edit verbatim pieces–they take seven hours to watch in their entirety, with two main breaks, but these plays can be viewed in any order and you don’t have to see everything to reap the benefits of the immersion. “The media was preoccupied with Iraq and had hardly spent any time on Afghanistan,” Kent has said, although in America, on Broadway, we weren’t even preoccupied with Iraq (yet, interestingly there is a passionate market for this material—one person I talked to at an intermission of the Afghan plays had come from Boston to the Village–he'd taken a bus that morning, caught the entire show, and was returning home from Port Authority that night).

It’s easy to pounce on the British for having such good writers and actors when we haven’t had subsidies (access to such monies is, unfortunately, changing now in the U.K.) and we’re just jealous (the fine ensemble acting here, it should be mentioned, includes the work of Daniel Rabin, Jemma Redgrave, Nabil Elouahabi, Raad Rawi, Tom McKay, and Cloudia Swann, but it is not limited to them).  From their own levels of power, Broadway directors, angels, and producible playwrights, with the real ability to impact the culture, didn’t take up the American wars in the Middle East as subjects for plays.  It makes us look ridiculous and unaccountable, if, frankly, not immoral, and, in the age of the Internet, it’s especially noticeable worldwide, as people have more access to learning about our theatre scene and are deciding more interesting things are going on in Chicago (Donald Magulies’s Time Stands Still is an exception, though, and we do have the promise of Robin Williams coming in Rajiv Joseph's Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo in March; Naomi Wallace, Karen Malpede, Tony Kushner, Bill Cain, Quiara Alegria Hudes, Lydia Stryk, George Packer, Brendon Bates, and others had work played on smaller stages or were ignored; David Hare and Gregory Burke from the U.K. did most of our heavy lifting for us) There will be a backlash at home, especially with the successes of the GOP in the midterm elections, and we will be called decadent—in fact, the process has already started in the visual arts at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., which recently was forced to pull an ant-covered Jesus.  

How do we tell the people that dramatic artists in the U.S. didn’t find our nation’s two wars suitable for rigorous artistic expression on our foremost stages for a decade?  How do we explain that two wars, one based on a mistake of judgment and the other, convening in a place we know virtually nothing about, meant so little to us—even though approximately 5000 American lives were being lost, even though the conflicts were bankrupting the nation?   

Recently, Wikileaks called out a “boorish” and “bungling” Prince Andrew for saying "Americans don't understand geography. Never have.”  Unfortunately, he might be right—in the past, we could fake it by turning to the movies, David Lean films set in Arabia, or Old Russia, or Thailand; today we don’t have the entertaining epic, the kind your parents thought was good for you and you might have taken a school trip to see—I don’t consider it an insult to say that The Great Game meets the same need. You’ll be reminded of these costume dramas, of the sweep and scale, in the first segment of these plays. And, if you can, do take teens to see this production, even if they tell you it’s “old school” (in the third part there is a short, ungraphic video using porn symbology, but you’ll probably find worse on television commercials, not to mention on the Web–there is strong language, too, in the last piece). The playwrights of the first group are Siba Shakib, Stephen Jeffreys, Ron Hutchinson, Richard Norton-Taylor, Amit Gupta and Joy Wilkinson; they take us into the Afghanistan of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but it’s impossible to say if there is a best play in any of the parts, just as it’s impossible to say if there’s a best actor–each has its own artistic merits, and use in the larger whole, although I’m sure discussion will roll around to what viewers liked best (but you decide that).   I want to mention Bugles at the Gates of Jalalabad by Jeffreys, which brings up the wives who followed—in this case, physically–the British officers to Afghanistan; it also establishes the quagmire the land has become for all would-be conquerors and the games other countries played here. Durand’s Line, by Hutchinson, highlights true absurdism, trying to create a map for 20 ethnicities in an area about the size of France; the modern world wanted the map, the different tribal people’s gained or lost ground like the ocean tides over time.  Jamming different peoples into fixed imaginary boundaries means terminal war, it is prophesized—and guess what?  Afghanistan continues to be in terminal war.

Exciting, too, is the  verbatim theatre used in The Great Game, a trend from Britain where actual words from interviews, public statements, and books are used to shape drama—what I especially like about it is that the work allows realism to be seen as real art, as opposed to TV writing (there is a difference, which is especially noticeable when hearing the real-real voices used by verbatim writers and editors, for example, in the work of Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo and David Hare and, here, Norton-Taylor).

The second installment of The Great Game emphasizes the Cold War/Soviet era in the country.  In Black Tulips, David Edgar fills in the details about understanding a no-man’s land in the center of everywhere while delivering the understatement, “We haven’t learned lessons because people back home don’t care.” Afghanistan, besides being tribal, besides being mountainous, besides having no coast, was a buffer zone between Russia and India (the British). Under the Soviets, and the Afghan war with them, it became a way for the U.S. to fight Russia via covert operations without declaring head-to-head conflict.   This necessitated the importance of bordering Pakistan for weaponry supply, which, along with India, was a U.S. ally—but India and Pakistan, of course, were enemies.  You’ll also start hearing more about the Taliban. Edgar, Shakib, Lee Blessing David Greig and Colin Teevan (interesting that, besides Joseph’s play, there is another, regarding the current Middle East conflicts, set in a zoo) are the playwrights here documenting the geopolitical relationships and twists—you won’t disagree when you hear Teevan’s line about what happens when all of this is over and the superpowers have left the region: “I am on the side of those who must live here after you’ve gone.” Critically, there are moments in The Great Game, and they’re few, where a line of momentum lags; the actors play upstage, so we can’t see their faces; or the plays lack physicality—perhaps these are differences of cultural expectation; I merely mention.

Although The Great Game is not in strict chronological order, Part Three is the most contemporary.  The Soviets have left, which has made the Americans lose interest in the region: We’re entering a void, which is being taken over by terrorist training camps. The poppy, for heroin trafficking, is vital to the economy.  In the final part, we’re watching the work of Ben Ockrent, Abi Morgan, Richard Bean, and Simon Stephens—stories reappear in this segment, and they especially highlight the idea that although the playwrights were working solo, certain leitmotifs were incorporated throughout the whole (for example, the subject of women who follow their men, brought up in Jeffreys’s play, comes back in the last piece of the show).  We’re seeing, too, more than elsewhere, what the impact of perpetual war, 9/11, and the Taliban means to the everyday population, as well as to the everyday soldier. It’s what convinced me that if we left Afghanistan, we would be allowing a return to a safe haven for terrorists–and with it, the potential to be attacked again. 

I’m not sure why American theatre has decided work designed to educate, to drag us out of artistic narcissism and solipsism is unacceptable—how could we not be seeing plays about these wars, unless Eric Bentley’s idea of a playwright as thinker has been disbanded; or, perhaps, it’s a blinder for the fact that we really don’t know all that much about geography, history, or geopolitics.  Perhaps, too, it just doesn’t sound glamorous enough.  We do know that we’re in the middle of a crisis of education at home—New York’s Mayor Bloomberg has brought in Cathie Black, from Hearst Publications in the private sector, to be School Chancellor.  With so much competing for a kid’s wallet, however, she, like all teachers, will face an uphill battle trying to get the attention of students.  What they may not be realizing is that we’re spending their future dollars on two large-scale military operations.  Maybe they should know something about them. It not only takes parents and teachers to raise the level of a child’s understanding—it takes public art, foundational works, societal concern, too:  artistic concern to stop ripping off children’s minds and calling it free-market enterprise.  Do those in the “entertainment industry” have a place in aiding public education? Britain’s The Great Game tells us the answer is yes.

© 2010 by Bob Shuman

The above video is from the English production


The Tricycle Theatre Company's
New York Premiere / NYU Skirball Center
By Richard Bean, Lee Blessing, David Edgar, David Greig, Amit Gupta, Ron Hutchinson, Stephen Jeffreys, Abi Morgan, Ben Ockrent, Simon Stephens, Colin Teevan, and Joy Wilkinson Directed by Nicolas Kent and Indhu Rubasingham
Presented in association with NYU Skirball Center
Supported by the British Council

December 1 – December 19, 2010

From the Tricycle Theatre in London, The Great Game: Afghanistan is a unique three part theatrical event exploring the culture and history of Afghanistan since Western involvement in 1842 to the present day.  Performances in New York begin December 1, produced by The Public Theater in association with NYU Skirball Center.

Browse this website for more information about The Great Game: Afghanistan and special events surrounding the New York run.

DECEMBER 1 – 19 at NYU Skirball Center

Tickets are on sale now!

By Phone:
212-352-3101 or 866-811-4111 Mon – Fri 9am – 9pm, Sat – Sun 10am – 6pm.
In Person: Tickets will be available at the Skirball Center Box Office Tue – Sat 12pm – 6pm and two hours before show time.

Full Price Tickets: $70-80 each
Full Price 3-Part Marathon Package: $135 for 3 tickets, CLICK HERE to order

Public Theater Member Tickets: $40 each
Public Theater Member 3-Part Marathon Package: $99 for 3 tickets

Active Military Price (with ID): $20 each

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(Peter Marks’s article appeared in the Washington Post, 11/6.)

The show's got life, humor, heart. Director Molly Smith infuses a musical that sometimes can come across as a nostalgia piece with the energy of a new age, with the gifts of a cast whose faces reflect the America of this moment. Her exciting take — reinforced grandly in Parker Esse's superb choreography — touches on the uplift you feel merely walking into Arena's newly glittering complex, itself a representation of the nation's optimistic impulse for reinvention.


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