It’s exciting to see the current Ibsen revivals—John Gabriel Borkman in a new version by Frank McGuinness at BAM Harvey Theater and Mike Poulton’s adaptation of Rosmersholm recently at the Pearl Theatre Company. Not only are they resuscitating the image of the great master, manacled by defining terms such as “naturalism, realism, romantic drama, melodramatic theatricality” (the list comes courtesy of the Ibsen scholar Toril Moi in her essential book on the subject Henrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism), but they also confirm her point that “Ibsen is more modern than ever.” He may also be more relevant than many of the contemporary playwrights you’ve seen in New York recently. In Rosmersholm, for example, the director, Elinor Renfield, shrewdly used Austin Pendleton to ignite the play’s political warfare—battles that are typically bewilderingly weathered to reach the play’s ultimate death wish. By casting a well-known, passionate actor in the role of a conservative who lost an election, Renfield was able to emphasize a part of Norwegian history that ran unexpectedly parallel to American politics today.
(Charles Spencer’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 1/24.)
A busy year of revivals celebrating the centenary of Terence Rattigan’s birth begins with a Rattigan premiere – or at least a kind of premiere. Less Than Kind was written in 1944 and is, in part, a Forties version of Hamlet. In it a 17-year-old boy, Michael, returns from Canada, where he has been sent for his safety during the war only to discover that his beloved widowed mother is living in sin with a rich industrialist, a minister in the wartime government.
(From Publishers Lunch, 1/24.)
Florence Henderson's memoir, writing with candor about the challenges she has overcome — a childhood in rural Indiana as the last born of ten children; struggles with religious faith, post-partum depression, the collapse of her marriage and infidelity, and the death of her soul mate — and the valuable lessons both the triumphs and adversities have taught her about enjoying life to its fullest, saying "I know many who will read my book will recognize a similar bundle of issues they confront in their own lives," to Christina Boys at Center Street, for publication in September 2011, by David Brokaw at The Brokaw Company.
Openings and Previews
Event: American Sexy
Venue: Flea Theater
Trista Baldwin’s play, directed by Mia Walker, follows four college students on . . .
Event: Apple Cove
Venue: Julia Miles Theatre
Giovanna Sardelli directs Lynn Rosen’s comedy, presented by Women’s Project, about the . . .
Event: Black Tie
Venue: 59E59 Theatres
A. R. Gurney premières a new comedy centered on the father of . . .
Event: Gruesome Playground Injuries
Venue: Second Stage Theatre
Rajiv Joseph’s dark romantic drama is about a man and a woman . . .
(Greer’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/23.)
A long time ago, when I was small, George Bernard Shaw was a very important person. Actors vied to play his heroines, and he was the standby of am-dram groups all over the empire. In 1925, at the age of 69, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature, giving him licence to hold forth on every conceivable subject. He was regularly quoted in newspapers throughout the English-speaking world. When Shaw died in 1950, President Truman issued a statement of condolence, and the lights of Broadway were dimmed. At that time he had been considered the greatest living playwright.
(William Grimes’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/21.)
Theoni V. Aldredge, who designed the costumes for hundreds of Broadway and Off Broadway productions, including “Annie,” “A Chorus Line” and “La Cage aux Folles,” and who won an Academy Award for her work on “The Great Gatsby,” died on Friday in Stamford, Conn. She was 88.
(Matthew Bell’s article appeared in the Independent, 1/23.)
If music be the food of love, play on, as Shakespeare wrote. But when it comes to The Tempest, the bard's last play, which celebrates its 400th anniversary this year, music is the fuel firing an angry debate.
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(Sarah Churchwell’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/22.)
A new production of Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour opens tonight; it is attracting predictable attention for the wattage of its stars, Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss (Peggy from Mad Men), but when the play was first produced, the star was the author. A playwright, screenwriter and memoirist nearly as well known for her life and politics as for her writing, Hellman (1905-84) was one of the most famous American women writers of the 20th century. She was also the first woman to be admitted into the previously all-male club of American "dramatic literature", primarily on the basis of two enormously successful plays from the 1930s: The Children's Hour (1934) and The Little Foxes (1939).
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(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/21.)
The Almeida has a strong track-record in producing American plays. And it was of one of its favoured sons, Neil LaBute, that I was reminded watching this astute, acerbic and richly funny comedy by Gina Gionfriddo. Like LaBute, Gionfriddo deals with power and manipulation. But what she brings to a familiar dramatic theme is a surprising moral ambiguity.