Monthly Archives: March 2011



(Neil Genzlinger’s article appeared 3/29 in The New York Times.)

Farley Granger, who found quick stardom in films like Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train” in the 1940s and ’50s but who then turned aside from Hollywood to pursue stage and television roles, died on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 85.

A spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner’s office said he died of natural causes.

Mr. Granger’s youthful good looks gave him matinee-idol potential, and he was linked romantically to some of the biggest names of the day, of both sexes. But his passion for stage acting and his discontent with the studio system kept him from reaching the Hollywood superstardom of some of his contemporaries. Though he had scores of television and film credits and made a half-dozen Broadway appearances, his best-known performances were two of his earliest: as a preppie thrill-killer in Hitchcock’s “Rope” in 1948, and as a tennis player wrongly suspected of murder in “Strangers on a Train” in 1951.




(Chris Jones’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 3/19.)

As Wink, Stanton and Goldman understand, few things in the arts have a shorter shelf life than meditations on current technology. Pen a novel, or film a movie, about the perfidious influence of bloggers and you're fine for a couple of years until bloggers stop being so influential. Write a play about relationships formed in Internet chat rooms and you're burned-out toast — maybe in just a matter of months — when the whole generational conversation moves to Twitter.

Deeper changes come just as suddenly. Take the concept of the information overload — a state of modern being that was, until recently, the central theme of the Blue Man Group.




Openings and Previews 


Event: Anything Goes

Venue: Stephen Sondheim Theatre

Sutton Foster and Joel Grey star in Cole Porter’s musical set on . . .


Event: Baby It’s You!

Venue: Broadhurst Theatre

A new musical with a book by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott . . .


Event: Benefactors

Venue: Clurman Theatre

Keen Company presents this play, written by Michael Frayn in 1985, about . . .


Event: Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

Venue: Richard Rodgers Theatre

Robin Williams makes his Broadway acting début in a play by Rajiv . . .

Continue reading


(Dominic Cavendish’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 3/24.)

Why don't the guests just leave? It's a question that inevitably crops up when you watch George and Martha, the vituperative husband and wife at the wounded heart of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, go to work. As the pair pour verbal acid on each other and score scornful points off the younger couple – Nick and Honey – they've invited into their New England campus home for a post-party drink or ten, you think: anyone with any instinct for self-preservation would make their excuses.



Genetics hasn't fared too well in the New York theatre lately.  For all the excitement last fall concerning Edward Albee’s twins play, Me, Myself & I, the show couldn’t find much common ground with audiences—we didn’t see ourselves in the mirror being held up; we only saw the playwright (again and again).  However, if Ben Brantley is to be believed (and why not?), a previous 2008 production in Princeton was “riotous . . . laugh-out-loud.”  Maybe the work still needs more time to be studied, reappraised, and found again, much as A Delicate Balance met mixed reviews in 1966 and ran for only 166 performances (it did win the Pulitzer, though); noted by Vincent Canby during its revival in 1996, the play did better on the rebound.  

Such a re-estimation may also be needed for A Number by Caryl Churchill, which is being given a new production at the National Asian American Theatre Company.  It’s a short piece, not much more than an hour, which has a distinguished history and, at least here, techno-pop music—Michael Gambon and Daniel Craig starred in the original 2002 London premiere, which won the Evening Standard Award for Best New Play.  In 2004, Sam Shepard opened in it in New York.  Yet in 2011, the show doesn’t mesh well in the day’s technological upheaval: it’s not old enough to be seen as visionary art and not new enough to have much of an edge. An examination of the effects of cloning on a father and his sons, A Number hasn’t been helped by Octomom in the tabloids or the advent of Twitter, Facebook, WikiLeaks, and live blogging either; some may even feel Ira Levin’s thriller The Boys from Brazil is all they needed to hear about the subject. 

A deeper issue might also be the unstated conceit that neither the father nor one of his sons in A Number would go to the press with their story (despite the fact that this dad is interested in making money).  Over and over again, people have approached the media with similar cases: the scientific feat of cloning Dolly, the sheep, was within popular memory when A Number first opened; the Raelian cult appeared on the Drudge Report regarding their supposed scientific breakthroughs; we’ve even heard about cow cloning in South Korea.  The trend is not toward covering up information here—and if such offspring did live into adulthood, I think it would be very hard to have kept that fact hidden (society would most probably be studying it and replicating it further); in A Number, we don’t get much of a sense of a real, outside world.   

At the Studio at Cherry Lane Theatre, Maureen Payne-Hahner, as director, doesn’t seem prepared to drill for a molten core: James Saito and Joel de la Fuente play the father and sons straightforwardly, oddly without much menace, oddly without mining deeply into the subtext.  Whether they feel it’s there or not, Churchill’s dialogue is about all they’ve got: interesting, reminiscent of Albee and Pinter, but still talk—her constructional lapses, intentional or not, give the play an empty, anti-controversial feel. It’s a very unphysical play, here seen best as a series of acting exercises, which probably needs to be exploded from the actor’s guts—Saito’s character, Salter, despite the fact that he’s irresponsible as the father, clings to neatness, dignity; de la Fuente, in three roles, shows us different surfaces.  Ultimately, without much in the way of stage action or complexity of plot; without taking on the polarizing and in-your-face danger of a story where man is playing God and focusing instead on an easier nature vs. nurture comparison, A Number seems muted; like the clones themselves, unevolved.

© 2011 by Bob Shuman

A NUMBER by Caryl Churchill

Since the arrival of Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned, in the late-90s, the possibility of human cloning has sparked controversy. In recent years, with advances in genetic engineering, the practical and ethical issues regarding cloning continue to make headlines and incite lively debate. "We've got ninety-nine percent the same genes as any other person. We've got ninety per cent as a chimpanzee. We've got thirty percent the same as lettuce," says Michael Black in A Number. "Does that cheer you up at all? It makes me feel I belong."

With: Joel de la Fuente and James Saito

Czerton Lim (set design)
Kate Brown (sound design)
Alex Bright (lighting design)
Maureen Payne-Hahner (costume design)
Matthew Grayson (graphic design)
Clara Dalzell (stage manager)
William P. Steele (production photos)
Sam Rudy Media Relations (press release)

Directed by Maureen Payne-Hahner

Written by Caryl Churchill

March 12, 2011 – April 3, 2011
Tuesdays – Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 3:00pm & 7:30pm
Sundays at 2:00pm

Cherry Lane Studio Theatre
38 Commerce Street

Tickets: $25 ($20 previews March 12-13)
(212) 239-6200
(800) 432-7250

Actors appear courtesy of Actors Equity Association. Produced by special arrangement with Samuel French Inc, New York City



(Paul Taylor’s article appeared in the Independent, 3/25; The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore with Olympia Dukakis has been extended at the Roundabout in NY until April 10.)

Tennessee Williams – arguably the greatest of American dramatists – would have notched up his 100th birthday on 26 March. He was born Thomas Lanier Williams III in Columbus, Mississippi in 1911. His mother, Edwina, was the daughter of an Episcopalian minister, his father, Cornelius, was a womanising and hard-drinking travelling salesman for a shoe company. History does not record how the birth went, though it is a fair bet that the occasion was more elevated than the master playwright's less than ideally dignified demise some 71 years later.




(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/25.)

This is to all the doubters and deniers out there, the ones who say that heaven on Broadway does not exist, that it’s only some myth our ancestors dreamed up. I am here to report that a newborn, old-fashioned, pleasure-giving musical has arrived at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, the kind our grandparents told us left them walking on air if not on water. So hie thee hence, nonbelievers (and believers too), to “The Book of Mormon,” and feast upon its sweetness.

Now you should probably know that this collaboration between the creators of television’s “South Park” (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) and the composer of “Avenue Q” (Robert Lopez) is also blasphemous, scurrilous and more foul-mouthed than David Mamet on a blue streak. But trust me when I tell you that its heart is as pure as that of a Rodgers and Hammerstein show.




(From The New York Times, 3/24.)

Lanford Wilson, a Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright best known for “The Hot L Baltimore,” “Fifth of July,” and “Talley’s Folly,” died Wednesday morning of complications from pneumonia at the Kindred St. Joseph Hospital in Wayne, N.J. according to Marshall Mason, a friend and frequent collaborator. Mr. Wilson was 73 and lived in Sag Harbor, N.Y.




(Marie Winckler’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/23.)

Last week, I was having a conversation about theatre with a friend from Belgium. It was striking how much excitement there seems to be in Belgian theatre at the moment: directors experimenting with form, young actors bringing cool back to the stage. She described a company called Panach'club whose silent show Nothing has made a big splash, and the National Improv League's last irreverent piece – and of course the experimental company Ontroerend Goed, who have a significant fanbase outside their home country. In fact, it had been a long time since I'd heard anyone speak so enthusiastically about theatre, because for as long as I can recall – like many French people my age – I've always vaguely associated theatre with mandatory cultural education. High school students over the country learn about l'art de Molière by studying their way through the 17th-century repertoire, then it's on to the théâtre de l'absurde. We are asked to write essays so academic that there was no space left for personal responses, still less pleasure. When I got to college, I continued going to the theatre, yet something was wrong – I couldn't name a single young playwright who wasn't the latest novelist-turned-actor-slash-performance artist.




(Michael Billington’s article appeared 3/21.) 

We seem to have a love-hate relationship with French drama. We occasionally revive Racine and Corneille while sniffing airily at the way such neo-classic drama rigidly observes the unities. We also periodically dip into French farce while tut-tutting at its dubious taste, especially all those Feydeau jokes about stuttering and cleft palates. Temperamentally, I suspect we feel much closer to Russian and German drama than we do to its French counterpart. The vogue for everything French (plays, movies, fashion) seems to have faded. But it shouldn't be that way. Here are five dramatists at whom we should take another look.


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