(Chris Jones’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 5/15.)
Given that Edward Albee's “The Goat or, Who is Sylvia?” probes the outer limits of intimacy, there is much to be gained from an intimate exploration of its themes.
The last major Chicago production of this play about an accomplished, middle-age, hitherto happily married man who finds himself in both love and sexual congress with a cloven-hoofed mammal was at the Goodman Theatre in 2003. Robert Falls' epic version emphasized the connection of this family drama to the thunderous emotions and language of classical tragedy. Those connections are certainly there: Albee's use of two- and three-person scenes; the way the play combines studied intellectualism and primal cries of anguish; the characters' unstinting determination to self-justify; the horrific, violent end.
Need a reason to reread Romeo and Juliet? Researcher Philip Davis, a professor at the University of Liverpool's School of English, has been studying the brain and reading. He says exposure to Shakespeare's deliberate language mistakes—like using a noun as a verb—makes you smarter.
(Helen Shaw’s article appeared in TimeOut New York, 4/11.)
I don’t care how devoutly you dedicate yourself to dialectical flexibility: Young Jean Lee will give you whiplash. Her ability to stake out aesthetic territory and then abruptly abandon it makes her unpredictable; her tendency to excel at each new genre makes her terrifying. In the enormously touching cabaret-style We’re Gonna Die, Lee jettisons everything that has armored this au courant young playwright against the world. She abandons archness, cynicism and metaphor; she comes out from behind the writer-director's anonymity and places herself center stage. After a brisk career of provocative, avant-garde work (The Shipment and Lear) Lee does the unexpected again: She spins a 180 degrees to embrace convention, naked autobiography and the unironic pop song.
(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 4/13.)
I find it strange that one of Harold Pinter's most accessible plays has had to wait 18 years for a major London revival. It deals, after all, with mortality, love, loss and separation: subjects that touch us all. But at least it's now back in a fine-tuned production by Bijan Sheibani which, even though a little short on humour, shows desperate people yearning to make contact across the chasms that divide them.
There’s still time to see La Cage Aux Folles, winner of three 2010 Tony Awards, including Best Musical Revival and Best Director (Terry Johnson), at the Longacre Theatre; it closes May 1—you’ll also get to watch the maligned queen Zaza as played by Harvey Fierstein, the show’s original book writer. The revival is reminiscent of Gypsy (interestingly Arthur Laurents directed the 1983 La Cage) and Cabaret; it's a different take on drag, too. Then, as I recall, the actors were supposed to be confused with real women (“What we are is an illusion” goes one of Jerry Herman’s opening lyrics)—Fierstein, however, won’t fool anybody for a moment today—he’s all heft and deep throat. The chorus,“the notorious and dangerous Cagelles,” aren’t going to win any beauty pageants either—but they might be able to play football after the closing (the athletic choreography is by Lynne Page). Bette Bourne, who knows something about dressing like a woman—the Englishman starred in the 1980s legendary cult group, Bloolips–has said he never wanted to be a female impersonator; instead he simply saw his characters as “men in frocks.” That line of identification seems to me to be more of what this production of La Cage Aux Folles, from England, too, is about. Its defense of individuality is also justified by another, maybe more famous, Herman lyric: “I am my own special creation”—it doesn’t have much to do with sexual preference and you can throw Milton Berle, Flip Wilson, and John Travolta into the sisterhood, as well, if you like. “I Am What I Am” can actually justify almost anyone’s concept of drag or belief in anything with a little jiggering; it’s as American as “I Did It My Way,” even if the original play and movie were French, written by Jean Poiret (you may also remember The Birdcage, an American version of the story written by Elaine May and starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane). Another memory from the ‘80s, regarding the show, is that it appealed enough to women to keep it running for 1,761 performances; Zaza’s plight apparently mobilized the matinee crowd. Maybe you could bring your own conservative in-laws to see this production, saying that it’s actually about self-made men and the pursuit of happiness (and it is!)–the hetero juveniles never become more than types, though. Call it a watershed for presenting gays on stage, if you insist; miss the productions that you’ve seen and have trouble saying goodbye to, but this is really an old-fashioned musical that isn't going anywhere; built to last, La Cage Aux Folles is a Broadway warhorse. Christopher Sieber and Christine Andreas also star.
Mae West (Anne Marie Finnie) and Sophie Tucker (Maggie Worsdale) - THE GAUDY GIRLS The Empress of Sex and the Last of the Red Hot Mamas are together at last. They sing, dance, joke and tell secrets! Dazzling Costumes, Huge Showgirl Fans, and Chutzpa are just the tip of the iceberg with these talented dames.
Cost: $40 Saturday April 16 at Casa Bianca in Oak Ridge, New Jersey at 12 Noon. Have a Buffet Lunch and enjoy the show.
Hosted By: Marlene Clements and Barbara Laufnick Red Hat Chapter Marlo-Modhatters Call: Barbara At: 973.875.1170 or Marlene At: 973.764.4348 for more information. Send Payment with how many to: Marlene Clements, 12 Pautuck Road , Highland Lakes, New Jersey. 07422
(If you look at the clip above, you'll see Bob from Stage Voices–thanks, Maggie!)
(Charles Isherwood’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/9.)
Language is both a source of artillery and the substance of impenetrable defenses in the remarkable play “Born Bad” by the British writer Debbie Tucker Green at Soho Rep. Running just an hour, this intense, stylized drama about poisonous family secrets hits you like a triple shot of espresso. You leave feeling slightly shaken: excited by the play’s formal invention, moved by its coiled emotional power.
Acted with fiery feeling by a superb cast, and directed with incisive clarity by Leah C. Gardiner, the play unfolds as a series of taut, brief scenes separated by blackouts and the occasional throb of music. The spare set by Mimi Lien suggests an abstracted middle-class living room, strafed with golden lighting by Michael Chybowski that evolves as the mood shifts in the room. (In its sensitivity to the style and tone of individual texts, the directing and design at tiny Soho Rep regularly outclasses the work done on many of the city’s larger stages.)
Movie icons Greta Garbo and Ingmar Bergman are among the late Swedish celebrities who will adorn new editions of bank notes in the Scandinavian country.
Sweden’s Central Bank says Stockholm-born Garbo, one of Hollywood’s most celebrated actresses in the 1920s and ’30s, will feature on the new edition of the 100-kronor bill to enter circulation in 2014-2015. One-hundred kronor is worth about $16.
Bergman, the famed Swedish film director who died in 2007, will be the motif for a new 200-kronor bill.
(Jessica Hopkins’s interview appeared in the Guardian, 4/1.)
Performed by Toneelgroep Amsterdam in Dutch, and directed by the brilliant Ivo van Hove, this was an amazing show. Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra were combined in brilliantly edited versions in what became a six-hour show with no intervals. It seems rather austere to watch six hours of Shakespeare in a language you don't understand but it was thrilling and incredibly accessible.