(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/29.)
There are basically two ways of presenting Richard III: as the culmination of a cycle or as a standalone drama. And, although I think it only makes total sense when seen in the context of the Wars of the Roses, Sam Mendes has come up with a beautifully clear, coherent modern-dress production in which the protagonist becomes an autocratic archetype.
But the real buzz and excitement stems from Kevin Spacey's powerful central performance.
Spacey doesn't radically overthrow the Olivier concept of Richard the Satanic joker, as Sher and McKellen did. What he offers us is his own subtle variations on it: a Richard in whom instinctive comic brio is matched by a power-lust born of intense self-hatred.
(Carole Woddis’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/27.)
Margaret Tyzack, who has died aged 79, was one of Britain's greatest and most popular actors, working on stage, television and film for more than half a century. Sometimes described as being in the mould of Edith Evans and Flora Robson, she will be remembered particularly for performances in the golden age of BBC TV drama – Winifred in The Forsyte Saga (1967), Antonia in I, Claudius (1976) – as well as for stage performances such as Martha in the National Theatre's revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1981), for which she won an Olivier award for best actress, and Lottie with Maggie Smith in Lettice and Lovage (1987 and 1990), which earned her both Tony and Variety Club stage actress of the year awards. In 2008, well into her 70s, she scored perhaps one of her finest triumphs on stage as the wily, wittily eccentric Mrs St Maugham in Michael Grandage's outstanding revival of Enid Bagnold's The Chalk Garden at the Donmar with Penelope Wilton.
(Michael Feingold’s article appeared in the Village Voice, 6/29.)
They call it a "problem play," and I agree: Normally, All's Well That Ends Well (Delacorte Theater) gives me more problems, with fewer rewards, than almost any other Shakespeare work. Watching Helena (Annie Parisse), the doctor's daughter and disciple, abase and humiliate herself to win the haughty, callowly cruel aristocrat Bertram (Andre Holland) is only fun if you really relish Schadenfreude. The trickery that she uses belongs in a storybook; the clear-eyed sexual awareness with which Shakespeare infuses the tale belongs in a medical textbook.
(Stephen Holden’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/26.)
Alice Playten, a versatile character actress and musical comedy voice whose piping wail earned her comparisons to a baby Ethel Merman, died on Saturday in Manhattan. She was 63 and lived in Manhattan.
The cause was heart failure following a lifelong battle with juvenile diabetes, complicated by pancreatic cancer, said her husband, Joshua White.
Ms. Playten was a two-time Obie winner, for the satirical revue “National Lampoon’s Lemmings” and “First Lady Suite,” the Michael John LaChiusa chamber musical, in which she played Mamie Eisenhower. She was called “a comic genius” by Marilyn Stasio in her New York Post review of the Mark O’Donnell comedy “That’s It, Folks!”
(Jones’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 6/25.)
As we approach the half-way point in the year, a pause to pick our top performances so far. Greg Kot, Michael Phillips, Howard Reich and John von Rhein and I all came up with our Top-5 lists from the first months of 2011.
(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/24; an earlier version of "Being Shakespeare' was entitled, 'The Man From Stratford,' as in the above video clip.)
We've had some fine one-man shows about Shakespeare from John Gielgud, Ian McKellen and Michael Pennington. But Simon Callow's is among the very best, partly because it is performed with such silvery authority and grace, and partly because is skilfully written by Jonathan Bate, so that the plays and poems are used to provide a portrait of both Shakespeare and his age.
(Bruce Weber’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/24.)
Peter Falk, who marshaled actorly tics, prop room appurtenances and his own physical idiosyncrasies to personify Columbo, one of the most famous and beloved fictional detectives in television history, died on Thursday night at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 83.
His death was announced in a statement from Larry Larson, a longtime friend and the lawyer for Mr. Falk’s wife, Shera. He had been treated for Alzheimer’s disease in recent years.
Mr. Falk had a wide-ranging career in comedy and drama, in the movies and onstage, before and during the three and a half decades in which he portrayed the slovenly but canny lead on “Columbo.” He was nominated for two Oscars; appeared in original stage productions of works by Paddy Chayefsky, Neil Simon and Arthur Miller; worked with the directors Frank Capra, John Cassavetes, Blake Edwards and Mike Nichols; and co-starred with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis and Jason Robards.
(Joe Dowling’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 6/18.)
AS GABRIEL BYRNE continues his missionary role as advocate for Irish culture abroad, it is refreshing to be reminded that this country’s impact on the American film industry did not begin with Colin Farrell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Throughout Hollywood’s golden era Irish actors were a regular part of Tinseltown and, in some cases, were among its highest earners.
This well-written account of the Irish in Hollywood threads together the lives and careers of some of the most notable theatrical emigres who contributed both to the Abbey Theatre’s glory days and, subsequently, to the development of American film. Adrian Frazier makes a compelling case that the Irish theatrical revival of the early years of the 20th century was continued in Hollywood films through the determination of one of the greatest film directors of that era, John Ford.
(Conal Urquhart’s article appeared 6/22 in the Guardian.)
A pioneering community theatre that aimed to replace violence with drama in one of the most battle-scarred Palestinian towns has hosted its first performance since the murder of its director.
Israeli and Palestinian police have not identified the gunman who shot and killed Juliano Mer Khamis in April, but on Tuesday students from Jenin's Freedom Theatre performed Shu Kamam, or What Else, as a defiant message that they will continue his work.