(Richard Orange’s article appeared in the Guardian, 12/31.)
It's the case that has absorbed Scandinavia's elite artistic circles and tested some of Norway's finest literary experts.
Over the next few months, investigators from the Norwegian police's economic crimes unit will be combing the market for supposed possessions and letters relating to the playwright Henrik Ibsen, and the Nobel-winning novelist – and Nazi sympathiser – Knut Hamsun as part of investigations into an alleged scam that exploited the nation's interest in its most celebrated authors.
More than a dozen documents are alleged to have been forged by Geir Ove Kvalheim, a Norwegian scriptwriter and actor, who has been charged and is due go on trial in April.
The alleged fraud was only revealed when Kvalheim sensationally claimed to have discovered fragments of a previously unknown Ibsen play, The Sun God, a find that would have changed Norwegian literary history.
Lars Frode Larsen, a Hamsun expert who was one of the first to raise the alarm, said that he could not think of a literary forgery of such magnitude since the fake Hitler diaries in 1983.
"He was very convincing," Rolf Warendorf at Oslo's Norlis antiquarian booksellers, told the Observer. "His story was that he was a collector of all kinds of stuff connected to the second world war – uniforms, medals etc – and that he had got in touch with the older Nazis living in Spain and Norway."
To Warendorf's embarrassment, his bookshop became the conduit through which several of the alleged forgeries were brought to market. He bought a "signed" first edition of the Ibsen play John Gabriel Borkman, which the writer had dedicated to Edvard Munch, the artist who painted The Scream.
(Paul Taylor’s article appeared in the Independent, 12/20.)
Lucinda Coxon's play may be set in the run-up to Christmas but don't go expecting feel-good Yule-tide fare.
Someone has planted razor-blades in the pudding. A three-hander with a calculatedly jagged focus, this is a drama about how we lead such over-worked and emotionally fraught lives that we have time only for the wrong kinds of intimacy, bobbing around in our various bubbles of loneliness.
St. Malachy’s–The Actors’ Chapel–will name its new non-denominational day-evening child care center (dedicated to the children of entertainment industry professionals) in honor of the legendary Bob and Dolores Hope, at Voices United Radio City Music Hall Concert on Monday, February 20, at 7:30pm . . . According to Rev. Fr. Richard D. Baker, pastor of St. Malachy's:
"We are thrilled that Linda Hope, eldest of the Hopes’ four children and President of The Bob Hope Legacy and Bob Hope Enterprises, has given her blessing to the child care center and agreed to name it after her late parents."
Voices United www.voicesunited.com will include choral groups from around the country, the casts of Broadway's Memphis and Sister Act, guest organists Peter Edwin Krasinski and Jonathan Ortloff, and a cavalcade of stars soon to be announced . . . Actor-producer Martin Sheen is chair of Voices United. The concert will be conducted by the award-winning Eric Knapp.
In 2007, a Needs Assessment Study conducted by The Actors Fund and Actors' Equity determined that there is a crucial need by families who work in the entertainment industry for a quality, affordable child care center in the Times Square Area with flexible hours. Hence the Broadway Child Care Project also known as Broadway Kidcare.
Box Office: Regular Tickets for Voices United are $255.00, $115.00, $97.50, $77.50 and $47.50 and are available through Ticketmaster via the web at www.ticketmaster.com, via phone at 866-858-0008 or at the Radio City Music Hall box office, 1260 Avenue of the Americas . . . Patron tickets are $1000 and $500 and can be purchased at www.voicesunited.com or by calling Suzanne Katusin at St. Malachy's, 212-489-1340.
St. Malachy's – The Actors' Chapel located on West 49th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, St. Malachy's Roman Catholic Church www.actorschapel.org was founded in 1902. And although the years have seen many changes in the neighborhood of the church, St. Malachy's today remains an active, integral part of its most unusual, most dynamic community.
(Steven Leigh Morris’s article appeared in LA Weekly, 12/22; Brad Schreiber’s picks were posted on the Huffington Post, 12/29.)
Here's our list of the best experiences on the L.A. stage this year:
10. If you don't believe in L.A. theater as an incubator, consider the good reviews John Fleck's solo show Mad Women is getting in New York (it opened earlier at the Skylight in Los Feliz), or Anthony Sacre's solo comedy story of his marriage and career, The Next Best Thing, which took home the Best Storyteller prize at New York's United Solo Theatre Festival after premiering at this year's Hollywood Fringe. Or Stephen Sachs' Bakersfield Mist, which, after playing for months at the Fountain Theatre, has been optioned for productions in London's West End and in New York.
9. The Getty Villa deserves mention for its programming of ancient Greco-Roman or Greco-Roman-influenced works, such as Anne Bogart's staging of Trojan Women (After Euripides) for her SITI Company (adapted by Jocelyn Clark), in its Malibu amphitheater. The play had a stylish earnestness that teetered on melodrama, but it hasn't escaped my memory.
8. The Broad Stage in Santa Monica was another credible presenter, from Peter Brook's Spartan staging of Beckett (Rockaby) and Dostoyevsky (The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor) to F. Murray Abraham's nicely modulated Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.
7. The California International Theatre Festival wended its way in from Calabasas to the Los Angeles Theatre Center. Good to see another producer of solid international fare, though less dynamic than much of the work at REDCAT and Radar L.A., and there are still some curatorial issues for this growing, promising enterprise.
6. Darin Dahms was a director of note, at Theatre of NOTE, for a memorably exotic production of B. Walker Samson's new play, Alceste. A spin on the myth of Euridice in the underworld, both play and production were goofy and elegiac in their pleasingly upside-down questioning of love, and sacrifice for the one you love.
Margo Veil, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble Bart DeLorenzo directs masterfully Len Jenkins's almost indescribable, thrillingly inventive science fiction-noir mystery. DeLorenzo has assembled actors from his excellent Evidence Room brethren here, including Dorie Barton, Tom Fitzpatrick and Lauren Campedelli, in a tale of transferred minds and bodies that, with the elan of sound designer John Zalewski, takes us to places far beyond the confines of the theatre's four walls.
The Method Gun, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Center Theatre Group The Austin-based Rude Mechs break the fourth wall themselves in grand style, as director Shawn Sides takes Kirk Lynn's text about a supposed group of performers obsessed with a long-missing theatre guru who try to honor her vision of a radically-condensed version of A Streetcar Named Desire. In addition to intergroup squabbles, we're treated to wild theatrical exercises and even a final, touching interaction, based on written audience responses. There is a special method to Rude Mechs's madness.
. . . [Satyadev Dubey], The Padma Bhushan awardee, has been one of the most prominent visionaries of modern Indian theatre. He dabbled in almost all aspects of theatre — acting, direction and writing — before devoting most of his time in training young theatre enthusiasts. On a regular evening at Prithvi Theatre’s cafe, he used to interact with actors and writers over sulemani chai. Playwright-director Manav Kaul, who trained under him as an actor, said, “Dubeyji’s contribution to Indian theatre in immense. In the past 50 years, every decade has a story to narrate about his theatrical work and evolution as a theatre visionary and guru.”
(Laura Thompson’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 12/28.)
When The Mousetrap premiered in Nottingham in October 1952, one month prior to its opening at the Ambassador’s Theatre, its author, Agatha Christie, took a modest view of its prospects. Despite the presence in the cast of Richard Attenborough, still the biggest name ever to feature in The Mousetrap, Christie believed that her play would run in the West End for about eight months.
She wasn’t unduly bothered by her own tepid prognosis. The Mousetrap was merely one of six plays that she wrote between 1943 and 1953, a decade in which she was probably keener on the theatre than on fulfilling her publisher’s yearly demand for detective fiction.
“I enjoyed writing plays,” she would later declare. The Mousetrap was squeezed between The Hollow in 1951, which, according to her literary agent Edmund Cork, “almost burst the Fortune Theatre” and her 1953 hit, Witness for the Prosecution, the work that above all others turned her from a successful author into a worldwide phenomenon. It was a sensation in the West End, on Broadway and later in the cinema.
In a rare winter where Christian and Jewish holidays overlap, the new sound this Christmas is klezmer. Adapted and conceptualized by Robert Brustein, the founding director of the Yale Repertory Theatre and the American Repertory Theatre, Shlemiel the First, based on a children’s folk tale by Nobelist Isaac Bashevis Singer, is being revived until 12/31 at NYU Skirball Center. Singer died before the musical’s first production in 1994, but he probably would have much preferred it to Barbra Streisand’s movie version of his ''Yentl the Yeshiva Boy, '' a “splashy production,” which he felt had “nothing but a commercial value.” Instead Shlemiel the First, elucidating down-to-earth Jewish wisdom simply, clearly, and humorously, is the story of a village simpleton who realizes that nobody’s all that brilliant. Hankus Netsky’s music—he also adapted and orchestrated it–isn’t pastiche; it has a heart that really does go “boom-boom-boom.” The actors, including Amy Warren, Michael Iannucci, Jeff Brooks, and Kristine Zbornik, with a fine company from National Yiddish Theatre—Folksbiene, in conjunction with Theatre for a New Audience, NYU Skirball Center, and Peak Performances at Montclair State University, deliver with vitality. And what’s not to love? The lyrics by the late Arnold Weinstein, who, with composer William Bolcom, wrote the operas McTeague, A View from the Bridge, and A Wedding among other theatre-opera pieces, are bursts of delight (you’ll ask yourself what Sondheim, who has recently commented on the works of wordsmiths, thinks):
In this little town of fools
We don’t need to follow rules
Men are smart like mules.
We’re talking Chelm.
We’re talking Chelm where dumb is smart
Where stupidity’s an art.
The foolishness that we impart
Sends our IQs off the chart.
We put the horse behind the cart.
We never meet until we part.
It’s time to start.
Brustein actually wondered if Weinstein was right for the job: “[He] was a highly cultivated Harvard poet with English-Jewish antecedents, and I wasn’t sure his Yiddishkeit was ripe enough to distill all the ethnic juices out of the piece. . . . [At] an audition [he married the word] ‘Rumania’ with a hundred other unexpected rhymes—including ‘I’ll explain ya’. . . . [He] not only proved the perfect lyricist for Shlemiel the First. He provided a great deal of its heart and its soul.”
David Gordon lovingly directs and choreographs; the tilted design of rust and blue is by Robert Israel; the roaring music direction is Zalmen Mlotek’s; the clever body suits are from Catherine Zuber. Step into the night after the show and you won’t hear angels singing—the warm, premodern wail of a clarinet, trombone, trumpet, yes! Let this confluence of holidays be the start of a new seasonal tradition.
In the imaginary town of Chelm, a village of fools, the naive beadle Shlemiel is sent on a pilgrimage to spread the wisdom of the local sages. His simple-minded folly turns an already absurd world hilariously — and redemptively — upside down. Half sad-sack clown and half accidental messiah, Shlemiel’s charm is in his childlike innocence; this production's charm is in its playfulness and unapologetic, unalloyed delight. With a cast of eight, a live klezmer band and topsy-turvy set, it gently mocks the lavishness of other musicals.
“In its artfulness and eloquence, Shlemiel The First is better by far than anything currently on Broadway.” John Lahr, The New Yorker
Shlemiel the First, a joyous klezmer musical, received rave reviews after premiering in 1994 at the American Repertory Theatre and went on to delight audiences nationwide. Peak Performances at Montclair State University produced Shlemiel in January, 2010 at The Alexander Kasser Theater.
Previous productions have also appeared at Philadelphia’s The American Music Theater Festival, San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater and Serious Fun! at Lincoln Center among other prestigious venues.
This will be the first New York revival of Shlemiel the First since Serious Fun!
An educational event will enhance the run of Shlemiel the First:
December 27 – A post-performance talkback with theatre critic, producer, playwright and educator, Robert Brustein who conceived and adapted Shlemiel the First from its source material. Jeffrey Horowitz will moderate.
BASED ON THE PLAY BY ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER CONCEIVED AND ADAPTED BY ROBERT BRUSTEIN LYRICS BY ARNOLD WEINSTEIN COMPOSED, ADAPTED AND ORCHESTRATED BY HANKUS NETSKY MUSICAL ARRANGEMENTS AND ADDITIONAL MUSIC BY ZALMEN MLOTEK EDITORIAL SUPERVISION BY DAVID GORDON MUSIC DIRECTION BY ZALMEN MLOTEK DIRECTED AND CHOREOGRAPHED BY DAVID GORDON
PRESENTED BY THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE, NATIONAL YIDDISH THEATRE – FOLKSBIENE, NYU SKIRBALL CENTER, AND PEAK PERFORMANCES AT MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY
Please call the phone number listed with the theatre for timetables and ticket information.
THE GERSHWINS’ PORGY AND BESS
Audra McDonald, Norm Lewis, and David Alan Grier star in the musical by George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, about the denizens of Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina, in the nineteen-twenties. With a revised, shortened book by Suzan-Lori Parks. Diane Paulus directs. In previews. (Richard Rodgers, 226 W. 46th St. 800-745-3000.)
HOW THE WORLD BEGAN
Women’s Project presents a new play by Catherine Trieschmann, about a Manhattan biology teacher who moves to Kansas, where she encounters opposition to evolutionary theory. Daniella Topol directs. In previews. (Peter Jay Sharp, 416 W. 42nd St. 212-279-4200.)
IT’S ALWAYS RIGHT NOW, UNTIL IT’S LATER
Daniel Kitson explores the way in which the past and the future influence identity. Opens Jan. 3. (St. Ann’s Warehouse, 38 Water St., Brooklyn. 718-254-8779.)
Evan Cabnet directs this play by Zayd Dohrn, set in Beijing, in which an American man falls in love with a young Chinese woman and must navigate the cultural differences that affect their relationship. Presented by the Vineyard and Naked Angels. In previews. (Vineyard, 108 E. 15th St. 212-353-0303.)
THE ROAD TO MECCA
Roundabout Theatre Company presents this 1987 play by Athol Fugard, set in South Africa, in which an elderly woman becomes a sculptor following the death of her husband, and a local pastor fights to move her to a retirement home. Rosemary Harris, Carla Gugino, and Jim Dale star; Gordon Edelstein directs. In previews. (American Airlines Theatre, 227 W. 42nd St. 212-719-1300.)
(Paul Vallely’s article appeared in the Independent, 12/13.)
Frank Capra's classic film It's a Wonderful Life has become as established a landmark in the modern Christmas landscape as Dickens's story of Scrooge did in post-Victorian times.
And aptly too, because its hero, George Bailey, the man whose Christmas Eve suicide is foiled by an angel who shows him how life would have been without him, is someone whose venial faults feel closer to our own than does the miserly extravagance of Dickens' villain.
(The first of six parts on YouTube. Kondratiev taught Irish language, Celtic mythology, early Celtic Christianity, the history of Celtic traditional music, and related topics at the Irish Arts Center in New York City. He studied anthropology and linguistics at Columbia University and Celtic Studies at the Ecole des Hautes-Etudes in Paris, and perfected his knowledge of the living Celtic languages through prolonged stays in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Brittany.)