(Randy Lewis’s article appeared in the LA Times, 2/29.)
Davy Jones was a promising 18-year-old actor from England when he found himself among the guest performers on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on Feb. 9, 1964 — the same night about 75 million people tuned in to catch the American debut of the Beatles. Like so many others who watched the show from near and far, Jones considered it a life-changing experience.
Looking on from the wings as hundreds of teenagers, mostly girls, were screaming ecstatically while listening to the four musicians who came from a town only 20 miles away from his own hometown of Manchester, Jones knew then he wanted a career in pop music rather than theater.
(Charles Spencer’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 2/27.)
What a pleasure to find this cracking production of Coward’s great comedy at the theatre named after him. The playwright described Hay Fever (1925) as “one of the most difficult plays to perform that I have encountered… it has no plot at all, and remarkably little action.”
Yet in Howard Davies’s superbly funny, sharply observant staging, with Lindsay Duncan leading a cast that brings every role to detailed life, the piece proves irresistible. This is a play, like Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, that transforms triviality into comic perfection. And if Coward lacks Wilde’s high epigrammatic style, his clipped, clenched language has proved more influential.
Gore Vidal once quipped that at his age the only thing that really got him going in the morning was the prospect of a good lawsuit. The late publisher Barney Rosset had a similar appetite for going to law, though in his case the taste for litigation arrived earlier, and he tended to be the defendant rather than the plaintiff. Obituaries of the incorrigibly maverick head of Grove Press have justly emphasized the epic court battles he waged on behalf of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Naked Lunch, Tropic of Cancer, Last Exit to Brooklyn, and other works that blasted open the doors of free expression in language, sexual expression, and subject matter.
(Michael Feingold’s article appeared in the Village Voice, 2/29.)
Nobody, I sincerely hope, will ever revive Jesse Lynch Williams's Why Marry?, a slick, inanely talky comedy, flirting vapidly with "advanced" ideas that became, in 1918, the first play ever awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. But a few choice passages from it, for which I regrettably have no space here, would handily demonstrate the quantum jump that American drama took when the second Pulitzer for Drama was awarded, two years later, to Eugene O'Neill's Beyond the Horizon (Irish Rep).
As his play Bingo returns to London, playwright Edward Bond gives a rare interview to Andrew Dickson, looking back on five decades and more than 50 plays. He talks about the genesis of his controversial 1965 script Saved, which ended in a real-life courtroom drama, about taking audiences to uncomfortable places – and explains why there's more violence in an episode of Coronation Street than in his plays. From the Guardian, 2/28.
Sam Gold directs Dan LeFranc’s play, about an eighty-year romance, set in the suburban restaurant where it began. Previews begin March 1. (Playwrights Horizons, 416 W. 42nd St. 212-279-4200.)
MCC Theatre presents a reworking of the 1988 musical, with a book by Lawrence D. Cohen (who adapted Stephen King’s novel for the 1976 De Palma film), music by Michael Gore, and lyrics by Dean Pitchford (“Fame”). Starring Marin Mazzie and Molly Ranson; Stafford Arima directs. In previews. Opens March 1. (Lucille Lortel, 121 Christopher St. 212-352-3101.)
COURTELINE EN DENTELLES
Alliance Française presents a set of short satirical plays from the early twentieth century by Georges Courteline, starring and directed by Jérôme Deschamps. In French with English supertitles. Feb. 29-March 1. (French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall, 55 E. 59th St. 212-355-6160.)
DEATH OF A SALESMAN
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Linda Emond, and Andrew Garfield star in the Arthur Miller drama from 1949, directed by Mike Nichols. In previews. (Ethel Barrymore, 243 W. 47th St. 212-239-6200.)
GORE VIDAL’S THE BEST MAN
James Earl Jones, Candice Bergen, Angela Lansbury, Kerry Butler, John Larroquette, Eric McCormack, Jefferson Mays, and Michael McKean star in this revival of the 1960 play, set at a Presidential convention, centered on a womanizing former governor who is the leading candidate for his party. Michael Wilson directs. Previews begin March 6. (Schoenfeld, 236 W. 45th St. 212-239-6200.)
Franz Woyzeck, a lowly soldier stationed in a provincial German town, is the father of an illegitimate child by his mistress Marie. He earns extra money for his family by performing menial jobs for his captain and agreeing to take part in medical experiments conducted by the regimental doctor. But then an act of betrayal shatters his brittle life. Written in 1837 but not performed until the early twentieth century, this shard-like unfinished play is now recognised as a major work, perhaps the first modern play, in that it argues that our lives are determined by social circumstance.
Woyzeck ….. Lee Ingleby Marie ….. Deborah McAndrew Drum Major ….. Derek Riddell Andres ….. Gerard Fletcher Margret ….. Becky Hindley Captain ….. Rob Pickavance Doctor ….. Jonathan Keeble Child ….. Perveen Hamilton
Original Music by Tom Lingard Produced by Gary Brown
Buchner was a political radical and an academic in natural sciences; he set out to write a political play in that he placed the common man as the central character. The script evolved in tandem with Büchner's research on the nervous system and cerebral lesions, together with his annotations of Spinoza, which he pursued to the day of his early death. But the play is more than a test case. It is a psycho-drama that abolishes the hierarchy of suffering. The anti-hero may be inarticulate and he commits the most heinous crime but he is presented as a victim whose actions demand to be examined and understood. It has been claimed by both naturalists and expressionists.
(David Rooney’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/26.)
Theodore Mann, a producer and director who, as a founder of the influential Circle in the Square, was a driving force in the rise of Off Broadway theater in the 1950s, died on Friday in Manhattan. He was 87.
The cause was complications of pneumonia, said his son Jonathan.
(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/24.)
When Angus Jackson's fine production of Edward Bond's bony masterpiece was first seen in Chichester two years ago, a respected colleague attacked the author for his assumption of moral superiority over Shakespeare. But I don't see it that way. Bond's play is a guilt-ridden indictment of all poets and dramatists, himself included, for their exploitation of suffering and cruelty. "Every writer," as Bond's Shakespeare claims, "writes in other men's blood."