Monthly Archives: September 2012




Duration: 2 hours

First broadcast: Sunday 30 September 2012

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Directed by Sir Nicholas Hytner. Alex Jennings stars as Mikhail Bulgakov and Simon Russell Beale as Stalin in the acclaimed National Theatre production.

Moscow, 1938: A dangerous place to have a sense of humour, even more so a sense of freedom. The writer Mikhail Bulgakov, living among the dissidents, stalked by secret police, has both. After 3 years rehearsal his new play about Moliere has just opened, and may be just about to close unless he accepts a commission from the secret police to write a play to celebrate Stalin's sixtieth birthday. A poison chalice which he struggles to accept, until he receives an offer of help from the most unlikely quarter.

Based on historical fact, John Hodge's blistering new play depicts a lethal game of cat and mouse as the writer loses himself in a macabre and disturbingly funny relationship with the omnipotent subject of his drama.

A huge success at the National Theatre, Collaborators transferred from the Cottesloe to the Olivier to extend its run by public demand.

John Hodge's other credits include the film Shallow Grave, and screen adaptations of Trainspotting and The Beach.

An original stage play by John Hodge. Adapted for radio by John Hodge and

Chris Wallis

YELENA: his wife Jacqueline Defferary
VASILLY an ex-aristocrat Patrick Godfrey
PRASKOVYA: a teacher Maggie Service
SERGEI: a young man Pierce Reid
GRIGORY: a young writer William Postlethwaite
ANNA: an actress Jess Murphy
VLADIMIR: an NKVD OFFICER Lloyd Hutchinson..
STEPAN: an NKVD OFFICER Marcus Cunningham
DOCTOR Nick Sampson
MOLIERE / ACTOR1 Michael Jenn
EVA Sarah Annis
JOSEPH STALIN: a dictator Simon Russell Beale

Music by George Fenton

Directed for the National Theatre stage by Sir Nicholas Hytner
Radio adaptation directed by Nadia Fall
Technical Presentation Nick Taylor and David Fleming Williams
Produced by Chris Wallis




(From France 24, 9/29; via Drudge Report; video with cast from the 2012 Broadway rival.)

A theatre in southern Russia has stopped selling tickets to the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar" after prosecutors launched a probe into whether it is offensive to devout Christians, officials said Saturday.

Saint Petersburg's Rock Opera company was to perform the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical — a 1970s classic that has been regularly performed in Russia — at the Philharmonic in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don on October 18.


Version by David Harrower, adapted for radio by Robin Brooks.

One of European theatre's major plays, Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart is a thrilling account of the extraordinary relationship between England's Elizabeth I and her rival cousin, the imprisoned Queen of Scots. David Harrower is one of the most attuned, most talented playwrights working in Britain today. This is the second in Drama on 3's series of classic and new plays that portray the ruthlessness and uncertainties of absolute power.

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David Harrower's other plays include KNIVES IN HENS, GOOD WITH PEOPLE and the international success, BLACKBIRD. He has also translated works by Pirandello, Brecht, Chekhov and Gogol.

Mary Stuart ….. Meg Fraser
Queen Elizabeth ….. Alexandra Mathie
Mortimer ….. Matthew Pidgeon
Leicester ….. Robin Laing
Burleigh ….. Richard Greenwood
Shrewsbury ….. Paul Young
Jane Kennedy ….. Wendy Seager
Paulet ….. Jimmy Chisholm
Davidson ….. Laurie Brown
Aubespine ….. Grant O'Rourke
Melville ….. John Buick

Produced and directed by Gaynor Macfarlane.


Two plays, different in tone, one by the young Bulgarian writer, Ivan Dimitrov, and the other by an American, Ethan Lipton, refine the concept of existentialism for the age of social media. For them, being alone in the universe includes company—except that the observers don’t really care much.  European-Americans, of course, started with the idea that no one needed to watch them—the only time one should be in the newspapers was when one was born or died; today, if you’re not messaging on Facebook 24/7, you’re losing touch (we’ve also read reports of serious crime posted to hundreds of followers on twitter or facebook going completely unnoticed).  Such ideas would, of course, provoke complex responses from a writer from Bulgaria, a country heard little about in the West beyond, perhaps, being the birthplace of an educational system, Suggestopedia, and the famous blind oracle Vanga.  Being watched in a post-Communist state evokes a different set of responses than what we'd expect in the U.S. (even if one were under surveillance here, presumably, our Constitutional rights would protect us).  In remote Bulgaria, what stands in between accusation and punishment?


In The Eyes of Others, Dimitrov’s play, intellectual and absurd–directed by Samuel Buggeln and translated by Angela Rodel at the New Ohio Theatre–we meet a woman who works at a deserted underwear shop, played by the young commedienne Zoe Winters. Although she is watched all the time, through the windows by passing strangers, her salesgirl has formed an erotically tinged relationship with a manikken.  We also meet two bureaucrats (Evan Zes and Michael Frederic) who spend lunches together, pining for male bonding.  What gives their relationship meaning is the fact that they are watched by a third man, across the square, who may be an agent from the State.  The intriguing, if controversial, implication is that we have a need to be watched, even if an observer is presumably threatening:  This is preferred over the anonymous observer, no matter how many.

Dimitrov is finding himself in an American theater that will ask more of his plays,  in terms of structural tension; this, despite the fact that he joins other distinguished absurdists, who rejected this notion of artistic consideration—I’m thinking of Beckett.

Ethan Lipton’s play reminded me of a lighter version of Neil LaBute’s Reasons to Be Pretty, set in a different work environment. His characters are the starers, professional watchers, the security people and doorpeople we meet when we enter buildings and show IDs or when we need directions to upper floors.  Despite their uniforms, in Red-Handed Otter, now playing at the Cherry Lane Theatre–directed by Mike Donahue–they’re hardly figures of authority or very good at observing—in fact, they could care less. When a break-in occurs in the building, damaging property, no one is on hand to apprehend the perpetrator—and no one can figure out such a simple, obvious crime, even when the police are brought in (the crime has also been videotaped).  In a world where technology is based on the need to be seen, actually nobody is looking beyond themselves. Whether Lipton is aware of it or not, whether he is trying to compare his characters to the boxed-in pets he writes so rhapsodically about—and Lipton’s easygoing dialogue is always interesting, his crafting assured–his characters have been so socialized that they don’t see things intellectually; they don’t ascertain existential dilemmas. Whether or not it’s a point being made, the characters passively accept lives of little importance and meaninglessness, watching without registering anything, without concern for a larger world—yet oh how their own lives consume them.  The ensemble cast–Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Gibson Frazier, Rebecca Henderson, Matthew Maher, and Bobby Moreno–don't let on that Lipton is thinking small;  Dimitrov is dealing with the issues of his universe getting bigger. Both are projections and delusions about an audience.

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Copyright © 2012 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.


(Charles Isherwood’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/18.)

A friendly suburban barbecue spirals into a delirious, dangerous bacchanal in the superb play “Detroit,” by Lisa D’Amour, which sizzled open at Playwrights Horizons on Tuesday night. A sharp X-ray of the embattled American psyche as well as a smart, tart critique of the country’s fraying social fabric, Ms. D’Amour’s dark comedy is as rich and addictively satisfying as a five-layer dip served up with a brimming bowl of tortilla chips.

A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize after its premiere two years ago at the Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago — where I was first knocked out by it — Ms. D’Amour’s play has, happily and unhappily, lost none of its topical punch in its wayward journey to New York. (Scheduled for Broadway last season, the play made a pit stop at the National Theater in London before arriving here Off Broadway, in a new production directed with finesse by Anne Kauffman.)


(Scott T. Sterling, CBS Local)

After being sentenced to two years in prison for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred,” members of Russian feminist punk rock outfit Pussy Riot could very well be on the verge of being released, thanks to the country’s Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev.

Pussy Riot members Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich were arrested and sentenced to two years behind bars on February 21 of this year after performing a spirited demonstration/“punk prayer” in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour that included a passage calling for the Virgin Mary to get rid of Russian President Vladimir Putin (hence the “religious hatred” of the charges).


(Patrick Kingsley’s article appeared in the Guardian, 9/12.)

"My kingdom for a DNA swab!" is, more or less, the cry that went up on Tuesday in a small car park in Leicester. Archaeologists pootling around in said car park – normally reserved for social workers – thought they might have found the long-lost remains of Richard III.

But is it really him? The much-maligned Plantagenet was certainly killed nearby at the Battle of Bosworth, after an unsuccessful – if apocryphal – search for a horse. It's also known he was buried in a church in Leicester, the ruins of which lie beneath the car park. The skeleton in question even has an arrowhead in its skull, and a curved spine. Both match reports of Richard's wounds and physical appearance. But the winter of archaeological discontent is not over yet: the bones' DNA will need to be compared with those of a 55-year-old Canadian furniture-maker, Michael Ibsen, who is the direct descendant of Richard's sister Anne.



Cyrano de Bergerac

Venue: American Airlines Theatre

Jamie Lloyd directs Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of the classic 1897 play . .

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Event: An Enemy of the People

Venue: Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

Theatre Club opens its season with an adaptation, by Rebecca Lenkiewicz . . .

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Event: Grace

Venue: Cort Theatre

Craig Wright’s dark comedy follows a young Florida couple as they attempt . . .

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Event: If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet

Venue: Laura Pels Theatre

Michael Longhurst directs this play by Nick Payne, about the complicated life . . .

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Event: JOB

Venue: Flea Theater

At the Flea, Benjamin Kamine directs Thomas Bradshaw’s new play, an adaptation . . .

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Event: Marry Me a Little

Venue: Clurman Theatre

Keen Company kicks off the season with the musical by Stephen Sondheim . . .

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Event: Red Dog Howls

Venue: New York Theatre Workshop

Alexander Dinelaris wrote this drama, in which a young man discovers secrets . . .

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Event: Through the Yellow Hour

Venue: Rattlestick Playwrights Theater

At the Rattlestick, Adam Rapp wrote and directs this play, about a . . .

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Event: We’re Gonna Die

Venue: Claire Tow

Young Jean Lee performs her ontological meditation on the inevitability of death . .

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(Chris Jones’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 9/6.)

You've likely never heard of or, at a minimum, you've forgotten about Edward Kleban, the one-hit-wonder lyricist for "A Chorus Line" who died from a cancer at age 48 with his lyrics known but without ever realizing his long-held ambition of hearing music he composed played on a Broadway stage.

Kleban was a nebbish and a neurotic, famous for not speaking to his friends. But he was a theater person's theater person. Civilians may flock to celebrities and flashy, TV-ready songwriters like Andrew Lloyd Webber. Theater people tend to prefer characters, especially oddballs with a dry sense of humor who can't help but pour their souls into their work.,0,6984326.column