Monthly Archives: September 2014


(Sara Keating’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 9/29.)

El Patio Teatro bring clay to life in this exquisite non-verbal show for audiences of 6+. Opening on an almost bare stage, the show is sculpted before our eyes, as two black-clad puppeteers emerge from the darkness to create characters from nothing more than their fingers and a lump of featureless clay. How easily they animate an entire world: with a gentle thumb-press they render eyes on a ball of clay, a simple pinch yields a nose, while the movement of digits, fast and slow, bespeaks a whole history of happiness or suffering. 

Concieved and performed by Spanish team Julian Saenz-Lopes and Izaskun Fernandez, Julian Saenz-Lopes and Izaskun Fernandezis suffused with the sepia-tinged tone of nostalgia for a time gone by. The playful opening gags – where the pair experiment with clay-form characters – eventually give way to a single strand: the story of a crudely carved figurine left behind in the window of a second-hand shop, as finer china figures get chosen by passing customers. Our terracotta hero drifts into fantasy. He takes a family of porcelain under his wing, makes various attempts at escaping his trapped fate, and sets sail in a cup that is oared by a spoon. Finally, he falls in love with a potter’s jug, whom he woos and handles with care until she is snatched from his embrace by a beady-eyed shopper. At the end he is, literally, left on the shelf. You will never look at your household ornaments in the same way again.


(Roslyn Sulcassept’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/24; via Pam Green.)

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND — First comes a layer of thick black grease, applied from the neck to just below the eyes. The lips are carefully painted red. Then a blindfold, then clinging black fabric wrapped around the head. At that point, Lisa Dwan is guided up steps to a wooden board, her arms pinioned through metal brackets on each side, her head fitted into a small opening and secured in place by thick straps that cover her ears. Unable to see, unable to hear, she takes a deep breath and opens her mouth.

“It looks like torture, and it is,” said Ms. Dwan, an Irish actress who will perform three short plays by Samuel Beckett — “Not I,” “Footfalls” and “Rockaby” — at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater from Oct. 7 to 12. The contraption that pins Ms. Dwan in place is of her own devising, to keep her body utterly still and her senses neutralized while she delivers the torrent of truncated phrases, punctuated by shrieks, that is “Not I,” a breathless monologue delivered by a disembodied mouth eight feet above the stage.



(Chris Jones’s article appeared in The Chicago Tribune, 9/29.)

In Noah Haidle's quixotic, gorgeous "Smokefall," the narrative begins with a young couple who have fallen in love. They get advice from someone much older — this romance will end in tragedy, he says. They all do. Someone walks out on someone else, the relationship a casualty of human imperfection or unexpected cruelty. Or death comes calling, wrenching child from mother, brother from brother, lover from lover, father from son, spouse from spouse.

We all know this, and the older we get and the more we see how life can change in an instant, the clearer the truth becomes. So what to do? Dig a hole for ourselves? Exist within a cone of self-protection? Love anyway, Haidle's deeply moving family drama argues. It is the courageous attempt to love, as distinct from the messy consequences of love, that gives our trivial lives — we are here for, like, five minutes, the play observes — the only meaning that is possible.


(Bruce Weber’s article appeared in the New York Times, 9/29.)

Sheldon Patinkin, a writer, director and teacher who helped shape the theatrical life of Chicago over half a century, died there on Sept. 21. He was 79.

He had suffered a heart attack three days earlier, his brother, Norman, said in confirming the death.

The roots of Chicago’s substantial reputation as a theater town were planted in the early 1950s at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park. There, Mr. Patinkin, still in his teens, along with other aspiring artists, formed a company called the Playwrights Theater Club, a forerunner of the celebrated comedy troupe the Second City.



(Helen Meany’s article appeared in the Guardian 9/30.)

In Corn Exchange Theatre Company’s adaptation of Eimear McBride’s award-winning novel, there is nowhere to hide. On a bare black stage, relieved only by slivers of white light, the solo performer, Aoife Duffin, stands in pyjama bottoms and T-shirt, in an unspecified time or place. Barely moving at first, she begins the narration of the life of an unnamed Girl, from the age of two to 20.

Written by McBride as an intense interior monologue, the narrative transposes effortlessly to the stage, as if this is where it belongs. Director Annie Ryan, who adapted it, has found dramatic pace in the staccato rhythms of the text. Duffin breathes life into the reported speech and voices of the other characters: the Girl’s controlling mother, tyrannical grandfather and terminally ill brother.





The only downside to the unconditional upper called “You Can’t Take It With You,” which wafted open last night at the Longacre Theater, is that it may strain previously underused muscles around your mouth. That can happen when you spend two-and-a-half hours grinning like an idiot.

A lot of shows can make you laugh. What’s rare is a play that makes you beam from curtain to curtain. Such is the effect of Scott Ellis’s felicitous revival of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s 1936 comedy about one improbably happy family during the Great Depression, which stars a haloed James Earl Jones as the wise old leader of the clan.

This is, frankly, surprising news to me. Though it won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, the very mention of “You Can’t Take It With You” is known to elicit shivers of revulsion among people who saw or appeared in high school productions.



Billy and Ray


Garry Marshall directs the New York première of a comedy by Mike Bencivenga, about Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler and the difficult time they had while adapting “Double Indemnity” for film. Starring Vincent Kartheiser (“Mad Men”) and Larry Pine. In previews. 

brownsville song (b-side for tray)

Claire Tow

LCT3 presents a new play by Kimber Lee, about a black seventeen-year-old boy who is killed, leaving his family to grieve and to deal with his senseless death. Sheldon Best stars; Patricia McGregor directs. Previews begin Oct. 4.


Ars Nova

Ars Nova presents a new play by the Debate Society, written by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen, in which two townies take up residence in a chichi Colorado ski house. Directed by Oliver Butler. In previews. 

The Real Thing

American Airlines Theatre

Ewan McGregor and Maggie Gyllenhaal make their Broadway débuts, alongside Cynthia Nixon, in this 1982 play by Tom Stoppard, about a love triangle involving a playwright, his wife, and his leading lady. Sam Gold directs. Previews begin Oct. 2.


(Als’s article appeared in the 10/6 New Yorker.)

Having an affair is certainly one way of shaking off the traditional constraints of matrimony, at least for a time, but, then again, what’s more conventional than an affair? Illicit love can get old fast, marred by the kinds of responsibilities one longs to escape: someone has to book that hotel room and hunt for those out-of-the-way restaurants where family and friends do not go. This cloak-and-dagger approach to love—to life—works only if you believe in marriage but hate it, too. For the self-dramatizing adulterer, life would be nothing without the pain of these contradictions.

In Ingmar Bergman’s 1973 film “Scenes from a Marriage,” we never actually see the protagonist, Johan (Erland Josephson), having the affair that derails his marriage to Marianne (Liv Ullmann). When Johan tells Marianne that he has fallen in love with someone else, our focus is less on what he’s saying than on his wife’s face as she registers it. Bespectacled, chewing on a sandwich, Marianne listens, rapt, as if she were watching a movie about the unravelling of someone else’s life. Johan wants to be “honest” with Marianne—they’ve shared everything, including, ironically, their family values—but how can you determine the truth of a relationship, when one partner has been deceitful, in order to protect himself and his dream of a free and different love?





(Dominic Cavendish’s article appeared in the UK Telegraph, 9/26.)

Better than the Bard? Heresy! But when I think of the elation I felt at the end of Rona Munro’s thrilling trilogy, which spans the turbulent reigns of James I, II and III of Scotland, hurtling us through some 80 years of obscure 15th-century history and even whetting the appetite for more, then I feel compelled to say it: The James Plays leave the competition, namely Shakespeare’s Henry VI cycle, standing.

Munro infuses every scene with a sense that these people could be our contemporaries; they feel and suffer, fret and plot, love and laugh as we would in their shoes. She flies the flag for clarity and, in the often visceral melee, seeks out moments of saving, as well as savage, humour. She attains a natural lyricism, never forcing the language – an accessible “Scots” – into studied poeticism.

In a sense, the way she rises to the task of asserting a fresh vision that responds to the relevant authorities but bows to no one defines the thematic thrust of the trilogy itself. These three Stewart kings must forge their own sense of self and an idea of what Scotland might be in the face of nigh-impossible challenges.


(from Bomb magazine, 9/23.)

Artists and performance-makers Lars Jan and Geoff Sobelle met in Philadelphia in the early 2000s, and lived together in a 5,000 square foot loft in a part of North Philly called the “Badlands.” They had no heating, but they did have a swing, baby carriage versus wheelchair races, ample rehearsal space, and a pet rabbit named Steve who had a pen larger than most New York City apartments.

Jan and Sobelle have collaborated off and on since, and are currently collaborating on HOLOSCENES, which will premier at the Toronto Nuit Blanche Festival in October.

Both coincidentally also have shows in this fall’s BAM Next Wave Festival—Jan’s ABACUS (a TED and megachurch-influenced presentation about contemporary persuasion and national borders) is on September 24 and Sobelle’s The Object Lesson (a solo performance/installation that revolves on our relationship to everyday objects) will be on November 5—8. Both will be at the BAM Fisher.

Jan and Sobelle met up at Café des Artistes, where My Dinner with Andre was filmed in 1981. Sobelle is having Ile Flottante, Jan has ordered a pizza from a nearby restaurant and is hoping it will be delivered during the dessert course. This may or may not have happened. “Choose your own reality," says the panda to the rabbit …

Geoff Sobelle One of our longest conversations revolved around a piece that at some point became called Psychocosmonautics and I think laid some ground work—or maybe just served as a means of expressing—some themes that have continued in your work—aquariums, Japan, matters of the mind and altered states of consciousness, work, pleasure, travel, and talking. When I think of you, I think a lot of those days—I think that I was really there as a kind of facilitator—I was your actor, but I was there to help you somehow articulate these things that you were grappling with—we hauled massive flat-screened televisions around and we talked endlessly while eating the Master's Pizza at Di Fara on Avenue J. In those days, you kept coming back to My Dinner with Andre. And in that paradigm, I was the Wally Shawn and you were the Andre Gregory, and I was along for a wild ride that took us from dolphin brains to Laika the space dog to Japanese Aquariums. Here, conversation was like white water rafting.