Monthly Archives: October 2014


(Sylviane Gold’s article appeared in The New York Times, Oct. 17; via Pam Green.)

Tom Stoppard is just so much smarter than the rest of us. But don’t let that intimidate you. Yes, his witty, winning masterpiece, “Arcadia,” at Yale Repertory Theater, brims with difficult questions in physics, biology and higher mathematics. But this miraculous play is also loaded with good jokes, about sex and poetry, sex and pedantry, sex and everything. Given enough time, grouse, turtles and rabbits multiply into infinity and dwindle into nonexistence, as we all must. Yet, the playwright reminds us, there’s much good dancing to be had along the way.

Mr. Stoppard’s cosmic tragicomedy spans several generations of the aristocratic Coverly family and a few of the servants and visitors flitting through Sidley Park, their grand Derbyshire estate, not to mention the trees, shrubs, birds and animals that also live there.


(Bruni’s article appeared in The New York Times, 10/21; Playwright Frank Gagliano wrote the introductory note.)

Besides being a first rate columnist (and, of course, I agree with the theme of his piece — see below), Frank Bruni's a natural lyricist. His closing paragraph,"It’s a vendor’s world. We’re just pawns in it, even when all we want to do is hum a simple tune," can be, with simple adjustment, part of a song. In fact, I've noted, "IT'S A VENDOR'S WORLD" into my lyric jotting notebook, as a possible song title. The line, "For every stage, a different sponsor. Behind every beat, a different brand," also sings. Yes, Mr. Bruni, I can hear your Kurt Weill-Bertolt Brecht-like song, where the melody soars/while the lyric roars. 

FG                                                                                                                                      (

(Proud member of MTAP –the Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh)

Onstage before thousands of fans, Sam Smith sang “Stay With Me,” beseeching his partner in a one-night stand for a few minutes more, and I half wondered if the two of them needed the extra time to finish bottles of Miller Lite, because a printed plug for the beer hovered over his head.

Performing “Summertime Sadness,” Lana Del Rey told a lover to “kiss me hard before you go.” Would she be texting him later with a Samsung Galaxy, the smartphone for which the stage on which she appeared was visibly named?

And while I’d never thought about any car in connection with the musicians in the band Interpol, I came to picture them caroming from gig to gig in a Civic or an Accord. “Honda” floated over them as they gave their concert.

For every stage, a different sponsor. Behind every beat, a different brand.


(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 10/16; via Pam Green.)

And now, a show about sex that you can take the whole family to: the kids, the grandparents, even your sister the nun. That idea may sound kind of creepy, or (worse) dreary. But I assure you that the jubilant revival of “On the Town,” which opened Thursday night at the Lyric Theater, is anything but.

On the contrary, this merry mating dance of a musical feels as fresh as first sunlight as it considers the urgent quest of three sailors to find girls and get, uh, lucky before their 24-hour shore leave is over. If there’s a leer hovering over “On the Town,” a seemingly limp 1944 artifact coaxed into pulsing new life by the director John Rando and the choreographer Joshua Bergasse, it’s the leer of an angel.



(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 10/20.)

The basic strategy is as simple as it is devastating: Go ahead, open up that sealed room; let some light into the darkness. Then watch helplessly as the darkness devours the light.

That’s the operating theory behind the TR Warszawa company’s stunning reinvention of “4:48 Psychosis,” Sarah Kane’s sustained suicide note of a play, which opened on Sunday night at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn.

As adapted and directed by Grzegorz Jarzyna, this Polish-language (and language-transcending) production ropes its audience into unconditional engagement with a baleful, private spectacle of self-destruction. “See me,” says its unnamed heroine, fully and unflinchingly embodied by the brilliant Magdalena Cielecka. “Touch me.” The words are a taunt, since she is so far beyond our reach.    


(from Bond Street Theater, October 2014:

While other organizations are pulling up stakes, Bond Street Theatre is stepping up its activities in Afghanistan with two new programs addressing youth and women. With 64% of the population under the age of 24, Afghanistan's future rests on its youth.  One half of those youth are young women who face a justice system based on local customs rather than rule of law. This fall, Bond Street begins a two-year program motivating youth to design and lead community improvement projects, and introduces creative programming into Afghanistan's women's prisons and juvenile correction centers. 

Creative programs engage youthful energy and imagination

Building Community through Creativity in Action provides 375 youth across Afghanistan with the mentorship and tools to design and implement volunteer projects that will directly improve their communities. Facing a watershed moment in their country's history, Afghan youth need stimulating and practical programs that can help them realize their potential as active agents for positive change in their communities. 

With an emphasis on at-risk and marginalized youth, the program selects 15 young men and women in each of 25 provinces to participate in the community action program.  Based on Bond Street's decade-long experience initiating youth-led programming in Afghanistan, the project guides young men and women through community needs analysis and leadership training, and provides them with the organizational skills to develop realistic action plans to address local problems. 

The program culminates in a nationally televised presentation featuring the best community improvement projects as models of local cooperation and youth-led initiative. With winners decided by audience vote, the program will provide a source of inspiration for youth nationwide. 

The goal of the program is to bring together youth across ethnic, religious, and gender lines to give the widest selection of individuals a sense of agency and self-confidence, create new bonds across ancient divisions, and form a productive network of young leaders.

The project builds on Bond Street Theatre's 12 years initiating creative community programs in Afghanistan, and is supported by the Embassy of the United States in Kabul.

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(Michael Pollak’s article appeared in The New York Times, 10/17; via Pam Green.)

Q. Now that all the recent fuss has subsided over Broadway’s dimming (or not dimming) its lights for Joan Rivers, could you tell me who first received that honor?

A. The tradition began in the 1950s, and started slowly. According to a 2013 article in The New York Post, house lights in all Broadway theaters were first dimmed in honor of Gertrude Lawrence, who died of viral hepatitis at age 52 in September 1952 while she was starring in the Broadway musical “The King and I.” (She had gone to a hospital right after appearing in a matinee in August, The New York Times reported.) The second honoree, according to Time magazine, was Oscar Hammerstein II in 1960, for whom theater marquees briefly dimmed in a Broadway blackout the likes of which had not been seen since World War II. The third honoree, according to Playbill, was the actor Alfred Lunt in 1977.


Openings and Previews

Angels in America

BAM's Harvey Theatre

Ivo van Hove directs Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s five-hour production of the epic play by Tony Kushner, set in New York City in the nineteen-eighties, which tells the stories of several people whose lives are affected by AIDS. In Dutch with English supertitles. Oct. 23-25.

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A Delicate Balance


Glenn Close, John Lithgow, Lindsay Duncan, Bob Balaban, Clare Higgins, and Martha Plimpton star in a revival of Edward Albee’s play from 1966, in which a suburban couple living with the woman's alcoholic sister are visited by their daughter, fresh from the breakup of her fourth marriage, as well as their best friends. Pam MacKinnon directs. In previews.

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(Vanessa Thorpe’s article appeared in The Observer, 10/18.)

When the young Sophia Loren dances a sultry flamenco in the role of Juana in the 1957 film The Pride and the Passion, the onlooking crowd of peasants appear spellbound, not least among them Cary Grant, who plays the English hero. Now the public are to learn what the film star was really thinking as he watched Loren stamp her feet and swirl her skirt.

The Italian screen goddess, who turned 80 last month, was drawn into a torrid love affair with Grant during the making of the film in Spain and her memoirs, to be published in a few weeks, will reveal the intimate details of the matinee idol’s determined pursuit of her on set, despite the fact he was 30 years older than her and married to his third wife.

In her first volume of autobiography, prompted by the discovery of a cache of letters and souvenirs in her Swiss home, Loren recalls that Grant urged they pray together for guidance about whether to leave their partners.



(Joshua Rothman’s and Erin Overbey’s article appeared in The New Yorker, 10/20.)

In his 1994 New Yorker profile of Federico Fellini, Clive James wrote that one of the Italian director’s gifts as a filmmaker was his ability to see what was universal in his own life and to expertly convey that onscreen. While the directors featured in this week’s archive collection come from varied backgrounds, many of them share Fellini’s skill at translating personal narrative into a broader vision. In previous months, we’ve offered selections of classic New Yorker stories on chefsartistsactresses, and scientists. For this collection, we’ve pulled together six pieces about directors and the craft of filmmaking, from Jean-Luc Godard’s early embrace of pop culture in “Breathless” to Mira Nair’s flair for documenting the complexities of cultural identity in “Salaam Bombay!”



(Alex Ross’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 10/20.)


Beethoven is a singularity in the history of art—a phenomenon of dazzling and disconcerting force. He not only left his mark on all subsequent composers but also molded entire institutions. The professional orchestra arose, in large measure, as a vehicle for the incessant performance of Beethoven’s symphonies. The art of conducting emerged in his wake. The modern piano bears the imprint of his demand for a more resonant and flexible instrument. Recording technology evolved with Beethoven in mind: the first commercial 33⅓ r.p.m. LP, in 1931, contained the Fifth Symphony, and the duration of first-generation compact disks was fixed at seventy-five minutes so that the Ninth Symphony could unfurl without interruption. After Beethoven, the concert hall came to be seen not as a venue for diverse, meandering entertainments but as an austere memorial to artistic majesty. Listening underwent a fundamental change. To follow Beethoven’s dense, driving narratives, one had to lean forward and pay close attention. The musicians’ platform became the stage of an invisible drama, the temple of a sonic revelation.