Category Archives: Commentary

O’NEILL: ‘MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA’ FROM DAVID HERSKOVITS–ONLY UNTIL MAY 20 (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

The director David Herskovits has brought Mourning Becomes Electra to the Abrons Arts Center, which runs until May 20 (and has only 17 performances).  In this titanic, five-hour play–which includes a tasty vegan puffed tofu and sticky rice meal, eaten during a break for dinner–he’s interested in a deep scan of O’Neill’s moods and psyche.   Calculating blood pressure, heartbeat, and breathing, he and his excellent cast–Herskovits is the founder and  artistic director of Target Margin Theater–negotiate O’Neill’s Civil War history, as well as the ancient Greek underpinnings—the play is based on the Oresteia—and uses melodramatic techniques the dramatist gleaned from his matinee-idol-actor father.  Shakespeare, Strindberg, Ibsen, Melville, and Freud are also present—why shouldn’t O’Neill want us to be haunted, too (in fact, this is how he has entitled his last play in the trilogy)?

Herskovits’s version is “quieter and more personal” than the one that might be expected or the one that was originally produced on Broadway in 1931.  O’Neill liked doing a “big thing,” and, make no mistake about it, Mourning Becomes Electra is a major undertaking–consider all the lines to memorize, the focus and stamina needed, the antebellum set (Lenore Doxsee), the naked light (Doxsee and Sarah Lurie), the mosaic-like sound (Herskovits), tech cues, costume changes, and the glamorous wig fitting for Stephanie Weeks.  Families overwhelm us, the dramatist is saying–and so can plays about them. From “moment to moment,” Herskovits explains, “we slide between different modes of expression.  We can be big and more stylized; we can be small and intimate.”  The ensemble retains the language and the sequence of the original, but Herskovits—and his cast of six (in the ‘30s there were 18 performers) want to take us further, into the “different textures of the writing.”  Sudden, intimate voice amplification shows technological innovation; the acting includes presentational, realistic, and highly stylized work; performers know physical theatre and Mamet-technique, as well as Kabuki, Brechtian, and Bergman methods—then, they might sit with the audience or begin talking with their hands.  Tides of music are incorporated, from classical to jazz, Celtic to catchy Bacharach-like pop, and ambient sounds—“Shenendoah,” the shanty heard throughout the work is O’Neill’s contribution.

Closer and closer, the audience is continually directed to the stage, starting faraway in the lobby of the theatre and ending on the boards themselves—relentlessly, they seem to be asked to take part in the obsessions being portrayed. Once there, in the rough-hewn, black cubicle–amid ropes, wires, and lights–we realize the extent we have been projecting, enlarging, imagining, imbuing.  “The primary version hovers over us, like the ghost of a story we all shared years ago,” the director has said.  Whether ghosts are to be believed—especially O’Neill’s ghosts—there is a point where theatre, at this level, can only be discussed as a kind of madness. Yet, this production is the type of off-Broadway work people think about when they defend off-Broadway—experimental and riveting, with a dash of the Next Wave.  Should scholars be intrigued, Mourning Becomes Electra is also prophetic, as Long Day’s Journey Into Night and A Moon for the Misbegotten are foreshadowed.  

Usually, actors are the ones thought of as overtaken or overwhelmed by theatrical creation—and that is true here, with Eunice Wong, as a New England Electra (O’Neill’s favorite character from the ancient Greeks); the mother she hates, Stephanie Weeks; and the father she worships—as well as the brother she controls–Satya BhabhaKristen Calgaro, Avi Glickstein, and Mary Neufeld are the townspeople drawn into the tragic spiralHerskovits, however, seems to be feeling along with O’Neill–he has made  Mourning Becomes Electra a second-by-second explication of compulsion and demons, out-of-control–a body might fall off the stage then or a gunshot be heard. Every moment of his production expresses what O’Neill is understanding, thinking, meaning, recoiling from. An exhumation of the Nobelist’s body might even find that the two artists share the same blood type and genetic code, so extreme is the identification.

Highly recommended.   

MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA
by Eugene O’Neill
Directed by David Herskovits

Visit TargetMargin Theater: http://www.targetmargin.org/

LIMITED ENGAGEMENT | ONLY 17 PERFORMANCES

Abrons Arts Center | April 26 – May 20, 2017
466 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002

From Target Margin Theater, “known for radically reinventing classic behemoths” (The New York Times), comes a new marathon production of Eugene O’Neill’s epic trilogy, MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA. Part Greek tragedy, part family play, part history play, MOURNING mashes myth, Freudian psychology and melodrama into a marathon five hour production. Each of the three plays of the MOURNING trilogy will be staged in a different part of the Abrons Playhouse, with the audience served a pu-pu platter meal and snack as they move between spaces.

Featuring: Satya Bhabha, Kristen Calgaro, Avi Glickstein, Mary Neufeld, Stephanie Weeks, and Eunice Wong.

Scenic & Lighting Design: Lenore Doxsee
Costumes Design: Kaye Voyce
Sound Demon: Jesse Freedman
Mic Demon: Matt Good
Assistant Director: Claire Moodey
Stage Manager: Olivia O’Brien
Assistant Stage Manager: Violet Tafari
Technical Director: Carl Whipple
Production Manager: Neal Wilkinson
Artistic Producers: Sarah Hughes + Moe Yousuf

Photos by Kelly Stuart

A NOTE ON YOUR COMPLIMENTARY PUPU PLATTERS:
During the second intermission, the audience will be given a complimentary pupu platter (a bed of coconut rice topped with a delicious soaked tofu and purple sweet potato salad topped with scallions), plus chili lime peanuts on the side. It is is 100% vegan (and 112% delicious). The menu comes as is and cannot be modified. If audience members have any known / severe food allergies (especially peanuts) they are encouraged to bring their own food. Beverages will also be available for purchase.

Photos from top: Theatermania, University of Nebraska,  Off Off Online.

Press:  John Wyszniewski, Rachael Shearer Blake Zidell & Associates 

Article: (c) 2017 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved. 

ARTHUR MILLER: ‘A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE’ WITH ALFRED MOLINA (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 3—LINK BELOW) ·

Listen at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06h93s1

Martin Jarvis directs Arthur Miller’s 1955 award-winning masterpiece. Recorded in the US for Drama On 3. Alfred Molina won the BBC Drama Awards Best Actor accolade as Eddie Carbone. He leads an all-star American cast. Universal themes: family, guilt, loyalty, sexual attraction, jealousy – and love. A timeless reminder as immigrants from Syria, Eritrea, Libya currently seek new lives, new dreams. Here, it’s the American one. 

Setting. An Italian-American neighbourhood near the Brooklyn Bridge, New York. 1950s.

Lawyer Alfieri (our narrator) confides to listeners there are cases where he can only watch as they run their bloody course.

Longshoreman Eddie Carbone lives with his wife Beatrice and her orphaned niece, Catherine, in a Brooklyn tenement. He has a love of, almost an obsession with, 17 year-old Catherine. Beatrice’s Italian cousins are being smuggled into the country. The family hide the illegal immigrants, Marco and Rodolpho, while they work on the docks. Eddie’s increasing suspicion and jealousy of Rodolpho’s developing relationship with Catherine eventually leads to betrayal and a tragic confrontation.

Sound design: Wesley Dewberry and Mark Holden
A Jarvis & Ayres Production.

SONDHEIM/WEIDMAN: ‘PACIFIC OVERTURES’ (SV PICK, NY) ·

(Jess Green’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/4; via Pam Green.)

Stephen Sondheim says that a major inspiration for “Pacific Overtures,” the 1976 musical now being revived at Classic Stage Company, was a three-panel Japanese screen he saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Nearly two-thirds of it was blank. How could so much beauty explode from so much emptiness?

John Weidman, who wrote the musical’s book, says that, for him, the idea was born in an East Asian history class at Harvard. Why had he never been taught about America’s brutal “opening” of Japan and its consequences?

Though pointing in different directions, both questions shaped the show that resulted. Viewed one way, “Pacific Overtures” is a chronicle, stuffed with real names and documentary evidence, of the arrival of American warships at Uraga in July 1853, and what came after. At the same time, it is one of the most startling artworks ever created for Broadway: a series of panels stripped as bare as possible so the whole may flower with feeling.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/04/theater/pacific-overtures-review.html

Photo: Classic Stage Company

***** KUSHNER/TESORI: ‘CAROLINE, OR CHANGE’ (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Claire Allfree’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 5/12.)

A singing washing machine? A crooning night bus? Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s 2003 musical set in Civil Rights-era Louisiana remains one of the most innovative modern examples of the form: a giddy marriage of fierce social observation and a gospel- and Motown-inflected score delivered by a cast that includes kitchen appliances and a rising moon. Daniel Evans may have made a bold choice in programming this exuberant musical fantasia as part of his inaugural season at Chichester, but it’s thoroughly vindicated by this pocket-sized staging from Michael Longhurst, which emphatically drives home the show’s social currency 10 years after it premiered at the National.

Change takes on many meanings in Caroline, from the winds of revolution blowing through 1963 to the nickels and dimes that form the bedrock of the American dream. In a hellishly overheated basement in Lake Charles, Sharon D Clarke’s eponymous black maid Caroline is impervious to the former and – it soon turns out – tormented by the latter as she sweats out her days laundering clothes for the Gellman family.

(Read more)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/theatre/what-to-see/exceptional-caroline-change-minerva-theatre-chichester-review/

 

TONY AWARDS 2017: THE FULL LIST OF NOMINATIONS ·

(Erik Piepenburg’s article appeared in the 5/2 New York Times; via Pam Green.)

Best Musical

Come From Away

Dear Evan Hansen

Groundhog Day

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

Best Play

A Doll’s House, Part 2

Indecent

Oslo

Sweat

Best Revival of a Musical

Falsettos

Hello, Dolly!

Miss Saigon

Best Revival of a Play

Jitney

The Little Foxes

Present Laughter

Six Degrees of Separation

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/02/theater/tony-awards-nominations-list.html?_r=0

LONDON: LOST PLAY OF SHAKESPEARE DISCOVERED IN FAMILY HEIRLOOM ·

(from World News Daily Report; via Pam Green.) 

London| The team of experts from the auction house Christie’s, have confirmed this morning that a 16th century book found recently in the personnal collection of a recently deceased English Lord, is indeed an authentic printed version of William Shakespeare’s lost play, The History of Cardenio.

The book was discovered last year by employees proceeding to a successorale inventory, after the death of the Sir Humphrey McElroy, a rich baron and antiques collector from Brighton. It was at first treated as a possible fake, but all the analysis that were realized since have suggested otherwise. The authenticity of both the ink and the paper have now been confirmed, and it seems it is indeed, a late 16th print.

The History of Cardenio, often referred to as merely Cardenio, is known to have been performed by the King’s Men, the London theatre company to which William Shakespeare was associated, in 1613. It was attributed to both Shakespeare and John Fletcher (the same collaborator as in The Two Noble Kinsmen) in a Stationers’ Register entry dated of 1653, but no copy of the play had ever been found.

The content of the comedy is based on an episode in Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote involving the character Cardenio, a young man who has been driven mad and lives in the Sierra Morena.

(Read more)

http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/london-lost-play-of-shakespeare-discovered-in-family-heirloom/

***** JEZ BUTTERWORTH: ‘THE FERRYMAN’ (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Susannah Clapp’s review appeared in the Observer, 5/7. )

Jez Butterworth’s plays shoulder their way on to the stage. Mojo’s dandy thugs and Jerusalem’s “Rooster” have a juicy physicality that is utterly distinctive. As does Butterworth’s latest. The Ferryman is profligate, boisterous, far-reaching.

It is 1981 in County Armagh. Bobby Sands is on hunger strike, and the Carneys are on their farm, bringing in the harvest. In one corner is an away-with-the-fairies auntie; in another a revolutionary old dame. Giggling around the farmhouse are foul-mouthed pre-teens who take a nip of Bushmills in the morning. At the epicentre are Paddy Considine and Laura Donnelly, a couple whose secret yearning is exquisitely captured in their slow-motion blindfold dance.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/may/07/ferryman-royal-court-jez-butterworth-review-magic

Photo: The New York Times

JOSEPH V. MELILLO: A CUTTING-EDGE IMPRESARIO LEAVES BAM: WHAT WAS HIS BEST WORK? ·

(Michael Cooper’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/4; via Pam Green.)

Joseph V. Melillo will step down as executive producer of the Brooklyn Academy of Music at the end of 2018.CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

It is time for the next wave to roll in at the Brooklyn Academy of Music: Joseph V. Melillo, who has helped shape the academy’s cutting-edge aesthetic for more than three decades, will announce on Friday that he plans to step down as executive producer at the end of 2018.

Mr. Melillo, 70, is the last link to the organization’s impresario and visionary leader, Harvey Lichtenstein, who hired him in 1983 as the founding director of the pathbreaking Next Wave Festival. In 1999, Mr. Lichtenstein anointed him as his successor.

As executive producer, Mr. Melillo was a lower-key presence than his mentor, but the academy remained a place to catch the vanguard, as well as to see Derek Jacobi as King Lear and Simon Russell Beale as Hamlet.

With Mr. Melillo’s departure, the academy will truly enter the post-Harvey era. (Karen Brooks Hopkins, Mr. Lichtenstein’s chosen successor as the institution’s president, stepped down in 2015.) It will have to find ways to keep its cutting-edge reputation now that it is part of the establishment, and to continue refreshing its avant-garde roster to keep it from seeming old guard.

Continue reading the main story

Photo: NY Daily News

 

5 MOST OFF-THE-WALL STAGINGS OF RUSSIAN LITERARY WORKS ·

 

(Alexandra Guzeva’s article appeared on Russia Beyond the Headlines, 5/5.)

U.S. pop-opera “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel “War and Peace” received 12 nominations at the prestigious Tony Awards. RBTH now remembers who else staged Russian classic novels in an unusual way.

1. Open air rock-opera Crime and Punishment

During the summer of 2016 Londoners were treated to a great show. The classic novel Crime and Punishment, written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky 150 years ago, was reinvented as a true rock musical in the hands of the British director Phil Willmott.

In Willmott’s version, the protagonist Raskolnikov is not a dark character tormented by demons, but more of a hero, a fighter for truth and faith who doesn’t want the old lady

While Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov suffers from torments of conscience after the murder, Willmott’s character is more aggressive, expressing his feelings with rock ballads and scenes that at times verged on comedy. In one episode, crowds of ugly old women with bloody heads dance around Raskolnikov, driving him to the brink of insanity.

Sonya Marmeladova, Raskolnikov’s love interest, performed by the red-haired Rachel Delooze, echoes Magdalena from the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar and Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones.

2. Pushkin’s Fairy Tales

This work is a collaboration between the prominent stage director Robert Wilson and Moscow’s Theater of Nations. Wilson’s production is far from the iconic interpretations of these folklorish tales, which fire up many people’s imaginations, especially after looking at the famous illustrations by Ivan Bilibin.

The characters are not traditional Russian tsars or a swan-maidens –  like in every Wilson production they become freaks with chalk-white faces painted in the Japanese style.

Add oriental motifs accompanied by music from American duet CocoRosie – with elements of rap – and it’s fair to say the vibe is a little different to what people might expect from Pushkin’s tales.

(Read more)

https://www.rbth.com/arts/literature/2017/05/05/5-stagings-russian-literary-works_756994

HELLO, DOLLY! & COME FROM AWAY TOP OUTER CRITICS CIRCLE WINNERS; FULL LIST! ·

(from Broadway World, 5/8; via Pam Green.)

Outer Critics Circle, the organization of writers and commentators for media covering New York theatre announced today its award winners for the 2016-17 season in 27 categories.

Broadway’s Danny BursteinKatie Finneran andChristopher Fitzgerald will serve as gala award presenters at the upcoming 67th Annual Outer Critics

Circle Awards ceremony on May 25th (3PM) at the legendary Sardi’s Restaurant.

Celebrating its 67th season of bestowing awards of excellence in the field of theatre, the Outer Critics Circle, is an association with members affiliated with more than ninety newspapers, magazines, web sites, radio and television stations, and theatre publications in America and abroad.

 (Winners names are in bold preceded by an asterisk. *) 

OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY PLAY
A Doll’s House, Part 2
Indecent
*Oslo
Sweat

OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY MUSICAL
Anastasia
A Bronx Tale
*Come From Away
Groundhog Day
Holiday Inn

OUTSTANDING NEW OFF-BROADWAY PLAY
*If I Forget
Incognito
A Life
Linda
Love, Love, Love

 

(Read more)

http://www.broadwayworld.com/article/Breaking-News-HELLO-DOLLY-COME-FROM-AWAY-Top-Outer-Critics-Circle-Winners-Full-List-20170508