Category Archives: Commentary

***** MOUKARZEL/KIDD/SHAKESPEARE: ‘HAMNET’ (SV PICK, IRE) ·

 

 

Hamnet
Peacock Theatre, Dublin
★★★★★

Who haunted Shakespeare when he wrote Hamlet? A play so steeped in death, full of demanding fathers, hapless sons and restless ghosts, it was completed just three years after the death of his young son, Hamnet. If the name of the Dane was intended as a memorial, it backfired: Shakespeare’s overwhelming legacy and pitted biography have reduced poor Hamnet to the status of a typo.

“You haven’t heard of me,” apologises the 11-year-old boy who arrives onstage alone with a hoodie and a backpack – although, like any contemporary kid, he knows he shouldn’t talk to strangers.

That we are the strangers is made obvious. The expanse of the backdrop to Andrew Clancy’s design holds, as ‘twere, a mirror up to the stage, a live projection from the rear wall that affords us two images: the boy before us and his video apparition.

(Read more)

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/stage/hamnet-is-a-child-frozen-in-time-to-devastating-effect-1.3240986

Photo: Dead Centre

PETER BROOK: ‘TO GIVE WAY TO DESPAIR IS THE ULTIMATE COP-OUT’ ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian 10/3.)

Sixty-five years ago, Kenneth Tynan identified the qualities of a young Peter Brook as “repose, curiosity and mental accuracy – plus, of course, the unlearnable lively flair”. Now 92, Brook may walk more slowly than he did but those gifts are still abundantly there. He is as busy as ever, with a new book full of aphoristic wisdom, Tip of the Tongue, and a new stage project, The Prisoner, due to open in Paris next year.

When we meet in London, he has just caught up with a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies at the National Theatre, which he calls “one of the greatest musicals I’ve ever seen – a perfect combination of palpable emotion and dazzling spectacle”. To those who think of Brook as some kind of theatrical monk, dedicated to empty spaces and a refined austerity, his rapture over Follies may come as a shock. But Brook’s early career embraced everything from Shakespeare and boulevard comedy to opera and musicals. He directed Irma La Douce in the West End and Harold Arlen’s House of Flowers on Broadway.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/oct/02/peter-brook-tip-of-the-tongue-the-prisoner-battlefield-olivier-gielgud

SAM SHEPARD: ‘SIMPATICO’ (SV PICK, PRINCETON) ·

(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/26; via Pam Green.)

PRINCETON, N.J. — It’s hard to imagine a more exuberant wake for Sam Shepard than the party being thrown — and I mean thrown, like a beer bottle in a bar fight — at the McCarter Theater Center here. That’s where A Red Orchid Theater’s revival of his strange “Simpatico” is running — and jumping, stumbling, falling down drunk, writhing on the floor and gleefully reminding us of the fierce and anarchic humor of Shepard, who died in July.

Though Shepard is, in my book, a great American playwright, “Simpatico,” first staged at the Public Theater in New York in 1995, is not a great play. On the page, at least, it finds its author awkwardly trying to shoehorn his fabled sense of a melting American identity into the intricate plots and counterplots of the genre known as noir.

But as lyrical as Shepard could be as a prose writer, he is best experienced not on the page but the stage, where the raw physicality of his brand of theater can be given space to roam wild. That’s the space so jubilantly occupied by this production out of Chicago, directed by Dado and starring the off-center film star Michael Shannon in expertly demented form.

(Read more)

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/26/theater/review-sam-shepard-simpatico-michael-shannon.html

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN ON BROADWAY: A SPIRIT IN THE NIGHT SPOILER ALERT   ·

 

(Christ Jordan’s article appeared on app., 9/28; via the Drudge Report.)  

So Bruce Springsteen of Freehold, whose “Springsteen on Broadway” begins previews  Tuesday, Oct. 3, and opens Thursday, Oct. 12, at the Walter Kerr Theatre, should feel right at home.

“He’s the greatest living storyteller because of how he connected with everyone at his shows, all the way to the last row” said Matt Pinfield,  former host of MTV’s “120 Minutes” and author of the new book “All These Things That I’ve Done: My Insane, Improbable Rock Life.” “There’s such a human element with his storytelling and his songs. He’s always been able to tell stories in between songs, that in itself is an art form.

(Read more)

http://www.app.com/story/entertainment/music/2017/09/28/bruce-springsteen-broadway-spirit-night/704050001/

ALBERT INNAURATO INTERVIEW WITH STAGE VOICES (SUMMER, 2015) ·

Albert Innaurato Gives an Exclusive Interview with SV’s Bob Shuman: Part I appeared 8/26/15 and Part II appeared 9/2/15

Innaurato’s short play Doubtless, produced by John McCormack, appeared at 59E59’s Summer Shorts series in 2014. Gemini, winner of the Obie Award, became the fifth longest-running play to appear on Broadway: premiering Off-Off-Broadway in 1976, and moving to Broadway in 1977, it ran for four years (1, 819 performances).  The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie won a second Obie in 1977. Other plays include Passione, Magda and Callas, Coming of Age in SohoGus and Al, and Dreading Thekla. While attending the Yale School of Drama Innaurato wrote The Idiots KaramazovI Don’t Normally Like Poetry but Have You Read Trees, and Gyp, the Real-Life Story of Mitzi Gaynor with Christopher Durang. He was also nominated for an Emmy Award for Vera: U.S.O. Girl; additional television credits are: The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd and short plays for PBS, including Death and Taxes.  Innaurato has directed many operas, premiering new work as well as interpreting classics, for a small company in Philadelphia, where he moved to work at the Prince Music Theater. Adjunct at Columbia, Princeton, Yale, and Temple University, essayist, and cultural critic in The New York TimesVanity Fair, and very frequently in Opera News, Innaurato blogs about serious music and opera at: http://mrsjohnclaggartssadlife.blogspot.com/.

What’s the nicest thing that someone ever said to you about a play you don’t want to be remembered for? 

I am so amazed when people remember that I wrote plays that I’m thrilled for a minute or two. I don’t expect to be remembered as a person, let alone as a playwright. I’ve written some lousy plays, God knows, but really, people who remember the good or the bad, are so rare and so sincere, I’m grateful.

Read Part I of the Stage Voices interview: http://stagevoices.com/2015/08/26/two-time-obie-winner-albert-innauratos-exclusive-interview-with-bob-shumanpart-ii-will-be-published-september-2-inn/

Read Park II of the Stage Voices interview: https://stagevoices.com/2015/09/02/albert-innauratos-transfiguration-the-two-time-obie-winner-on-arts-police-the-transsexual-movement-b/

Photo:  The New York Times–Albert Innaurato is (l).

ALBERT INNAURATO, REST IN PEACE (1947-2017) ·

(Neil Genzlinger’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/27; via Pam Green.)

Albert Innaurato, a playwright who enjoyed spectacular success for a time in the late 1970s, including having a play run on Broadway for more than four years, has died in Philadelphia. He was 70.

His cousin Stephen Paesani said Mr. Innaurato was found dead in his bed on Tuesday, and had probably been dead for two days. The cause was not clear, Mr. Paesani said, but Mr. Innaurato had had heart problems recently.

Mr. Innaurato’s biggest hit, written while he was still in his 20s, was “Gemini,” a comic drama about a Harvard student who returns to his blue-collar Philadelphia neighborhood for his 21st birthday and has to confront, among other things, his sexual orientation. It opened on May 21, 1977, at the Little Theater on Broadway and ran for 1,819 performances.

A few months before that, another of his plays, “The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie,” had an acclaimed Off Broadway run at the Astor Place Theater.

(Read more)

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/09/27/theater/albert-innaurato-dead-playwright-who-had-hits-on-broadway-in-70s.html

*****SONDHEIM/GOLDMAN: ‘FOLLIES’–SHOWBIZ STUNNER RETURNS IN BREATHTAKING STYLE ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 9/6.)

Although it has legions of admirers, Follies has often seemed a problematic show. Stephen Sondheim’s music and lyrics combine emotional pain and witty pastiche with a deftness that James Goldman’s book never quite seems to match. But Dominic Cooke’s superb revival, reverting to the structure of the 1971 original and ditching the optimistic conclusion that marred the 1987 West End production, gives this bleakly festive musical a poetic unity I didn’t realise it possessed.

The paradox is that Cooke achieves unity by stretching, to the limit, the show’s obsession with duality. That idea of doubleness is built into the Sondheim-Goldman concept. We are invited to witness a grand reunion of veteran Follies showgirls in a Broadway theatre on the verge of demolition; in the background we see the ostrich-plumed incarnations of their younger selves. At the same time we are privy to a double marital crisis. Well-heeled New Yorkers Ben and Phyllis are in as much trouble as their old Phoenix-based chums, Buddy and Sally. What brings the crisis to a head is that Sally has a lifelong yen for Ben that has never been resolved.

FOLLIES by Goldman ;
Directed by Dominic Cooke ;
Designed by Vicki Mortimer ;
at the National Theatre, London, UK ;
21 August 2017 ;
Credit : Johan Persson

The intermingling of past and present is an idea many dramatists have used, notably Tom Stoppard in The Invention of Love, where the older AE Housman views the sexual hesitancy of his younger self with a rueful regret. Here, Cooke’s production lends the idea extra poignancy by making this interaction a two-way process: at one point, Zizi Strallen as the young Phyllis seems about to dissolve in tears as she gazes at the dyspeptic solitude of Janie Dee as her older but no wiser self.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/sep/06/follies-review-imelda-staunton-national-theatre-dominic-cooke

THEY CAN ACT. BUT CAN THEY SERVE? ·

(Alexis Soloski’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/22; via Pam Green.)

On a practice court at the U.S.T.A. Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, two men were playing some pretty ugly tennis. It was the Monday morning after the United States Open and as the subway rumbled by and workers unstrung banners and logos, Wilson Bethel and Alex Mickiewicz faced each other across the sunstruck acrylic turf.

Mr. Bethel, wearing maroon warm-up gear and a backward baseball cap, lolloped easy volleys to Mr. Mickiewicz, who was dressed all in black like a sporty supervillain. Mr. Mickiewicz sent some of those balls back over the net. Others thudded straight into it.

“These courts have never really seen play like this before,” his castmate, the actress Zoë Winters, deadpanned.

The actors had gathered at the foot of Arthur Ashe Stadium as part of rehearsals for “The Last Match,” a play by Anna Ziegler that begins previews at the Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theater on Sept. 28.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/22/theater/the-last-match-anna-ziegler.html

BARRY EDELSTEIN: THINKING SHAKESPEARE ·

(from the Folger Shakespeare Library; via Pam Green.)

Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 82

How do actors breathe life into Shakespeare’s texts? How do they take language that’s centuries old and make it sound so real and immediate?

Barry Edelstein, the Erna Finci Viterbi Artistic Director at The Old Globe in San Diego, is one of the nation’s most experienced Shakespeare directors. Twice a year, The Old Globe holds an event called Thinking Shakespeare Live! – a master class where you get to watch actors act and Edelstein direct – in essence, pulling back the curtain on the rehearsal room.

In this podcast episode, Edelstein works with Barbara Bogaev to go through a very abbreviated version of Thinking Shakespeare Live!

(Read more)

https://www.folger.edu/shakespeare-unlimited/thinking-shakespeare-barry-edelstein

Photo: La Times

‘SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE’ TOPS AMERICAN THEATRE’S MOST-PRODUCED PLAYS LIST/ LAUREN GUNDERSON IS THE MOST-PRODUCED PLAYWRIGHT ·

(via Gus Schulenburg, TCG)

American Theatre’s Top 10 Most-Produced Plays of 2017-18:

  1. Shakespeare in Love, adapted for the stage by Lee Hall, based on the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard: 15
  2. Fun Home, adapted by Lisa Kron, based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, lyrics by Kron, and music by Jeanine Tesori: 12
  3. Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau: 11
  4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, adapted by Simon Stephens from the novel by Mark Haddon: 9        
  5. Marjorie Prime by Jordan Harrison: 9
  6. The Humansby Stephen Karam: 8
  7. A Raisin in the Sunby Lorraine Hansberry: 8
  8. Heisenbergby Simon Stephens: 8
  9. Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberleyby Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon: 8
  10. Sense and Sensibility(all adaptations): 8

adapted by Kate Hamill from Jane Austen: 7

adapted by Emma Whipday and Brian McMahon: 1

 

“This is a breathtaking landmark for me, because it is a testament to long-standing friendships and creative partnerships throughout our diverse and inspiring national theatre community,” said Lauren 

American Theatre’s Top 20 Most-Produced Playwrights of 2017-18:

  1. Lauren Gunderson: 27 (including 8 co-writing credits)      
    2.         Simon Stephens : 19
    3.         Lee Hall: 15                   
    4.         Lisa Kron: 15 (including 13 co-writing credits)
    5.         Dominique Morisseau: 15           
    6.         Arthur Miller: 14 
    7.         Ayad Akhtar: 13 
    8.         Quiara Alegría Hudes: 10 (including 5 co-writing credits) 
    9..        Jordan Harrison: 10       
    10.        Ken Ludwig: 9
  2. Tennessee Williams: 9   
    12.        August Wilson: 9 (not including UniSonby the UNIVERSES, which uses Wilson’s poetry)
    13.        Branden Jacobs-Jenkins: 9
    14.        Kate Hamill: 9
    15.        Lucas Hnath: 9
    16.        Aaron Posner: 8            
    17.        Eugene O’Neill: 8
    18.        Lorraine Hansberry: 8
    19.        Mark St. Germain: 8
    20.        Oscar Wilde: 8

For more information about the American Theatre Top 10 Most-Produced Plays and Top 20 Most-Produced Playwrights lists, visit: http://www.americantheatre.org.

Photo: Lauren Gunderson, Olney Theatre Center