Category Archives: Events

LUCY PREBBLE: ‘THE EFFECT’  (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 3–LINK BELOW) ·

‘THE EFFECT’

by Lucy Prebble.

Listen

Starring Jessie Buckley, Christine Entwisle, Damien Molony and Samuel West.

“I can tell the difference between who I am and a side effect.”

Award-winning chemical romance. 

Connie (Jessie Buckley – ‘The Last Post’, ‘Taboo’) and Tristan (Damien Molony – ‘Crashing’, ‘Being Human’) are taking part in a clinical trial for a new psychoactive drug. So when they start to feel attracted to each other, can they really trust how they feel?

A profound, and funny, play about love, depression and selfhood, winner of the Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Play when it was performed at the National Theatre in 2012.

Dr Lorna James …. Christine Entwisle
Connie …. Jessie Buckley
Tristan …. Damien Molony
Dr Toby Sealey …. Samuel West

Composer, Richard Hammarton
Writer, Lucy Prebble
Director, Abigail le Fleming

THE WRITER
Lucy Prebble is a writer for film, television, games and theatre. Before THE EFFECT she wrote the hugely successful ENRON (2010). Her first play, THE SUGAR SYNDROME (2003), won her the George Devine Award and was performed at the Royal Court.
Lucy is an Associate Artist at the Old Vic Theatre.
For television, she is the creator of the TV series SECRET DIARY OF A CALL GIRL. She is Co-Executive Producer and writer on HBO’s media mogul drama, SUCCESSION.

THE COMPOSER
Richard Hammarton is a composer and sound designer for Theatre, TV and Film. His work has been heard throughout the UK and Internationally. He was part of the design team that won the Manchester Evening News “Best Design” award for DR FAUSTUS in 2010 and was Sound Designer for the Olivier Award winning play, THE MOUNTAINTOP. He also worked on the Ivor Novello winning RIPPER STREET for TV.

 

JOYCE’S ‘ULYSSES’ IN BERLIN: NO DUBLIN, NO PUBS, NO BROTHELS, SO GERMAN ·

(Derek Scally’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 1/24. Photo: Berlin Buhnen.)

Joyce’s famous work is getting a radical reworking in Berlin by director Sebastian Hartmann

Five minutes into my interview about the new stage production of Ulysses at Berlin’s Deutsches Theater, the director and his leading man have supplied three crucial pieces of information.

First, the evening will be four hours long. Second, neither Dublin nor the main characters will feature. Third, someone’s willy will get an airing during the evening – but they’re not saying whose.

It’s three days before the premiere and my interview with Ulysses director Sebastian Hartmann and actor Ulrich Matthes is skidding off the rails.

“I have left out everything to do with the Dublin milieu, the pubs and the brothels,” says Hartmann, promising a “non-narrative theatre evening with no main figures or exposition”.

Matthes who, like the rest of the cast, created the evening in collaboration with the director, chimes in.

(Read more)

ORSON WELLES AND SHAKESPEARE ·

(from Folger Shakespeare Library; via Pam Green.)

Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 89

There was a time when Orson Welles was one of America’s biggest celebrities. 

In 1938, he made national headlines when the radio show he produced did a version of The War of the Worlds that was so realistic people actually thought the country was under attack by Martians. Then he went to Hollywood and made Citizen Kane, which is still considered one of the greatest movies of all time. And he did all of this by the age of 26.

For his entire life though, Welles’s obsession was Shakespeare. He produced and starred in Shakespeare plays on Broadway and directed and starred in multiple versions of Shakespeare’s work on film, including Chimes at Midnight.

Our guest is Michael Anderegg, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of North Dakota and the author of Orson Welles, Shakespeare, and Popular Culture.

(Go to site)

 

 

ROGER FRIEDMAN: STEVEN SPIELBERG IS REMAKING “WEST SIDE STORY,” PRO-FORMA CASTING CALL GOES OUT FOR LEADS ·

(Roger Friedman’s article appeared on Showbiz 411, 1/25; via the Drudge Report.)

There’s a place for Steven Spielberg, and apparently it’s on New York’s Upper West Side in the 1950s. A casting call has gone out for a remake of “West Side Story,” written by Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner, author of Spielberg’s terrific “Lincoln” screenplay and, of course, “Angels in America.”

It’s a pro-forma casting call because, in the end, the new “West Side Story” is going to need stars. Big names. And because of the setting and the time we are in, it’s going to need actual Puerto Ricans or Latinos for the parts of characters like Maria, Anita, and Bernardo. There will be no fudging this in 2018. The casting call says in capital letters: MUST BE ABLE TO SPEAK SPANISH.

(Read more)

STEVE COSSON: ‘THE UNDERTAKING’ FROM THE CIVILIANS (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

In Steve Cosson’s stage documentary on dying , The Undertaking (conceived in collaboration with Jessica Mitrani)–playing until February 4, at 59E59–vibrant, theatrical life comes from Aysan Celik and Dan Domingues jumping in and out of characters, like ones possessed, “ventriloquizing.” The term, discussed by philosopher Simon Critchley, who is impersonated in the show (and has been interviewed for it) posits that actors, in character, are  haunted by ghosts (the dramatic role itself), “a being about whom we cannot know for sure whether it is alive or dead.  It seems to be both.” Because Cosson provides a number of varied personalities in the work, The Undertaking highlights the transformative abilities of its two actors, speaking verbatim dialogue and imitating the playwright’s interviewees (whom the audience hears in recordings), whether they be Critchley or a South American who has eaten hallucinogenic plants, the actor and director of the Ridiculous Theatre Everett Quinton, or a woman recounting a near-death experience, among others. 

Yet, despite his “palpable fear,” Cosson, who approaches current secular, perhaps faddish, thinking on dying, does not mention popular writers of the recent past, such as Harold M. Sherman and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (what Ms. Celik would do with a German accent), who could actually help him. Whether or not Marcel Duchamp has a pithy quotation about death on his gravestone only helps people think about death fashionably, and Cosson seems to limit his discussion by not incorporating wider religious or spiritual perspectives.  Obviously, the subject is uncomfortable for many, yet probably most maintain thoughts similar to the writer’s:  “I feel like my particular relationship to [the] fear is that it’s so constant and so integrated that I rarely even experience it as fear. I just experience it as this, uh, this sort of, u uh, disquieting presence.”  Still, Cosson can’t dramatize his feeling, beyond constructing a combine and describing it.  Whereas Williams, Albee, Beckett, or Bergman would show the cold terror–maybe even solemn grandeur–in moving close to death, Cosson decides to throw a blanket over his head and hide.

Director, as well as a writer, he also uses footage of classic film, a technique, in the avant-garde toolkit, overused today (also in January, Split Britches  rolled  clips from Dr. Strangelove for Unexploded Ordnances, for example).  Orpheus, the film referred to in Cosson’s piece, can be seen as parallel to the events of The Undertaking and is also drawn from an earlier story: the ancient myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Cocteau sets his version in the modern day (the middle of the last century), and the script is the product of imaginative dramatic writing. Comparatively, Cosson has so overintellectualized his search for an understanding of dying that his performance piece can seem like a dramatic lecture or nonfiction book, a well-paced, well-produced evening of staged footnotes.  He also misses dramatizing the story of his mother, not portrayed,  whom the audience is told is currently in a nursing home with MS.  Like Hamlet’s father, however, she may be the ghost demanding to be remembered most.

© 2018 by Bob Shuman. All rights reserved.

Photo:  Dan Domingues and Aysan Celik in THE UNDERTAKING at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

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THE UNDERTAKING

CAST

Aysan Celik*
Dan Domingues* 

CREATIVE TEAM

Written and directed by Steve Cosson
Creative Collaborator and Psychopomp: Jessica Mitrani
Set and Costume Design: Marsha Ginsberg
Lighting Design: Thomas Dunn
Sound Design: Mikhail Fiksel
Projection Design: Tal Yarden
Stage Manager: Geoff Boronda*
Assistant Stage Manager: Rachael Gass*
Production Manager: Ron Nilson
Producer: Margaret Moll 

ADDITIONAL STAFF FOR THE UNDERTAKING

Assistant Set and Costume Designer: Blake Palmer
Sound Design Associate: Lee Kinney

Dramaturgy: Jocelyn Clarke and Jacey Erwin

Interviews conducted by Steve Cosson, Jessica Mitrani, and Leonie Ettinger.

*appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association
member of United Scenic Artists, Local USA 829

Press: Karen Greco

PINTER: ‘THE BIRTHDAY PARTY’ (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/18.)

“The first test of any work of art,” claimed George Orwell, “is survival.” If that is true, it is one Harold Pinter’s play passes with flying colours.

Derided on its debut in 1958, 60 years on The Birthday Party has lost none of its capacity to intrigue. In Ian Rickson’s starry production, it emerges not simply as a rep thriller filtered through a European sensibility – a cross between Agatha Christie and Kafka, as a German director once said – but as a play of intense psychological realism.

It is well known that the action concerns the abduction from a seaside boarding house of a recalcitrant lodger, Stanley, by a pair of visitors. But Rickson immediately establishes the plausibility of the situation. Meg and Petey, who own the house, are often played as cartoon grotesques. Here, however, there is a key moment when Zoë Wanamaker’s trim, doting Meg and Peter Wight’s sturdily reliable Petey exchange wistful glances over the breakfast table about the son they never had. Instantly this establishes Stanley as their surrogate child, and explains why Wanamaker drops her shopping bags in terror on first encountering the visitors.

(Read more)

 

REVIEW: A WONDROUS ‘PINOCCHIO’ WITH THAT ‘LION KING’ MAGIC ·

(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/ 4; via Pam Green.)

LONDON — The most uncanny thing of all about the National Theaterproduction of “Pinocchio” — a show that is wondrously strange from top to bottom — is how simple it appears. This may seem an unlikely characterization of an obviously expensive musical, replete with special effects that brim well over the edges of the National’s vast Lyttelton stage.

Yet this adaptation of the 1940 animated Walt Disney classic, directed by John Tiffany and designed by Bob Crowley, exudes the rough magic of a world that seems shaped, by hand and before your eyes, from rudimentary elements. Step ladders, strings and ropes, blocks of wood, the letters of the alphabet: Such is the basic visual vocabulary that is deployed to retell the familiar story of an existentially challenged puppet’s quest to become human.

In this regard, “Pinocchio” comes into being as if through the eyes of a child, whose gaze transforms the mundane into whatever the imagination (and perhaps the Jungian subconscious) wills. The show’s scale, too, is that of a little boy for whom the world looms dauntingly and tantalizingly large, where grown-ups appear as giants who are not entirely real. Or not as real, in any case, as a child’s own sovereign self.

For while the marionette of the title is portrayed by a fully grown adult actor (the perfectly cast newcomer Joe Idris-Roberts), he is less than half the size of many of the figures with whom he shares the stage. That includes the artisan father who carved him into life, Geppetto (Mark Hadfield), and the mysterious, otherworldly guardian known as the Blue Fairy (Annette McLaughlin).

(Read more)

LA MAMA PRESENTS ‘WEEKEND WITH SAM’–READINGS OF THE WORK OF SAM SHEPARD (FREE) ·

WEEKEND WITH SAM–READINGS OF THE WORK OF SAM SHEPARD 

INCLUDING TWO UNPUBLISHED WORKS FROM THE LA MAMA ARCHIVE

Cast features Matthew Broderick, John Slattery, J. Smith-Cameron, Peggy Shaw, Erin Markey, Gia Crovatin and Fred Weller

Feb 3-4 at La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre

La MaMa continues its season-long celebration of the life and work of Sam Shepard with WEEKEND WITH SAM, two days of readings and excerpts from Sam Shepard’s plays, prose and poetry, directed by Neil La Bute, Lois Weaver, Scott Wittman and Joel Zwick.  WEEKEND WITH SAM will be held in The Ellen Stewart Theatre (66 E. 4 St.) February 3 – 4, 2018.  All readings are free and open to the public, but not open for review by critics.

American playwright, actor, author, and director, Sam Shepard, who died on July 27, 2017, was a prominent playwright whose work spanned decades.  Sam did much of his early work at La MaMa and was one of the playwrights championed by La MaMa founder, the late Ellen Stewart. His original scripts, playbills, production photos and posters are part of the La MaMa Archives. 

WEEKEND WITH SAM kicks off on Saturday, February 3 at 7:30PM, with Scott Wittman directing Hawk Moon featuring excerpts and monologues from Hawk MoonMotel Chronicles, TonguesCowboy Mouth and other works read by Matthew Broderick, John Slattery, J. Smith-Cameron, Phil Burke, Erin Markey, Monk Hopper and Larry Saltzman (on guitar). 

WEEKEND WITH SAM continues on Sunday, February 4 at 4PM with a triple bill of works by Sam Shepard.  The program begins with Killer’s Head, directed by Lois Weaver and featuring Peggy Shaw reading the role originated by Richard Gere, followed by two unpublished, early plays originally produced at La MaMa:  Dog, directed by Joel Zwick, featuring Harry Mann and Zack Segel and Rocking Chair directed by Neil LaBute, featuring Fred Weller and Gia Crovatin.

Free reservations for WEEKEND WITH SAM are now open to La MaMa Members and will be open to the public online at www.lamama.org beginning Monday, January 22, 2018.

About La MaMa

La MaMa is dedicated to the artist and all aspects of the theatre. The organization has a worldwide reputation for producing daring performance works that defy form and transcend barriers of ethnic and cultural identity. Founded in 1961 by award-winning theatre pioneer Ellen Stewart, La MaMa has presented more than 5,000 productions by 150,000 artists from more than 70 nations. A recipient of more than 30 Obie Awards and dozens of Drama Desk, Bessie, and Villager Awards, La MaMa has helped launch the careers of countless artists, many of whom have made important contributions to American and international arts milieus.

La MaMa’s 56th season highlights artists of different generations, gender identities, and cultural backgrounds, who question social mores and confront stereotypes, corruption, bigotry, racism, and xenophobia in their work.  Our stages embrace diversity in every form and present artists that persevere with bold self-expression despite social, economic, and political struggle and the 56th season reflects the urgency of reaffirming human interconnectedness.

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ADRIENNE KENNEDY, PLAYWRIGHT: STILL QUIET, STILL BOLD, STILL FURIOUS ·

(Alexis Soloski’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/10; via Pam Green.)

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — The playwright Adrienne Kennedy never wanted to move to Virginia. She spent 30 years living on the fourth floor of a brownstone on West 89th Street — her “little Victorian palace,” she called it. But the rent went higher. Her breath on the stairs came shorter. Just before she turned 80, she traveled down to Williamsburg, Va., to visit her younger son, Adam Kennedy, and she stayed.

“Unfortunately, I’ve been here six years,” she said of her new city. “I hate it.”

The move to Virginia cost Ms. Kennedy her shelves of books and her walks down Broadway. But it has given her a poem, a memoir and a play, “He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box,” which begins performances at Theater for a New Audience on Jan. 18. It is her first new play in nearly a decadeand the first that she has written without a collaborator in 20 years.

Ms. Kennedy, one of the American theater’s greatest and least compromising experimentalists, was speaking at a table in a genteel hotel lounge near the Colonial Williamsburg living history site. Her dramas are sites of living history, too, where personal stories of racism’s unhealed wounds mingle with dark tales thieved from the Brothers Grimm and 1940s Hollywood.

(Read more)

Photo: American Theatre

SPLIT BRITCHES: ‘UNEXPLODED ORDNANCES (UXO)'(REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

Theatregoers may be wondering whether La MaMa follows the news or whether the news is, in fact, following La MaMa—a paranoid insight pertinent to its two current productions, running until January 21,  both part of the Public’s Under the Radar Festival.  Downstairs, because of the comprehensiveness of its creators’ theatrical and artistic understanding, Panorama, in which its cast is told not to “act,” transcends being sensitivity training on the immigrant crisis (read this author’s review of that show).  Upstairs, in the Ellen Stewart Theatre, Split Britches (Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw), popular downtown (and international) feminist/lesbian artists, detonate unexplored desire, H-bombs and communal anxiety in Unexploded Ordnances (UXO), a Dr. Strangelove-inspired end-of the-world scenario—this article is being written a day after mass panic in Hawaii, when the state was put on a ballistic missile alert, by mistake.

In addition to showing prescience, the Split Britches play lets viewers consider forum theatre, a style, theorized and employed by Augusto Boal, which allows spectators (in this case older audience members, who are brought to glowing tables of a Pentagon-like war room) to participate in the themes and  questions posed by the play.  The creators also relate that the gathering follows the meeting example of Lenni Lenape and Canarsie Native-American leaders–other peripheral observers are invited to actively engage in the content, too, permitting the work to be composed of what’s in the air and who’s in the room—an “elder” giving a one-night-only, dead-on imitation of Eleanor Roosevelt, for example.

Every evening can provide such an anomaly—in fact, performances have the potential to be very different from each other.  Split Britches, however,  is probably too uniform in its audience demographic to make Unexploded Ordnances (OXO) into an evening of scintillating debate—one unsatisfying answer to what needs to be done, given the world’s current state of affairs (from the old lefties in the East Village, the bleeding hearts who are willing to actually bleed), is “end capitalism” and replace with “Marxism.” Nevertheless, the most surprising takeaway, in entertaining the question, “How do we change?,” which is asked during the play, is the degree to which the audience can veer into the self-lacerating. “It’s too late,” comes one reply, explained as the result of too much guilty consumption, addiction, and ease. Protests are needed, is seen as a solution, or a strike against the government, and the complete breakdown of the rule of law. Then, a reality: “I’m too tired to strike.” 

Ordnances, weapons such as cannons, grenades and military materiel, is apt as part of the show’s title and its overriding metaphor, because the creators want to emphasize what can be buried inside and exploded—personally and politically.  The signature Split Britches routine, along with a fascination regarding finishing sentences, has, traditionally, been women-loving-women tripping up into the flirty awkwardness and Freudian slips of falling in love.  By extension, they are now playing generals and presidents who can flub into destroying the planet, even as the audience has the potential to be more interesting than the broad, satiric characters being portrayed (in a necessarily broad outline for a show). 

Weaver, Shaw, and Hannah Maxwell, the writers, might actually miss, and endorse the ways of a sinning, older America, a point made in the title of their 2008 show, Miss America.  You can feel this in Unexploded Ordnances (OXO), as well, when a popular song, by the Dominoes, is played and snippets of the Cold War drive-in movie, Dr. Strangelove are shown. Whatever the case, whether the audience gives thoughtful or knee-jerk reactions to current social considerations, the chance to engage with and contemplate community issues and action is rewarding:  Someone has to be thinking about whose finger is on the button.

© 2018 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved. Photos (top to bottom): Theo Cote; Roosevelt, History.com; Matt Delbridge; Matt Delbridge (Peggy Shaw)   

Split Britches
Unexploded Ordnances (UXO)
Written by Peggy ShawLois Weaver, and Hannah Maxwell
Performed by Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver

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