Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

EURIPIDES/ADAPTED AND TRANSLATED BY ANNE CARSON: ‘BAKKHAI’ AT STRATFORD (SV PICK, CANADA) ·

(Carly Maga’s article appeared in the Toronto Star, 6/17.)

Written by Euripides. Adapted and translated by Anne Carson. Directed by Jillian Keiley. Until Sept. 23 at the Tom Patterson Theatre, 111 Lakeside Dr., Stratford. StratfordFestival.ca, 1-800-567-1600.

Is that a deep red leaf painted onto the stage of the Tom Patterson Theatre in Stratford, Ont. … or is that what I think it is?

In Jillian Keiley’s production of Bakkhai (otherwise known as Euripides’ The Bacchae), using the 2015 version adapted by Canadian poet Anne Carson, the double meaning of Shawn Kerwin’s set as both a representation of nature as well as female sexuality instantly demonstrates the director’s approach to this classic Greek tragedy. It transforms these two elements into one and the same: organic, primal, brutal if it needs to be. They are forever under the attempted control of man or mankind (this is a blazingly contemporary play, if not only for its discussion of sexual politics but also for the way man’s relationship to global warming is still somehow considered a debate).

There’s a reason why Dionysos holds his Bacchanalian rituals on mountaintops, uses a thyrsus staff of ivy and pine cones, and encourages his followers to drape themselves in grapevines. He also orchestrates the climax of Bakkhai to occur among the trees of Mount Cithaeron, bringing the doomed King Pentheus from the protection of the city and quite deliberately out of his element, into the elements.

(Read more)

https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/stage/2017/06/17/hubris-is-the-real-villain-in-stratfords-bakkhai-review.html

ALICE BIRCH: ‘ANATOMY OF A SUICIDE’, DIRECTED BY KATIE MITCHELL (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/12.)

What determines our character? Nature or nurture? Genetic inheritance or social environment? It is an age-old debate, and Alice Birch now adds to it with this startling theatrical triptych about three generations of mothers and daughters. Whatever my doubts about Birch’s conclusion, the play is odd, arresting and, in Katie Mitchell’s immaculate production, highly original in its form.

Birch’s progress as a writer has been fascinating to watch. She delivered a short, sharp shock in 2014 with Revolt, She Said, Revolt Again which was a subversive, playful piece calling for revolution in everything from sexual relationships to the workplace. In 2015, the Orange Tree brought us an earlier Birch play, Little Light, about sibling rivalries, that suffered from too much withheld information. Since then Birch has written a polemical piece about porn, We Want You to Watch; the admired Ophelias Zimmer, which I missed; and the recent film Lady Macbeth, which transposed a Russian novel to Victorian England and got a five-star review from Peter Bradshaw.

(Read more)

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/jun/12/anatomy-of-a-suicide-review-royal-court-alice-birch-katie-mitchell

GARY OWEN: ‘IPHIGENIA IN SPLOTT’—ONLY THROUGH 6/4 (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

??Iphigenia In Splott at The Sherman Theatre
By Gary Owen
Director: Rachel O’Riordan
Designer: Hayley Grindle
Lighting Designer: Rachel Mortimer
Sound Designer: Sam Jones
Sophie Melville as Effie

By Bob Shuman

According to legend, Iphigenia gives her life so that the Greeks can sail to the Trojan War.  Aside from those in the military, not many think much about sacrificing themselves–and their families–for their country today—but this is the central issue of Iphigenia In Splott—the story of a legal choice, made over a medical issue, by a “stupid slag,” a “nasty skank,” which has come to Brits Off Broadway (59E59 Theatres) via the U.K.’s National Theatre.  Gary Owen’s play, written in Cardiff dialect, won the 2015 Best New Play in Britain and the Stage Award for Acting Excellence 2015, yet Americans may ponder the vernacular of the work and the play’s dramatic resolution.  Maybe British people don’t concur with it either, but the U.K. healthcare system is more entrenched than ours: it started in 1948; by comparison, look at the trouble Americans are having replacing Obamacare, which was only signed into law in 2010.  Those in the U.S. can see Iphigenia In Splott as a cautionary tale, an argument as to why socialized medicine should never take hold here—and a reason for why the Affordable Care Act had to be rejected.  They also might end up thinking that, ultimately, despite her outrageous life of alcohol and drugs and casual sex, Effie, the central character, makes the decision someone in the British lower classes should–that this is how her society had programmed her.  If Iphigenia In Splott had happened in New York, lawyers, without compunction, would have been standing in line to represent the case.  They also would be outraged as to what happened to Effie, although Americans, of course, have their own problems with the medical system: on the subway yesterday, a newly retired African-American gentleman was explaining how during his stroke, he instructed his 911 caller to say that he was Jewish, so that an ambulance would arrive faster.

Despite the fodder for debate, Owen’s play represents one of the few occasions where Americans can examine U.K. domestic policy—we’re so used to writers from the Guardian and English-trained Shakespeareans commenting on ours.  However, those in the U.S. would probably not have problems seeing the benefits of a free market rather than struggling to maintain an inefficient status quo.  This is not to say that Americans can’t be clueless about Britain, as when The New York Times ran a review of A Taste of Honey—a play that will remind of this one–under the title, “She’s Having the Baby. How Quaint.”  Jo, in Shelagh Delaney’s work, is younger, though—and she never reaches the volcanic heights of Effie (searingly played by Sophie Melville):  “Fuckin bottles, fuckin cans, fuckin ash trays. Fuckin boys swilling their drinks, bobbing their heads to the music, Looking sulky as fuck, and shit, shit.  Anywhere there’s space to cram something, there is something: and it’s shit. I can’t be here.”  But she is–and sociology can’t seem to correct it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the English may like the denouement in Owen’s play because the character stands on her own two feet,  the problems of the welfare state continue to shape and plague the youth, forcing them to “take it” because they can take it (“the only way I get through the week is a cycle of hangovers,” Effie discloses).  Ann Coulter, an American who  can be known for her own  vitriol,  has written, “The rampaging mob might save England from itself, finally removing shaved-head, drunken parasites from the benefits rolls that Britain can’t find the will to abolish on moral or utilitarian grounds.”  But whether she is the cause or a casualty, Effie may be deluding herself that she is Iphigenia, and has helped save a nation.  Whether she knows it or not, she may have saved herself, though—this reviewer’s friend explained, after the play, that others, who have been in comparable situations, have tied themselves up emotionally and monetarily for years, fighting.  Some think it best just to move on.

Directed, with momentum, by Rachel O’Riordan.

To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or visit www.59e59.org

‘IPHIGENIA IN SPLOTT’

EFFIE ………………………………………….SOPHIE MELVILLE

CREATIVE TEAM DESIGNER ………HAYLEY GRINDLE LIGHTING DESIGNER ………………………………… RACHEL MORTIMER SOUND DESIGNER ………………………………….SAM JONES

CASTING DIRECTOR …………………..KAY MAGSON, CDG COMPANY STAGE MANAGER……………………….CHARLOTTE UNWIN

AEA STAGE MANAGER ……………….VERONICA AGLOW *

The running time of Iphigenia in Splott is 80 minutes with no intermission.

Press: Karen Greco

(c) 2017 b Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

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. 

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/

 

***** 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

READ THE REVIEWS FOR BETTE MIDLER IN ‘HELLO, DOLLY!’ ·

(Ryan McPhee’s and Olivia Clement’s article appeared in Playbill, 4/20; via Pam Green.)

The Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly!, starring Bette Midler in her return to the musical theatre stage, celebrated its official opening night at the Shubert Theatre April 20. The Jerry Zaks-helmed production began performances March 15.

Midler takes on the iconic role of Dolly Gallagher Levi; among those sharing the stage with her are Tony winner David Hyde Pierce as Horace Vandergelder, Kate Baldwin as Irene Molloy, and Olivier winner Gavin Creel as Cornelius Hackl.

(Read more)

http://www.playbill.com/article/read-the-reviews-for-bette-midler-in-hello-dolly

Photo: Showbiz411

KATE HAMILL: ‘VANITY FAIR’, DIRECTED BY ERIC TUCKER AT THE PEARL THEARE (REVIEW FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

Eric Tucker’s fluid, physical production of Kate Hamill’s adaptation of Vanity Fair (now playing at the Pearl Theater Company, extended until May 14) will take some puzzling out, but both contemporary creators are trying to get underneath Thackeray’s certitude—unearthing worms and post-modern detritus.  Tucker is the director of the fabulous 2015 A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which also played at the Pearl, an interpretation that actually felt like an inchoate, ephemeral dream.  Thackeray is not as malleable as Shakespeare, though—in fact, he’s a steamroller–and so is his leading character, Becky Sharp, who doesn’t “blush” (Hamill plays her unabashedly, with brio).  Adapters may be at odds with what to do with this prodigious Victorian writer, who won’t budge, except to shut him up, as Stanley Kubrick did in his epic Barry Lyndon (1975), a candlelit masterpiece of cinematic composition , with Oscar-winning costumes and production design, cold to the ear—Marisa Berenson, as Lady Lyndon, spoke only 13 lines.  Kubrick had thought of directing Vanity Fair, too, but he felt that “the story could not be successfully compressed into the relatively short time-span of a feature film”—he also may have had difficulty reigning in characters who want what they want when they want it.  At the Pearl, Hamill and Tucker poke at the materiality of Vanity Fair, and along with using other techniques, can remind us of Modernists, not Romantics—O’Casey, Ibsen, Fitzgerald, or Williams come to mind (even Chekhov, for good measure)—and, perhaps, Joel Grey’s Expressionistic demon Emcee in the Kander/Ebb/Masteroff  Cabaret.  Regency England, during the Napoleonic Wars, is where the novel takes place, but Tucker, Hamill, and Co., do not convey the age in ways that remind of the cinema or Masterpiece Theatre—this is perhaps because, by compacting the work, they’ve arrived less at Thackeray’s cheerful facade—but at his malevolence.

Vanity Fair, as a novel, is a tour de force of endless, damning opinion, led by a bossy, intrusive puppet-master, the author himself (he spends nearly 800 pages pulling rank on his characters—and his readers). Even if there is security in having everything spelled out, enjoying the book may have to do with how you can tolerate being told what to think and how to feel, while Thackeray’s pen compulsively chases the news of the day, scandal, and cliffhangers–even when his story loses tension or his characters aren’t focused. (Vanity Fair was originally written for serialization, illustrated by the author.) Becky Sharp is a charity case, who intends to rise in society—she’s honest and vulgar and the English class system will never let her through. Americans can accept her immediately because she’s willing to work and she’s willing to gamble and perhaps this is why Tucker and his designers, Sandra Goldmark (set) and Valérie Thérèse Bart (costumes) do not focus  obsessively on period detail.  Their conception involves placing Vanity Fair in a theatre, which corresponds with Thackery’s “Before the Curtain,” the prologue for his book. Hamill and Tucker radicalize this further by not placing this theatre in the early 1840s, when the book was written, or in the early 1800s, where the book is set.  Hamill’s and Tucker’s theatre, a surreal, contemporary theatre, is in the present day, or in the mind.  Soon, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” plays, a song released in 1982, as actors dance with contemporary moves.  “In Heaven There Ain’t No Beer” (1956) and “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody” (1919) are also used—much in understanding and rationalizing this stage version is negotiating the culture shock.  But it goes beyond that. At one point the excellent Joey Parsons, as Amelia, Becky’s champion and friend, pulls long string from her mouth—oddly reminiscent of Lavinia in Peter Brook’s Titus Andronicus (1955). Vanity Fair, in a primitive, feral, anachronistic production, has wed one of the English language’s most literal-minded writers with a director excavating the unconscious.

Hamill’s massive editing and adaptation of Thackeray work, ultimately, becomes two hours and fifteen minutes of stage time. By comparison Nicholas Nickleby, in 1980, involved two 4.5 hour performances to portray Dickens.  Both are exemplars of cutting-edge theatre of their times.  Now, however, audiences may be intent on shorter performances, or maybe they’ve gotten used to working with less.  Does post-modernism–the cuts, the chaos, the irrationality, the freewheeling, the confusion, and dreams– become more important than faithfulness to authors, including Thackeray? Maybe Hamill has made Becky so clear—the young woman wants money, pure and simple—that further discussion becomes unnecessary. Her characters transmute, furniture twirls; no one is locked into the inherent realism of a book or film.  The adapter focuses on the emotional stakes—and what the messy relationships leave behind.

The cast: Debargo Sanyal, who plays Miss Briggs, a cowed servant, has learned to hold his hands, as if he might unexpectedly need to protect his face.  In the next moment, we are watching the line of his legs, long, striding purposefully. Here he’s playing George Osborne, a young soldier, to the manor born—and about to have the rug pulled out from beneath his feet.  Zachary Fine plays, among other parts, the Manager of the theatre, as well as Miss Matilda Crawley, an aristocrat, who either needs to stop taking laxatives or requires them at once.  Thackeray is an interesting writer because he describes shy men, who wait a virtual eternally for love—two here, played well, are:  Brad Heberlee as Jos and Ryan Quinn as William Dobbin (most of the cast play multiple roles).   Rawdon Crawley—Becky’s husband, probably a bad choice to marry, given her goal,  is given appropriate nobility and dash by Tom O’Keefe.

Kubrick was doubtlessly right, that Vanity Fair cannot be done well in approximately two hours on screen—realism, which film demands, exclusively, needs time.  Theatregoers may wonder, however, how the stage can be so flexible—questions Tucker and Hamill can answer.  The two–important, serious, and informed–working untraditionally, have realized Vanity Fair,  the way Thackeray wanted it, not as a historical costume drama;   “not [as] a moral place, certainly; nor a merry one, though  very noisy.”

© 2017 by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.

Visit the Pearl Theatre Company:  http://www.pearltheatre.org/

Press: Shaunda Miles, John Wyszniewski, Rachael Shearer at Blake Zidell & Associates

William Thackeray Kate Hamill, directed by Eric Tucker

Scenic Design by Sandra Goldmark

Costume Design by Valerie Therese Bart

Lighting design by Seth Reiser

Original music composted by Carmel Dean

Director of Production Gar Levinson

Production Gar Levinson

Production Darmaturg Kae Farrington

Production Manager Katharine Whitney

Artistic Director Hal Brooks

Managing Director Jess Burkle

Actors Zachary Fine, Kate Hamill, Brad Heberlee, Tom O’Keefe, Joey Parsons, Ryan Quinn, Debargo Sanyal

Photos, top to bottom:  Kate Hamill (Guthrie); Eric Tucker (D.C. Theater Scene); Cast ((c) Russ Rowland); Thackeray.

O’NEILL: ‘EMPEROR JONES’ (SV PICK, NY) ·

(Laura Collins-Hughes’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/24; via Pam Green.)

The unbounded fury of Emperor Brutus Jones blasts into the room before he does. It is the sound of a powerful man in a dangerous fit of temper. “Who dare wake up the emperor?” he roars.

That would be the director Ciaran O’Reilly, who has revived his gorgeous, astonishing production of Eugene O’Neill’s “The Emperor Jones” at Irish Repertory Theater, with largely the same creative team but an almost entirely new cast. Revelatory in 2009, when it starred the commanding John Douglas Thompson, it’s now both ferocious and blindsidingly affecting with the British newcomer Obi Abili in the title role.

The play, from 1920, unfolds into a fractured dark night of the American soul, but it begins in daylight in the palace of the West Indies island that Jones rules. A black American with a murderous past and an avaricious present, he’s a former Pullman porter. Reckless and mercurial, a bully when he wants to feel his own strength, he luxuriates in the perks of the office he’s grabbed for himself: the throne, the golden crown, the money he is milking from it.

(Read more)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/24/theater/review-emperor-jones-fearsome-and-fearful-in-a-roaring-revival.html