Monthly Archives: August 2009


(Simon's article appeared on Bloomberg, Aug. 21.)

Beauty is often thought to dwell in the eye of the beholder, but did you know that it can also be found in a small, unpretentious musical? “Dames at Sea,” now playing at the Bay Street Theatre in the seaside hamlet of Sag Harbor, New York, is a small jewel that outsparkles many a multicarat solitaire.

The show that ran off-Broadway for 575 performances beginning in 1968 (and has been much revived since) made a lot of people happy and Bernadette Peters a star. We are not informed what George Haimsohn and Robin Miller, librettist- lyricists, and Jim Wise, composer, went on to, but just for “Dames at Sea” a little corner of show-biz heaven is surely theirs forever.


(Kirsch's article appeared in The New Republic, 8/21/09.)


Chic Radical by Adam Kirsch


It's a rare musician who requires a biography devoted solely to his or her political activities. But as Barry Seldes shows in Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician, Bernstein is one of those exceptional cases. For his entire adult life, Bernstein was perhaps the most famous composer and conductor in America–which is not the same thing as being the best–and he had no qualms about using his artistic fame to advance his political beliefs. Whenever there was a liberal cause that needed support, Bernstein was there: he was involved with the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee in the 1930s, supported Henry Wallace's Progressive Party in the 1940s, clashed with HUAC in the 1950s, marched on Selma in the 1960s, fought for gay rights and AIDS research and the NEA in the 1970s and 1980s. More problematically for his artistic legacy, he also sought to infuse his political views into his music. Many of Bernstein's biggest compositions, from West Side Story to The Age of Anxiety to Mass, were conceived as vehicles for his didactic liberalism.

(Read more)


(Benedict Nightingale's article appeared in The Times of London, 8/20/09.)


In a modern Bosch were painting Hell, it would very likely turn out the way that the Romanian director Silviu Purcarete imagines it, or Faust’s vision of it, in the adaptation of Goethe he’s brought to an exhibition hall near Edinburgh airport.

We’re summoned from our seats by actors in hog masks and taken behind the stage to a vast space in which a white-suited MC with a black spider on a lapel presents us with everything from forklift trucks from which bodies dangle to vast faces plastered with mud, from screeching dancers to women having sex with pigs, from a trundling rhino to a witch who cackles as she suckles Mephistopheles, from a melon representing a head that’s violently split open to the wizened shell of Faust’s once-beloved Margareta.

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(Peter Filichia's Diary of August 19 ran on Theatermania.) 


A Sticky Situation for Joe Papp

36 years ago this week, CBS aired a TV version of a Tony-winning Broadway play – late at night, so as few people could see it as possible.

The play was David Rabe’s Sticks and Bones. Its main characters were Ozzie, Harriet, David and Ricky. Those who remember the early days of TV will recognize those character names from the TV series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. The weekly sitcom about a real-life family called the Nelsons debuted in 1952 and didn’t go off the air until, believe it or not, 1966.

And yet, who remembers anything significant about it?

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(Dominic Wells's article appeared in The Times of London, 8/18/09.)

Richard O’Brien: Rocky Horror? It was all about my mother

Richard O’Brien gave the world The Rocky Horror Show. Now he reveals its secret origins for the first time

Richard O’Brien dabs at his eyes with a white linen napkin. Somehow the waitress chooses this moment to take our order, and is waved away. We’ve met to discuss O’Brien’s new project, The Stripper, a revival of his 1982 musical, which previously has played only in Australia. Instead, just 20 minutes in, the writer and star of The Rocky Horror Show and host of The Crystal Maze is choked with emotion.

(Read more)



(Adam Feldman from Time Out New York lists–and intends to have reviewed–all of the shows in the New York Fringe Festival.)

Last year, we at Time Out New York took a radical approach to the massive New York International Fringe Festival: We promised that we would see and review every one of the festival's nearly 200 plays. People said it couldn't be done. Or wouldn't. Or shouldn't. But it was. It was done. And we saw that it was good.

So now we're going to do it again.

That's right: we're reviewing everything. There are 201 shows in this year's festival, and we are reviewing every single one of them, from America's Next Top Bottom: Cycle 5! to Zipperface!!?!: The Hobo Musical. We're reviewing everything even if it kills us, which it might, or just hurts us very badly, which it surely, surely will.

Reviewing 201 shows in two weeks is no easy task. So, in the democratic spirit of the Fringe itself, TONY’s Theater department has gone wide: Thanks to a frenzy of in-house conscription, more than 150 different TONY staffers—writers, editors, designers, photographers, marketers, even interns—have now chosen at least one show apiece, at random, from a thick stack of Fringe postcards and press releases. Over the next few weeks, our ragtag army will fan out below 14th Street to sample this year’s festival fare and report on their findings. Some of our guinea-pig scriveners are seasoned reviewers; others will be taking their first shot at drama criticism. The breadth of this range strikes us as true to the nature of the Fringe Festival: an unpredictable mix of well-seasoned expertise and uncooked enthusiasm.

Wish us strength.

Check back regularly to see new reviews as we post them. And for full details on the festival, visit


(Jerry Tallmer's article appeared in The Villager, 8/12-8/18.)

Mark Finley shepherds tale of ‘sexually scrambled daughters’

Gutsy TOSOS a good fit for Fringe

There was a time when all over this town you saw signs or scribbles or chalkings that read: SILENCE = DEATH. Even before those years of the Plague — in 1974, to be exact — three young men of talent got together to launch TOSOS (short for The Other Side of Silence), a professional theater company that would defy death by breaking silence on all matters non-heterosexual.

They were playwright Doric Wilson, cabaret star Billy Blackwell, director Peter dell Valle — and their TOSOS lasted more or less until the Plague started killing off audiences, playwrights, directors and performers.


(Mark Brown's article appeared August 14 in the Guardian.)

Githa Sowerby, the forgotten playwright, returns to the stage

Female writer who understood wealth and poverty gains recognition in home town after almost 100 years

When Rutherford & Son opened in 1912 it was a sensation: a devastating attack on the unacceptable face of capitalism that gripped audiences in the West End, on Broadway and across the world.

And when the press discovered that the writer was – astonishingly for the time – a woman, Githa Sowerby became an instant celebrity and feminist hero.


(Alice Jones's article appeared in The Independent, 5/13.)

Sea Wall, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

A bare stage, and a man in jeans, T-shirt and baseball boots. This, it turns out, is all you need for as engaging and devastating a piece of theatre as you're likely to find at this year's Fringe.

It's only half-an-hour long, but Simon Stephens's one-man play Sea Wall packs an enormous emotional punch. First given a tiny run during the Bush Theatre's Broken Space season last year, the tale of Alex and his beautiful wife and daughter begins like any other with intimate revelations about his relationship, jokey recollections of the birth of his child and sun-dappled memories of holidays with his lightly nutty ex-military father-in-law in Carcassonne.

(Read more)




The Bacchae: The World’s Greatest Play

by Karen Malpede


            The Bacchae, playing now in Central Park, is the greatest of all Greek plays, perhaps the greatest play of all. Euripides wrote it at the end of his life while in exile living in his cave in Macedonia. I like to think of him, an old, disgruntled man, sitting alone with thoughts of death, watching from the shade of his stone arch while herds of sun-whipped women spun and turned in dappled light, looking like drunken fawns.  Women were let loose from confinement regularly but only for religious purposes.  He knew this; still, up close the antics of the freed females must have come as quite a shock to the citified man. Who knows what he saw them do?  

            Euripides would be thinking, too, of Athens, this city he’d left in scorn, which had betrayed its promised rectitude through imperial adventure after adventure, and was soon to dash its own democracy to death upon the shores of Sicily, grown over-extended militarily, cruel to its captives, narrow-minded in its market place and public life.

Tragedy had been invented to honor Dionysus, god of ecstasy and of the grape; his alter burned in the center of the orchestra, the dancing place.  Many of the gods appear fittingly in Greek tragedies, in the pro or epilogues and from their place apart on the roof of the stage house.  Euripides’ genius was to send Dionysus smashing into public life. No longer an imagined god around whose alter the chorus danced, nor a voice from above, but a living presence in the midst of the action, demanding recognition from the city that dishonors itself by refusing to honor him and exacting vengeance when recognition is denied. 

Recognition had been denied Euripides too many times in Athens, winning third prizes when clearly he deserved the first because Medea and other of his plays unsettled and disturbed.  Was he a feminist or a woman-hater?  Either way, he understood the Athenian fear of women, but more, of womanly ways, would bring them down.  A nation-state cannot simply be bent on conquering, on military adventure; it has to save itself for passion, and by passion, too.  But passion for what?  It’s easy, and correct, to say, man must honor all the gods—experience all emotional inevitabilities of life, also, of death.  Hyppolutus had been dragged to death by his horses for scorning Aphrodite, refusing the love of women.  Actaeon, too, was ripped apart by his own hunting dogs for denying Artemis, the virgin goddess of animals and the hunt and it happened in those same hills of Cithaeron, where his cousin Pentheus soon would perish, torn apart by his own mother.  Men deny their female selves at their peril.   Nations bent on war deny something, too.  

The women have danced upon and despoiled earth.  The god has also come to tell them this.  The women have made the land give milk and honey, but they have dishonored it, as well, by demanding too much, stealing too many resources, becoming drunk on their own bounty and beneficence.  They’ve forgotten someone, something, controls nature beyond themselves, that their work is to live in harmony, not excess. 

What is it Dionysus wants of Thebes?  Surely, he wishes honor for his mother, Semele.  He wants recognition that she was his mother. From her womb he was ripped by lightening sent by jealous Hera.  Semele was beloved of Zeus.  What can any of this mean?  Nice to love one’s mother.  Terrible to ruin a city over unrecognized mother-love, yet that is what he does.  He brings everyone, men and women, Pentheus’ mother Agave, his grandfather Cadmus, to their knees.  He smiles while they realize they have been capable of the vilest deeds.  Agave in a fit of madness dismembers her son, the only heir to the city.  She beheads him, possessed by a vision that he is a mountain lion and she the conqueror of the mighty beast. She tortures the son she loves by denying him even while he cries out to her, “mother, mother.” It is the primal dream of horror, dreamt equally by ravenous infant and stunned primipara.   How can anyone ever adequately care for another?  How can any mortal woman sate the child’s greedy maw?  Euripides reaches back to touch the psychological core.

Dionysus may be a god of vengeance let loose upon us, but he is something else—a progenitor of Christ, he is half-mortal.  He walks among us because he is also us.  We deny our similarity to the god with terrible consequences not for him but for Pentheus and for the city.  Pentheus is crucified in Dionysus’ stead, the god merely steps aside.  He escapes earthquake, fire; he bewitches the mortal man to commit sacrilege and he smiles.  We are not doomed to everlasting hell for denying Dionysus, only to suffer more than we can bear while we remain alive. But what does Dionysus want?  What does he expect from humankind?

  Euripides wanted recognition. In the most personal sense this is a bitter and self-serving play.  You drove me out by dishonoring my works; now look at what you’ve done to yourselves by denying the dramatic truths I brought.  He did not live to see this play produced.  It was taken to Athens by his son.  After the poet’s death his city could tolerate his poetry, the familiar story, only then. But by then it was too late for the city to save itself. 

Euripides is not Dionysus, of course, nor is he Pentheus. But they, his antagonists, are two halves of one another.  They’ve been torn, ripped in half before the play begins, we  watch self battling unrecognized self—and watch the ruination of the public life such ignorance of the self-same must bring.   The other is us and in us; ignore these facts at your civic peril.  The other is divine, as well.

Is there balm in this story?  Is there a position to be taken?  Is there lesson learned?  Are we to exalt in the “indomitableness of the human spirit?”  No, there is no such cant.  Euripides shows us human beings superior to gods only in our ability to mourn our losses, to love and grieve our dead.  The gods know nothing of this. They destroy with impunity. They gather up the pieces of no corpses. They kill us, no, worse, far worse, they loose in us the fatal rage that insists we kill our own, our nearest and our dearest, our youngest. We send them off, full of ideas of grandeur, to fight our wars, and only after they’ve been torn apart do we pause to mourn.  

There is no god of healing in this story.  Reconciliation is beyond us utterly; we may grieve our losses, decry our destructiveness, but to suffer we are doomed.  Thank you, Euripides for leaping past doctrine, reaching through sheer force of poetry beyond any idea of what is right or wrong, what might save us, for slaying ideology utterly.  For asking us to stand and be.  Sway in the wind. Rationality will kill us.  Irrationality will do the same.  Sit in a cave and watch the women dancing with abandon.  Feel terrified.    Absent yourself from the human struggle.  In this sense the play is profoundly Buddhist, Zen.  It would be good to take a break from conquest.  To listen, absorb, allow the poetry to enliven without anger, to let the adrenaline rush come from taking in the terrible beauty of the spectacle that is The Bacchae.  Not to need to control.  


© 2009 by Karen Malpede.  All rights reserved.  Reprinted by permission of the author.   



(Karen Malpede, M.F.A., is a playwright in the theater of war and witness tradition.  Her recent plays are:  “I Will Bear Witness” a stage adaptation of the Victor Klemperer diaries which won two Obies and toured internationally; “The Beekeeper’s Daughter” about a survivor of a rape camp during the war in Bosnia which had productions in Italy, Australia, and off-Broadway and won for the playwright the McKnight National Playwright’s Fellowship and is currently under development in Europe as a motion picture, “End of the Century.”   “Prophecy,” about the legacies of the Vietnam and Iraq wars, was produced to critical acclaim in London; featuring Maria Tucci or Kathleen Chalfant in the lead role, the play has been presented as a rehearsed reading at: The Kennedy Center, the Makor/Steinhardt Center of the 92nd St. Y, the Public Theater, the Cherry Lane Theater and New York Theater Workshop.  She has written essays published in anthologies and journals in the US and UK about theater of witness and her earlier contributions to theater history include one of the first books on women in theater, Women in Theatre: Compassion & Hope. Contact: 718-789-5404;;


Shakespeare in the Park


Original Music by PHILIP GLASS

With April Armstrong, George Bartenieff, Sullivan Corey, André De Shields, Marisa Echeverría, Jonathan Groff, Tara Hugo, Jennifer Ikeda, Karen Kandel, Jennifer Nikki Kidwell, Alexa Kryzaniwsky, Vella Lovell, Joan MacIntosh, Anthony Mackie, Nana Mensah, Steven Rishard, Ereni Sevasti, Elena Shaddow, Rocco Sisto, Han Tang


Performances of The Bacchae will be Tuesday through Sunday at 8pm
Added perf (No distribution/Stand-by line only): August 24
No perf: August 25

JoAnne Akalaitis returns to The Public Theater to present Greek tragedy as it was always meant to be seen – in the open air of the city. This visionary interpretation, featuring a lush choral score by Philip Glass, re-imagines the classic story about what happens when a government attempts to outlaw desire.

Artistic Staff for THE BACCHAE:

Scenic Design: JOHN CONKLIN
Costume Design: KAYE VOYCE
Lighting Design: JENNIFER TIPTON


Soundscape:  DARRON L. WEST


Music Director:  MICK ROSSI

Choreographer:  DAVID NEUMANN

Production Stage Manager:  MARTHA DONALDSON


More information, visit:


Delacorte Theatre

The outdoor Delacorte Theatre is the summer home of the annual "Shakespeare in the Park" production. Begun in 1957 by Joseph Papp as part of the Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival the annual productions draw thousands to the open air theater at the heart of Central Park. Originally built as a temporary structure in 1962, the Delacorte Theater is the setting for the continuing series.

The theater is semi-circular in shape and the audience is treated to the sight the lovely summer landscape forming a backdrop to the stage. This includes Turtle Pond, and the almost dreamlike vista of Belvedere Castle looking down from above, waiting for its close up

Location: Mid-Park at 80th Street

Details: Southwest corner of the Great Lawn