Monthly Archives: November 2009


(The following article appeared in the Irish Times, 11/17.)

Hardy role reclaimed from a great

ARTS: ‘IT WAS NEVER, ever the intention to become a director, and therefore an artistic director and therefore all of this.” The “this” to which the modest little gesture of Joe Dowling’s hand refers is probably the most impressive theatre building of the 21st century. We are sitting in a public area high up in the extraordinary new (Tyrone) Guthrie Theatre, which opened in 2006 on the banks of the Mississippi in Minneapolis, writes FINTAN O’TOOLE 

Jean Nouvel’s dreamy, twilight-blue swirl of forms is an architectural masterpiece but also an extraordinary tribute to the impact that Dowling has had in this old mill city since he left Dublin almost 15 years ago. His ability to raise $125 million (€84 million) to create a hub of three theatres is a mark of his standing, not just as a theatre director but as a public figure.

And yet, this morning, he is trying to explain how all of “this” seems almost accidental. For at this moment he is what he has not been for 21 years – a working actor coming down from the high of last night’s performance. With a crackle of expectation and curiosity in the air, he had opened as Frank Hardy in a play with which his other life as a director will always be associated, Brian Friel’s Faith Healer . It was an extraordinary act of exposure, returning not just to the stage but to an austere and demanding play in which he has to perform two lengthy monologues. Returning, too, to a ghost that has haunted Irish theatre for almost 30 years.

(Read more)


Faith Healer on the Guthrie Web site:

Visit Stage Voices blog:



A new radio production of Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's Jacobean classic, set in Alicante, Spain, in the 1920s.

Listen now at:

Beatrice-Joanna is due to marry Alonzo e Piracquo, until she falls in love with Alsemero and seeks the help of her father's man, De Flores.

Beatrice-Joanna …… Anna Madeley
De Flores …… Zubin Varla
Vermandero …… Nicky Henson
Tomazo de Piracquo …… Alex Hassell
Alonzo de Piracquo …… Alex Blake
Alsemero …… Simon Muller
Jasperino …… Nigel Hastings
Diaphanta …… Liz Richardson
Isabella …… Catherine Bailey
Alibius …… Philip Fox
Lollio …… Stephen Hogan
Antonio …… Piers Wehner
Franciscus …… Joseph Cohen-Cole
Pedro …… Rhys Jennings

Directed and adapted for radio by Jeremy Mortimer.




(Simon Callow's article appeared in the Times of London, 11/28.)

Orson Welles — a theatrical giant

Orson Welles knew how to make an entrance. Whatever the frustrations of later years, his directorial debut was a triumph

When you know a lot about someone, as I do about Orson Welles (having written two fat volumes of a biographical trilogy over the past 20 years), you rather dread fictional treatments of that person. So I approached the new film Me and Orson Welles very gingerly, especially since it is set in the Mercury Theatre in the 1930s. I was at drama school when the Welles virus first infected me: I read about the Mercury in Run-through, a book by John Houseman, a good portion of which is devoted to describing his relationship with Welles in the 1930s, culminating in a magnificent description of their work together, first for the Federal Theatre Project, then the Mercury Theatre. That’s the life for me, I thought: working 20 hours a day, under the charismatic leadership of a young genius — stretching oneself and the theatre to the very limits, defying convention, electrifying the audience, changing lives.

Houseman was describing a golden period in the theatre, and these are rare. Welles in his early twenties set off a series of brilliant theatrical fireworks that were unlike anything that had come before — were, indeed, unlike each other; each production had its own particular style, although iconoclasm was the rule. Of course, Welles went on to other glories. Made internationally famous — notorious, perhaps — by his radio version of The War of the Worlds, which panicked people thought was a report of an actual Martian invasion, he directed Citizen Kane, his first film, when he was 25, but then he fell out with the studio, and somehow nothing was ever the same again. His films were often taken away from him and re-edited, his radio career petered out, his theatre work imploded spectacularly with a musical version of Around the World in 80 Days that all but bankrupted him. In Europe he made extraordinary films such as Othello and Chimes at Midnight (known in some countries as Falstaff); none of them made any money. He acted in other people’s films to raise money for his own; he did commercials and chat shows in the hope that they would remind the industry that he was around. He did a huge amount of work, but few people saw it, especially not in America. What had started in such glory ended in a rather muted melancholy. Why this should be has been the subject of my books.

Visit Stage Voices blog for video:


(Erick Piepenburg's article appeared in The New York Times, 11/26)

Five Questions for a Rockette

Being a Rockette is more than high kicks, ivory smiles and precision spot-turns. There are six-show days, slippery tap shoes and Santas who miss their cues.

“It’s crazy how challenging this job is,” says Amy Love Osgood, who has been performing as a Rockette since 2005.

One of the main attractions in the annual “Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular,” the Rockettes — who helped open Radio City in 1932 — are as iconic of the holidays in New York City as the skating rink at Rockefeller Center or “The Nutcracker.”

But what does it take to be a Rockette? Ms. Osgood, a 30-year-old mother of two boys, answered questions about her grueling schedule, backstage drama and juggling motherhood and character shoes.

Visit Stage Voices blog for video:

‘THE FAHRENHEIT TWINS’ IN LONDON (REVIEW)—“the delightfully inventive, funny-sad new double-hander from Told by an Idiot.” ·

(Paul Taylor’s article appeared in The Independent, 11/25.)

The Fahrenheit Twins, Pit, Barbican, London

I was once in Los Angeles in mid-December, reporting (for this paper) on Andrew Lloyd Webber's very imaginatively revamped version of Sunset Boulevard starring Glenn Close. The surprising thing about LA at such a season is the contrast between the mellow clemency of the climate and the fact that the vast majority of the private homes in their own large grounds are covered with artificial "Holiday Season" snow like some transatlantic Narnia in which Aslan has been toppled as deity by Perry Como.

All of this came back to me while I was watching The Fahrenheit Twins, the delightfully inventive, funny-sad new double-hander from Told by an Idiot. The set here – which consists of a miniature ski-slide (on which a little table is frozen in mid-slalom) and dinky living quarters with flaps for ice-holes and cupboards etc – is covered in just such a vision of fluffy ersatz whiteness. And the artificiality has a genuine tragicomic point to make in a show which, though it may be set in the real Antarctic and be based on a true story, focuses on a pair of identical twins who have been trapped in an artificial predicament by far from natural parenting.

(Read more)

Visit the Web site of Told by an Idiot:

Visit Stage Voices blog:



(A. O. Scott's review appeared in The New York Times, 11/25.)

Me and Orson Welles (2009)

When a Bombastic Young Man Bestrode the Boards of the Mercury Theater

The action in “Me and Orson Welles” takes place in 1937 during a single hectic week bookended by two moments of relative tranquillity in which a boy (Zac Efron) meets a girl (Zoe Kazan). In the film’s final scene, as they stroll out of the New York Public Library, the girl, an aspiring writer, bubbles with enthusiasm about the world of music, art and literature that seems to be opening up all around them. So much is going on! So much to be part of!

Though specific in its period references — the musical choices in particular are fresh and precise — this movie is much more than an exercise in nostalgia for those storied old days, when Harold Ross edited The New Yorker, Orson Welles bestrode the boards of the Mercury Theater and Brooks Atkinson reviewed plays for The New York Times.  

(Read more)

Visit Stage Voices blog for video:



(Ben Hoyle's article appeared in the Times of London, 11/25.)

The hills are alive: Dame Julie Andrews plans singing comeback on London stage next year

The hills are alive with the sound of a 74-year-old national treasure with badly damaged vocal cords reviving past glories.

Dame Julie Andrews will announce today a homecoming concert in London that is expected to net £1 million in box-office receipts and will be one of the most scrutinised shows of next year. Twenty years have passed since Dame Julie’s last stage performance in Britain and generations of fans will be eager to believe that a comeback is possible.

(Read more)

 Visit Stage Voices blog for video:



(The clip above is from the Off-Broadway production of 'Fela!')

(Doing our best to bring you John Simon reviews of plays he actually liked, this article appeared on Bloomberg, Nov. 24.)

Perhaps the closest I can come to conveying my experience of “Fela!” is to call it a great humane and transcendent fable come to life, with everything “fable” implies: mythic, fabulous and a supreme lesson in living, here supplied magisterially by choreographer Bill T. Jones and his star, Sahr Ngaujah.

Transplanted from off-Broadway, “Fela!” is less structured than your typical Broadway musical but surely more encompassing than most.

On one level, it is the story of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Nigerian composer, singer, bandleader and political activist, founder in Lagos of the Shrine, a bastion of his populist music and ideas. From there sprung his and his followers’ resistance to successive totalitarian governments and his approximately 200 arrests, beatings and torture before his death at age 58 in 1997.

The show is partly storytelling (book by Jones and Jim Lewis) which can, despite some liberties taken, pass for history-telling. Fela was also the father of Afrobeat, which melded influences from Nigerian Yoruba to Coltrane, Afro-Cuban mambo to Sinatra and then some.

Visit Stage Voices blog for video:




(From Shirley Herz and Robert Lasko at Shirley Herz Associates.)

The Irish Repertory Theatre's hit revival of Eugene O'Neill's classic to play limited 7-week Off-Broadway engagement at Soho Playhouse


Directed by Ciaran O'Reilly


Following its sold-out run, The Irish Repertory Theatre Co. Inc. and Darren Lee Cole Theatricals are set to present The Irish Repertory Theatre's production of Eugene O'Neill's THE EMPEROR JONES – starring John Douglas Thompson as the charismatic Brutus Jones — Off-Broadway for a strictly limited 7-week engagement, with previews set to begin December 15 prior to an official press opening December 22, at Soho Playhouse (15 Vandam Street). Ciaran O'Reilly directs.

The production opened at The Irish Repertory Theatre on October 18 to critical acclaim. In his enthusiastic New York Times review, Ben Brantley called the production "an inspired revival starring the wondrous John Douglas Thompson." He added, "The Emperor has been returned to glory! I can't think of another show (in what has been a mostly lackluster season) that burns brighter." Terry Teachout, in the Wall Street Journal, proclaimed, "I doubt you'll ever see it done better." In the New York Post, Frank Scheck wrote that THE EMPEROR JONES is "one of O'Neill's most haunting, visceral works, and this nightmarish staging does it full justice! The evening's power is the central performance by John Douglas Thompson. Director Ciaran O'Reilly's production brilliantly depicts Jones' journey into the terrors of the jungle which seems to literally come to life thanks to the superbly designed puppets and masks." Time Out NY's Garrett Eisler called the production a "bold revival that executes O'Neill's vision to the hilt." And in the Associated Press, critic Jennifer Farrar, described the work as "spellbinding," adding "tightly directed by Ciaran O’Reilly, the production vividly creates the nightmare world of a man losing his grip on reality. The Emperor Jones is portrayed with vehement bravado."

THE EMPEROR JONES is the story of Brutus Jones, an African-American man who sets himself up as monarch of a Caribbean island after fleeing the United States following a prison break. The 1920 expressionistic drama is a compelling psychological portrayal of power, fear, and madness as it traces the life of the emperor as he tries to escape the island and the sins of his past.

THE EMPEROR JONES concludes December 6 at The Irish Repertory Theatre (132 West 22nd Street) where the acclaimed theatre company's revival of ERNEST IN LOVE, a musical adaptation of Oscar Wilde's THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST, directed by Charlotte Moore, begins previews December 12, prior to its official press opening December 20.

John Douglas Thompson — OBIE and Lucille Lortel Award-winning actor of last season's acclaimed revival of OTHELLO – returns as the enigmatic emperor. Original cast members Michael Akil Davis, Jon Deliz, Sameerah Harris, David Heron, and Sinclair Mitchell are set for the upcoming run.

Additional cast is to be announced.

The production includes original design team: set design by Charles Corcoran; costume design by Antonia Ford-Roberts; lighting design by Brian Nason; original music and sound design by Ryan Rumery and Christian Fredrickson; puppet design by Bob Flanagan; and choreography by Brian McNabb.

Last season, John Douglas Thompson thrilled Off-Broadway audiences with his performance as Othello (Theater for a New Audience), winning critical acclaim as well as an OBIE and Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actor. Mr. Thompson's Broadway credits include CYRANO DE BERGERAC with Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner, and JULIUS CEASAR, opposite Denzel Washington. Other notable Off-Broadway credits include WOMEN BEWARE WOMEN (Red Bull Theatre), HEDDA GABLER (New York Theatre Workshop), OROONOKO (Theatre for a New Audience), and Classical Theater of Harlem's KING LEAR, for which he received an AUDLECO nomination. He is profiled in the current issue of W Magazine.

Ciaran O'Reilly returns to O'Neill's work after having directed The Irish Rep's acclaimed revival of THE HAIRY APE (Drama Desk, Drama League, & Callaway nominations) in 2006. In past seasons, he has directed THE YEATS PROJECT; THE MASTER BUILDER; PRISONER OF THE CROWN; SIVE; DEFENDER OF THE FAITH; THE FIELD; PHILADELPHIA, HERE I COME! (Drama Desk nomination); and The Irish Rep original THE BELLS OF CHRISTMAS.

Darren Lee Cole (Producer/General Manager) has produced and managed plays for 30 years. Producing: KRAPP, 39 by Michael Laurence; MINDGAME by Anthony Horowitz (SoHo Playhouse); KILLER JOE by Tracy Letts (Vaudeville Theatre, West End, London; Soho Playhouse; The Theatre, Chicago); KILLING REAL ESTATE WOMEN by Gary Bonasorte; HIDING BEHIND COMETS, CHARLATON, O'KEEFE, NOSTALGIA TROPICAL (all NYC); and LATICIA AT L'ESPACE (Paris). Management credits: TANGO APPASSIONATO, directed by Graciella Daniele, THE BIG LOVE, PARTING GESTURES, LIFE IN A MARITAL INSTITUTION, THE AUNTS (all NYC); MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, LOVE LETTERS, OVER THE TAVERN (all Chicago); and FOR COLORED GIRLS… national tour. Mr. Cole has been the Executive Director of the SoHo Playhouse for the past 4 years where he has produced: PIAF, ROOM SERVICE, JAMAICA FAREWELL, BELLY OF A DRUNKEN PIANO, BUKOWSKI FROM BEYOND and Simon Lovell's STRANGE & UNUSUAL HOBBIES.

Co-founded by Producing Director Ciaran O'Reilly and Artistic Director Charlotte Moore, The Irish Repertory Theatre opened its doors in September 1988 with Sean O'Casey's THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS. The mission of the theatre was and remains to bring works by Irish and Irish-American masters and contemporary playwrights to American audiences; to provide a context for understanding the contemporary Irish American experience; and to encourage the development of new works focusing on the Irish and Irish American experience, as well as a range of other cultures.  The Irish Repertory Theatre continues its 22nd Season with ERNEST IN LOVE – a musical adaptation of Oscar Wilde's THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST, with previews to begin December 12, prior to its official press opening December 20, directed by Charlotte Moore.

For more information about Irish Repertory Theatre, visit

Performances of THE EMPEROR JONES are set to run December 15, 2009 through January 31, 2010 at Soho Playhouse (15 Vandam Street): Tuesdays-Saturdays at 8pm; plus 3pm matinees on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays (with Christmas and New Year's schedules to be announced). Tickets are $65 and are available by calling 212-691-1555 or online at



(Louise Jury's article appeared in the Evening Standard, 11/23.) 

It’s a Royal flush at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards

The Royal Court today turned cutting-edge drama into establishment success as it swept the board at the 55th London Evening Standard Theatre Awards.

With its two hit plays, Enron and Jerusalem, dominating major categories, the Sloane Square theatre stormed the glittering ceremony at the Royal Opera House to take four awards including best play, best actor and best director.

As the Donmar Warehouse, last year's out-and-out victor with a similar tally, handed on the powerhouse baton, it could take consolation in the best actress prize for Rachel Weisz's touching performance as Blanche DuBois in the Tennessee Williams classic A Streetcar Named Desire.

Gallery: Evening Standard Theatre Awards

And late starters everywhere can raise a glass to Lenny Henry who, at 51, was named outstanding newcomer over rising stars less than half his age for his assured stage debut in the title role of Shakespeare's Othello.

Henry said his mother, Winnie, who died in 1998, would have been "really chuffed". "I haven't done a play since nativity when I was six so I think it's a pretty good achievement. It's very encouraging to older artists. It feels like a massive stamp of approval."

Visit Stage Voices blog for video: