(Michael Feingold’s article appeared in the Village Voice, 12/1.)
Stephen Sondheim is now 80 years old and, by common consent, the most remarkable artist to have devoted his creative energies to the form we call the Broadway musical over the past half-century. Justifiably, the theatrical world has spent much of the past year celebrating his achievements in a variety of ways: a string of gala all-Sondheim concerts; a musical revue (Sondheim on Sondheim); a Broadway theater renamed for him; endless feature articles, interviews, and public forums—pretty much everything except christening an ocean liner the S.S. S. Sondheim.
(Anita Gates’s article ran in The New York Times, 11/28.)
Leslie Nielsen, the Canadian-born actor who in middle age tossed aside three decades of credibility in dramatic and romantic roles to make a new, far more successful career as a comic actor in films like “Airplane!” and the “Naked Gun” series, died on Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 84.
(Corey Kilgannon’s and Jason Grant’s article appeared 11/27 in The New York Times.)
An actor playing a dying Sigmund Freud in the Off Broadway play “Freud’s Last Session” collapsed onstage at an Upper West Side theater Saturday afternoon and was hospitalized.
It was “very much art imitating life,” said Carolyn Rossi Copeland, one of the play’s producers.
The actor, Martin Rayner, rose from an armchair as air raid sirens were heard on the sound system and fell to his knees some 30 minutes into the 75-minute drama that imagines a meeting in London between Freud and C. S. Lewis shortly before Freud’s death in 1939 at age 83.
(Listen to Peter Hall interview on BBC Radio 4 via link at Pirate Dog, posted by Aleks Sierz.)
Time for birthday celebrations. On the day of Sir Peter Hall’s birthday on 22 November (while I was away in Rome taking part in a theatre conference with playwright Martin Crimp), Mark Lawson interviewed him for Front Row on BBC Radio 4, just as he is preparing to direct Shakespeare’s Twefth Night for the National Theatre. It’s a fascinating account of a very long career, full of amusing insights and charming anecdotes. So brew up a cuppa and light a well-deserved cigarette, and listen again. Now.
(Matilda Battersby’s article appeared in the Independent 11/26.)
Watching End of the Rainbow, it's hard to believe that Judy Garland is dead, so closely does Tracie Bennett resemble her, bodily and in spirit. In Peter Quilter's play – a depiction of the one-time Dorothy's final fight for the limelight in the months before her death from an accidental drug overdose – Bennett nimbly rasps and cackles, seeming to speak and sing with the late actress's voice. Her triumphant performance shows Garland wrestling with a medley of addictions – to barbiturates, Benzedrine, Ritalin and other "adult candy" as well as to alcohol, men and applause. Her characterisation is at once alluring, in its dizzy abandon, and terrifying, as you watch a fragile person heading for the brink.
"Expressionist" is one of those handy terms that we critics use rather promiscuously. Historically, it was coined by a French painter in 1901 to suggest an alternative to impressionism. Later it was applied to a school of European dramatists in the years from 1907 to 1925. Now it is widely applied to anything that is non-realistic. But, however randomly deployed, it has its value. And what is striking is how applicable it is to much of today's theatre. In the past week I have seen three productions that all, in different ways, could be labelled expressionist.