(Michael Feingold’s article appeared in the Village Voice, 8/1.)
Eugene O'Neill had much trouble with the ending of his play Anna Christie (1921). The producer of an early version, titled Chris Christophersen (1920), which folded in pre-Broadway tryout, ragged at him for making the final scene too grim. When O'Neill reworked the piece, shifting its central focus from the old barge captain to the daughter he had sent away in childhood, the critics ragged at him because the ending was now too facilely happy. The show became a hit, winning O'Neill his second consecutive Pulitzer Prize, but the criticisms still rankled. He grew so irritable on the subject that he contemplated omitting the play from his collected works.
(Carol Cheh’s article appeared in LA Weekly, 7/23.)
Perform Chinatown, a one-night festival of performance art, took over the Chinatown arts district on Saturday night. More than 40 artists occupied various nooks and crannies of Chung King Road and beyond with performances that were short or long, dour or humorous, heavy or light. While there were some excellent artists in the mix and several pieces that were worthy of extended consideration, the event as a whole failed to add up to a strong, cohesive presentation.
This is the fourth year that a performance art festival has been organized in Chinatown. The event began its life in 2009 as Perform! Now! and that iteration remains the strongest and most memorable. Organized by a small coalition of local artists and gallerists, that event featured, among other works, a now-legendary performance in which Dawn Kasper roared up in a pickup truck, blasted death metal and screamed about nihilism for five minutes, then roared back down the street again, hitting a parked car in the process. Kasper has since gone on to fame and glory via this year's Whitney Biennial. There also was a lovely recital of Yvonne Rainer's iconic Trio A dance by artist Simon Leung
(Dhananjai Shastri’s article appeared in The Hindu, 7/25.)
“I really am all alone.” These are the final words uttered in Little Theatre's adaptation of French playwright Jean Genet’s Deathwatch,titled Rajdhani.
Those five words sum up the tragedy that is the life of Iqbal, one of the three main characters in the play. This play is not so much about the plot — there is almost no action till the ending — but is more about the conversation, the mind games, the personalities, and the agendas of Iqbal, Muna, and Haraya.
The original play involves three prisoners locked up in a cell, where as in Rajdhani, the three main characters are runaway boys living on the platform of a railway station. Jean Genet chose the prison cell to elicit a sense of sadness and hopelessness. It seems in the Indian context, the same could be expressed through children living on a platform, not knowing when or how they will get their next meal, in a place where death could be just around the corner. In a sense, the platform is their prison cell; they have no home outside of it.
As always, Shaw is deceptive. The dilemma of the title is deliberately artificial: it boils down to whether Sir Colenso Ridgeon, a fashionable surgeon who has discovered a new TB inoculation, should save the life of a corrupt artistic genius, Louis Dubedat, or an irreproachably honest mediocrity. What complicates the issue is that Ridgeon is in love with Dubedat's wife. Shaw uses this as a peg to attack the medical profession's presumption of priestly impartiality and the incompetence of Ridgeon's colleagues, as well as to explore, in the shape of Jennifer Dubedat, the tenacity of romantic love.
(Tóibín’s article appeared in Bomb, Summer 2012; the clip above is Murphy with Sean Rocks.)
In Ireland in the 1980s, when I was starting to write, there was a relationship between the Irish theater and its audience that was raw, visceral, and immediate. As new plays came—by Brian Friel, or Billy Roche, or Frank McGuinness (and later by Marina Carr, Sebastian Barry, Martin McDonagh, Conor McPherson, Enda Walsh, and Mark O’Rowe)—there was a sense of real expectation and excitement. And as older classic Irish plays were performed by a new generation of Irish actors, that excitement was also there. Two of this period’s central figures entered our spirit and transformed the country in ways both clear and mysterious: the playwright Tom Murphy, who was born in Tuam in the west of Ireland in 1935, and the director Garry Hynes, almost 20 years younger than Murphy. The two began to work together in the mid-1980s and have come together again to revive three of Murphy’s plays—A Whistle in the Dark, Conversations on a Homecoming, and Famine.
I will never forget the opening nights of other plays by Murphy, such as The Gigli Concert (1983), about a man who wants to sing like Gigli, the writing filled with magic and sour wit and soaring language, and Bailegangaire (1985), where the great actress Siobhán McKenna played an old woman who has a story to tell which she cannot finish, whose ending will liberate her, those around her, and, by implication, the audience too. I will never forget a revival in the Abbey Theatre, directed by Hynes, of Murphy’s first play, A Whistle in the Dark, which had been a West End hit in the early 1960s. Or the first production of Conversations on a Homecoming, in Galway, in 1985, with the brilliant young actors from Druid Theatre doing committed and exemplary work. Or the epic production of Murphy’s play Famine, also in the mid-1980s in Galway, also directed by Hynes. Murphy’s restless imagination, something both soaring and uncompromising in his spirit as an artist, and his belief in the image and in the struggle to achieve raw perfection, make him an example to all of us. He is the writer whom other Irish writers most admire.
(Kerry Reid’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 7/16.)
A balmy suburban night provides a decidedly incongruous backdrop for one of the most problematic of Shakespeare's "problem plays." But though Alison C. Vesely's alfresco staging of "The Merchant of Venice" for First Folio at Oak Brook's Peabody Estate remains faithful to the original's Venetian setting, the play's pungent mix of spite, vengeance, greed and gossip — as toxic as the waters of the Grand Canal — feels right at home in our own acrimonious and narcissistic era. The ugly anti-Semitism that drives the plot remains the fiend at the elbow of all the characters — whether the embittered Jewish moneylender, Shylock, or the casually cruel and conniving Christian citizens who have long made sport at his expense along the Rialto.
(Matt Trueman’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/25.)
I've never known a festival so full of connecting threads. Every show programmed by curators Hortense Archambault and Victor Baudriller adds to the spiderweb in your head: economic crises stare down revolutionary ideals; globalisation locks horns with environmental concerns and various forms of inequality. A 360-degree commentary on today's world emerges over three weeks and 45 shows.
Well, 44, really: Arthur Nauzyciel's version of Chekhov's La Mouette (The Seagull) stands alone in its sheer awfulness. One could, I suppose, draw parallels between Chekhov's would-be playwright Treplyov, who defies popular tastes to seek truth through his art, and this production. But Nauzyciel is more concerned with tipping the play's unrequited loves into full-blown melodrama. Gallais wears a hunchbacked coat to suggest Treplyov's self-disgust at his inability to win Nina's love. With sighing and soliloquising, Nauzyciel stretches its 60 pages to four excruciating hours of over-acting and extreme enunciation. I swear one actor managed to squeeze four syllables out of the word "nuit".
The Eugene O’Neill Society has used “Eugene O’Neill, the College of Mount Saint Vincent, and a Religious and Literary Landmark in the Bronx” (originally posted on Stage Voices Web site in May) as part of its Summer 2012 newsletter–just released. Playwright and editor Jo Morello (http://jomorello.com/playwright.php) worked with Bob Shuman to excerpt the article, accessing additional interview material from Arthur Gelb, O’Neill biographer, past managing editor of The New York Times, author, and honorary O’Neill Society board member. The piece's accompanying photographs were taken by Marit Shuman.
For those interested in early O’Neill; for those who don’t know much about his life at Mount Saint Vincent–or the school’s connection to the masterpiece Long Day’s Journey into Night–the publication (which also includes stories regarding Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Theodore Mann, Maura O'Neill Jones, Maureen Dowd, Exorcism and The Iceman Cometh with Brian Dennehy and Nathan Lane, plus more) is about as close to heaven as anybody's going to get without going to confession first–