Monthly Archives: December 2012


(Robert Hurwitt’s article appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, 12/9.)

Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan's sensuous melodies and sardonic lyrics envelop the fractured shards of Georg Büchner's unfinished script to create riveting theater in the "Woyzeck" that opened Friday at Shotgun Players' Ashby Stage. Director Mark Jackson blends their talents with those of his company to deliver one of the most exciting productions of the year.

This is a "Woyzeck" that's as emotionally compelling as it is intellectually stimulating and mordantly comic, which is a major achievement. Büchner's prescient drama, which the 24-year-old German radical was still writing when he died in 1837, has had a huge influence on modern drama in the many scripts (and Alban Berg's opera) later cobbled from his jumbled manuscripts. But few stagings of the tale of the common soldier who murdered his lover (based on a true story) attain the immediacy of this one.

Partly that's because of the restrained, almost offhand emotional intensity in the acting and singing of Alex Crowther's Woyzeck, Madeline H.D. Brown as his lover Marie and the rest of Jackson's almost perfect cast. But the show's impact also derives from how well the director builds on the genius of his predecessors.

Visionary director Robert Wilson had the idea of uniting the gritty, sardonic visions of Büchner and Waits, Wilson's collaborator on "Black Rider." Wilson pared down the script with adapter-translators Ann-Christin Rommen and Wolfgang Wiens to a crisp, concentrated libretto with a tight focus on the paranoid Woyzeck's borderline sanity cracking under the strain of military life, poverty, medical experiments and Marie's infidelity. Waits and his wife, Brennan, draw on Büchner's text to fill out the tale's heart as well as its worldview.

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(Alison Flood’s article appeared in the Guardian, 12/13.)

Experts in Denmark believe they have found the first story written by Hans Christian Andersen.

The Tallow Candle was discovered by local historian Esben Brage in the dense private archives of the Plum family, revealed Danish paper Politiken, which printed the story in its entirety today. Brage was in the reading room at the National Archive for Funen in Odense when he stumbled across a small, yellowing piece of paper at the bottom of a box and realised it might be important. Two months later, experts have now confirmed that the story was written by Andersen.


(Chris Jones’s article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, 11/29.)

Great actors — and Chicago's Kate Fry, to my mind, can compete with the Hollywood best of 'em — are able to show you the gamut of human emotions without ever saying a word. That's pretty much what is happening behind Books on Vernon, where Kimberly Senior, a rising Chicago director, is staging a rather smart and sexy thriller set in Soviet Russia.

Playwright John W. Lowell's "The Letters," a little chamber piece receiving its first Chicago-area production, is not exactly "War and Peace." But this taut two-character play certainly holds one's attention for 80 minutes, partly due to Fry's beguiling performance and partly by keeping you guessing as where it will slither next.

At the start of the action, we meet Anna (Fry), some kind of editorial apparatchik within some unspecified Soviet bureaucracy, whose job seems to be censoring the correspondence of others. Anna has been called into the office of her boss, The Director (Mark L. Montgomery). It's not clear why. Perhaps The Director is offering her a promotion. Perhaps he is abusing his position of authority to make a sexual pass in this young widow's direction. Perhaps this is a political prosecution. Perhaps he is just looking for information, or a confidante, or a mother confessor, or a lover, or a victim.,0,4541200.column

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(Jason Zinoman’s article appeared in The New York Times, 12/10.)

In 1955 Orson Welles hatched a characteristically ambitious plan to stage the tragedy “King Lear” with Ben Jonson’s “Volpone,” a contemporaneous comedy.

“Volpone, or the Fox” was eventually shelved, which is too bad since these classic plays
make an illuminating contrast. They begin with the same plot device (a wealthy, aging man entertains three potential heirs), suggesting that even the greatest art relies on conventions as well as originality. Welles mounted “King Lear” with Alvin Epstein as the Fool. A half-century later Mr. Epstein, who starred in an acclaimed recent “Lear,” makes the most of a second chance, charmingly
playing an aging buffoon in the Red Bull Theater’s appealing new “Volpone.”



Openings and Previews

Event: BUMBUG the Musical

Venue: Clurman Theatre

Samrat Chakrabarti and Sanjiv Jhaveri wrote this rock-opera version of “A Christmas .
. .

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Event: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Venue: Richard Rodgers Theatre

Scarlett Johansson, Benjamin Walker, Ciarán Hinds, and Debra Monk star in a . . .

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Event: Faust: A Love Story

Venue: BAM—Harvey Theatre

Gísli Örn Gardarsson directs a reimagining of Goethe’s play, written by Gardarsson .
. .

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Event: The Other Place

Venue: Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

Laurie Metcalf stars in a thriller by Sharr White, about a neurologist . . .

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Event: Picnic

Venue: American Airlines Theatre

Roundabout Theatre Company presents William Inge’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play from 1953,
in . . .

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Event: Water by the Spoonful

Venue: Second Stage Theatre

Davis McCallum directs this Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Quiara Alegría Hudes,
about . . .

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Event: What Rhymes with America

Venue: Atlantic Theatre Company

Atlantic Theatre Company presents Melissa James Gibson’s play, which explores the
relationship . . .

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Event: Working

Venue: 59E59 Theatres

Prospect Theatre Company revives the musical adapted from the book by Studs . . .

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(from, 12/6.)

China's Nobel literature winner Mo Yan on Thursday called for more attention on Chinese literature from readers around the world, and said he would produce more quality works in the future.

Speaking at a news conference in Stockholm days before he is expected to receive his Nobel prize along with the winners in medicine, physics, chemistry and economics, Mo Yan said he hoped that people would read more works from other Chinese writers as well.

Asked about which one of his books he would recommend to western readers, Mo Yan said he would choose "Life and Death are Wearing Me Out," as "with a great imagination, the novel is like a fairy tale and reflects changes in China over a long time."

He also voiced his support to young writers. "The hope of literature in the future lies in young writers," said the Nobel Prize laureate. 




(Jareen Imam’s article appeared on CNN.COM, 12/8.)

Is this the end of "Gangnam Style" mania?

Korean pop star PSY — who rose to fame through his YouTube record-breaking video "Gangnam Style" — apologized Friday for anti-American lyrics he rapped back in 2004.

That performance resurfaced on CNN's iReport and then circulated widely online. It included lyrics calling for the death of American troops serving in Iraq, not long after news of the brutal slaying of a South Korean hostage by Iraqi insurgents — an incident which sparked anti-American sentiment in South Korea.



(from the Guardian, 12/7.)

American literature classics are to be replaced by insulation manuals and plant inventories in US classrooms by 2014.

A new school curriculum which will affect 46 out of 50 states will make it compulsory for at least 70 per cent of books studied to be non-fiction, in an effort to ready pupils for the workplace.

Books such as JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird will be replaced by "informational texts" approved by the Common Core State Standards.

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(Eric Sundermann’s article appeared in the Village Voice, 12/5.)

Heartbreak. It's an age-old concept, but what exactly happens when your heart "breaks?" Do you go
through physical pain? Do you hear it snapping in half like a twig? Does a pink cartoon shape inside your chest split in two while a George Michael song from 1987 plays in the background?

The answer probably lies somewhere among all three. Relationships are one of life's great mysteries, and how they begin and end often cannot be explained on a pragmatic level. Writer Adam Szymkowicz's Hearts Like Fists, now at the Secret Theatre, is a silly, over-the-top, and adventurous comic book-style play that offers a fun, twisted exploration of what it means when someone
Hulk-smashes your heart on the ground into a million pieces.



(from CBS Charlotte, 12/5.)

A church caught at the center of a controversy regarding a school trip to see their production of “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” has decided to cancel the show.

The Agape Church in Little Rock, which had initially intended to present the show to school children on Dec. 14, released a statement to KATV regarding their decision, signed by Pastor Happy Caldwell.

“[B]ecause of what this issue has become, as a church, it is not our desire to put hard-working, sacrificial teachers and cast members in harm’s way,” the release stated.

Instead of matinees for school children, a public performance will be offered at the church on Dec. 15.

The trouble reportedly stemmed from an invitation to first and second grade students at Terry Elementary School to see the Christmas production.