Monthly Archives: June 2015


(Lyn Gardner’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/30.)

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve seen three very different versions of the scene in Henry IV Part II, in which the future Henry V tries on his ailing father’s crown. And not a single one of them was exactly as it appears on the page. One was in The Famous Victories of Henry V, created for the RSC’s First Encounters programme, which cleverly takes a knife to both text and plot in a significantly pared-down version of both parts of Henry IV, plus Henry V. The second was near the beginning of Ivo van Hove’s Kings of War, performed in Dutch, which condenses several of Shakespeare’s plays to explore the nature of kingship and the responsibilities of leaders. The last was on Sunday night, watching some of Forced Entertainment’s table-top Shakespeare live-streamed on the Guardian’s website. Were any of these performances less Shakespearean than a full, uncut performance of the original text in English? I’d say a resounding no.


 (Alexis Soloski’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/25; via Pam Green.)

When the actress Mia Katigbak was a student at Barnard College in the 1970s, she was the only Asian-American studying theater and mostly got to play “maids and hookers,” she said. One day the department head asked her to join a Molière comedy. She would play the harpsichord from behind a screen, Ms. Katigbak recalls his saying, “because there were no Asians in France at that time.”

No one is putting her behind a screen anymore. Today Ms. Katigbak, known for tenacity and grace as a stage actress, is much in demand. And for the last 25 years, as co-founder and artistic producing director of the National Asian American Theater Company, she has made it her mission to send Asian-American actors wherever the theatrical canon may lead, from “Our Town” to “Othello” to “Antigone.” Molière’s plays, too.



(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/21.)

Time flies and crawls, warps and balances, melts and freezes. It passes by before you know it and it stands still forever. All those contradictory kinetic clichés are pulsing away in Elevator Repair Service’s mesmerizing “The Sound and the Fury,” which opened on Thursday night at the Public Theater.

Adapted from the opening section of William Faulkner’s 1929 novel — the chapter titled “April Seventh, 1928” —this sprawling but surreally symmetrical production dares to try to capture onstage one of the most dizzyingly subjective points of view ever committed to print. For the narrator here is a man with the mind of a child, someone who, as another character describes him, has “been 3 years old 30 years.”

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Openings and Previews

Amazing Grace


This new musical, by Christopher Smith and Arthur Giron, tells the story behind the famous hymn, as John Newton (Josh Young), a former slave-ship captain, finds musical inspiration during a journey on the high seas. Gabriel Barre directs. In previews.

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Awake and Sing!


The National Asian American Theatre Company performs Clifford Odets's 1935 drama, about a Jewish family living in the Bronx during the Depression. Stephen Brown-Fried directs. Previews begin July 6. Opens July 13.

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DruidShakespeare: The History Plays

Gerald W. Lynch Theatre, John Jay College

Druid Theatre Company returns to the Lincoln Center Festival, with Mark O'Rowe's marathon retelling of "Richard II," both parts of "Henry IV," and "Henry V," from an Irish perspective. Previews begin July 7. Opens July 11.

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Richard Rodgers

Lin-Manuel Miranda's hip-hop musical, in which Miranda plays the founding father Alexander Hamilton, moves to Broadway after a sold-out run at the Public. Thomas Kail directs. Previews begin July 13.

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The New York Musical Theatre Festival

Various locations

Selections at the twelfth annual festival include "Claudio Quest," about a Super Mario-like hero; "Acappella," about a gospel singer who hits it big; and the figure-skating saga "Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera." Opens July 7.

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The New York Story

Cherry Lane

Jerry Seinfeld directs Colin Quinn in a comic monologue about the evolution of New York City, from Dutch settlers to hipster Williamsburg. Previews begin July 9.

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Penn & Teller on Broadway


The duo perform a six-week run of magic and shtick, including tricks from their popular Las Vegas act. Previews begin July 7. Opens July 12.

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The Weir


The Irish Rep revives Conor McPherson’s 1997 drama, directed by Ciarán O’Reilly, set in a rural Irish pub. In previews. Opens July 9.

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(Buffini’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/29.)

In Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker, a shape-shifting spirit torments two teenage mothers. It is a play about psychosis and comes with stunning and seemingly impossible stage directions such as “pound coins come out of her mouth when she speaks” and “the woman gets on the kelpie’s back and rides off”. At the Manchester International festival this month, Maxine Peake plays Churchill’s shapeshifter. The thought of seeing the play staged excites me because the language at times avoids sense. The Skriker turns the theatre into the experience of being inside a fractured mind. It also shows a desire to push theatre as far as it can go as a visual, aural, live art form. As such, it is typical of Churchill, whose collaborations with dancers, choreographers, musicians and composers have been fuelled by curiosity. They are searches for what a play might be and how a story might be told – or a reality conveyed through spectacle.

I first became familiar with Churchill’s plays when I was a student in the 1980s. Top Girls, Vinegar Tom, Cloud Nine and Serious Money – all studied or seen in various student productions. I appreciated immediately Churchill’s use of history to explore the present, and the way she used humour and music to take you into the darkness. She had wit. She had courage. She wrote songs, huge speeches, rhyming couplets, scenes about having periods! She was playful with gender.



(Rosalyn Sulcas’s article appeared in The New York Times 6/24;  via Pam Green.)

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND — The setting is Red Hook, Brooklyn, in the 1950s. The protagonist is an Italian immigrant who works as a longshoreman, a tragic hero who is also a working-class Everyman. The writer is Arthur Miller.

But the story being reincarnated for the stage here is not “A View From the Bridge,” one of the Miller classics receiving attention in the centenary of his birth. It’s “The Hook,” written as a screenplay in 1950, six years before “Bridge” and finally seeing the light for the first time this month at the Royal & Derngate Theater.

“As soon as I read it, it was clear to me that this was a script that spoke to the present moment,” said James Dacre, the artistic director of the theater, who has spearheaded the resuscitation of “The Hook,” which will transfer to the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse next month.



(Michael Billinton’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/26.)

Ted Whitehead’s play caused a stir at the Royal Court in 1972 and has rarely been seen since. I can’t think why; as a portrait of domestic entrapment, it rivals Strindberg’s The Dance of Death. In Purni Morell’s impressively claustrophobic revival, we find ourselves close-up spectators of the unending war between a young Liverpool couple, Frank and Norma Elliott. What makes this such a painfully honest play is that Whitehead makes it clear it is a war no one can win, one that simply leaves its combatants in a state of despairing exhaustion.

Neither party can claim the moral high ground. Frank, who describes himself as an “apostolic alcoholic”, has a residual Catholicism but is prone to lacerating verbal tirades. Norma, while outwardly more controlled, is equally capable of vindictive attack and is not above using threatened suicide as a tactic. Whitehead’s ultimate point is that marriage, as we know it, is an institution no longer fit for purpose. While much has changed since the play was written, the vision of a couple bound together by a deadlocked, love-hate relationship still has potent currency.



(Ajay Kamalakaran’s article appeared in Russian Beyond the Headlines, 6/20.)

King Mongkut of Siam (Rama IV) is known as the “father of science and technology” in Thailand, since he chose to embrace Western scientific innovations and slowly opened up the country to the outside world in the 19th century.  The experiences of Anglo-Indian educator Anna Leonowens as the governess to the children of King Rama IV were first penned down in a novel by Margaret Landon and then adapted into a musical and film by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The man who played the lead role in the musical and film and become the face of Thailand in the West was Yul Brynner, a Russian-born actor.

Yuliy Borisovich Brynner, who played the role of King Rama IV a total of 4625 times on stage, was born in 1920 in the Russian Far Eastern city of Vladivostok. In ‘Yul: The Man who would be King: a Memoir of Father and Son,’ Rock Brynner wrote that his father exaggerated his background claiming he was born in Sakhalin as Taijde Khan. Some residents of Sakhalin still believe that the Hollywood actor was born on the island, but his actual birthplace is now a famous tourist attraction in Vladivostok.



(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/17; via Pam Green.)

Having a stroke is like going to a carnival in “My Perfect Mind,” a deceptively jolly account of a traumatic chapter in the life of the actor Edward Petherbridge that opened this week at 59E59 Theaters. Finger painting, cannonball tossing, wacky costumes, silly vaudeville sketches and a perilously sloped funhouse-style stage (with a trap door) are among the diversions on offer in this production, part of the Brits Off Broadway festival.

But all the merriment spun by the two performers here, Mr. Petherbridge and Paul Hunter, is chilled by an awareness that the mind of this play’s title (which is taken from “King Lear”) is a very fallible instrument. As Mr. Hunter explains in the opening scene, when the brain suffers trauma, “it swings around inside the head until it comes to rest in what we call the drop zone.”

And to illustrate the point, Mr. Hunter flings the previously mentioned cannonball into a crate of shattered crockery. By the way, for the occasion, Mr. Hunter has donned a white lab coat, a curly blond “Three Stooges” fright wig and a hokey German accent to portray a scientist of the cerebellum named Dr. Witznagel.