Monthly Archives: December 2015



(Matt Wolf’s article appeared in The New York Times, 12/15; via Pam Green.)

LONDON — “Cruelty,” purrs Janet McTeer, the scintillating epicenter of an unbalanced revival of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” that opened last week at the Donmar Warehouse here. And with a single word, the ever-vibrant actress makes an aphrodisiac out of malevolence.

So long as Ms. McTeer is center stage as the Marquise de Merteuil, one of a pair of sexually devious power players in 18th-century France, all is right with this portrait of the haut monde heedlessly gliding its way toward the guillotine.

Imposing of stature and sinuous of speech, Ms. McTeer lends a flickering allure to Josie Rourke’s production of Christopher Hampton’s 1985 play that stormed Broadway two years later. A 1988 film won Mr. Hampton an Oscar for his screenplay, which like the play was adapted from the 1782 epistolary novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.



(Susannah Clapp’s article appeared in the Guardian, 12/27.)

Found111 is proving to be an inspiring dramatic place. First it housed Tooting Arts’s dynamic production of Barbarians. Now it stages Richard Greenberg’s riveting play. Simon Evans’s production contains some of the best acting in London. He and designer Ben Stones make the eccentric space at the top of the former St Martins School of Art so much their own that this feels like a site-specific drama.

The Dazzle, first seen in New York in 2002, is loosely based on the story of the hoarding Collyer brothers, who lived sequestered in Manhattan, tunnelling through accumulated stuff and eventually dying underneath it. Greenberg reimagines their lives as a dance of death. He does so in an extraordinary conjuring of squalor and dandy dialogue, filth and baroque delicacy. This is so unexpected that it rings true.


(Soloski’s article appeared in the Guardian, 12/24.)

1. Hamilton

At this point it’s almost embarrassing to devote any more ink or pixels to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s triumphant musical. A scrupulous history of America’s sexiest founding father, Alexander Hamilton, Miranda’s piece makes Federalism scintillating, restoring the radicalism of America’s birth and radicalising Broadway a little, too. This is a show both theatrically exhilarating and politically necessary.

The script and songs recontextualise the revolutionary war as a battle fought by a scrappy band of immigrants, an important corrective considering so much of the Republican rhetoric now circulating. Miranda uses the vernacular of the streets and of Broadway, too, crafting a musical language of rap, R&B, hip-hop, pop, rock, the American songbook and show tunes. Stephen Sondheim is a fan. So is Questlove. So is everyone else.

It’s marvelous to experience a show this smart and this populist at the same time. Miranda is a bona fide genius (he has the MacArthur grant to prove it). His lyrics distil a remarkable amount of American history and he isn’t afraid to go full wonk, particularly in the second act, with its cabinet meetings staged as rap battles and its attention to The Federalist Papers. But the jokes, sick beats, and propulsive energy of the show will please even those who don’t know much about history and don’t care to. And good luck getting through the final scene without sobbing into your Playbill.

The wildly talented cast is of mixed ethnicity and this is sadly rare on Broadway, where even when diversity does arrive, it does so in limited niches – African Americans in The Color Purple, Asian Americans in Allegiance, Hispanic Americans in On Your Feet! Hamilton doesn’t traffic in such categories and it shows that a good story very well told will appeal to a wide range of ticket buyers, regardless of race. If there is justice on Broadway (a debatable proposition), producers will take note. Read the review


(Feingold’s article appeared on Theatermania, 11/27.)

Before he was established as a playwright, Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) had already attracted notice as a promising poet. Before he wrote the plays for which he is best known today — the 12-play cycle referred to as his "realistic" or "domestic" plays — he had spent over two decades becoming a major European figure in a wholly different realm of playwriting. Until Pillars of Society, the play on which Arthur Miller modeled All My Sons, appeared in 1877, Ibsen was known chiefly as a writer of large-scale, post-Shakespearean dramas, historical or philosophic, of the kind with which writers like Goethe and Schiller had inaugurated the Romantic movement nearly a century earlier.

This prolonged apprenticeship produced some texts that remain both significant and theatrically viable. The two still most familiar, ironically, were both originally written to be read rather than staged. Yet the theatrical imagination behind Brand (1866) and Peer Gynt (1867) packed so much power that people immediately began performing excerpts from both in public readings, and both fairly soon found their way into the world's repertoire. (Peer Gynt got an extra boost from the immense popularity of the incidental music that Edvard Grieg composed for its first production, in 1876.)


(Susan Njanji’s article appeared on AFP 12/26; via the Drudge Report.)

Johannesburg (AFP) – Race relations are still a touchy subject in South Africa, but edgy jokes in comedy clubs release bottled-up social tension and trigger gales of laughter from multiracial audiences.

"Apartheid wasn't funny," says Mahlatse Botopela, 24, a black member of the audience at a recent show at a hotel in Krugersdorp near Johannesburg.

But when it is joked about, it helps with the "healing process… it's something you can relate to," she says.

Her white friend, Elizma Hatlen, agrees: laughing about race "helps us to adapt to one another".


(Adam Hetrick’s article appeared in Playbill, 12/18; via Pam Green.)

A package that establishes equal tax treatment for live theatrical productions was signed into law Dec. 18 by President Barack Obama. Broadway producers spoke exclusively with about how this legislature will impact the "art of making art."

The bill levels the playing field between New York-based theatrical productions and film and television shows. Current tax codes allow TV and film productions to expense up to $15 million in qualified costs, when 75 percent of compensation paid is for services performed in the United States. Broadway shows and other live theatrical productions did not previously qualify for the tax incentive.

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer is among those who supported of the passage of the legislation. The law allows 100 percent of an investment to be deducted by the investor from his or her income in the year of the investment.

Beginning January 2016, all forms of entertainment media will be treated similarly by the IRS, essentially allowing producers to immediately recoup their investments prior to taxes being assessed on profits earned.



(Michael Calia’s interview appeared in the Wall Street Journal, 12/7; via Pam Green.)

Marion Cotillard always knew she would end up playing Lady Macbeth, but she never thought it would be in a movie — or in English. She stars in the latest film version of the Scottish Play, which expands to wide release in the U.S. later this week after premiering in several other markets.

“I had read Shakespeare, but in French, and I had seen Shakespeare onstage and in French,” the actress told Speakeasy. “So it was the first time I read and actually had to work on a Shakespeare [play] in English.”

Cotillard, who won a Best Actress Oscar for 2008’s “La Vie en Rose” and was nominated for last year’s “Two Days, One Night,” again finds herself in the thick of awards-season chatter for her turn opposite Michael Fassbender’s Macbeth in director Justin Kurzel’s acclaimed adaptation. She is reuniting with Fassbender and Kurzel on an unlikely follow-up, too: next year’s videogame adaptation “Assassin Creed.” (She’s never played the game, by the way.)


(Charles Isherwood’s article appeared in The New York Times, 12/21.)

The sorry state of the world gives us new reason to appreciate the depth of feeling so powerfully, so ingeniously embedded in “Fiddler on the Roof,” the much-loved and much-revived 1964 musical comedy that has returned to Broadway at a time when its story of the gradual disintegration of a family, and a community, strikes home with unusual force.

The superb new production, which opened on Sunday at the Broadway Theater, certainly honors the show’s ebullience of spirit, as embodied in the central character of the Jewish milkman Tevye, living in a Russian shtetl in the early 20th century, eternally wagging his tongue, shaking his fist and cracking wise at an indifferent God.