Monthly Archives: January 2016



(Laura Collins-Hughes’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/27.)

Like a slightly dotty professor addressing a lecture hall, Marylouise Burke paces the stage and talks of Molière. He wanted to be a tragic actor, she tells us in her cartoon voice, but his stutter sent him into comedy instead.

Tiny and fluttery, Ms. Burke seems made for the purely comic, too. A favorite of David Lindsay-Abaire’s, she’s a surprising match for the experimental companies Mabou Mines and Trick Saddle. That’s true even though part of her charge in their new show, “Imagining the Imaginary Invalid” — a large-cast elegy with laughter, loosely remixed from Molière’s play “The Imaginary Invalid” — is the starring role of the ridiculous hypochondriac Argan.


(Andrew Dickson’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/27.)

Anticipation is already high for Peter Brook’s return to Britain next month with a new piece of theatre based on his canonical version of the Mahabharata. Brook, now 90, is regularly feted as the most influential director alive; his fleeting trips to the UK have taken on the aspect of a revered elder paying a visit to the waiting faithful.

Yet alongside Brook’s name on the posters for Battlefield is another, not often noticed: that of Marie-Hélène Estienne. Trusted lieutenant, enforcer, co-writer, co-creator: however Estienne is described, she has been at Brook’s side for the last 40 years. For the past 20, he has barely made work without her. Yet she remains an enigma, and in hundreds of articles about Brook she barely merits a mention. Calling her unsung doesn’t quite do it: she might be the most famous theatremaker no one has ever heard of.

We meet in Paris at the Bouffes du Nord, the former music hall hemmed in by sari shops and Turkish grocery stores a few streets from the Gare du Nord. When I enter the cramped conference room backstage, Estienne is waiting: hair in a sharp pixie crop, a clear, forthright gaze. She is charming and happy to talk, but there are many things to do today. As I fiddle with the recorder, she checks her watch.


(Malcolm’s article appeared in The New York Review of Books, 2/11.)


by Jonathan Bate

Harper, 662 pp., $40.00

On page 313 of his biography of Ted Hughes, Jonathan Bate paraphrases a racy passage from the journal Sylvia Plath kept in the last months of her life:

On the day that she found Yeats’s house in Fitzroy Road, she rushed round in a fever of excitement to tell Al [Alvarez]. That evening, she noted in her journal with her usual acerbic wit, they were engaged in a certain activity when the telephone rang. She put her foot over his penis so that, as she phrased it, he was appropriately attired to receive the call.

We assume that Bate is paraphrasing rather than quoting Plath’s entry because of the copyright law prohibiting quotation of unpublished writing without permission of the writer or of his or her estate. As Bate wrote in The Guardian in April 2014, in an angry article entitled “How the Actions of the Ted Hughes Estate Will Change My Biography,” the estate had abruptly withdrawn permission to quote after initially enthusiastically approving “my plan for what I called ‘a literary life.’”


(Hedy Weiss’s article appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, 1 /27.)

Here are a few things you should know about Neil LaBute’s paired programs of 11 one acts, which are organized under the separate titles, “Virtues” and “Vices,” and are now receiving highly polished, intensely acted performances at Profiles Theatre:

  1. The great majority of these one- and two-character plays will crawl right under your skin, leaving you chastened, questioning and nodding. But also, at times, you might be ready to shout: “Okay, this time you’ve just pushed things too far.”
  2. If you’re looking for any clear differentiation between LaBute’s assessment of the nature of virtue and vice you had best look elsewhere. Those characters who appear to behave virtuously invariably do so in order to get something for themselves, or at best to relieve an itch. As for those who are well aware of their vices, they know just how to use the veneer of virtue to do the same. (Welcome to the world according to LaBute, who in one form or another has been exploring this rocky moral turf throughout his career.)



(Helene Stapinskijan’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/22; via Pam Green.)

When Arthur Miller first visited his country cousins in Brooklyn in the early 1920s, Midwood was not just a neighborhood, it was a description. Patches of woods stood thick enough near their East Fifth Street home that the boys could hunt squirrels, rabbits and other small game. There were muddy paths and tomato fields, and big sacks of potatoes in the cellar.

Miller’s two salesman uncles — on whom he would base the character Willy Loman — were urban pioneers, planting roots in the borough just after World War I.

The woods have been replaced by houses and streets, but much of what Miller loved and used as inspiration for his plays can still be found.

The centennial of Miller’s birth on Oct. 17, 1915, has put his name front and center in the New York theater world. Among revivals of his work, a spare, searing British production of “A View From the Bridge,” has drawn stellar reviews; “The Crucible,” starring Saoirse Ronan, starts previews in a few weeks; and a centennial celebration reading will be held at the Lyceum Theater in Midtown on Monday.

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(Acocella’s article appeared in the New York Review of Books, 1/14.)

‘Brodsky/Baryshnikov’ a theater piece written and directed by Alvis Hermanis

New Riga Theatre, Riga, Latvia, October 15–November 7, 2015 Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York City, March 9–19, 2016

Many emotions are entwined in the theater piece Brodsky/Baryshnikov, which had its premiere at the New Riga Theater in October and will open at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York in March. Its subject is Joseph Brodsky, who was born in Leningrad in 1940 and died in Brooklyn in 1996. Other Russians of Brodsky’s time—notably his great elders Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, Marina Tsvetaeva, and Boris Pasternak—were made to feel more keenly than he their government’s scorn for artists, but his case too is notorious. Soon after he began circulating verse in samizdat in his late teens, he came under the eye of the authorities. He was denounced in a Leningrad newspaper in 1963 as “pornographic and anti-Soviet.” In 1964, he was tried for “social parasitism” and sentenced to five years’ hard labor.

He landed in the small village of Norenskaya, in the Arkhangelsk region of the Arctic. By day he chopped wood and hauled manure. By night he taught himself English, and read English and American poetry—above all, John Donne, Robert Frost, and his idol, W.H. Auden—in his hut. He later said that this was one of the happiest times of his life. Meanwhile, the transcript of his trial had been smuggled to the West, and his case became an international scandal. Embarrassed, the Brezhnev government released him after only a year and a half.



(2016 by Patricia N. Saffran)

New Yorkers, international film makers and guests were fortunate to attend the fantastic third annual Equus Film Festival. Founded and directed by Illinois horse breeder, Lisa Diersen, the festival was held on November 19-20th at the historic Village East Cinema on 12th St and 2nd Ave. A boisterous well-attended kickoff party took place at Manhattan Saddlery, one of the sponsors. The number of films was overwhelming with 145 full length features, shorts, music videos and ads. Some of the films were partially funded by Kickstarter, the new megaforce in the arts. A festive atmosphere was provided by art, photo and book displays at the theater and at the Equus Pop Up Gallery at the nearby Ukrainian Village East Banquet Hall. Many of the artists, photographers and authors were on hand for discussions. Equus Magazine Directors’ Panels on horse issues took place concurrently to the screenings, with top experts speaking about horse health, abuse, therapy, legal issues and much more. After each panel, in the theater lobby, it was possible to ask the experts and film makers to further explain their views. The Whinnie Awards, equine equivalent of the Oscars, topped off the action on Saturday night. On Sunday, ticket holders visited Clinton Park Carriage Horse Stables on West 52nd Street. Some festival highlights follow:

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(Erik Piepenburg’s and Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/25; via Pam Green.)

There were pops of “Wicked” green and “Sweeney Todd” red among the whiteout conditions in Manhattan over the weekend at the first BroadwayCon, a theater-themed fan convention that hopes to do for Broadway devotion what Comic-Con International, in San Diego, has done for superhero worship. Nearly 6,000 people from around the world, most of them young women, turned out for the three-day event at the New York Hilton Midtown, according to event organizers.

Despite the massive storm that shut down Broadway on Saturday and forced the cancellations of appearances by several high-profile celebrities at BroadwayCon, including the actors Darren Criss and Jeremy Jordan, the show went on, with panel discussions, singalongs and a Saturday night cabaret that turned a ballroom into a theater camp-style slumber party.

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(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/27.)  

It is important to remember that Florian Zeller’s 2010 play was written four years before The Father. The two works have a lot in common, including a deft Christopher Hampton translation, a provenance at the Ustinov Studio, Bath, and a focus on the elusiveness of objective reality. But while The Mother is deeply involving, it strikes me as more formulaic than its successor.

As in Zeller’s study of dementia, we are offered differing versions of the same experience. The stressed-out 47-year-old protagonist, Anne, is a woman who claims: “I’ve been had all the way down the line.” She is fretfully suspicious of her husband, Peter, about to leave her for a four-day business conference in Leicester. She is even more desolate about her neglect by her son, Nicholas, and fiercely jealous of his relationship with his girlfriend, Elodie. Zeller plays beautifully on the fears and anxieties of a woman who has invested everything in family relationships and for whom, in midlife, society provides no visible role. But while the play tantalises and intrigues, it never quite achieves the fluidity Zeller perfected in The Father: there is a discernible pattern to Anne’s alternation of confrontational aggression and morose depression.



(David Jays’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/25.)

Deafenitely Theare was the first company of deaf actors to perform a full-length Shakespeare play, at the Globe in London. In 2012, we were approached to doLove’s Labour’s Lost as part of the Globe to Globe festival, which aimed to celebrate Shakespeare’s plays and perform each of them in a different language. It’s a very difficult play, rarely performed and relatively unknown. There is no existing British sign language translation, and it was difficult to research around it.

I had previously avoided Shakespeare. My education failed me. I considered Shakespeare to be something for academics: I knew the stories, but didn’t have access to the language. Later, as an actor, I played Lavinia in Titus Andronicus at the Bolton Octagon: she has her tongue cut out, so doesn’t say much!