Monthly Archives: March 2016



(Carmal Dagan’s article appeared in Variety, 3/23; via Pam Green.)

Emmy and Tony winner Ken Howard, the tall, barrel-chested actor known for starring in CBS’ late ’70s sports drama “The White Shadow,” NBC drama “Crossing Jordan” and, more recently, for his appearances on “30 Rock” as well as for his presidency of SAG-AFTRA, died Wednesday. He was 71.

SAG-AFTRA announced that he died at his home near Los Angeles. A cause of death has not yet been revealed.

“Ken was a remarkable leader and his powerful vision for this union was a source of inspiration for all of us,” SAG-AFTRA acting president Gabrielle Carteris said in a statement “He was an exceptional person and we are deeply saddened by his passing. He had a remarkable career and he never forgot what it was like to be a working performer. The merger of SAG and AFTRA was something of a ‘North Star’ for him and, once he fixed upon it, he never wavered from that goal. My heart goes out to his loving wife, Linda, and to their family. He will be deeply missed.”


(Brian Petty–additional editing by Caitlin Womersley—appeared 3/21 at the Innovative Theatre Awards.)  

In 2015 artist, singer, author and philanthropist, Donn Russell received the Founders Award from the Innovative Theatre Foundation. This honor was bestowed in recognition of his 50 years of service to the community. He has dedicated much of his life to discovering some truly exceptional and innovative artists and supporting their work. In addition, he has lived an incredibly bold and adventurous life, which could serve as inspiration for us all.

Russell's art is so prolific and he is such an epic storyteller, that being assigned to write this article was a bit intimidating. Encapsulating a life's work in a few words seemed a daunting mission. However, even the storyteller needs to have his story told, and an interview offered me the perfect way to break into that story. 


(Jennier Ouellette’s article appeared on Gizmodo; via Pam Green.)

Most NYC subway riders are pretty blasé when panhandlers hit them up for cash between stations. When a panhandler announced he was collecting funds to build a time machine, riders chuckled at the odd request—until another man boarded the train and announced he was the inventor’s future self. He implored them not to give any money because time travel will ruin everything.

It sounds just like that X-Files episode (“Synchrony”) where a scientist travels from the future to stop his younger self from making the cryobiological compound that will one day enable time travel. But it’s actually an elaborate prank by Improv Everywhere:


(Paul Preston’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/18.)

Next week the Southwark Playhouse in London will host what will be only the second production in Britain of Ernest Hemingway’s 1937 play, The Fifth Column (the first, produced by Michael Powell, toured in early 1944). Hemingway wrote the play while in Madrid covering the Spanish civil war for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Although the main fighting was by then in the north, Madrid was still subjected to daily artillery bombardment and aerial bombing. Virtually surrounded by four columns of Francoist troops, the city was plagued by a fifth column of snipers and saboteurs. Although not a great play, it is a fascinating one for what it tells us about Hemingway himself.



Openings and Previews

American Psycho


Benjamin Walker plays the murderous financier Patrick Bateman, in a musical adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel by Duncan Sheik and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Rupert Goold directs. In previews.

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Antlia Pneumatica

Peter Jay Sharp

In a new play by Anne Washburn, directed by Ken Rus Schmoll, a group of estranged friends gather at a Texas ranch house to bury one of their peers. In previews. Opens April 4.

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Bright Star


Steve Martin and Edie Brickell wrote this bluegrass-and-Americana musical, in which a magazine editor meets a soldier returning from the Second World War. Walter Bobbie directs. In previews. Opens March 24.

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Charles Busch's Cleopatra

Theatre for the New City

Busch stars in his latest drag romp, a take on the Egyptian queen, directed by Carl Andress. Opens March 25.

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The Crucible

Walter Kerr

Ivo van Hove directs Arthur Miller’s classic drama about the Salem witch trials, starring Saoirse Ronan, Ben Whishaw, Ciarán Hinds, and Sophie Okonedo. In previews. Opens March 31.

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The Father

Samuel J. Friedman

Frank Langella stars in a play by the French writer Florian Zeller, translated by Christopher Hampton and directed by Doug Hughes for Manhattan Theatre Club, about an eighty-year-old man who is losing his grip on his life story. In previews.

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Head of Passes


In Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play, inspired by the Book of Job, Phylicia Rashad plays a Mississippi woman celebrating her birthday and fighting a leaky roof. Tina Landau directs.

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King and Country: Shakespeare's Great Cycle of Kings

BAM's Harvey Theatre

The Royal Shakespeare Company marks the four-hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare’s death by performing “Richard II,” both parts of “Henry IV,” and “Henry V” in repertory. In previews. Opens April 5.

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Nathan the Wise

Classic Stage Company

In Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s play, adapted by Edward Kemp and directed by Brian Kulick, F. Murray Abraham plays a Jewish merchant in Jerusalem in 1192. In previews.

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Abrons Arts Center

Richard Maxwell directs a new play by Jackie Sibblies Drury, about a black photographer who takes portraits of her boyfriend’s mother. Opens March 23.

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Shuffle Along

Music Box

Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Billy Porter star in a musical about the making of a popular African-American stage show from the nineteen-twenties. Directed by George C. Wolfe and choreographed by Savion Glover. In previews.

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Stupid Fucking Bird


Davis McCallum directs Aaron Posner’s riff on Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” reset in the twenty-first century. In previews. Opens March 28.

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Brooks Atkinson

Jessie Mueller stars in a new musical based on the 2007 film, about a small-town waitress who enters a baking contest, with music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles. Diane Paulus directs. In previews.

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(Feingold’s article appeared on theatermania, 3/18.)

A few weeks ago, I saw a bad production of a great play. I won't mention the play's title or the theater's name, because I like the people involved, I value their efforts, and I bear them no ill will. They chose to do a great play, they fought hard to do it justice — oh, how well all of us in the theater know that story! — and they didn't succeed, except in patches. But I won't write them off, and neither should you. After all, they aimed for greatness.

Naturally, the event set me thinking. Great plays do that. This one made me think about power and politics, about the state and the individual, about why we live and how we should live. But then, contemplating the frenzied flood of press invites to new plays in my inbox, I started to think about something else: the dearth of greatness within our profusion of productions. It sometimes seems to me as if today's theatermakers shy away from greatness, as if they had been actively discouraged from aiming for it.



(Susan King’s article appeared in the LA Times, 3/17; via Pam Green/Patricia N. Saffran.)

Lainie Kazan went from understudy to star — and it wasn't by accident.

Kazan was the understudy five decades ago for Barbra Streisand in her well-known Broadway role as Ziegfeld Follies star Fanny Brice in "Funny Girl." Though she had a part in the musical as a Ziegfeld showgirl, Kazan waited 18 months to play the lead.

"Barbra didn't want me to go on," Kazan recalled. "I can't blame her. It was her part, her everything."



Trevor Nunn is having fun, falling in love with the American ‘50s look, casting nubile blondes in his spacious Pericles, currently playing–and extended through April 10–at Theatre for a New Audience/Polonsky Shakespeare Center. The strange, dark play (circa 1607) isn’t a tragedy, yet it incorporates sickening moments of Shakespearean horror (incest and cannibalism). What the work reminds most of is a pageant or picaresque adventure, with a familial reunion reminiscent of one used as far back as The Comedy of Errors, as well as the late masterwork The Winter’s Tale. Choosing dizzy, light counterbalance with his casting, Nunn’s rhythm for the piece is steady, as if guiding a ship through a storm (the play itself is largely set on the lands and waters of the crashing Aegean). Nevertheless, the pacing does take away from the build to the emotionality of the final recognitions. Cia Crovatin, in jiggling Marilyn Monroe mode, along with her nutty, prosperous father, Earl Baker Jr., joins Lilly Englert, as the virgin/whore Marina, surely one of the most contradictory of characters in the canon. Englert is something of a contradiction herself, the most easily misunderstood of actresses, sounding perennially as if she has a sore throat—she is clearer in her diction here than in her role as Hermia in Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  There are other actresses to watch in this production as well (even more so than the men, actually): Patrice Jonson plays a no-nonsense madam with a stripped-out voice, beyond rage—some will recall her steely conviction in Tamburlaine, also at the Polansky. Another actress to watch is Sam Morales, who plays two smaller roles, yet who focuses attention. The men’s parts are not as affecting, despite the quality of acting. Christian Camargo can be a rather offbeat Shakespearean, for those who have seen his Ariel in The Tempest, which was part of the Bridge Project at BAM  in 2010. There he was wildly iconoclastic: part alien or Goth.  Pericles seems not to have stirred his imagination to the same degree of creativity (and maybe it can’t–Shakespeare loses sight of the role in the latter part of the play to concentrate on Marina).  The actor looks a bit thin, if somehow translucent, in a part that, after Ariel, doesn’t give him, or us, much to invest in.  The other men, including Will Swenson and Raphael Nash Thompson, can’t color outside of the lines: their parts come to us more from fairy tales and fables, not warring personality inconsistencies. Nunn’s Pericles, is a first-rate minimalistic production (which can remind of Fosse's Pippin, 1972; the design is by Robert Jones and may owe something to the work of Tony Waltonof a play that seems more epic theatre than psychological—a perverse fairy tale for grownups, staged, with music, as if it might be for children.  

Visit Theatre for a New Audience tickets:

© 2016 by Bob Shuman. All rights reserved.

Press: Bruce Cohen.  

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(Lyn Gardner’s and Mark Cook’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/18.)

Bug London

You must have had your head in a bucket of quick-drying cement if you haven’t seen James Norton on TV of late: as murderer Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley, Prince Andrei in War And Pace and Grantchester’s cute parson sleuth. He’s certainly versatile (and busy). Now he takes to the stage at the new pop-up Found 111 on Charing Cross Road, the venue that had a hit over Christmas with The Dazzle. Norton joins Kate Fleetwood (who recently played Medea at the Almeida) in Bug, the pair star as a war vet and a lonely cocktail waitress in a play set in a motel room in Oklahoma City. Tracy Letts, who also penned August: Osage County, premiered Bug at Notting Hill’s Gate Theatre in 1996, while a 2006 film version starred Michael Shannon, Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr.

Found 111, WC2, Thu to 7 May


The Shepherd’s Life Keswick

In 2015, James Rebanks’s account of life on the Lake District fells became an unlikely bestseller. A deserved one, too: it exquisitely observes the seasonal rhythms of hill farming and the blood and sweat required to get through the winter. Rebanks doesn’t romanticise (although his accounts of bringing the sheep in from the hills are highly poetic); instead, he paints a loving portrait of a gruelling life that involves digging sheep out of snow in the winter. It may not sound like an obvious page-to-stage adaptation, but Theatre By The Lake seems the right home for one, and the production will use film, puppetry and music to bring the fells inside.

Theatre By The Lake, Fri to 23 Apr



(Peter Crawley’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 3/18.)

When Seán O’Casey took his seat for the fourth night of his new drama The Plough and the Stars he dryly noted that two plays were actually taking place: “One on the stage and one in the auditorium.”

That night, on February 11th, 1926, both of them turned out to be memorable performances. We tend to think about riots in Irish theatre as spontaneous, reactionary events confined to puritanical and hot-tempered times. “Audience broke up in disorder at the word ‘shift’,” was Lady Gregory’s summary of the Playboy of the Western World eruption. But the truth has always been more complicated.

The disorder that greeted The Plough and the Stars was a while brewing. Offended members of the audience hissed and jeered. People hurled lumps of coal at the stage. Audience members and actors traded punches. Widows of the rebels, who had attended with aggrieved members of Cumann na mBan and Sinn Féin, gave impromptu speeches lacerating the writer and the performers for betraying the men of Easter Week and selling out to the English.