(Roger Friedman’s article appeared in Showbiz 411, 6/23.)
Big news and a surprise. SHUFFLE ALONG is closing on July 24. This is huge because it’s the latest blow. See my previous item about the closings of Fun Home and An American in Paris.
Shuffle Along has been doing decent business. But they were facing the exit of their star Audra McDonald from the start. The plan for what to do next was ill conceived, which producer Scott Rudin has grudgingly conceded.
Of course, Mc Donald was leaving from the get go. Originally she was set to depart for the UK on June 10, and perform her “Lady Day at the Emerson Grill” for three months. The producers of “Shuffle Along” knew this but proceeded to sell tickets as if the beloved six time Tony winner was really part of their show. She was not.
Then, as luck would have it, McDonald discovered she was pregnant. London was cancelled. But that still meant leaving “Shuffle Along.” And it explained her many absences during previews, which were ascribed to a “cold.”
Producers then came up with a plan to put the choreographer Savion Glover into the show even though there was no part written for him– and it might be hard to explain. They also hired a dynamite roots singer, Rhiannon Giddens, who has no theater experience per se.
(Dominic Cavendish’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 6/23.)
Who will bear the crown? In the teasing opening flourish of Robert Hastie’s revelatory revival of Henry V, Charlotte Cornwell’s kindly, director-like Chorus wanders around the smiling,apprehensive company, kitted out casually as if for a rehearsal, and scrutinises likely candidates – the men stiffening with resolve as she approaches – before turning to the relatively diminutive figure of Michelle Terry.
She could almost be the page-boy with her curly mop of hair, baggy shorts, waistcoat and sneakers – her red lipstick about as un-Laurence Olivier-like as it gets. Yet she’s the anointed one. The casting coronation thus complete, the burden placed on delicate shoulders, we’re off – textually nothing has changed and yet everything has changed.
(Anna Sorokina’s article appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines, 6/22.)
A new production by Russian director, Dmitry Krymov, debuts on the stage at Yale's School of Drama this week as part of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. “The Square Root of Three Sisters" is one of the top draws at the festival in New Haven, Connecticut that runs through June 25, reported the daily newspaper Novye Izvestia.
Krymov's road to Yale started in 2006 when Liz Diamond, the head of the Directing Department at Yale's School of Drama, was visiting Russia and saw "Donkey Hot," a performance by the Dmitry Krymov Laboratory. It made a huge impression on her, and she began to tell everyone about Krymov, hoping to introduce him to her students. In 2014, the Directing Department received a grant, and the dream became a reality; Krymov was offered to work at Yale in the format of a studio-laboratory.
(Laura Collins-Hughes’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/20; via Pam Green.)
“Does anyone else need some earplugs?”
It’s not a question the audience usually gets at “The Iceman Cometh,” with its pickled human wreckage cowering inside Harry Hope’s dismal saloon. But this was Act I of “The Iceman Lab,” Target Margin Theater’s bold, playful, vivifying re-creation of the Eugene O’Neill classic at Here, and a friendly glam-rock band was filling the room with sound. Thus the earplug offer from the charismatic and endearing keyboard player, Chris Giarmo.
The chance of slipping into a stupor alongside Hugo, Willie and the other barflies during this batch of songs is absolutely zero. That’s not just because it’s loud but also because it’s fun, even if you aren’t one of the spectators who down shots of bourbon during the show. If you’ve never had a good time amid the alcoholic gloomfest that is “The Iceman Cometh” — especially before the salesman Hickey arrives and livens up the joint — well, neither had I.
New York, New York June 22, 2016—59E59 Theaters (Elysabeth Kleinhans, Artistic Director; Peter Tear, Executive Producer; Brian Beirne, Managing Director) announces the 2016 line up for the annual EAST TO EDINBURGH festival. EAST TO EDINBURGH begins on Tuesday, July 12 for a limited engagement through Sunday, July 31. The performance schedule varies. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). Tickets to each EAST TO EDINBURGH show ranges from $12 – $20 ($10 – $17 for 59E59 Members). Tickets can be purchased by calling Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or online via www.59e59.org.
Created as a way to help shows get on their feet before flying off to Scotland for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (the largest arts festival in the world), EAST TO EDINBURGH simulates the same production constraints that all shows experience during the Fringe, while giving companies a clean, comfortable and nurturing space to fine-tune their productions. This whirlwind festival, which takes over Theaters B & C for the month of July, features some of the most adventurous theater from around New York and across the US. The 2016 EAST TO EDINBURGH line up is:
(Dominic Cavendish’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 6/21.)
In June 2013, Edward Snowden became a global cause célèbre after lifting the lid on the mass surveillance programmes of US intelligence organisations.
Whatever your feelings about the merits of his actions, his story exerts a powerful fascination: what does it feel like to go from obscure computer geek to America’s most-wanted? How does anyone cope with the psychological fall-out of becoming a fugitive, reliant on the kindness of strangers – in Snowden’s case, the Russians?
In Snowden, a biopic scheduled for release in September, Oliver Stone will explore how this digitally savvy David came to confront a governmental Goliath. In the meantime, Mike Bartlett follows up his recent successes on stage (King Charles III) and the small-screen (Doctor Foster) with a show that boldly attempts to come at the subject from a fittingly mind-blowing angle.
(Bruce Weber’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/18; via Pam Green.)
Desmond Heeley, a celebrated designer for the theater, the opera and the ballet, whose costumes dressed the likes of Laurence Olivier, Beverly Sills and Margot Fonteyn, and whose sets were used in major productions throughout the world, died on June 10 in Manhattan. He was 85.
The cause was cancer, said Philip Caggiano, a friend.
(Mendelsohn’s article appeared in the New York Review of Books, 6/23.)
At the climax of Aristophanes’ comedy Frogs, a tartly affectionate parody of Greek tragedy that premiered in 405 BCE, Dionysus, the god of wine and theater, is forced to judge a literary contest between two dead playwrights. Earlier in the play, the god had descended to the Underworld in order to retrieve his favorite tragedian, Euripides, who’d died the previous year; without him, Dionysus grumpily asserts, the theatrical scene has grown rather dreary. But once he arrives in the land of the dead, he finds himself thrust into a violent literary quarrel. At the table of Pluto, god of the dead, the newcomer Euripides has claimed the seat of “Best Tragic Poet”—a place long held by the revered Aeschylus, author of the Oresteia, who’s been dead for fifty years.
A series of competitions ensues, during which excerpts of the two poets’ works are rather fancifully compared and evaluated—scenes replete with the kind of in-jokes still beloved of theater aficionados. (At one point, lines from various plays by the occasionally bombastic Aeschylus are “weighed” against verses by the occasionally glib Euripides: Aeschylus wins, because his diction is “heavier.”) None of these contests is decisive, however, and so Dionysus establishes a final criterion for the title “Best Tragic Poet”: the winner, he asserts, must be the one who offers to the city the most useful advice—the one whose work can “save the city.”
(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/15; via Pam Green.)
The Metropolitan Opera has been transmitting performances live for a decade. The National Theater in London jumped on board a few years later. But Broadway, facing both financial and philosophical obstacles, has been slow to join the trend.
Now, after years of start-and-stop progress, Broadway is passing a milestone: On Wednesday, the nonprofit Roundabout Theater Company, which with three Broadway theaters is one of the industry’s most prolific producers, said it had agreed to allow a live stream of a much-praised musical revival, “She Loves Me,” which is running through July 10 at Studio 54.
(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/21.)
Robert Graves considered Charles Hamilton Sorley, along with Wilfred Owen and Isaac Rosenberg, “one of the three poets of importance killed during the first world war”. Neil McPherson has now taken this somewhat forgotten figure and, drawing on his life, letters and poetry, created a magnificent tribute to a fiery spirit extinguished in battle at the age of 20.
What emerges clearly is Sorley’s zest for life and independence of outlook. Educated at Marlborough, he questions the public-school ethos, dreams of devoting himself to social work and spends a formative year in Germany, where he falls in love with the country, its culture and the wife of one of his hosts. When war is declared, Sorley is torn between his moral duty and his belief that Germany is “the most enterprising nation in the world”.