(Laura Collins-Hughes’s article appeared in The New York Times, 52/5; via Pam Green.)
The composer and performer Dave Malloy isn’t the kind of New Yorker who can look at a room and instantly tell you its square footage. How big is his rehearsal studio, on a block of old industrial buildings in Gowanus, Brooklyn? “I’m six foot tall,” Mr. Malloy, 41, said this week, eyeing the dimensions. “So if I lay down twice — it’s probably 13 by 11 or something like that?”
With an upright piano against one wall and a wooden thumb piano hanging from another, this unassuming space strung with festive mini-lights is where he writes — though the flurry of awards season has put that on pause for the past month. “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812,” his immersive stage adaptation of a section of “War and Peace,” is up for 12 Tony Awards, including best musical. His book, score and orchestrations are all nominated.
??Iphigenia In Splott at The Sherman Theatre By Gary Owen Director: Rachel O’Riordan Designer: Hayley Grindle Lighting Designer: Rachel Mortimer Sound Designer: Sam Jones Sophie Melville as Effie
By Bob Shuman
According to legend, Iphigenia gives her life so that the Greeks can sail to the Trojan War. Aside from those in the military, not many think much about sacrificing themselves–and their families–for their country today—but this is the central issue of Iphigenia In Splott—the story of a legal choice, made over a medical issue, by a “stupid slag,” a “nasty skank,” which has come to Brits Off Broadway (59E59 Theatres) via the U.K.’s National Theatre. Gary Owen’s play, written in Cardiff dialect, won the 2015 Best New Play in Britain and the Stage Award for Acting Excellence 2015, yet Americans may ponder the vernacular of the work and the play’s dramatic resolution. Maybe British people don’t concur with it either, but the U.K. healthcare system is more entrenched than ours: it started in 1948; by comparison, look at the trouble Americans are having replacing Obamacare, which was only signed into law in 2010. Those in the U.S. can see Iphigenia In Splott as a cautionary tale, an argument as to why socialized medicine should never take hold here—and a reason for why the Affordable Care Act had to be rejected. They also might end up thinking that, ultimately, despite her outrageous life of alcohol and drugs and casual sex, Effie, the central character, makes the decision someone in the British lower classes should–that this is how her society had programmed her. If Iphigenia In Splotthad happened in New York, lawyers, without compunction, would have been standing in line to represent the case. They also would be outraged as to what happened to Effie, although Americans, of course, have their own problems with the medical system: on the subway yesterday, a newly retired African-American gentleman was explaining how during his stroke, he instructed his 911 caller to say that he was Jewish, so that an ambulance would arrive faster.
Despite the fodder for debate, Owen’s play represents one of the few occasions where Americans can examine U.K. domestic policy—we’re so used to writers from the Guardian and English-trained Shakespeareans commenting on ours. However, those in the U.S. would probably not have problems seeing the benefits of a free market rather than struggling to maintain an inefficient status quo. This is not to say that Americans can’t be clueless about Britain, as when The New York Times ran a review of A Taste of Honey—a play that will remind of this one–under the title, “She’s Having the Baby. How Quaint.” Jo, in Shelagh Delaney’s work, is younger, though—and she never reaches the volcanic heights of Effie (searingly played by Sophie Melville): “Fuckin bottles, fuckin cans, fuckin ash trays. Fuckin boys swilling their drinks, bobbing their heads to the music, Looking sulky as fuck, and shit, shit. Anywhere there’s space to cram something, there is something: and it’s shit. I can’t be here.” But she is–and sociology can’t seem to correct it.
While the English may like the denouement in Owen’s play because the character stands on her own two feet, the problems of the welfare state continue to shape and plague the youth, forcing them to “take it” because they can take it (“the only way I get through the week is a cycle of hangovers,” Effie discloses). Ann Coulter, an American who can be known for her own vitriol, has written, “The rampaging mob might save England from itself, finally removing shaved-head, drunken parasites from the benefits rolls that Britain can’t find the will to abolish on moral or utilitarian grounds.” But whether she is the cause or a casualty, Effie may be deluding herself that she is Iphigenia, and has helped save a nation. Whether she knows it or not, she may have saved herself, though—this reviewer’s friend explained, after the play, that others, who have been in comparable situations, have tied themselves up emotionally and monetarily for years, fighting. Some think it best just to move on.
He was the epitome of the suave English gent, quipping sweatlessly in a bespoke three-piece suit, who enjoyed an acting career spanning eight decades. On Tuesday, Roger Moore’s children announced his death at the age of 89 in Switzerland, saying: “he passed away today … after a short but brave battle with cancer”.
Moore was best known for playing the third incarnation of James Bond as well as his roles in hit shows The Saint and The Persuaders. He also devoted a lot of his time to humanitarian work, becoming a Unicef goodwill ambassador in 1991.
The actor was born in London in 1927 and, after working as a model in the early 50s, he signed a seven-year contract with MGM. His early movies weren’t particularly memorable, from Interrupted Melody to The King’s Thief, and it was a move to the small screen that brought Moore his first taste of success.
The director David Herskovits has brought Mourning Becomes Electra to the Abrons Arts Center, which runs until May 20 (and has only 17 performances). In this titanic, five-hour play–which includes a tasty vegan puffed tofu and sticky rice meal, eaten during a break for dinner–he’s interested in a deep scan of O’Neill’s moods and psyche. Calculating blood pressure, heartbeat, and breathing, he and his excellent cast–Herskovits is the founder and artistic director of Target Margin Theater–negotiate O’Neill’s Civil War history, as well as the ancient Greek underpinnings—the play is based on the Oresteia—and uses melodramatic techniques the dramatist gleaned from his matinee-idol-actor father. Shakespeare, Strindberg, Ibsen, Melville, and Freud are also present—why shouldn’t O’Neill want us to be haunted, too (in fact, this is how he has entitled his last play in the trilogy)?
Herskovits’s version is “quieter and more personal” than the one that might be expected or the one that was originally produced on Broadway in 1931. O’Neill liked doing a “big thing,” and, make no mistake about it, Mourning Becomes Electra is a major undertaking–consider all the lines to memorize, the focus and stamina needed, the antebellum set (Lenore Doxsee), the naked light (Doxsee and Sarah Lurie), the mosaic-like sound (Herskovits), tech cues, costume changes, and the glamorous wig fitting for Stephanie Weeks. Families overwhelm us, the dramatist is saying–and so can plays about them. From “moment to moment,” Herskovits explains, “we slide between different modes of expression. We can be big and more stylized; we can be small and intimate.” The ensemble retains the language and the sequence of the original, but Herskovits—and his cast of six (in the ‘30s there were 18 performers) want to take us further, into the “different textures of the writing.” Sudden, intimate voice amplification shows technological innovation; the acting includes presentational, realistic, and highly stylized work; performers know physical theatre and Mamet-technique, as well as Kabuki, Brechtian, and Bergman methods—then, they might sit with the audience or begin talking with their hands. Tides of music are incorporated, from classical to jazz, Celtic to catchy Bacharach-like pop, and ambient sounds—“Shenendoah,” the shanty heard throughout the work is O’Neill’s contribution.
Closer and closer, the audience is continually directed to the stage, starting faraway in the lobby of the theatre and ending on the boards themselves—relentlessly, they seem to be asked to take part in the obsessions being portrayed. Once there, in the rough-hewn, black cubicle–amid ropes, wires, and lights–we realize the extent we have been projecting, enlarging, imagining, imbuing. “The primary version hovers over us, like the ghost of a story we all shared years ago,” the director has said. Whether ghosts are to be believed—especially O’Neill’s ghosts—there is a point where theatre, at this level, can only be discussed as a kind of madness. Yet, this production is the type of off-Broadway work people think about when they defend off-Broadway—experimental and riveting, with a dash of the Next Wave. Should scholars be intrigued, Mourning Becomes Electra is also prophetic, as Long Day’s Journey Into Night and A Moon for the Misbegotten are foreshadowed.
Usually, actors are the ones thought of as overtaken or overwhelmed by theatrical creation—and that is true here, with Eunice Wong, as a New England Electra (O’Neill’s favorite character from the ancient Greeks); the mother she hates, Stephanie Weeks; and the father she worships—as well as the brother she controls–Satya Bhabha. Kristen Calgaro, Avi Glickstein, and Mary Neufeld are the townspeople drawn into the tragic spiral. Herskovits, however, seems to be feeling along with O’Neill–he has made Mourning Becomes Electra a second-by-second explication of compulsion and demons, out-of-control–a body might fall off the stage then or a gunshot be heard. Every moment of his production expresses what O’Neill is understanding, thinking, meaning, recoiling from. An exhumation of the Nobelist’s body might even find that the two artists share the same blood type and genetic code, so extreme is the identification.
MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA by Eugene O’Neill Directed by David Herskovits
Abrons Arts Center | April 26 – May 20, 2017 466 Grand Street, New York, NY 10002
From Target Margin Theater, “known for radically reinventing classic behemoths” (The New York Times), comes a new marathon production of Eugene O’Neill’s epic trilogy, MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRA. Part Greek tragedy, part family play, part history play, MOURNING mashes myth, Freudian psychology and melodrama into a marathon five hour production. Each of the three plays of the MOURNING trilogy will be staged in a different part of the Abrons Playhouse, with the audience served a pu-pu platter meal and snack as they move between spaces.
Featuring: Satya Bhabha, Kristen Calgaro, Avi Glickstein, Mary Neufeld, Stephanie Weeks, and Eunice Wong.
Scenic & Lighting Design: Lenore Doxsee Costumes Design: Kaye Voyce Sound Demon: Jesse Freedman Mic Demon: Matt Good Assistant Director: Claire Moodey Stage Manager: Olivia O’Brien Assistant Stage Manager: Violet Tafari Technical Director: Carl Whipple Production Manager: Neal Wilkinson Artistic Producers: Sarah Hughes + Moe Yousuf
Photos by Kelly Stuart
A NOTE ON YOUR COMPLIMENTARY PUPU PLATTERS: During the second intermission, the audience will be given a complimentary pupu platter (a bed of coconut rice topped with a delicious soaked tofu and purple sweet potato salad topped with scallions), plus chili lime peanuts on the side. It is is 100% vegan (and 112% delicious). The menu comes as is and cannot be modified. If audience members have any known / severe food allergies (especially peanuts) they are encouraged to bring their own food. Beverages will also be available for purchase.
Photos from top: Theatermania, University of Nebraska, Off Off Online.
Press: John Wyszniewski, Rachael Shearer Blake Zidell & Associates
Article: (c) 2017 by Bob Shuman. All rights reserved.
Martin Jarvis directs Arthur Miller’s 1955 award-winning masterpiece. Recorded in the US for Drama On 3. Alfred Molina won the BBC Drama Awards Best Actor accolade as Eddie Carbone. He leads an all-star American cast. Universal themes: family, guilt, loyalty, sexual attraction, jealousy – and love. A timeless reminder as immigrants from Syria, Eritrea, Libya currently seek new lives, new dreams. Here, it’s the American one.
Setting. An Italian-American neighbourhood near the Brooklyn Bridge, New York. 1950s.
Lawyer Alfieri (our narrator) confides to listeners there are cases where he can only watch as they run their bloody course.
Longshoreman Eddie Carbone lives with his wife Beatrice and her orphaned niece, Catherine, in a Brooklyn tenement. He has a love of, almost an obsession with, 17 year-old Catherine. Beatrice’s Italian cousins are being smuggled into the country. The family hide the illegal immigrants, Marco and Rodolpho, while they work on the docks. Eddie’s increasing suspicion and jealousy of Rodolpho’s developing relationship with Catherine eventually leads to betrayal and a tragic confrontation.
Sound design: Wesley Dewberry and Mark Holden A Jarvis & Ayres Production.
(Jess Green’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/4; via Pam Green.)
Stephen Sondheim says that a major inspiration for “Pacific Overtures,” the 1976 musical now being revived at Classic Stage Company, was a three-panel Japanese screen he saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Nearly two-thirds of it was blank. How could so much beauty explode from so much emptiness?
John Weidman, who wrote the musical’s book, says that, for him, the idea was born in an East Asian history class at Harvard. Why had he never been taught about America’s brutal “opening” of Japan and its consequences?
Though pointing in different directions, both questions shaped the show that resulted. Viewed one way, “Pacific Overtures” is a chronicle, stuffed with real names and documentary evidence, of the arrival of American warships at Uraga in July 1853, and what came after. At the same time, it is one of the most startling artworks ever created for Broadway: a series of panels stripped as bare as possible so the whole may flower with feeling.
(Claire Allfree’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 5/12.)
A singing washing machine? A crooning night bus? Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s 2003 musical set in Civil Rights-era Louisiana remains one of the most innovative modern examples of the form: a giddy marriage of fierce social observation and a gospel- and Motown-inflected score delivered by a cast that includes kitchen appliances and a rising moon. Daniel Evans may have made a bold choice in programming this exuberant musical fantasia as part of his inaugural season at Chichester, but it’s thoroughly vindicated by this pocket-sized staging from Michael Longhurst, which emphatically drives home the show’s social currency 10 years after it premiered at the National.
Change takes on many meanings in Caroline, from the winds of revolution blowing through 1963 to the nickels and dimes that form the bedrock of the American dream. In a hellishly overheated basement in Lake Charles, Sharon D Clarke’s eponymous black maid Caroline is impervious to the former and – it soon turns out – tormented by the latter as she sweats out her days laundering clothes for the Gellman family.
London| The team of experts from the auction house Christie’s, have confirmed this morning that a 16th century book found recently in the personnal collection of a recently deceased English Lord, is indeed an authentic printed version of William Shakespeare’s lost play,The History of Cardenio.
The book was discovered last year by employees proceeding to a successorale inventory, after the death of the Sir Humphrey McElroy, a rich baron and antiques collector from Brighton. It was at first treated as a possible fake, but all the analysis that were realized since have suggested otherwise. The authenticity of both the ink and the paper have now been confirmed, and it seems it is indeed, a late 16th print.
The History of Cardenio, often referred to as merely Cardenio, is known to have been performed by the King’s Men, the London theatre company to which William Shakespeare was associated, in 1613. It was attributed to both Shakespeare and John Fletcher (the same collaborator as in The Two Noble Kinsmen) in a Stationers’ Register entry dated of 1653, but no copy of the play had ever been found.
The content of the comedy is based on an episode in Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote involving the character Cardenio, a young man who has been driven mad and lives in the Sierra Morena.
(Susannah Clapp’s review appeared in the Observer, 5/7. )
Jez Butterworth’s plays shoulder their way on to the stage. Mojo’s dandy thugs and Jerusalem’s “Rooster” have a juicy physicality that is utterly distinctive. As does Butterworth’s latest. The Ferryman is profligate, boisterous, far-reaching.
It is 1981 in County Armagh. Bobby Sands is on hunger strike, and the Carneys are on their farm, bringing in the harvest. In one corner is an away-with-the-fairies auntie; in another a revolutionary old dame. Giggling around the farmhouse are foul-mouthed pre-teens who take a nip of Bushmills in the morning. At the epicentre are Paddy Considine and Laura Donnelly, a couple whose secret yearning is exquisitely captured in their slow-motion blindfold dance.