Monthly Archives: February 2022


(Originally printed in The New York Times,  2/25; via Update News World and Pam Green; Photo:  The New York Times.)

When Joaquina Kalukango was Done with “Slave Play,” she was done with “Slave Play.”

Kalukango, a Black woman desperate to find sexual fulfillment with her white husband, had to put an end to her four-month-long tenure on the show. She played the roles of an overseer and an slave. She played a character that dealt with sexual, generational, psychological and physical trauma eight times a week for a total of two hours.

“How do you do that without your soul falling apart?” Kalukango said in a recent interview. “You have to figure that out.”

So she made a clean break, ceasing all psychoanalysis of Kaneisha and taking onscreen parts, including as Betty Shabazz in “One Night in Miami.”

Now, after two years away from Broadway as it weathered the pandemic, Kalukango is stepping into a radically different role: as the lead actress in the big-budget, large-ensemble musical, “Paradise Square.” She plays Nelly O’Brien, a woman whose father escaped slavery and who now runs a bar in the Five Points neighborhood of Civil War-era Manhattan; her tight-knit community of Black Americans and Irish immigrants unravels in the days leading up to the 1863 Draft Riots, when white working-class New Yorkers formed violent racist mobs following a draft lottery.

The show, which starts previews at the Barrymore Theater on March 15 after a five-week run in Chicago in the fall, is Kalukango’s first top billing in a Broadway musical.

“She was making steps toward this leading-lady position, and she’s finally there,” said Danielle Brooks, an actress who has been close friends with Kalukango since they studied at Juilliard together.

“I think she’s ready to walk into this just how Audra did and just how LaChanze did,” she added, comparing her to Audra McDonald and to the “Trouble in Mind” star.

But this new chapter is about much more than how the industry perceives Kalukango, whose performance as Kaneisha earned her a Tony nomination and a reputation for a magnetic star quality, as the director of “Paradise Square,” Moisés Kaufman, put it.

“It’s about owning my power, trusting who I am, trusting that my opinions about my character are valid,” Kalukango said. (Kalukango landed “Paradise Square” without an audition: In an early Zoom meeting with Kaufman, he said, “I don’t need you to read anything. I know that you can do this.”)

Kalukango, 33 years old, described herself as a reserved listener and an actress who tended not to question the authority in the room. Kalukango used to have a problem with a scene or character in rehearsals. She would then feel awkward and foolish on stage. It wasn’t until she saw other Black actresses speaking up in rehearsals — such as Tonya Pinkins in “Hurt Village” — that she began to start building the confidence to do the same. Her experience, age and a pandemic gave her a sense for urgency.

“Once that pandemic hit, it was like, this is life or death, people,” she said. “You can’t sit up here and be in a shell anymore. You have to take ownership of your craft, ownership of your art, ownership of who you are as a person.”

Kalukango, the youngest of three children born to Angolan parents after fleeing civil war, was born in Atlanta. Her three siblings were all much older; she remembers being too young to participate in the animated conversations about politics at the dinner table — one place where she grew accustomed to observing from the background.

As a child, Kalukango’s experiences performing were mostly limited to impersonating Whitney Houston and Aaliyah at home on her family’s karaoke machine. It wasn’t until after a middle school talent show that a counselor suggested she audition for a performing arts high school.

This led her to Juilliard. Brooks and Kalukango recall the frustrations of being the only Black women enrolled in acting classes with very few Black instructors. Brooks recalled that they were often mistaken for one another at auditions. Kalukango felt that not all instructors had the faculties to help her incorporate her race and background into her characters.

“Some teachers weren’t able to communicate what it meant for me to play a character — to play Hedda Gabler as a Black woman,” she recalled. “Could I interpret anything of myself in this character? Or is my color completely gone from this — my culture gone from this?”

“They weren’t having those conversations,” she continued. “And so I felt unseen.”

(Read more)



The Nobel Prize in Literature 1936 was awarded to Eugene Gladstone O’Neill “for the power, honesty and deep-felt emotions of his dramatic works, which embody an original concept of tragedy.” Eugene O’Neill received his Nobel Prize one year later, in 1937.



A Touch of the Poet begins performances today, 2/26,2022!


A Touch of the Poet

on the Francis J. Greenburger Mainstage


By Eugene O’Neill


Directed by Ciarán O’Reilly


With Belle Aykroyd, David Beck, Robert Cuccioli, Kate Forbes, Mary McCann, Andy Murray, James Russell, David Sitler, John C. Vennema, and Rex Young


February 26 – April 17, 2022


Proud and tempestuous Cornelius “Con” Melody (Robert Cuccioli) owns a run-down inn and tavern near Boston in 1828. Laden with debt, Con clings to his tenuous identity as a landed gentleman and war hero and chastises his wife (Kate Forbes) and daughter (Belle Aykroyd) for actions that expose the family’s humble Irish origins. When his daughter, Sara, falls in love with a wealthy American guest at their inn, Con’s pride drives him to an explosive reckoning with his true place in the New World.


Get $15 off your tickets for any performances through March 13 by using code PREVIEWS15 at check out!

“Eugene O’Neill’s emotionally complicated play, performed by a first-rate cast . . . Seeing the Irish Rep production, during the pandemic, meant viewing actors and crews working virtually.  They showed us what American theatre could be, not only during a crisis.”—Bob Shuman, Stage Voices



(Megan Specia’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/24; Photo: back home, and expressed feelings of hopelessness. Ukrainians and supporters of Ukraine outside Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office in London on Thursday protesting Russia’s invasion.Credit…Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.)

Across Europe, Ukrainian expatriates looked on in horror at the scenes of destruction

LONDON — Ukrainians living across Europe watched in horror and disbelief from afar on Thursday as Russia’s invasion of their home country began with shelling and rocket attacks in several cities.

Many shared feelings of helplessness as they received frantic calls from loved ones back home describing attacks nearby, instructing them what to do if they were killed in the conflict, or sending requests to empty bank accounts.

At protests in London on Thursday, some wept. Some fingered prayer beads. And many said they were determined to raise their voices and demand greater action by the world to end Russian aggression.

Yulia Tomashckuk, 29, wore sunglasses to shield her tears as she clutched a small Ukrainian flag. A village that neighbors her hometown in western Ukraine had been attacked, she said, news that her mother relayed to her by phone before dawn Thursday.

“I just felt I was useless sitting at home watching the news — here at least I can show there are people who support Ukraine, who are against war and who want Putin to be shown his place,” she said. “He needs to be stopped now.”

The Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, was the focus of much of the outrage.

Chants of “Putin, hands off Ukraine” and “U.K. support Ukraine” echoed from the crowd of hundreds that gathered outside Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office at 10 Downing Street on Thursday.

Even before Russian strikes on Ukraine began, Britain and the European Union earlier this week announced targeted sanctions against Moscow. On Thursday, Mr. Johnson announced new actions from Britain and its allies that included asset freezes on major banks and individuals, a ban on the Russian airline Aeroflot, and a ban on many technology exports to Russia.

Those who gathered near his office waved Ukrainian flags and demanded more stringent sanctions and broader actions from the West in response to Russian military action.

“I’m shocked, probably like everyone, because my family is still in Ukraine,” said Mariya Tymchyshyn, 30, who took time off work to join the protests. “We were panicked as well: We don’t know what to do. No one can be ready for this.”

Ms. Tymchyshyn’s family lives in the western part of Ukraine, away from the most fierce attacks, but she was worried for her grandparents, who as survivors of World War II have already lived through intense fighting in Ukraine.

“It’s probably the hardest part for us,” she said. “I was trying to calm down my grandmother, but she remembers being a child at that time and a bomb killed her mother. I want peace for all of us.”

Inna Tereshchuk, 26, who has lived in Britain for eight years, said her family members “are all scared for their lives.”

She is trying to remain strong for them.

“We don’t know how long they will be alive, what Putin has on his mind,” she said. “The whole world knows about it, and no one is doing anything.”

She was joined at the protest by her friend Alina Clarke, 25, whose family lives near Kyiv. Ms. Clarke spoke with her father, who vowed to stand his ground, telling her that he was not going anywhere and planned “to stay until the end.”

“I hope that in every city and town all over the world Ukrainians are going to come out and show that we are not afraid of Putin, and we want him to take his hands off our country,” Ms. Clarke said. “Ukraine has every right to exist.”

A small group also gathered at the Russian Embassy in northwest London, where a number of protests have been held in recent days, but by Thursday morning they had taken on a more somber tone. Among the handful who stood outside the embassy were a number of Russians denouncing their government’s actions.

Tatiana Rudayak, 46, a Russian-British woman who held a blue sign with the words “Stop the War” painted on in bright yellow paint, was keen to have her voice heard.

“I am here because my country has started a war, and I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t protest that,” she said. “I was fluctuating between despair and fury and this is the only thing I can do.”

Denis Zihiltsov, 34, who said he had not slept the night before, came to the embassy holding a sign in Russian that read, “I’m Russian and I demand you stop killing our brothers. Glory to Ukraine.”

“Its heartbreaking,” he said. “It’s killing people for nothing.”

The Belarus Free Theatre, one of Europe’s most acclaimed theater troupes, was rehearsing a play in an east London studio on Thursday, but all of its members were continually checking their phones for updates on the conflict.

Several of its members are Ukrainian and everyone knew someone trapped in the country.

Marichka Marczyk, at the rehearsals in London, said in a telephone interview that she’d just had a text exchange with her brother in Kyiv about what to do if he was killed in the conflict. “My will is simple,” he replied. “Burn my body/scatter the ashes,” adding: “All my riches to my kid.” Those riches include his honey bees.

Similar scenes played out in cities across Europe, where Ukrainian expatriates were grappling with the troubling news from their homeland. In Berlin’s Pariser Platz, hundreds of somber protesters wrapped themselves in Ukrainian flags.

(Read more)


(interviews from, 2/24/2022.)

In an interview with DW, Ukrainian artists such as Oksana Lyniv and Andrei Kurkov call on the West to take more decisive action against Russia.

Conductor Oksana Lyniv is very worried about her homeland

Anger, sadness and indignation at the inaction of world politics — these are the feelings that have been dominating the Ukrainian cultural scene. Now, Ukrainian artists are fearing for their families and friends, and whether they will be able to continue pursuing their beloved professions. Identifying the Russian state as an aggressor, their wave of anger can hardly be contained. DW spoke with some of them the day before the attacks on February 24, 2022.

Oksana Lyniv, conductor: ‘The world has seen Putin’s Russia’s true face’

“At last, Putin’s true intentions lie clear and open,” says Oksana Lyniv. “He wants to destroy an independent state, a nation with its own culture, its own alphabet, its own language and history, its own artists, its own identity. Our development as a European state, for which we have worked for 30 years since independence and which has exacted a high price with the Maidan, is in acute danger.

Now, the world has seen Putin’s Russia’s true face, which is unfortunately far from the self-declared ideal image as a country of art and humanism. At the beginning of the development was the annexation of Crimea, which was condemned all over the world. Now, Putin has targeted all of Ukraine. In the decades of his rule, the dictator has built a police state in Russia. But in Ukraine, such a thing would not work, Ukrainians firmly reject impunity!

All those who still lulled themselves in post-Soviet memories and raved about the ‘brother nation’ have now received a decisive wake-up call. A true brother does not come to you with a gun and lie in wait at your door — only a murderer does that. Now is the time for the whole world to prove what the lessons of two world wars are worth to them in order to prevent a bloody battle in the middle of Europe.”

Poet, translator, festival organizer -— but above all citizen: Serhij Zhadan

Serhij Zhadan, poet and writer: ‘We are citizens first and foremost’

“Today, we are first and foremost citizens, not artists. This is a fact always during a war. We are one country and one nation, we support our army, all my colleagues go to the front as volunteers. But we understand very well that the current situation is a transitional situation; it can also change from one day to the next. Of course, we all hope that this war will not spread further — to Kharkiv or Kyiv. While I am glad that some Russian artists have taken a clear position, their voices have no chance of being heard. I have many longtime friends, including artists and writers who actually believe that Ukraine wants to attack Russia and the like — that’s where the Putin propaganda has already had its effect.”

Filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa sees the situation as “chronically dramatic”

Sergei Loznitsa, filmmaker: ‘Unfortunately, history repeats itself’

“For eight years, the Russian Federation has waged war against Ukraine. For eight years, Western Europe tried to ignore this war, continued to cooperate with and support the aggressor. Now, we are all reaping the fruits of this ‘far-sighted’ pacification policy. Russian power bodies have wiped their feet on all peace efforts and moved on. If there is no tough reaction from the EU and NATO countries now, it will end badly for everyone. Unfortunately, history repeats itself, and unfortunately, no one learns from it.”

(Read more)



(via Phoenix Theatre Ensemble)


“After 24 months and 14 days, we are performing once again in NYC!
This powerful unforgettable play by Sara and stunning performance by ensemble member Valeria is a perfect PTE return. Welcome back PTE audience.”  – Elise Stone, Artistic Director


1 Actor – 31 Roles – a Play about Mothers & Children

Honduras is based on true events, accounts from the Honduran mothers in the NY/NJ area, by Drama-Desk nominated playwright Sara Farrington developed while she was volunteering with the group that she helped found, Immigrant Families Together. Each mother and child in this story crossed the border seeking asylum in the summer of 2018. All names are changed. Some characters in this play are composites or interpreted versions of people interviewed, some scenarios are condensed, consolidated and dramatized, but nothing has been exaggerated. (Running time is 60 minutes)

In the summer of 2018,
one mom hid in the mountains,
while one mom was extorted,
while one mom was killed,
while one mom made it,
while one mom lost her kids,
while one mom heard about it on the radio,
while one mom drove across country,
while one mom waited at the bus station…

Get Your Tickets Today


(Dalya Alberge’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/20; Photo:  Nijinska, right, and her brother Nijinsky in L’Apres-midi d’un Faune, 1912. Photograph: Baron de Meyer. Eakins Press Foundation.)

The dance impresario ‘cruelly’ sabotaged the careers of others in a bid to keep all the glory to himself, according to a new biography

He was the Russian genius who founded the celebrated Ballets Russes in Paris in the early 20th century and whose revolutionary influence on the world of dance and theatre design is still felt today. But, despite his extraordinary talents, Sergei Diaghilev resorted to underhand and even vicious tactics to ensure that the spotlight remained firmly focused on him, according to new research.

Professor Lynn Garafola, an American dance historian, discovered a previously unpublished text in which Bronislava Nijinska, the dancer and one of the most innovative choreographers of the 20th century, wrote of Diaghilev’s attempts to claim credit for the work of fellow artists – even blocking their employment elsewhere.

Nijinska, whose brother was the celebrated dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, had joined the Ballets Russes in 1909. She wrote: “[Diaghilev] victimised the ballet artists when they left his company and tried by all means possible to prevent their employment by other companies… he hindered their receiving an entry visa to England.”

She added: “Everything had to originate with Diaghilev. He considered himself the creator and the ruler of the Russian Ballet, and all had to submit to him.

“To create one’s own and to destroy somebody else’s – this was his principle. But such a principle seemed to me not only dangerous but also unworthy of a great man.”

Diaghilev considered himself the creator and the ruler of the Russian Ballet, and all had to submit to him.–Bronislava Nijinska

She continued: “Diaghilev was beside himself when the new company of Ida Rubinstein was organised. [He] conceived a hatred for us and vowed to destroy us … This great man regarded as a mortal enemy anyone who … encroached on ‘his’ art: I personally was subjected to cruel reprisal: Diaghilev criticised me maliciously and impeded my work in every way.”

Nijinska, who died in 1972 aged 81, had trained at the Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg and joined the Mariinsky Theatre company in 1908. She danced with the Ballets Russes, like her brother, and choreographed several ballets for the company, including Les Noces, which was described by the writer HG Wells as “the soul itself of the Russian people in sound and vision”.

(Read more)


(Matt Stevens’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/16/22; via Pam Green; Photo: Cast members who will perform in “Out of Time” at the Public Theater (from left): Natsuko Ohama, Rita Wolf, Glenn Kubota, Page Leong and Mia Katigbak. Credit…Nina Westervelt for The New York Times.)

 “Out of Time” at the Public Theater is intended to showcase the talents of older actors. “People want to dismiss your stories,” the show’s director says. Not here.

They might be asked to play a person lying in bed, dying of a stroke, or someone’s horrible mother, or a beloved grandparent struggling with dementia.

“Commercially speaking, ‘old Asian lady’ is a huge amount of my opportunity,” the actor Natsuko Ohama said recently. “I like being ‘old Asian lady.’ But it has its limitations.”

The director Les Waters became even more acutely interested in those kinds of limitations as he was watching a dance performance choreographed by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker at the Skirball Center in 2020. The dancers in it, he recalled, were “older than usual.” He was struck by what he saw.

Waters, who most recently directed Lucas Hnath’s “Dana H.” on Broadway, and Mia Katigbak, the co-founder of the National Asian American Theater Company, had met a few years back at a festival and had agreed to work together at some point. Three years later, they were together at dinner, and Waters could not help but share what he called “an insane directorial megalomaniac’s vision.

What if there was a show that started at night, ran until the morning, and featured a succession of talented older actors telling stories — demonstrating just how much they were capable of?

“Out of Time,” which began performances Feb. 15 at the Public Theater, is not quite as ambitious as that original vision. But it is intended to showcase the talents of older actors all the same. It will feature five performers delivering five new monologues — centered on themes like memory, parenthood, and identity — in a show that will run roughly 150 minutes. All the playwrights and all the actors are Asian American. And all the performers are over 60.

Ohama is performing a 40-minute monologue by the playwright Sam Chanse.Credit…Nina Westervelt for The New York Times

Kubota will perform Naomi Iizuka’s monologue, about a man much like the playwright’s father.Credit…Nina Westervelt for The New York Times

It is a first, officials at the Public maintain, even if the first is a tad specific: The first production in New York theater to be written by five Asian American playwrights for Asian American actors over the age of 60.

“This is to say: ‘Older people in the theater exist,’” Waters, 69, said of the production’s purpose. “We’re here, we’re underused and we have experience.”

“As an old person myself, I find people want to dismiss your stories — I did it to my parents all the time,” he added.

“Hyper-consciousness” in casting these days means you’ll often see one old person featured in an ensemble, making for “its own kind of tokenism,” said Katigbak, who is 67.

(Read more)


Romeo and Juliet


In Our Time

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy, written in the early 1590s after a series of histories and comedies. His audience already knew the story of the feuding Capulets and Montagues in Verona and the fate of the young lovers from their rival houses, but not how Shakespeare would tell it and, with his poetry and plotting, he created a work so powerful and timeless that his play has shaped the way we talk of love, especially young love, ever since.

The image above is of Mrs Patrick Campbell (‘Mrs Pat’) as Juliet and Johnson Forbes-Robinson as Romeo in a scene from the 1895 production at the Lyceum Theatre, London


Helen Hackett
Professor of English Literature at University College London

Paul Prescott
Professor of English and Theatre at the University of California Merced


Emma Smith
Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, University of Oxford

Producer: Simon Tillotson


(Kate Kellaway’s article appeared in the Guardian,  2/13;  via Pam Green; Maria Friedman at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer.)

The musical theatre star on her new tribute show to Stephen Sondheim, her unconventional upbringing, and her happiest song…

Maria Friedman, 61, is a singer, actor and director who has a natural musicality (her parents were classical musicians) and knows how to get inside a song and make it her own – and ours – with emotional precision. An eight-time Olivier nominee (she has won the prize three times), she is known for her interpretations of Stephen Sondheim’s songbook, and is about to celebrate him and the composers Marvin Hamlisch and Michel Legrand in Legacy, a show at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London. Friedman is married to the actor Adrian Der Gregorian and has two sons.

Tell me about the first time you met Stephen Sondheim…
I was in my early 20s and in a gala as a replacement for a singer who had flu. I had two days to learn Broadway Baby [from Sondheim’s Follies]. The lyrics fitted me like a glove: it was about a girl with aspirations who wanted to land a great job and not work in cafes or live in a bedsit with no money. Everyone considered Broadway Baby Elaine Stritch’s song [she was also on the bill that night]. The music started and a spotlight went on to the middle of the stage. I took a deep breath and was about to start my song when, from the top of the gods, someone shouted: “Get off, we want Elaine!” I had tears in my eyes but dug really deep into those lyrics. It’s what I have done ever since. Sondheim’s work is extraordinary: when you trust it and live in it, it keeps you safe. The place went berserk. Sondheim was in the audience; at the party afterwards he asked: “Who was that girl?”

What was he like as a character?
He came to see me later in Ghetto at the National, and it was after that I got cast as Dot in Sunday in the Park With George. Sondheim was the most curious person I’ve ever met. His intelligence was dazzling, but what I loved most was his capacity to laugh and to care and to listen.

So was the nuanced bittersweet quality of his music in evidence in the man himself?
Life is bittersweet and his music reflects that. He wrote about people’s complexities and relished them. There was never any judgment about people being fractured. He was a kind, loyal man, but God, he could be very … direct.

I gather he was godfather to one of your boys?
He was godfather to my son Toby and mentor to my younger son, Alfie.

How do you interpret a song –?
It’s gradual. You have a smell, a feeling about your connection. You feel it coming closer and closer until it becomes part of your marrow and suddenly it belongs to you. Sondheim’s genius was that he left space for every actor to bring their own life into play – he was open to new interpretations and would roar with laughter when you came up with something he had not thought of.

Tell me about your show at the Chocolate Factory, which will celebrate not only Sondheim but the American composer Marvin Hamlisch and French composer Michel Legrand …
I worked with them both, and travelled the world with them. I sang at Marvin Hamlisch’s memorial along with Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand and Liza Minnelli. Michel Legrand came to see me in one of my shows and actually played the piano, which was unbelievable. I sang at his memorial too.

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(Scott Tobias’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/14/2022; Photo: Michael York and Liza Minnelli in Cabaret: seductive, witty, delightful – and utterly bone-chilling. Photograph: ABC/Allied Artists/Allstar.)

 Liza Minnelli gives a towering performance in a loose adaptation of the stage musical that broaches tough subject matter with deft ease

Cabaret opens with a Nazi getting kicked out of the Kit Kat Klub, a Berlin nightspot catering to the prurient whims of a well-heeled audience in 1931. It ends with the entire club populated by Nazis, as if it were under occupation. In between, the show goes on with minor changes to accommodate a different clientele, and the country, too, slips inexorably into darkness, engulfing characters who are powerless to stop it, even if they’re inclined to do so. It is an utterly bone-chilling movie musical, yet seductive, witty and delightful – an unbearable lightness of being.

The contradictory tensions of Cabaret are managed with such deftness by director Bob Fosse that it remains, 50 years later, a rare film that feels like only one person could have pulled it off. How people continue to live their lives in the face of encroaching authoritarianism and violence is an endlessly renewable and relevant subject for movies, but Fosse choreographs the foreground and background of historic change with as much care as he brings to the song-and-dance at the Kit Kat Klub. “Leave your troubles outside,” beckons Joel Grey’s Master of Ceremonies to the audience in the opening number. Easier said than done.

Cherry-picking from multiple sources – chiefly Kander and Ebb’s 1966 Broadway musical and the semi-autobiographical novel on which it was based, Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories – Fosse heightens the contrast between the libertine spirit of his main characters and the nationalist, antisemitic fervor that was sweeping through Germany at the time. In an all-time great performance, Liza Minnelli is both winning ingenue and devastating tragedienne as Sally Bowles, an American performer at the Kit Kat Klub. Fosse cleverly introduces Minnelli as a background dancer first, suggesting her willingness to conform, to literally fall in line with the crowd.

But of course she doesn’t conform or shrink in the spotlight. She’s Liza Minnelli. Sally chooses to live her life moment to moment, with a spontaneous pleasure-seeking instinct that allows her to keep the blinders on. When Sally is off the stage, Minnelli’s performance recalls the vintage work of a young Shirley MacLaine, the star of Fosse’s debut feature, Sweet Charity. Jokes are made constantly about the number of men who have passed through Sally’s bedroom, but she has a bubbly naivety that suggests a born-yesterday innocence. She simply isn’t going to turn her thoughts toward the politics of the country that’s hosting her. Her world is the Kit Kat Klub, a disheveled room at a boarding house and wherever the latest party takes her.

Splitting the difference between Isherwood’s gay surrogate and the heterosexual in the Broadway musical, Michael York plays Brian, a bisexual British academic who moves into the room across the hall from Sally, where he intends to teach English for money while working on his doctorate. He doesn’t have a minute to settle in before Sally ropes him into a “prairie oyster” hangover concoction (an egg with Worcestershire sauce) and works quickly and effectively to make him the closest friend she has in town. His sexuality is an obstacle that she’s able to clear – unlike his last three girlfriends – but when the two meet Max (Helmut Griem), a rich baron who likes to play the field, it leads to a bizarre love triangle that complicates their relationship.

Inspired by the silent movie star Louise Brooks – both in her sharply cut bangs and her air of mystery – Minnelli commands the screen at all times, but shows tremendous versatility in a range of situations: as the featured performer of Mein Herr; as a Golden Age romcom flibbertigibbet; as a sexual adventurer; and, finally, as a woman who has developed the kind of hangover that can’t be washed away by a prairie oyster. Grey is similarly inspired as the Master of Ceremonies, acting as a kind of bellwether for the changes happening in the country, which has the effect of turning him from silly to sinister as the Kit Kat Klub starts serving a new audience. York can only seem temperamentally stodgy by comparison, but his performance accommodates Minnelli’s while giving the film a crucial moral footing in reality.

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