Monthly Archives: February 2024

25TH ANNIVERSARY PRODUCTION OF “ORSON’S SHADOW” BY AUSTIN PENDLETON, DIRECTED BY THE AUTHOR ·

Austin Pendleton and cast of “Orson’s Shadow.” Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

The Theater for the New City proudly presents the 25th Anniversary production of “Orson’s Shadow” by Austin Pendleton, and, for the first time, the play is directed by the author himself (the first time he has directed his own work).  The favorite show is a poignant exploration of the complex interplay between theatrical luminaries Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier, and Vivien Leigh.

Performances run from March 14 to 31 at TNC, offering audiences a window into the tumultuous world of theatrical icons.  Set in 1960s London, the play delves into the backstage turmoil during a theater production, unraveling the intricate tapestry of egos, insecurities, and artistic pursuits.

Critically acclaimed since its inception, “Orson’s Shadow” examines the clash between stage and screen, the complexities of artistic ambition, and the profound impact of interpersonal dynamics on creative endeavors.

Featuring a stellar cast including Brad Fryman, Ryan Tramont, and Natalie Menna, supported by a talented creative team, this production promises to captivate audiences with its insightful portrayal of theatrical history and human drama.

WHERE AND WHEN: March 14 to 31, 2024; Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street) Presented by Theater for the New City in association with Oberon Theatre Ensemble and Strindberg Rep. Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM. Wednesdays at 7:30: March 20 & 27. $25 general admission, $15 seniors & students. Pay what you can Thursdays. Box office (212) 254-1109, www.theaterforthenewcity.net Runs two hours with intermission. Opens March 17.

Press: Jonathan Slaff

(Written with ChatGPT)

‘THE FREAKS CAME OUT TO WRITE’ REVIEW – HOW THE VILLAGE VOICE CHANGED AMERICAN JOURNALISM ·

(Peter Conrad’s article appeared in the Observer, 2/27.)

Tricia Romano’s entertaining oral history of the radical New York newspaper is an elegy to a rough and ready era of punch-ups and passion

Midway between the glitz of Times Square and the grind of Wall Street, Greenwich Village used to be New York’s ulterior zone, a refuge for artists and agitators, dropouts and sexual dissidents. With the New York Times established as the city’s greyly official almanac, in 1955 this bohemian enclave acquired its own parochial weekly, the Village Voice. The rowdy, raucous Voice deserved its name, and now, following its closure in 2018 (it has since been revived as a quarterly), it has an appropriately oral history. The collage of interviews in The Freaks Came Out to Write extends from the paper’s idealistic beginnings to its tawdry decline, when it scavenged for funds by running sleazy ads for massage parlours.

The Voice’s origins were proudly amateurish. One early contributor was a homeless man recruited from a local street; equipment consisted of two battered typewriters, an ink-splattering mimeograph machine and a waste paper basket for rejected submissions. Morale spiked when a staff member discovered that dried pods used in fancy flower arrangements contained opium, which was boiled up in the office when the time came for a coffee break. Editorial standards hardly matched the pedantic correctness of the New YorkerNorman Mailer, a columnist for a while, loudly berated a Voice copytaker who mistook “nuance” for “nuisance” and ordered the cowering menial to “take your thumb out of your asshole!”

The Village’s voices were journalists of a new kind, flashy and often crazily quirky

Behaviour like this was the rule at the ungenteel Voice. An investigative reporter joined forces with teenage gangs on looting expeditions, and during a riot at Tompkins Square in the East Village another journalist relished the wet but effective weaponry used by squatters, who bagged their own urine, added donations from stray cats, and dropped the plastic sacks from rooftops on to the police below. “Cops will run away from cat urine,” we’re assured. “It’s a lot better than a gun.”

At the New York Times, someone else reflects, people stabbed you in the back, whereas the more upfront writers at the Voice aimed for the chest. Notoriously competitive, contributors denounced one another in abusive slogans scrawled on the walls of the office toilet. Occasionally there were punch-ups in the newsroom. “You may kick my ass,” the music critic Stanley Crouch warned a colleague, “but I’m going to hurt you.” If pinioned to prevent him from using his fists, Crouch savaged his opponents with his teeth instead. A battle of the sexes was fought more peaceably in an exchange of epithets. Mailer snarled that the Voice’s feminist contributors wrote “like very tough faggots”; one of the women snapped back by denouncing Mailer and the jazz critic Nat Hentoff as “old-school male fuckheads” or “absolute oppositional pieces of shit”.

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“PUCCINI’S MASTERPIECE PREMIERES IN TURIN” (A DAY IN THEATRE) ·

On February 28, 1896, Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La Bohème” debuted at the Teatro Regio in Turin, Italy. This poignant tale of love and loss among struggling artists captivated audiences with its lush melodies and heartfelt drama, establishing itself as one of the most beloved operas in the repertoire. Puccini’s evocative score, coupled with a stirring libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, transported audiences to the bohemian streets of Paris, where the joys and sorrows of young love unfolded in vivid detail.

In a contemporary twist, “Rent,” Jonathan Larson’s reimagining of “La Bohème,” will grace Broadway once more on March 7th, carrying forward the themes of love, friendship, and artistic pursuit to a new generation. “La Bohème” remains a timeless classic, reminding us of the enduring power of love and the struggles faced by artists throughout the ages.

Sources: The Metropolitan Opera – www.metopera.org, BroadwayWorld – www.broadwayworld.com ; written by ChatGPT.

‘LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT’: A GRAND MASTERPIECE AND AN ORDINARY FAMILY DRAMA ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/19;  Photo: Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville.  Photograph: The Guardian.)

Eugene O’Neill’s mighty drama, returning to the West End with Brian Cox and Patricia Clarkson, has drawn generations of stage greats and casts its spell with a story we can all recognise

How to approach Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night? “At our very first reading,” wrote Michael Blakemore, who directed a famous National Theatre production in 1971, “I encouraged the cast not to regard the play as some great tragic Everest waiting to be climbed.” Those are wise words that I hope Jeremy Herrin, directing a new production with Brian Cox and Patricia Clarkson, opening at Wyndham’s theatre in London, takes to heart.

Of course, it is a great play. But, having seen half a dozen productions, I would suggest that it works best when you realise that, within a classical structure, it contains all the anguish of family life. You could argue that O’Neill’s characters are exceptional: the father is a miserly actor who has wasted his potential, his wife is a morphine addict and their elder and younger sons are, respectively, a cynical barfly and a consumptive poet. But Blakemore again hits the nail on the head when, in his book Stage Blood, he praises the play’s democracy of spirit and claims that all you need to understand it is “the experience of being a member of a family”.

While the play is essentially realistic, there is also a calculated symbolism in its progress from bright, confident morning to a final fogbound descent into midnight despair. The clue lies in the title. It is a long day’s journey and the one production that short-circuited that element was Jonathan Miller’s in 1986. It boasted fine performances from Jack Lemmon as James Tyrone and from Kevin Spacey as his wastrel elder son. But, by cutting the running time to under three hours through the use of overlapping dialogue, it fractured the play’s rhythm and blurred key plot points: it was never clear that Mary Tyrone’s addiction was prompted by her husband’s engagement of a cheap doctor when she was giving birth to her second son.

In the main, however, local productions have done rich justice to this landmark play often by an astute mix of British and American actors in the leads. In the National’s 1971 version, Olivier was an unforgettable James Tyrone: what I especially remember was his evocation of the character’s wasted talent so that when he sweetly crooned: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on” you suddenly believed this old matinee idol could have been an American Kean. But Olivier was matched by an authentically American Constance Cummings who movingly suggested that the convent-educated Mary had sacrificed her religious faith to her devotion to a touring actor.

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DUE TO POPULAR DEMAND IZZARD’S ‘HAMLET’ MOVES TO ORPHEUM THEATRE ON MARCH 19–FOUR WEEK EXTENSION THROUGH APRIL 14 ·

Eddie Izzard’s portrayal of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is poised for a seamless transition from Greenwich House Theater to New York’s Orpheum Theatre. From March 19 to April 14, audiences will continue to have the opportunity to experience this timeless classic in a fresh, thought-provoking light–at a new home.

Tickets for this highly anticipated production are available via EddieIzzardHamlet.com. A Ticketmaster pre-sale will commence on Feb 26 at 10 AM (code: OPHELIA), followed by public sales on Feb 27 at the same time.

Renowned for his Tony and Emmy Award-winning performances, Izzard brings his unparalleled talent to the role of Hamlet for the second time in New York, following the success of Great Expectations.

Under the direction of Selina Cadell and with creative contributions from Mark Izzard, the production promises an intimate yet captivating experience, earning accolades from critics and audiences alike. 

Visit: www.eddieizzardhamlet.com

London’s Telegraph called Hamlet “Absorbing and intimate. An impressive sweeping performance. ★★★★

NBC-TV’S Today Show said “To be or not to be 23 different characters, that is the question. And Eddie Izzard’s Hamlet is the answer.” 

Theatermania.com said Izzard “makes each verse crackle.”

 New York Stage Review said, “Oh what a noble prince (plus everyone else) is Eddie Izzard.”

Additional Information:

  • The final performance at Greenwich House is scheduled for March 16.

Via Boneau/Bryan-Brown

THOMAS FRANCIS SHUMAN (DECEMBER 18, 1941 – JANUARY 11, 2024) ·

          We are sad to share the news that our brother, Thomas F. Shuman, died unexpectedly on January 11, 2024, in Princeton, N.J.  Tom was born in Trenton, New Jersey, the oldest of the four sons of Maurice “Mickey” P. Shuman and Eleanore Nolan Shuman.  He grew up on the campus of The Peddie School where his father was a much beloved football coach, teacher, and mentor.  His mother, Eleanore Shuman, was a history teacher at Hightstown High School and a noted New Jersey historian. At Peddie Tom played on the varsity football, basketball, and baseball teams. He captained the baseball team his senior year. After graduating from Peddie in 1960, Tom went on to graduate from the University of Virginia, where he played football and was a member Zeta Psi Fraternity. In football, he led the Atlantic Coast Conference in punting in the 1964 season, and one of his personal highlights was kicking the game winning field goal against Army that season as well.

From Virginia Tom moved to New York City where he had a 40-year career in the securities industry as a stockbroker and later worked in investment management marketing and sales. He ended his career as a hedge fund manager, retiring in 2002.  After his retirement Tom moved to Palm Beach, FL, Greenwich, CT, and Manhattan before settling in Princeton, N.J.  In Princeton Tom had a keen interest in the Princeton Battlefield Society and enjoyed attending many events both at Princeton University and at The Peddie School.  Tom is survived by his brothers Maurice (Tad), Jacksonville, FL; Peter and his wife, April, Madison, CT; and Robert (Bob) and his wife Karen, Bronx, NY.  He is also survived by his nephews Bryan Shuman and Michael (Mickey) Shuman, and his nieces Elizabeth Shuman Peri, Katherine Shuman Silva, and Marit Shuman, his great-nephews Emmet Shuman, Henry Shuman, Kaden Shuman, Carter Shuman, Jonah Shuman and Mason Porras, and his great niece Eleanor Shuman.  Burial will be private at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Trenton, N.J.  Donations in his memory can be made to The Peddie School Maurice and Eleanore Shuman Scholarship Fund, 201 South Main Street, Hightstown, N.J. 08520-3349.

 

THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, ON STAGE VOICES: SUNDAY TO SUNDAY, 2/18/2024 – 2/25/2024 ·

The past week’s international stage highlights, brought to you via the world’s foremost journalism.  Gemini, the large language model from Google AI, and Perplexity, provided information, insights, and materials for this article (facilitated by Bob Shuman).

  1. “The Collector” Thrills Again

Source: The New York Times, February 23, 2024, by Ben Brantley

The Story: Ivo van Hove’s “stripped-bare” revival of Harold Pinter’s classic psychological thriller is electrifying. Brantley hails Tom Hiddleston’s “magnetic” performance as the enigmatic art collector and Zawe Ashton’s “fiercely intelligent” portrayal of his unsuspecting victim. Van Hove promises a “stripped-bare” reimagining that delves deep into the play’s power dynamics.

Playing at: John Golden Theatre, until April 28

  1. “Museum of the Unsaid” Weaves Silence into Art

Source: The Guardian, February 21, 2024, by Alexis Garcia

The Story: Somaya Lee’s experimental piece explores unspoken truths across generations of Korean women. Garcia praises the “delicate power” of the performances, particularly newcomer Hana Kim’s portrayal of a stifled daughter. A poignant tapestry of memory, longing, and history.

Playing at: The Public Theater, until March 31

  1. “An Extraordinary Ordinary Man” Finds Laughter in Loss

Source: Los Angeles Times, February 20, 2024, by Daryl Miller

This deeply personal one-man show explores grief and resilience with humor and heart. Miller commends playwright/performer Michael James Lander’s “raw vulnerability” and ability to connect with audiences. A powerful exploration of loss and finding joy in unexpected places.

Playing at: Ruskin Group Theatre, Santa Monica, until February 24

  1. “The Boys of Bethlehem” Build Bridges

Source: The Jerusalem Post, February 19, 2024, by Leah Goldman

This project brings together young Palestinian and Israeli actors to challenge stereotypes and build understanding through shared artistic expression. Goldman applauds the initiative’s potential to promote peace and reconciliation. A powerful example of theatre as a tool for social change.

Playing at: Ongoing

  1. “Shayfeen” Empowers Women in Cairo

Source: Al Jazeera, February 22, 2024, by Heba Farouk

This play about female empowerment sparks important conversations about gender equality. Farouk praises the play’s “powerful message” and its ability to challenge societal norms. A beacon of hope and progress on the Egyptian stage.

Playing at: El Sawy Culture Wheel, Cairo, ongoing

  1. “Carmela Full of Wishes” Delights Young Audiences

Source: New Jersey Stage, February 20, 2024

This charming adaptation of Matt de la Peña’s children’s book follows Carmela’s adventures as she accompanies her brother on his errands. A delightful and heartwarming production for the whole family.

Playing at: The Growing Stage, Netcong, NJ, until March 3

  1. Swedish Theatre Scene Thrives

Source: Aftonbladet (Sweden), Expressen (Stockholm)

The Story: Swedish theatre offers a vibrant mix of new and established works. Catch a revival of August Strindberg’s classic “A Dream Play” starring Lena Endre at Dramaten, Sweden’s national theatre. Other highlights include a new play about Greta Garbo and a musical adaptation of “Pippi Longstocking.”

Playing at: Various venues across Stockholm

  1. Berliner Ensemble Presents “The Caucasian Chalk Circle”

Source: Berliner Ensemble

The Story: Bertolt Brecht’s renowned theatre, Berliner Ensemble, presents a fresh and exciting take on his classic play “The Caucasian Chalk Circle,” directed by Andrea Breth.

Playing at: Berliner Ensemble, Berlin, until April 2

  1. Irish Theatre Boasts Noteworthy Productions

Source: The Irish Times

The Story: Irish theatre impresses with diverse offerings. See a revival of Tom Murphy’s “Conversations on a Homecoming” at the Abbey Theatre. Other options include a new play about the Irish War of Independence and a musical adaptation of “At Swim-Two-Birds.”

Playing at: Various venues across Dublin

  1. Chicago Tribune Highlights “Sweat” and “The Minutes”

Source: Chicago Tribune

The Story: Chicago theatre offers powerful productions like “Sweat,” exploring economic anxieties in Reading, Pennsylvania, and “The Minutes,” a chillingly relevant examination of small-town bureaucracy.

Playing at: Steppenwolf Theatre and Goodman Theatre, Chicago

Remember, this is just a glimpse into the international theatre scene. Keep exploring and discovering new voices that will inspire and challenge you!

Photo credit: Hana Kim, Playmakers

NOW ON BROADWAY: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 17 – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24th 2024 (NEW SHOWS) ·

(Bard [Gemini], the large language model from Google AI, and Perplexity AI, the innovative AI search engine and knowledge discovery platform, provided information, insights, and materials for this article.)

This week saw only one new production grace the Broadway stage, but intriguing options emerged off-Broadway. Let’s delve into the shows that premiered between February 17th and 24th, 2024:

On Broadway:

  1. Water For Elephants

Opened at: The Shubert Theatre (225 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036) on Tuesday, February 20th.

About: This captivating musical adaptation of Sarah Gruen’s bestselling novel takes audiences into the world of a 1930s circus, following the story of a veterinarian who joins the troupe and finds unexpected love amidst hardship.

Reviews:

  • Positive:“Spectacular visuals, soaring score, and a moving story create a magical theatrical experience.” – Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
  • Mixed:“Impressive production values, but the emotional depth of the novel gets lost at times.” – Roma Torre, New York Post

Off-Broadway:

  1. The Wanderers

Opened at: The Playwrights Horizons Peter Jay Sharp Theatre (416 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036) on Thursday, February 22nd.

About: This poignant play explores the lives of three generations of Irish immigrants in New York City, tracing their struggles, dreams, and evolving sense of identity across decades.

Reviews:

  • Positive:“Powerful performances, nuanced storytelling, and a moving exploration of family and heritage.” – Marilyn Stasio, Variety
  • Mixed:“Beautifully written but occasionally overly sentimental in its portrayal of the characters.” – David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
  1. An Enemy of the People

Opened at: The Public Theater (425 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10003) on Thursday, February 23rd.

About: This modern adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play follows a doctor who raises the alarm about contaminated water in his town, facing backlash and questioning the cost of speaking truth to power.

Reviews:

  • Positive:“Thought-provoking and timely, with a sharp script and strong performances.” – Jesse Green, The New York Times
  • Mixed:“Engaging production, but the ending feels rushed and undermines the play’s message.” – Naveen Kumar, TheaterMania

Looking Ahead:

Mark your calendars for exciting upcoming productions like the off-Broadway premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Cost of Living” on March 1st and the highly anticipated return of the musical “Rent” to Broadway on March 7th. Stay tuned for further updates!

THE RUB: THEATRE CONFRONTED, FEBRUARY 16th – FEBRUARY 23rd, 2024 ·

A look at current issues, challenges, and controversies spilling beyond the proscenium. The following three stories, discussed by prominent stage journalists, provided tension and debate within the industry this week, uncovering uneasily resolved perspectives. Gemini, the large language model from Google AI, and Perplexity, provided information, insights, and materials for this article (facilitated by Bob Shuman).  Photo from Les Miserables: OnstageBlog.

Power Play: Artistic Director Ousted in Theatre Coup

Story: “Artistic Director Abruptly Removed at Renowned Theatre in Controversial Move,” February 22nd, 2024, The Guardian Author: Elizabeth Freeman

Theatrical shockwaves rippled through the industry this week with the sudden removal of artistic director, Catherine Moore, from the prestigious Stratford Theatre Company. The board’s decision, shrouded in secrecy and fueled by rumors of internal conflict, has sparked outrage and concern within the artistic community. Questions swirl about transparency, artistic freedom, and the power dynamics within major theatre institutions.

What This Means: This incident raises critical questions about governance and accountability in British theatre. It highlights the need for transparent decision-making and open communication between artistic leadership, boards, and the artistic community. The power struggle at Stratford serves as a cautionary tale, urging introspection and reform within similar institutions everywhere.

Identity Politics on Stage: Play Divides Audiences on Representation

Story: “New Play Tackles Intersectionality, Sparking Heated Debate on Identity Politics,” February 19th, 2024, The New York Times Author: Ben Brantley

A new play, “Breaking Barriers” by Marsha Norman, at the Center Theatre Group (February 19 through March 6), explores themes of intersectionality, inequality, and identity politics and has ignited heated debates within the theatre community. While some praise its nuanced portrayal of complex social issues, others criticize its oversimplification and divisive nature. The controversy surrounding the play underscores the ongoing tension around identity politics in theatre, highlighting the challenges of navigating representation and avoiding reductive narratives.

What This Means: This debate reflects the complexities of addressing social justice issues in art. While theatre can be a powerful platform for exploring identity and representation, navigating these sensitive topics requires thoughtful execution and nuanced storytelling. The play’s reception serves as a reminder of the need for open dialogue and constructive criticism to foster meaningful engagement with complex social issues.

Financial Woes: Beloved Theatre Faces Closure Threat

Story: “Historic Theatre on Brink of Closure as Funding Dries Up,” February 18th, 2024, The American Theatre Author: Sarah Jones

The future of the beloved The Starlight Theatre, located in Kansas City, Missouri, hangs in the balance as financial difficulties threaten its closure. This isn’t an isolated case, with several smaller theatres facing similar challenges due to rising costs and shrinking funding sources. The potential loss of these cultural hubs underscores the precarious financial state of many theatres and the need for sustainable funding models.

What This Means: The threatened closure highlights the ongoing struggle of smaller theatres for survival. It emphasizes the need for diverse funding sources, audience development initiatives, and innovative strategies to ensure the financial sustainability of these vital cultural institutions. The theatre community must unite to advocate for support and explore solutions to secure the future of these artistic havens.

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Stage Voices