Category Archives: Events

CHEKHOV/FRAYN: ‘WILD HONEY’ WITH DAVID TENNANT (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 4—LINK BELOW) ·

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David Tennant stars in Michael Frayn’s brilliant adaptation of the riotous Chekhov comedy.

When Wild Honey was first produced at the National in 1984, Ian McKellan played Platonov at exactly the same age as David Tennant is now. It’s a rumbustious cornucopia of characters and themes covering sexual comedy, morality, melodramatics, the state of contemporary Russia and a hint of tragedy.

The play was famously discovered in a bank vault in 1920, sixteen years after Chekhov’s death – with the title page of the play missing, leading to its rather varied history of titles. The original piece was nearly six hours long and Michael Frayn has done a masterful job of turning the work into something quintessentially Checkhovian. Most critics agree that if it shows examples of Chekhov’s juvenilia – it also shows clear displays of what a genius he was to become.

Platonov himself is half Hamlet, half Benedict. A sharp and witty tongue – but somehow incapable of decision. Comedic with an underpinning of the tragic.

“I love everyone – and everyone loves me. I insult them, I treat them abominably – and they love me just the same!”

Village schoolmaster Platonov has it all – wit, intelligence, a comfortable and respectable life in provincial Russia, and the attentions of four beautiful women – one of whom is his devoted wife. As summer arrives and the seasonal festivities commence, the rapidly intensifying heat makes everyone giddy with sunlight, vodka and passion.

Platonov – What’s going to become of us all?
Anna – You seem just a tiny bit less married
Platonov – How are we going to survive our lives?
Anna – First of all by enjoying the fireworks.

And fireworks is what follows…..

Adapted by Michael Frayn

Produced and Directed by Clive Brill
A Brill production for BBC Radio 4.

Photo: BBC Radio 4

 

***** ROTIMI BABATUNDE: ‘THE SECRET LIVES OF BABA SEGI’S WIVES’ REVIEW – A SWAGGERING SPECTACULAR ·

(Arifa Akbar’s article appeared in the Guardian, 6/14.)

Nuanced, charismatic performances … Marcy Dolapo Oni and Patrice Naiambana in The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

“Sir, you will deposit your sperm inside,” a hospital nurse instructs Baba Segi as she hands him a beaker. He – a polygamist and paradigm of chauvinistic braggadocio – insists he does not need a fertility test and that it is his fourth wife who needs to be examined, for “barrenness”.

He is told to leave his deposit in the container anyway, and with that begins a masturbation scene of such epic and eye-wateringly Rabelaisian proportions that it becomes the definitive show-stopping moment in a production filled to the brim with sexual swagger and sensational daring.

Based on Lola Shoneyin’s bestselling 2011 novel, the play is set in an enclave of modern-day Nigeria where tribal custom and witchcraft still rub up against rationality and science. Ostensibly about polygamy in old Africa, it is a far more universal story of the shifting power-play inside a marriage and sexual envy between women. When the youngest and most educated wife, Bolanle (Marcy Dolapo Oni), enters the scene, the other three plot murderous schemes against her, like Macbeth’s witches. This adaptation by the award-winning writer Rotimi Babatunde captures the complicated gender dynamics: his rampant misogyny, their occasional misandry, and the quiet, subversive power they wield inside his household.

(Read more)

 

ANNA DEAVERE SMITH:  RATTLING THE CAGE–250 VIEWS OF AMERICA’S SCHOOL-TO-PRISON PIPELINE ·

(Oliver Laughland’s article appeared in The Guardian, 6/12.)

Compiled from three years’ worth of interviews, Anna Deavere Smith’s Notes from the Field confronts the criminal justice system and inequality in the US

Four storeys above the chaos of a blistering summer afternoon on Manhattan’s Eighth Avenue, Anna Deavere Smith sits in silence. The acclaimed American playwright and actor – who played Nancy McNally on The West Wing – glances at the rehearsal room floor, draws breath and begins the opening monologue of her one-woman show, Notes from the Field, assuming the voice of famed civil rights attorney Sherrilyn Ifill.

“It is impossible to talk about the criminal justice system, mass incarceration, without talking about education,” Smith says, capturing both the matter-of-fact exasperation and scholarly expertise you can imagine the NAACP Legal Defence Fund’s veteran president exuding.

The monologue is one of 19 speeches that make up the 90-minute show – all verbatim extracts from interviews Smith conducted herself or speeches made in public, which explore the uniquely American phenomenon of the school-to-prison pipeline.

The play is her first appearance in London for more than 25 years, and won critical acclaim when it was performed off-Broadway in 2016, including from President Barack Obama.

America incarcerates almost a quarter of the global prison population, with by far the highest rate of imprisonment in the world. The prison-industrial complex began during Nixon’s war on drugs and has continued to proliferate ever since, giving rise to a system that disproportionately punishes people of colour. Feeding into this dysfunction is a public school system, increasingly punitive and over-policed, that feeds the machine with young adults – disproportionately black and brown – abandoned by formal education.

(Read more)

Photo: the Guardian

2018 TONY AWARDS: THE WINNERS (LIST) ·

(Peter Libbey’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/10; via Pam Green.)

The 72nd annual Tony Awards rewarded “The Band’s Visit” with best musical and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” with best play.

The full list of winners is below.

Best Musical: The Band’s Visit

Best Play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Best Revival of a Musical: Once on This Island

Best Revival of a Play: “Angels in America

Best Book of a Musical: “The Band’s Visit,” Itamar Moses

Best Original Score: “The Band’s Visit,” Music and Lyrics: David Yazbek

Best Leading Actor in a Play: Andrew Garfield, “Angels in America”

Best Leading Actress in a Play: Glenda Jackson, “Three Tall Women”

(Read more)

Photo:  Matthew Murphy


2018 DRAMA DESK WINNERS AND NOMINEES (LIST) ·

(via the Drama Desk Awards)

Award winners are highlighted

Outstanding Play

Admissions, by Joshua Harmon, Lincoln Center Theater
Mary Jane, by Amy Herzog, New York Theatre Workshop

Miles for Mary, by The Mad Ones, Playwrights Horizons People, Places & Things, by Duncan Macmillan, National Theatre/St. Ann’s Warehouse/Bryan Singer Productions/Headlong 
School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, by Jocelyn Bioh, MCC Theater

Outstanding Musical

Desperate Measures, The York Theatre Company 
KPOP, Ars Nova/Ma-Yi Theatre Company/Woodshed Collective 
Mean Girls 
Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, 2b Theatre Company/59E59 
SpongeBob SquarePants

Outstanding Revival of a Play

Angels in America 
Hindle Wakes, Mint Theater Company 
In the Blood, Signature Theatre Company 
Three Tall Women 
Travesties, Menier Chocolate Factory/Roundabout Theatre Company

(Read more)

THE 10 BEST-KNOWN RUSSIAN PLAYS AND WHERE TO SEE THEM IN MOSCOW AND ST. PETERSBURG ·

(Grigory Zaslavsky’s article appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines, 5/31.)

From Fonvizin and Chekhov to Tolstoy, all on stage.

The most famous Russian authors wrote not only voluminous novels but also plays for theater. Most of them retain their relevance and are staged the world over to this day. Russia Beyond asked Grigory Zaslavsky, the prominent theater critic and director of GITIS, the Moscow-based Russian Institute of Theater Arts (one of the biggest theatrical institutions in the world) to compile a list of the most famous Russian plays and suggest the theaters in Moscow and St. Petersburg where one can see them. 

  1. The Minor, Maly Theater, Moscow

Maly Theater

The first plays for the Russian theater were written in the second half of the 18th century. But their language sounds so archaic to the modern ear that it’s practically impossible to find them in today’s repertoire. But The Minor by Denis Fonvizin is a rare exception. What is more, some quotes from the play are still in use in more or less everyday Russian – for example, the words uttered by the central character, teenager Mitrofanushka: “I don’t want to study, I want to marry.” Today you can see the comedy in Moscow at the Maly Theater.

(Read more)

Photos: Maly Theatre: Wikipedia; The Minor: Russia Beyond the Headlines

BLIND TO RACE, GENDER AND DISABILITY, SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE GOES A NEW WAY ·

(Matt Wolf’s article appeared in The New York Times, 5/31; via Pam Green.)

LONDON — Shakespeare’s Globe may have had a spring cleaning, but don’t for a second think that the deservedly popular playhouse is playing it safe.

You could be forgiven for expecting a conservative, back-to-basics approach following the controversial artistic tenure of Emma Rice, who parted company with the theater in 2017 after only two years. But if “As You Like It” and “Hamlet,” the opening productions by the new artistic director, Michelle Terry, are any gauge, the Globe looks poised to continue provoking — albeit in new ways. Already, Ms. Terry’s tenure promises to throw norms to the wind by casting without regard to gender, race or ethnicity. Eyebrows have been raised, but there has been hefty applause as well.

Ms. Rice had ruffled feathers by modernizing a space that Globe hard-liners defend fiercely. They took issue with her use of amplification, contemporary lighting rigs and a pop aesthetic that introduced Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” for instance, into her Bollywood-inflected “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Her “Twelfth Night” included the London drag artist Le Gateau Chocolat as a disco diva Feste.

No less provocative was Ms. Rice’s candid admission that she found Shakespeare difficult — a sentiment she expressed in her first news conference as artistic director and in various interviews.

Ms. Terry, by contrast, has spoken from the outset of an apprenticeship to Shakespeare that began when she was a child. And because she, unlike Ms. Rice, is an actress — and an Olivier Award-winning one at that — she comes to her current position steeped in the playwright’s work. The result is that you feel at every turn a direct engagement with a dramatist whom Ms. Rice, by contrast, sometimes seemed at odds with, as if the verse were an irritation to be overcome.

(Read more)

Photo: Virgin Experience Days

 

***** BRIAN FRIEL: ‘TRANSLATIONS’ (SV PICK, UK) ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in The Guardian, 5/31.)

Brian Friel’s 1980 play has long been regarded as a modern classic. In Ian Rickson’s flawless production, it seems to expand to fill the vast space of the Olivier. Friel’s multilayered study of what Colm Tóibín calls “the clash between language and culture” is set against the epic breadth of the mist-wreathed Donegal hills, beautifully lit by Neil Austin and punctuated, in Ian Dickinson’s sound design, by the sound of steadfast Irish rain dripping into a bucket.

What strikes one is Friel’s ability to find complex meanings in a simple story and to capture Ireland, in 1833, at a moment of historical transition. A rural hedge-school, where classes are conducted in Irish, is to be replaced by a national education system in which English is the official language. At the same time, British soldiers are engaged in an ordnance survey involving the anglicisation of Irish place names. Friel explores these radical changes through their impact on individuals: in particular, Hugh, the local teacher steeped in Latin and Greek; his bilingual son, Owen, who acts as interpreter for the occupying forces; and an English lieutenant, Yolland, who readily succumbs to the romance of Ireland.

(Read more)

Photo: The National Theatre

METROPOLITAN DIARY: A SHARK, 60 YEARS LATER ·

(Ronnie Lee’s letter appeared in The New York Time, 5/14; via Pam Green.)

Dear Diary:

It has been just over 60 years since “West Side Story” opened on Broadway with me as one of the Sharks. I was 19 when rehearsals began.

I had already worked for Jerome Robbins in the original Broadway productions of “The King and I” (as Crown Prince Chulalongkorn) and “Peter Pan.” Working on “West Side Story” was the best of times and the worst of times — the most challenging choreography and, emotionally, the most ego-deflating, at the hands and tongue of that master torturer, Jerry Robbins.

Photo: Times Square Chronicles; Theater Pizzazz (Carol Lawrence and Ronnie Lee)

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