Let Us Be Sort of Your Managers with Regards to All Things Existential

At each turn, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Everybody is designed to get its audience members to project themselves onto its characters.  The house lights are up about half the time, preventing us from relaxing into the darkness.  Many of the actors begin the play among us, only joining their co-stars fifteen minutes into the show as a reminder that we too play these parts.  And the first scene, featuring an usher (Jocelyn Bioh) announcing a very strict cell phone policy—”Also, interesting fact: if your phone is on ‘Do Not Disturb’ or ‘moon mode,’ it is actually not off”—erases the typically-sharp distinction between play and real life. Continue reading “Let Us Be Sort of Your Managers with Regards to All Things Existential”

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The Power to Remember, the Power to Forget

Around the corner from where it debuted in 1907, Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance is being revived by the New Yiddish Rep.  When the play transferred to Broadway in 1923, the cast and crew were arrested and convicted on charges of obscenity.  But the drama, about the Russian brothel proprietor Yankl (Shane Baker) who wants to buy his way into respectability and marry his daughter, Rifkele (Shanya Schmidt), to the son of a rabbi, is relatively tame by today’s standards.  Rifkele shows more interest in one of her father’s employees, Manke (Melissa Weisz), and their second-act, same-sex kiss (the first for two women on Broadway) is what triggered all the hoopla almost a century ago. Continue reading “The Power to Remember, the Power to Forget”

That Is Entertainment My Bosom Likes Not

There are, admittedly, a few good moments in Declan Donnellan’s Winter’s Tale.  The opening scene is done well, with Leontes (Orlando James) manically handling both his best friend, Polixenes (Edward Sayer), and his wife, Hermione (Natalie Radmall-Quirke), roughhousing the one and ostentatiously kissing the other, leaving us with a sense that this king is giddy and unstable.  The blocking is also interesting: as he begins to suspect the two are cuckolding him, Mr. James manipulates the bodies of his co-stars like full-sized marionettes, forcing awkward and mechanical copulation, thus transforming them into a physical projection of his jealousy. Continue reading “That Is Entertainment My Bosom Likes Not”

Yalla

“Once not long ago a group of musicians came to Israel from Egypt,” read the supertitles.  “You probably didn’t hear about it.  It wasn’t very important.”  Unimportance is key to The Band’s Visit, a charming new musical based on the 2007 film of the same name. Continue reading “Yalla”