Let’s Be Honest

Standing in front of a wall of apple carts filled with objects that will eventually be incorporated into his act, Helder Guimarães tells us that, as a child, his favorite fairy tale was “The Ugly Duckling.”  At first, the relevance is unclear.  But by the end of his rendition, the cards he has been absently shuffling in his hands have transformed from blue into red: voilà. Continue reading “Let’s Be Honest”

Mauling and Muttering

They called them the “angry young men,” but Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey is filled with enough class rage to argue for an amendment to the term.  Originally produced in 1958, the play follows the down-and-outs Jo (Rebekah Brockman), a seventeen-year-old girl lurching toward womanhood, and her mother Helen (Rachel Botchan), who quickly abandons her daughter for a booze-soaked marriage with a younger man (Bradford Cover).  Alone in their flat, Jo has a brief affair with a Black sailor (Ade Otukoya) and ends up pregnant and rooming with a gay art student, Geoffrey (John Evans Reese).  A jazz trio quietly watches the action, sometimes from the side and sometimes in the center, lending the play an occasionally dreamy touch. Continue reading “Mauling and Muttering”

A Cat Is Not a Dog

I have never been particularly fond of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s single-chord career, but a largely plotless musical that runs for over seven thousand performances certainly warrants at least one open-minded viewing.  And while I can’t attest to being a full convert, I have to admit that during the revival of Cats currently running at the Neil Simon Theatre—which, by all accounts, is quite faithful to the original—I found myself occasionally charmed by the ‘eighties excess of this synth-backed schmaltz. Continue reading “A Cat Is Not a Dog”

When Wick and Oil Are Clean

Long before we learn that Ellis (William Apps) has an estranged daughter, a terrible secret, and a real thing about lamps, we know something is off. We see him nervously fussing about his apartment, a sizing sticker still attached to his pants, a hastily forgotten stick of deodorant wedged in the couch cushions. Ellis is sent barreling towards a series of dramatic confessions when his daughter Catherine (Katherine Reis) and her friend Monique (Susan Heyward) arrive on his doorstep, but Ellis’ quiet panic at the outset sets the tone for much of what is to come. Continue reading “When Wick and Oil Are Clean”

Good Words

After an absence of seventeen years, Murray (Richard Stacey) returns home from an unnamed war, hailed by local media for his heroics during a street fight near and inside a children’s hospital.  With his young bride, the Eastern European refugee Baba (Evelyn Hoskins), he has big plans involving his father’s run-down hotel, The Bird of Prey.  But Murray’s modest, nice guy act doesn’t hold among those who know him best: his childhood friend, Brad (Stephen Billington), and his ex-fiancee, now mayor and property dealer, Alice (Elizabeth Boag).  Murray left Alice, who originally dated Brad, under suspicious circumstances at the altar, and Brad’s schoolboy competitiveness leads him to bet Alice’s husband, Derek (Russell Dixon), that he can bed Baba “inside a fortnight.” Continue reading “Good Words”

Missed Connections

“Most of our lives are noise, aren’t they?” a character asks late in Alan Ayckbourn’s Confusions, a sequence of five one-act plays in which people mishear, overhear, and talk past each other.  Telephones and doorbells are left unanswered, operators fail to make connections, and microphones distort rather than amplify voices.  More often than not, conversations are glorified monologues. Continue reading “Missed Connections”

A Dame That Knows the Ropes

It may at first appear inauspicious that Cirque du Soleil has chosen the Lyric Theatre for its Broadway debut, Paramour, where not too long ago Spider-Man spent months filling 42nd Street with a veritable symphony of free-falling actors and their crunching bones.  But the audience will soon be both relieved and disappointed, as the Cirque in Cirque du Soleil is here shrunk to the size of a peanut. Continue reading “A Dame That Knows the Ropes”