I Was Born Sneering

With character names like Yum-Yum (Quynh-My Luu) and Nanki-Poo (Jesse Pimpinella), it doesn’t take much imagination to see that The Mikado has a problem with racism.  Indeed, when the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players (NYGASP) tried to mount a production of the opera last year, it was promptly cancelled amidst complaints of yellowface. Continue reading “I Was Born Sneering”

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”

Commedia Che?

Theatre for a New Audience has on its hands its best production in years with The Servant of Two Masters, a much-welcomed commedia salve for the trauma of November 8.  Carlo Goldoni’s madcap play has Truffaldino (Steven Epp) attempting to surreptitiously earn two salaries, the first from Beatrice (Liz Wisan), disguised as her slain brother Rasponi, the second from Florindo (Orlando Pabotoy), Beatrice’s lover and the murderer of Rasponi.  Needless to say, the action soon becomes pandemonium, and much is made of mistaken identities, misdelivered letters, and matching luggage.  In a moment characteristic of The Servant of Two Masters as a whole, Truffaldino turns to the audience after a series of backstage crashes and says, “You know, there’s a whole bunch of pots and pans back there that everyone keeps tripping over.” Continue reading “Commedia Che?”