Like Science Fiction. Or Hitler.

Radical Islam has invaded the United States.  The streets are patrolled by “eggheads” (Arabs wearing white helmets), the major cities are devastated by bombings, and Americans are forced to remain inside—if they go outside, they risk being hanged (the women) or castrated (the men).  Some form of Sharia Law runs the country.  In other words, what will happen verbatim if Barack Obama gets another term.  However, one character suspects that some “corporate entity” is behind the whole thing—in that case, what will happen verbatim if Mitt Romney is elected. Continue reading “Like Science Fiction. Or Hitler.”

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Why Don’t We Just Start at the Beginning?

It’s a common choice.  A young actor, known mostly for teen angst movies or shallow blockbusters, decides to take a stab at legitimacy.  It can go either way.  Recently, Disney Channel alumnus Shia LaBeouf humiliated himself in a series of interviews filled with choice nonsensical quotes like, “You give Terrence Malick a movie like Transformers, and he’s fucked.”  On the other hand, Daniel Radcliffe, who actually had a sense of humor about the whole thing, gave a surprisingly effective turn five years ago in a revival of Peter Schaffer’s Equus.  The key to this career move is either playing a role that establishes you as an “adult” or at least one that is very serious.  Smoking is good.  Accents are even better.  And theater?  Nothing screams seriousness like theater.  Jake Gyllenhaal gets all three of these in his stage debut, Nick Payne’s If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet, which features him as a bearded pothead with a lower-class English accent and a predilection for arson.  He gets to use all sorts of slang, like “mental” and “nutted” and saying “us” when he means “me.”  There’s even a little bit of sexual tension with his overweight niece. Continue reading “Why Don’t We Just Start at the Beginning?”

Mediocrity Always Trumps Genius

James Joyce loved Henrik Ibsen; he considered his work superior to Shakespeare’s.  In fact, an early, lost play of his—A Brilliant Career—was partially modeled on An Enemy of the People, which is currently being revived by the Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.  In a puerile attempt to emulate the Master, I have tried my damnedest to appreciate if not worship the Norwegian playwright, but with little success.  I doubt this production of An Enemy of the People could be bested; unfortunately, the source material is so tedious, so belabored that even an all-star cast and crew cannot elevate it above its dated didacticism. Continue reading “Mediocrity Always Trumps Genius”

In the Woods We Could Eat Rabbits

Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit is yet another entry in the never-ending American tradition of theater about angry drunk families who have secrets that will be revealed after the intermission.  You know these people already: Williams’ Kowalskis, O’Neill’s Tyrones, and Albee’s George, Martha, Nick and Honey.  Last year, we suffered through Jon Robin Baitz’s unimaginative, stultifying Other Desert Cities, proof that this genre—now a caricature of itself—has long been ready to die. Continue reading “In the Woods We Could Eat Rabbits”

Beckett: The Musical?

When he was asked why he made a shot-for-shot remake of Psycho, Gus Van Sant replied, “So that no one else would have to.”  The same could be said of Sounding Beckett, a bizarre failure of an experiment that nevertheless justifies its existence.  Six composers, working with three short plays from Samuel Beckett’s “ghost period,” have written music reacting to those plays—“Footfalls,” “Ohio Impromptu,” and “Catastrophe” are performed and then followed by orchestral codas (three of the six pieces are played on alternating nights). Continue reading “Beckett: The Musical?”

Waitin’ for Some Lover to Call

Five security guards sit around, bullshit, knit, listen to music, do crosswords, and make out—really anything but watch the wall of screens in front of them, which doesn’t seem to matter, since nothing ever happens on them anyway.  Actually, at one point, there is a B&E, but that takes place in between scenes.  What is most important to Ethan Litpon, the author of the new play Red-Handed Otter, is not action so much as the emotional growth (or lack thereof) of this somewhat incestuous “family” of lonely people all working the same dead-end job. Continue reading “Waitin’ for Some Lover to Call”

Let’s rehearse your song

According to a popular but apocryphal story, successful Roman military commanders returning from battle would participate in elaborate parades in which the spoils of war were flaunted before the city; however, a slave would trail the triumphant commander, repeatedly whispering in his ear—depending in the variation—either “Memento te mortalem esse” (“Remember you are mortal”) or, “All glory is fleeting.” Continue reading “Let’s rehearse your song”