The Percentage Is Negotiable

Theresa Rebeck will never write an American masterpiece, but she certainly has a talent for entertaining, low-stakes plays.  Though her subjects are ostensibly serious—last year’s Seminar dealt with the creative process, this year’s Dead Accounts with finance and religion—her shows are best appreciated as lowbrow highbrow theater, as well-written, well-executed fluff. Continue reading “The Percentage Is Negotiable”


White Woman Saving Brown Women From Brown Men

Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues was that rarest of theatrical events: a great political play.  Her latest play, Emotional Creature, borrows from its structure—it is largely a series of monologues from teenage girls—but has none of its predecessor’s focus or urgency.  It feels like an after school special and is littered with buzzwords that clearly reflect an adult’s conception of teenage life: characters mention Lady Gaga, Facebook pokes, and the MTV Music Awards with a frequency that is both unrealistic and a little embarrassing.  Ms. Ensler, pushing sixty, is trying to be open to new popular culture but still sounds like those parents of her generation who were scandalized by The Beatles. Continue reading “White Woman Saving Brown Women From Brown Men”

How We Used to Be

Larissa (Gretchen Mol) is a terrible person, though that is only gradually revealed in The Good Mother, Francine Volpe’s ironically titled new play currently running at the Acorn Theatre.  A former wayward youth, Larissa is now in her mid-thirties, single, with a child, and reinserting herself into the life of Joel (Mark Blum), her high school guidance counselor whose close relationships with his students borders on the inappropriate—in fact, he is in the papers at the moment for being accused of sleeping with one of his patients; Larissa, in turn, asks his son, Angus (Eric Nelsen), to babysit her autistic, four-year-old daughter, Allyson, and then accuses him of an unnamed crime—probably something sexual in nature, unlikely considering Angus is gay (and presumably not a pedophile).  Larissa is the type of person who is constantly in trouble but always manages to view herself as a victim of circumstance and the ill intentions of others, the type of person who you empathize with until you realize that she is a delusional liar. Continue reading “How We Used to Be”

For the Loser Now Will Be Later to Win

Depending on how much you love the Bard, a six-hour, Dutch-language Shakespeare trilogy could either sound like the seventh circle of Hell or proof that God loves us very much.  Ivo van Hove, who has combined Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, and Antony and Cleopatra into Roman Tragedies, is certainly trying to turn his marathon production into a major theatrical event.  After the first twenty minutes, the audience is invited to walk on the set and take advantage of two bars on either side of the stage. (When this was first announced, we were told that there was “no need to rush or line up; you still have five and half hours remaining.”)  Televisions with a live feed of the performance are scattered all across the set and in the lobby so you don’t miss anything.  Live tweets about the production (#RomanTragedies) run across a ticker.  There is a working computer onstage so you can “check your email.”  Sometimes, the cameras are turned on us and we can see our reactions on a big screen above the stage, a thespian equivalent of the kiss-cam. Continue reading “For the Loser Now Will Be Later to Win”

Scenes From a Marriage

Ethan Hawke wants you to know that he’s a really serious actor.  When he’s not busy mentally masturbating with his pal Richard Linklater, he’s performing Shakespeare at the Old Vic in London.  Now, he’s dabbling in Chekhov, playing the title part in Ivanov at the Classic Stage Company. In it, he saws the air with his hands, screams nearly every word that is assigned to him, and rolls around on the floor in the fetal position—he is acting so hard that he runs the risk of bursting a blood vessel. Continue reading “Scenes From a Marriage”

A Laugh Riot at the Pearl

It is said that Pierre Beaumarchais’ The Marriage of Figaro foreshadowed the French Revolution—though Figaro (Sean McNall) is based on Brighella, a stock Commedia character, a servant who often outwits his master, Beaumarchais’ text is far more political and is packed with polemical monologues against social inequity.  “How came you to be rich and mighty, Count Almaviva?” asks Figaro, “Why truly, you gave yourself the trouble to be born!”  The count in question, though ostensibly a friend of our hero, suffers no guilt over his consistent attempts to seduce his fiancée, Suzanne (Jolly Abraham).  For Beaumarchais, money trumps morality.  Or as Figaro says later, “The richest voice would always be the loudest.” Continue reading “A Laugh Riot at the Pearl”