On a Dark, Dark Road in a Dark, Dark State

John Grisham’s South is an ethically uncomplicated place.  Racist hicks rape ten-year-old Black girls.  Idealistic lawyers, with rolled up sleeves and toothpicks planted firmly in their mouths, mosey into empty courtrooms—perhaps to spend a private moment with the smell of justice.  And fathers whose daughters have been harmed know the meaning of Ecclesiastes 3:1: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”  A Time to Kill, a blockbuster novel and a blockbuster movie, is now on Broadway.  For more than one reason, of course, it echoes Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee’s Inherit the Wind, another liberal wet dream about the justice system.  But Rupert Holmes’ adaptation is sillier and as a result its self-righteousness is less grating; so long as you don’t expect it to provide any insights on race relations or the law, it can be a fairly entertaining little show. Continue reading “On a Dark, Dark Road in a Dark, Dark State”

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Bracelets. Silk. A Hairdo.

As Dangerous Liaisons ends—with a specter of the guillotine projected behind aristocrats playing cards—so begins David Adjmi’s Marie Antoinette.  But historical truth isn’t the point here, which is fitting since the French Queen is best remembered for a mistranslation of an apocryphal story: in Rousseau Confessions, the author refers to a “great princess” who, upon hearing that the peasants had no bread, replied, “Let them eat brioche.”  Whether the princess in question was Marie Antoinette (and whether this ever even happened) is doubtful.  Thus, when Mr. Adjmi’s Marie (Marin Ireland) says “Oh—my—God” like one of the cast members of Clueless, we quickly realize that this is an emotional and not a factual portrait. Continue reading “Bracelets. Silk. A Hairdo.”

Kissing and Killing

When Odysseus returned to Penelope, he seemed so comfortable in violent spaces, so uncomfortable in domestic ones, that his first action was not to bed his wife but to behead all her suitors.  Something similar is happening in Othello, where a great general (Keldrick Crowder) can protect Cypress from Turkish invasion (albeit with some help from a storm) but is a helpless victim to sexual jealousy. Continue reading “Kissing and Killing”

All Are Punish’d

I am far from a traditionalist when it comes to Shakespeare, but I challenge anyone to justify restaging the Capulet party as a half rave, half middle school dance, with Romeo (Julian Cihi) in the middle dressed up as Winnie the Pooh.  Perhaps director Tea Alagić wanted to emphasize the youth of Shakespeare’s characters—but in that case, she might have considered casting an actress who isn’t a decade older than Juliet (Elizabeth Olsen). Continue reading “All Are Punish’d”

Burn the Phony Dream

Big Fish is about what you would expect it to be: it is diverting, colorful, and it goes down easy.  If it is slightly disappointing, it is because quite a lot of talent has come together to produce this underwhelming musical, from director Susan Stroman (The Producers) to star Norbert Leo Butz (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Catch Me If You Can).  The book by John August is decent if predictable and the music by Andrew Lippa is inoffensive and forgettable when listened to in a Broadway theater but slightly embarrassing if replayed later.  “Fight the Dragons,” for example, features the cringe-inducing rhyme, “I’ve always been a man who said that staying still was playing dead / The kind who’s looking forward to the challenges ahead,” and the anthem-refrain, “I fight the dragons and I storm the castles and I win the battle for two / Then comes the day it’s time I’m packing up and I am bringing all my stories home to you.” Continue reading “Burn the Phony Dream”

Clash of Civilizations Over a Chai in the Upper West Side

Being a Jew is exhausting.  There’s the self-loathing, the guilt, the language (which doesn’t even use Roman letters), and—for those of us born after 1948—the inescapable identification of Jewishness with Auschwitz.  Even the question of what it means to consider oneself a Jew is too complex for any reasonable person to try to answer completely.  But Joshua Harmon’s hysterical, brilliant play Bad Jews at least holds a mirror up to the modern iteration of the tribe and challenges everyone from the self-righteous Zionist to the bacon-eating secularist. Continue reading “Clash of Civilizations Over a Chai in the Upper West Side”