Time for Rehearsal

Before Beckett or Ionesco there was Luigi Pirandello, whose Six Characters in Search of an Author was allegedly so shocking to its original audience that people could be heard crying out, “Madhouse!” in response to what they were seeing.  Now, unfortunately, its impact has dulled, and we are left with a play that feels very much like a minor imitation of the work that it would go on to influence. Continue reading “Time for Rehearsal”


The Monolith Is Missing

Last weekend, the American masterpiece Angels in America was revived in a Dutch translation at the BAM Harvey Theater in Brooklyn.  Belgian director Ivo van Hove has pared down Tony Kushner’s play—which one character, commenting on the spectacle of it, calls “Very Steven Spielberg”—so that all that remains are the characters and their conversations.  There are no angels crashing through ceilings, no female actresses in full rabbi regalia, only a small table in the corner of the stage with a record player. Continue reading “The Monolith Is Missing”

The Gap

It seems that the surest way to win a Pulitzer is to write a comic drama about a bad dinner between couples and preferably one in which, as the night progresses, secrets are revealed.  It has worked, albeit with some variations, for Edward Albee, Donald Margulies, and Tracy Letts.  And now we can add Ayad Akhtar, whose Disgraced won that honor in 2013.  Which doesn’t mean that it’s bad (it isn’t), only that it is staged in well-worn narrative territory. Continue reading “The Gap”

The Tonic of Wilderness

Staging an adaptation of Deliverance in the round with no props or set decoration for a black box theater audience seems more like the result of a lost dare than a deliberate creative undertaking. Four urban adventurers set out for a weekend of canoeing down a river before the river valley is flooded by a soon-to-be-built dam. Ed (Nick Paglino) and Bobby (Jarrod Zayas) stop along the river for a beer and are ambushed by a pair of deviant hill folk. Ed is bound and Bobby is raped before their alpha male companion Lewis (Gregory Konow) strikes down the rapist with an arrow. Despite acting in self defense, the group decides to conceal the body and flee, only to be hunted down by the surviving assailant. Continue reading “The Tonic of Wilderness”

The Reference Is Obscure

“I began with a desire to speak with the dead,” Stephen Greenblatt writes at the beginning of Shakespearean Negotiations.  “Literature professors are salaried, middle-class shamans.”  For a few years in the ‘nineties, Tom Stoppard also desired to speak with the dead.  His plays Arcadia and Indian Ink (the latter is currently being revived by Roundabout) both concern people in the present or the near-present trying to sort out events in the past. Continue reading “The Reference Is Obscure”

Will You Never Have Done?

At first, there is only darkness.  Then, we see a small light on the left side of the stage—but even for those sitting up close, it takes a moment to realize that it is a mouth suspended in the air.  The mouth delivers a breakneck monologue, a torrent of language punctuated by gasps that sound like jet engines.  For ten minutes or so, the speaker works through a traumatic event that she continually insists did not happen to her, but nonetheless caused her to become mostly mute, with the exception of outbursts such as the one we are witnessing. Continue reading “Will You Never Have Done?”

When You Don’t Have a Real Life, You Make Do with Dreams

While the Pearl Theater revives Uncle Vanya, Donald Margulies is rewriting it with The Country House, a drama that takes Chekhov’s interest in aging and disappointment and transplants it to the lives of people in show business.  As she prepares to star in George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession, the matriarch and aging actress Anna Patterson (Blythe Danner) collects her family together in Williamstown, Massachusetts to mourn the one-year anniversary of her daughter’s death.  Her former son-in-law, the director Walter Keegan (David Rasche), shows up with his new fiancée, the stunning but failed actress Nell McNally (Kate Jennings Grant), who coincidentally happens to be a long-ago fling of Anna’s son, Elliott (Eric Lange), an actor who has given up auditioning and picked up playwriting.  Nell’s presence infuriates Walter’s college-aged daughter, Susie (Sarah Steele), but the greatest disruption is Michael Astor (Daniel Sunjata), a television star and family friend whose beauty hypnotizes all the women in the house and whose success fuels Elliott’s drunken bitterness. Continue reading “When You Don’t Have a Real Life, You Make Do with Dreams”