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”

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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”

Before the Vagabond Shoes

Contemporary musical theater is obsessed with the edgy.  So many writers strive for dark, for subversive, for cinematic, working to “elevate” an artform that’s often regarded as shallow and silly.  I have no problem with the innovative or boundary-pushing.  However, it’s so refreshing to see a piece of musical theater like the new revival of On The Town, which opened last week at the Lyric Theatre, that’s truly a classic in every sense of the word.  Sure, the plot is thin—three sailors, on a twenty-four-hour leave in New York City, are on a search for love (or sex) across Manhattan and Brooklyn.  And fine, the humor can be broad—double entendres, slapstick, and scenery-chewing abound.  But sometimes, shallow can be almost sublime—and if not, at least it can be pretty damn fun. Continue reading “Before the Vagabond Shoes”

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?”