When You’re Here, You’re Famiglia

Despite every indication that he should try his luck in a less barren locale, chain restaurant manager Eddie (T.R. Knight) clings to his hometown of Pocatello. His franchise is failing, his family is vocally disinterested in spending time with him and his romantic prospects as a single gay man in a foundering Midwestern town are sparse. Yet he soldiers on amid a near constant chorus of characters encouraging him move out and move on, eulogizing the Pocatello of his youth while he arranges place settings, wipes up vomit, and battles a slowly fading sound system. Continue reading “When You’re Here, You’re Famiglia”

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That Stockholm Thing

Ayad Akhtar, whose excellent Disgraced won the Pulitzer last year and transferred to Broadway this year, is quickly becoming one of the most important (if not the most important) new voices in contemporary American theater.  His follow-up, The Invisible Hand, currently running at the New York Theatre Workshop, is thematically consistent with the last work but narratively superior, more emotionally sophisticated and intellectually engaging. Continue reading “That Stockholm Thing”

The Top Ten Plays of 2014

2014 was a year for Brooklyn-based revival theaters.  Though BAM often has mixed fare—one of its strengths, since it is willing to take risks on stranger work—it hosted a slew of phenomenal productions this fall (four are on this list), from some of the best Beckett I’ve ever seen to Isabella Rossellini’s delightfully weird Green Porno.  And Ivo van Hove, whose production of Shakespeare’s Roman Tragedies I found atrocious, returned with a surprising subtle and tender Angels in America.  Theatre for a New Audience also made the cut with their hypnotic rendering of Ionesco’s The Killer and admirable mounting of Marlowe’s epic Tamburlaine.  As for new plays, we saw both the electric, high-profile Lyndon Johnson biography All the Way and the Amoralists’ bloody and hilarious Hollywood satire, Enter at Forest Lawn.  Finally, this list includes two Broadway shows that couldn’t be more different: the Holocaust musical Cabaret and the delightfully low-brow magic show The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible. Continue reading “The Top Ten Plays of 2014”

Now You See Me…

I have a friend who says that as a kid, he had trouble understanding the expression “suspension of disbelief,” because he had no disbelief to suspend: Jurassic Park made as much sense to him as Clarissa Explains It All.  This is the ideal state for a viewer of The Illusionists: Witness the Impossible, an endlessly silly but endlessly pleasurable magic show that features, before any real tricks are performed, an opening dance number and a reality TV-style intro video which gives us the nicknames or specialties of each member of the group, all set to music right out of the trailer for a fantasy epic: there is the Anti-Conjurer (Dan Sperry), the Warrior (Aaron Crow), the Futurist (Adam Trent), the Inventor (Kevin James), the Trickster (Jeff Hobson), the Escapologist (Andrew Basso), and the Manipulator (Yu Ho-Jin).  Those attempting to debunk the magic will be disappointed, because despite the cheesy personas these are very accomplished magicians, and those who come in to make cynical comparisons between Vegas and Broadway will be missing the point.  Though I hesitate to idealize childhood, which is never as idyllic as we like to pretend, the Illusionists nevertheless manage to evoke that sense of giddiness, awe, and belief in magic that we project onto our younger years. Continue reading “Now You See Me…”

A Glimmer of Guts

In Sam Shepard’s A Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations), Sophocles’ tragedy has been rewritten (with Irish accents) and then paired with a modern variation set in California, where the past is reconstructed through forensic evidence and kingdoms are measured in Chevy dealerships.  Stephen Rea plays both Oedipus and Otto, the latter an elderly amateur crime … Continue reading A Glimmer of Guts