Old Father, New Artificer

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home may be the best comic I have ever read.  The story of her sexual awakening, and the suicide of her closeted father, Bruce, it is not only a sophisticated rendering of a much-denigrated art, but a celebration of novel-reading as well: Alison’s life is framed by the life and art of a series of canonical authors, from Albert Camus and Marcel Proust to James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The pleasures of Fun Home are manifold and the text reveals new ones with each reading. Continue reading “Old Father, New Artificer”

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God Listens to Slayer

It is pretty common, especially in Shakespearean productions, for actors to double up on parts.  In Fiasco’s Cymbeline, or in Bedlam’s Saint Joan, some members of the cast would hop back and forth between roles in the same scene, using only minor costume changes to indicate the difference.  But I have never seen anything quite like Robert Askins’ Hand to God, in which Steven Boyer plays both Jason, the mild-mannered Texan teenager, and Tyrone, the lascivious and violent hand puppet he wears at all times.  It is a terrific Jekyll-and-Hyde performance, and Mr. Boyer so fully embodies both these characters that it at times feels like watching some kind of spectator sport as he recites Tyrone’s lines, manipulates the puppet, and plays Jason’s reaction all at once. Continue reading “God Listens to Slayer”

Less Taxing on the Brain

The two Bottom brothers, Nick (Brian d’Arcy James) and Nigel (John Cariani), are Elizabethan playwrights who find themselves overshadowed by William Shakespeare (Christian Borle).  While Nigel mostly concerns himself with his newfound love for Portia (Kate Reinders), the daughter of a fire-and-brimstone Puritan (Brooks Ashmanskas), Nick goes to the local soothsayer, Thomas Nostradamus (Brad Oscar), to find out what’s next in the theater.  Nostradamus advises him to write a play with songs, not because they advance plot or character, but because they are fun.  However, his foresight is a little fuzzy, and when Nick asks about the play Shakespeare will be best remembered for, he conjures up images of ham, danishes, and other breakfast foods.  Thus, Omelette: The Musical is born. Continue reading “Less Taxing on the Brain”

God and the Law

Who knew all Ibsen needed was a bit of menace?  A little over a year ago, BAM presented the Young Vic’s stellar production of A Doll’s House, which tore off the play’s moralizing veneer and exposed a domestic thriller more akin to Hitchcock than Shaw.  Now we have Ghosts, which begins in much the same manner, with Jacob Engstrand (Brian McCardie), a crippled carpenter, circling his daughter Regina (Charlene McKenna) like a wounded hyena.  He snatches at her dress, palms her face, and jerks in sharp, animalistic movements despite his maimed foot.  When Pastor Manders (Will Keen), a duty-obsessed clergyman, enters to speak with Regina, he aims to send her back to her father’s house.  Though much of the play’s comedy comes from Manders’ provincial conservatism, here at least he is more terrifying than terrified. Continue reading “God and the Law”

Losing Peter Pan

During the second act of Finding Neverland, playwright J.M. Barrie (Matthew Morrison) suggests that twenty-five seats at the premiere of his new play, Peter Pan, should be reserved for children.  At the start of the play-within-a-play, theater owner Charles Frohman (Kelsey Grammar) asks all the children in both audiences to wave their hands in the air. Despite a sold-out Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, there could easily have been fewer than twenty-five children in attendance. Continue reading “Losing Peter Pan”

The Unexceptionally-Laid Schemes o’ Mice and Men

In the fields surrounding Meadowbrook, a soon-to-be shuttered mental institution, there is a bounty of discarded stainless steel furniture. While some might see these pieces as junk, Tim (Robert Homeyer) sees them as a once in a lifetime opportunity. To him, the Meadowbrook furniture is the kind of trendy antique Manhattan dwellers will plop down a few thousand dollars for the pleasure of owning. In order to secure the pieces he enlists his father (Joe Pantoliano), a Meadowbrook maintenance employee, and Robert (Peter Welch), a childhood friend and successful restaurateur. Over the course of a single evening, Tim’s scheme is pitched, accepted, dissected and ultimately dissolved by the damage each man brings to the table. Continue reading “The Unexceptionally-Laid Schemes o’ Mice and Men”