Running the Circus from the Monkey Cage

This November, the latest chapters of scandal in New York’s political history have neared their end. A jury in Manhattan heard the final arguments in former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s federal corruption trial. State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ own corruption trial kicked off, and each day’s tabloids printed tidbits of wiretapped conversations presented in court. Vito Lopez, the controversial longtime Brooklyn party boss, died just two years after resigning in the face of multiple sexual harassment charges. Continue reading “Running the Circus from the Monkey Cage”

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The Facts

Contemporary American drama is a brittle affair, stuck in the shadow of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? for over fifty years now.  The number of works that begin with a stable upper-middle-class families and end in drunken dinners and secrets revealed, with witty and high-brow one-liners peppered throughout, has reached an agonizing level of self-parody.  These revelations—that one’s spouse is actually gay or racist or financially broken—have long lost their ability to unsettle bourgeois complacency, becoming complacent and bourgeois in their own right.  Occasionally, a playwright rejects this seemingly indestructible frame, and we get works like Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ explosive An Octoroon or Naomi Wallace’s gorgeous memory play The Liquid Plain. Continue reading “The Facts”

She Excels Each Mortal Thing

For those of us who have made that greatest of life decisions—that is, for those of us who have a dog—A.R. Gurney’s Sylvia will prove amiably familiar: there are the invariably tangled leashes, the boundless and unconditional affection, and, of course, the projections of humanity onto an animal that usually cannot speak.  In upper-class Manhattan, the eponymous puppy (Annaleigh Ashford) is discovered in the park by middle-aged businessman Greg (Matthew Broderick), whose wife Kate (Julie White) is pursuing a career in urban education but who finds himself in a state of empty nest ennui.  Sylvia, a frenetic threat to Kate’s late-life stability, quickly seizes all of her owner’s attention, creating an odd love triangle in which a woman finds herself competing with a dog for her husband’s love. Continue reading “She Excels Each Mortal Thing”

The Way to the Future

During the mid-sixties, the Holocaust was very much on American minds. This wasn’t always the case. At the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, Germany (or West Germany) flipped from foe to friend faster than you could say Zyklon B. American Jews, hesitant to criticize this now-ally and be labeled communists, tended to avoid publicly speaking about the death camps. But the Red Scare had subsided by 1960, when the Mossad captured Adolf Eichmann in Argentina and Elie Wiesel’s Night was translated from Yiddish into English. In 1962, Martha Gellhorn reported on Eichmann’s trial for The Atlantic while Hannah Arendt wrote a series of articles for The New Yorker that would coin the now-trite phrase “the banality of evil.” The era of Holocaust reflection was in full swing. Continue reading “The Way to the Future”

The Conscience of the King

This year, Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning monarch in British history, but on Broadway, her eldest son has already taken the crown in Mike Bartlett’s “future history play” King Charles III.  “I am better thoughtful prince than king,” Charles (Tim Pigott-Smith) soliloquizes after telling Camilla (Margot Leicester), “The love, with us, it’s all my life, but never can replace parental word, a mother’s hand to hold.”  But this Hamlet longing for his Gertrude quickly turns a shade Claudius.  After his first audience with the Prime Minister (Adam James) and the Leader of the Opposition (Anthony Calf), he decides to withhold his signature from a privacy bill that would limit the freedom of the press.  The move snowballs, and while Charles pushes to restore political power to the monarchy, Harry (Richard Goulding) falls in love with the anti-establishment Jess (Tafline Steen) and Kate (Lydia Wilson) plays Lady Macbeth to a reluctant but not intractable William (Oliver Chris). Continue reading “The Conscience of the King”