Eat, Excrete, and Watch

Jerry Springer: The Opera is probably as good as any opera about Jerry Springer could be.  That’s not an endorsement.  Still, if you’ve spent your life looking for the show where you can hear a soprano sing “Piss on me, you whore” with all the self-seriousness of an Aida, then you’ve come to the right place. Continue reading “Eat, Excrete, and Watch”

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Do You Mind if I Ask You Questions?

In 2004, nearly a half-century after its debut, Edward Albee decided to revise The Zoo Story, adding a first act that would “flesh out Peter fully.”  Without struggle and all of a sudden, Homelife “fell from my mind to the page … intact.”  The result, At Home at the Zoo, is receiving its first New York revival courtesy of the Signature Theatre Company. Continue reading “Do You Mind if I Ask You Questions?”

Like int’ Old Days, or Not

The problem with being an enfant terrible is that eventually you grow up.  Martin McDonagh, the angry young man who banged out four plays in two years in his late twenties, is now nearing fifty.  The cynicism is still there; so is the black comedy, the moral ambiguity, and the penchant for spontaneous violence.  But the anger is gone, I think, and Hangmen, his first new play since 2010, feels deflated as a result. Continue reading “Like int’ Old Days, or Not”

Hidden Notes

Philippe V, the King of Spain (Mark Rylance), is not ill but indisposed.  He’s talking to goldfish, obsessing over clocks, and occasionally lapsing into violence.  The vultures are circling, while his second wife, Isabella (Melody Grove), provides a buffer between Philippe and his slavering council.  Sometimes, Philippe appears lucid, offering aphorisms that suggest he is aware of the chaos he creates.  “Many gods are fun,” he muses while his court descends into disarray, “one is a nightmare.” Continue reading “Hidden Notes”

They Went Up Yonder

In 1941, outside a “Boarding School for Colored” in Montefiore, Georgia, Kay (Juliana Canfield) watches as the students recite from The Paris Massacre, a play that has little relevance to their lives and was chosen by their white benefactor, Harrison Aherne.  Harrison’s son, Chris (Tom Pecinka), walks up beside her.  He calls her “Kay,” she calls him “Mr. Chris,” but, according to the stage directions, “There is no doubt that they are quite drawn to each other.”  Kay’s mother abandoned her as a child and moved north; her body was found in a freight elevator, a victim of either murder or suicide.  Chris’ father, who had a series of children with Black mistresses and then built their mothers a graveyard—“They are the only Nigra women in Montefiore to have tombstones on their graves”—may have had a hand in the death.  In any case, this doesn’t deter the young lovers, who soon find themselves engaged and then separated: while Chris goes off to pursue a career on the New York stage, Kay attends Atlanta University.  He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box, Adrienne Kennedy’s first play in ten years, mostly comprises their letters to one another.  In these letters, the pair pore through their shared past—both grew up in Montefiore, a town of fewer than six hundred people—and there is a sense that the fate of this relationship has some bearing on the fate of the country as a whole.  (The play ends with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.) Continue reading “They Went Up Yonder”