Saying Words That Have Oh So Clearly Been Said So Long Ago

It’s a little strange and a little beautiful to see John Cale performing with a full orchestra to a seated, opera-house audience.  Dressed in an all-black suit brought into relief by a shock of white hair, Cale nods along with the band as he works his way through The Velvet Underground & Nico, which was released fifty years ago in March.  In the intervening years, he has apparently become as comfortable with the Lincoln Center crowd as he was with the weirdos and punks who first saw these songs performed alongside screenings of Andy Warhol’s films.  His viola is now accompanied by the sousaphone. Continue reading “Saying Words That Have Oh So Clearly Been Said So Long Ago”


She Doesn’t Even Go Here

The subtitle of Jocelyn Bioh’s School Girls is The African Mean Girls Play.  In some ways, it’s a pretty fair comparison.  This is a sharp and funny work about a group of girls at an elite Ghanian boarding school.  While each prepares for a performance that could make them eligible for the 1986 Miss Global Universe pageant—the name, of course, is similar to Donald Trump’s former enterprise—Paulina (MaameYaa Boafo) bullies her peers into submission and sycophancy.  “I’m so jealous of your life,” coos Nana (Abena Mensah-Bonsu) after hearing Paulina will be wearing Calvin Klein.  “I know,” she replies, delivering her lines as if they were rehearsed for an interviewer, “I’m so blessed.”  But Nana’s subservience doesn’t protect her: Paulina uses her weight to cudgel her self-esteem, asking if Nana wants to be “fat-fat” or “fit and popular,” then eventually insisting that she drop twenty pounds or find a new table in the cafeteria.  These volatile circumstances are only exacerbated when the new girl, the biracial, American-born Ericka (Nabiyah Be), arrives just in time to audition. Continue reading “She Doesn’t Even Go Here”

Paradise, Right?

“Our father, who art in heaven.”  So far, so good.  “Howard be thy name.”  This is where Angel (Sean Carvajal) begins to struggle.  “Howard?  How art?  How?  How-now?  Fuck!”  As Angel gropes his way through the Lord’s Prayer, other inmates join in.  “Shut the fuck up!” shouts one.  “Both a y’all, shut the fuck up!” adds a second.  By the end of the scene, a guard is asking, almost with relish, “Did you just say ‘Fuck me’?” Continue reading “Paradise, Right?”

Playing Arabs and Army

Six unnamed Palestinian combatants seek cover in the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem.  With the Israeli army outside, this soon becomes a siege that will last thirty-nine days.  In that time, the combatants tend to their wounds, argue over their methods, and fantasize about the coffee and cigarettes awaiting them when the fighting is over.  The Americans and Europeans try to negotiate a truce, but inside the church this is treated with a knowing cynicism.  The Israelis also make a go at it, but their efforts prove ineffectual.  When the mother of one combatant is given a bullhorn, she quickly goes off script: “They want me to ask you to surrender.  But I swear to God and all that is holy, if you turn yourself in, I will disown you.  I swear if you surrender, I’ll cut the breast that nursed you.” Continue reading “Playing Arabs and Army”

Richard Lieben Richard

I thought I had seen my zaniest Richard III in Mark Rylance, and before that in Kevin Spacey.  But compared to Lars Eidinger, these performances feel like those of mildly rambunctious children.  Mr. Eidinger abandons all pretense that Richard is an adult—or even a human being—and before the night is over, he has sat naked and spread-eagled on his throne, urinated on the stage, and lead the audience in a collective shaming of Buckingham (Moritz Gottwald): “You look like shit!” he cries through laughter after smearing Buckingham’s face with brown food, “Have you eaten any pussy yet today?”  Near the end of the production, he covers his own face in food, this time pasty and white, giving him the look of a nightmarish clown.  His Richard, it seems, is willing to sow chaos whenever he gets the chance.  In this context, then, his suicidal reign becomes clearer: it is simply one more chance for destruction, even if that destruction is of the self. Continue reading “Richard Lieben Richard”