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 "AFTERPLAY" - by Brian Friel at the Irish Repertory Theatre, NYC

    Review by Kevin Martin

Afterplay Using various segments of Chekhovian material from different plays and then re-doing them into in a context of Irish sensibility fits amazingly well under the inspired, written hand of the recently passed Brian Friel. Here, in about 1 hour and 15 minutes, we discover the glistening charms of Friel being applied within the confines of an Irish air - in a Moscow setting, with vodka and cabbage soup standing by, and everything couched in bold and sparkling colors with chandelier and all, 1920ish Russian style (set design by John Lee Beatty). Acting it out with sparkling skill in this two-character production are Dearbhla Molloy and Dermot Crowley with Molloy as Sonya of "Uncle Vanya" and Crowley as Audrey of "Three Sisters". At play's opening, Sonya is busy doing some busy paper work on her newly gained matters of property bequeathed to her by her uncle. Arriving next is the well-behaved Audrey, dressed in far-from-first rate formal attire (costumes by Fabio Tonlini), with a little fiddle in tow. The two are meeting for an enjoyable exchange that began a day prior. Sonya reflects at some length over past heart pangs and disappointment (Dr. Astrov in particular). Countering this, Audrey neatly recalls his own emotional misfortune from years long passed (mainly his wife Natasha's adultery with Protopopov). For each of these strongly well-felt recollections, done over vodka and soup, the pain of disappointment seeps through and we get reminded of our own mortal limits. Living satisfaction is not a promise - and if given even unto decent folks - it may still be taken away. The truth, at least in the world of Chekov-Friel, is that loneliness and longing are the Siamese lodgers of our existence. One gets the feeling here that both Sonya and Audrey are those lonely soul mates deserving of something much better. The conclusion one may derive from this production (expert direction by Mr. Joe Dowling) is that they are us.
 
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  "Quietly" - by Owen McCafferty, at the Irish Repertory Theatre, NYC

   Review by Kevin Martin

Although it is expected to close fairly soon, albeit after a good,

full house run, this is the best "off" production to see - for it is every

inch a play. Solidly acted through and through by a heroic

acting trio made up of Declan Conlon (as Ian), Patrick O'Kane (as

Jimmy), and Robert Zawadzki (as Robert), - and seamlessly

directed by Jimmy Fay, "Quietly" (brought to you by Dublin's

Abbey Theatre) quickly unsettles the current ways of general

living within the confines of a plain old Belfast pub. All this

measures up to an encounter with each other and their recollections

of past Belfast/Irish life - of a time known as "The Troubles" decades

before when they were in their teens and in which they were very

involved. These now middle-aged suppliers of these memories are in a                          

sense purging themselves of the spiritual, emotional blisters lodged

into a shared past experience. What does that experience entail? Men

of moral urgency often feel the need to surpass the dictum of O'Neill:

"There is no present or future - only the past, happening over and over

again- now".  In this bar meeting set-up , Jimmy and Ian meet and

hash out the memory and action of the the 1970s that each are witness

to. Back then, N. Ireland was a festering, exploding wound of political

unrest as the Catholics and unionist Protestants of that region fought

for power within the society. This is a story, ultimately, of forgiveness

between two individuals who were there, partook in its bloody dealings

at the time, and have lived with those psychic and emotional

repercussions by way of memory.  Let it suffice that each man has had

the audacity to explore those days in the absorbing exchange they share

with each other. That itself is a kind of brave achievement. There is much

to be learned here by all of us - actions do have consequences. The

residue of remembering does not simply pass away like urine from the

body. Because these men have met, talked, challenged each other, we

are reminded of their mutual humanity. Conlon as Ian and O'Kane as

Jimmy expertly acquit themselves from start to finish. As Robert the

bartender, Zawadski registers well as an excellent third eye - perhaps

recording the meeting for his own memory. Last but not least, set,

lighting, and sound were done to perfect effect for the story's proceedings.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++                                                                                                                                                             

THE SHAPE OF LOVE Written and Directed by Bina Sharif

Review by Beatrice Bridge  

Presented by Theater For The New City; 155 First Avenue, East Village; (Tickets) 212-254-1109           Performance Dates: November 12-29;                                                         

There is no doubt that Bina Sharif, playwright, director, and actress of the New York stage, has earned a high place in the realm of artistic devotion and creative excellence. Almost no one who has ever been a regular visitor to the Off-Broadway theater these past three decades can deny that she is there, and wonderfully there at that - on the stage, under the lights of (primarily speaking) Theater for the New City - doing what true artists do: expressing art of the soul. Good playwrights, like good actors, are the brief chronicles of our time. In that sense, Sharif endures handsomely, for she fits this description with ease and dexterity. In her latest outing, "The Shape Of Love" Sharif offers us an appealing overview of some of the slings and arrows of this thing called love: its excitement, its disappointment; it expectations and failed expectations.  This is all very human stuff. The result is a nearly 90-minute emotionally rich expose of human beings wanting what they need and needing what they want. The presentation is all done by way of a series of dramatically distinct playlets. They all deal with couples wading their ways through love's challenges and responsibilities from the perspective of varying personal angles and gender mixes. The entire play is wonderfully couched in Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons, and together makes for a stupendous, aesthetic blend of transition, complemented by both lighting and set design (courtesy of Alex Bartenieff and Litza Colon, respectively). The acting goes wonderfully well, most of the time. (Some cliche gesturing - or gesticulating - could go to the wayside, perhaps). Standouts for economy and clear characterization go to Sharif herself, who appears in three of the several playlets; Kellye Rowland for her bold, near-orgasmic take on the thrilling act of love-making; Kevin Mitchell Martin, who neatly and brilliantly transitions from one gender orientation to another with the same monologue in two different scenes ("I am closer to love than you are..."). Martin also keeps us engrossed as the mystified Bernard versus his troubled, overwrought spouse Clair (Sharif) in a powerful scene inspired by  French author Marguerite Duras.  Following that, Amon Soni does well, especially with his monologue bearing the play's title - expressing a young man's daunting search for joy in life. Jiovani Arroyo is nicely suitable as a disappointed spouse in the scene of a bored marriage. Kristina Siapkara sings a few lovely operatic short pieces in between the scenes as a kind of artistic tie-in to the larger story, - done clearly and with an appropriate sensibility. But the greater kudos goes to Bina Sharif for her dramatic sensitivity and clear vision in this theatrical experience. Sharif gets it, and must certainly appreciate the Shakespearean compendium: "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep".                                   (Beatrice Bridge is a guest reviewer).

 Happy Holidays - 2015!

 

 

fringe NYC 2015 - KEVIN MARTIN Reviewing -           

"Princess Cut" A Young Girl's Reality Inside a Knoxville Sex Ring

An Original Piece Written by Danielle Roos, Kelsey Broyles, and Kerri Koczen;                                   

Directed by Danielle Roos; from Yellow Rose Productions @ Venue 13

A heartfelt, pained expose of the trauma inflicted on a young, very young girl in Knoxville, Tennessee - by being sucked into a sex-ring, thanks to her very own older, cunning, baby-sitter male cousin - and done gratuitously and brutally - is what we would find in watching and listening to "Princess Cut", a soaring and original piece, based on fact, presented at the Lynn Redgrave Theater on Bleeker Street. This is a disturbing ducu-dramatization recollecting of memories - with a focus on what really happened to an innocent kid, in the character of Sarah (smartly played by Kerri Koczen) at the tender age of six.  "Princess Cut" shows also that there are certainly other "older" girls caught up in this pernicious enterprize.  In "Princess Cut", Sarah gets raped, and raped repeatedly by boys - over and over, apparently for several years. (Where are the parents all this time)? What goes down here - and it goes heavily - is the adult Sarah's eventual, challenging awakening to her past horrors. Her road to recovery will be difficult.  What we get from Sarah is a brave willingness to chase her nightmares away, emotionally and mentally. It's not an easy task. After being put though one the ugliest of human doings such as this, how do you get your trust back?  This is a harrowing tale, worth seeing, and worth remembering, but it's not for the squeamish. Direction by Danielle Roos was smooth and just right. The set and lighting were simple but effective. The music and songs done by Christian Barnett and Joey English at the play's prelude were a superb touch, very disarming, and a fresh method for setting up the audience for the sad and powerful story that follows.

"Lincoln's Blood" Written and Directed by Garrett A. Heater @ Venue #2;

 One of the genuinely dark and deadly moments in all of U.S. history is given a decent visit back in time by way of playwright and director (as well as a member of the cast) Garrett A. Heater's full-length outing in "Lincoln's Blood", done with excellent costume and set design.  This is an interesting enactment of the reaction to the murder of the 16th president by those most near or around him on that dreadful Good Friday, April 14, 1865. Most of the action and telling of the relevant events surrounding Lincoln's death comes from the perspective of the character of Major Henry Rathbone, who, along with his fiance, Clara Harris, were guests of the First Couple at Ford's Theatre to see the well-known English comedy, "Our American Cousin".  Well conceived as a story for the stage, "Lincoln's Blood" as an actual production is a very interesting glimpse of the assassination, though it wobbles as an overall production. This is most felt when certain parts of the acting are uneven or at least limited in creative choices by any of the performers in the cast. And though none of the acting is ever really too overdone ("suit the action to the word and the word to the action"), the performance that bordered on near-perfection comes in the name of Karin Franklin-King (as Elizabeth Keckley, the dress-maker and personal assistant to Mary Todd Lincoln). Franklin-King's inhabitation rings solid, emerging as a gentle anchor within the tortuous orbit of Mrs. Lincoln's emotionality. It is a matter of public record and human sorrow that Mrs. Lincoln's life accelerated into a downward spiral following her husband's death. That said, the main section of "Lincoln's Blood" concerns the experience of Major Rathbone - who goes through a torrent of painful, remorseful played - out memories over the bloody event that literally unfolded under his nose.  The bad, bad assassin's action was just too sudden and too quick for a successful defense against the crime. As the only other man in the immediate environs of the murder, it is reasonable to assume that Rathbone later looked on himself as an irresponsible failure - a loser at life. Thusly, any human being with just a tiny moral compass undergoing a similar moment might very well have gone through the same hell. In this regard, actor Garrett A. Heater does the character some real justice. We do feel and believe that Rathbone's future - as we clearly see it happening before our eyes  - will come to a terrible end. I hope you get to see "Lincoln's Blood".

"Wilde Tales" by Oscar Wilde; Adapted and Directed by Kevin P. Joyce @ Venue #15;     When some folks consider Oscar Wilde the man, he gets somewhat short-changed - this is because of the tragic mishap he fell under via the authoritarian-Victorian establishment of late 19th century Britain. It's clear by now that Wilde - over a hundred years after his youthful, albeit perhaps much yearned-for death, was more sinned against than sinning. The man of distinct wit and intelligence that elevated and transformed his observations of middle-class and upper middle-class social behavior into everlasting, bitingly delicious sarcasms has cast a giant shadow over the English language. "Wilde Tales", is an exquisitely presented and acted (also neatly, wonderfully sung) production now showing at Venue 15. This piece focuses on Wilde's deeply poetic fairy tales, done for children of all ages: "The Happy Prince", "The Nightingale and the Rose", and "The Fisherman and His Soul".  With puppetry on hand plus fresh music and song, you will have - if you are lucky enough to get a ticket - a chance to savor Wilde's sparkling genius for researching the human heart. The sixty-five minutes sails by quickly but you might not even notice.  For this occasion, "Wilde Tales" is an absolutely glowing success. Smoothly directed, the entire cast was excellent. Oscar Wilde would have loved it.  

"Straight Faced Lies" by Mark Jason Williams, Directed by Andrew Block @ Venue #3; Although the Fringe program note for "Straight Faced Lies" includes a mysteriously flattering blurb-quote ("One of the year's best new plays'), it remains a well-intended but uninspired piece of stagecraft due in large part to the writing.  The play is more like a sit-com for TV - with chock-full of witty one-liners - ideally suited for late night sketches.  SFL is about a clearly dysfunctional American family (the Ryans) - who await their imprisoned felon father's release back to the family on one Thanksgiving holiday, although - supposedly, he ends up never returning (won't tell why or how, but who knows? You would have to find out by seeing it).  The actors are generally energetic with stand-out performances by Geraldine Librandi and Joey Collins. (I could not hear all the actors' lines, thanks to the modern benefits of cool, strong air-conditioning going full force during the show); the set is fairly appealing, given the Autumn-Fallen- Leaves time of year. As the play moves along, its story nevertheless weakens as it journeys to conclusion.  However, what made me stay seated was the commitment of the actors. 

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"The Weir" - Presented by the Irish Repertory Theatre       

- KEVIN MARTIN              

Ah, what demon has tempted me here?

Well, I know, now, this dim lake of Auber -

This misty mid region of Weir-

Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber,

This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.      - Edgar Allan Poe ("Ulalume" 1848)

There have been many an Irish production in this great city - though none of recent memory fixes the experience of reflection and imagination quite so deftly as the current and very strong outing of "The Weir", Conor McPherson's thoughtful visitation of adult wonderings and feelings of the past that go bump-in-the-soul.  If living honestly means sometimes taking advantage of one's own flash of needful talk and then sharing that moment via the kindness of either visitors or strangers, then the "The Weir" is for you.  (A weir - for the unpretentious - is simply, and literally, a barrier or specific dam that crosses along a river or any waterway). Directed with crystal clear instinct by Ciaran O'Reilly and seamlessly acted by - in order of appearance - Paul O'Brien, Tim Ruddy, John Keating, Sean Gormley, and Amanda Quaid, "The Weir" carries us along on an Irish journey of shared personal ruminations - and in its doing - seduces us groundlings into knowing just a little more better about ourselves (hopefully); the acting here has within its expressive confines the reminder that, yes, our little lives are indeed rounded by a sleep, and for some of us, a restless sleep.  "The Weir" takes place in a plain Irish pub in a remote Irish town, starting out with some social interplay between a couple of locals, patron Jack (O'Brien) and the pub's bartender/owner Brendan himself (Ruddy). Their pointed chatter touches upon the horse races as well as whether to sell some of the property on which the pub rests (there is an adjoining section of property and house that Brendan's siblings wish for him to do the unloading).  As to winning horse-racing bets, Jack has been a lucky winner on this occasion, with gratitude perhaps being owed to the clever recommendations of Jim (Keating) who is a part-time employee of Jack's. (Jack owns an auto-garage). Eventually, the small place is filled up with more patrons from the general area, and the conversation(s) turns accordingly.  These turns eventually bring about an existential feel to the proceedings. As the pub's evening progresses, Jim has also stopped by for a refresher of his own (stout and whiskey do nicely). Soon afterward, in walk two more patrons together - Finbar (Gormley) and Valerie (Quaid). The whole assemblage evolves into a rendezvouz with well-felt monologues, as each of the patrons do his and her unique telling of a past experience, conveyed by both an unsettling, near-ghoulish humor and genuinely dark pathos. Be aware of the grand Irish skill of hinting at the haunted, given in partnership to a mysterious "Fairy Road"; these and other elements of the stories told are together smoothly woven into the play's dramatic fabric. Be aware, also, of the the gorgeous simplicity of it as you watch and listen. It would be unfair to give all the rest here. Let it suffice that this non-intermission, 90-plus minute production is deeply expressed for perhaps different purposes, the very deepest of which entails a truly sad and utterly credible story given by Valerie. Seeing this, it is quite certain that the overall strength (i.e., its power to persuade) of "The Weir" is rooted in part to the strongly human aspect of determined story-telling, without risk. That is the play's gift to itself and to us. The mood and atmosphere hold together impressively, thanks to the excellent efforts of Charlie Corcoran for the neat set as well as to Martin Gottlieb for effective lighting - both never over done - so that we hardly even know the work of the set design and stage lighting is actually happening. "The Weir" plays just right.

 

The Irish Repertory is presenting "The Weir" at DR2 Theater on East 15th Street, near Union Square, Manhattan;                         

Box Office Tel. # 212-727-2737,  "The Weir" is playing until Aug. 23rd.  Online Information: irishrep.org.

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Wolf Hall: Parts One & Two

April 2015

Part One: Wolf Hall
    Part Two: Bring Up the Bodies  

Now Playing at the Winter Garden on Broadway for a Limited Run

By Hilary Mantel; adapted by Mike Poulton; directed by Jeremy Herrin; sets and costumes by Christopher Oram; Part One lighting by Paule Constable and Part Two lighting by David Plater; music by Stephen Warbeck; sound by Nick Powell; movement by Sian Williams; associate director, Joe Murphy; production stage manager, Michael J. Passaro; production manager, Aurora Pdns.

 - KEVIN MARTIN       When a stage production's very favorable reputation precedes itself, it is all the more satisfying when that turns out to be true, yet even more rewarding when the same production has actually exceeded that reputation; viz., this is a fantastic, dramatic, double-whammy of a doozy of a production of a historical fiction brand of Tudor history via "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up The Bodies" that has proved itself to be better than its advance publicity - or "buzz", which was rightly bragged about long before it ever opened at the Winter Garden. "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up The Bodies" work as a 2-part, fast-paced, almost evenly divided 6-hour historic journey through the professional life of (protaganist) Thomas Cromwell in relation to his English King, Henry VIII. Both parts of the production are flawlessly acted and smartly realized, and both stagings are based on the recently penned books of the same respective titles by British writer Hilary Mantel (double recipient of the prestigious Booker Prize for both achievements). "Wolf Hall" opens up the story of Cromwell (future lawyer for the king) as he navigates events suiting his own ambitions while accommodating the needs and impulses of his royal boss - all during the years of 1527-1533.  This pair of gems is not merely a royal demonstration of indeterminate kingly, courtly gossip. More rightly, when watched and listened with a stronger curiosity for a better desire to learn, - the experience catapults our imagination's energy into the realm of stage reality: we enjoy watching the historic doings and undoings of the very powerful. For King Henry and Cromwell once strolled the earth, and impacted England's destiny long after they were gone. Now, almost five centuries later, we are witnessing their affairs. Wolf Hall is the early part of Cromwell's climb forward and upward; though from lowly roots - he was the son of a Putney blacksmith - and he is now both a man of law as well as a rapid adjuster to all political wheeling and dealing, - having first done major, and crucial, employment under Cardinal Wolsey, his majesty's Lord Chancellor. (Prior to that, Cromwell was a mercenary soldier on the Continent). Wolsey will eventually fall from the king's favor for failing to procure a papal annulment for his marriage to Katherine (of Arragon). The ultimate interest within the dramatic aspect of the entire, two-fold story rests in Cromwell's purpose of using his wily version of statecraft to procure a double benefit: secure his own royal position of ascendant authority while seeing to the satisfaction of the king's desires and expectations (prime example: fulfill Henry's effort to divorce Katherine - who has failed to give him a male heir, and marry Anne Boleyn, disregarding Church law in the process). Each part of this Cromwell-Henry relationship is, in part, symbiotic to the other. This reality is redolent of Sir Walter Scott's maxim, "Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive". Such is the ingredient of insatiable self-interest - in court as in life - that frequently sees no end.  Some of the dark consequences resulting from this atmosphere of parlous intrigue will not only include future wife Anne Boleyn's noggin getting the blade (she was charged with adultery), - but in later years Cromwell himself will meet the same exact fate. Thus, "Henry VIII's most faithful servant" as author John Schofield described him, suffered the ultimate penalty for being labeled a traitor and heretic.  
Both parts of the production are cleanly directed as each scene moves seamlessly to the next, executed through and through with a minimalist, efficient stage design.  The characters are all well acted, persuasively; from a coolly lit, collected, and supple Cromwell (Ben Miles) to a headstrong, impetuous King Henry Tudor (Nathaniel Parker). And, knowing that the play's the thing, this is a faithful cast. Actors Paul Jesson as Thomas Wolsey, Lucy Briers as both Katherine of Aragon and Jane Boleyn, Lydia Leonard as Anne Boleyn, and Daniel Fraser as Gregory Cromwell all acquit themselves convincingly. Happily, a long effort of an outing such as this was simultaneously intelligent and refreshing, something utterly not always easy to pull off. One of the evening's many enjoyable lines includes a character (via the appealing Leah Brotherhood) who introduces herself at court as: "I'm nobody, - I'm only Jane Seymour".  Indeed.

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"Cry, Trojans" at Saint Ann's Warehouse 

                               Performed by the Wooster Group

April 2015 

This production, touted as being inspired by - or derived from - its collaboration with London's Royal Shakespeare Company for a production of Shakespeare's historical view of the Trojan War, ala "Troilus and Cressida" and now reshaped into "Cry, Trojans" as a new, makeshift effort placing the ancient Greeks of Troy, defending and protecting their legendary Helen, versus all other Greeks of sorts - and done so via improvised and then done so with a modern spin on production values.  Presented this way, the whole thing is and always will be a crushing bore, un-deftly "directed" by Elizabeth LeCompte for the Wooster Company.  Incorporated into this wired-for-sound miked acting and laborious, de-engerized display of dumb shows and noise are the bits and pieces of 19th century-style American historiana: a Native American teepee slapped together as an all-purpose way station and military base (baseless) for war planners, whilst the milky white skinned principals skitter about - in Native American skimpy-wear - mostly half-elocuting Shakespeare's text while blended with a few current idioms.  The sound effects were creative enough, but amid the dreadful stuff "happening" onstage are several overhanging TV monitors showing (volume turned off) black and white film clips of yesteryear - perhaps relating to the pangs of despised love, as in a clip of Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood trying to sort out their deep, wrenching passions for each other, from the motion picture "Splendor in the Grass". As it goes (and it goes heavily), many of the actors play multiple roles, as with Scott Shepherd giving us Troilus, Agamemnon, Helen amd Achilles; Andrew Schneider as Aeneas, Helen, Ulysses, Myrmidon; Kate Valk as Cressida and Helen, and Greg Mehrten (most clear-spoken of all the actors) as Pandarus, Priam, Thersites, and so forth. In all, some scenes in the first act were slightly more appealing than some other scenes, though over-all, it mattered little. The production lacked an active core, from which might have stemmed the juicy fruit of suiting the actions to the words and the words to the action. Anyway, there was no evidence of any Native American members of the cast. How's that for equal opportunity multi-ethnic casting? (I left at the intermission).         

- KEVIN MARTIN

stannswarehouse.org   866-811-4111      

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"King Hedley", at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.

     February 20, 2015                                                   

This production, a tale of poetic woe done in a painful, social setting, is deftly, neatly, and economically staged by Timothy Douglas, and placed in 1985-ish Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's Hill District of a tattered, run-down backyard - during the economically stingy Reagan years. August Wilson's wondrously epic play, "King Hedley", brims with relevance. In our current time of sporadic race discomfort often imposed on the popular mind by a contentious right-wing, mass-media zealotry, "King Hedley" rings well for its sweeping expression of African-American grit and self-truth. The canvas of Wilson's work is filled with bold strokes of conflict, longing, and seething impulses, - all imbued with a brazen, straightforward humanity. As personified by the very fine, riveting skills of actor Bowman Wright in the title role, this "King Hedley" (an ex-con) captures the audience, body and soul, with a Promethean heat that stays lit to the play's end. Plagued by a nasty, long and permanent scar moving lengthwise on the side of his face down to the neck (courtesy of a prior knife attack while doing prior jail time but also historically reminiscent of the brutal branding of African-American slaves from earlier centuries), the unemployable/unemployed King Hedley yearns for his own brand of respect, but only to be acquired in an illicit context; i.e., working a scam by stealing new refrigerators and then reselling them - not a very inconspicuous activity - but hopefully a somewhat profitable one.  His road to making and having money - post prison - is cursed further by Hedley's missteps. The tragedy of doing wrong in the black adult environment of economic and social despair is a palpable one and if you have ever followed the playwright's 20th century decade-sequence of his plays, you would see there are certain traces going back in time in the author's canon in which Wilson resurrects story and plot elements from his other work, "Seven Guitars" set in the 1940s. Fast-forward ahead a few decades and one sees that the interior social fabric of American racism may have changed shape in the national landscape, but it remains as present as ever.  The reality offered in "Hedley" persists: the African American experience, over and over, is one that bears institutional entrapment, symbolically and literally,  - and which has been horribly nurtured by America's historic racism.  In the first act, King Hedley (Wright) soars and roars like a righteous lion set loose in an urban terrain with a piercing monologue that at once articulates his harrowing ordeal for survival and provokes a larger question: will social justice, will societal fairness ever be truly realized?  Will the honest notion of a "fair shake" for all, including the less fortunate ever be equalized - in THIS country?  This is a great moment of many effective moments in the story. Supported in the great weaving are other fine actors: the brilliant Andre De Shields shines in the opening scenes - and throughout - as Stool Pigeon, beckoning aloud to a certain grand spirit identified as Aunt Esther (366 years old) for needed support.  De Shields's Stool Pigeon calls her to our hungry imagination. His is the voice from the busted urban wilderness, guiding our collective process as the drama unfolds. E. Faye Butler does magic as Ruby along with her on-again suitor (Elmore) played with beguiling appeal by Michael Anthony Williams. Their relationship has a deceivingly short fuse attached to it that ends up giving it a sharp, disturbing peak. Jessica Frances Dukes fares quite strongly as a bruised soul lamenting the possibility that her daughter will end up making life mistakes similar to those that she once made. A masterful stroke of persuasive characterization belongs to Kenyatta Rogers who, as "Mister" is an utterly appealing foil to the plot tensions of action and conflict. "King Hedley" is a genuinely powerful story of real America, one that sticks to the memory of anyone willing to pay attention. 

- KEVIN MARTIN  

Contact www.arenastage.org     Tel. 202-488-3300  ============================================================================

Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose last major stage
appearance was in "The Death of a Salesman" on Broadway, NYC.
 
Mr. Hoffman, since his untimely death on February 2, 2014, continues
to be missed. He was a rare actor of honesty and intelligence. His role
as the forlorn Willie Loman was a stunning dispaly of human vulnerability.
His memory remains a monument to art. As an affectionate recall, see
my comment,  below, from over 2 years ago, about the
anticipated excitement for "Salesman's" opening.  KM

Mr. Mike Nichols is back in town - directing Arthur Miller's wonderful, bold, sensitive, brutal masterpiece of American expectation, illusion and sheer disappointment.

Hieroglyhpic Background 2

 

The late great character actor Thomas Mitchell once told a reporter: "The actor who thinks onstage is a dead duck".  In real life, thinking wrongly, believing wrongly, may also cause dead-duckiness in everyday living, as per Willy Loman.  If you ponder “Death of a Salesman” significance in 2012, be assured; the late Thomas Mitchell's portrayal of Willy Loman six decades ago ranked as a virtual tie to a lot of folks for high end realization - (a director's task come true) - right along side that of the iconic master stage craftsman himself, the late Lee J. Cobb.  Advanced scuttlebutt in and around New York theater hangouts these days (bars, cafes, the Equity Lounge!) has folks humming high praise for the fine actor Philip Seymour Hoffman's as the the up-coming Willy.  There is no reason to think that this intelligent artist would not be equal in excellence to Cobb, Mitchell, et al. This Broadway effort is being captained by Mike Nichols; (ever hear of him)? As such, “Salesman” is being greeted with a tingling anticipation by ticket buyers and prospective buyers both. (Would any "real" Willy be able to pay the Ticket Price nowadays)?  My own pre-visit impression is that it will be worth every hard-earned dollar to procure a seat. TEST

Lee J. Cobb and Mildred Dunnock
26ISHERWOOD1-popup.jpg
Ms. Dunnock was Linda for Cobb's Loman and Mitchell's Loman


kevin martin
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The Bourne Identity
BETTE BOURNE, Actor and Deeply Human Being
"A LIFE IN THREE ACTS" starring :
Bette Bourne and Mark Ravenhill
Location: Saint Ann's Warehouse, Brooklyn

Bette Bourne, (pictured above, left, with Mark Ravenhill) is one of Britain's busiest actors on the New York stage, and is wowing everyone with his "A Life In Three Acts". Honest, bright, ballsy, and full of sharp wit, "A Life In Three Acts" is a bio-work of Bourne's brave and deeply felt life journey (and it ain't over yet), ending up - after 2 fast hours - as a truly original piece of art. Bourne, hailing from England, soars through the clouds and lands beautifully on two solid feet. Throughout the evening, one finds oneself drawn into Bourne's imperfect reality, watching as he frankly bares his life and soul within a rapid 120 minutes, replete with memorable audio clips as Bourne remembers aloud for all to hear and feel. A most memorable moment is a scratchy but brilliant sound clip of Bourne's mother singing "Ave Maria" in the days of her young womanhood, and displaying warm and truthful emotion in the rendition. Contrast that memory with Bourne's reflection of life at home with Daddy (a boorish, frightened, abusive father) and you have a strong dose of a kid growing up fast. ("I always wanted to be an actor"). Bourne later grows in maturity - and emerges into his adulthood as a "queen". By evening's end, one realizes that this has been a very affecting, and at times, powerful journey,- a very theatrical yet human encounter. Also adding some stage enjoyment of his own to this thrilling experience is Bourne's very fine co-actor, Mark Ravenhill. Together, the duo does dazzling stuff for the heart.
Hurry! Fast!
Information Tel.(718) 254-8779 or visit artsatstanns.org.


Jan/Feb REVIEW: BAM these days is presenting "The Cherry Orchard", Anton Chekhov's touching, unsentimental masterpiece of familial interplay, so handsomely realized under the shrewd hand of Sam Mendez. A newly-writ version by Tom Stoppard, this is an Orchard ripe with excellence in areas of acting, lights and costume, as well as overall direction. There is little to complain about in this deeply human exploration penned by Chekhov in the last year of his life. The sensibility of time passing away to make room for new parts of living tend to echo in Chekhov's psyche. And, like the legendary goddess Psyche herself (who "uplifting her finger, said, 'Ah, hasten!- ah, let us not linger! Ah, fly! - let us fly!- for we must.")...., this Orchard blooms with truth-to-tell experience. As the skilled cast (led principally by the exquisite Simon Russell Beale as Lopakhin, a well-to-do family friend and local merchant neighbor of the Cherry Orchard owning family of Madame Ranevskaya) gracefully performs their respective roles in a 2-plus hour evening, the play comes more and more alive with rich emotion in each successive scene, realized with pleasing - and sometimes comedic effect. For it is known by now that Chekhov had intended this work about a land-owner, aristocratic woman, Ranevskaya (enjoyably rendered by the delightful Sinead Cusack)- to be as much filled with fine humor as with the stuff of tragedy. That, one may suppose, enables it into a tragicomedy for contemporary eyes and ears. To be reminded, "The Cherry Orchard" is a ride through a landscape of cultural oppressiveness and emotional pain, as Madame Ranevskaya - on returning from her 5-year Paris stay in a state of self-annointed pretense, inevitably watches her estate - with its beautiful natural wonders - being readied for auction, due to excessive debt, - or more specifically, the unpaid mortgage on the property (while she latches onto a pile of denial at the same time). It's likely that Ranevskaya has remained desperately grief-stricken throughout all those Paris years due to the earlier, tragic drowning of her young son while in Russia. In between these repeated bouts of agony there come richly poetic variations on the need, search, and loss of love - viz., Ranevskaya's contained yearning for her young, unsettled step daughter Varya's happiness by way of establishing contact with the financially secure Lopakhin. In typical Chekhovian form, Lopakhin does not respond in kind, and Varya - an extension of Ranevskaya's own romantic urgings, falls into sad disappointment. The slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune now fly about wildly - and all the rightful needs of the most human of human beings - Ranevskaya, Lopakhin, Varya, as well as other concerned needful souls such as Gaev (Paul Jesson), Trofimov (Ethan Hawke), Anya (Morven Christie), and Firs, the manservant (a star turn by Richard Easton) are set in abeyance as the world around them literally changes forever. There is a great deal of learning that goes on here - affecting the heart of anyone who ever sought after true love only to fall backward in honest surprise, regardless of class, social position, or otherwise. Chekhov really never fails us.
To round out the appreciation of this fine production, it is worthwhile to acknowledge the professional polish added by the work of the background music of Mark Bennett, Dan Lipton and Dana Lyn, and the positively effective lighting design and set design by Paul Pyant and Anthony Ward, respectively.

The Cherry Orchard - at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY

Red Glass Spinning Star

Thomas Mitchell
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"The Death of a Salesman" - Arthur Miller's expressive compendium of the American Dream gone tragically astray,will hit the boards later this month at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, will star Philip Seymour Hoffmann as Willy Loman. Mike Nichols directs. (For TICKET info, CLICK anywhere HERE)!

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Simon Russell Beale

Is There An ART Explosion In 2010?
Daisy, Spinning
Creating an Impression

In the next issue of cinemastage.com -
Get the Art & Performance update from our much esteemed, well noted
Art Man, Nikos Manhardt.

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(Art favoring Art)
GET EXCITED: >duh ?


WHAT ELSE ? Three excellent FILMS in TOWN that you MIGHT
like to have seen if you haven't seen them yet:
"The King's Speech, "The Fighter", "Town"
(yada yada yada)





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Looking down the road in ART for
for the rest of 2010 and/or
Has Obama stopped playing Chicken in D.C.?? - and like, will this president REALLY ever end the illegal
Iraq War?!? Will he ever stop pandering to Wall $treet, AND: Do we really better understand ourselves & the world we live in since that terrible day over 9 years ago - September 11, 2001?


Also in our April Spring 2010 issue:
A Very Special Interview - with You-Know-Ho!
(SURPRISE)! Stay tuned .......

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And -
Did MICHAEL JACKSON live successfully?, Is Joe Lieberman a trigger happy political turncoat?, & JUST BECAUSE the Republicans have caused a rotten mess almost everywhere, Did ALL those Democrats deserve to be elected?: (So, is there some kind of "connection" here)?
In the next issue, you'll find out. 

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