The biggest value in New York City theater right now is Ensemble Studio Theatre’s 36th Marathon of One-Act Plays. There are three evenings of one-acts, Series A, B & C. See one for $25, two for $40 or all three for $60. I’ve seen Series A which includes Showtime Blues by France-Luce Benson, Blue Handed by David Zellnick, The Fork by Emily Chadwick Weiss, El Grande by Maggie Diaz Bofill, and How My Grandparents Fell In Love by Cary Glitter. And I was so impressed with the consistent level of talent both on stage and behind the scenes, that I want to see Series B & C. I’m sure you’ll feel the same way too.
Don’t worry about knowing the classics, or pronouncing the name. Just go see Iphigenia in Splott by Welsh playwright Gary Owen. It’s currently playing at 59E59 Theatres’ Brits Off Broadway Festival that showcases new British theater. All you need to know is that Splott is a factory community in the town of Cardiff Wales, and Iphigenia’s name in Greek means “strong-born” or “born to strength.” Although you’ll figure out that last bit by yourself quickly enough.
There are things to love about The York Theatre Company’s new musical Marry Harry, but I’m not ready to put a ring on it. It needs a little polishing before I’d commit to a lifetime with it in its current form. The music by Dan Martin and lyrics by Michael Biello, longtime collaborators, was outstanding. The Greek chorus of Village Voices (Ben Chavez, Jesse Manocherian & Claire Saunders), while hardly an innovative device, was a delightful and refreshing way to impart information and set the scene. The talented and charismatic trio becomes almost a third character in the piece, and every time they enter you know it means fun. Where Marry Harry needs a little polishing is plot and character development.
Anastasia, is a perfectly crafted Broadway musical fairy-tale that is going to run forever. Family-friendly, romantic, glittery, great sets and costumes, show-stopping second banana (Caroline O’Connor I’m looking at you), and songs the audience already knows and loves. Wait, what? It’s billed as an original musical with book by noted playwright Terence McNally, and music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, the duo who brought us “Ragtime”, and oh yes, the animated movie musical “Anastasia.”
You may not have seen the original, but you’ve played the game. Now’s your chance to see where it all started. John Guare didn’t make up the concept but his 1990 play Six Degrees of Separation, put the phrase on everyone’s lips and made Kevin Bacon a household name. Not that Bacon had anything to do with the play, mind you. The stunning revival now playing at the Barrymore Theater through July 16th is an uncomfortably funny reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I wanted to see Bamboo in Bushwick because of the topic – gentrification. I thought it was an interesting idea that Working Theater developed the play out of conversations and workshops with the residents of Bushwick. Unfathomably, Ed Cardona, Jr., the playwright, gets all artsy with it, and Bamboo in Bushwick winds up being a confusing, clichéd mess.
There are a lot of reasons to do a revival. Great writing, great stories, lessons learned. Sometimes, we want to see how far we’ve come. And sometimes we learn we haven’t come very far at all. Rosalee Pritchett and The Perry’s Mission, two one-acts being revived by the Negro Ensemble Company for its 50th Anniversary season, show us that we’ve lost ground, or haven’t come far enough.
G.K. Chesterton, the early 20th Century British man of letters said “I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” I only wish the committee that wrote Who Would Be King, currently playing at Ars Nova through April 1st, had taken it to heart. Presented by the Cambridge, MA based group Liars & Believers, the program says the play is written by the LAB Ensemble and then lists 13 names. Three people can’t come to an agreement on what to eat for lunch, how can thirteen people write a cohesive script? Short version…they can’t.
The stars were twinkling brighter and more plentiful on stage than in the sky on Saturday night in The Appel Room. The star-studded event, American Songbook: An Evening with Kristen and Bobby Lopez, closed the 2017 season in that venue. Lopez? I’ll give you a hint, What do the Disney movie Frozen, and the Broadway musicals The Book of Mormon, Avenue Q, and In Transit have in common? That’s right, one or both of the husband and wife team wrote the songs And Bobby is one of 12 people in history who is an “EGOT” – the recipient of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.
I laughed, I cried, I split my gloves clapping. An old cliché, but it perfectly describes my experience seeing Joshua Harmon’s Significant Other at the Booth Theater the other night. Well…all except the glove part. Who wears gloves in the theater anymore? The modern audience gives a standing ovation. So I did that. Let’s try this again. I laughed, I cried, I stood on my feet clapping. And coming from me, that’s actually high praise. I’m kind of a snob about this standing ovation business. I think it’s too easily bestowed these days.
Sam Gold’s production of Tennessee Williams’ autobiographical masterpiece The Glass Menagerie opened on March 9th and it’s going to be the subject of a lot of controversy. You’d think that a play that has had eight Broadway productions since it opened in 1945 would have been fully explored at this point. But leave it to the iconoclastic director Sam Gold to take it to another place. And it shouldn’t surprise you that the place Gold first staged The Glass Menagerie was at Ivo Van Hove’s Toneelgroep Amsterdam.
It wasn’t planned to coincide, but it sure is apt, that American Songbook: The Songs of Elizabeth Swados was scheduled on International Women’s Day 2017. According to Taylor Mac, the host of the evening, Ms. Swados holds the record for the youngest woman to be nominated for 5 Tony’s for Runaways in 1978. She was nominated for Best Score, Best Book, Best Director and Best Choreographer, and the musical was nominated for Best Musical. She was 27 years old at the time.
All the Fine Boys written and directed by Erica Schmidt, is about two 14-year-old girls crossing over from childhood into adulthood. The two girls have the predictable experiences. Emily, who flirts with a “safe” sort of classmate, gets her heart broken. Jenny, who goes off with someone even he says is a stranger to her, gets a lot more than just her heart broken.
If you’ve ever worked in an office anywhere, of any size, in any industry, you will find something familiar in Dolphins and Sharks, which opened tonight at the Labyrinth Theater Company. Playwright James Anthony Tyler must have worked his way through his two MFA’s because his understanding of office dynamics is spot-on. It’s got to come from personal experience. Trust me, it takes one to know one, and I KNOW.
David Mamet is an American theater icon for good reason. He writes plays with nuance and depth that require the audience to really listen and think. About subjects that will stick to your ribs and keep your mind and your guts churning long after you leave the theater. His latest play at The Atlantic Theater Company, The Penitent, is no exception. Mamet likes to play his cards close to his chest. He lets us see one card at a time and keeps us guessing about what else might be in his hand. For mystery fans like myself, it’s an alluring invitation. We follow the clues like bloodhounds.