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.
It’s a play,,,it’s a party…its’s hard to tell when you walk into the Linney Theatre to see Evening at the Talk House. You arrive through grand double doors looking at the set of a plush lounge with a huge crystal chandelier. There are comfortable arm chairs and sofas, and everyone is milling about. Servers offer you sweets and neon colored drinks, and the ushers urge you to “please mingle.” Charmed, curious, I took my seat. This was not what I was expecting from the NY Times article about Wallace Shawn’s latest play, “Drama as Protest: ‘Our Complacency is Dangerous.”
Do you love Kurt Weill? Don’t know Kurt Weill from Kurt Cobain? Doesn’t matter. If you’re interested in musical theater, quick get a ticket to Berlin to Broadway With Kurt Weill: A Musical Voyage. It’s playing a limited engagement only until February 19th as part of The York Theatre Company’s “Musicals in Mufti” Series.
If you’re a theater lover and you haven’t been to Lincoln Center’s American Songbook Series, the 2017 season should get you there. I know you don’t necessarily equate the American Songbook series with groundbreaking theatrical forms, but you’re wrong. The first place I heard the Hamilton Mixtapes was at the opening concert of the 2011 American Songbook series: Lin Manuel Miranda. While this season’s opener, American Songbook: Andrew Lippa & Friends, may not be breaking new ground musically, Lippa does not write your grandma’s musicals.
There’s an exciting new voice in the theater and it’s at The Atlantic Theater Company by way of Puerto Rico. Paola Lázaro, a young playwright with an MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University, is the Atlantic’s 2016/2017 Tow Foundation Playwright-in-Residence. She’s set Tell Hector I Love Him, her first play to be produced professionally, in her hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico. A stark but empathetic love letter to her native land, Ms. Lazaro writes with humor and directness about the lives of the people there.
It takes a lot of guts to get up by yourself on a stage in front of an audience and try to entertain them for 5 minutes, much less an hour and 15 minutes. Marga Gomez has been doing it for a long time and has a lot of fans, as the packed house at her 12th solo show Latin Standards, proves. Part of The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival, Latin Standards is billed as a “solo play” about “fathers, entertainment, gentrification, drag, and café Cubano.”
As Marga describes herself at the top of the show, she’s Cuban, Puerto Rican, and lesbian, but she’s not into labels. She just wants to let us know in case there were any, you know, tourists, in the audience. In case, you know, maybe Mike Pence was in the audience. She doesn’t want anyone to be shocked when they find out during the show that she’s…wait for it….Latina.
She quickly tells us that this isn’t going to be a show about politics and the creature-elect but this is only her second day out of bed since November 8th. And this is her final farewell concert. Since she might be deported. But no, the real reason this is her final farewell concert is that she thinks she may have peaked in 1997. And then she shows us a clip of her 6 seconds of screen time in the movie “Sphere.”
But warm-up patter aside, the meat of Latin Standards is devoted to Marga’s father Willy Chevalier, a songwriter and comic performer in NYC in the 1950’s and 60’s. He performed with big acts like Tito Puente and Celia Cruz and, interestingly enough, the first famous transgender performer, Christine Jorgenson. Marga uses the lyrics of some of her father’s songs as the framework to tell stories about her father, her childhood, their relationship, the Latino club scene in NYC in its heyday and the parallels between it and the gay Latino club scene in San Francisco during Marga’s years there.
Although Marga claims not to speak Spanish, and not to be able to do a Spanish accent except under the influence of alcohol, her imitations of her father and his Cuban accent sound absolutely perfect to me. However, dressed in a gold lamé suit jacket, black pants, black shirt and shoes with her close cropped thick dark hair, the sturdy Marga looks much more butch than the pictures of her father projected on the screen in back of her. They show a slight man with a long, narrow face and a thin pencil moustache. Always wearing a light-colored suit jacket and slightly receding, slicked-back hair. She alludes several times to the fact that when she was a child she looked just like her father. Without the moustache. The pictures of her mother, Puerto Rican dancer, Margarita Estremera, a.k.a. “Margo the Exotic” look like a typical blond bombshell of the period. So I guess it’s clear that she takes after her father’s side of the family.
While the audience of fans is with her every step of the way, and there’s much to enjoy, the show is a little disjointed. It never quite settles into stand-up or into theater. As a result, it feels a little choppy, as if Marga were feeling her way through it for the first time. I kept thinking that she couldn’t remember what she wanted to say next, which made me a little anxious. I liked it, but I wanted to LOVE it.
Latin Standards Written and performed by Marga Gomez, Directed by David Schweizer
Set design by Caleb Wertenbaker; lighting design by Jimmy Lawler; projection design by Driscoll Otto; stage manager, William Carlton. Additional support for Marga Gomez’s Latin Standards is provided by Howl Arts. The Public Theater, Under The Radar Festival, 425 Lafayette Avenue, through January 15th. Tickets at the box office, or by calling 212-967-7555 or online at undertheradarfestival.com
I knew very little about Hundred Days at The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival when I went to see it the other night. I knew it was a concert-musical by The Bengsons, a folk-rock duo, about how they met and fell in love. When I got myself to the theater on the night of the first snowstorm of the season, and found out it was General Admission seating, I was not in a good mood. But there’s no doubt about it, Abigail is charming and Shaun is adorable. I defy anyone, even a grumpy critic, not to be moved by their curious and exhilarating blend of otherworldly folk and rousing rock music.
What’s tackier, using the phrase “Please refrain from wearing bright colors or bold patterns” on your same-sex wedding invitation, or ignoring the instructions as a guest? You won’t be able to leave the theater after seeing Drew Droege’s one man show Bright Colors and Bold Patterns at the Barrow Street Theater, without having answered the question for yourself.