Author: Kathleen Campion

And Away We Go

  Terrence McNally’s And Away We Go, is his love letter to the theater that’s shaped him.  Like a lover of long standing, he warms to her foibles and rants, lays bare her intimate secrets, celebrates her exuberant lust to be seen. I found it hard to leave the theater.  First, I had a great time and have always tended to stay way too late at really good parties.  Second, although I had just had a robust, laugh-out-loud experience and a powerful lesson in how theater ought to be done, I felt that I had not been quite up to all that was offered.  I want to go again and try to catch up. Fifty years on the job, four Tony awards on his mantel, and all the critical and popular acclaim any man could stand – McNally’s taken his life in the theater and packaged it for us as a theater-arts master class.  He starts with the Greeks and quick steps us through Moliere, Chekov and Shakespeare  on to Beckett and Albee.  Just six actors perform the whole timeline of Western theater’s development. McNally has a lot of fun on the backs of subscribers and theater board members – the folks just outside the theatrical experience who will pay for proximity to the art.  But McNally saves his richest barbs for his characters cast as playwrights – not so much wounding as hoisting them....

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The Holiday Ride: Enchantment on Wheels

The venues say it all.  After picking up tickets at the box office inside Madame Tussaud’s on West 42nd street, ticketholders are told to gather outside Chevys, a high-volume, Mexican fast food franchise at Ninth and 42nd, to await The Ride.   The Ride is an admixture of tour and performance—an odd, one-off show delivered in a specially outfitted bus.  This motor coach is tricked out with wraparound windows, a sound system, screens with video loops showcasing iconic Gotham, and two hosts, Stuart and Julie. The bus’s stadium seating puts the audience in an altered state, as it alters point-of-view.  We ride in the street but above the street. We watch and wave at the pedestrians as they watch and wave at us.  Along the route buskers are seeded among the regular bustling crowds.  As we turn a corner onto 7th Avenue we encounter an unhappy young man in a crowd of busy people.  He is an actor “playing sad” and somehow we care.   On an uptown stretch of 6th Avenue we see a sidewalk sweeper who can dance, and dance he does until the bus pulls away.  Just past Carnegie Hall we come upon a street musician playing jazz joined by a big-voiced woman who lifts our spirits.  At Columbus Circle a dazzling ballerina (no really it’s dark and her clothes are alight, um, dazzling) dances around the circle as our bus circles it...

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One Night…

A barrage of issues explodes on stage at the Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village with Charles Fuller’s One Night…. Start with the plight of returning veterans in need of help but facing stony and inept bureaucracy. Add the overlay of sexual assault on women combatants. Layer on the complicated sexual politics between men and women and a subset of those sexual politics specific to men and women of color. It’s a busy 90 minutes with no intermission. Fuller won the Pulitzer for drama in 1982 for A Soldier’s Play, the story of a racially charged search by a black captain for the murderer of a black sergeant on a Louisiana army base in 1944. One Night… is freighted with more stratified conflict, not updated racism, and not straightforward sexism, more like a pebble in a pool radiating multiple rings of conflict. It’s difficult to get emotionally on-board with any of the characters as they are so damaged. It is wearying to witness the struggle. As this drama focuses on the shattered consciousnesses of the protagonists one presumes the audience is meant to be distressed. Alicia G. (Rutina Wesley), a confidant black staff sergeant, is gang raped in Iraq by three soldiers, two of whom she can identify. The third rapist later explains they raped her because she was uppity, bragging about her prowess in battle, as the men...

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An Infinite Ache

A wise friend tells me that a satisfying life is a series of small moments.  David Schulner’s An Infinite Ache is all of that—satisfying, and a series of small moments. At eight o’clock Saturday night, as the audience settles into the 60-seat Gallery at Access Theatre in TriBeCa, Hope (Nancy Sun) and Charles (Eric Kuehnemann) begin a relationship that spans fifty years.  After a disappointing first date these twenty-somethings find themselves in his grim studio apartment.  She is aloof, one eye on the exit.  He is both too eager to please and certain he won’t. There is a remarkable athleticism at work in David Schulner’s script.  He asks the two to struggle through the early and tentative commitments of young love, the pedestrian who-takes-out-the-garbage explosions, the unintended pregnancy, the unrealized dreams, profound loss, enormous self-deception—well, life really—in what seems a barely adequate ninety minutes.  It is at once exhausting and compelling. The script is the star here, well paced, rich in small signals.   We know she’s moved in with him watching her add thin rugs and tiny plants to Jason Lee Courson’s bare bed of a set.  We know they are aged when they bicker about his hearing-aid and toupee. Director Joshua Warr teases out subtle performances from Sun and Kuehnemann.  They are meant to age through a lifetime, endure loss, know rage and rejection, joy, and birth and death. ...

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The Weiner Monologues

Climbing four flights of stairs to get to the Access Theatre [sic!] sets the expectation bar rather high for The Weiner Monologues presented by The Factory on a short run in Tribeca.  That said, the rich material of Anthony Weiner’s colossal fumbling in the public square suggests a fun evening ahead though, one might argue, it’s hard to improve on the original script. Let’s review: Weiner is the seven-term congressman who sent pictures of his junk to women he’d not met.  He got caught.  He lied, denied, and presented himself as victim.  Then he faced up, sort of, and resigned.  Undaunted by that humiliation—in fact unabashed-–he opts to run for mayor of New York City.  Again he is caught sexting with women he doesn’t know and finishes the race in fifth place.  Well, you know the story. This material, flush with opportunity and rife with hubris, inspired John Oros and Jonathan Harper Schlieman to mold that tale into a Greek-ish tragedy.  (Weiner the ‘tragic hero’ battered by The Chorus). The two introduce the production with predictable boner jokes –  “it’s long…it’s hard…it’s uncut” – strangely winning, perhaps because these two young men are. A few columns define Norihito Moriya’s very basic stage, and a scrim holds the center, working as both a curtain and a projection screen.  Projected there we see Peter Lawford introducing Marilyn Monroe to sing Happy Birthday to JFK; we see Fred...

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