Archives for: May 2009
By Andy Propst on May 4, 2009 | In ATW Reviews
It’s non-stop laughs and hijinks as a bumbling acting troupe tries to put on a play while trying to juggle the drama in their own lives in Michael Frayn’s classic farce Noises Off playing at Hartford Stage.
Director Malcom Morrison guides a talented cast through the play-about-putting-on-a play and the top-notch split timing, pratfalls and double entendres that ensue. Lloyd Dallas (Bill Kux) shines as the inept group’s director, trying to get his actors to remember their lines, when to enter and which props to bring with them as the troupe prepares to tour the show “Nothing On.” He is interested in actress Brooke (played with terrific “blonde” gusto by Liv Rooth) who forever is losing her contact lens, but he is unaware he has fathered a child with stage manager Poppy (Veronique Hurley).
Meanwhile, actress Dotty Otley (Johanna Morrison), who can remember whether she’s supposed to bring on or take off a plate of sardines, is dating fellow actor Garry Lejeune (Michael Bakkensen), who helpfully describes every situation with, “you know…”
Fred Fellowes (David Andrew Macdonald), whose wife has left him, struggles to find the motivation for his lines when he’s not having nose bleeds brought on by the mention of the word “blood” or any kind stress. He plays opposite the sensible Belinda Blair (Andrea Cirie), who has eyes for him outside of the play as well.
Rounding out the oddball ensemble are Tim Allgood (Daniel Toot), the stage hand/understudy and Selsdon Mowbray (Noble Shropshire), an actor who is more interested in getting drunk than in remembering when to make his entrance as the burglar in the show. Misunderstandings among the romantically involved characters occur and mayhem ensues.
The first part of the action takes place on the set of “Nothing On” with the characters rehearsing their lines. Then, Tony Straiges’ set rotates for opening night. Backstage madness takes place while the play is performed out front (upstage away form the real audience) as pants, drop, injuries are sustained and the sardines fly as the troupe slugs it out behind the scenes. The action is uproarious and before you can catch your breath, the set rotates again for another performance of “Nothing On,” and this one is even more bizarre, with Otley’s character wandering around muttering “sardines” and understudies having to fill in.
It’s comedy at its best.
---- Lauren Yarger
Noises Off plays at Hartford Stage (50 Church Street, Hartford) through May 17. Performance times are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 pm and Friday and Saturday at 8 pm with matinee performances Sundays and selected Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 pm. Tickets are $23 - $66 with student and other discounted tickets available. They may be purchased by calling 860-527-5151 or by visiting www.hartfordstage.org.
Annalee Jeffries is superb as the theatrical incarnation of Doan Didion in a play based on the author’s memoirs following the deaths of her husband and daughter playing at TheaterWorks in Hartford, but the character is so in control, that the audience has a hard time breaking through the ice to warm up to her.
In “The Year of Magical Thinking,” journalist Didion penned her thoughts during the year following her husband John’s death. The doctor remarks that she’s a “cool customer” because of the matter-of-fact way she reacts to the news. Meanwhile, at the same time in another hospital, their daughter, Quintana, lies in a coma fighting septic shock “Life changes fast,” she tells us, “and then life ends.”
Didion’s coping mechanism is “magical thinking,” which really is a form of denial: She maps out routines and ways of thinking that allow her to postpone dealing with the reality of her loss and leave the door open in her mind for John to come back and for Quintana to recover and enjoy a normal life with her new husband.
Q, as her mother calls her, does recover and has setbacks before eventually dying within that same year. It’s gut-wrenching stuff and Jeffries, directed by Steve Campo, is powerful in the 90-minute intermissionless show. that takes us through the various thoughts of the author.
She feels emotions, analyzes her actions to see whether she might have done anything to change the outcomes, and takes a scathingly hard and honest look at herself as she weathers her grief, which she describes as “the unending absence that follows.”
The emotions are capped quickly, however, and she puts on a mask for anyone who gets close to her or wants to help. Unfortunately, when all is said and done, the character doesn’t appear that vulnerable, and it doesn’t seem important whether we feel for her or not. She deals with everything just fine on her own.
This distance is enhanced by Brian Pather’s stark set. A couch and a coffee table and a few props are all that grace the stage. Jeffries wears a stone-grey tunic pants suit. It’s a great performance, but of a character with whom we feel we have bonded even if she's provided certain unsettling insights: We don’t want to believe what happened to her could one day happen to us.
---- Lauren Yarger
The Year of Magical Thinking plays at City Arts on Pearl (233 Pearl Street, Hartford) through May 24. Performances are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets: General admission $37 for weeknights and matinees; $47 for Friday and Saturday evenings; center reserved seats $11 extra; and college student rush tickets $11 can be purchased by calling (860) 527-7838 or by visiting www.theaterworkshartford.org.
By Andy Propst on May 4, 2009 | In ATW Reviews
In the autobiographical Everyday Rapture, which opened last night at Second Stage Theatre, Sherie Rene Scott (Ursula in Broadway's The Little Mermaid and Amneris in Aida) reflects on her upbringing as a Mennonite in Kansas and her seemingly incongruous life as a stage diva. As you might expect from the title, the show, penned by Scott and Dick Scanlon, has a decidedly spiritual quality to it, and the piece eschews the standard "and then I did…" format of similar showbiz pieces, opting instead to offer a collage-like meditation on a sextet of seminal events in Scott's life. It's a daring format that has both its rewards and its limitations. Nevertheless, ninety minutes with this dynamic performer centerstage is time well spent.
Scott establishes the yin and yang of her personality from the outset of "Rapture," describing how she carried two pieces of paper on her at all times. One reminds her of the relative insignificance we all play in the greater scheme of things. And the other? Well, let's just say it's slightly more grandiose. From this, sequence, in which she, along with her powerhouse backup singers Lindsay Mendez and Betsy Wolfe, who are joined briefly by Eamon Foley late in the show, belt out "Elevation" (a U2 standard), Scott moves on to a description – simultaneously comic and moving – about her childhood in Kansas, her upbringing, and her early discovery of performing and singing. Among her favorites as a child: Judy Garland, and in "Rapture," she performs two of the tunes closely associated with this legend: "Get Happy" and "You Made Me Love You." Theatergoers will never think of the latter in the same way after Scott's moving performance, which casts the song, which she sang at her cousin Jerome's "shunning," in a completely new, and slightly disconcerting, light.
Given that Scott's interest in performing was in direct opposition to the doctrine of her family's faith, it's little wonder that she found solace in Fred Rogers' messages of self-acceptance on television's "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," which she watched at friends' houses, and Scott warmly, and touchingly, dedicates a portion of "Rapture" to the show and the songs from it.
The section of "Rapture" that focuses on Scott's initial visit to New York City and the one which follows – a meditation on the nature of fame and trying to find connection in the Internet age – are not as successful as the ones that have preceded, but in each, Scott proves indefatigable: as an actress (bringing to the stage exceptionally difficult personal moments), a comedienne, and as a singer (in the latter section she delivers "Strongest Suit" from Aida with power).
The final section of "Rapture" is both the show's sweetest and its weakest. In it Scott describes her life today with her three-year old son, and some of the hopes and dreams that she has for him. There's a life-lesson in here, and it's about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary; unfortunately, though theatergoers grasp how hard-fought this revelation has been for Scott, it underwhelms as the show's climax.
Throughout Scott, guided with assurance by Michael Mayer, navigates the varied tones of the show with ease. It's interesting that she seems to have developed a stage persona that is all her own – and in it, there's an awfully funny oxymoron – that of the self-deprecating, somewhat dumb-blonde diva. Scott is probably never more comic than in the moments when, after a particularly grand pronouncement, she undercuts herself and self-importance.
Scott's vocal skills – whether blasting rock or silkily gliding over standards – are superlative, and her stylings are marvelously supported by Tom Kitt's arrangements for a five piece onstage combo, set in the back of Christine Jones' handsome scenic design that looks a bit like a series of constellations that have been skewed into a honeycomb of interconnectivity.
The theme of interrelationships is ultimately what's at the crux of "Rapture," and superficially Scott's journey to finding the bridge between two sides of herself. And though the revelations of the show may never be significantly profound, the piece itself is an exceptional entertainment.
---- Andy Propst
Everyday Rapture plays at Second Stage Theatre (307 West 43rd Street). Performances are Tuesday at 7pm; Wednesday at 2 and 8pm; Thursday and Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 2 and 8pm; and Sunday at 3pm. NOTE: during the week of 5/4, Weds. – Fri. performances are 7pm. Tickets are $75.00 and can be purchased by calling 212-246-4422 or by visiting www.2ST.com.
By Andy Propst on May 3, 2009 | In ATW News
Just noticed this in the New York Times 'City' section online:
The Times Close Up
"An inside look at the stories that affect New Yorkers. Saturdays at 10 p.m. and Sundays at 10 a.m. on NY1 News. This weekend, host Sam Roberts talks with Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis."
I'd not seen anything else about the interview online, so for everyone who's awake...
By Andy Propst on May 1, 2009 | In ATW Digest
Review - Waiting for Godot
Finding Beckett's Merrier Side
New York Times
Tramps for Eternity
Anthony Page’s smart, engaging production of “Waiting for Godot” makes it clear that this greatest of 20th-century plays is also entertainment of a high order.
New York Daily News
A 'Godot' well worth the wait
They're still cooling their heels. Estragon and Vladimir, that is, the ratty roadside tramps of Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot."Read more:
amNY New York City Theater
Theater Review of Waiting for Godot
In its way, “Waiting for Godot” is the original “Seinfeld.” Two homeless tramps wait for a mysterious stranger to arrive and nothing much else happens. Meanwhile, they eat food, play games, perform impersonations and contemplate killing themselves.
New York Post
Gogo to see this much ado about nothing
'Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful!" It's not a very eventful day for Estragon, half of the...
New York Stage: Don't Wait For 'Godot,' An Absorbing Revival
It has been a season of superb performances in great plays, but nothing can quite match the new "Waiting for Godot," which opened Thursday at Studio 54.
Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin revive 'Waiting for Godot'
...They haven’t stowed their public personalities — they couldn’t really, unless they labored to disguise the ways they walk and talk — but they’ve successfully integrated them into Beckett’s creations.
Review: Lane-Irwin Balance Emotions in 'Godot'
It's not easy handling the comic absurdity and terrifying despair that snake hand-in-hand throughout ''Waiting for Godot,'' but the Roundabout Theatre Company's striking revival does justice to both.
Wall Street Journal
The End of a Long Wait
The Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of "Waiting for Godot" is beautifully simple and straightforward -- and very, very funny.
Nathan Lane Tramps Through `Godot,' `9-5' Sings Hello, Dolly: John Simon
Capped by a memorable comic performance from Nathan Lane, the Roundabout Theatre Company has solidly revived Samuel Beckett’s seminal 1953 play, “Waiting for Godot.”
Review: Waiting for Godot
Anthony Page's transcendent production showcases four distinctive actors at the top of their game.
Theater Review: Waiting for Godot
Bottom Line: Don't wait to see this superb revival of Beckett's timeless work.
Waiting for Godot reviewed by David Sheward
Samuel Beckett's existentialist cry of despair spotlights the tedium humans face as they realize that their pursuits and objectives are meaningless.
Review: Waiting for Godot
Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin star in Anthony Page's imbalanced production of Samuel Beckett's tragicomedy.
Peter Filichia's Diary: Waiting, Waiting ... Godot's Late Again
Halfway through Wednesday’s matinee of Waiting for Godot, from the back of the theater we heard a man scream out, “Let me out! Get me out of here!” Soon the door on the 55th Street side of Studio 54 was flung open, and off he sped out of this dark play and into the sunshine. He must have agreed with a certain line in the play: “I’ve been better entertained.”
Review: Waiting for Godot
This production, which has been directed by Anthony Page, says nothing new about this existential daymare of a play. But it says that nothing with such satisfied joie de vivre, you occasionally think you’re seeing a newer and more profound take than you’ve seen (or read) countless times before. . . .