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  • AmericanTheaterWeb Original News & Reviews

  • Use the calendar above to find ATW News & Reviews for a specific day, or use the list to the right to go to a specific review or article. The site's updated 3-4 times a day generally. For you convenience, links below will take you to ATWTopNews (a quick listing of links to some of the day's top stories) and to ATWClips (the complete digest of the day's news from ATW).

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Plays by McNally, Reddin, Machado Part of Summer Shorts 2 July 31 - August 28

J.J. Kandel and John McCormack will present Summer Shorts 2, their second annual festival of new American short plays, at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street). Performances begin Thursday July 31st, and continue through Thursday August 28th.

"Summer Shorts" returns for another summer of new American one-acts featuring original plays by the country's top playwrights. Representing some of today's best writing, directing and acting talents, "Summer Shorts" celebrates theatre, summer and the short form. Don't miss the festival's two separate series, offering a diverse range of voices, styles, and subject matter. Summer Shorts 2 offers eight world premiere one-act plays, in two separate evenings. The two series will run in rotating repertory (a detailed description and schedule follows below). Last year’s inaugural season was declared “…a Manhattan summertime must.” by Show Business Weekly.

The playwrights contributing to Summer Shorts 2 include John Augustine, Michael Domitrovich, Roger Hedden, Skip Kennon, Neil Koenigsberg, Leslie Lyles, Eduardo Machado, Terrence McNally, and Keith Reddin. Maruti Evans will provide scenic and lighting design. Casting will be announced shortly.

Performances will be Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8:15pm, with matinees Saturdays at 2:15 and Sundays at 3:15. Tickets are $18 each (59E59 members $12.60). Tickets can be purchased from the Box Office (Monday 12pm-6pm, Tuesday-Saturday 12pm-9pm, Sunday 12pm-7pm), by phone through Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or online at www.ticketcentral.com. Service fees apply to phone and web purchases.

SERIES A

The Waters of March
By: Leslie Lyles Directed By: Billy Hopkins
A women who has devoted herself to her career, comes to the ultimate crossroads.

In Paradise
By: Eduardo Machado Directed By: TBA
After seven years apart, an estranged husband and wife try to find a way to come back together.

On a Bench
By: Neil Koenigsberg Directed By: Merri Milwe
Greenwich Village, New York. A teenage boy sits in a pocket park reading a book about the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots. When he is joined by a middle-aged woman, their encounter regarding the book, opens both of them up to an intense, probing look into each other's hidden truths.

Deep in the Hole
By: Roger Hedden Directed By: Billy Hopkins
There's something amiss in the Heartland as Ben, Glen, Cindy and Lindy drink cheap vodka and hook-up.

SERIES B

Our Time is Up
By: Keith Reddin Directed By: Billy Hopkins

Peoplespeak
By: John Augustine Directed By: Robert Saxner
Siobhan. Jst got ur mssg U R hvng Crisis? So sorry Wanna meet @ cafe 1 w/ cute waiter u & me Talk n drnk LOL Dont feel sad :( C U soon. :) I m here 4 u. Cassie

On Island
By: Michael Domitrovich Directed By: Mary Catherine Burke
In which a small, tasteful Greek wedding is about to take place on the beach in Martha's Vineyard. George is moments away from marrying Sandi, but can't come up with his vows. His older brother Leo does his best to help out, but with the patriarch of their restaurant family recently deceased, the boys find they are both struggling with what it means to "man up".

Plaisir D'Amour
Book By: Terrence McNally Music and Lyrics By: Skip Kennon Directed By: Elizabeth Lucas
Ruth and Sam meet thirty years ago at a Carnegie Hall lieder recital and begin an ever accelerating ride through love, joy, pain and eventual compromise.

Elizabethan Theater Celebrated in Harvard Square Aug. 1-3

August in Boston kicks off with a celebration of outdoor Elizabethan theater throughout Harvard Square that will feature three award-winning, and nationally acclaimed local theater organizations: American Repertory Theatre, Actors' Shakespeare Project, and Revels. Each evening performers from the respective theater groups will rotate through their repertoire of Elizabethan performances including a full scale production of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost. Throughout the square, restaurants, retailers and cultural organizers will participate in creating an unforgettable Elizabethan Scene. The event is being coordinated by the American Repertory Theatre.

FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS:

American Repertory Theatre Performs Shakespeare Slams!cted by long-time A.R.T. Company Member Thomas Derrah, Shakespeare Slams is a modern-day, plugged-in Shakespearian mash-up featuring 17 performers from the American Repertory Theatre's A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theatre Training in a multidisciplinary, electric, energetic approach to the Bard's verse. Marrying Shakespeare with a wide range of contemporary music, movement, and culture, Shakespeare Slams seeks to bring the lives of Shakespeare's characters to a diverse 21st century audience.

WHEN: Friday, August 1st 6:00 pm, Saturday, August 2nd 4:30 pm, Sunday, August 3rd at 7:45 pm.
WHERE: Winthrop Park (corner of JFK and Mount Auburn Street).
PRICE: Free!

Actors' Shakespeare Project Presents Love's Labour's Lost:
Actors' Shakespeare Project will present an encore presentation of their highly successful interpretation of Love's Labour's Lost in conjunction with the Harvard Square Business Associations' Shakespeare in the Square. This production is directed by Benjamin Evett and features Steven Berkhimer, Marianna Bassham, Jason Bowen, Khalil Flemming, Sarah Newhouse, and Michael Forden Walker

Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost is a sweet and hilarious dance of courtship. Four young lords swear an oath to give up the company of women for three years and devote themselves to study. Soon after, the Princess of France arrives with her three friends and the four lords are instantly smitten. The women decide to torment the men, and boy, are they easy marks! In ASP's rendition of this classic comedy, six actors play sixteen roles-dancing back and forth between male and female, pursuer and pursued!

WHEN: Friday August 1st at 7:15pm, Saturday 2nd at 7:30pm and Sunday 3rd at 3:00 pm
WHERE: Winthrop Park (corner of JFK and Mount Auburn Street).
PRICE: Free!

REVELS REPRESENTS at SHAKESPEARE IN THE SQUARE
The area immediately around Shakespeare's Globe Theatre was filled with musicians, jugglers, dancers and other disreputable street performers. Revels is proud to represent the earthy side of Shakespeare in the Square, and under the leadership of the disgruntled former Shakespeare employee and Morris dancer, Will Kemp, will provide entertainment for the groundlings. Expect lusty music from Tom Zajac and friends, fine singing from Tapestry with Doug Freundlich, instrumental fireworks from Renaissonics, as well as Morris and Sword dancing and expert heckling of the actors.
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Shakespeare in the Square Event Schedule

Friday, 8/1/08
5:00pm - 7:30pm: Commonwealth Morris Men and Orion Sword Dancers perform around Harvard Square.
6:00pm - 6:45pm Shakespeare SLAMS - American Repertory Theatre's A.R.T. Institute.
7:15pm - 9:45pm Loves Labour's Lost - Actor's Shakespeare Project.

Saturday, 8/2/08
2:45pm - 4:15pm Renaissonics Performance.
4:30pm - 5:15pm Shakespeare SLAMS - American Repertory Theatre's A.R.T. Institute
7:30pm - 10:00am Loves Labour's Lost - Actor's Shakespeare Project

Sunday, 8/3/08
1:30pm - 3:30pm Commonwealth Morris Men around Harvard Square
3:00pm - 5:30pm Loves Labour's Lost - Actor's Shakespeare Project
5:00pm - 7:00pm Orion Sword Dancers around Harvard Square
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm Tapestry and Tom Zajack Trio performs
7:45pm - 8:30pm Shakespeare SLAMS - American Repertory Theatre's A.R.T. Institute

Shakespeare in the Square Restaurant and Shopping Events from August 1st through the 3rd, please see www.harvardsquare.com for special menus and offers.

Tony Award Nominees Babatundé, Chamberlin and Wopat Return to Chicago This July

A trio of Tony-nominated leading men are returning to the razzle-dazzle of the hit musical Chicago this month.

First, Tony Award nominee Kevin Chamberlin joins the company as Roxie's all-but-invisible husband, Amos Hart, beginning Tuesday, July 15.

Chamberlin most recently appeared on Broadway last season in the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of The Ritz. He has received Tony nominations for his performances in Seussical and Dirty Blonde. His other Broadway credits include My Favorite Year and Triumph of Love.

His big-screen credits include Road To Perdition, Die Hard with a Vengeance, In & Out, Trick and the upcoming Ang Lee film Taking Woodstock.

Chamberlin succeeds Raymond Bokhour in the role of Amos. Bokhour plays his final performance on Sunday, July 13.

Also on Tuesday, July 15, Tony nominee Obba Babatundé returns to the role of Billy Flynn for a two-week engagement (through Sunday, July 27).

On Broadway, Babatundé is best known for his Tony-nominated performance as C.C. White in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls. He also performed in Hal Prince's Grind and originated the role of Jelly Roll Morton in the world premiere of Jelly's Last Jam.

Babatundé's recent film credits include After the Sunset, The Manchurian Candidate and Material Girls.

In the role of Billy Flynn, Babatundé succeeds Jeff McCarthy, who plays his final performance on Sunday, July 13.

Beginning Tuesday, July 29, two-time Tony Award nominee Tom Wopat takes over the role of Billy Flynn.

Perhaps best known as Luke Duke in the long-running TV series "The Dukes of Hazzard," Wopat's extensive Broadway credits include Glengarry Glen Ross, 42nd Street, City of Angels, Guys and Dolls and I Love My Wife.

He earned his first Tony nomination as Frank Butler in the 1999 revival of Annie Get Your Gun, opposite Bernadette Peters. Most recently he appeared as Tom in the new musical A Catered Affair, for which he received his second Tony nomination.

CHICAGO also stars Michelle DeJean as Roxie Hart, Nancy Lemenager as Velma Kelly and Carol Woods as Matron "Mama" Morton.

Visit www.chicagothemusical.com for additional information.

ATW Review - Potomac Theatre Project's Scenes From An Execution, Crave, Somewhere in the Pacific

The passions that surge in the trio of plays being presented by the Potomac Theatre Project for its second summer season in New York are all captivating. The company's offering two evenings of theater in repertory. There's a double bill of one-acts and a full-length play and in them, self-destruction, lust, fear, anger and hunger for power are palpable. Yet, only one-half of the company's offerings – Howard Barker's Scenes From an Execution – can be said to be truly satisfying.

A scene from Scenes From an Execution
Jan Maxwell and David Barlow. Photo: Stan Barouh

"Scenes" is set in Venice at the height of the Renaissance shortly after the devastating battle of Le Panto and in it, Barker explores how art can shape the minds of the public. Specifically, how one painting, commissioned by Venice's Doge Urgentino (Alex Draper) from Galactia (Jan Maxwell) can or cannot fit into the country's sense of jubilation over its perceived naval and military power. The Doge, Cardinal Ostensible (Timothy Deenihan), and Admiral Suffici (Robert Zuckerman) expect a painting from Galactia that will celebrate the battle in which hundreds or thousands were killed. She, however, wants to create, and does create, a painting that shows the carnage and senseless loss incurred by warfare.

The first act of Barker's play details Galactia's process while painting and the politicking that goes on as she does. Her lover, a married hack painter Carpeta (David Barlow), urges her to demonstrate some restraint. The admiral, an effete gentleman, is concerned primarily with how she will depict his hands. The Doge, an art lover who admires the fact that he can smell the "sweat" in Galactia's work, is torn between wanting a piece of public art that doesn't stir controversy and one that represents this artists on whom he has taken a chance.

During the play's second act, when the epic work – the canvas is said to be many hundred square feet – has been delivered, we see the government's reaction to the work, which results in Galactia's imprisonment, and then, ultimately, her glorification as a political "spin" is put onto the piece.

It's a play richly crammed with ideas. Not only does Barker's play explore the nature of government involvement in the artistic process, it also examines the nature of how audiences respond to work created by a woman and the arrogance and pride that are sometimes the chief reasons for military campaigns. Concurrently, there is a terrifically human story here, revolving around Galactia's relationship with both Carpeta and her daughters, primarily her sometime collaborator Supporta (Lucy Faust).

A scene from Scenes From an Execution
Timothy Deenihan and Alex Draper. Photo: Stan Barouh

Richard Romagnoli's robust production boasts a host of impressive performances, particularly Maxwell's impeccable turn as the fiery Galactia. Maxwell manages to communicate not only the artist's willfulness, vision and prideful determination, but also her deep humanity. Draper, as the conscience-torn doge, also delivers a performance of richly shaded nuance and Barlow's turn as the sometimes sniveling, often opportunistic Carpeta, is a model of mercurial temperaments.

What may be most impressive about the play and this production is its ability to convince us of the verity of Barker's script. By the play's end we have seen Galactia's painting in our mind's eye. We've also accepted that in this Renaissance world, commissions are paid in dollars, and accepted the allegorical names as ones that might be found in history books and art reference tomes. "Scenes" is not only powerful social and political commentary, it's also richly drawn and fulfilling drama.

Glimpses of these qualities can be found in the company's offering of Sarah Kane's Crave and Neal Bell's Somewhere in the Pacific, but neither piece ends up delivering with a similar overall power.

A scene from Scenes From an Execution
Adam Ludwig, Stephanie Janssen, Rishabh Kashyap and
Stephanie Strohm. Photo: Stan Barouh

In Crave, Kane interweaves four monologues that give voice to four varying sides of her psyche. During the course of the piece, Kane exposes her fears, her desires, and her longing to end her life (which she ultimately did just months after completing the play). It's potent stuff that's delivered with intensity by Adam Ludwig, Stephanie Janssen, Rishabh Kashyap, and Stephanie Strohm.

The ensemble's delivery of Kane's fragmented writing – one word exclamations, brief phrases and sometimes full sentences – has been carefully orchestrated by Cheryl Faraone, and the various tones of the piece are beautifully underscored by Laura J. Eckelman's lighting design, but ultimately Kane's piece fails to deliver the emotional punch that one expects she intended. The performers have been dressed (by costume designer Franny Bohar) to represent very specific sides to Kane's personality – a teen girl, a business woman, a punk rocker, and a business man, but somehow Kane's writing allows the characterizations to bleed onto one another, robbing us of the opportunity to piece together a unified whole from the verbal chaos, and though it's impossible to not mourn the loss of such an inventive writer for the theater, Crave leaves us wanting.

This is also the case with Bell's "Pacific," which is being given its New York premiere here. Set on a Navy ship which is sailing just off the coast of Okinawa during the waning days of World War II, Bell's play examines the psychological strain that the war has placed on a diverse group of men. The ship's captain (Malcolm Madera) has begun to act erratically after receiving news that his son has been killed in action. Billy, a Seabee (Michael Wrynn Doyle), is also in mourning; he's coping with the death of his "buddy," a young man with whom he had an affair before being shipped out, by attempting to seduce other sailors on the ship.

A scene from Scenes From an Execution
James Smith and Malcolm Madera. Photo: Stan Barouh

Billy has more than a little success. He and Hobie (John Stokvis) have a torrid affair which helps the latter man forget that his wife has unceremoniously left him while he's been away at sea. Another sailor, McGuiness (James Smith), a sailor whose actions may have contributed to the death of the captain's son, uses Billy's advances as an opportunity to ingratiate himself with his superiors. McGuiness' plan backfires, though, during the final climactic moments of "Pacific."

Like the other plays in the Potomac series, "Pacific" allows us to enter into a world that is fraught with sexual and psychological tension, but in this piece, the result feels like a gay wartime soap opera. Wooden performances abound though there are two notable exceptions: Smith's performance as McGuiness is a fascinating portrait of soft-heartedness and bitter homophobia and MacLeod Andrews delivers a touching performance as a young man from the South, who's experienced horrors beyond comprehension during his time in service.

Director Jim Petosa's unfocused staging only compounds the problems in "Pacific." Several fantasy sequences confound, and while one understands, ultimately, why someone is banging a pot offstage to signal the various "bells" that might be heard on board a ship and why the company provides vocalizations for various sound effects (like waves and wind), the initial impression of such directorial flourishes (similar to those used by British director Edward Hall) is one of cheesiness. It's an unfortunate quality for the play that might, with revisions, prove to be a very adult spin on themes like lawlessness and male-bonding found in works like Lord of the Flies.

----- Andy Propst

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The Potomac Theatre Project's repertory season continues through July 26 at The Atlantic Stage 2 (330 West 16th Street). Tickets are $24.00 and can be purchased by calling 212-279-4200 or by visiting www.ticketcentral.com. For complete schedule and further information visit: www.PotomacTheatreProject.org.

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New Musical Yankee Doodle Debuts at MN's Ordway August 5

Yankee Doodle, a new musical based on the life and work of writer, performer, and producer George M. Cohan will open the 2008-2009 season at St. Paul's Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. Written by David Armstrong (Producing Artistic Director of The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle), the musical is scheduled to begin performances on August 5, 2008, and, according to press notes, promises "a very realistic picture of the star-spangled "Man Who Owned Broadway,.""

Yankee Doodle is a showbiz saga centering on the brash, charismatic, and uncompromising character whose unstoppable drive gave birth to the myth of Broadway. Cohan’s raw passion is embedded deep in the consciousness of every American and continues to influence musicals on Broadway today.

This new musical began on a beach in Cancun when Armstrong and Albert Evans (who researched and adapted Cohan’s songs for the show) were both reading different Cohan biographies. Both men came across a startling fact. Armstrong remembers it like this: "In 1942, near the end of his life, Cohan who had been bed-ridden for months, got out of his sick bed and had his nurse take him to see the James Cagney movie Yankee Doodle Dandy. After watching the film for fifteen minutes Cohan changed his plan, and instead went to visit his old haunts — the theatres he used to own — the places he used to frequent. They walked all over Time Square, went home and Cohan died! He literally gave his regards to Broadway on one of the last nights of his life. True story."

Such Cohan hits as "Give My Regards to Broadway," "You're a Grand Old Flag," and "Over There" will be heard in this musical that will be directed and choreographed by James A. Rocco (Ordway Center’s Producing Artistic Director) and Jayme McDaniel (Ordway Center’s Associate Artistic Director) and stars Sean Martin Hingston (Broadway’s Contact and Curtains) as the young Cohan and Richard Sanders (famous as Les Nessman on the hit TV show WKRP in Cincinnati) as the elder Cohan.

Yankee Doodle will play at the Ordway from August 5 through 17. For more information, visit: www.ordway.org