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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).


ATW Review - Dying City - War Takes its Toll in Iraq and on the Homefront

War is hell, whether it’s waged on the battlefields of Iraq or in a married couple’s home as theatergoers learn in the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Dying City, playing its regional theater debut at Hartford Stage.

When Peter (Ryan King) pays an unexpected and unwelcome visit to his brother Craig’s widow, Kelly (Diane Davis), mysteries about how Craig (played in flashbacks by King) really died in Iraq, the true nature of his and Kelly’s marriage and Peter’s motives for visiting unfold in a taut and intriguing script from Wethersfield, CT native Christopher Shinn.

Death’s grip extends beyond Craig; other things are dying too. Kelly cuts herself off from everyone and watches reruns of "Law and Order," taking solace in their formulaic ability to solve the mystery of death. She gives up her Manhattan practice as a therapist and literally packs up her past in boxes as she plans to escape back to the Midwest. Peter has just ended a relationship with his lover and, haunted by thoughts of Craig. He's even sentenced his career to certain death, having walked offstage in mid-performance. Peter's shown up at Kelly’s ostensibly to re-establish a relationship, but very eager to share (and viciously savor, it would seem) Craig’s pain-filled e-mail correspondence from Iraq.

The stench of death from the wars Craig fought at home also pervades the play in the flashback scenes deftly staged by director Maxwell Williams and triggered by the memory of a door buzzer or a cell phone ringing. His marriage had been a battle zone and Craig had choked the life out of it and his wife long before he left. Peter, bullied by Criag and seen by Kelly as an unwelcome third wheel, is bearing some old wounds of his own and may be on the attack rather than on a peacekeeping mission. Davis gives a strong performance and infuses Kelly with a wide range of emotion. King creates two solidly different characters, though Craig has more depth. Their interaction in the husband-wife scenes is masterful.

Maxwell uses the thrust stage well and employs physical distance to model emotional space. In one scene, Craig’s e-mails in a backpack placed on the floor, almost seem to become a third character in a triangle with the other two actors. Shinn’s realistic and non-preachy dialogue develops characters as well as provoking thought about the terrorist attacks of September 11, the war in Iraq and God and politics. It’s as much a treatise on current events as it is about the hidden secrets in relationships.

Wilson Chin’s functional apartment loft set, lighted by Traci Klainer, contributes to the realistic feel of the piece while mysterious music at the beginning of the play and during scene changes (Fitz Patton, sound design) reminds us that not all may be as it seems.

---- Lauren Yarger

Dying City plays at Hartford Stage (50 Church Street, Hartford) through Feb. 8. Performance times are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30pm; Friday and Saturday at 8pm. Matinees are Sundays and selected Wednesdays at 2pm. Tickets are $23-$66 with some discount programs available and can be purchased by calling 860-527-5151 or by visiting www.hartfordstage.org.

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Some New Features on ATW.. (part 2)

Although the new feautres I described earlier this morning were working when I announced them, the feeds seem to have gone strangely dead. I'm trying to figure out why.

Thanks for your patience while I work through this. Sorry for a premature announcement.

Andy Propst

Some New Features on ATW...

The site's now linked into Feedburner – which gives you a host of options for subscribing, including the ability to flow it into places like a Google homepage, MyYahoo and NewsGator. Just look over to your right and down a bit, and you'll see the subscription links, just click on one and soon, you'll be receiving ATW in your news reader of choice. If you prefer the standard XML, that option is there too, and the coolest thing: you can now share ATW reviews, clippings posts and the top news page on places like Digg and Facebook.

Speaking of which, remember, at the bottom of every post, you'll find a "Share This" and you can send ATW pots around to a host of other places as well.

I hope you enjoy. If you have questions, please don't hesitate to email me.

All my best,

Andy Propst


ATW Digest - Soul of Shaolin opens on B'way - read the reviews


Review - Soul of Shaolin - Martial Arts Spectacle Tells Charming Tale

New York Times

Duck! These Monks Have Feet and Fists of Fury
“Soul of Shaolin,” a Chinese martial-arts pageant, ultimately seems a pretty cheap enterprise

New York Daily News

High-flying 'Shaolin' a missed chop-ortunity
To borrow from "A Chorus Line," "Shaolin" rates as follows - Martial arts: 10. Magic: 3. The story, told through dance, acrobatics and kung fu, concerns a ...

amNY New York City Theater

Theater Review of Soul of Shaolin
Can someone please explain why “Soul of Shaolin” (pronounced “SheOW LEEN”), a Chinese martial arts spectacle, is on Broadway? Wouldn’t it be better suited for an athletic arena or perhaps even a monastery? Well, we suppose that some form of temporary programming has to fill Broadway’s theaters after this month’s massive parade of closing shows.

New York Post

Everybody's Kung Fu fighting on Broadway
Sure, , meditation and spiritual harmony get their due in "Soul of Shaolin," the Chinese martial-arts extravaganza that opened...

Associated Press

'Soul of Shaolin' mixes sentiment and strength
It's sort of Bruce Lee -- with more noble aspirations.


Review: Soul of Shaolin
Like a swift kick to the head, "Soul of Shaolin" is a rushed, expertly trained assault that leaves you slightly confused afterward. Battered audiences will be able to discern enough continuity to get the kidnapped-child-becoming-a-warrior plot straight, but the Chinese government's first attack on Broadway is a little weak on storytelling and variety.

Back Stage

Soul of Shaolin reviewed by David Sheward
With the current economic downturn shuttering Broadway shows left and right, we can expect to see more attractions like Soul of Shaolin, a martial-arts spectacular more suited to a theme park in Shanghai than the Great White Way.


Review: Soul of Shaolin
This Chinese martial arts spectacular boasts truly impressive Kung Fu fighting, but suffers from a lack of dramatic conflict.

Talkin' Broadway

Review: Soul of Shaolin
An army of impossibly muscled, singularly focused human fighting machines? Absolutely. An old man who radiates austere authority one moment and pinpoint pugilistic accuracy the next? Sure. A young boy, 10 years old at most, who performs ...


Review: Soul of Shaolin
I can't think of a better way to celebrate the Lunar New Year (the year of the Ox) than with this extraordinary and agile company of 30 Chinese Nationals


ATW Digest - Mendes' staging of 'Cherry Orchard' opens - read the reviews

New York Times

All Alone in a Crowded Country Home
It feels right that the proportions are all wrong in Sam Mendes’s seriously comic production of “The Cherry Orchard.”

New York Daily News

'Cherry' blossoms at BAM
With talk of reform everywhere, it's an ideal moment to mount "The Cherry Orchard," now in bloom at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Anton Chekhov's last play is, after all, about the resistance to change

New York Post

Play's ripe for the picking
The production of "The Cherry Or chard" that opened this week is as much an act of diplomacy as the ater. This first entry of...

Associated Press

Bridge Project births a splendid 'Cherry Orchard'
The old order passes with remarkable poignancy in Sam Mendes' splendid, stylish revival of "The Cherry Orchard," the first production of the director's laudable Bridge Project, a new attempt at trans-Atlantic theater cooperation.

Wall Street Journal

Chekhov's Fingerprints
Dancing at Lughnasa in FL; Cherry Orchard at BAM


Mendes Gets Symbolic in Transatlantic `Cherry Orchard' at BAM: John Simon
The Bridge Project, an admirable venture between London and New York, gets going this week with Chekhov’s last play, “The Cherry Orchard,” directed by Sam Mendes at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.


Review: The Cherry Orchard
...but Sam Mendes' robust staging of Stoppard's witty new adaptation boasts strong ensemble work, centered by the gravitas and emotional nuance of Simon Russell Beale's riveting Lopakhin.

Back Stage

The Cherry Orchard reviewed by David Sheward
"People shouldn't go to plays. They should look in the mirror at their gray lives," says the confused, disheartened Madame Ranevskaya in Tom Stoppard's compassionate yet brutally realistic adaptation of The Cherry Orchard.


Review: The Cherry Orchard
Simon Rusell Beale and Sinead Cusack are heartbreaking in Sam Mendes' often disappointing production of Anton Chekhov's melancholic drama.

The Guardian Performing Arts Blog

Alexis Soloski: Mendes's Cherry Orchard gives a view of the Bridge
The Bridge Project's vision of Anglo-American collaboration has finally been realised in Sam Mendes's production. But the differences are more interesting than the similarities.