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Dialogue One Theatre Festival
Theater

Uncle Vanya

by Anton Chekhov

Translated by Carol Rocamora

 

Directed by Austin Pendleton

Classic Stage Company, New York, January 17, 2009—March 8, 2009

 

Marina – Cyrilla Baer

Astrov – Peter Sarsgaard

Vanya – Denis O’Hare

Serebryakov – George Morfogen

Telegin – Louis Zorich

Sonya – Mamie Gummer

Yelena – Maggie Gyllenhaal

Voynitskaya – Delphi Harrington

Watchman – Andrew Garman

Ilya Khodosh March 8, 2009
Uncle Vanya is the most intimate of the Chekhov plays, and it has always been my favorite. It is a character study of great power and fragility. I often hear it referred to as a philosophical play thematically about the “superfluous man” or the “wasted life.” But at its essence, Uncle Vanya is very simply about passionate, banal, stubborn, miserable people reaching out, drinking, whispering to one another in the dark, coping with the vagaries and indignities of their feral loneliness, thrashing against their limitations and always coming up short. The current production at Classic Stage Company—directed by Austin Pendleton, who must have played the eponymous character in past productions more often than any other American actor—brushes the surface of this play’s potential to move, devastate, and engage. It’s a refined production, but one that keeps the characters’ emotions at arm’s length and only suggests their capacity for suffering and self-destruction. It offers some stirring moments and a comfortable, unforced contemporary feel, but it never reaches the fully agonizing intensity and humanity of these emotions. Read more.

The Winter's Tale

by William Shakespeare

A Bridge Project production at BAM, directed by Sam Mendes

 

Simon Russell Beale - Leontes, King of Sicily

Michael Braun - Dion, Lord of Sicilia/Florizel

Morven Christie - Perdita/Mamillius

Sinéad Cusack - Paulina, wife to Antigonus

Richard Easton - Old Shepherd/Time

Rebecca Hall - Hermione

Josh Hamilton - Polixenes, King of Bohemia

Ethan Hawke - Autolycus

Michael Miller March 16, 2009
I had to wait impatiently until the final day of The Winter's Tale to see it. After my eager anticipation, was it my fantasy that a good part of the audience had seen it once or twice before and were coming to bid this magical, but imperfect production a fond farewell. My imagination was probably only exaggerating, but there were probably enough recidivists there to create the atmosphere I sensed. There was something else, however. Especially before the break, there was a striking amount of laughter in the wrong places—at moments in which some of the best actors in the business under Sam Mendes' supremely imaginative and skilled direction, were most definitely not playing it for laughs. Did this arise from the warmth of prior experience—something akin to the way Brattle Theatre audiences used to shout out Humphrey Bogart's lines in Casablanca? Probably not. It most likely emerged from the inevitable disjuncture between mentalities of 2009 New York and Blackfriars c. 1611. Read more.

Lloyd George Knew My Father

by William Douglas Home

 

with Edward Fox and Helen Ryan

 

King's Theatre, Edinburgh, February 16-21, 2009

Lucas Miller March 16, 2009

Lloyd George knew my father,

Father knew Lloyd George!*


It is from these catchy, obviously profound lines (to be repeated continually, or until the singer just gets bored) that William Douglas Home’s Lloyd George Knew My Father (1972) takes its title. The revival of this play, by Theatre Royal Bath Productions, is an interesting one. It allows for the resurfacing of not just a good play, but an important personage – no, not Lloyd George, who is covered enough by tedious school text books and biographers, but rather, William Douglas Home. Indeed, the programme accompanying the performance focuses far more on the playwright than the play. It portrays Home as “quintessentially English,” an aristocrat. Read more.


The Cherry Orchard

by Anton Chekhov

A new version of the play by Tom Stoppard

 

Directed by Sam Mendes

The Bridge Project, a Co-production of BAM, The Old Vic, and Neal Street Productions

Harvey Theater, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York, January 2, 2009—March 8, 2009

 

Ranevskaya – Sinéad Cusack

Anya – Morven Christie

Varya – Rebecca Hall

Gayev – Paul Jesson

Lopakhin – Simon Russell Beale

Trofimov – Ethan Hawke

Simeonov-Pishchik – Dakin Matthews

Charlotta Ivanovna – Selina Cadell

Yepikhodov – Tobias Segal

Dunyasha – Charlotte Parry

Firs – Richard Easton

Yasha – Josh Hamilton

Ilya Khodosh February 10, 2009
I'm not quite sure why I went to the new production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard at BAM expecting to mourn and sympathize with passionate, anxiety-ridden, suffering ordinary people whose every disappointment reminds them of their personal failures and limitations. Instead, in this production with a distinguished British and American cast directed by Sam Mendes, I found an absurdly dysfunctional bunch of freaks and imbeciles who operate under so many layers of delusion that empathy becomes near-impossible. Their emotional lives teeter in some nether-world between melodrama and farce, and their relationship with actual reality is so long-distance that one can't help but react with more contempt than pity. At the same time, they inhabit a play about class, the transfer of power, historical forces of change, and the housing market. This Cherry Orchard is so stunningly, breathtakingly topical that to see it develop towards its dramatic climax is to lose oneself in Chekhov, making this production an essential revival. Read more.

Tons of Money
by
Will Evans, Valentine Evans, and Will Valentine, adapted by Alan Ayckbourn

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

directed by Joe Harmston

designed by Simon Scullion


Cast:

Louise - Caroline Langrishe

Mark Curry - Aubrey

Sprules - Christopher Timothy

Simpson - Finty Williams

“Henery” - Eric Carte

Giles - Keith Clifford

Miss Mullet - Janet Henfrey

Jean - Lysette Anthony

Lucas Miller February 25, 2009

Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre have kicked off their season with Alan Ayckbourn’s adaptation of Will Evans' and Valentine’s farce, Tons of Money. It is frivolous, witty and fantastical—hilarious—a welcome contrast to the dour weather and folk of February.


The play, first performed 1922, is in its design reflective of the hedonism we associate with the Jazz Age, a decade, Fitzgerald writes, when all people wanted was to be entertained. It has the wit and general ring of a Noel Coward play, but without the sophisticated melodrama. It is entirely a farce, catering in its time exactly to what war-weary theatre-goers wanted. This much is confirmed by the 733 performances it ran. W. Buchanan Taylor, an important publicist of the time, the programme informs us, said to Nora Heald of The Daily Mail: “Do you realise that this is the first successful farce since the end of the war and it’s British from stem to stern?” He was not, at least, exaggerating about the Britishness. Read more.


The Man Who Had All the Luck

by Arthur Miller


Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Directed by John Dove

 

Cast:

David Beeves - Philip Cumbus
Shory - Matthew Pidgeon
JB Feller - Andrew Vincent
Andrew Falk and Augie Belfast - Peter Harding
Patterson Beeves - Ron Donachie
Amos Beeves - Perri Snowdon
Hester Falk - Kim Gerard
Dan Dibble - Richard Addison
Gustav Eberson - Greg Powrie
Aunt Belle - Isabella Jarrett

Lucas Miller February 10, 2009
Arthur Miller’s earliest play to run on the Broadway stage, The Man Who Had All the Luck (1944), began in the form of a novel – his student, friend and biographer Christopher Bigsby tells us in his pre-show talk on January 20. Over the course of four years, Miller wrote several drafts, unsure how best to present his themes; through which medium? through which plot? should there be an enlightened redemption or a tragic fall for his hero? From 1941 he began working the “fable” into a play. In late 1944 it arrived at the Forrest Theater, where it ran for three days and four performances before being called off the stage, a failure, though recognized by many critics as a promising indication of good work to come. Read more.

Speed-the-Plow

by David Mamet

Ethel Barrymore Theater, New York

directed by Neil Pepe


Cast:

Raúl Esparza - Charlie Fox

Elizabeth Moss - Karen

William H. Macy - Bobby Gould

Huntley Dent February 10, 2009
Speaking in tongues. I don't know who Jeremy Piven is, but when he pulled out of the current Broadway revival of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow, he gave the most amusing excuse, perhaps, in theater history. He claimed to be suffering from mercury poisoning that had accumulated after years of eating sushi.  No doubt he actually withdrew in a fit of pique, but wit counts for something. That could be the motto of the play, in fact. Speed-the-Plow is a witty skewering of Hollywood mores, exposing the rancid combination of greed, angst, thick-skinned betrayal, and mealy-mouthed self-congratulation that is the movie business. Read more.

Women Beware Women

by Thomas Middleton

 

Adapted and Directed by Jesse Berger

Red Bull Theater

Theater at St. Clement’s, New York

January 18th 2009

Heidi Holder January 30, 2009
Thomas Middleton’s 1623 tragedy Women Beware Women begins, teasingly, with a scene of domestic felicity. Young Leontio returns home to Florence after a lengthy absence and is greeted joyously by his mother with the words “thy sight was never yet more precious to me.” He brings along a new wife, Bianca, whom he describes, at considerable length, as a treasure, a blessing, “the most unvaluedst purchase / That youth of man had ever knowledge of.” The mother is less sure of this new addition to the family; her hesitation, her doubts about her new daughter-in-law, whet our appetite for the undoing of virtue and family bonds that follows. The scene also points up a fatal divide between the generations. Read more.

Bad Dates

by Theresa Rebeck

directed by Adrianne Krstansky

with Elizabeth Aspenlieder

Shakespeare & Company

January 9 - March 8, 2009, Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre

Michael Miller January 30, 2009
Theresa Rebeck's solo play, Bad Dates, is Shakespeare & Company's first offering in its first winter season. There's a lot to be grateful in this, and it goes beyond having an alternative to traveling to New York City or Boston in the winter weather for decent theatrical entertainment. Not that theater in the Berkshires disappears at the end of summer. In fact Williams' Dialogue One Theatre Festival gave us a feast of solo theater back in November, but it is still a great thing to have activity at Shakespeare & Co. in the blasts of January, especially of this piquant and entertaining sort. Read more.

The Cripple of Inishmaan

by Martin McDonagh

 

Directed by Garry Hynes

A Co-production of the Atlantic Theater Company and Druid (Galway)

Linda Gross Theater, New York, December 9, 2008 -February 1, 2009

 

Kate - Marie Mullen
Eileen - Dearbhla Molloy
JohnnyPateenMike - David Pearse
Billy - Aaron Monaghan
Bartley - Laurence Kinlan
Helen - Kerry Condon
BabbyBobby - Andrew Connolly
Mammy - Patricia O'Connell
Doctor - John C. Vennema

Ilya Khodosh December 23, 2008
The 2006 Broadway production of Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore remains one of the most deliriously thrilling spectacles I've ever seen, and one that I'll probably never forget. I felt plunged into an utterly amoral theatrical universe, and the grotesque violence and humor and sophisticated irony combined to generate the kind of electric bliss that I can only imagine must have been felt at the original productions of Sweeney Todd and The Threepenny Opera. Compared to Lieutenant and to McDonagh's acclaimed The Pillowman, The Cripple of Inishmaan, currently revived at the Atlantic Theater Company in a production by Galway's Druid Theatre, feels like a minor, less ambitious, tamer play by the Anglo-Irish master. Nonetheless, there is plenty to savor in the nuances and rhythms of McDonagh's hilarious dialogue, which sounds like the whimsy of J. M. Synge filtered through the savage wit of David Mamet. Read more.

Shrek The Musical—Broadway Bakes a Winner
Renée Dumouchel January 28, 2009

Is there a recipe for success? And if so, why hasn’t it been more widely distributed? Shrek the Musical, cooked up for the stage from DreamWorks’s eponymous film by David Lindsay-Abaire, Jeanine Tesori and Jason Moore, deftly soars over Broadway blunders—will the plot retain any morsel of integrity? Will the music be sugarcoated or contain some morsel of brilliance? Will the sets and costumes try to compensate for a lack of thematic content and witty dialogue? And the big question, will it be worth watching? Read more.


Dialogue One Theatre Festival, 2008

Artistic Director Omar Sangare

'62 Center for Dance and Theatre, CentreStage, Williams College

 

Friday, November 21st

11:00 a.m. - Workshop with Obie Award winner John Clancy

7:30 p.m. - Portrait Gallery, Four Student Performances:

Leungo Donald Molosi as Seretse Khama in "Seretse Khama: Blue, Black and Blue"

Meredith Nelson as Britney Spears in "You Want a Piece of Me?"

Andrei Baiu as Oliver in "Oliver Reed"

Lexie Hunt as Sylvia Plath in "Integration"


Saturday, November 22nd

2:00 p.m. - "The Event," written and directed by John Clancy, with Matt Olberg

3:30 p.m. - "A Fire as Bright as Heaven," Tim Collins

6:00 p.m. - "Male Gaze," Kymbali Craig

7:30 p.m. - Portrait Gallery

8:30 p.m. – Closing Ceremony

Michael Miller December 19, 2008
Omar Sangare's Dialogue One Theatre Festival is one of the high points of the academic year at Williams. Dedicated to the demanding art of solo theater, it gives locals an opportunity to see some of the best professionals from around the world, as well as some exceptionally successful undergraduate efforts. Williams drama students benefit from contact with the visitors. In fact this year John Clancy, an Obie Award winner and founding director of the New York Fringe Festival, taught a workshop at the college. Now in its second year, the festival attracted visitors from out of town and filled the '62 Center's CentreStage close to capacity. It is traditional in solo theater festivals and fringe festivals to subject the performances to a committee of judges, who present awards in various categories. Read more.

The Second Annual Dialogue One Theatre Festival, 2008

Artistic Director, Omar Sangare

 

presented by Williamstheatre at the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance, Williams College, November 21 - 22, 2008

Michael Miller October 24, 2008
Last December, the first Dialogue One Theatre Festival was one of the most impressive and enjoyable events offered by Williams College during the academic year. It combined some carefully selected, top-notch professionals from New York and Germany with what were certainly the finest student performances I have ever seen. Organized by Williams theater professor Omar Sangare, who has recently added to the extensive collection of awards he has garnered for True Theater Critic, a one-man play he has written, directed, and performed, the Dialogue One Festival is an event which should be of vital interest, not only to the immediate community, but to theater-lovers everywhere. Last year some members of the audience travelled from New York and Boston to attend the Festival, and this year even more visitors will be making the trip to Williamstown to see four character studies by Prof. Sangare’s students and three compelling works by professionals from St. Louis and New York. After last year’s passionate and imaginative student performances we can look forward to an exciting meeting of young actors-in-training and world of professional theater. Read more.

Black Watch

by Gregory Burke

Dir. John Tiffany

National Theatre of Scotland

 

St. Ann’s Warehouse, Brooklyn, October 25th, 2008.

Heidi Holder November 13, 2008

Gregory Burke’s Black Watch, the sensation of the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe Festival (see Lucas Miller’s review of the Scottish revival of the play from April 19th), has returned to Brooklyn’s St. Ann’s Warehouse this fall after its highly successful (and all too brief) appearance last season. The current run has already been extended to December 21st. You should hurry and get your tickets.

 

The show is a fascinating one for U.S. audiences. While it can certainly be classified as an Iraq War play, it deals with that conflict in a manner both familiar and foreign. On one level it tells a story reminiscent of earlier war plays (and films): we get to know a group of soldiers, with its traditions, internal conflicts, motley recruits, surly but decent higher-ups. A considerable part of the action is taken up by inaction: reading mail, filling time, one-upping each other, watching American bombing runs. While no Americans appear in the play, they are very much a presence. Read more


William Shakespeare,
Hamlet

Shakespeare & Company
Director: Eleanor Holdridge

Fine Arts Center, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, October 8th 2008

Heidi Holder October 24, 2008
The ghost makes a dramatically late entrance in the new touring production of Hamlet from Tina Packer’s Shakespeare & Company. The opening moments pull the audience up short. No midnight watch, no nervous “who’s there?,” no plea of “Oh speak!” from Horatio to the ominously silent ghost of the dead king. Instead, flickering and flashing lights reveal Hamlet center stage, surrounded by an electronic buzzing and fragments of lines from the play. Then the lights steady, and, bang, we are in scene two, as Hamlet’s uncle, the new king, holds forth. This opening changes the character of Hamlet; rather than emerging slowly, from the periphery of the second scene (at court, where he is a reluctant presence), the prince has our attention from the first instant. The shift is one of several bold strokes in this re-imagining of the work from director Eleanor Holdridge. Read more.

To Kill a Mockingbird


Adapted by Christopher Sergel
Based on the novel by Harper Lee
Directed by Julianne Boyd

At Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield; through October 26

Deborah Brown October 24, 2008
The story that Harper Lee tells in To Kill a Mockingbird has been in the mind of the American public since the novel was published in the summer of 1960. It’s the fictional story of a black man wrongfully accused of rape in Maycomb, Alabama, in 1935, toward the end of Roosevelt’s first term. Tom Robinson, the accused, is being defended by Maycomb’s most respected white attorney, Atticus Finch. The character Finch is still regarded by many in the law profession as a hero and a model. Read more.

The Seagull

by Anton Chekhov

Royal Court Theatre Production at the Walter Kerr Theatre, New York

 

a new English version by Christopher Hampton

directed by Ian Rickson

Michael Miller October 9, 2008
The interface between Chekhov’s Russian and English in its various British and American varieties is a delicate one. In the early days his plays were not easily accepted in Britain and America (for different reasons) and were perceived as distinctly alien. The coupling of British and American stage technique is more direct, but it, too, is not without its tremors and bumps. I recently heard a distinguished British actor contrast the experience of working in London and on Broadway, to the disadvantage of neither, but I found the comparison of the business-as-usual culture of London, where the theater-goer sits in the darkened hall to be private, even to hide in the theatrical experience, whereas the Broadway theater-goer, whether he has come from uptown or across the Hudson, demands full satisfaction for the not inconsiderable rent he has paid for his short-term lease on a buttocks-worth of Manhattan real estate. The current import of the Royal Court’s production of The Seagull raised intriguing questions on both issues.Read more.

Williams College theater professor, Omar Sangare, wins best performance award at the San Francisco Fringe Festival for his one-man play, True Theater Critic.
Michael Miller September 23, 2008
Williams College theater professor, Omar Sangare, has just been awarded the “Best of the Fringe” Award for best performance at the San Francisco Fringe Festival for his one-man play, True Theater Critic. (For a video excerpt, click here.)


This 50-minute monodrama has been presented in Poland, Ukraine, Great Britain, Germany, the USA, and Canada. It tells the story of an unfortunate man who suffers from an over-abundance of ambition—a person who desperately wants to be considered a so-called creator. A constant awareness of his lack of fulfilment has dominated his life, both in his private life and in his career. His private life does not actually exist, it just passes by. At the beginning the Critic cannot define his own identity. He lives in emptiness. Read more.


Home

by David Storey

Williamstown Theatre Festival, August 13-24, 2008

directed by Joseph Hardy


Cast:

Jack - Richard Easton

Harry - Philip Goodwin

Marjorie - Dana Ivey

Kathleen - Roberta Maxwell

Alfred - C. J. Wilson

Michael Miller August 25, 2008
Somewhere out there, just a bit beyond the literal words and actions of David Storey’s Home, which premiered in 1970, there were clouds of topicality which have long since blown past, but Home is too good a play to become dated. It is rather a classic, like Waiting for Godot (written 1949, produced 1953) and The Caretaker (1959), which have also been offered this summer in the Berkshires—events which drove home their maturity and their staying power. Nonetheless, pre-Thatcherian Britain is an increasingly distant memory. One would have to be at least forty to recall much of it. Above all there was that feeling that opportunities were limited, but that the welfare state would look after for one at least to some probably unsatisfactory extent. There was also that feeling that British society was elderly, retired from the business of running the Empire, at leisure, pensioned off in shabby gentility, with perhaps a case of medals to reminisce over. There was that feeling of disengagement from the world of action, as one’s memory of the past became vaguer, more subject to invented distortions, and one’s interest in a briefer and briefer future evaporated. Even trade or professions, as in the play, might have a certain dream-like unreality, as profits were sucked up in taxes. In 1970, only a few years after her rebuff by France, Britain had not yet entered the European Economic Community. All this is present in David Storey’s play, even though we must understand it differently, since we no longer pick up the newspaper to read about strikes and the brain drain, and, if we read about the nationalization of failing businesses, it has a radically different character. In those days the tabloids touted stories about abused cats; today we read about the abuse of children. Like Jack and Harry, the play may seem a bit lost today, but that only adds to its charm. Read more.

Waves
at the National Theatre
a work devised by Katie Mitchell and the Company
from the text of Virginia Woolf's novel, The Waves

Cast:
Kate Duchêne
Anastasia Hille
Kristin Hutchinson
Sean Jackson
Stephen Kennedy
Liz Kettle
Paul Ready
Jonah Russell

Huntley Dent August 23, 2008
Experimental jellyfish. After reading Dickens I wanted to be Dickens, just as after reading D. H. Lawrence I wanted to be Lawrence. I can’t imagine wanting to be Virginia Woolf, however, after the total immersion of Waves, the National Theatre’s brilliant adaptation of her experimental 1931 novel, The Waves. Like Lawrence, Woolf wanted to unseat “the old stable ego” (as Lawrence called it in a famous letter) in order to reach deeper, more realistic psychological dynamism. But what Lawrence had in mind was a liberated ego, frank in its sexual desires and evolved in its awareness. Woolf valued instability for its own sake, ego quivering on the verge of evaporating. In Waves we meet six characters, but they operate as one conscious organism, like a trepidacious jellyfish with liquid boundaries and a desire to float above the mud. Read more.

Private Lives
by Noël Coward

Barrington Stage Company, Main Stage
Directed by: Julianne Boyd


Cast:
Sibyl - Rebecca Brooksher
Louise - Tandy Cronyn
Victor - Mark H. Dold
Amanda Prynne - Gretchen Egolf
Elyot Chase - Christopher Innvar

Lucas Miller August 26, 2008
Noël Coward’s Private Lives (1930), now playing at the Barrington Stage Company (BSC) in Pittsfield, is an unmitigated treat, particularly if you’ve suffered an insufferable month of mediocre theatre as I have. The play is in itself a masterpiece and the BSC has taken it on commendably. Read more.

Noël Coward in Two Keys
Berkshire Theatre Festival
directed by Vivian Matalon


I. "Come into the Garden, Maud"

Casey Biggs - Verner

Mia Dillon - Anna Mary
Maureen Anderman - Princess Maud Caragnani
Gian Murray Gianino - Waiter


II. "A Song at Twilight"

Casey Biggs - Sir Hugo Latymer

Mia Dillon - Hilde, Sir Hugo’s wife
Maureen Anderman - Carlotta Gray
Gian Murray Gianino - Waiter

Lucas Miller August 26, 2008
It has been a lucky season for Cowardites in the Berkshires. The Barrington Stage Company put on a wonderful production of Private Lives (1930) and now, as a perfect complement to that early work, the Berkshire Theatre Festival is now showing Noël Coward in Two Keys (1966), Coward’s last stage work. As though that weren’t a treat in itself, the production is directed by Vivian Matalon, who directed Coward in the London premiere just over forty years ago. Read more.

Not Waving
by Ellen Melaver
Williamstown Theatre Festival, Nikos Stage

directed by Carolyn Cantor

Cast
Matt - Nate Corddry
Lizzie - Maria Dizzia
Peter- Dashiell Eaves
Patsy - Harriet Harris
Bo - Will Rogers
Cara - Sarah Steele

Michael Miller August 25, 2008
Gasoline prices have soared up this summer, forcing many of us to abandon plans for an idyllic holiday at the beach. But, shattered reader, do not fear, for the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s Not Waving by Ellen Melaver has most obligingly brought the beach to us. In doing so, however, they have forgotten to bring much else with them.


Not Waving is a play that follows six people (in three groups of two) to a public beach where a man had drowned the year before. Their conversations begin as trivial, but soon lead to touchier subjects, echoing the undulations of the waves before them, symbolic of life... Read more.


Othello

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Tony Simotes

Shakespeare and Company, Founders’ Theatre
July 18 - August 31


Cast:

Elizabeth Aspenlieder  -  Bianca
Jonathan Croy  -  Lodovico/Soldier
Michael Hammond  -  Iago
Merritt Janson  -  Desdemona
LeRoy McClain  -  Cassio
Tom Rindge  -  Duke of Venice/Soldier
John Douglas Thompson  -  Othello
Michael Toomey  -  Montano/Senator
Walton Wilson  -  Brabantio/Soldier
Ryan Winkles  -  Roderigo
Kristin Wold  -  Emilia

Michael Miller August 14, 2008
Othello stands out in an almost indefinable way among the tragedies of Shakespeare. It seems to take its entire color and fabric from the extravagant imagination, behavior, and language of its exotic hero. This conforms perfectly well to Shakespeare’s methods in Hamlet, Coriolanus, and Lear, for example, but Othello’s outlandishness (to use the original sense of the word as well as its more current metaphorical connotations) imparts his character and his language with an open-ended quality which effect us as pure color and emotivity—the famous musical quality of the play. If one plays the old reductive game in interpretation, the tragic situations of most of these heroes arise from their positions as outsiders. Read more.

August: Osage County
by Tracy Letts
Director:  Anna D. Shapiro
Steppenwolf Theatre Company
The Music Box Theatre, New York


Cast:
Jim True-Frost - Little Charles
Estelle Parsons - Violet Weston
Kimberly Guerrero - Johnna Monevata 
Robert Foxworth - Charlie Aiken
Brian Kerwin - Steve Heidebrecht 
Michael McGuire - Beverly Weston
Madeleine Martin - Jean Fordham 
Mariann Mayberry - Karen Weston 
Amy Morton - Barbara Fordham 
Sally Murphy - Ivy Weston 
Frank Wood - Bill Fordham 
Molly Regan - Mattie Fae Aiken
Troy West - Sheriff Deon Gilbeau

Heidi Holder August 14, 2008
Tracy Letts’s Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning play, August: Osage County, now runs with several new cast members. (For a review of the original cast, see Berkshire Review for the Arts, June 17th 2008.) Gone are Deanna Dunagan, a Tony-award recipient for her portrayal of the puff-adder matriarch Violet Weston; Rondi Reed as her untrustworthy sister Mattie Fae (another Tony-winning performance); Francis Guinan as Mattie’s husband Charles and Ian Barford as their sad-sack offspring, Little Charles; and Jeff Perry as Violet’s son-in-law, an adulterous academic. Read more.

Sam Shepard (Writer and Director)

Kicking a Dead Horse

The Public Theater (in co-production with the Abbey Theatre, Dublin), New York

 

With Elissa Piszel and Stephen Rea

Heidi Holder August 9, 2008
In a play that summons up mythical images of America’s past, Sam Shepard relies strongly on evocations of the theatrical past – primarily but not exclusively his own. The opening image of a vast desert landscape marked by an open grave, piles of dirt, and a very large dead horse calls to mind not only Shepard’s earlier plays of the west but also Beckett’s stark landscapes and the graveyard scene from Hamlet. (The picture-perfect set is designed by Brien Vahey, who did an impressive job with the equine corpse). The allusions establish a self-consciously mythic atmosphere for the play’s sole character (well, not quite sole, but more on that below), one that is immediately undercut by his first words: “Fucking horse. Goddamn.”  We will spend the play listening to the explanations, justifications, rants and fears of Hobart Struther (the fine Irish actor Stephen Rea), an art dealer from New York who has planned a “ground sojourn” in the west. Predictably, his scheme goes horribly awry. Instead of moving towards his goal he is stuck, lost and alone. Read more.

A Flea In Her Ear
by Georges Feydeau
at The Williamstown Theatre Festival
New version by David Ives
Directed by John Rando
Set designer Alexander Dodge


Cast:

Dr. Finache - Brooks Ashmanskas

Lucienne - Mia Barron

Etienne - Jeremy Beck

Baptiste - MacIntyre Dixon

Camille Chandebise - Carson Elrod

Victor Emmanuel Chandebise/ Poche - Mark Harelik

Romain Tournel - Tom Hewitt

Ferraillon - Tom McGowan

Raymonde - Kathryn Meisle

Rugby - Geoffrey Murphy

Antoinette - Heidi Niedermeyer

Carlos Homenidès de Histangua- David Pittu

Olympe Ferraillon - Debra Jo Rupp

Eugénie - Sarah Turner

Michael Miller August 3, 2008
If this has been a strong year for the Williamstown Theatre Festival, it has been an annus mirabilis for comedy at the Festival. After this feast of several entirely different styles, Festival audiences can consider themselves connoisseurs of the art. If Beyond Therapy gave us New York 1981 and She Loves Me New York Musical 1963, as well as more contemporary vintages in The Atheist, Broke-ology, and The Understudy, we might assume that Feydeau’s A Flea in her Ear is Paris 1907. In a way, but not quite. David Ives in his version, which is still faithful enough to be called a translation and not an adaptation, has translated not only Feydeau’s text but its humor into a twenty-first century American idiom. (But so much of this depends on sight-gags that director John Rando should share some of the credit.) Never mind that Feydeau and his audience at the Théatre des Nouveautés would have found much of this humor more appropriate for the Moulin Rouge, where Le Pétomane held sway, than the Grands Boulevards—the old farce kept the audience in stitches from beginning to end. If David Ives, the quintessential Chicago Pole, has injected some of the earthy, absurdist humor of middle western middle Europe, it is only appropriate, since Feydeau was half-Polish himself, although of aristocratic origins. Read more.

Harper Regan
a new play by Simon Stephens
at the National Theatre
Director: Marianne Elliott

Cast:
Duncan Woolley : Eamon Boland
Alison Woolley : Susan Brown
James Fortune : Brian Capron
Mickey Nestor : Jack Deam
Tobias Rich : Troy Glasgow
Justine Ross : Jessica Harris
Mahesh Aslam : Nitin Kundra
Elwood Barnes : Michael Mears
Sarah Regan : Jessica Raine
Harper Regan : Lesley Sharp
Seth Regan : Nick Sidi
Huntley Dent August 13, 2008
No self-help, please, we’re British. I got caught in cross-cultural winds at the National Theatre last night, where a new play, Harper Regan, felt dated and overcooked by American standards. It was billed as daring fare (“one woman’s voyage of self-discovery”), a theme verging on the trite, and one had to remember that the British endemically resist therapy and self-help, endorsing the “carry on” ethos at all times. Our heroine, Harper Regan, is an office worker with a stolid, bewildered, and benumbed existence, a perfect example of the crabby dictum that the unlived life isn’t worth examining. But she can’t carry on a moment longer, and when she is fired from her job for no better reason than wanting a three-day leave to visit her dying father in hospital, Harper cuts loose in all directions. Read more.

Afterlife
a new play by Michael Frayn
at the National Theatre

Director: Michael Blakemore
Set Designer: Peter Davison

Cast:
Max Reinhardt  -  Roger Allam
The Prince Archbishop  -  David Burke
Helene Thimig  -  Abigail Cruttenden
Rudolf 'Katie' Kommer  -  Peter Forbes
Franz  -  Glyn Grain
Gusti Adler  -  Selina Griffiths
Everyman/Ensemble  -  Nicholas Lumley
Friedrich Muller  -  David Schofield

Huntley Dent August 4, 2008
Final summons. When the English theater needs a bracing dose of intellectual legerdemain, the go-to writer is either Tom Stoppard or Michael Frayne.  The latter didn’t have Stoppard’s luck fresh out of the gate with Rosencranz and Gildenstern Are Dead, but the imaginary wrangle over the atomic bomb between Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in Copenhagen gave Frayne instant commercial cachet (it also referred quintessentially to Hamlet).  His latest, quite dazzling play at the National Theatre, Afterlife, provides a similar mix of history, imagination, and a literary masterpiece, in this case the schoolroom dreadnaught, Everyman.  The setting is Salzburg, where Max Reinhardt directed an acclaimed, one might say iconic production of Everyman for the summer festival in 1920 and many seasons thereafter. Read more.

Landscape and A Slight Ache
by Harold Pinter
at the National Theatre

Director: Iqbal Khan
Set, Costume and Lighting Designer: Ciaran Bagnall
Cast: Jamie Beamish, Clare Higgins, Simon Russell Beale

Huntley Dent July 29, 2008
The observer effect. After the play Betrayal, from 1981, I lost track of Harold Pinter. London productions of his plays have the zing of authentic English irony, etched menace, and pithy delivery that doesn’t come across with American accents. One could see Pinter as an actor as late as 1995 when he appeared in the West End in a revival of an earlier work, The Hothouse. Pinter is as strange and threatening on stage as on paper, although a witty anecdote circulated around that production. Supposedly his wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, phoned up the management and said, “The whole run has been so successful, Harold and I were thinking that you should have the Comedy Theatre renamed the Pinter Theater,” to which the manager replied, “Or he could just rename himself Harold Comedy.” Read more.

Under the Blue Sky
written by David Eldridge
directed by Anna Mackmin
at the Duke of York's Theatre

Cast:
Francesca Annis, Lisa Dillon, Nigel Lindsay, Chris O'Dowd, Dominic Rowan and Catherine Tate

Huntley Dent July 31, 2008
Love goes ka-boom. I read an interview with a young playwright, David Eldridge, who was asked about current conditions in the British theater. At 27 he had a precocious smash hit at the Royal Court in 2000 with Under the Blue Sky, a study in three scenes of romance and sexual frustration among secondary school teachers. The subject sounds deadly, and one can understand why five London theatres originally turned it down. The commercial West End trembles like melting marmalade when faced with serious dramatic writing, and the pay for playwrights is criminally low, to the point that talented ones scrounge for a living, even after having a hit. (I’m reminded of the improbable moment when Sam Goldwyn brought the poet-playwright Maurice Maeterlinck from Paris to Hollywood. Goldwyn’s familiarity with Maeterlinck’s masterpiece, Pelleas et Melisande, was dubious. The work to be adapted for the big screen was a strange naturalist treatise, The Life of the Bee. After reading the first draft of the script, Goldwyn rushed out of his office screaming, “My God, it’s about a bee!”) Read more.

The Pillowman
by Martin McDonagh
at the Wellfleet Harbor Actor's Theater, Julie Harris Stage
Director: Jeff Zinn

Set Design: Eugene Lee


Cast 

Michal - Marc Carver

Girl - Liliana Flores 

Ariel - David Fraioli

Katurian - Adam Harrington

Tupolski - Tom Patrick Stephens

Lucas Miller August 4, 2008
For those sadistic souls who derive pleasure from pointless violence of language and action, I must recommend Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman, directed by Jeff Zinn, now playing at the Wellfleet Harbor Actor’s Theatre (WHAT). Otherwise, it is to be avoided at all costs.

 

The play’s protagonist, Katurian K. Katurian (Adam Harrington), is a writer in an unidentified totalitarian state – a bad choice of career. Policemen Tupolski (Tom Patrick Stephens) and Ariel (David Fraioli) bring him in for interrogation. Apparently his gruesome prose (almost all of which involves children being killed or tortured) has inspired some sick individual to act them out. If Katurian cannot prove his innocence, he and his mentally impaired brother (Marc Carver) will be executed by the day’s end. Read more.


The Understudy

by Theresa Rebeck

Williamstown Theatre Festival, Nikos Stage, July 23-August 3


Directed by Scott Ellis

Designed by Alexander Dodge


Jake - Bradley Cooper

Roxanne - Kristen Johnston

Harry - Reg Rogers

Michael Miller August 4, 2008
After the season’s first and hopefully only disaster, it’s reassuring to find the Festival back in form in its latest Nikos Stage production, Theresa Rebeck’s The Understudy—more than reassuring: it was an evening of constant amusement switching hats with hearty, cynical laughter. If the laughs are cynical, then you are correct in assuming that the play is more than mere froth. It is full of knowing jibes about work and careers, art, the relations between the sexes, and life in the theater. In fact it makes a telling companion to WTF’s season opener, Beyond Therapy, which gave us such an entertaining tour of love and life in the early 80’s—a vivid reminder that twenty-five years is a long time. In Beyond Therapy, the dilemma of Bruce, Prudence, their therapists, and friends, was confined to their private lives. They could take their jobs for granted—even though the therapists were lucky to kept theirs. In The Understudy Jake, Roxanne, and Harry don’t even have that. Harry is a gifted actor who just manages to survive as an understudy. He is so deeply afflicted with anomie, that, seven years before the action, he has jilted his fiancée, who turns out to be the aggressive, foul-mouthed stage manager who is in charge of his audition as an understudy in the Broadway production of Franz Kafka’s lost and recently rediscovered play, in which the two lead roles have been given to Hollywood action stars: enter Jake. Read more.

Rabbit Hole
by David Lindsay-Abaire

New Century Theatre
Dir. Ed Golden
Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts
July 22nd 2008
Heidi Holder July 26, 2008
David Lindsay-Abaire has something of a line in notably troubled females.  At the heart of his breakthrough play Fuddy Meers is an amnesiac who awakens every day with her mind a complete blank; Wonder of the World features a runaway wife on a belated search for a self; and Kimberly Akimbo focuses on a waifish sixteen-year old girl with a rare disease that speeds the aging process (she is played by an actress in her sixties).  Lindsay-Abaire has a deft hand with wacky comedies of unmoored identity, at times reminiscent of Craig Lucas and Christopher Durang.  In Rabbit Hole, however, the playwright is on a different track (and a critically successful one: Rabbit Hole won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2007). The emphasis on the hearts and minds of female characters remains, but the trouble that moves them – and the action of the play – is more prosaic, and less conducive to jokes.  It’s the accidental death of a small child.  The new production by Northampton’s New Century Theatre makes the most of the play’s strengths but can’t quite overcome its weaknesses. Read more.

Two in the West End:

Free Outgoing

Royal Court Theatre

by Anupama Chandrasekhar

Director: Indhu Rubasingham

Cast: Ravi Aujila, Lolita Chakrabarti, Sacha Dhawan, Raj Ghatak, Shelley King, Manjinder Vir


The Female of the Species

Vaudeville Theatre

by Joanna Murray-Smith

Director: Roger Mitchell

Cast: Eileen Atkins, Paul Chahidi, Anna Maxwell Martin, Con O'neill, Sophie Thompson, Sam Kelly

Huntley Dent July 26, 2008
An actor’s paradise. The British style of acting is “just pretend,” as opposed to the "Method" in America, which is “feel it all.” The division may not be as strict as all that, but the two sides glare suspiciously at one another, English actors wondering what all the emotional Sturm und Drang really amounts to (does the actor playing Hamlet have to imagine his own mother in bed with his uncle?) while the American side distrusts actors who can play raving psychotics one minute and laugh over a pint of bitters at the neighbourhood pub the next, throwing off their characters as easily as an old coat. But whichever side you favor, London will never cede its place as the theatrical capital of the English-speaking world. Read more.

All’s Well That Ends Well
by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare & Company

Founders’ Theatre
June 20 - August 31


Directed by Tina Packer


Cast:

Nigel Gore - Lavache
Elizabeth Ingram - Countess of Rossillion
Jason Asprey - Bertram, Count of Rossillion
Dennis Krausnick - Lafew
Kristin Villanueva - Helena
Kevin O’Donnell - Parolles
Douglas Seldin - A Drummer Boy
Timothy Douglas - King of France
Peter Davenport - Amor Dumaine
Alexander Sovronsky - Dumaine Soldat
Ginya Ness - Reynalda/and Widow Capilet, mother of Diana
Rondrell McCormick - Duke of Florence
Morganne Davies - Mariana
Brittany Morgan - Diana
Grace Trull - Violenta
Mike Allen Moreno - First Soldier
Andy Talen - Second Soldier

Michael Miller July 23, 2008
This production is so full of life and so intuitively likeable that I find it difficult to criticize anything in it. Of course its not perfect, but Tina Packer and her cast got the spirit of Shakespeare performance just right—on their own terms, and even the scratchy singing and the less assured among the actors served their purpose within the expectations of the production. To get the bad out of the way at the beginning. The fine actor Nigel Gore will be the first to admit, I hope, that he is not a Roger Daltrey. Tina Packer did not intend for him and the other actors who opened their mouths to sing to turn All’s Well That Ends Well into a rock opera—well, not quite. But Gore and some of his companions excelled at the world-weary rasp, or croak, or gasp of the life-worn child of the sixties, who has seen love and desire come and go many times over. Their fuzzy diction, the limitations of the sound system, and my ears (I’ve always been challenged by picking out the words in rock music.) also served the benevolent purpose of postponing my coming to terms with the elaborate lyrics Tina Packer has concocted from medieval troubadour songs and Shakespeare himself...but more of that later. Read more.

The Revenger's Tragedy
by Thomas Middleton

at the National Theatre
Director: Melly Still
Designers: Ti Green and Melly Still

Cast:
Duchess : Adjoa Andoh
Ambitioso : Tom Andrews
Duke : Ken Bones
Spurio : Billy Carter
Lussurioso : Elliot Cowan
Gratiana : Barbara Flynn
Supervacuo : John Heffernan
Piero : Peter Hinton
Vindice : Rory Kinnear

Huntley Dent July 21, 2008
Shockeroo playhouse...

I was walking past the Embankment last night when three girls ran by wearing plastic devil’s horns that lit up red in the dark. They whirled away, dancing to a nearby reggae street band. A fitting epilogue to Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy, just letting out at the National Theatre. The doings onstage were pretend Satanism, too. The National exists to keep classic plays alive, but Middleton’s carnival of gore, which piles up eight bodies in the last scene alone, leaving not one named character alive, made the audience laugh – not what the playwright intended. What began as shock value turned into a bloody Feydeau farce by intermission, and the last half played like Monty Python awaiting Eric Idle to prance out with an executioner’s axe. Calling Nankipoo. The actors weren’t winking at us, but there’s only so much oozing crimson you can take. Read more.


As You Like It
by William Shakespeare
Hampshire Shakespeare Company

Director: Chris Rohmann
Massachusetts Center for Renaissance Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, July 19, 2008

Heidi Holder July 23, 2008
For nearly twenty years, the Hampshire Shakespeare Company has provided theater-goers in the Pioneer Valley with their requisite summer fix of outdoor Shakespeare. Their latest offering, a fast-paced production of As You Like It, staged on the lawn (and patio, and fire escape) of the Massachusetts Center for Renaissance Studies at U. Mass., shows what can be done, lean and mean, with a well-directed company and a good setting. (On other nights the show is staged at the Hartsbrook School in Hadley.) Of course, this work in particular benefits from an outdoor setting. One of Shakespeare’s “green world” comedies, As You Like It features shenanigans in the woods, with disguised lovers, amorous shepherds, exiled courtiers, and a wayward fool all crossing paths. But the play has, from the start, other, darker elements. Read more.

Three Sisters
by Anton Chekhov

Translated by Paul Schmidt

Directed by Michael Greif

Williamstown Theatre Festival, July 19, 2008


Natasha - Cassie Beck

Irina - Aya Cash

Chebutykin - Michael Cristofer

Vershinin - Stevie Ray Dallimore

Masha - Rosemarie DeWitt

Fedotik - Cary Donaldson

Andrei - Manoel Felciano

Kulygin - Jonathan Fried

Olga - Jessica Hecht

Solyony - Stephen Kunken 

Ferapont - Peter Maloney

Anfisa - Roberta Maxwell

Baron Tuzenbach- Keith Nobbs

Rohde - Joe Tippett

Michael Miller July 22, 2008
Life is good: two Chekhovs in one week! And the first one, Erica Schmidt’s Uncle Vanya at Bard, was so very satisfying! However, in real life just as in Chekhov’s world, the convenient fiancée gets killed, the attractive officer gets transferred, and somehow we never get to Moscow, at least in the present emergency, Michael Greif’s obnoxiously slick and clumsily executed production of Three Sisters at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. This is unfortunate, since it is the only classical play in their season, which has been impressively successful so far. Read more.

Broke-ology
Williamstown Theatre Festival

Nikos Stage July 9-20
Written by Nathan Louis Jackson
Directed by Thomas Kail
Set designer Donyale Werle

Ennis - Francois Battiste
Malcolm - Gaius Charles
William - Wendell Pierce
Sonia - April Yvette Thompson

Lucas Miller July 17, 2008
Seldom have I witnessed such riotous laughter as at the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s production Broke-ology, now enjoying its world premier under the direction of Thomas Kail. It is not only a story of economic hardship and the family problems that result from it (as the title suggests) but one which explores the importance of pursuing one’s dreams. Read more.

Uncle Vanya

by Anton Chekhov
Bard Summerscape
Fisher Center for the Arts, Theatre 2
July 16, continues through July 20


translated by Paul Schmidt
Directed by Erica Schmidt
Mark Wendland, set designer
Michelle R. Phillips, costume designer
David Weiner, lighting designer

 

Cast:

Peter Dinklage - Vanya

Ritchie Coster - Astrov

Lynn Cohen - Marina

Robert Hogan - Professor Alexander Serebriakov

Taylor Schilling - Yelena

Mandy Siegfried - Sonya

Kate Skinner - Maria Vasilyeva

Robert Langdon Lloyd - Telegin (“Waffles”)

Michael Miller July 18, 2008
The core of Erica Schmidt’s brilliant production of Uncle Vanya is in fact its shell. On the impressively broad and deep stage of the Fisher Center’s Theatre 2, set designer Mark Wendland made an enormous room with a low ceiling, which was both desolate and claustrophobic. Most of the wall space is covered with peeling wall paper decorated with an endless forest of birch trees in autumn...

Erica Schmidt exploits the set’s expanse and the characters’ awkwardness, confusion, or drunkenness to introduce long pauses or to draw out a simple action to extreme length. This is not the ambiguous, multivalent pause of Harold Pinter and Jonathan Miller; it rather expresses the characters’ rooted despair and the futility of their situations. Read more.


The Year of Magical Thinking
a play by Joan Didion
based on her memoir

directed by David Hare
with Vanessa Redgrave

Huntley Dent July 17, 2008
Death and the maiden...

I avoided Joan Didion’s bestselling The Year of Magical Thinking, for two reasons. One, I practice magical thinking, which crops up among primitive tribes and schizophrenics as the belief that your thoughts can change reality. I don’t mind being in the company of schizophrenics because the greatest spiritual teachers share the same belief. How else could faith move mountains? Didion views magical thinking as akin to delusion, a desperate tactic that the mind resorts to when reason fails. If my first excuse seems eccentric, it’s backed up by an uneasy sense that Didion had done something creepy and narcissistic with grief. Now that The Year of Magical Thinking has been transformed into a one-woman show for the iconic Vanessa Redgrave, I had a chance at the National Theatre last night to prove or dispel my trepidations. Read more.

New Connections, a season of short new plays created by established writers and performed by young people. For more details, click here.

High-profile writers including Mark Ravenhill, Abi Morgan, Jack Thorne and Bryony Lavery have written plays for this year’s festival.

The search for identity pulses through New Connections 2008: for acceptance and survival in modern Britain, for racial equality in 1960s South Africa, by deception in magical allotments, during white-out in a snow blizzard, through parenting, through faith, or by comic mistakes of social networking.

It Snows, by Bryony Lavery & Frantic Assem, performed by Sandbach School, Cheshire
Burying Your Brother in the Pavement, by Jack Thorne, performed by RSAMD Youth Works, Glasgow

3 – 8 July Olivier, Lyttelton & Cottesloe Theatres

Huntley Dent July 10, 2008
I hope the British never shut up. Riding across town to Oxford Circus, a harried woman got on my bus with her daughter in tow. The little girl was a constant chatterbox. Her mother (and the rest of us) suffered in silence until the following exchange occurred:

Mother: Don’t you ever get bored with yourself?
Little Girl: You’re mental.

I tucked this away in my mental file along with the drunk who got on my bus last year and said to the driver, “I have no money. Would you accept a poem?”

Precocious kids came to mind at the National Theatre last night. I bought tickets, I thought, to two experimental plays on the big Olivier stage, but the music booming before the curtain went up was Euro techno hip hop, and the mostly young audience started performing The Wave (as fans do at Wembley and the Super Bowl). I discovered that I was at a festival of youth theatre companies, finalists who won the right to strut their stuff at the National after competing in fifteen regional semi-finals. The temptation was to bolt for the outdoors, but the first play, It Snows, turned out to be a musical slash happening of jaw-dropping skill. Read more.


Fat Pig
at the Trafalgar Studios, London
Written and directed by Neil LaBute
with Kris Marshall, Joanna Page, Ella Smith, Robert Webb
Huntley Dent July 11, 2008
“A man’s a man for a’ that.” Few careers have begun as aptly as Neil Labute’s. First noticed for a cruelly ironic indie film, “In the Company of Men,” he has remained true to its theme of men who cannot love taking it out on women who try to love them. The slug line for the movie still brings chills of revulsion: “Two business executives--one an avowed misogynist, the other emotionally wounded by his girlfriend--set out to exact revenge on the female gender by seeking out the most innocent, uncorrupted girl they can find and ruining her life.” The fact that the girl happens to be deaf went so over the top that someone should have sniffed out Labute’s Swiftian slyness. Few did. Feminist nerves were rubbed raw, and in all the commotion his name was made. Read more.

Two of a Kind: Ronan Noone’s The Atheist and Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole

Now at the Barrow Street Theatre in the West Village; reviewed at the Williamstown Theatre Festival
Directed by Justin Waldman, with Campbell Scott/
DVD Criterion Collection

Lucas Miller July 7, 2008
It is hardly surprising that Justin Waldman’s production of Ronan Noone’s The Atheist is already being hailed as the best play of the Williamstown Theatre Festival so early in the season. In form, it is a dramatic monologue. The audience listens to the stereotypically amoral and inconsiderate American journalist Augustine Early talk about his rise to disreputable fame, after tainting the lives of so many (though, ironically, he seems to have an unfortunate case of the Midas Touch, making his victims more famous than himself). Read more.

TR Warszawa: Macbeth 2008

Presented by St. Ann’s Warehouse, Susan Feldman, artistic director; in association with the Polish Cultural Institute in New York. At the Tobacco Warehouse, Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, Dumbo, Brooklyn. Performed in Polish with English supertitles.


Adapted from William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and directed by Grzegorz Jarzyna; sets and costumes by Stephanie Nelson and Agnieszka Zawadowska; music by Abel Korzeniowski, Jacek Grudzien and Piotr Dominski; lighting by Jacqueline Sobiszewski; video design by Bartek Macias; special effects designed by Waldo Warshaw.


Cast:

Cezary Kosinski - Macbeth

Aleksandra Konieczna - Lady Macbeth

Tomasz Tyndyk - Banquo

Michal Zurawski - Macduff

Danuta Stenka - Hecate

Miroslaw Zbrojewicz - Duncan

Jacek Poniedzalek - Lenox

Jan Dravnel - Seyton

Michael Miller July 9, 2008
In preparing this review—more in that than in actually witnessing the performance—I had to remind myself that this is not the play which has come down to us as Shakespeare’s Scottish Play with some conspicuous additions by Thomas Middleton, as well as some other cuts and adjustments. It is rather Macbeth 2008, Gzregorz Jarzyna’s adaptation of the play. What made this hard was that it resembled Shakespeare’s play in so many ways that I couldn’t help thinking about it and making comparisons. Jarzyna’s spectacle even includes several excerpts from the best-known speeches in the play, inserted into the crude, obscenity-ridden dialogue that Jarzyna has created in the style of contemporary Hollywood film, especially the work of his hero, Ridley Scott. If I had been able to attend the lecture Jarzyna gave at the Polish Cultural Center about a month before the much-publicized opening of his show, I’d have been better prepared, and perhaps more resistant to comparisons with the Jacobean play, so admirably presented by a company from the Chichester Festival barely a mile distant from its venue in the armpit of the Brooklyn Bridge. All Mr. Jarzyna’a lights, noise, and bodily fluids amounted to pretty feeble stuff in comparison with the all-too-familiar words of the old play. His purpose is to present the story of Macbeth as a nightmare, as if the play were not nightmarish enough in itself. Read more.

That Face
at the Duke of York's Theatre
by Polly Stenham

Director: Jeremy Herrin
Design: Mike Britton
with Lindsay Duncan, Hannah Murray, Matt Smith, Catherine Steadman, Julian Wadham

Huntley Dent July 5, 2008
Tube riders litter the train with newspapers, which other riders pick up to alleviate their boredom. Coming home last night I saw a grisly headline on one of these throwaways, “Sixth Stab Murder in Week of Death.” In London? The first sentence of the story was horrifying. “A schoolboy has been stabbed to death with a foot-long knife by a gang of thugs in south London.” It was within memory that a single shooting death made national news. Compared to America, the UK is still a kingdom where the lion lies down with the lamb. Verbal and psychological violence are another matter. Read more.

Relocated
at the Royal Court Theatre
written and directed by Anthony Neilson

with Frances Grey, Phil McKee, Stuart McQuarrie, Katie Novak, Jan Pearson, and Nicola Walker

Huntley Dent July 7, 2008
Clouds over Sloane Square, and the posh and spicy girls known as Sloane Rangers weren’t tramping around with a slew of shopping bags over their arms. Or not that I could see two days ago.  A wag has renamed them the trustafarians, which seems to be sticking. I had a drink with a new friend named Warwick and told him that he and I were the only two people in the bar named after castles. “Presumably,” he said.  We had met while waiting to troop into the tiny, dark, primitively ventilated  Upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre to be assaulted by Relocated, a stage  provocation that has divided the critics while scaring off the public. Read more.

Rowing to America, A Play
Kitty Chen July 4, 2008
Scene 1: The stage is bare. The sky is midnight blue, with a crescent moon and a few stars, the sound of waves slapping the side of a boat. GIRL sits on a box or bench, rowing with oars. She is weary. SISTER is in shadow. In GIRL’s first speech, SISTER may speak some of the lines simultaneously or alone.

GIRL

I'm rowing to America. The only thing I brought with me is a picture of a smile. Here in my head. Strong and radiant like the sun. The smile of my sister.

"When we grow up and go to America, everything will be all right," she would say to me. She told me all sorts of things about America. Have you heard them too? She said the streets are paved with gold lamé. A dollar a day keeps the doctor away. Apple pie and huckleberry finn for breakfast. Milk and honey flow down the avenue Fifth Avenue. A chicken in every pot-pie. Where the sun never stops shining, and spacious skies are blue, and amber grains are always waving at you. . . When we get there, we will wave back. Look, Sister—they have come to greet us! Hello! Hello! We are here—we have come to America! Read more.


Henrik Ibsen, Rosmersholm
Almeida Theatre, Islington

July 4,2008

Paul Hilton - Johannes Rosmer
Helen McCrory - Rebecca West
Paul Moriarty - Ulrik Brendel
Veronica Quilligan - Mrs Helseth
Malcolm Sinclair - Doctor Kroll
Peter Sullivan - Peder Mortensgaard

Huntley Dent July 4, 2008
Far from  celebrating our independence day, the British are probably trying to forget America and the whole era when Tony Blair was Bush’s poodle. After a miserably cold, damp spring, there was a national scare over strawberries – specifically, that the crop would go moldy and rot in the fields. Strawberries and cream are de rigeur  for finals at Wimbledon. Now it’s finals weekend and the berries came through. But there’s a smell of black mold seeping out under the doors of the tiny Almeida Theatre in Islington. Ibsen is afoot, and the fate of souls is being tossed around on stage like a medicine ball. A very heavy medicine ball. Read more.

George Bernard Shaw, Major Barbara
National Theatre, London

Director: Nicholas Hytner
Snobby Price : Paul Anderson
Charles Lomax : Tom Andrews
Barbara Undershaft : Hayley Atwell
Bill Walker : Ian Burfield
Jenny Hill : Katharine Burford
Bilton : Martin Chamberlain

Huntley Dent July 1, 2008
The long nights are already on the wane, but one leaves the theatre with a glow on the horizon, and a newspaper can be read outdoors well after nine o’clock.  Fresh off the plane (i.e., as grungy as five-day-old socks) I tried not to go groggy at the National Theatre’s production of Shaw’s Major Barbara.   Putting on a play by Shaw is like sticking your head out of a foxhole to see who shoots. Nobody could be more fusty and out of favour (perhaps the two Barries, James and Philip), but the London critics were mostly happy and none were snarky. Read more.

George Bernard Shaw, Candida

Berkshire Theatre Festival, June 30, 2008

Anders Cato, director


Jayne Atkinson - Candida
Michel Gill - the Reverend James Morell 

David Schramm - Mr. Burgess
Finn Wittrock - Eugene Marchbanks

Samantha Soule - Proserpine Garnett.

Jeremiah Wiggins - the Reverend Alexander Mill

Michael Miller July 1, 2008

I sincerely hope that nothing I say will encourage the Berkshire Theatre Festival to lower the standards for their season openers. The wonderful Unicorn production of Pinter’s The Caretaker raised my expectations so high that I find it impossible to rationalize the shortcomings of the season’s mainstage production of Shaw’s Candida, which was consistently awful, often painfully so. The production brought back an age when it was not quite proper for summer theater to be any better than third rate and even worse for anyone to be dissatisfied with it. One would have thought that this age had never passed over the distinguished Berkshire Theatre Festival, now celebrating its eightieth anniversary with this revival of a play that was part of its first season. Fortunately, Shaw built his play, first performed in 1897, like one of the Majestic battleships of the time, and his wit and human understanding are stronger than rivets and steel. If the BTF production proved that, it is at least something.

In fact Candida is a play in which we should find a mirror, with all the forced purposefulness of our own times and its attendant trust in “values.” Read more.

 


Williamstown Theater Festival, Nikos Stage

Beyond Therapy

by Christopher Durang

Directed by Alex Timbers


Charlotte - Kate Burton

Prudence - Katie Finneran

Bruce - Darren Goldstein

Stuart - Darrell Hammond

Bob - Matt McGrath

Andrew - Bryce Pinkham

Michael Miller June 19, 2008
The Williamstown Theatre Festival got off to a comfortable start with quite an entertaining offering by WTF familiars. Playwright-Actor Christopher Durang has appeared in Williamstown in both capacities. Katie Finneran is beginning her second WTF season as Prudence. Director Alex Timbers and Matt McGrath are both in their fourth season, and Kate Burton, of course, is a fixture, now in her 18th season. Beyond that, there is also an element of nostalgia in Beyond Therapy, which was first produced off Broadway in 1981 and on Broadway in a revised version in 1982. Not everybody will realize what a different place the world was back then. Hence the program notes attempt to explain this through a comparison with Sex and the City, which is steeped in the values of the turn of the century, when it started. Even that is beginning to recede into the past. Read more.

Harold Pinter, The Caretaker

Berkshire Theater Company, Stockbridge

Jonathan Epstein – Davies

James Barry – Mick

Tommy Schrider – Aston

Eric Hill, director

Jonathan Wentz, set design

Michael Miller June 16, 2008
Harold Pinter is still very much alive, a potent and welcome presence in the world because of his political work, but when The Caretaker, or any other of the plays from the height of his fame in the theater, is produced, most of us take it as a classic from the past. After all Pinter’s announcement in 2005 of his retirement from the stage marked a significant break, and the world has changed significantly since the sixties. His powerful Nobel Prize lecture, Art, Truth, and Politics, meticulously prepared and taped by BBC 4, shows his current way of reaching his audience in a time when indifference, commercialism in the media, and unofficial censorship make it virtually impossible to get salutary and unpleasant messages across to anyone who is not already convinced. We deal with people who disagree with us by marginalizing them. When he wrote The Caretaker in 1959, his first commercial success, he established himself as the quintessential all-round man of the theater. Read more.

August: Osage County

by Tracy Letts

Steppenwolf at the Music Box Theater, New York

directed by Anna D. Shapiro


Ian Barford - Little Charles 

Deanna Dunagan - Violet Weston (Oct 30, 2007-Jun 15, 2008) 

Kimberly Guerrero - Johnna Monevata 

Francis Guinan - Charlie Aiken (Oct 30, 2007-Jun 15, 2008) 

Brian Kerwin - Steve Heidebrecht 

Michael McGuire - Beverly Weston

Madeleine Martin - Jean Fordham 

Mariann Mayberry - Karen Weston 

Amy Morton - Barbara Fordham 

Sally Murphy - Ivy Weston 

Jeff Perry - Bill Fordham 

Rondi Reed - Mattie Fae Aiken (Oct 30, 2007-Jun 15, 2008) 

Troy West - Sheriff Deon Gilbeau

Michael Miller June 17, 2008
As I mulled over the play I had just seen, the much-acclaimed August: Osage County, over some bad, overpriced feijoada, I found myself probing around for just what had been lacking in the evening. I left the Music Box Theater thinking that it was perhaps not that strong a play. I liked its length (or perhaps out on the Plains people would conceive it as breadth) and its rambling quality. Most of its dozen characters were unattractive in one way or another, but I’d grown fond of them over the past three hours. On the other hand, I perhaps felt mildly frustrated that I didn’t know more about the characters, that too much was left open. (I won’t retell the story here. If you can’t quite follow the following streamof dysfunctional relatives, you should see the play or read it. You won’t regret it.) I found myself wondering what brought Bev together with Violet in the the first place. There must have been something, before the pills and the alcohol took over. Then it takes more than Mattie Fae’s word to convince me about what brought her together with Bev, presumably his frustration with Violet. Is the result of this adultery with his sister-in-law really enough to put the man into such a depression that he kills himself years later? On the other hand, it’s more than enough that he has come to the realization that “life is very long,” and the “the world is gradually becoming a place where I do not care to be anymore.” Bev is—or was—a poet, but his years of inactivity had been so long that it’s hard to imagine that it still bothered him. All he had to do was to stay drunk. Now Barbara, his daughter, followed in Beverly’s footsteps and became an academic. She and her husband left home for Colorado—a tragic abandonment of her parents in the eyes of some, because they could both find jobs there, but we never find out what her academic interests were, what her work life was like. As least we know that it didn’t offer her the same sexual temptations it proferred her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Bill. Weren’t these trivial questions? Perhaps, but I believe that fact that they kept appearing suggested that something was thin in the background to let them through. Read more.

I Am My Own Wife

by Doug Wright

starring Vince Gatton, directed by Andrew Volkoff

Barrington Stage Company, Stage II

Michael Miller June 10, 2008
As a teenager under the Third Reich and son of an enthusiastic and rising party member of brutal ways, Lothar Berfelde found himself maturing into an especially difficult situation. From a very early age, he had felt himself to be a girl in a boy’s body. Disgusted by Lothar’s precocious effeminacy, his father had forced him to join the Hitler Youth, but eventually a Lesbian aunt enlightened him about cross-dressing and gave him an authoritative book on the subject, Magnus Hirschfeld’s book, Die Transvestiten (1910), which became his Bible, as it reminded him that he was not alone in the world. He killed his father with a rolling pin, as Väterchen threatened to kill his mother and the entire family. After psychiatric examination he was judged sane and sentenced to four years in juvenile prison. East German society was no more tolerant of homosexuals, but Lothar was able to pursue his inclinations, changing his name to “Lottchen,” formally Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, the Berlin suburb in which he had grown up, and where he continued to live, obsessively collecting furniture and other objects from the Gründerzeit, that is, the age of Bismarck, a period of growing national wealth and security, the “world of assurance” (viz. Am. “insurance”), as Stefan Zweig called it, which was to collapse with the First World War. Read more.

Black Watch

from the Natonal Theatre of Scotland
Written by Gregory Burke
Director - John Tiffany

Lucas Miller April 19, 2008

The Iraq War is an infuriating abomination and I am more than happy to see anything that attacks it. I am also, as it happens, not against seeing fine theatre. Therefore, I was delighted to see two birds killed with one stone at the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of the Edinburgh Festival hit Black Watch at the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre (SECC) in Glasgow, as the play continues its tour through the UK, and then on to North America. [Since its first performance at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2006 in an unused drill shed, Black Watch has played before sold out audiences and won numerous awards, not only the Fringe First, but South Bank Show Award for Theatre, the Critics’ Circle Awards (to John Tiffany as Best Director) and others. It played to sold-out audiences at St. Ann’s Warehouse, Brooklyn in October-November 2007, and will return there in October 2008. - ed.]

The production is unique in its dynamic approach to theatre and accessibility. Because it is “building-free,” it travels well, each time creating a different experience for a different audience. The primary objective, as always it should be, is to entertain. This is achieved through an interesting integration of acting, singing, dancing, and technical effects. At the SECC, the theatre was set up in a peculiar way, with the stage nestled between two large bleachers running parallel to one another. Read more.


William Shakespeare, Macbeth

 

Chichester Festival 2007 Production, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, 2/12-3/24/08

 

Rupert Goold - Director
Anthony Ward - Designer
Howard Harrison - Lighting Designer
Adam Cork - Music & Sound Designer
Lorna Heavey - Video & Projection Designer

 
Paul Shelley - Duncan & A Scottish Doctor
Patrick Stewart - Macbeth
Tim Treloar - Ross
Martin Turner - Banquo
Oliver Birch - Cream-faced Loon
Suzanne Burden - Lady Macduff
Ben Carpenter - Donalbain & Young Seyward
Michael Feast - Macduff
Kate Fleetwood - Lady Macbeth
Christopher Patrick Nolan - Porter & Seyton
Mark Rawlings - Lennox
Scott Handy - Malcolm
Polly Frame - Witch & Gentlewoman
Niamh McGrady - Witch
Laura Rees - Witch
Hywel John - Bloody Captain & Murderer 1
Christopher Knott - Old Seyward & Murderer 2
Bill Nash - Angus
Michael Miller March 28, 2008
If the first performance of Macbeth (most likely some time in 1606 or 1607) was a historic event, it would have been that chiefly because it was the first time that a Scotsman was ever presented on a London stage as anything other than an object of ridicule and contempt. This obviously had much to do with King James’ Scottish origins, not one of his more popular traits, but surely to be respected, at least in public. But that is not Shakespeare’s only effort to please the monarch. James set great store by his descendence from Banquo, a major theme in the play. There is also a good deal about the nature of kingship and political legitimacy. Witchcraft, a favorite topic of James’, on which he wrote a learned treatise, is close to its core and ubiquitous, even amplified by interpolations which provided an opportunity to make the witch scenes even more vivid through music, spectacle, and dance. Read more.


The Glass Menagerie
By Tennessee Williams

The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, 11 January - 9 February
Presented by special arrangement with The University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee.

Lucas Miller February 12, 2008
From time to time, the American expat, no matter how unpatriotic his sentiments may be, develops a certain homesickness for his motherland. This regret may take on a gluttonous form, causing a longing for hamburgers, fried chicken, hot dogs or “freedom fries.” Being rather put off by the thought of an heart attack, I decided to feed my cravings instead by attending Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, directed by Jemima Levick. Read more.

Peter Gill's production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, with Penelope Keith as Lady Bracknell, at The King's Theatre, Edinburgh—now at the Vaudeville Theatre, London, opening Jan. 22, 2008
Lucas Miller October 15, 2007

When one is in town, one amuses oneself; when one is in the country,one amuses other people.

Oscar Wilde, from The Importance of Being Earnest


It was with this truthful witticism in mind that I withdrew myself from the unpleasant drudgery of a Wednesday evening to “Bunbury” along to Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh.


The house was absolutely full, with people of all ages in attendance. The production was brilliantly cast, with Penelope Keith as the perfectly pompous Lady Bracknell, William Ellis as the insatiable Algernon Moncrieff, and Harry Hadden-Paton as Jack Worthing in the country, Earnest in town. The secondary actors were likewise impressive, assuming their roles with unmitigated excellence,conveying commendably the wit and satire of the play. The production was directed by Peter Gill whose vast dramatic experience was made clear by his management of the production. read more


Dialogue ONE International Theatre Festival (Click here for picture gallery.)

directed by Omar Sangare


December 6 - 8, 2007

‘62 Center for Theater and Dance, Williams College

Michael Miller December 13, 2007
“There are no monologues. You are involved in dialogue at least with the Universe itself.”

December 6, 2007, 7:30 PM
Mme. Tussaud, LIVE

Ilya Khodosh ’08 as Meyer Lansky

Amanda O’Connor ’10 in The Last Battle of Lannes (Jean Lannes)

Terence Tamm ’08 in On the Rocks (Jack Kerouac)

Andres Lopez ‘09 as Bud (Marlon Brando) 


December 7, 2007, 7:30 PM

Mme. Tussaud, LIVE


December 8, 2007 from 2:00 PM to 9:30 PM

2:00 PM Vamping - Kali Quinn, GUTworks, directed by Jonathan Maloney and  assisted Daniel Burmester

3:30 PM Oblivious to Everyone - Jessica Lynn Johnson

6:00 PM American Cake - Jonathan Pereira, directed by Kristen Williams

7:30 PM Story of My Dovecote - Herbert Kaluza, directed by Johannes Talmon-Gros

8:30 PM Closing Ceremony and Reception


The pleasant, but potentially mind-numbing routine of holiday entertainment was relieved most satisfyingly this past weekend by Dialogue One, a new international theater festival of solo performances at Williams College. Its founder, Omar Sangare, Assistant Professor of Theater at the College is to be thanked warmly for this serious and extremely stimulating festival, which will be an annual event. Read more.


Hobson's Choice, Chichester Festival Theatre Travelling Production, at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
Lucas Miller with Michael Miller November 30, 2007

Directed by Jonathan Church; John Savident, Hobson; Carolyn Backhouse, Maggie Hobson; Dylan Charles, Will Mossop.

The eternally popular play, Hobson’s Choice by Harold Brighouse, tells the story of Henry Horatio Hobson, a misogynistic alcoholic who lets his business slide, tyrannizes his three daughters, viciously abuses his pub mates, and falls down a basement door in a drunken stupor, premiered at the Gaiety Theatre in Manchester in 1916, when news from the trenches grew increasingly grim. Today attitudes have changed even more than they had between 1880, when the play is set, and 1916. It is easy to imagine how Mike Leigh or Mike Nichols might handle the subject. (Actually, I think Leigh, a native Salfordian, would work wonders with the play.) As undesirable as alcoholism and domestic abuse are...Read more


Tim Supple's Indian Midsummer Night's Dream Comes to Edinburgh
Lucas Miller November 2, 2007
It has become fashionable for directors to take liberties with the plays of Shakespeare. Usually I thoroughly disapprove of such productions. But, one must keep an open mind, as I found last Thursday at a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the King's Theatre in Edinburgh, directed by Tim Supple. This production was done in the languages of India, modern and ancient: English, Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, and Sanskrit. The culture of the Indian people, their languages, their music, and their customs, all contributed to the wonderful success of this production. Read more

R. C. Sherriff's World War I Classic Journey's End on Broadway
Michael Miller reprint from BFA, March 20, 2007
Before I go any further, let me say that the Broadway production of R. C. Sherriff's classic World War I play, Journey's End at the Belasco Theatre, is not to be missed at any cost, even if you have to brave the Taconic Parkway in a blizzard or get stung with a Manhattan parking ticket. Director David Grindley, who was responsible for the immensely successful London production, which ran for over two years in the West End and went on two national tours, sensibly understood that Sherriff's realist masterwork is no period piece, requiring no condescension, updating, or manipulation of any kind. The production owes its success to the directness and honesty of the play, which remains as powerful as when it first opened in 1928. All Grindley and his excellent, almost entirely American cast have to do is mind the details. The only contemporary interventions in the production are a curtain painted with the famous recruiting poster of General Kitchener fingering out prospective recruits, and a memorial wall covered with names of the dead, against which the cast take their curtain calls. These may edge it somewhat in the direction of an anti-war message—which was in fact not the intention of the author—but not stridently so, and they were effective in their own right. Kitchener's iconic summons to arms both sets the period of the action and tranposes it into the present, and the memorial wall adds solemnity to the conclusion and brings the evening's grim entertainment into a universal dimension. It is hard for a realistic and honest treatment of war not to carry a pacifistic subtext, but, I believe, it is precisely the tension between Sherriff's realist aesthetic and its inevitable implications that make Journey's End so fascinating after more than seventy-five years. It was, almost surprisingly, this anniversary and not the current war which inspired the 2004 London revival, not to mention the 2005 production at the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake. There is something almost miraculous in the freshness of Journey's End. It has been called a "minor masterpiece;" it is possibly time to forget the qualification. Read more.

Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard in Chekhov's Uncle Vanya
Gyllenhall, Sarsgaard
 
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