Death was an unfortunate theme this week, with the passing of two performers , Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall, as comfortable on stage as on screen.
We are midway through the 18th annual New York International Fringe Festival. I review three Fringe shows — including the first-ever revival of the first-ever Marx Brothers Broadway musical — and a fourth that probably should have been in the Fringe. I also review two comedies Off-Broadway about sexual/inappropriate behavior.
Lin-Manuel and Tom Kitt win an Emmy for their Tony song, Bigger. Remember it? Video of it below.
I show videos as well of the last Broadway in Bryant Park concert for this summer — a sneak peak at On The Town, and songs from three-M shows: Matilda, Mamma Mia, and Motown.
Tickets go on sale starting today for Broadway Week. (The popular shows go quickly)
The Week in New York Theater
Fringe! Seven Seductions of Taylor Swift versus Taylor Swift’s Songs of Ex Lovers
Making art, and sport, out of Taylor Swift’s love life is far from original; the popular singer-songwriter has done so herself many times; it’s easy to argue that her career is largely built on songs about her brief relationships (and breakups) with mostly famous men. But “Seven Seductions of Taylor Swift,” one of the productions at the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival, sounded promising: Each of the seven monologues is written by a different female playwright, all portrayed by the same actor, Thaddeus Shafer, usually conversing with an unseen Taylor Swift.
I compare the depiction of her exes at the Fringe show with Taylor Swift’s songs inspired by those exes.
Full review of Seven Seductions of Taylor Swift
Four thoughts on creativity in the theater by Polly Carl after she attended a conference with neuroscientists
Fringe! My review of 2014, When We Were Idiots. (Weird Walking Tour)
A hundred years ago, our tour guide was saying, New Yorkers were such idiots
that they stopped throwing away their garbage, and the city disappeared under a pile of rubbish, mostly coffee cups, stale cupcakes and hipsters.
Our tour guide, I should point out, is a penguin, and we, the tourists walking the streets and shops of the Lower East Side decked in fluorescent yellow-green vests, live in an environmentally sensitive society in the year 2114, visiting the recently excavated city that has remained unchanged in the century that has elapsed since 2014.
That’s the premise of the 90-minute comedy show/theater piece/walking tour created and conducted by Australian comic Xavier Toby (dressed as a penguin), who entitles it “2014: When We Were Idiots,” one of the 205 shows at this year’s New York International Fringe Festival.
Full Review of 2014, When We Were Idiots
Judy Kaye, 10-time Broadway veteran, two-time Tony winner (Nice Work, Phantom) will be the next Fairy Godmother in Cinderella
Kathleen Chalfant to play Russian negotiator, originally a man’s role, in Lee Blessing’s A Walk in the Woods, Keen Company Sept-Oct
“76 trombones led the big parade…” 58 actors led by Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana at Transport Group’s one-night-only Music Man.
10 free theaters in U.S. from @NatGeo eg @PublicTheaterNY‘s Shakespeare in the Park http://t.co/mUEiisH7zJ pic.twitter.com/JpkM4de2j0
— Jonathan Mandell (@NewYorkTheater) August 11, 2014
He could make anybody laugh, regardless of species. pic.twitter.com/n5VFYI7LTW
— Jonathan Mandell (@NewYorkTheater) August 12, 2014
Alison Bechdel and Jonathan Lethem will talk about what it’s like to have their lives turned into musicals, with songs from Fun Home and the forthcoming musical Fortress of Solitude! October 27
That’s just one of a season of Public Forum readings and talks, which will feature Salman Rushdie, David Remnick, etc.
A Family Thing,about 3 estranged brothers,written by playwright and “Orange Is The New Black” writer/producer Gary Lennon, aims for Broadway in 2015
Richard Chamberlain,80, has joined Bill Pullman, Holly Hunter in cast of The New Group’s revival of David Rabe’s Sticks and Bones
RIP Lauren Bacall – A Life in Pictures and on Stage
“I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that.” – Lauren Bacall, 1924-2014 pic.twitter.com/fVtWPgYeWY
— Jonathan Mandell (@NewYorkTheater) August 13, 2014
Finding Neverland, based on movie about Peter Pan author JM Barrie and currently at the American Repertory Theatre, will open on Broadway in March
“We want to be treated with dignity and not as cartoon characters,” says man who dresses as a Penguin in Times Square every day. He is one of the costumed workers who have founded the Association of Artists United for a Smile to fight back against bad press.
S. Epatha Merkerson and Lillias White are in the cast of While I Yet Live, play at Primary Stages written by Billy Porter Sept 23-Oct 21. While I Yet Live, says Porter, is “a love letter to my mother, my sister, & the women who raised me”
“Are there things about (sign) interpreting Shakespeare that are challenging? Yeah: understanding it”
Switcheroo: Love Letters is now going to be at the Brooks Atkinson, and Honeymoon in Vegas at the larger Nederlander Theater.
My review of Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter
It is easy to feel bewildered by a title that sounds as if it is translated from the Icelandic. But as it turns out, the dialogue and the lyrics sound that way as well. “Revolution in the Elbow etc.” is a bizarre enough new musical to be mistaken for an entry in the Fringe festival, except that no Fringe show has such an expensive set, nor such Tony-level talent, thanks to the more than a million dollars that has been invested in this unfortunate world premiere production at the Minetta Lane Theater.
Full review of Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter
This is what it looked like last night when Broadway lights dimmed for Robin Williams. pic.twitter.com/z9tvp5PfZG
— Jonathan Mandell (@NewYorkTheater) August 14, 2014
How to think like a critic – be invisible, watch and listen and feel. By @alisoncroggon
Given all that’s happening in the world, should theater be an escape from reality?
Michael Cera, @tavitulle & Kieran Culkin of @YouthBroadway, playwright Kenneth Lonergan’s Broadway debut. pic.twitter.com/LH7sEQdqFb
— Jonathan Mandell (@NewYorkTheater) August 14, 2014
Survey results: More people go to @SignatureTheatr for the air conditioning than to learn. Via @TBBackus pic.twitter.com/NfMS3ndeQb
— Jonathan Mandell (@NewYorkTheater) August 14, 2014
Broadway in Bryant Park
The last free lunchtime concert of the summer featured:
Deaths in Shakespeare, A Handy Chart
Parade, the musical by Jason R Brown about the lynching of Leo Frank, is getting a one-night only concert February 16 at Lincoln Center, with Brown as musical director.
Dame Diana Rigg, who will be on Broadway next season, is performing a play at the Edinburgh Fringe based on her collection of bad reviews. It’s called “No Turn Unstoned.”
A New York Times editorial *supports* the Times Square Elmos. Free speech is a right “even for furry monsters”
Actor Edmund Kean collapsed on stage while playing Othello to his son’s Iago; his last words: “I am dying, speak to them for me.” Is there any better way for an actor to go than on stage? Some other examples
In an unusual move,Jennifer Delia responds point by point to criticism of her direction of Phoenix
My review of Phoenix makes some of those criticisms to which she is responding.
When reporting on suicide, let’s adopt a “Robin Williams Rule”: stop speculating
Why there are 44 above-the-title + 100 more unbilled “producers” for Gentleman’s Guide (Answer: producer=investor)
What Patrick Healy doesn’t explain in his piece about the producers (investors) of Gentleman is whether they’ve made any money.
My review of Sex with Strangers
Sex With Strangers,” a comedy about a coupling with complications, stars two performers – Anna Gunn, Bryan Cranston’s wife Skyler in “Breaking Bad,” and Billy Magnussen, the boy-toy Spike in Christopher Durang’s Tony-winning “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” – whose previous roles left such a strong impression that there was a question in my mind whether audiences could accept their portraying different characters.
Apparently so: The two-character play written by Linda Eason and directed by David Schwimmer (still best-known as the actor in Friends) is artfully constructed and well-acted, a hit with critics and with theatergoers as well; it has been extended through August 31st.
But are the characters they are portraying that different from their breakthrough roles? All four characters have something in common, and it has to do with love – or, more precisely, it has nothing to do with love.
Full review of Sex with Strangers
Remember this song “Bigger” from @TheTonyAwards 2013? It just won an Emmy for @Lin_Manuel & #TomKitt. http://t.co/o7nBX2bUBH
— Jonathan Mandell (@NewYorkTheater) August 17, 2014
In the first-ever revival of “I’ll Say She Is,” the Marx Brothers’ first-ever Broadway musical, Harpo honks once again; Chico puns, Zeppo courts; and Groucho, cigar in hand, says things like “I’m not so sheepish that you can pull the wool over my eyes.”
Full review of I’ll Say She Is
Poor Behavior,” Theresa Rebeck’s comedy at Primary Stages, revolves around a basic question: “What is goodness?” The play begins in the middle of a debate on the subject by two characters who have drunkenly escalated their argument into insults, while their respective spouses sit in near silence. By the end of the play more than two hours later, we are meant to have explored the question dramatically by witnessing the behavior of the four characters over a long weekend in the country.
There is a superficial resemblance here both to Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” and Yasmin Reza’s “God of Carnage,” both involving two couples, and both suggesting how thin the membrane of civilization. In “God of Carnage” two sophisticated couples, meeting to bring to resolution the squabble between their two warring sons, instead escalate the conflict in well-calibrated savage and hilarious ways.
The difference in “Poor Behavior” is that the couples have known each other for a long time, and the unfolding of their behavior is more convoluted and complicated – and less satisfying.
Rocky ends its run
#finalfight #livetweets @RockyBroadway pic.twitter.com/JbS1dUuOAK
— James Brown III (@JamesGeorgeIII) August 18, 2014
Danny M & I at stage door. Incredible fans. @RockyBroadway @RockySpirit #finalfight pic.twitter.com/tFlMHjWmSM
— Jennifer Mudge (@JenniferMudge) August 18, 2014
60 Broadway artists sleeping on the street tonite to help @CovenantHouse‘s homeless youth #BwaySleepout pic.twitter.com/AwEnLB7TNI
— Jonathan Mandell (@NewYorkTheater) August 18, 2014