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Broadway for Everyone: Coming Soon? Week in New York Theater

Remarkable changes are underway to make Broadway more accessible – hastened by technology, hindered by public attitudes as I explain in an article in HowlRound based on the Broadway Accessibility Summit and a similar panel at BroadwayCon:

For example: By June 1, 2018, every show on Broadway will have on-demand closed captioning in real time for every performance, in one of two ways—through a dedicated device called iCaption, or with an application called GalaPro that you can install in your own smart phone.

“We’re heading in the right direction,” a hard-of-hearing person in the audience told me. But…there’s still some ways to go.

This week: Oral history of Angels in America, ugly drama in New York high school, a new Evan Hansen, a new Jez Butterworth on Broadway, a new artistic director for BAM.

Week in New York Theater Reviews

Bebe Neuwirth in Sail Away

Hey Look Me Over

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Encores! concert series at City Center is doing something in “Hey Look Me Over” that it’s never done before – and, judging from the results, probably shouldn’t do again. Now, it’s impossible to dismiss a show with such a starry talented cast, including Bebe Neuwirth singing and dancing to Noel Coward’s Sail Away…But…

The Jester and the Dragon

what looked like a children’s show told with finger puppets, worn by an oddly distracted performer who seemed to have carpal tunnel syndrome…was a carefully constructed play, that existed on two levels. It offered a glimpse into the life of an aging, arthritic artist [and told] a funny and charming [folktale]


In the Body of the World

Perhaps you’d think it chutzpah that in “In The Body of the World,” the latest solo show by Eve Ensler, best known for “The Vagina Monologues,” she merges her story of her fight against uterine cancer with world crises such as mass rape in the Congo and the deadly oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Maybe you’d be squeamish at her graphic storytelling of her illness, treatment and recovery, during which she literally bares her physical scars, and exposes her emotional ones, which are more disturbing. You could well disapprove of her self-defeating and dubious speculation about what might have caused her cancer – from tofu to Tab to bad reviews.

You could grapple with all these reactions to Eve Ensler and her show – I certainly did at one time or another during its 90 minutes – and still find “In The Body of the World” (as I did) eye-opening, entertaining, and one of the most satisfying works of theater so far this year.

A Small Oak Tree Runs Red

A hundred years ago in Valdosta, Georgia, at least a dozen African Americans were lynched within a few days of one another. One of them, Mary Turner, was 20 years old and eight months pregnant.
“I was surprised I’d never heard the story before,” says LeKethia Dalcoe, an actor, author, and activist who used some of those stomach-churning murders as the basis for her first play, A Small Oak Tree Runs Red….

I was very apprehensive about agreeing to direct,” admits Harry Lennix, making his New York stage directorial debut. “But I was compelled by the story — the horror of it.”

Week in New York Theater News

Coming to Broadway in October: “The Ferryman” by Jez Butterworth (Jerusalem, The River), which was a hit in London. Set in rural Northern Ireland in 1981, it has 30-plus member cast (not yet hired for Broadway)

The Brooklyn Academy of Music  has hired its first ever “artistic director”- David Binder, 9x Broadway producer (Tony winner for Hedwig and the Angry Inch) Starting in 2019, he’ll be in charge of “live performances cinema programs, education & humanities initiatives, visual art events, digital projects” etc

Basil Twist returns to HEREArts for the  20th anniversary of his puppet extravaganza, ”Symphonie Fantastique,” complete w/ backstage tours after every perfomance. March 29-July 15, 2018

The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America
An oral history of Angels in America

Interview with authors

Excerpt: 
How Angels in America put Roy Cohn into the definitive story of AIDS

Tony Kushner: When I was at Tisch, I was just coming out. Michael Mayer took me to my first gay bar — not the Saint, Uncle Charlie’s on Greenwich — so you’d walk around the corner and there’d be these lines of men. I probably passed Roy Cohn on several occasions.

Oskar Eustis (co-director in Los Angeles, 1992; artistic director, Public Theater): While we were working on the play, the AIDS Quilt had its first public display at the Moscone Center. We came across a panel:

Photo: Tony Kushner

Eustis: Tony looked at it and said, “If I can write something half as dialectical as that, it’ll be a great character.”

 

Fifteen playwrights have been commissioned to pen new radio plays for Audible as part of the Audiobook company’s recently announced $5 million emerging playwrights fund. The commissioned plays, to feature one- or two-person casts, will be created specially for broadcast via the Audible app. The playwrights include Aaron Mark (“Empanada Loca“) James Anthony Tyler, whose Some Old Black Man is currently in previews at 59E59 Theater, Paola Lázaro, whose play Tell Hector I Miss Him debuted at Atlantic Theater Company, and Regina Taylor (“Escape From Paradise.”)

Full cast of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, opening April 23, 2018:

LaChanze (The Color Purple, Once on This Island) as “Diva Donna,” Ariana DeBose (A Bronx Tale, Hamilton) as “Disco Donna” and Storm Lever (Freaky Friday) as “Duckling Donna.” Aaron Krohn (Cabaret) as “Neil,” Ken Robinson (The Color Purple) as “Andrew Gaines,” and Jared Zirilli (Lysistrata Jones) as “Bruce Sudano.” The ensemble: Angelica Beliard (On Your Feet), Mackenzie Bell (Sunset Boulevard), Kaleigh Cronin (A Bronx Tale), Kimberly Dodson (Duress film), Anissa Felix (Sunset Boulevard), Drew Wildman Foster (Sunset Boulevard), Afra Hines (Shuffle Along), Jenny Laroche (“Smash”), Wonu Ogunfowora (A Bronx Tale), Rebecca Riker (An American in Paris), Christina Acosta Robinson (“Dexter”), Jessica Rush (Jersey Boys), Kaye Tuckerman (Mamma Mia!) and Harris M. Turner. Swings include Aurelia Michael (Legally Blonde) and Jody Reynard (Chicago tour).

 

RIP

 

 

The great stage actress Jan Maxwell has died at age 61. 13-time Broadway veteran, most recently in 2011 Follies revival. Five-time Tony nominee. Fixture Off-Broadway

RIP Reg E Cathey, 59, The Wire, House of Cards. I just saw him do a great turn as King Creon in Antigone in Ferguson

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About New York Theater
Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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