CATS Attacks. Trauma on Stage. Beautiful, Waitress Closing. LBJ back on Broadway. #Stageworthy News of the Week

 

Therapists were busy reassuring theatergoers after seeing Dame Judi Dench in the trailer for the movie CATS. (See below.)

Meanwhile, three shows opened Off-Broadway last week about real-life world traumas – “the way she spoke,” about the murdered and missing women of Juarez, Mexico; “The Rolling Stone,” about anti-gay hysteria in Uganda, and ‘Mojada,’ which adapts “Medea” to tell the story of an undocumented immigrant family from Mexico.   This prompted a question, which was close to a dilemma, for me: When (if ever) is a play’s subject so urgent and important that its quality as a work of theater feels irrelevant?

The Week in New York Theater Reviews and Previews

Mojada

“Mojada” is sometimes clever in the ways in which it transposes the specifics of Euripides’ story and characters; sometimes the contemporary parallels feel forced.   But the main strength of “Mojada” is in presenting the details of the experience of the 21stcentury Latinx exile in scrupulous and credible detail — often harrowing, sometimes amusing.  By telling this story as an adaptation of an Ancient Greek tragedy, the everyday and oft-ignored traumas of the undocumented are invested with the aura of significance that they deserve.

Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow

Halley Feiffer’s loud, broad, hip, hyperactive, foul-mouthed, unconventionally cast, aggressively playful and generally off-beat adaptation of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”… the bells and whistles of the production make it a challenge to engage in the hopes and fears of the characters.

The Bacchae

What would Euripides say about the liberties being taken with his tragedies in New York? Medea,one of his last and most-produced plays, has been turned into the harrowing tale of an undocumented immigrant to Corona, Queens at the Public Theater. The Bacchae, one of his first tragedies, never performed during his lifetime, has become an entertaining pop, rock and hip-hop spectacular in an outdoor amphitheater in Harlem.

The Classic Theatre of Harlem has mounted The Bacchae free to the public at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park, in a version by Bryan Doerries. It would be hard to argue that it brings home the full force or horror that is the usual province of Ancient Greek tragedy. But what is a better tribute to the play’s principal character Dionysus, the god of ecstasy, wine…and theater, than a theatrical production with such intoxicating singing, dancing and design.

The Rolling Stone

“These people recruit, rape and spread disease,” Mama says about homosexuals, not realizing she’s talking to one, in Chris Urch’s play, which takes place in Uganda in 2010.  That was the year that a group of college students led by Giles Muhame launched a newspaper in Kampala called The Rolling Stone that ran photographs of gay Ugandans, with their names and addresses, under the headline “Hang Them.”  One of those named, David Kato, was murdered…. The plays uses these true events of homophobic hysteria only as a backdrop to a fictionalized story that focuses on an 18-year-old gay Ugandan named Dembe. And that counts as a missed opportunity….

The way she spoke

“There is no better place to kill a girl than in Juárez,” says Kate del Castillo in the way she spoke, currently running at Audible’s Minetta Lane Theatre. The well-known Mexican actress is making her English-speaking stage debut in Isaac Gomez’s solo drama about the epidemic of violence against women in the Mexican city. Under Jo Bonney’s direction, she plays some 15 characters, including the mothers of las desaparecidas, missing young women presumed murdered in Ciudad Juárez; a man accused of killing eight of them and even the Virgin Mary.

“This is the biggest challenge in my career for sure,” says del Castillo…. “It is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding to live these people every day.”

The Week in New York Theater News

Beautiful: the Carole King Musical. will close October 27, 2019 after 60 previews and 2,428 performances.

And it’s too late, baby now, it’s too late Though we really did try to make it Somethin’ inside has died, and I can’t hide And I just can’t fake it, oh, no, no

Waitress will close on Broadway Jan 5, 2020 after 33 previews and 1544 performances. This is a shame. The score is sweet in all the right ways. Why not keep going via Chicago-like stunt casting w/ a twist: Every major star who was ever a waitress. Bad Idea?

Five years after All the Way brought President Lyndon Baines Johnson to Broadway, he is back with Robert Schenkkan’s 2014 follow-up play “The Great Society,” starring Brian Cox as LBJ,
Grantham Coleman as MLK Jr, and Richard Thomas as Hubert Humphrey. It begins Sept 6, 2019 for a 12-week run at Vivian Beaumont

At 77,  Paul McCartney is writing his first musical — a stage adaptation of Frank Capra’s 1946 movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” with book writer and co-lyricist Lee Hall (Tony winner for Billy Elliot, screenwriter of Rocketman)

The Beatles on Broadway….from John Lennon at age 28…to Paul McCartney at 78?

 

Oscar Isaac and Greta Gerwig will star in Chekhov’s Three Sisters directed by Sam Gold at New York Theater Workshop in Spring, 2020.

 

Jonathan Groff, Tammy Blanchard and Christian Borle will star in an Off-Broadway revival of Little Shop of Horrors, opening October 17, at The Westside Theater.

Nick Robinson, the cuddly star of the coming-out-of-age movie
“Love, Simon,”, will succeed Will Pullen in portrayingJem Finch, Atticus’s kid, in
To Kill A Mockingbird,starting Nov 5th. Oddly, he made his stage debut at age 12 as….Jem Finch (in a different production)

CATS the movie trailer

7.8 million views in three days; 83, 000 thumbs up; 203, 000 thumbs down.

” Is this what late-stage capitalism looks like? I just don’t get it.” reaction to “Cats” by Michael R. Jackson, usher of The Lion King for four years (which he hated) and playwright of “A Strange Loop.” Jackson on the new Lion King movie: “I don’t understand these live-action remakes just on an artistic level. That’s just me. I’m a little curmudgeonly that way.”

Rest in Peace

Hugh Southern, 87, a creator of the TKTS booth

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Author: 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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