#Stageworthy News of the Week: Angela Lansbury 77 years later. Impeachment as Theater? Stritch The Bitch? Drama Bookshop Finds a Home!






So many people (and journalists!) complained that the public impeachment hearings made for dull theater that others angrily denounced the “theater critic school of journalism” and Saturday Night Life responded with a soap opera called “Days of Our Impeachment.”

But then others, such as Washington Post theater critic Peter Marks, rightly denounced the denouncers for besmirching theater critics.

A lot of denouncing in America these days — and more to come:

Schedule of impeachment hearings in the coming week

Week in NY Theater Previews & Reviews

Rick Borutta, personal assistant to Elaine Stritch

Preview: “Nobody’s Bitch”: Elaine Stritch as Boss

Elaine Stritch kicked Rick Borutta in the stomach every day. That, anyway, is how he says it felt at the beginning. “Other than that, she was rather likable,” says Borutta, who worked as her personal assistant for four years, an experience that he has turned into a solo show, entitled “Nobody’s Bitch,” which he is bringing to New York for the first time for one night only at The Duplex on November 26th.

Fires in the MirrorBy Anna Deavere SmithDirect By Saheem AliMichael Benjamin Washington
Michael Benjamin Washington

Fires in the Mirror

It would be hard to overstate the city-wide trauma that occurred in Crown Heights, Brooklyn in August, 1991, nor the power of “Fires in the Mirror,” the groundbreaking documentary play about it nine months later at the Public, which introduced New York theatergoers to the astonishing theater artist Anna Deavere Smith. That power comes roaring back in a revival at Signature that, for the first time, features an actor other than Smith…“Fires in the Mirror” offers, without judgment and with implicit compassion, a breadth of personalities — rabbis and reverends, activists and everyday residents — with views that conflict, contradict, supplement or concur. But how they present themselves and what they say also often resonate way beyond what happened in Crown Heights.

Tina 3 Adrienne Warren in concert finale

Tina The Tina Turner Musical

The thrilling final minutes of “Tina” are all that a rock concert should be, and the main reason to see this jukebox biomusical about one of the world’s most electric performers, portrayed by Adrienne Warren in a star-making role. It may not be reason enough, though, especially for those of us who recall the 1993 movie, “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” which covers the same remarkable life of the outsized talent born Annie Mae Bullock to a sharecropping family in Nutbush, Tennessee.


Slava’s Snowshow

In the 26 years since the Russian clown Slava Polunin began touring, “Slava’s Snowshow” has been performed “thousands of times to millions of people in hundreds of cities,” according to the playbill. It doesn’t mention how much confetti, water and fusillades of giant beach balls have been dumped on, squirted, and shot at audiences. I’d say tons just in the performance I saw at Broadway’s Stephen Sondheim Theater, where the silly, wordless, plotless, pointless and popular 90- minute show (plus intermission) is running through January 5.
Much of the show is a series of moments too sketchy to be called scenes and too scenic to be called sketches

User Not Found 2

User Not Found

Keep those cell phones on; that’s where “User Not Found” largely unfolds.   Yes, this terrific site-specific play takes place in a café near BAM in Fort Greene, where Terry O’Donovan portrays a fellow café dweller also named Terry grieving the death of his ex-lover Luka. But this inventive, pointed work of theater asks us to consider how the current public immersion in the digital world affects both life and death. And so, to that end, the theatergoers are each given a headphone and a smart phone in order to follow Terry’s story, though he’s standing (and moving around, and eating) right in front of us, and speaking directly to us. But he’s also answering his text messages, and looking at his dead lover’s social media accounts – and we’re looking right along with him. “User Not Found” is an unusual show that requires some initial adjustment, dips into what feels like sci-fi, but ultimately, and surprisingly, becomes quite touching…in more ways than one.

BrandoCapote 5 Lynn R Guerra, Rafael Jordan, and Jennifer McClinton


“BrandoCapote” is a play with a script by Sara Farrington inspired by a fascinating interview Truman Capote conducted with Marlon Brando at the peak of his popularity in 1957, while the movie star was filming “Sayonara” in Japan. It is also a dance theater piece choreographed by Laura K. Nicoll that mixes modern American with traditional Japanese movement, enhanced by vivid Japanese costumes. And it is the latest showcase for director Reid Farrington’s inventive technical experiments in integrating filmed images into live theatrical performance: Very brief clips from more than a dozen of Brando’s film performances (from Oscar-winners “On The Waterfront” and “The Godfather” to such oddities as “The Island of Doctor Moreau”) are projected crisply onto Japanese umbrellas of varying sizes that the cast members suddenly unfold.

Each of these elements of “BrandoCapote” intrigued me and impressed me. But all three put together lost me.

The Week in New York Theater News

Hangmen 1

Hangmen, the dark comedy about a retired executioner by Martin McDonagh that appeared Off-Broadway last year, is moving to Broadway next year, opening March 19, at the Golden. Warning though: The cast has not yet been announced, so Johnny Flynn may not be cast as the sly, sexy intruder.

Tootsie 1 Santino Fontana
Santino Fontana in Tootsie

Tootsie will close on Sunday, January 5, 2020, having played 293 regular and 25 preview performances at the Marquis Theatre.

Forbidden Broadway The Next Generation will close December 1st.

The Drama Bookshop has found a new home a block south of the old store and will reopen in March, 2020.


Accessibility Corner

Tiny Tim is being portrayed by a disabled actor (actually two.)

In Mockingbird, Russell Harvard, a deaf actor, finally gets his wish not to be defined solely by his deafness: Harvard assumes two supporting parts (both of them hearing characters): Boo Radley, the mysterious, rarely seen neighbor of the intimidated youngsters, Scout and Jem Finch, and more prominently Link Deas, the inscrutable local dismissed as a drunk.

RIP Harold Prince

A celebration of the life and legacy of Broadway legend Harold Prince will take place on Monday, December 16, at The Majestic Theatre (247 West 44th Street). Beginning at 1:30 PM, the tribute is open to friends, family and the theater community, and will feature tributes and performances from colleagues and loved ones. Doors will open at 1PM. The Majestic is the 31-year home of Mr. Prince’s record-breaking production of The Phantom of the Opera, the longest-running show in Broadway history.

MasterVoices will begin its 2019-20 season on Thursday, November 21 at Carnegie Hall with the concert staging of George and Ira Gershwins’ 1933 musical Let ‘Em Eat Cake, with a book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, a comic satire about a populist U.S. President who is voted out of office and stages a coup to regain power.

Theater has a problem with people of color by Jose Solis: I’ve been working professionally as a theater critic since 2013; I’m a board member of the Drama Desk (where I also serve as part of the nominating committee), and I’ve written for every reputable publication in town. For as long as I’ve been attending theater in the city, my name and brown skin have made me the target of bullies and racists. I’ve been asked if I’m with the catering staff at theater critics events, been chastised by angry ushers to turn my cell phone off, even if I have never taken my device out of my pocket during a performance, and often been asked if I’m sure I belong in the orchestra, as ushers point me to the mezzanine. My skin has become so thickened by the mistreatment and rudeness of theater employees that I might as well be a walking callus. I experience this, in part, because I’m a rarity on Broadway. In the 2017-2018 season, 75% of Broadway audiences were Caucasian, according to statistics compiled by the Broadway League. Theater clearly has a people of color problem: It’s not only that many people of color have no interest in revivals of revered but irrelevant plays featuring beige ensembles, it’s also that when we do come to the theater, we are told that we’re invading white spaces. When I see a show with a white friend, people often ask the friend if they brought me to the show and ask me if it’s my first time at the theater.


How Theater Directors Use Fragrances to Create “Poetry for the Nose”

From at least the late 19th century, when David Belasco had actors cook and brew coffee on stage to heighten the realism of domestic scenes, to recent efforts to evoke a piney forest or the tang of gunpowder, directors have tried to involve an audience’s olfactory sense to intensify their experience. …“The difficulties of controlling an odor once released into a large room like a theater are very complicated,” said Stuart Firestein, a neuroscientist at Columbia University and former theatrical actor and director.

(I don’t think you need a neuroscientist with a background in theater to point this out.)

Celebrating 25 Years of Disney on Broadway
raised $570,426 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

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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