There are so many productions opening/being announced now that it feels as overwhelming as any April (even moreso, since BroadwayCon 2021 went virtual over the weekend, which you can still watch.) But there are some crucial differences this month. Every in-person experience feels like a pioneering experience, a time to express pent-up emotions, such as my attendance at the New York Philharmonic’s concert at The Shed, its first concert in more than a year, 400 days after the shutdown. “If there’s one thing we musicians have learned during this 14 months is that nothing, absolutely nothing can replace the act and the ritual of a live concert,” the evening’s conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen told the 150 masked, vaccinated attendees at The Shed’s McCourt Theater, which can seat 1,200. The three works we have chosen to play tonight, all share a sense of longing nostalgia and loss, elevating to something deeply and essentially human. No single program can even begin to sum up our feelings and emotions after these months. Instead, we should see tonight’s concert, as a new beginning, a signal for happy times, filled with music and other things that give meaning to our existence in this troubled world.”
Another difference: Some of the shows are so novel they defy adequate description — such as “Icons/Idols: In The Purple Room,” audio play/installation/Byzantine chant in person at the Ohio Theater but with no live actors, beginning at the end of the month, or, below The Wandering, even after I’ve seen it.
These are dark times in many ways (reflected in the theater news below, as most everywhere else), but the sun still comes up — and it shone on the iHeartDance concert I attended on the roof of the Empire Hotel across from the Lincoln Center.
Week in Theater Reviews
The opening play of Erika Dickerson-Despenza’s projected ten-play cycle about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath… What the production is really about is sound – the sounds of violent weather, and breaking glass, and panicked 911 calls; water flooding, dogs growling, helicopters passing by overhead. But it’s mostly a soundscape of language. “Shadow/Land” is really a work of poetry, a New Orleans gumbo thick with “the weight and rhythm” (as the playwright puts it in a note) of the Black vernacular.
“The Wandering,” which its creators bill as an immersive theatrical experience inspired by the music of the 19th century classical composer Franz Schubert – “part visual album, part queer drama, and part communal live experience” – is so hilariously complicated that it feels like a social science experiment, testing how much time and effort they can get an audience member to spend despite little hope of a commensurate reward.
But it is rewarding in one sense, especially for those of us who welcome the experimenting undertaken by the boldest of theatermakers in these most challenging of times. It offers ideas for both online and offline engagement that might enhance future works of theater that are more successful dramatically – which is to say, less earnest and less arty.
As the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota is nearing its end, Studio Theatre of D.C. debuts a new streaming production of “Until the Flood,” Dael Orlandersmith’s play about the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri….Director Reginald L. Douglas’s new production features three actresses
The Week in Theater News
Two weeks after The Hollywood Reporter called him out on his decades of bullying, Scott Rudin issued a statement that he will “step back”
Reaction has only intensified
This is a follow-up statement to the ones issued a week ago, one of them jointly with SAG-AFTRA and Local 802 AFM.
“Every worker deserves to do their job in an environment free of harassment of any kind, whether that harassment creates a toxic workplace or, certainly in the case of sexual harassment, when…also against the law….Any Equity member who has experienced or witnessed bullying, harassment or intimidation in a production can use the union’s anonymous hotline by calling 833-550-0030 or by going to http://ActorsEquity.org/safety.”
Is Scott Rudin’s apology enough? A new era demands more by LA Times critic Charles McNulty
Broadway producers I spoke to told me that Rudin seems to be sincere about stepping away from the day-to-day running of his megahits, “The Book of Mormon” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but no one seems to think he’ll relinquish his financial stakes. When Broadway resumes, so will his revenue streams. In short, Rudin isn’t going anywhere…There may not be an obvious mechanism for dealing with an independent Broadway producer like Rudin, but collectively a message must be sent. As a Tony-winning producer told me, “Rudin is the most visible and egregious example, but he’s not the only one. There are so many people in this business who are emotionally abusive. And there are so many theater people who have been trained to believe that they have to put up with this behavior because this is the sacrifice they must make for art. It’s time to make clear that this kind of abuse — public humiliation, temper tantrums, physical threats — will no longer be tolerated.”
“It’s a really unfortunate situation, but the only positive outcome is the one that is happening, and I know Hugh [Jackman] feels exactly the same way,” Sutton Foster said, referencing her “Music Man” co-star.
Earlier in the week, before Rudin’s statement:
Jim Nicola, the artistic director of New York Theater Workshop, has announced he is stepping down in June 2022 after 34 years at its helm. “I’ve been around long enough to see some of my colleagues carried out of their jobs in a pine box,” Nicola, 71, said on Thursday. “I didn’t want to go that route.” Among the theater created during his tenure: “Rent, Once, Slave Play, and What the Constitution Means to Me appearing on its East Village stage, and artists ranging from Ivo van Hove to Mfoniso Udofia, and such resident companies as Noor Theatre and Elevator Repair Service.”
New Yorkers for Culture & Arts is sponsoring a series of candidate forums for New York City Council races.on their YouTube channel. “With three quarters of the City Council seats turning over due to term limits, NYC will see a historic change in leadership.”
“Perfect Crime,” the longest running play in New York City history, re-opened April 18th,, the first show to receive Actors’ Equity approval to re-open, its 34thanniversary performance.
Awards shows are struggling to draw TV audiences. Should the Oscars be worried? (The article doesn’t even mention the Tonys)
Next up at Lincoln Center Theater’s Private Reels (videos of past productions): The Royale, about Black boxer Jay “The Sport” Jackson, directed by Rachel Chavkin, written by Marco Ramirez, stars Khris Davis, starting April 22.
The Seven Deadly Sins coming in June, seven new short plays by: Ngozi Anyanwu (Gluttony) Thomas Bradshaw (Sloth) MJ Kaufman (Pride) Moisés Kaufman (Greed, also the director) Jeffrey LaHoste (Envy) Ming Peiffer (Wrath) Bess Wohl (Lust)
Critic Soraya Nadia McDonald delivers some unfortunate news with her customary bold, fresh writing:
Tittie Tumors: Can I be a middle-aged ho with a reconstructed tittie? Guess I’ll find out.
Rest in Peace
New York theatergoers had a chance to see her extraordinary performance last year in The National Theater’s streaming of Terrence Rattigan’s Deep Blue Sea
Ben Brantley: “Ms. McCrory had become world famous for dark and exotic roles onscreen, as the fiercely patrician witch Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies and the terrifying criminal matriarch Polly Gray in the BBC series “Peaky Blinders.” But for me, she was, above all, a bright creature of the stage and in herself a reason to make a theater trip to London.”