Wallace Shawn’s Evening at the Talk House: Review and Pics

“The theatre is gone, but there are new things now,” says Matthew Broderick in Wallace Shawn’s chilling comedy, which imagines a dystopian but familiar society where former theatre people have gone on to television, or to a day job, such as murderer. “My paycheck arrives with complete regularity,” says an ex wardrobe supervisor turned assassin.

…The wit and the horror of Shawn’s play is how, amid the kind of gossip, backbiting and nostalgic reminiscences standard from old troupers everywhere, the characters casually segue into conversations about “targeting” – killing people deemed undesirable.

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Monique Carboni to see it enlarged
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Man From Nebraska: Reviews, Pics

There are three great reasons to see the New York stage debut of Man From Nebraska, without even knowing what it’s about: Its author Tracy Letts (August: Osage County), its director David Cromer (Our Town), a cast that features Reed Birney (The Humans.) These remain even when you learn it’s about a man’s mid-life crisis….We never get details explaining Ken’s spiritual crisis; there are no stimulating intellectual or theological debates. Nor do we get a resolution so much as just an ending…..If little is explained, this winds up not mattering as much as it might in the hands of lesser theater artists. These artists feel in full control.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

Yen with Lucas Hedges, Justice Smith: Pics, Review

Yen, a bleak British play that opens tonight Off-Broadway, stars Lucas Hedges, Oscar-nominated last week for his role in Manchester by the Sea, and Justice Smith, of the Netflix hip-hop drama The Get Down, as two teenage brothers living alone, with no school, no friends, little food and one t-shirt to share between them….Playwright Anna Jordan leaves little doubt that her play is meant to explore the damage caused by a lack of love….Particularly absorbing is the interaction between Justice Smith and Lucas Hedges, with their contrasting characterizations. …

Director Trip Cullman can take credit for a production that is always watchable, but he also must take the hit for saddling his extraordinary (American) cast with thick British working class accents, which some (American) audience members will find at times nearly impenetrable.

 

Full review at DC Theatre Scene,

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged.

The Liar: Review and Pics of Alternative Facts from 17th Century

In The Liar, the title character wonders whether, given his disposition, he should become a politician. But, if David Ives’ version of Pierre Corneille’s 1644 verse play may benefit from new relevance (what I call the Trump Effect), its main strength lies not in its timeliness or plot but the subversive whimsy of its language….

In his 21st century take on iambic pentameter, Ives rhymes “exit” with “sexted,” “idea” with “diarrhea,” and “muck” with “schmuck.” And he deliberately mangles Shakespeare: “But soft! What light on yonder sidewalk cracks!”

I can’t remember a play in which the playwright so obviously enjoyed his own cleverness, while at the same mocking his efforts

 

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

 

 

Tell Hector I Miss Him: Review and Pics

Love puzzles, and messes up, the dozen characters in Tell Hector I Miss Him, a play wonderfully acted by a cast that includes veterans of Orange is the New Black. If the play itself sometimes puzzles, and shocks, it also marks a remarkable playwriting debut by 28-year-old Paola Lazaro.
Lazaro’s work is reminiscent of that by Stephen Adly Guirgis and August Wilson in its ability to turn street language into stage poetry, and to shine a warm center spotlight on people who are usually pushed to the edge.

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Ahron R. Foster to see it enlarged

Tell Hector I Miss Him
Written by Paola Lazaro, directed by
David Mendizabal, set design by Clint Ramos; costume design by Dede Ayite; lighting design by Eric Southern; sound design by Jesse Mandapat
Featuring Dascha Polanca as Malena; Victor Almanzar as Jeison; Sean Carvajal as Palito; Alexander Flores as
Tono; Yadira Guevara Prip as Isis; Juan Carlos Hernandez as Mostro; Selenis Leyva as Samira; Talene Monahon as La Gata; Flaco Navaja as Hugo; Lisa Ramirez as Mami; Luis Vega
El Mago; Analisa Velez as Tati;

Made in China: Review and Pics of Bawdy Political Puppetry

Wakka Wakka, the theater company behind Made in China, says the show is “inspired by true events.” I suspect the true part doesn’t include Mary and her neighbor getting sucked down her toilet and winding up in the People’s Republic of China, where a dragon eats them.

This puppet musical – equal parts surreal fantasy, bawdy romantic comedy, barbed political satire, and hilariously inventive visual spectacle — does include at least one true event, sort of. In a verified story that occurred in 2012, a New York shopper discovered inside the packaging of the boots she bought from Saks Fifth Avenue a handwritten note from someone seeking help, because he said he was a captive in a Chinese prison factory.

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

The Present with Cate Blanchett: Review, Pics

Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh

Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh

About halfway through The Present, an adaptation of Chekhov’s first play, Cate Blanchett, as a Russian general’s widow celebrating her 40th birthday, shoots off a shotgun, dances atop a table, and pours vodka on her head. It is an attention-grabbing moment in Blanchett’s Broadway debut performance – and one of the show’s few unmitigated pleasures…

There are those who are fans of the two-time Oscar winner who will find her performance entertaining enough to obliterate any other concerns, or who have the patience and curiosity to appreciate the production’s complex texture and thought-provoking themes of loss, regret, paralysis, desire, loneliness, fear of change — who will feel good for having experienced Quality Theater.  And then there are the rest of us, who wish it were shorter.

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Joan Marcus to see it enlarged.

Confucius: Review, Pics, Video

confucius-50

The strength of Confucius, a 90-minute dance piece featuring 60 performers from the China National Opera and Dance Drama Theater, is not found in its efforts to present Confucian philosophy and biography, nor even Chinese history and culture, none of which is especially illuminating. The show’s strength lies in its visual splendor and gymnastic choreography.

Making its American debut this week at Lincoln Center , the piece premiered in Beijing in 2013, conceived by Kong Dexin, its elegant 34-year-old director and choreographer. One could argue she was born to do this show. Ms. Kong is a direct descendant (a “77th generation descendant”) of Confucius (in Chinese known as Kong Zi, or Master Kong), the teacher and philosopher who lived 2,500 years ago.

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph by Liu Haidong to see it enlarged.

 

Othello with David Oyelowo and Daniel Craig: Pics, Review

While the “Othello” at the New York Theatre Workshop can be uncomfortable and even annoying, it is impossible for me to dismiss Sam Gold’s often startlingly effective production, even when David Oyelowo and Daniel Craig’s ultimately thrilling performances are initially in danger of being upstaged by the lighting and the seats.

Craig, a British actor best known as the most blunt and muscular in the James Bond franchise of films, is a blunt and muscular Iago. David Oyewolo, a British-Nigerian actor best known for his portray of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the film Selma, is a staggeringly expressive Othello. Both actors, with long experience on the stage, are technically proficient — Oyewolo affects a slight African accent, for example, which seems a conscious choice to emphasize his outsider status. But there is a visceral connection here, with each other, and with the audience.

Full review at DC Theater Scene

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In Transit on Broadway: Review, Pics, Video

“In Transit” is the first a cappella musical on Broadway, and the rich harmonies and rhythmic beatboxing of a cappella evangelist Deke Sharon’s arrangements reveal the human voice as the most flexible of musical instruments. Unfortunately, the freshness of the voice-only orchestra doesn’t completely compensate for the flat familiarity of much else in the musical…”In Transit” features 11 appealing and accomplished performers portraying some 40 subway-riding New Yorkers….Luckily, “In Transit” has several assets that help us try to put aside its bland stories.

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged.