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Ticket Giveaway: Horton Foote’s The Traveling Lady.

Ticket Giveaway: Win two tickets to “The Traveling Lady,” a play by Horton Foote at the Cherry Lane Theater.

The play, about a woman who journeys to a small town in 1950’s Texas to reunite with her husband upon his release from prison, is, like much of Horton Foote’s dramas, both poignant and gently amusing, as I wrote in my review.

To enter the contest for a free pair of tickets to “The Traveling Lady,” please answer this question:

What is the most moving play you’ve ever seen or read, and what made it so?

1. Please put your answer in the comments at the bottom of this blog post, because the winner will be chosen through Random.org based on the order of your reply, not its content.
But you must answer the question, complete with explanation or your entry will not be approved for submission.

2.  This contest ends Tuesday, June 27, 2017 at midnight Eastern Time, and I will make the drawing no later than noon the next day. You must respond to my direct message on Twitter within 24 hours or I will choose another winner.

The winner will get a voucher for two tickets to see The Traveling Lady between June 28 and July 9, 2017.

 

 

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The Traveling Lady Review: Back with Horton Foote in Harrison, Tx

With the new production of Horton Foote’s “The Traveling Lady,” we are back on familiar Foote territory. The play, about a woman hoping to reunite with a husband recently released from prison, takes place entirely on a back porch in Harrison, Texas, the small town Foote created as a stand-in for his actual hometown of Wharton, Texas. That’s where the playwright was born in 1916, a year after Arthur Miller and five years after Tennessee Williams. Foote’s centennial passed far more quietly than those of his contemporaries. Eight years after his death, he is still primarily known for his film adaptation of “To Kill A Mockingbird” and for his original screenplay for “Tender Mercies,” both of which won him Academy Awards. But his reputation as a dramatist has been increasing, thanks to such champions as Michael Wilson, who directed both the ambitious epic “The Orphans Home Cycle” in 2010 — a marathon of nine of Foote’s Harrison plays – and the much acclaimed revival of “The Trip to Bountiful” on Broadway in 2013, with a cast that featured Cicely Tyson.

Like those plays – and much of the rest of the body of Foote’s work, which numbers some 60 dramas — “The Traveling Lady” is poignant, gently amusing, and peopled with believable small-town characters who struggle and strive to be decent, not always successfully.

It is 1950, and the traveling lady of the title, Georgette Thomas (Jean Lichty) has traveled to Harrison, the hometown of her husband Henry Thomas (PJ Sosko), in hopes of establishing a home for their seven-year-old daughter Margaret Rose (Korinne Tetlow), whom Henry has never met, and for Henry himself, who is soon to be released from prison. Georgette and Henry were married for a mere six months when his drunkenness led to a violent scuffle and incarceration. Georgette worked hard for his pardon. What she doesn’t know – what the townsfolk reveal to her – is that Henry was released a month earlier and has been working for Mrs. Tillman, a widow and temperance crusader ( Jill Tanner) who sees herself as saving him from drink. That Henry lied to his wife is not a good sign, and sure enough, after a tepid reunion, Henry…relapses.

This quick synopsis is somewhat misleading, since it doesn’t take account of all ten characters, nor the complex interplay among them. To portray this collection of deceptively low-key personalities in the production at the Cherry Lane, director Austin Pendleton has assembled a cast that includes some starry New York performers such as Karen Ziemba, most known for her roles in Broadway musicals. The audience gives a knowing laugh when, as the home-spun Sitter, she says: “If I had my life to live over again I’d learn to dance. I swear my whole life would have been different if I’d just learned to dance.” As Sitter’s mischievous mother Mrs. Mavis, Lynn Cohen gives a memorable performance, reprising a role she undertook in a 2006 revival of the play.

I have to admit that “The Traveling Lady” didn’t really kick in for me until the last third of the play, when it becomes clear that Slim, widower and deputy sheriff (Larry Bull), has taken a hankering towards Georgette but is too shy to declare himself.

“The Traveling Lady” debuted on Broadway in 1954, where it ran little more than three weeks. Like much of Foote’s work, it’s been given a second look – deservedly so. If this production may have required more attentiveness than I was willing to give it, if it didn’t move me or amuse me as much I might have hoped, that may only be because Horton Foote is responsible for some of the best theater I’ve ever seen.

 

 

The Traveling Lady

Written by Horton Foote

Directed by Austin Pendleton

Harry Feiner, Scenic and Lighting Design; Theresa Squire, Costume Design; Ryan Rumery, Sound Design and Original Compositions; Paul Huntley, Wig Design; Amy Stoller, Dialect Design and Dramaturg.

Cast: Larry Bull as Slim, Lynn Cohen as Mrs. Mavis, Angelina Fiordellisi, Jean Lichty, George Morfogen, Ron Piretti, PJ Sosko, Jill Tanner, Korinne Tetlow, and Tony Award winner Karen Ziemba

Running time: One hour and 50 minutes with no intermission.

Tickets: $65

The Traveling Lady is sc

In A Word Review: A Missing Child, An Unsolved Puzzle

Lauren Yee’s “in a word” is, on one level, about a married couple whose seven-year-old son has been missing for two years, the mother’s grief and guilt causing a breakdown in her relationship with her husband, and also in her relationship with reality. But what most distinguishes this intriguing puzzle of a play is the playwright’s concerns with the concomitant breakdown in language.

Yee comes close to explaining this aim explicitly near the end of the 70-minute piece, when the mother, Fiona, exclaims:

 

“….in times like this
Words fail me.
Like they just stop trying
Like whatever they were doing before

They don’t now.”

 

It’s Yee’s sharp perception that loss is often accompanied by uncertainty and confusion; and that at such times words can change their meaning and lose their power. Such feelings cannot be summed up in a word, though people try. (When has “I’m so sorry for your loss” ever done anything for anybody?) Both the playwright and director Tyne Rafaeli seem more interested in driving home those feelings in us than solving the puzzle of the story for us. Time is fluid — there are many flashbacks. One of the three actors in the cast (stand-out Justin Mark) portrays eight different characters, sometimes in rapid succession, from Tristan to the detective working the case to the kidnapper. There is much fantasy and absurdist word play. At one point, Fiona sternly instructs both her son Tristan and her husband Guy to take their naughty words out of their pockets and put them in a glass jar she’s holding. In another scene, the principal at the school where Fiona teaches orders her to take a leave of absence – which becomes a leaf of absence, and then a tree of absence, and the principal gives her a gift of a little tree. (It doesn’t stop there; a “tree of absence” is reiterated in so many different ways it counts as a theme.)

Still, the basic story unfolds sufficiently for us to stay engaged. We piece together that Tristan was adopted, that he was “difficult” – he had tantrums; his father Guy considered him “retarded.” We learn from the start that the parents think Tristan was kidnapped, though we’re given reason for doubt: Fiona meets her child’s kidnapper in the neighborhood grocery store; he gives her a cantaloupe; she brings the cantaloupe to the detective handling the case. He cuts it up and eats it.

A metaphor? Fiona’s hallucination?

For all such absurdist swerving, “in a word” does conclude with something close to a revelation/resolution, which if it doesn’t solve the puzzle, at least aligns some of the pieces, offering us a solid glimpse into Fiona’s complicated, contradictory, not always admirable emotions. I suspect that what I’ll most remember from “in a word” is not the hint of a cogent story, nor even the semblance of psychological insight, but Lauren Yee’s use of language.

 

 

In A Word

Lesser America at Cherry Lane

Written by Lauren Yee

Directed by Tyne Rafaeli

Set and Lighting Design – Oona Curley
Sound Design – Stowe Nelson
Costume Design – Andrea Hood
Props – Brittany Coyne

Cast: Laura Ramadei as Fiona, Jose Joaquin Perez as Guy, Justin Mark as eight characters including Tristan, the detective, and the kidnapper.

Running time: 70 minutes, with no intermission.

Tickets: $26

In a word is scheduled to run through July 8th, 2017

 

 

 

The End of Longing Review: Matthew Perry’s debut play about an alcoholic

“I would rather drink alcohol than do just about anything there is to do on the face of the planet,” Matthew Perry as Jack says to a woman he’s just met in “The End of Longing,” Perry’s debut play. “I drink for every occasion, both bad or good. I like it more than sports, more than family, and — present company excluded — I like it more than women. “
That line is the most intriguing in Perry’s play, preparing us for what in retrospect seems inevitable — Jack’s struggle to overcome his alcoholism, culminating in his emotionally naked confession at an AA meeting. Writing this play, and performing in it, seems an act of courage, since Perry, who rose to fame as one of the stars of TV’s “Friends,”  has not kept secret his own struggles with addiction. But Perry’s bravery and his star appeal, along with Lindsay Posner’s swift direction and the competence of the three other cast members, help make MCC’s production of “The End of Longing” come off as better than the script deserves.
“The End of Longing” reflects the flaws of a first-time playwright, and then some.
His characters are all one-note – a drunk, a dope, a neurotic and a hooker with a heart of gold. The woman he picks up in the bar, Stephanie (Jennifer Morrison) turns out to be a “high-end escort,” a job she’s held for ten years. Her best friend Stevie (Sue Jean Kim) is a neurotic 37-year-old, who desperately wants a baby. In a convenient coincidence, Jack’s best friend Jeffrey (Quincy Dunn-Baker) has just slept with Stevie, and she gets pregnant. Jeffrey is a construction worker who is so dumb, Stevie complains, “he thought Jurassic Park was a documentary.” The bulk of the ninety-minute play is the two newly formed couples working out their problems and their relationships. Very little of it feels plausible.
This is largely because much of the dialogue is stilted and strained, especially the attempts at humor.
“I want a baby,” Stevie says in the first scene, in the bar where the four first meet. “I want a baby right now.”
“Right now?” Jack says. “Cause I haven’t sterilized my hands.”

The End of Longing
MCC at Lucille Lortel
Written by Matthew Perry
Directed by Lindsay Posner
Set Design by Derek McLane
Lighting Design by Ben Stanton
Costume Design by Sarah Laux
Sound Design by Ryan Rumery
Cast: Matthew Perry as Jack, Quincy Dunn-Baker as Jeffrey, Sue Jean Kim as Stevie, Jennifer Morrison as Stephanie.
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: $49 to $125
“The End of Longing” is set to run through July 1, 2017.

Ernest Shackleton Loves Me Review: An Antarctic Explorer in a Brooklyn Refrigerator

“Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” may not be the only musical ever set in Antarctica or the only one that tells the story of a real-life polar explorer; it’s surely not the only musical about a struggling musician and single mother in Brooklyn. But it has to be the only musical that combines the two, when the early 20th century Arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton enters the studio of early 21st century composer Kat through her refrigerator. This charming, kooky, playful, tuneful, toe-tapping, original musical probably shouldn’t work as well as it does.

Much of the credit goes to the two performers, Wade McCollum and Valerie Vigoda, who is also the lyricist and plays a mean electric violin.

Vigoda is Kat, who is a recording artist – but not like Beyonce. She literally sits at her low-budget recording studio at home and records her music, which she would enjoy more if anybody would actually pay her for any of it. It does not help that her baby’s father has left her, traveling on tour with a Journey tribute band. In her 40s feeling helpless and alone, she creates a video for a dating site, Cupid’s Leftovers.

That’s how Ernest Shackleton learns about her. Although dead for a century, he travels through space and time to meet her, sing her praises, and bring her along for his perilous journey aboard his ship Endurance. In imitation of the historical record, the ship is crushed by ice as it nears Antarctica, forcing Shackleton and his men (and Kate) to float on sheets of ice for many months, subsisting only on seal blubber – which he offers to several audience members to taste.

The obvious point here is, if Kat (or you?) feels trapped in her (your) existence, think of Shackleton, who was literally trapped, but managed to survive against impossible odds, bringing home his entire crew without a single casualty. In other words, as Ernest puts it to Kat, “blind, relentless hope is what brings about miracles.”

But the sentimental, self-help aspects of “Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” don’t get in the way of what is so enjoyable about the show.

The most delightful aspect of “Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” are the lively musical numbers, with Vigoda’s electric violin play supplemented by McCollum’s banjo playing – both also have terrific voices — and off-stage keyboard accompaniment by Ryan O’Connell.

The show is also funny, thanks in large measure to McCollum, who is spot-on in portraying several men in addition to the explorer – all of them (including Shackleton) full of surface charm but hilariously unreliable. McCollum sets the sardonic tone from the start when he comes out as a techie sprinkling the fake snow on the set (“Man, this snow looks soooo fake, I hope Frozen looks better.”) and cracks knowing jokes: “The show is 90 minutes long with no intermission — oh, yay!” His laid-back louses offer amusing counterpoint to Vigoda’s downbeat intensity as Kat, who can’t seem to catch a break.

Ernest and Kat humorously compare their situations, finding in one song much that musicians and explorers have in common – they both need sponsors, for example, and can be depended on to lose their investors’ money.

Alexander V. Nichols’s set includes extensive video projections, incorporating actual footage from Shackleton’s expedition, while at the same time presenting as telling contrast a typical cramped Brooklyn apartment full of Kat’s tools in trade, mostly a computer station. There seems a comment here as well in how much people like Kat live our lives in a sort of virtual reality. Maybe “Ernest Shackleton” is itself a new kind of musical, a virtual musical. It’s certainly not a traditional musical –there is no choreography to speak of; the funny, silly book by Joe DiPietro (The Toxic Avenger, Memphis) serves primarily as a bridge to the songs; there’s as much happening on the screen as on the stage.

This is why it makes sense to me that BroadwayHD is livestreaming “Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” this Wednesday, June 5.

Ernest Shackleton Loves Me

Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theater

Book by Joe DiPietro; Music by Brendan Milburn; Lyrics by Valerie Vigoda; Directed by Lisa Peterson. Set design by Alexander V. Nichols, costume design by Chelsea Cook, sound design by Rob Kaplowitz. Music director, Ryan O’Connell 
Cast: Valerie Vigoda and Wade McCollum
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission.
Tickets: $89 to $109
“Ernest Shackleton Loves Me” is scheduled to run through June 11, 2017.

The Boy Who Danced on Air Review: Afghan Slaves in Homoerotic Musical

In 2010, an Afghan journalist produced an hour-long documentary for PBS’ Frontline entitled The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan , about the illegal revival of an ancient tradition called Bacha Bazi (literally “boy play“), which involves wealthy men buying boys as young as 11 from their poor families, and training them in traditional dance, which they perform at all-male parties wearing women’s attire. The boys are often expected to gratify their masters sexually, and sometimes their masters’ friends as well.

That documentary “set us on  a half-decade journey of researching and writing,” composer Tim Rosser and wordsmith Charlie Sohne write in a program note for “The Boy Who Danced on Air,” their musical that uses the complex and unsettling context of the Bacha Bazi to tell a love story between two 16-year-old boys.

The Abingdon Theatre Company’s production of  this musical features some terrific solo dancing and stirring song duets by the two talented performers, making their Off-Broadway debuts, who portray the lovers. The design for the small stage of the Tony Kiser Theater offers much stunning visual appeal. Having seen the Frontline documentary, however, I was left with many questions, crucial among them:  How accurate or illuminating is this show about the culture, and subculture, it professes to depict? And how much of the real story is sacrificed to hew to the conventions of American musical theater?

Sohne and Rosser do not omit the ugliness, although the musical presents it discreetly. We see Paiman (Troy Iwata) sold as a young boy to the middle aged Jahandar (Jonathan Raviv), the sale cleverly presented as a shadow play, with Paiman’s silhouette many times smaller than Jahander’s, to emphasize his extreme youth.  In the first song of the show, “A Song He Never Chose,” a character named the Unknown Man (Deven Kolluri), who will serve periodically as troubador-narrator, lyrically narrates the story of Paiman’s adjustment to his sale and years of training, until Jahandar informs Paiman of his other duties: “Men have needs. That’s why we have dancing boys – boys who we train to dance but also to bring into our homes and tend to our desires. It’s what allows us to maintain moral relationships with women. It is a sacred role…”

The heart of “The Boy Who Danced on Air,” though, is the romance that is sparked between Paiman and Feda (Nikhil Saboo), a fellow dancer whom Paiman meets at one of the all-male dancing parties. Feda is owned by Jahandar’s cousin, Zemar (Osh Ghanimah).

Yes, we are meant to understand that the two young men find each other as a refuge from their miserable lives as exploited slaves. No permanent happiness awaits them; it ends in tragedy (albeit with an absurdly uplifting coda.)  Yet Troy Iwata and Nikhil Saboo, graceful and attractive young performers who are frequently shirtless, engage in soaring duets and intimate embraces; the effect is to make “The Boy Who Danced on Air” feel more like a homoerotic romantic musical than the sort of sober drama represented by, say,  Kander and Pierce’s recent “Kid Victory,” in which a pedophile abducts a teenager in Kansas.  And that musical didn’t have the extra burden of trying to translate a distant foreign culture for an American audience. I wonder, for example, just how much actual research went into the creative team’s interpretation of Jahandar’s villainy; the musical suggests he is struggling with his genuine feelings for Paiman that his homophobic culture makes him unable to express.

Rosser and Sohne also include a subplot in which Jahander and Zemar work at an American power plant that deliberately doesn’t function; the Americans built it as a show pony for the press. Jahander schemes to expose the Americans’ ruse, and get the plant operational, providing energy for the people of the region.  The scheme doesn’t succeed, and neither does the subplot, in part because it’s full of holes. Let’s put aside the unlikelihood of such civic-minded patriotism and deep compassion residing in a slave master and pedophile. I suppose it’s possible; people are complicated.  But the Frontline documentary profiles the slave masters  as wealthy businessmen, many of them former military commanders or warlords. So why does Jahander work in a meaningless job at an American power plant? Why would a wealthy businessman have such a job?

My guess is that Rosser and Sohne inserted that subplot as one of the ways they are trying to compensate for their Western perspective and the show’s focus on the fictional romance. But their efforts at filling in the background don’t strike me as sufficient. The Frontline documentary leads us to understand that Bacha Bazi has not been firmly entrenched in Afghanistan since ancient times. It is a criminal enterprise that has been reinstated only recently, one of the many consequences of a country ravaged by war and the breakdown of its civilization.

The Boy Who Danced On Air
Abingdon Theatre Company at June Havoc Theatre
Music by Tim Rosser; Book and lyrics by Charlie Sohne; Music direction by David Gardos; Choreography by Nejla Yatkin; Directed by Tony Speciale.
Scenic design by Christopher Swader & Justin Swader, costume design by, Andrea Lauer, lighting design by Wen-Ling Liao, sound design by Justin Graziani, prop design by Jerry Marsini, fight direction by Dan Renkin
Cast: Osh Ghanimah, Troy Iwata, Deven Kolluri, Jonathan Raviv and Nikhil Saboo
Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, including one intermission
Tickets: $67 to $87
“The Boy Who Danced on Air” is scheduled to run through June 11, 2017.

Building the Wall Review: Where Trump Will Lead Us

“Building The Wall,” Robert Schenkkan’s chilling two character play that imagines the consequences of President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, is clearly meant to help rally the resistance. It seems to be serving this purpose effectively in productions around the country, from L.A. to D.C., and the producers at New York’s New World Stages are no different: They have announced that ten percent of the ticket proceeds will go to immigrant rights groups, and they are also holding talk backs with such guests as Archibald Cox, Jr, the son of Watergate special prosecutor.

There’s no question that Schenkkan is a political playwright, but he is also an adept dramatist. He won the Pulitzer for “The Kentucky Cycle, ” a 1993 theatrical marathon that took us through 200 years of the dark side of American history. His most recent play on Broadway, the LBJ biodrama “All The Way” starring Bryan Cranston, won the Tony Award for best play. “Building The Wall,” written quickly, may not win the playwright any more of those big prizes; it is comparatively modest, even restrained. Yet it is also an intelligent, well-played and ultimately potent drama. And it has a killer of a last line.

It is 2019 and a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit, Rick (James Badge Dale), has done something terrible; we don’t yet know what. Gloria, a history professor (Tamara Tunie) has come to the visiting room in this prison in El Paso, Texas to interview him. Over the next 90 minutes, we learn more about their lives, especially Rick’s. After a church-going childhood, some standard stupid “teenage stuff” and a series of low-paying jobs, Rick joined the Army after 9/11 and was assigned to the Military Police. “I was good at something for once.” After the service, he went into law enforcement, and wound up working at a private prison in Texas, getting promoted until he was in charge. We learn enough about his background and his character to believe him when he says: “Look, I’m not crazy; it was the situation.”

A terrorist incident leads President Trump to declare martial law, and Rick’s prison starts filling up with immigrants slated for deportation. But the situation becomes unmanageable, then ghastly – and the solution even worse.

If the scenario is speculative dystopian fiction, “Building the Wall” is terrifyingly plausible, grounded in actual events and credible characters, even when Schenkkan has them debate such current issues as immigration, terrorism, private prisons, racial tension, conspiracy theories, Trump. It helps that James Badge Dale and Tamara Tunie so capably inhabit their characters, under the assured direction of Ari Edelson.

Schenkkan says that he occasionally updates the script, but, even without any changes, its timeliness can be unsettling.   I saw “Building the Wall” very shortly after a driver crashed his car into Times Square; the terrorist incident in the play that leads to the declaration of martial law occurs in Times Square.

 

“Building the Wall”
New World Stages
Written by Robert Schenkkan
Directed by Ari Edelson
Cast: Tamara Tunie, James Badge Dale
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: $32-$97
“Building the Wall” is scheduled to run at New World Stages through July 9, 2017.

 

 

Can You Forgive Her? Review: Owing Debts of Love and Money

By the end of “Can You Forgive Her?”, it’s not clear which of the five characters in Gina Gionfriddo’s latest comedy is the “You” of the title, and who is the “Her.” All the characters in one way or another are grappling with debts either financial or emotional, or both.
There is Graham (Darren Pettie) whose mother died six months ago, and left him box after box of papers that represent decades of her writing. All of it is about her abandonment by Graham’s father; none of it is published or publishable. The boxes are stacked up untouched in the run-down New Jersey beach house that Graham has now inherited. His new, younger girlfriend, Tanya (Ella Dershowitz), sees his inability to go through his mother’s papers as a sign that he may be just another one of her bad choices, which left her a single mother in debt.
“My aunt just like… She nailed it. She said I keep choosing the road less traveled and that
road is less traveled for a reason. It’s a total dead end.”
“That’s not what Robert Frost meant,” Graham says calmly.
“F… Robert Frost,” Tanya replies. A self-help book changed her life, and he owes it to her and to himself to change his life too, she says, if he wants the relationship to continue – and he does; he just proposed to her.
And then there is Miranda (Amber Tamblyn), who has her own mother issues – her mother had a fling with a British professor who abandoned her before Miranda was even born — and Miranda has lived her whole life beyond her means, with her mother’s approval, going into huge debt to pay for expensive schooling. In apparent desperation, she has hooked up with a sugar daddy, David (Frank Wood), who has trouble expressing emotion and whom she regularly berates.
“I believe in love,” Miranda tells Graham. “I believe in it like I believe in ghosts, you know? I’ve personally never encountered it, but I believe it’s out there.”
Miranda’s relationship with David is more complex than we first realize, but she has gotten into trouble dating Sateesh (Eshan Bay) whom she just calls “the Indian” and who she believes is coming to kill her.
The playwright contrives to place all her characters together in Graham’s beach house on Halloween night, through some plot developments that couldn’t really withstand a test of plausibility. But you can forgive her – or at least I can – because of all that’s worthwhile in “Can You Forgive Her?” Gionfriddo has a terrific ear for dialogue, and an eye for comic touches — Tanya is wearing a serving wench costume, which makes her righteous lecturing feel slightly ludicrous; Miranda is dressed like a sexy witch. I won’t spoil the surprise of Sateesh. I found much of the script quite funny, but it took a while for the audience during the performance I saw to begin to laugh at any of it. I’m not sure why this is so; maybe a different director would have had the actors play up the laughs. (The actress portraying Tanya, for example, did not do the full-out ditzy blonde routine, which is in some ways refreshing.)  But perhaps the audience sensed in this work by Gionfriddo, twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (for “Becky Shaw” and “Rapture, Blister, Burn”) something serious on offer. Underneath the farcical proceedings that surround the quirky characters, the play allows us to glimpse ourselves in the characters’ differing perspectives on — and ambivalence toward — their obligations….to their parents, to themselves, to money, to love.

Can You Forgive Her?
Vineyard
Written by Gina Gionfriddo. Directed by Peter DuBois. Set design by
Allen Moyer, costume design by Jessica Pabst, lighting design by
Russell H. Champa, sound design by Daniel Kluger
Cast:Amber Tamblyn as Miranda; Frank Wood as David; Ella Dershowitz as Tanya; Darren Pettie as Graham; Eshan Bay as Sateesh
Running time: 110 minutes with no intermission.
Tickets: $79
Can You Forgive Her? runs through June 11, 2017.

2017 Obie Awards: Oslo, Band’s Visit, Underground Railroad

Obies logo

Oslo and The Band’s Visit got lots of love at the 62nd Annual Obie Awards, as these two shows have gotten throughout the theater award season. But they had lots of company, with Underground Railroad Game at Are Nova sharing with Oslo the Best New American Theatre Work, a prize usually given just to one theater piece.

The complete list of 2017 Obie Awards below:

Best New American Theatre Work ($500 prize each) 

Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard, Underground Railroad Game (Ars Nova)
J.T. Rogers, Oslo (Lincoln Center Theater)

Playwriting

Christopher Chen, Caught (The Play Company at La MaMa)
Lynn Nottage, Sweat (The Public Theater)

Musical Theater

Itamar Moses (book) and David Yazbek (music & lyrics), The Band’s Visit (Atlantic Theater Company)

Directing

Arin Arbus, The Skin of Our Teeth (Theatre for a New Audience)
Lileana Blain-Cruz, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World (Signature Theatre Company)
David Cromer, The Band’s Visit (Atlantic Theater Company)
Jack Cummings III, Picnic (Transport Group)
Rebecca Taichman, Indecent (Vineyard Theatre)

Ensemble

Bartlett Sher (director) and the cast of Oslo (Lincoln Center Theater) Michael Aronov, Anthony Azizi, Adam Dannheisser, Jennifer Ehle, Daniel Jenkins, Dariush Kashani, Jeb Kreager, Jefferson Mays, Christopher McHale, Daniel Oreskes, Angela Pierce, Henny Russell, Joseph Siravo, T. Ryder Smith

Lila Neugebauer (director) and the cast of The Wolves (The Playwrights Realm) Kate Arrington, Mia Barron, Brenna Coates, Jenna Dioguardi, Samia Finnerty, Midori Francis, Lizzy Jutila, Sarah Mezzanotte, Tedra Millan, Lauren Patten, Susannah Perkins

Performance

Matthew Broderick, Evening at the Talk House (The New Group) and Shining City
(Irish Repertory Theatre)
Bobby Cannavale, The Hairy Ape (Park Avenue Armory)
Kevin Geer, Sustained Excellence [in memoriam]
Kecia Lewis, Marie and Rosetta (Atlantic Theater Company) and The Skin of Our Teeth (Theatre for a New Audience)
Heather MacRae, Come Back, Little Sheba (Transport Group)
Amy Ryan, Love, Love, Love (Roundabout Theatre Company)
Pete Simpson, Sustained Excellence
Michael Urie, Homos, or Everyone in America (Labyrinth Theater)

Design

Riccardo Hernandez, Sustained Excellence of Set Design
Dane Laffrey, Sustained Excellence of Set and Costume Design
Jared Mezzocchi, Projection Design, Vietgone (Manhattan Theatre Club)
Ryan Rumery, Sustained Excellence of Sound Design
Scott Zielinski, Sustained Excellence of Lighting Design

Special Citations

Anna Deavere Smith, Notes from the Field (Second Stage Theater)
Taylor Mac, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (St. Ann’s Warehouse)

Obie Grants ($4,000 prize each)

Irish Repertory Theatre
Pearl Theatre Company
The Playwrights Realm

Ross Wetzsteon Award ($3,000 prize)

Theatre for a New Audience

Lifetime Achievement Award

Paula Vogel

The Obie Award judges panel for this season include Village Voice columnist and
longtime Chair of the Obie Judges Michael Feingold, Obie and Pulitzer Prize-winning
playwright Ayad Akhtar, Entertainment Weekly theater critic Melissa Rose Bernardo,
Obie-winning actor-singer Darius de Haas, Village Voice theater critic Miriam Felton Dansky, Obie-winning actress Daphne Rubin-Vega, and Obie-winning actress J.
Smith Cameron,

The Whirligig Review: Hamish Linklater’s Forlorn, Funny Play About A Dying Girl

Julie is young, pretty, literate and dying. At its best, “The Whirligig,” a new play by Hamish Linklater, explores with humor and bite how her terminal illness affects the seven people around her – friends, family, and long-ago acquaintances who are all year-round residents of the Berkshires. Linklater is also interested in how each of his characters may be complicit directly or indirectly in her condition, which is exacerbated by her drug addiction.

But the playwright, who grew up in the Berkshires himself, is intent on leavening this realistic trauma drama with elements of romantic and classic comedy, including an almost happy ending. A late scene is so dizzy with revelations of previously undisclosed connections between the characters (many of which the characters themselves were unaware of, or forgot) that it could pass as a parody of a soap opera. (“That’s a lot to digest,” one of the characters remarks.)

Such unlikely coincidences and contrivances might have sunk completely a different production and a different new play. But Linklater, who is best known as a performer (a familiar actor in Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte), manages to  salvage the play’s odd mix of the forlorn, funny and fanciful, by creating appealing and playable characters, who are portrayed, under Scott Elliott’s careful direction, by a fine eight-member cast.

Norbert Leo Butz (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Catch Me If You Can) is Michael Tyler, Julie’s Dad, a theater director and drama teacher who was a recovering alcoholic…until a relapse, apparently caused by Julie’s illness. “That poor gentleman is in a whirligig of grief,” observes Mr. Cormeny (Jon DeVries), a fellow drunk and fellow teacher, though not in the same school, and there doesn’t seem to be much fellowship between them. But Butz — who, like the best New York stage actors, elevates every show I’ve ever seen him in — doesn’t play Michael as just a loser; he’s a humorous and energetic man who has earned his caustic wit.

Dolly Wells is Michael’s ex-wife Kristina, who now has her depression under control, but was more mothered than a mother when Julie was growing up.

Zosia Mamet (Girls on HBO) is Trish, Julie’s former best friend, now estranged, who also is apparently enemies with Kristina. Trish is a young mother now, and married to Greg (Alex Hurt.)

Noah Bean is Julie’s doctor Patrick, and Jonny Orsini is Patrick’s brother Derrick, who is on parole, and has a baffling interest in Julie’s case (baffling until those raft of revelations at the end.) Before that ending, Derrick and Trish – who think they’ve never met before — wind up sitting on a tree branch in Julie’s back yard.

“The Whirligig” shifts back and forth in time between the present and 15 years earlier, so that we learn how they each became estranged from one another. The design team is adept at keeping the places and periods clear, and helping to infuse what on paper would seem an unrelieved dark tale with a sense of wonder.

The Whirligig

The New Group at Signature

Written by Hamish Linklater
Directed by Scott Elliott
Scenic Design Derek McLane  Costume Design Clint Ramos  Lighting Design Jeff Croiter
Sound Design M.L. Dogg  Original Music Duncan Sheik  Special Effects Design Jeremy Chernick

Cast: Noah Bean, Norbert Leo Butz, Jon DeVries, Alex Hurt, Zosia Mamet, Jonny Orsini, Grace Van Patten, Dolly Wells

The Whirligig will be on stage at the Signature Center through June 18, 2017