How to Transcend a Happy Marriage Review: Sarah Ruhl’s Spiritual Orgy Play with Marisa Tomei and Lena Hall

In Sarah Ruhl’s new play, “How to Transcend a Happy Marriage,” two middle-aged married couples, long-time friends, find themselves fascinated with a young woman nicknamed Pip ( Lena Hall, Tony winner for Hedwig and the Angry Inch) who lives and loves with two men, in what they call a polyamorous relationship, or a throuple, or a triad. The two couples decide to invite the throuple to a New Year’s Eve party.

“And our lives would change forever,” George (short for Georgia), portrayed by Marisa Tomei, says to the theatergoers sitting politely at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater.

It’s not actually clear that their lives do change forever. But ours certainly don’t.

The New Year’s Eve party ends in an orgy, right before intermission. In Act II, Ruhl’s play takes a series of surreal turns, in an apparent but by no means straightforward attempt to tell us something about love and marriage; and the spirit and the flesh; and the conflict between our animal desires and our human duties, as well as our efforts to reconcile these two natures.

Ruhl is a lovely writer, capable of witty aphorisms, sophisticated dialogue, humorous set-ups, and a theatrical sense of wonder. She also has a tendency towards the twee. All this is on display in “How To Transcend a Happy Marriage,” but this play doesn’t come together as effectively as some of her previous theater that touches on similar territory. She has written about love and marriage in my favorite of her plays, “Stage Kiss “; about spiritual matters, in “The Oldest Boy” ; and, in her only play on Broadway so far, “In The Next Room, or the Vibrator Play,” she has written satirically about the conflict between our animal desires and our bourgeois habits.

The strength of “Happy Marriage” is in the characterization of Lena Hall’s Pip, who isn’t just polyamorous. She is a free spirit who slaughters animals when she wants to eat meat, seeing it as the only ethical way to be a meat-eater. She is also taking pole dancing classes. And she is something of a shape-shifter. Hall, best-known for her rock personas, seems the exact right performer for the role.

One problem is that, as reliable and appealing as the rest of the cast is, they are portraying characters that seem deliberately…bland. This even includes Pip’s boyfriends, a mathematician named David (Austin Smith), who talks about Pythagoras, and Freddie (David McElwee), who doesn’t have a job: “It’s kind of a philosophy. I think, I walk. I try not to leave any imprint. Or footprint…I went to Harvard.”

Pip’s liveliness contrasts with the two couples’ banal bourgeois existence. Pip makes a living as a temp at a legal aid office; this is where she met Jane (Robin Weigert ), who works there as a litigator. Her husband Michael (Brian Hutchison) writes jingles. I don’t even remember what the other couple do for a living, except that Marissa Tomei’s George is assigned narrator duties and also gets long ruminative monologues. These sound as if they might be perceptive, but they existed in a spiritual realm somewhere above my head.

Here is what might be a typical exchange during the New Year’s Eve Party, an example of the ways in which “How to Transcend A Happy Marriage” manages to be simultaneously entertaining and tedious:

Pip: The thing about being bisexual that’s tedious is you constantly have to announce yourself. It’s like, if you decide to be a vegetarian, you don’t go around reminding people, well I’m technically an omnivore. You know?

Paul:So if you’re a monogamous bisexual, does that make you a liar all the time?

David: I sort of think so. But monogamy is a construct that will seem passé in the next century. So will race. The whole world will be like Brazil.

George: I love Brazil.

Michael: Pistachios?

Freddie: Yes, please. I love pistachios at a party. Gives you something to do with your hands. I never know what to do with my hands while I make small talk.

All this is before the fanciful twists of the second act, which I shouldn’t describe, although it wouldn’t matter much if I did. I’ll only say they take place in a forest, a jail cell, and in Michael and Jane’s home, and involve woodland creatures, and a teenage daughter, and snow, and lots of hugging.

How to Transcend a Happy Marriage
Mitzi Newhouse Theater
Written by Sarah Ruhl. Directed by Rebecca Taichman. Set design by David Zinn, costume design by Susan Hilferty, lighting design by Peter Kaczorowski, sound design by Matt Hubbs
Cast: Lena Hall as Pip, Brian Hutchison as Michael, David McElwee as Freddie, Omar Metwally as Paul, Naian Gonzalez Norvind as Jenna, Austin Smith as David, Marisa Tomei as George, Robin Weigert as Jane
Running time: two hours and 15 minutes, including an intermission
Tickets: $87
Through May 7, 2017

 

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The Outer Space Review: Ethan Lipton’s Sci Fi Shaggy Dog Midlife Crisis Musical

At first glance, singing storyteller Ethan Lipton and his three-member band – the creators and entire cast of “The Outer Space” – look like middle-aged men who never outgrew their childhood obsessions with space travel and rock ‘n’ roll. They wear those blue astronaut jumpsuits, and drink out of plastic spaceship sippy cups, and sing and play tunes in front of the walls at Joes Pub newly festooned with stars that glow purple if you shine a black light at them – precisely the decorations you’d expect in the bedroom of a nine-year-old boy.
This is how it seems on second glance, too, as Lipton narrates the funny, pointed, and strange story of the unnamed married couple who decide they’ve had it with Earth; they buy an old jalopy of a rocket ship and live in a space colony that orbits the planet Mercury, where 3,100 people live, work and shop in some 450 vessels, including a “one-dollar ship.”
Half science fiction, half Moth-like shaggy dog tale involving a midlife crisis, half social satire, half a revue of unrelated songs in a mix of genres, “The Outer Space” doesn’t quite add up to a musical. But it does count as an almost unique entertainment – “almost,” because it’s a sequel of sorts to “No Place To Go,” Lipton and company’s 2012 show, also at the Public. In that one, the man’s job was moving to Mars, and he had to decide whether to move along with it or stay in New York. In “The Outer Space,” that same man moves reluctantly to Mercury with his wife, who is the one who needed to get away from Earth.
It would be foolhardy to try to summarize the story in the 90-minute show, not because there isn’t one – although there isn’t one – but because “The Outer Space” makes something of an art form out of off-the-wall and out-of-left-field.

That’s true about the lyrics – for example, in “She Does Well in Space,” Lipton describes the wife as:
“Friend to every varmint on the block
Chickens, broccoli, they all join her flock.”

Or in the song, A to Z:
Like apples and aardvarks
Birthdays and bingo
(etc through the whole alphabet)
it’s hard to know how we could walk and talk more differently.”

That’s true about his analogies too. Lipton says the husband

“….had to concede,
our cost of living keeps going up like a rocket
while our wages putter along like a school bus
and our savings sit there like a turtle until some major catastrophe—
like a trip to the grocery store— drives them back into the toilet.”

It’s true about his descriptions of the other characters in the space colony, such as “Mika, who works in cosmology, and her husband Donald, who is part bicycle.”

Vito Dieterle, on sax

In keeping with this approach, “The Outer Space” is full of non-sequiturs and digressions. But these are funny non-sequiturs and digressions full of a kind of folksy urban social commentary, and they are set to music that is variously folk, down home blues, funk, bluegrass, Latin-flavored jazz, both soft pop and hard rock, and a final lovely ballad that begins:

Have you ever had the dream
of going somewhere beautiful
Somewhere far away and magical
at the end of all that’s natural

In short, “The Outer Space,” helps the audience, just like that space-traveling couple, get away from it all, albeit just for 80 minutes or so. And by “it all,” Lipton explains, he means:
“noise, violence, oppression, the grind,
rudeness, tourism, traffic, trash,
smelly buses, corporate greed, cultural homogenization, economic marginalization, pollution, overcrowded schools, overpriced rents, overhyped pastries, and busker rock” – as well as (I expect a recent update) the “Dark Lord” that “took over the universe.”

The Outer Space
Joe’s Pub at the Public
Book and Lyrics by Ethan Lipton 
Music composed and performed by Ethan Lipton, Vito Dieterle, Eben Levy & Ian Riggs
Directed by Leigh Silverman

Scenic and Costume Design: David Zinn
Lighting Design: Ben Stanton
Sound Design: Nicholas Pope
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: $40
The Outer Space is scheduled to run through April 9, 2017

All the Fine Boys Review: Abigail Breslin in (Half A) Horror Play of Lost Virginity

Isabelle Fuhrman and Abigail Breslin

Isabelle Fuhrman and Abigail Breslin

Jenny and Emily are both 14 years old, new friends in a small-town suburb in South Carolina in the 1980s; they both love horror movies; they both want to lose their virginity. In “All the Fine Boys, their differing paths after their sole scene together function as a right way and a wrong way to have a crush. But their separate scenes also demonstrate the right way and wrong way to put together a play.

Emily (Isabelle Fuhrman) has a crush on Adam (Alex Wolff.) As she explains to Jenny: “He’s smart. He’s tall. He’s old, he’s like an adult.”

“He’s 17,” Jenny says.

“He glows,” Emily replies.

By contrast, Jenny (Abigail Breslin) gets together with Joe (Joe Tippett), a man who is twice her age and, we eventually learn, is both a husband and a father.

If “All The Fine Boys,” written and directed by Erica Schmidt, had just been the scenes between Emily and Adam, the play would have been a sweet, funny, awkward, well-observed coming-of-age tale. Adam, as portrayed by Wolff, is hilariously full of himself, but he also treats Emily with respect, and we see the two of them mature just in the short time frame of the play.

But the scenes between Jenny and Joe wind up as a combination Lifetime movie cautionary tale, and campy Grand Guignol horror movie, which features Abigail Breslin (Oscar nominee at age 10 for Little Miss Sunshine) being deflowered on a couch before our eyes while eating a slice of pizza – and it gets worse from there, escalating to violence involving a birthday cake.

Even Amy Rubin’s set seems to offer a commentary on the play’s unfortunate split personality. In the scenes between Emily and Adam, the door opens onto a hallway. In the scenes between Jenny and Joe, the same door opens onto a bathroom.

 

 

 

All The Fine Boys
New Group at Signature
Written and directed by Erica Schmidt
Set design by Amy Rubin, costume design by Tom Broecker, lighting design by Jeff Croiter, sound design by Bart Fasbender
Cast: Abigail Breslin, Isabelle Fuhrman, Joe Tippett and Alex Wolff
Running time: 100 minutes
Tickets: $85
“All The Fine Boys” is scheduled to run through March 26, 2017

 

If I Forget Review: Jewish Family Argues About Identity and Dad

In “If I Forget,” a well-acted, often funny and always engaging Jewish family drama by Steven Levenson (the book-writer for Dear Evan Hansen) we travel back to an era that no longer exists except in memory, although it is a mere 15 years ago. Cell phones are an oversized novelty in 2000 and 2001, when the play takes place, and the Fischer family talks of hanging chads and Students for Nader and the second Intifada. Yet the concerns of Levenson’s play feel both up-to-the-minute and age-old, as Michael (Jeremy Shamos) and his two sisters Holly (Kate Walsh, from Private Practice) and Sharon (Maria Dizzia) argue politics and religion and identity.


They also argue about what to do about Dad. That is more or less the reason they have reunited in their childhood home in Washington D.C. (a substantial two-tiered set by Derek McLane), where their father (Larry Bryggman) still lives. In failing health, he has retired from the clothing store he inherited from his father and ran his entire life, now renting it out to a Latino family that has turned it into a dollar store.
The central plot, which doesn’t kick in until after the intermission, revolves around how to take care of Dad – and what to do about the store. Sharon, who works as a kindergarten teacher and takes on the bulk of the caretaking, wants to keep renting the store at below-market rate to the Latino family. Holly, the dilettantish wife of a lawyer Howard (Gary Wilmes), wants to take it over to launch an interior decorating business she plans to call Spaces and Places. Michael, a Jewish Studies professor with a precarious career and a daughter in need of expensive mental health care, wants to sell it. As individual and family secrets are revealed, we realize that each character has an ulterior motive for the positions they are taking.
All of this unfolds expertly, each character maintaining their appeal and our interest, even those on the periphery: Seth Steinberg as Joey, Holly and Howard’s sullen teenage son, is hilariously spot-on, and the way his mother Holly bickers and fusses with him is priceless. But this conventional drama also ties into the larger issues the playwright skillfully weaves in. Michael has written a book entitled “Forgetting the Holocaust,” whose controversial thesis is that the memory of the Holocaust is being used to force blind support of Israeli policy. Shamos delivers long passionate and provocative passages:
“A hundred years ago, Jews were part of every single radical, secular political movement in Europe. The Zionists? They hated religion. They hated the rabbis more than the communists did. The point was to change this world. To make a world where Jews wouldn’t even exist – there would just be one single international human brotherhood. And then at a certain point, we just, we gave up. We gave up on politics and social justice, because…I don’t know why…..And now you look around and everybody on the Upper West Side is reading books on Kabbalah and kosher sex, whatever the hell that is, and it’s just, what happened to the last hundred years? ”
The rest of the family is aghast at his views.
“You know, a lot of Democrats, a lot of liberals, people like you, have become frankly very anti-Semitic. Especially about Israel,” Sharon says to him.
If it’s a little hard to buy some of the opinions the playwright gives to a Jewish Studies professor (such as his contempt for Hebrew) there are certainly plenty of Jewish families who continue to have these debates.

If I Forget
Laura Pels Theatre

Written by Steven Levenson
Directed by Daniel Sullivan
Set design by Derek McLane, costume design by Jess Goldstein, lighting design by Kenneth Posner, sound design and music composed by Dan Moses Schreier
Cast: Larry Bryggman, Maria Dizzia, Tasha Lawrence, Jeremy Shamos, Seth Michael Steinberg, Kate Walsh and Gary Wilmes
Running time: two hours and 40 minutes, including one intermission
Tickets: $89

IF We Forget runs through April 30, 2017

Wakey, Wakey Review: Dying, Via Eno and Emerson

Wakey Wakey

“Over a hundred thousand people died today,” the character played by Michael Emerson (Lost, Person of Interest) tells us in “Wakey, Wakey,” the latest ethereal, esoteric play by Will Eno, who also directs. It’s one of several fascinating facts that the character, named only Guy, delivers from his wheelchair on the stage of the Signature Theater, often reading from note cards:

“You will produce two swimming pools’ worth of saliva in your life…Use it wisely.”

“Hearing certain words can create the realities behind those words, in the hearer, in the hearer’s body. Joy, Light …”

“They say practicing gratitude can physically change the shape of the brain, in a good way.”

Is any of this true? And why is Guy telling us this?

Afterward, I did some Googling, and sure enough:“How Expressing Gratitude Might Change Your Brain.”

I doubt my brain is going to be changed very much by “Wakey, Wakey,” but I did like it better than anything else I’ve seen by Eno, whose comic, cosmic, cryptic approach to playwriting has consistently charmed other people. Too often, I’ve found his impish sensibility grating. “The Realistic Joneses,” his only play to make it to Broadway so far, was well-acted by a stellar cast, but for me it added up to a whole that was less than the sum of its parts.

With gentle humor and a lack of fussiness, Michael Emerson manages to woo us through the deliberate vagueness, starts-and-stops, meta interruptions, of his monologue, even before we are completely certain why Guy is talking to us. There are hints from the get-go that he’s presiding over his own wake – “Wakey, Wakey,” get it? — or perhaps that he’s rehearsing for his wake:
“We’re here to say good-bye, of course– there’s always someone or something to say good-bye to, and it’s important to honor the people whose shoulders we stood upon and fell asleep against. So, yes, we’re here to say good-bye and maybe hopefully also get better at saying hello.”
It becomes irrefutably clear that Guy is dying only when Lisa (January LaVoy) arrives and her casual ministrations establish her as his caretaker (perhaps his hospice nurse.)
What fills most of the 75-minute play is what feels like Guy’s effort to fill the time, or make the most of the time, with word games, thought experiments, those facts and thoughts from the note cards. He also clicks on a remote, and we are treated
to entertaining, occasionally amusing video projections – such as animals apparently laughing.
Much of what Eno’s script is trying to induce about the celebration and uncertainty of life and death has been done better and with more clarity elsewhere, in such plays as “Every Brilliant Thing,” “Wit”…and the works of Eno’s hero, Samuel Beckett. But Eno the playwright is well served in “Wakey Wakey” by Eno the director, and by Emerson, LaVoy, and the show’s designers — Christine Jones’s simple set, including an unmoored door; David Lander’s varied lighting; Nevin Steinberg’s elaborate sound; Peter Nigrini’s fast-paced, celebratory, almost hallucinatory projections.) This is especially true at the end, or after the end — the wake. That the Signature serves up an elaborate wake, complete with balloons and bubbles, but also coffee cake and little gifts,probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it does. It’s a weird surprise, yes, but it’s also an oddly touching one, and one I appreciated. (So, ok, maybe my brain will change after all.)

Wakey, Wakey
Signature Theater
Written and directed by Will Eno
Set deisgn by Christine Jones, lighting by David Lander, sound by Nevin Steinberg, projections by Peter Nigrini
Cast Michael Emerson and January LaVoy

Running time: about 75 minutes with no intermission

Tickets: $30
Wakey, Wakey is scheduled to run through April 2.

Sweeney Todd: Review, Pics, Pie Recipe

pie-sign

Tooting Arts Club’s exceptionally entertaining production of Sweeney Todd, Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s glorious murderous musical, began in 2014 in Harrington’s, one of London’s oldest working pie shops. An impressively detailed replica of Harrington’s has now set up shop Off-Broadway at the Barrow Street Theater, including the pies…

The Barrow Street Theater, transformed into a pie shop. Audience members eating their pie -- and cast members hanging out -- before Sweeney Todd begins.

The Barrow Street Theater, transformed into a pie shop. Audience members eating their pie — and cast members hanging out — before Sweeney Todd begins.

barrow-street-theater-2

The eight-member cast frequently performs atop the tables inches from the audience, or sits alongside us on the benches…Jeremy Secomd as Sweeney Todd and Siobhan McCarthy as Mrs. Lovett are two of the four holdovers from the London production, and their simultaneously chilling and hilarious performances are reason enough to make this a must-see show.

Full review at DC Theatre Scene

Click on any of the photographs by Joan Marcus to see them enlarged.

 

Truffle Chicken Pot Pie From ‘Sweeney Todd’
Two methods

pie-at-barrow-street-theater

First Method
Pie crust

3 cups flour

2 tsp salt

10 oz butter

3 oz cold water

Method: Cut butter into small pea-size pieces and place in freezer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place flour and salt in standing electric mixer and mix on slow speed with paddle attachment. Add the butter slowly, taking care that is does not jump out of the bowl. Mix loosely and then add cold water down the side of the bowl with mixer on slow, until the dough comes together. Remove from bowl and work into a ball with floured hands, then push down to a disk, wrap with plastic film and refrigerate for 2 hours. Roll out on a floured surface to ¼-inch thickness and then place in a pie dish, crimping the edges. Cut away excess and add to remaining pie dough, re-roll to a ¼-inch thickness into a circle for the top.

Filling

2 chicken legs and thighs, deboned

2 carrots, peeled and chopped into small dice

1 celery, chopped into small dice

1 vidalia onion, chopped into small dice

12 button mushrooms, sliced thin, or chanterelles if available

Method: Bring 3 quarts water to a boil and add chopped vegetables, except the mushrooms, to the water and cook lightly, about 3 minutes. Then add the chicken meat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove chicken, cool and chop into half-inch dice. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and skim the fat off the top of the liquid. Boil the cooking liquid for 30 minutes to reduce the stock and when it is down to one quart of liquid, add 2 tablespoons of corn starch dissolved in cold water. Stir continuously with a whisk, bringing it back to the boil until the liquid thickens.

Strain and cool. Mix together the vegetables, chicken and mushrooms and moisten with the reduced chicken stock until it is like a thick ragout.

Prepare the pie: Prebake the bottom pie shell lined with aluminum foil at 350F for 20 minutes. Then remove the foil and fill with the chicken vegetable mixture. Prepare an egg wash — two eggs and pinch salt — then brush the edges and cover with the dough circle, pressing firmly to seal the edge. Poke the surface several times with a fork to make air vents and then paint with egg wash. Bake in a 350F oven for 40 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling. Serve warm.

Second Method

Buy the pie at Barrow Street Theatre for the pre-show meal.

The Penitent by David Mamet: Review and Pics

The Penitent, David Mamet’s latest play, is about the ethical dilemmas facing a psychiatrist whose patient has gone on a killing spree. At least that’s what it seems to be about, but audiences might well identify with the psychiatrist’s wife when she says to him: “You must be holding something back. Or else I’m stupid.”

…Mamet takes on big questions, probing the obligations, contradictions and distinctions between moral, religious and professional codes of conduct…. At the same time, Mamet has structured The Penitent so that information is parceled out in stingy pieces [which] winds up undercutting his thematic explorations.

 

Full review on DC Theatre Scene

 

Click on any photograph by Doug Hamilton to see it enlarged

 

 

 

 

Everybody Review: Morality Meets Mortality, 600 Years Later

everybody-for-calendarWith “Everybody,” Branden Jacobs-Jenkins adapts “Everyman,” the 15th century morality play, for a modern secular New York audience. The idea here is inspired, and the world premiere production at the Signature can be inspiring; it even provoked some reflection on my own mortality. “Everybody” can also be very funny. But both the playwright and director Lila Neugebauer seem hell-bent on deliberately “destabilizing” the story, making it less accessible.

In the original allegory, Death summons Everyman before God to make an accounting of his life, and one by one, he is let down by Fellowship, Strength, Beauty, etc. Only Good Deeds comes through for him.

In Jacobs-Jenkins’ version, Death is the genial if impatient Marylouise Burke, and Everybody asks for help from some of the same allegorical aspects of his life, here renamed Friendship, Kinship, etc. (My favorite new name is Stuff.) Everybody wants them to accompany him in his accounting before God. Most initially react the same way – “So are you saying ‘God’ is real?” — and each one in turn makes up excuses to turn Everybody down.

The most hilarious of these exchanges is with Friendship, who swears fealty to Everybody with the words “I would literally go to hell and back for you,” shortly before Everyman asks her to accompany him.

“OH HEEEEELLLL NO!….”

“But you promised me ‘to hell –‘?

“’And back.’ Remember I said: ‘And back?’ We’ve always had these communication issues.”

It’s worth quoting some of what Friendship says to Everybody when we first see them together, because it is such a spot-on satire of contemporary friendships:

“I was just thinking about you, too! Oh, man! I miss you! What is going on? You seem a little depressed! Is it still the election? Is it the weather? Is it Global Warming? Or is it just politics? Is it identity politics? Or is it your job? Is it your career slash lack of a career? Is it that person we both hate? Oh no! It’s not that person we both love, is it? Is it your relationship slash lack of a relationship? Is it our relationship? Remember that time we sort of hooked up? That was weird, right? But it’s good we got over it, right? Right? We got over it, right? Oh man, Sports? Sports! Hey, have you seen that movie? Have you watched that cable show everyone’s talking about?…”

This is just one of the several moments that would clearly mark Branden Jacobs-Jenkins as a substantive talent, if he hadn’t already been established as such from his spate of recent plays, including “Gloria” and “An Octoroon,” which was a modern meta-theatrical adaptation of a 19th century melodrama about what was called miscegenation (the mixing of the races.)

Yet the playwright’s shrewdly observed moments apparently seemed insufficient to the creative team, who insisted on lots of extra….fiddling.

To begin with, the roles that five of the nine cast members portray during any performance are chosen by lottery (we see the performers line up in front of the stage behind the lottery cage – that’s what’s being pictured in the photograph above.) There are 120 possible combinations of role assignments, we’re told, and the five actors have memorized all the roles. (The night I saw the show, the character of Everybody was portrayed by Louis Cancelmi.) The reason for the lottery? An usher explains: “It is required that the actor’s roles be decided by lottery every night in an attempt to more closely thematize the randomness of death while also destabilizing pre-conceived notions about identity, blah blah blah…”

(Just to be clear, the “blah blah blah” is hers, not mine.)

The “usher” also turns out to be God. Jocelyn Bioh portrays them, and later in the show also plays Understanding. (Bioh is one of the four actors who don’t have to submit to the lottery.)

Some of the time the characters talk in complete darkness. Other times, the house lights go up, and stay up, during whole scenes. The actors don’t stay on stage, or even in the front of the theater, but often travel to the back, forcing the playgoers to twist around if we want to see what’s going on. Until the last few minutes of the 100-minute play, when there are a couple of surprising and entertaining stage effects, Laura Jellinek’s set design is simply a row of seats on stage that look exactly like the ones on which we’re sitting.

What is the message here – that life is difficult and dreary, so this show will be too?

The playwright also gives his characters too much to say that is digressive, repetitious or overlong (As terrific as it is, Friendship’s monologue is three times longer than my excerpt) – and there are several bouts of meta-theatrical interruption. Perhaps Jacobs-Jenkins is saying that modern life complicates things, and undercuts itself. We can no longer have a simple instructive play like “Everyman” anymore.

Maybe he’s even offering a counterargument to all those less benign people who are looking to impose their “strict” interpretations of old texts on 21st century life.

The result of what seems to be a kind of creative over-thinking, though, is that unlike the aim of its 15th century source, “Everybody” is not for everybody.

 

Everybody
Signature Theater
by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins; Directed by Lila Neugebauer
Set design by Laura Jellinek, costume design by Gabriel Berry, Lighting design by Matt Frey, music and sound design by Brandon Wolcott, choreographed by Raja Feather Kelly
Cast Jocelyn Bioh, Brooke Bloom, Michael Braun, Marylouise Burke, Louis Cancelmi, Lilyana Tiare Cornell, David Patrick Kelly, Lakisha Michelle May and Chris Perfetti
Running time: 100 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: $30 until March 14, $40 afterwards
Everybody runs through March 19.

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

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