Love Lessons From The Stage

Looking for love on all the wrong stages? Theatergoers have found useful lessons about love from Death of A Salesman, Les Miserables, Follies, Ragtime, Mame, and one of three newly opened shows, "Hearts Like Fists"

Looking for love on all the wrong stages? Theatergoers have found useful lessons about love from Death of A Salesman, Les Miserables, Follies, Ragtime, Mame, and one of three newly opened shows, “Hearts Like Fists”

Can theater teach us anything about love?

Three very different shows I reviewed this week all believe so – the Flux Theatre Ensemble’s production of “Hearts Like Fist,” “The Drunken City” at the WorkShop Theater, and, most oddly, David Mamet’s “The Anarchist”

They are certainly not alone in this faith — although, to paraphrase the Waylon Jennings song, one has to wonder whether we’ve been looking for love on all the wrong stages:

Monica Bauer says she learned about love from “Death of A Salesman,” which “taught me that love survives even after respect is gone: Biff will always love Willy, as Willy loved Biff.”

Rebecca McNew says that both “Les Misérables” and “Phantom of the Opera”  taught her about “love that forgives regardless of wrongs.”

Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout says he learned about love from “‘Follies,’ God help me–but I prefer not to say what.”

Debra Winger to Patti LuPone in The Anarchist :Do I lack love?

Debra Winger to Patti LuPone in The Anarchist: “Do I lack love?”/ “Of course you do.”

The strangest of the newly staged love lessons is from  David Mamet’s “The Anarchist” at the John Golden Theater on Broadway, which stars Patti LuPone as Cathy, a radical activist in prison for murder for 35 years, seeking to be released on parole by Ann, an unspecified official about to retire, played by Debra Winger.  Although Ann primarily interrogates and Cathy mostly justifies,  the conversation is in no way all in one direction.

Cathy, a Jew who has found Jesus in prison, says she wants to save Ann.  Ann, like Cathy, is attracted to other women – so Cathy (and the playwright) imply – and has been repressing this love. One of the less abstruse exchanges:

Cathy: Would you like me to set you free?

Ann: How would you set me free?….How am I bound?

Cathy: Will you answer me?

Ann: You wrote “The troubled cannot be freed by psychiatry.” That they do not lack psychiatry.

Cathy: That’s right

Ann: “…they lack love.” Do I lack love?

Cathy: Of course you do.

Ann: I lack love…

Cathy: That’s why you’re frightened.

Ann: I’m frightened. Why?

Cathy: Because you’re leaving.

Ann: Has my work here given me love?

Cathy: It’s given you structure. Which is to say, repression

Ann: Sexual repression?

Cathy: Of the need for love

"Hearts Like Fists" by Adam  Szymkowicz is a “superhero noir comedy about the dangers of love.”

“Hearts Like Fists” by Adam Szymkowicz is a “superhero noir comedy about the dangers of love.”


Playwright Adam Szymkowicz makes his points about love and repression far more playfully in  “Hearts Like Fists” at the Secret Theater, which the Flux Ensemble describes as a “superhero noir comedy about the dangers of love.” Masked female CrimeFighers are trying to stop the demented Doctor X from terrorizing the city, injecting poison into happily sleeping couples. It turns out that Doctor X is jealous, having been thwarted in his pursuit of love. Each of the characters in this theatrical version of a graphic novel has their own battle with their attractions. As Flux artistic director August Schulenburg points out, the difficulty of love pushes people to “settle” for having a purpose in life, and the characters in “Hearts Like Fists” are “each trying to keep their balance between the pulls of purpose and passion.” If there is an overarching lesson, it is that you shouldn’t let past heartbreaks smack you down for good.

Adam Bock's "The Drunken City" -- friendship and liquor aren't always the best recipe for love.

Adam Bock’s “The Drunken City” — friendship and liquor aren’t always the best recipe for love.

In the revival of Adam Bock’s The Drunken City, three young women from a suburban town go bar-hopping in the big city as a bachelorette party. The one getting married stumbles upon a bank clerk from their town, who is still recovering from getting dumped a year earlier. Suddenly the two are locking lips, much to the shock of their friends, who call for reinforcements.  The bride-to-be starts to question her impending nuptials, angering her friends. In his sweet, comic way, Bock is making a point about how friends often enforce and impose their notions of love.

Other lessons of love from the stage, solicited via Twitter: What show, what lesson?

‪@DrHornetBupp Ragtime taught me love knows no religions, hatred or barriers.

V in V ‏‪@VictoriaInVerse “Next Fall,” by Geoffrey Nauffts says tons aboutt love – ie., learning to love others w/o bias or condition.

Mike Floyd @ObsrvatnlstNYC Company: We’re all experiencing the same shit.

Ellen Hassett Cahill‪ @eggsquared: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot: Forgiveness

Lisa Amand‏‪@Imnofoodie Chaplin: Childhood heartbreak is forever sad yet can fuel great art.

Lisa Waldrop ‏‪@lisawaldrop Mame, oddly enough…unlikely family alliances!

‪@barbiebackstage  Les Miserables: “To love another person is to see the face of God”


Chaplin Silenced, Anarchist Scolded, Dead Accounts Dead on Arrival

Katie Holmes, Ricky Martin, Chaplin, Patti LuPone, Debra Winger, Cicely Tyson all figure in this week in New York theater

Katie Holmes, Ricky Martin, Chaplin, Patti LuPone, Debra Winger, Cicely Tyson all figure in this week in New York theater

T’was not a great week to be jolly for many in New York theater, with stars leaving shows, closing announcements, and Broadway openings marred by pans.

On the other hand, there was some good news involving Cicely Tyson, Nathan Lane, playwright Amy Herzog and fans of The Lion King. Also below: a chance to weigh in on the worst Broadway show of 2012, and to test how well you were paying attention to theater news in November.

November 26, 2012

Holland Taylor as Ann Richards in "Ann"

Holland Taylor as Ann Richards in “Ann”

Holland Taylor will be starring on Broadway in the Lincoln Center Theater production of “Ann,”  about late Texas Gov Ann Richards, opening March 7

Quiz: What recent NYC show also featured Ann Richards?

Karen Wilson ‏(@akakarenwilson)” Pre-show speech at Urban Cowboy

Jonathan Mandell (@NewYorkTheater): Not what I was thinking, no

Patricia Milton ‏(@PatriciaMilton): Anna Deavere Smith played Ann Richards in “Let Me Down Easy” Off-B’way in 2009.

Scottish play, rainbow casting, ghost light. Know these theater terms? If not,check out TDF’s theater dictionary 

Tina Packer’s marathon “Women of Will” (about Shakespeare’s female characters) Jan-June 2013 at Gym at Judson 

Actor just starting out cast in what he discovers is incompetent unprofessional production asks: Should I quit? 

Daniel Bourque ‏@Danfrmbourque: Tough one early in career, especially for an actor. I’d say stick it out and then not go near company again.


Stephen Sondheim and Nathan Lane

Stephen Sondheim and Nathan Lane

Ricky Martin, Elena Roger and Michael Cerveris will all leave Evita after Jan 26. Show continues with unannounced new cast. Who will they have to get to keep Evita going after its stars leave in January?

Lights will dim on Broadway tonight for producer Marty Richards (Sweeney Todd, etc),  co-founder of Broadway Care/Equity Fights AIDS, who died yesterday at age 80

After 18 months, the unexpected hit Silence: The Musical, a spoof of the movie “Silence of the Lambs,” will close December 30th at the Elektra Theater in Times Square.

Nathan Lane will be host of the Symphonic Sondheim at the New York Philharmonic January 29

Audra McDonald to be new host of “Live From Lincoln Center” on PBS

Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson, by Kathie Lee Gifford

Parishioner at Aimee Semple McPherson’s church who met Kathie Lee leaves comment on my review of Scandalous: Kathie Lee Gifford “said she felt the show needed to be done and that God would use it.”

Worst-performing show on Broadway last week, by most measures (e.g. attendance down more than 40%!) was Scandalous

BackStageBarbie ‏@barbiebackstage oh geez. I have comps to use for that show. Sounds like I better get on before it closes.

Why is Scandalous still playing when theater is 2/3rds empty? Amway millionaires Dick and Betsy DeVos covering losses in hopes of a miracle turnaround in audience attendance.

William Akers ‏@ouijum I should send them one of my scripts. Gotta love producers with blind faith and deep pockets.


Do labels for artists “young” and “emerging” discriminate on basis of age and insult based on experience?

Kicked off Smash in March, Theresa Rebeck has a new play Dead Accounts opening Thursday. She talks about both Rebeck saw herself as the architect of Smash, she says; NBC saw her as the general contractor. “…you don’t fuck with the muse.

Government “invests” in manufacturing, says UK arts writer Louise Jury, but “subsidizes” the arts. “But both make things.”

TLK_988x238_102612Free Lion King exhibition this Saturday through Dec. 16. Mask-making etc


My Name Is Asher Lev: "You have a responsibility. Do you know what that responsibility is?" the art teacher (Mark Nelson) asks his student, an art prodigy who is also an Orthodox Jew (Ari Brand)

The arts teach kids creativity, confidence, problem-solving,perseverance, focus, collaboration, dedication

“To make theater, one must live in a state of crisis,” writes playwright & actor Michael Yichao  True?

My Name Is Asher Lev: What does it take to be an artist? What is the artist’s responsbility?

Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark began performances for the paying public two years ago today. (It opened 6 1/2 months later.)


August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson at Signature Theater is extending 3 weeks through January 13.

Crystal T. Johnson ‏@ArtsGift2Crys Yessss! I need tickets

DRG Records making cast recording of Roundabout Theater Company’s revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. In studio: Dec 10. Available: Jan 29

In 8 videos on Sony Masterworks “Legends of Broadway,” Sondheim discusses Gypsy, Follies,Into the Woods

Norbert Leo Butz and Katie Holmes in Dead Accounts on Broadway

Norbert Leo Butz and Katie Holmes in Dead Accounts on Broadway

My review of Dead Accounts

After departing “Smash,” the television series she created that looks with fluttering heart at the making of a Broadway musical, Theresa Rebeck apparently has changed her mind about New York City, judging from her inconsequential and oddly hostile new comedy, “Dead Accounts.”

….What was most entertaining for me about “Dead Accounts” was the mystery behind Norbert Leo Butz’s character – and the teasing, intriguing clues Rebeck sprinkles in the first act, with little surprises leading up to the biggest surprise.

And then the big surprise turns out to be a dud.

Full review of Dead Accounts


Neil LaBute is following up his Reasons to be Pretty with new play Reasons to Be Happy, which he will

ReasonstoBePretty direct for MCC Theater in 2013

Wendy Rosenfield ‏@WendyRosenfield Reason to be annoyed

David Robson ‏@davidrobsonplay Come on, you know you love him.


November 2012 New York Theater Quiz

Sample Q: In a review of what work did Isherwood use the word “Weltanschauung”? http://

December 1

The Worst Broadway Show of 2012? Vote in the poll:

Stage Acting Tips: e.g. keep a notebook, read the play out loud at least 3 times, don’t drink cold water 

Glenda Jackson: Acting is not about dressing up. Acting is about stripping bare


Happy 87th birthday,Julie Harris,winner of 6 Tonys,veteran of 33 Broadway shows, co-star w/James Dean, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando

“Degrassi: The Next Generation” star Epstein to play Peter Parker/Spider-man in “Spider-man: Turn Off The Dark” Saturday and Sunday matinee performances beginning Dec. 8


Patti LuPone and Debra Winger in David Mamet's "The Anarchist" on Broadway got reviews that will be difficult for the production to quote.

David Mamet will not be quoting reviews of The Anarchist in ads

“a wearying lecture”…”strangely gassy”…”restrained to the point of somnambulance”…”drone on and on”

CicelyTysoninTheCornIsGreenCicely Tyson returns to Broadway after 30 years in revival of Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful, opening April, 2013 Sondheim Theater. The last time she was on Broadway was in “The Corn Is Green” in 1983.

Amy Herzog has won fourth annual NY Times Outstanding Playwright Award for After the Revolution, about radical family,

Chaplin, starring Rob McClure, is closing

Chaplin, starring Rob McClure, is closing

Chaplin will close after 24 previews and 136 regular performances.

@ChaplinBway With heavy hearts, we announce our final perf, Jan 6.

The announcement that Chaplin is closing comes a day before its cast recording becomes downloadable, 5 days before CD available

Broadway audiences: 2/3rds female, almost 2/3rds tourists. Almost half buy tickets online., according to a new report from The Broadway League.

Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean sings Who Am I in Les Miserables Movie