Scene: July '12
What? A self-proclaimed preacher rents a storefront to set up a church and draws his landlady, her husband, the borough president & the bankers into his "black hole" of despair, leading at least a few of them to an increased self-awareness.
When? July 1, '12
Where? Atlantic Theater Company, NYC
Why? The playwright, John Patrick Shanley (Doubt) and the cast, especially Tonya Pinkins, who I've wanted to see on stage for years.
Well? A rather fascinating window into family, faith, community and personal relationships. The cast was just a treat; and the minimalist set and staging maximized the starkness of the dilemmas, and the murkiness of the resolutions. Giancarlo Esposito was fantastic as the borough president in personal, professional and spiritual crisis. I really do love these plays that are spare in set but complex and rich in character development and relationships.
Rapture Blister Burn
What? A successful "feminist" author returns to her hometown and unexpectedly rekindles her romance with her ex, who married her best friend after graduate school. Problem is that he is still married and his wife is trying to deal with issues in their marriage and her own questions about her life choices. Add a young student with a current perspective on the roles and choices for women, and the author's mom into the mix and you have twists, turns and laughs, while still addressing some very serious topics.
When? July 1, '12
Where? Playwrights Horizons
Why? The subject matter really appealed to me, word-of-mouth was great, and I'd been wanting to see a show at this theatre space.
Well? Brilliantly funny, clever, spot on reflections on being a woman in this society in the wake of the feminist movement of the 70s and how "feminism" has been understood and interpreted by today's young women. I enjoyed Amy Brennamen, but particularly loved the performances of Kelley Overbey as the stay-at-home mom and Virginia Kull as the college student trying to integrate the past and present realities of being female.
What? A returning Viet Nam war vet moves in with a ditzy blonde and a tomboyish brunette with issues. Their neighbor is a bad 80s Saturday Night Fever cliche and their landlords are a couple with a lecherous husband and a loony wife. Yep, it's the ghost of "Three's Company" where every character is haunted by their damaged psyches.
When? July 9, '12
Where? Rattlestick Theatre Company
Why? Very positive buzz and Anna Chulmsky is in the cast.
Well? I'm not sure this one worked for me. It was disturbing on a number of levels and I don't think the emotional pay-off was there. While I thought that there were some quite brilliant moments, there were more times when it felt through-the-looking-glass odd. And a couple of the characters were just plain ugly; e.g., the homophobic, sexually-abusive, vitriolic landlord. That all said, the cast was amazing ~ completely naked emotionally, and absolutely fearless. My overall reaction is that this was a fascinating concept that was not fully realized.
What? A young girl in crisis seeks a haven with her uncle in Costa Rica; meanwhile he has his own reasons for his reclusive life. Together they begin to heal.
When? July 14, 2012
Where? The Claire Tow Theatre at Lincoln Center
Why? I have loved Zeljko Ivanek since his role on Damages, and wanted to see him on stage. This was an important factor, but I also liked the idea of the initmate Claire Tow theatre at Lincoln Center.
Well? Surprisingly hilarious considering the raw emotions from the characters and the painful context of the story. The story unfolded slowly and I swung between being anxious to know what would happen next and being afraid of what that would be. The generation gap made for many of the laughs, as Becky essentially has no filter as she makes conversation with her Uncle Sterling, who has the double challenge of being of a different age and being rusty at interacting with someone on a daily basis as his life is mostly solitary and reclusive. Each of them "reads" each other's souls and unspoken thoughts, and eventually, over the long but too short week, becomes the bond that begins the healing.
Macbeth, National Theatre of Scotland
What? From the Lincoln Center website: "One of Shakespeare’s most deeply psychological plays is given a riveting, utterly original reimagining by the National Theatre of Scotland. Tony Award–winning Scottish star of stage, film, and television Alan Cumming returns to Lincoln Center with a one-man interpretation of Shakespeare’s Scottish play.Directed by John Tiffany and Andrew Goldberg, this Macbeth is set in the clinical green-tiled room of a psychiatric ward in which Cumming is the lone patient, inhabiting each role himself, including some of Shakespeare’s most complex and troubled characters."
When? July 14, '12
Where? Lincoln Center Festival
Why? Alan Cumming
Well? I don't even know how to put words to what this actor did on that stage. Every single second of this performance was riveting. Although there were actors playing the doctor and attendant caring for Cumming's patient, they were superfluous. The soaring, multimedia, institutional set was chilling, and Cumming veered wildly around the stage from bed to bathtub to spinning office chair and from character to character. Guilt, ambition and paranoia filled the air in the theatre even when no words were spoken and he somehow made you feel the stage was filled with multiple people and yet no one at the same time. I will never forget seeing this.
What? New musical based on a film of the same name. On the eve of their deployment to Viet Nam, four Marines who have become friends challenge each other to find the ugliest girl they can and bring her to a party~guy who brings the girl judged "ugliest" wins the pool, and the girls are not told the "rules." Problems arise when one of the guys starts to see the girl he invited in a different light and when she finds out what's really going on, they each have to face the realities of their lives and what they want from life and from each other.
When? July 15, '12
Where? Second Stage Theatre, New York City
Why? A cast & creative team to die for: Tony-winning choreographer Chris Gatelli (Newsies); Tony-winning director/actor Joe Mantello directing and two fabulous Godspell cast vets, Lindsey Mendez & Nick Blaemire.
Well? This is a most unlikely premise for a musical but might have one of the loveliest scores, and some of the most endearing lead characters, I've encountered in a long time. There is an intimacy to the show and Lindsay Mendez & Derek Klena, as the unlikely couple, somehow made me believe in their love story. Lindsay's Rose is far from a victim and yet you feel her pain and admire her strength as she processes her dream "first date" turning to a nightmare.
Ghost The Musical (2nd time)
What? From the show website: "GHOST is a new musical adapted from the hit film by its Academy Award®-winning screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin and directed by Tony Award® winner Matthew Warchus (God of Carnage, The Norman Conquests). The original score is by multiple Grammy® Award winners Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) and Glen Ballard, and includes the iconic "Unchained Melody" by The Righteous Brothers. GHOST is a timeless fantasy about the power of love. The story follows Sam and Molly, a young couple whose connection takes a shocking turn after Sam's untimely death. Trapped between two worlds as a ghost, Sam refuses to leave Molly when he learns she is in grave danger. Desperate to communicate with her, he turns to a storefront psychic, Oda Mae, who helps him protect Molly and avenge his death."
When? July 21, 2012
Where? The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
Why? I loved this show when I saw the preview performances during the press event and even more when I saw it the first time during previews. I knew it wasn't pulling in the crowds and wanted to see it again before it closed.
Well? I am disappointed that I did not enjoy the show as much on the second outing. I wasn't drawn into the emotion in the same way; and the things I did not care for initially, such as the choreography and the ensemble costumes, still didn't make me happy. That said, the special effects really are amazing and wonderful, as well as being used organically in the story. My favorite scenes are still those with Oda Mae and the scene where Sam "confronts" Carl in his office. DaVine Joy Brown played Oda Mae for the first act, but her voice was clearly ailing even as she was speaking her lines. Moya Angela took over for the second act and, while she did a serviceable job, I thought her performance came across more as caricature than authentically comic. Caissie Levy, Richard Fleeshman & Bryce Pinkham continue to be an incredibly strong team with great chemistry.
What? From the show website: "Bonnie has promised God she’ll save every little soul in her Appalachian Kindergarten class, and if that means risking her job, or happens to trigger her chronic back pain – well, so be it. Neil, the new chiropractor in town, sees things differently. A gay, new-age transplant from Brooklyn, Neil is over the moon when his first treatment turns out to be a miracle cure. But Bonnie is feeling things she hasn’t felt in years and has a different response: “Put me back.” The moment Neil refuses, they’re off … and another epic battle in the Culture Wars is ON."
When? July 21, '12
Where? Pershing Theatre Center at Signature Theatre, NYC
Why? Interesting premise and they promoted themselves well on Twitter. It matters.
Well? What an unexpectedly charming show! The two actors brought a great deal of authenticity and warmth to these quirky characters, and the story had some unexpected layers. Bonnie and Neil are each damaged in their own way, and each seems to have the key to what the other needs to start healing. It was funny and touching and surprising. Morgan Weed (Bonnie), has a beautiful voice as well, and both she and Jed Resnick (Neil) moderated their performances skillfully to the intimate theatre space.
What? From the show website: "Michael Ogborn's fantasmagoric retelling of the Charles Lindbergh, Jr. kidnapping and subsequent murder trial, the first true media circus of the 20th Century."
When? July 21, '12
Where? Pershing Theatre Center at Signature Theatre, NYC
Why? Another intriguing premise for a musical; and it featured a wonderful actor from the Godspell cast, so I had a good feeling about its potential.
Well? The Lindbergh baby kidnapping and murder in the early '30s might seem an odd choice for a musical. But as it turns out, it has it all: a true story, interesting historical context, great period for musical theatre inspiration and compelling characters. The show used its small cast brilliantly, and I enjoyed every single performance from the leads to the secondary characters, each of whom played several parts. By intermission, I wanted a cast recording...that's how much I loved the music and lyrics to this show. And I loved just about everything else too. The voices in this cast were fantastic and the use of reprises of songs worked exceptionally well to link the stories of the two acts together; the first act told the story of the crime, and the second act told the story of the search, conviction and execution of the man accused of the crime (his guilt highly debatable as it turns out).
What? From the show website: "PLAYING TO SOLD OUT HOUSES all over the world, the Olivier Award nominated POTTED POTTER – The Unauthorized Harry Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff takes on the ultimate challenge of condensing all seven Harry Potter books (and a real life game of Quidditch) into seventy hilarious minutes. Even if you don’t know the difference between a horcrux and a Hufflepuff,POTTED POTTER will make you roar with laughter.Written and performed by two-time Olivier Award-nominated actors Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner, Potted Potter is perfect for ages six to Dumbledore (who is very old indeed)."
When? July 22, '12
Where? The Little Shubert Theatre
Why? It just seemed like fun and I'm a Potter fan, so there you go...:)
Well? It was fun and would be perfect if you're looking for something the kids will enjoy. The length (70-80 minutes) is shorter than most Broadway fare and the humor is slapstick. There is audience participation (a game of beach ball Quidditch :)) with children picked from the crowd as Seekers for Quidditch. Dan & Jeff are extremely likable and Jeff, especially, is a master at working the crowd. I don't think I'd skip another show in NYC to see this if you don't have kids to entertain; but if you have a free show slot and you're familiar with the books, it's worth it.
What? From the show website: "Dizzy Miss Lizzie's Roadside Revue pays a visit to their favorite 19th century writers, the Brontes, and cooks up a Yorkshire pudding of music, dance and theatrical tomfoolery. Come see Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell Bronte trade Victorian repression for rock and roll expression.
Where? Capital Fringe Festival 2012
When? July 29, '12
Why? I wanted to sample at least one show from the Fringe festival and this got some very good word of mouth and just sounded like fun :).
Well? The extreme heat in the tent space made the high energy, totally committed performances of this cast all the more amazing. This unusual combination of concert and theatre worked so well; a darkly comic look at the four Bronte siblings and their work (or lack thereof in the case of the brother) told in songs and vignettes, it was laugh out loud funny as well as being tuneful. The star of the cast, for me, was Dani Stoller as Emily Bronte; I loved her voice and every raised eyebrow and the attention to detail in her performance no matter where or for how long she was on stage. This show was a rousing good time :).
The Normal Heart (2nd & 3rd times; first times on tour)
What? From the show website: "The story of a city in denial, THE NORMAL HEART unfolds like a real-life political thriller—as a tight-knit group of friends refuses to let doctors, politicians and the press bury the truth of an unspoken epidemic behind a wall of silence. A quarter-century after it was written, this outrageous, unflinching, and totally unforgettable look at the sexual politics of New York during the AIDS crisis remains one of the theatre’s most powerful evenings ever. It won the 2011 Tony Award® for Best Revival of a Play."
Where? Arena Stage Washington, DC
When? July 27 & July 29, 2012
Why? Seeing this revival on Broadway in 2011 was one of the highlights of all my years of going to the theatre, so I knew I wanted to see the Arena Stage production after it began to tour.
Well? I don't really know how to do this production justice. The acting was uniformly fantastic and the play is raw and painful and moving and true. Two of the original cast members, Patrick Breen and Luke McFarlane, each moved successfully from supporting to leading roles. I saw Patrick Breen in "Next Fall" a few years ago and loved him, so I was thrilled to see him step into Joe Mantello's role from the Broadway production. I loved Joe Mantello's performance and can honestly say that Patrick was equally wonderful. Patricia Wettig played the role played by Ellen Barkin on Broadway, and Chris J. Hanke from "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" played the role played by Jim Parsons in the Broadway run. Both were great additions to the cast.
Each night I saw the play, the audience was audibly weeping and on their feet in tribute before the lights had come up on the cast bows. This is a testament to the talent of the actors, and their willingness to bare their souls; and to how authentically the harsh reality of that painful history is told in this play.