Category Archives: Theatre

Pulse Racing Events

Just when I thought the season was dull come some pulse racing events:
August Wilson’s THE PIANO LESSON, Ivo van Hove’s ROMAN TRAGEDIES, Steven Spielberg’s LINCOLN and Joe Wright’s ANNA KARENINA.

Classics all, at least two, and possibly three of them are based on classics, Wilson’s play having achieved, with this fine production, that rank too. A play that illustrates Toni Morrison’s principles in PLAYING IN THE DARK, the Signature production features fine ensemble acting, a ghost or two as actors, and the stunning family collaboration of Berenice and Boy Willie in exorcizing the past.

ROMAN TRAGEDIES is a once in a lifetime event: 6 hours of Shakespeare, in Dutch that manages to lucidly present CORIOLANUS, JULIUS CAESAR, and ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, defamiliarizing them through the necessary (it’s in Dutch!) use of ample video screens and audiences on the set to the tune of hundreds who come and go, as characters do, as the histories unroll.

One can only second widespread admiration for Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln: the role of a lifetime in a history lesson that comes alive through Tony Kushner’s lucid and affecting screenplay. ANNA KARENINA got some bad reviews but trust this Tolstoy lover when she says that this a great, visually stunning adaptation of a big baggy monster of a novel that allows the complexity of the male characters to come through, though it opts to make Anna a woman in love for whom love means self-immolation; she’s a woman who breaks the rules, knowingly and willingly but then lacks the strength to face the consequences.

Sub theme throughout: strong women, not least of whom are Cleopatra, Mary Todd Lincoln (I know her problems… but she’s a power), and Doris Kearns Goodwin who toughed out a minor scandal to inspire LINCOLN, the triumphant film.

Blazing Theatrical Comets

I went as a fan of War and Peace but emerged with a new understanding of NY theater now.  Over and again in recent years, I’ve had to say that what’s on Broadway is thin and to recommend this-little-show-in-an-”unusual”-space: Sleep No More in the Mc Kittrick Hotel, These Seven Sicknesses at the Flea, and now Pierre, Natasha, and the Great Comet of 1812.

Theatre is happening everywhere in the city and, perhaps most vibrantly, in said little out-of-the-way theaters. There is so much talent in NY that it cannot squeeze anymore into the expensive, years-consuming, investor-courting space that is Broadway.  The kind of revitalization of theater that has happened from time to time in NYC and elsewhere is happening now.

What you’re hearing in my post is not the usual Broadway is dead complaint:  it’s not dead and a lot of great things play in the not-for-profit and smaller houses near 42nd Street as well as, from time to time, in the larger traditional Broadway houses. But the scene is once again a scene, with small, unconventional spaces (or larger ones like the Mc Kittrick).

Actors mixing with the audience and improvising scenery and action, sometimes by co-opting the audience’s space. Pop rhythms infusing old forms, like Tolstoy’s 19th-century novel and high opera. Energy everywhere. Talent bursting at the seams—so much that it seems able to fill the stage for decades.  Do you hear excitement?  I am feeling it.