“House For Sale” is the story of Franzen going back home to Missouri to take care of the house his recently deceased mother spent half of her life putting together; the house where Franzen himself was “the only person in the family who’d had a full childhood.” For House For Sale, Fish presents Franzen’s essay in the voices of five actors—Rob Campbell, Merritt Janson, Lisa Joyce, Christina Rouner, and Michael Rudko. Each is cued to read with special sets of lights that, when particular colored bulbs are illuminated, direct specific actors to read a section of the text. But, the playbill explains, the cues aren’t planned in advance; they are determined live so none of the actors know quite when they will be called on.(6)
As sparring partners, Letts and Morton are more than evenly matched. Any time either of them seems to get the upper hand, the other lands a crushing blow. And although fists and voices are often raised, most of the war is waged with words. These are the "quips with a sting" and "jokes with a sneer" that Stephen Sondheim would write about a decade later in Follies.
Composer Dave Malloy has created one of the most dramatically intriguing and musically daring pieces of theater you'll see this season. Part of the trio of writer-performers behind the 2010 show Three Pianos, a riff on Franz Schubert's Winterreise song cycle that also featured free alcohol (is there a pattern here?), Malloy has already demonstrated that he knows how to create a score that's varied and dynamic, recalling well-known styles while staying contemporary and cohesive.
Plenty of people strolled in and out of the Public’s glitzy new lobby. More sat on the steps or on chairs outside listening to the outdoor performances. From noon to 5 p.m., every hour on the hour, a new performer took the stage outside, selected from a roster of Joe’s Pub artists. “Hello! How’s everybody doing?” Tony Trischka said between songs. “It’s a huge pleasure to be here for this grand refurbishment of the Public Theater. The Public Theater is such an amazing organization. And they had the very good taste of doing a bluegrass version of As You Like It for Shakespeare in the Park.”(1)
He's as likable as always, which seems wrong for a character who intimidates his wife and bullies strangers about their religious beliefs. When Steve snaps, it's because the script says so, not because his character was heading there on his own—at least not the way Rudd has played him.
David Levine’s Habit stages the most deliberately conventional of plays within a set of totally unconventional contexts: an art installation in a warehouse gallery space. The play, titled Children of Kings, is by one of the leading lights of the downtown playwriting scene, Jason Grote, and was written specifically for Habit. There's no unit-set living room built on a proscenium stage. Instead the house is a fully three-dimensional, free-standing structure installed in the Lower East Side’s Essex Street Market. The structure is stocked with everything required for the play to unfold, and from within this enclosure, the actors perform the 90-minute play repeatedly for eight hours at a time.
The secrets she reveals range from the small to the enormous—from your grandfather wasn’t really your grandfather to millions of Armenians were murdered by the Turks in 1915—as the scope of the play vacillates between a family drama and the history of the Armenian genocide. But the minor revelations come off as predictable, mechanically paced bits of earnest drama, while the major revelations seem jarring and melodramatic. And these revelations must carry the whole 90-minute, intermissionless play.
Against this backdrop, Playwrights Horizons is presenting Detroit, a new play by downtown stalwart Lisa D’Amour, directed by Anne Kauffman. With its action set in a suburb outside a mid-sized American city—“[n]ot necessarily Detroit”—D’Amour juxtaposes the specific fate of Motor City against the allegorical space of Anycity, USA, recalling the chilling prophesy of former Detroit mayor Coleman Young: “Detroit today is your town tomorrow.”(1)
The play, a one-act set during World World II that follows the lives of a hapless Jewish immigrant and his long-lost sweetheart inside a rundown Missouri boathouse, first debuted on Broadway on Feb. 20, 1980.
If a customizable watch band can get $10,266,846 in 30 days, surely these guys can pull through, right?
Then there are the older festivals that feel new precisely because they’ve managed to remain so effectively under the radar. This was my experience attending the seventh annual Bring a Weasel and a Pint of Your Own Blood Festival at the East 13th Street Theatre (a.k.a. Classic Stage Company’s usual theatre space) on Thursday night (performances continue through Saturday night). The Weasel Festival grew out of Brooklyn College’s playwriting M.F.A. program, and promises its attendees a chance to catch some of the city’s rising stars while they are still on the ascent.
Since his defection from the USSR in 1974, Baryshnikov’s career in the West has been largely an attempt to plumb possibilities unknown in the Soviet Union at the time he left (and he’s continued in that direction even since 1989). In much the same way that his Western career has often been a rebuke to his past, he’s been diffident until now about accessing his Russian experience. Now, the very fact that he speaks entirely in Russian and French in this theater piece must inevitably function as an act of reconciliation.
The sound is unobtrusively middle-of-the-road theater pop for the most part, which is fine; the few times the composers stray too far, the results aren’t pretty.
There’s a way to take explicit viciousness and blind hatred and turn them into hilarious comic farce—see, for instance, any number of Christopher Durang plays—but here, it’s more cringe-worthy than enlightening or uncomfortable in a telling way.
Like a lot of the battle-of-the-sexes comedies from this period, Love Goes to Press isn't really all that concerned with the women's careers. It focuses more on their love lives—specifically Annabelle's tempestuous relationship with an egotistical reporter (clearly based, although Gellhorn would later deny it, on her real-life marriage to Ernest Hemingway) and Jane's love for a British military man (who resembles Cowles' husband, an officer in the Royal Air Force).