Race, class and real estate: In 'Clybourne Park,' an answer to Hansberry both comic and dead serious
"It's race. Isn't it?" asks Steve, a white man who encounters resistance from his new neighbors after buying a house in a black suburb of Chicago. "You're trying to tell me that … that implicit in what you said … that this entire conversation … isn't at least partially informed—am I right?" He's the only character brave enough—or maybe foolish enough—to try to clarify the topic everyone is tiptoeing around. His high-strung wife Lindsey is appalled ("Half of my friends are black!" she blurts out), his neighbor Lena is offended ("I'm fairly certain I've just been called a racist!"), and everyone else is stunned.
Massacre was staged in 2007 at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, but the play has been reworked enough that this off-Broadway production is being billed as the “premiere” of a “new play.” Why now? Perhaps Rivera is trying to stir up some buzz around a television adaptation of Massacre calledMayhem, for which he’s written an HBO pilot. But if Mayhem is anything like Massacre, you’ll be reaching for the remote after those very impressive first five minutes.(1)
In this jukebox musical disguised as a play, the music might be the biggest disappointment. Most of the songs are performed onstage as part of Garland's nightclub act (the onstage sextet sounds fantastic), but Quilter can't resist using some of them to comment on the action. He devises a scene where Mickey angrily walks out on a drug-addled Garland just so she can sing—of course—"The Man That Got Away." If that sounds a bit too on the nose, wait until she serenades a bottle of pills with "You Made Me Love You."(1)
Young British theatrical wunderkind Matt Charman debuts new play, 'Regrets,' stateside, to little effect
The 32-year-old playwright is being hailed as one of Britain’s most promising young playwrights, with three commissions from the National Theater in London under his belt. But there’s not much about Regrets that’s promising: the characters are thin, the emotions are shallow, and neither of the play’s two distinctive subjects—divorce colonies and the McCarthy-era Red Scare—gets explored in any more depth than you’ll find in the average Wikipedia entry.
At Lincoln Center’s Library for the Performing Arts, the vagaries of time, of shifting critical reputation, the many hues of theatrical “truth,” all hover around Star Quality, the Library’s new Noël Coward exhibition. Coward’s singular theatrical world—acerbic, irreverent, and yet gossamer—is brought memorably to life.
''Tis Pity She's a Whore,' a bloody, presciently modern work by 17th-century playwright John Ford, opens at BAM
The seventeenth-century English playwright John Ford is currently enjoying a real moment in the New York theater. One month after Theatre for a New Audience staged his bloody tragedy The Broken Heart at the Duke on 42nd Street, another of Ford’s plays has opened in a new production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. This time, it’s his most famous work, the equally grisly 'Tis Pity She’s A Whore, presented by the British company Cheek by Jowl under the direction of Declan Donnellan.
The play charms at first, especially since the early scenes are directed at a rapid clip by Sam Gold and played with casual sarcasm by Cameron Scoggins and Phoebe Strole. But the exhausting pace can’t last the whole evening—it’d be like watching a flip-book for 90 minutes—and once The Big Meal slows down, it loses its distinctiveness.
The Maids, which Genet loosely based on a real-life murder case, is a challenging piece. Rather than recount the details of the case, Genet imagines the heightened emotions that might lead two young women to commit such a heinous crime. Without a strong enough point of view from a director, the 1947 play can come across as overexcited or, as is the case here, tedious.
In a revival of Tina Howe's 'Painting Churches,' Kathleen Chalfant nails her Boston blueblood matron
Kathleen Chalfant, undoubtedly the right choice to play Fanny, never raises her voice during the entire monologue. Sometimes speaking barely above a whisper, Chalfant conveys not only her character's anger, but also her frustration and, finally, her resignation. It's as if she's passing through all the stages of grief right before your eyes.
A compelling exploration of deafness is stifled on the stage (in much the same way as its protagonist) by a boring, self-involved family
Christopher and Beth’s three adult children have all moved back home. While this might sound cozy for some families, it’s far from it for this quirky, argumentative English clan: “Why am I surrounded by my children again?” Christopher asks, in front of all of them. “When are you going to fuck off?”
For the first half hour of the play, which consists of exhausting, self-centered yammering around the dining room table, the audience is wondering the same thing.
From the playwright behind Sundance hit 'Bachelorette,' a new and biting tale of assistants to an evil, unseen boss
We've already seen plenty of stories about horrible bosses (Horrible Bosses, for instance) but Assistance manages to feel fresh. Perhaps it's because while most similar stories focus on the antagonism between the big wigs and the wide-eyed peons whom they torture, here the focus remains exclusively on the interactions between the people at the very bottom of the corporate ladder. In fact, the boss—a mogul whose exact occupation is never revealed—is never seen or heard. Imagine The Devil Wears Prada if it didn't need the devil to work. Or the Prada.
The fact that the play freakishly transforms the good-looking actor Alfredo Narciso into someone hideous is not so much the point. Rather, the fun—and the force—of Von Mayenburg’s deft absurdist conceit is that, with the precision of a plastic surgeon, he detaches the concept of ugliness itself from any individual human face, thus giving us an opportunity to regard ugliness, and its power, in the abstract.
The resignation of the Times’ top editors is an interesting story for people who care deeply about newspapers and pay attention to mastheads; but the fact that a young man with a questionable background could and would intentionally fool those editors—and many many readers—for so long, lying and cheating his way to the top of the nation’s most respected newspaper, abusing even the people who tried to help him the most, is a far grander story about the very core of human morality, and it is relevant to every American, even those who don’t read the Times.
Uncle Peck could easily come across as a monster, but luckily he's played this time around by Norbert Leo Butz, an actor who brings an amiability to every role he plays, from the self-centered novelist in The Last Five Years to the gruff F.B.I. agent in Catch Me If You Can. He also exudes a sense of sadness that's always just below the surface. It's hard to imagine an actor more suited to play Uncle Peck, who is basically a decent man fighting a losing battle against his demons.
Tokio Confidential may not have the elements of a typical Broadway musical: no sing-along show-stoppers, no feel-good happy ending. But instead of bombast and melodrama, it has human characters, a real plot, and an honest heart.