Two limited-run shows skip the Abba and disco singalongs to tap the genre's grittier, raunchier and more sexually adventurous roots. The performers couldn’t be more different, but they both embody the joyful and incendiary spirit of drag that sometimes seems to have been doused for eternity in big wet choruses of "I Love the Nightlife."
There’s a lot of science in Itamar Moses’s play. It’s all explained well enough, but sometimes it feels like sitting through an A.P. class. What keeps it from getting too cerebral is the emotional and very human rhythm of the romance, sometimes synchronous, sometimes adversarial.
Jane Houdyshell brings a sly sense of humor and a surprisingly powerful set of pipes to "Broadway Baby," but Bernadette Peters doesn't seem to have the patience to slowly reveal her character's inner sadness. It's already there when she makes her first entrance, so Sally has nowhere to go. "Losing My Mind," her torch song that comes late in the second act, doesn't tell us anything we don't already know.
This is what Elevator Repair Service does—and did last year in the award-winning Gatz, the company's seven-hour version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, staged at the Public Theater. If it seems like a natural progression from Fitzgerald to Hemingway—their books came out about the same time, and they were friends, even if their styles were arguably opposite—this adaptation from a novel is handled slightly differently.
"Are there more plots to unravel?" wonders the title character in this revival of Cymbeline. It's one of the evening's biggest laughs, and it's hard to imagine that audiences in Shakespeare's day weren't also guffawing at this point. After all, Shakespeare wasn't even halfway through with his last-minute plot twists.
Even the fact that another season is getting underway in which revivals and reinterpretations seem to rule feels like a story we've told before.
Some revivals are at least bringing back something we haven't seen in a long time. Godspell has been the stuff of high-school musical-theater productions for three decades now, and finally is back on Broadway; On a Clear Day You Can See Forever is being staged for the first time since 1966—with a new book, and starring Harry Connick Jr.
You’ve probably never met anyone with a story like Aaron Berg’s, but (especially if you’re a gay New Yorker) you’ve probably met lots of people with a story like Dan Horrigan’s.
Busch wrote his latest play with actor Marcia Jean Kurtz in mind, and you can see why. It’s a difficult role, as Olive doesn’t let up on the kvetching until the last scene. Kurtz keeps the volume turned up, but now and then lets the audience see her sensitive side. That's why we stay in our seats and stick with Olive until the last scene, even as the characters on the stage throw their hands up in frustration and manage an exit.(4)
In 1996 the landmark rock musical about AIDS was remarkable for how well it reflected downtown life at the time. (Hold the snark about how much grittier it really was downtown. We’re talking about Broadway, where a stage adaptation of Big mounted the same season and was considered risky, and the other big offerings were revivals of Hello Dolly! and The King and I.)
In its new incarnation, Rent remains largely unchanged in its content, although like everything these days it's been downsized to a 500-seat off-Broadway theater. But its tale of youthful alienation and artists struggling to survive in a brutal era filled with drugs and disease seems like a time capsule from a long-forgotten age.
McNally’s stroke of genius was to give us Callas not as she was in these sessions—lighthearted and generous, if sometimes stern—but as we wanted to imagine her: A dominating diva whose way with withering criticism was outmatched only by her mastery of the blunt weapon of faint praise.(2)
Another play about Harvard's secret 1920 gay purge succeeds where the last failed, and fails where it succeeded
To preserve its own reputation even as it destroyed so many others', Harvard University sealed records of hearings the school held in 1920 to investigate, expose and expel a network of gay students. In 2002, a student reporter unearthed them. Classic Stage Company brings this story to light in Unnatural Acts, conceived and directed by Tony Speciale.
The playwright's After the Revolution made a splash last year at Playwrights Horizons (I reviewed it here in November); and there, too, a grandparent and grandchild are tasked to find common ground when politics clash. But where After the Revolution served as a rather large interrogation of 90's politics, 4000 Miles, now playing at the Duke on 42nd, is a smaller play about a particular relationship.
Dusting off the little-remembered works of Tennessee Williams is a tricky business. Almost all of the many plays revived this season in honor of the playwright’s 100th birthday are from late in his career, written in the years he was slowly drinking himself to death.
They’re hardly the work of a writer at the top of his game.
But Williams wrote the short story “One Arm” in 1950, when he was just hitting his stride. Written the year after he made a dazzling debut on Broadway with The Glass Menagerie, it concerns a former boxer named Ollie who supports himself as a street hustler after a disfiguring car accident. The story was clearly very personal for Williams, who later turned it into a screenplay.
What's "summer reading?" We don't know. But we know there's a kind of book that N.Y.U. students, Broadway tourists and wandering East Village theater nerds browsing the stacks at Shakespeare & Co. Booksellers on Broadway at Washington Place are looking for right now that has something to do with the season.