Theater

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fiona Shaw's New York

Posted By on Thu, Dec 12, 2013 at 9:30 AM

fiona shaw bam selfie dressing room
  • Shaw in her dressing room at BAM
The great Irish actress Fiona Shaw has been wowing New York theatergoers for more than 20 years, best known most recently for her turn in The Testament of St. Mary on Broadway. (Or, you might know her as Harry Potter's Aunt Petunia, or the Wiccan coven leader on the fourth season of True Blood.) She's performed at BAM since 2002, and just started a run there of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (through December 22) in which—similar to her award-winning, one-woman performance of The Waste-Land in 1996—features her reading Coleridge on stage. Well, not reading so much as performing (alongside a dancer), "bounding across the stage while transforming Coleridge’s luminous language into an exhilarating lived experience," according to the theater. We talked with her about her favorite spots in New York, about Brooklyn vs. Manhattan, and what there is to learn from the subway system.

Where are you staying while you're doing Rime at BAM?
The Marriott in Brooklyn, which gives me a chance to discover a new New York.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Best New Play in New York, Starring 23 Tape Machines

Posted By on Tue, Dec 10, 2013 at 12:20 PM

The stars of Daniel Kitson's beautiful and conceptually brilliant show are 23 tape machines, ranging from ragged reel-to-reels to clumsy cassette decks. They start the show stacked on a shelf at the back of St. Ann's cavernous performance space; aided by occasional flashlight use, Kitson carries each to the front, plugs them into a spotlighted, centerstage mixing board, and flicks them on—or sometimes switches back to one he already set up—the fragments of prerecorded audio typically interweaving two typically Kitson-esque stories: that of 80-year-old Thomas Taplow, setting out to record his life story one afternoon in 1977 at the orders of his wife, who worries he may not have much time left; and that of Trudy, starting nearer the present, slogging through her sad life, obsessed with a tape fragment on which a man lays out a weird bit of his life story.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Are We Living in a Golden Age for Shakespeare Comedy?

Posted By on Wed, Dec 4, 2013 at 9:30 AM

much ado about nothing mobile shakespeare unit public theater az kelsey
The Public Theater's Much Ado About Nothing (through December 15) is the third I've seen this year, and while it's not the best, it can stand proudly with the rest, keeping company with exceptionally strong and funny productions. I'd venture to say we're living in an exceptional time for Shakespeare, especially in New York, especially his comedies; the city's actors and directors have mastered a manner of voicing Elizabethean verse in contemporary expression so that the jokes feel like they were written yesterday, the humor fresh despite its age, from Theater for a New Audience in Brooklyn to the Delacorte in Central Park.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Horror (and the Comedy!) of Edgar Allan Poe

Posted By on Tue, Nov 26, 2013 at 9:45 AM

The theater company Elevator Repair Service made its name with its adaptations of American modernist literary classics, but for a sold-out one-night show on Friday, Dreams Terrifically Disturbed, they dipped into something a little older, though no less American: Edgar Allan Poe, whose stories, letters and even a scene from an unfinished play they read at the Morgan Library and Museum. (The performance was related to a Poe exhibit that's up until January 26.) Poe is the godfather of scary stories, but it's hard to spook generations raised on horror movies with the written word. When master dramatics read it, though, the inherent horror becomes clear: this was Poe as it's meant to be experienced, easily shifting between tones—comedy, horror, curiosity—with the help of music and sound effects from actor Ben Williams, seated behind the cast on a MacBook (as he was during The Select).

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How Ethan Hawke Saves Macbeth

Posted By on Tue, Nov 26, 2013 at 9:25 AM

Usually it has none, but Broadway has had two Macbeths this year. The first featured Alan Cumming as the Gloomy Thane right after the action of the play, reliving the drama in a mental hospital, playing all the parts. It emphasized the Scottish play's drama and its language, highlighting its greatest passages and dialogues. In contrast, "I have chosen to concentrate on the imagery," the director, Jack O'Brien, writes in a program note of his production at Lincoln Center, which opened last week (through January 12). Often, this Macbeth is unadorned; it could be staged in a black box and not at the fancy Vivian Beaumont. At other times, though, it's overwrought: the smoky slo-mo battle sequence that begins the play; the New Age bagpipe music (!) that's used throughout; the flowers whose petals fall during Duncan's murder; the booming thunder. It comes across as Shakespeare for people who don't like Shakespeare, an introduction as opposed to Cumming's master class. It's lipstick on a pig—the production porcine insofar as it's bloated but also full of delicious meat.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Brooklyn's Leading Librettist on Bushwick and the Local Classical Scene

Posted By on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 9:45 AM

On Friday and Saturday, BAM will host 21c Liederabend, op. 3, two programs of art songs featuring some of the biggest up-and-comers in New York contemporary classical: Nico Muhly, David T. Little, Mohammed Fairouz, Ted Hearne, Christopher Cerrone, Marie Incontrera, and many others. Tying them all together is Royce Vavrek, the series' librettist-in-residence, who has worked with several of those composers. We spoke to him about what it's like to be a librettist in a composer's world, why so many young people in the classical world live in Brooklyn, and more.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why Did Everyone Want Spider-Man to Fail?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 11:59 AM

I never quite understood why everyone wanted Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark to fail. Before even the megabudget Broadway's musical's performers started falling from the rafters and breaking their bones, the theater community seemed outraged just by the price tag—many tens of millions of dollars and ever-growing, which had them licking their lips for blood. But, so what? Great work is being performed all over the city, on Broadway and far off, so much that it's impossible for anyone but the professional critic to see even just a lot of it. One blockbuster Broadway spectacle wasn't going to change the city's theater culture, or stop artists with a will from finding a way to get their work seen.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Has Julie Taymor Redeemed Herself After Spider-Man?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 5, 2013 at 11:31 AM

What a way to open a new theater: Julie Taymor's lavish and inventive production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (at Theatre for a New Audience's new Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Fort Greene through January 12) is the cheerful and elaborate kind with which you'd want to christen a space. It opens with a bed on a bare black stage into which crawls a small figure who evokes Joel Grey's Emcee and Robert Blake's Mystery Man with a shock of New Wave hair. Soon, tree branches emerge from a trap door, pushing the bed up to the rafters of the tall-ceilinged theater, and a white sheet extends out, covering the area of the long stage from high up in the air; a workman enters with a stage-chainsaw and "cuts down" the branches, the mysterious face-painted figure now disappeared 25 feet above the stage, held aloft by the sheet—all before the Duke of Athens has even announced that his nuptial hour draws on apace.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

More Like Julia Caesar

Posted By on Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 3:08 PM

Julius Caesar St. Anns Warehouse Donmar
It makes sense, given the political tumult worldwide, that you'd see an uptick in productions of Julius Caesar. But many of this year's haven't been particularly politically minded: yes, the Royal Shakespeare Company's all-black, pan-African production at BAM in April deliberately brought to mind that continent's problems with civil war and tyranny, but the Italian film Caesar Must Die, which reached New York in February, was set in a men's prison, and was more interested in "the real-life consequences of lies and betrayals among men who value power above all else," according to its press materials, than it was about the power plays of the political class. Similarly, Donmar Warehouse's all-female production, now at St. Ann's Warehouse (through November 9), is set in a women's prison, outside of the corridors of governance, instead pitching the machinations of gods and men and senators as the behavior of our lowest castes: not just convicts but women.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

<i>Fetch Clay, Make Man</i>: Resurrecting Stepin Fetchit

Posted By on Mon, Sep 16, 2013 at 11:48 AM

Fetch Clay Make Man Muhammad Ali play Stepin Fetchit
Stepin Fetchit has been all but erased from film history, a victim of both racism in Hollywood, which had no interest in the first black movie star playing any roles besides minstrel caricatures, and the Civil Rights movement, which viewed his shuck-n-jive as the worst kind of betrayal. To the Black Power movement, Fetchit was the epitome of an “Uncle Tom,” as far as you could get from Muhammad Ali, self-described—not inaccurately—as “the black man’s hero.” In 1965, Ali sent for Fetchit ahead of his legendary fight with Sonny Liston. Fetch Clay, Make Man (at the New York Theatre Workshop through October 13) dramatizes that meeting, and it's hard to imagine a better entry into exploring the evolution of black identity and the nebulous line between how things are and how they are portrayed.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"Young Men Are Supposed to Have Sex!"

Posted By on Tue, Aug 13, 2013 at 2:10 PM

Director Alex Timbers and composer Michael Friedman like to take a fusty story and make it pop. In Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, they vivified the life and times of our seventh president with anachronistic and irreverent humor. They do the same to highfalutin Elizabethan verse in their new musical version of Love's Labour's Lost, Shakespeare's abstinence comedy (at Shakespeare in the Park through August 18). On the one hand, it seems unnecessary: the Public Theater's previous production of the play, directed by Karin Coonrod in 2011, stayed faithful to the text while also making it feel colloquial and fresh. Even this production, which mixes new songs in contemporary vernacular with bits of the original Shakespeare, gets big laughs out of the text alone: Caesar Samayoa for his flamboyant, heavily Latin-accented characterization of Armado; Charlie Pollock for his West Coast stoner Costard.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

New Brooklyn Theater Company Announces Blockbuster Season

Posted By on Mon, Jul 29, 2013 at 11:45 AM

Theater for a New Audience Brooklyn
The Shakespeare-centric Theater for a New Audience is one of the finest theater companies in the city, and we've been super excited about its move to Brooklyn, which will finally happen this fall; the Center for Shakespeare and Classical Drama (what a great name! And it's going to be in Brooklyn!) will open in October in Fort Greene, on the block between BAM's Peter Jay Sharp Theater and the Harvey Theater. And we're even more excited now that the company has announced its three-production season, each of which sounds like a must-see.

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This Week at SummerScreen: <i>The Goonies</i>!

Posted By on Mon, Jul 29, 2013 at 11:29 AM

A_Summerscreen_goonies.jpg

Start rehearsing your Truffle Shuffle now; this week at SummerScreen we're showing The Goonies!

Be sure to get there early because this week, DEATH BY AUDIO and ENTERTAINMENT 4 EVERY 1 are presenting music from Hector's Pets, The Numerators and Juniper Rising. Thank you to Todd P and SHOWPAPER for bringing music to this year's SummerScreen! And don't miss the pre-show either. This week, we're showing an episode of Squidbillies, courtesy of Adult Swim, along with the short film Beyond Mountains, More Mountains, presented by 55DSL.

As usual, we'll have food from Pizza Moto, Handsome Hanks, Landhaus, Coolhaus, V Spot and Selamat Pagi. Plus, Sixpoint Brewery and City Winery will be pouring beer and wine all night long. And if you're looking for snacks on the cheap, Starbucks, vitaminwater and Crunch Fitness will be serving up complimentary treats. And be sure to sign up to win one of our two prizes this week: we're giving away a free bike, courtesy of Ride Brooklyn, plus a Meatwad piñata, courtesy of Adult Swim. Just give your name and e-mail address at the L Magazine table near the 12th street entrance to the park to be entered to win.

You'll find SummerScreen at McCarren Park at the corner of Bedford Ave and N. 12th St (right next to the tennis courts). Gates open at 6pm, the bands start at 6:30pm, and we'll have the opening credits rolling by sundown. And don't forget to cast your vote for the final movie of the summer! Click here to cast your vote for Mallrats, The Neverending Story, High Fidelity, The Breakfast Club, The Big Lebowksi, Heathers or Scream.

Thank you to our sponsors for keeping SummerScreen free: 55DSL, Adult Swim, Starbucks® Iced Coffee, City Winery, Sixpoint Brewery, Crunch Gyms, vitaminwater, East River Ferry, Squarespace, Enterprise Car Share, Cinedigm and Zipcar.

See you Wednesday!

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Monday, July 22, 2013

<i>Division Ave.</i>: An Interview with Playwright Miki Bone

Posted By on Mon, Jul 22, 2013 at 10:30 AM

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Division Ave., a new play that premiered on Wednesday by Texas playwright Miki Bone, explores not only the questions many Brooklynites have about the isolated community of Hasidic Jews, but also what happens when a member of that community decides to leave. Efraim, a young Hasidic man, encounters Sarah, a new transplant to South Williamsburg who also happens to be a Gentile. The relationship between Efraim and Sarah and their subsequent identity crises are exacerbated with the infamous bike lane controversy from a few years ago and, as we were reminded in the spring, the Hasidic community’s ongoing disdain for cyclists.

But Bone’s play focuses on the depth and extent of ruptured identity rather than municipal politics. It emphasizes the radical change Hasidim risk when they decide to leave their communities, and many of the desperate struggles they face in the world at large, struggles which aren't always immediately obvious to many Brooklynites and New Yorkers. I recently sat down with Bone and spoke with her about researching the Hasidim, speaking with outreach groups, and the power of empathy.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

<i>#Coriolanus</i>: Tweeting in Ancient Rome

Posted By on Thu, Jul 18, 2013 at 10:42 AM

#coriolanus shakespeare theater in asylum
  • Bailey Carr
Standing at the podium, addressing the Roman Senate in his bid to be elected consul, the titular character in Theater In Asylum’s Shakespeare modernization #Coriolanus (Russell Peck) flies into a rage, one that is dutifully live-tweeted by the tribunes Brutus and Sicinius (Julie Robles and Julia Giolzetti). His tyrannical rant elicits immediate reaction from the people of Rome, who are portrayed in this inventive staging as flurries of tweets that are projected onto the walls of Under St. Marks. "He did call us #rats," one of them writes, as the public turns against the general whose praises were being tweeted a few minutes earlier.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

See a Shit Ton of Shakespeare This Summer in New York

Posted By on Mon, Jul 15, 2013 at 12:05 PM

Shakespeare statue Central Park NYC
Summer in New York is always a good time to brush up your Shakespeare, but this summer there's especially a lot—see them all, and by August you'll have a passing familiarity with more than a quarter of his 38 plays. In fact, you've already missed some: Alan Cummings's one-man madhouse Macbeth just closed, and the Smith Street Stage just finished its free outdoor performances of Julius Caesar in Brooklyn (with a lady Caesar!). Here's what's left to see. (It's a lot! Plus, you should see Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing while it's still in theaters.)

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Monday, June 24, 2013

<i>The Office</i>'s Jenna Fischer Takes a New York Stage in <i>Reasons to Be Happy</i>

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2013 at 1:22 PM

"I would prefer the facts," Carly tells Greg late in Neil LaBute's latest play, but that's a tall order: Greg can hardly say a word that's not deflective or dissembling; he talks a lot without saying anything. It's not that he's pathological; he's just someone who tries to ride things out, hoping if he ignores a problem long enough it'll sort itself out or go away. But the problems he faces in Reasons to Be Happy (at the Lucille Lortel through June 29) won't be so obliging. Taking place years after reasons to be pretty, which started at the Lucille Lortel and wound up on Broadway, this sequel finds the same characters in different romantic permutations: Steph (Jenna Fischer, as good on stage as she is on television, though she could work on the strength of her voice) is married; her ex Greg (a funny and likable Josh Hamilton) is dating her friend Carly (an endearing Leslie Bibb), whose ex-husband and baby daddy Kent (a hilarious and poignant Fred Weller) watches their romantic dramas ruefully from the sidelines. Steph wants Greg back, but Greg has certain obligations to Carly, and he must choose between them. And for as long as he can, he won't.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

How to Fill Out Your Tony Ballot

Posted By on Fri, Jun 7, 2013 at 11:42 AM

Tony Awards
Some people fill out award-show ballots based on their feelings: who they like, who they want to win. But that's crazy! Even if there's no money to be won, there's the prestige and good feelings of beating your friends at something. I won't be betting on the Tonys this year because who the hell watches the Tonys? But should you find yourself at a party on Sunday (I'm just bitter because I didn't get invited to any parties whatever) here's the way things will probably shake out.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

<i>Murder Ballad</i> is Like <i>Fatal Attraction: The Musical</i>

Posted By on Tue, May 28, 2013 at 12:57 PM

Is there a less likely subgenre for a musical to take inspiration from than 80s erotic-thriller movies? Here's Murder Ballad (at the Union Square Theatre through September 29), a show that both embraces and runs from its influences, resulting in a tonal mismatch that achieves neither camp nor tragedy. A title like "Murder Ballad," especially one promoted by ads that play up its “steaminess,” promises a certain amount of sleaze, but though the musical is concerned with lust and sexual magnetism, it’s not so lurid. While no one would argue that the cast, ducking and weaving among the audience members seated in the middle of the stage (think Natasha Pierre, only less elegant and successful), is less than committed, you feel like punches are being pulled—that flourishes are being used as distractions.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

6 Annoying Things You Should Never Do at a Theater

Posted By on Thu, May 16, 2013 at 11:39 AM

Cell phones at the theater
When I saw Golden Boy on Broadway last year as press I was so moved that I went and bought myself a ticket to see it again before it closed. I especially wanted to see a particularly affecting moment near the end, in which the main character is in tears, slumped on the floor, his lover draped around him weeping, and he assesses how his entire life has been a failure. I waited with goosebumps on the edge of my seat for this scene as it approached, and right as it came around the woman-next-to-me's cellphone started buzzing, and she started fiddling with it to read the text message she'd just gotten. It was distracting, took me right out of the action on stage, and ruined what would be the last time I'd ever see one of my favorite things. Well, thanks, lady.

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