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Off Broadway

ATC’s The Mother Fractures into Pieces Bombastically

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The Mother, embodied by the formidable Isabelle Huppert (Sydney Theatre/Lincoln Center Festival’s The Maids), the absolute main reason to see this at the Atlantic Theater Company, sits impatiently regale waiting for her husband to arrive home from an extended day at the office. Sitting like the queen she truly is, rubbing her eyes in exhaustion, she breathes forth no warmth but the stillness is intense and the energy tight. Dinner has long passed, and if we can take any hint of the temperature in the room this evening from the extended length of that long sleek white sofa she languishes on, the air is cold and crisp. Watching her pick at her nails and fiddle with her elegant turtleneck sweater and skirt, courtesy of costume designer Anita Yavich (Broadway’s Fool for Love), we wait with her, for the play to begin, and for The Father, perfectly and impatiently played by Chris Noth (Broadway’s The Best Man) to arrive home. That distance, between him and his wife of 25 years will not be easily broached this night, not the first time round, nor the second. Strangely repelling, it’s a game of repetition, for this woman who knows how to poke stealthily at her husband with passive force, and for playwright Florian Zeller’s (The Truth) who has a few ideas of his own in how this woman’s mind is functioning and fracturing before our very eyes.

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Isabelle Huppert. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster.

With a wide bombastic direction, Trip Cullman (Broadway’s Lobby Hero), tackles The Mother with as fearless a devotion to the material as Huppert, diving in to the maternal focus with boundless energy. “I thought she was getting better“, says Roth’s character hinting at something that is never fully explained, but seemingly unnecessary. The play is loosely and casually part of a three play package that Zeller has written covering three aspects of family, all expanding within the strong translations by Christopher Hampton (Les Liaisons Dangereuses). The Father (Le Père) won the Molière Award for Best Play, premiered in September 2012 at the Théâtre Hébertot, Paris. It was first to arrive to New York, opening on Broadway back in 2016, and winning a Tony Award for Best New Play and a Best Actor award for Frank LangellaThe Son just recently opened in London a few months ago at the Kiln Theatre, which my fellow junkie luckily saw on our last theatre trip (click here for a rundown of what we saw). From what I understand, the three plays are not linearly and familially connected, but from the two that I have seen, a splitting apart of the mind into difficult and sharp pieces is what binds them, whether it is from age and Alzheimer’s, as it was for Langella, or a Oedipal crisis and an unnamed mental disorder torturing the soul of Huppert.

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Isabelle Huppert, Chris Noth, Justice Smith. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster.

Her angst, to put it lightly, swirls somewhere around abandonment and desperate mind cracking need.  Her husband, she believes, is having an affair, not late night meetings. Nor is he really going away for a seminar in Buffalo. These accusations slide out of Huppert’s mouth like venom stinging and stabbing relentlessly at Noth’s character, utilizing her accent to make even the simplest things sound absurd, pressing her husband’s buttons with the ease of a passive aggressive pro, tossing familiar questions over and over again hoping each cut just a bit deeper than the last. It’s compelling writing, that first jabbing game, and the second round stings even better with her vagueness. This construct wavers, pulling us in and pushing us out, never really letting up or giving a clue what is reality based, if there is any to be found within the expansive always altering setting.

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Justice Smith. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster.

It’s really about The Son, her son, who never calls and never visits, played lethargically and interestingly by Justin Smith (MCC’s Yen)  Until he does visit, or does he? We are as suspicious as Noth, perplexed by the notion stated casually by The Mother. He has come home in the middle of the night and mustn’t be disturbed as he is sleeping in his bedroom. He needs his rest, she says, and we sit along side Noth on that couch with the telling, but unsure what is true. Is it a manipulation to mess with her husband’s determination to leave, or is it her mind messing with her own need and ours? That is until he enters, but then, when he enters again, we don’t know what to think.  Is The Mother, both the play and the character, lost somewhere in her head, thinking of ways to complicate her reality, conjuring up the thing that she wishes for with Oedipal compulsion more than anything else? Her attachment is overly desperate, bordering on inappropriate and uncomfortable, but once again, is this really happening or just a figment of her cracking mind?

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Isabelle Huppert, Odessa Young. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster.

The Son has come home because of a late night fight with his girlfriend. “Did she cheat on you?” asks The Mother along with a few other pointed and difficult to comprehend questions that a mother should never ask or assume. The Girl, portrayed wisely by Odessa Young (MCC’s Days of Rage), arrives in earnest, needing to speak to The Son but is greeted with resistance from his mother. As with all aspects of this twisted psycho drama, The Girl transcends the obvious, morphing into others as symbolic and dense as the drama that is unfolding. She is either The Son’s girlfriend, or maybe The Father’s. She also might be The Daughter, or The Mother herself, disconnecting and reconnecting with a vengeance to her younger more together self. The couch disappears, opening the space up to reveal the details of a troubled mind, courtesy of scenic designer Mark Wendland (Broadway’s Six Degrees of Separation), lighting by Ben Stanton (Broadway’s Fun Home), and sound design by Fitz Patton (Broadway’s Choir Boy). In many ways the play feels like it should be claustrophobic rather than expanding into blackness and a void, but the choice is made and pounded in with determination like a lobotomy in action.

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Odessa Young. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster.

But does it all add up to something profound or engaging? Huppert and company are working hard, trying their best to formulate and transcend the depth of her despair with hopes that her descent reverberates more than just simple psychosis on display. It flails out, wide and jarring, especially when the brave Huppert starts spiraling as wildly as her mind. Her intent is powerful, but somehow strangle distancing, never really bringing us into the fear that resides inside her fractured mind. It is horrifying to watch, as it scatters around the hard floor like the pills that are popped and dropped, but the play never grabs hold to our hearts beyond a level of praise for the fearless work of a French warrior queen demolishing herself and others as she falls back into her hospital bed.  The ending messes with our head, making us question all. Was it all a dream or a hallucination? You tell me, as I gave up trying to figure it out midway through.

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Isabelle Huppert, Justice Smith. Photo Credit: Ahron R. Foster.

For more, go to frontmezzjunkies.com

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Off Broadway

Winesday The Wine Tasting Musical Opening Night

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Winesday: The Wine Tasting Musical, written by Jenne Wason (book and lyrics) and Joseph Benoit (music) and directed by Jamibeth Margolis with musical direction by Alec Bart, celebrated their opening night.

Shannen Hofheimer

Dawn Cantwell

Amanda Lea LaVergne

Debra Thais Evans

Michael Valvo

Jennifer Diamond

When these five wine-loving women get together every Wednesday night, they’re theoretically meeting for a book club or a yoga class, but really, they just want to indulge in wine and talk about their lives. It’s like Sex and the City meets the vineyard – including a friendly wine steward to guide the audience through the wine paired with each upcoming scene. Get ready for an intoxicating blend of friendship, wit, and wine that will leave your spirits lifted and your palate inspired.

Peter Breger

Christopher Devlin (Props Designer) and Grace Curley

Kimberly O’Loughlin (Sound Design)

Rob Diamond and Jennifer Diamond

Jamibeth Margolis (Director/Casting Director)

Jenne Wason (Book & Lyrics) and Jamibeth Margolis

Jenne Wason (Book & Lyrics)

Joseoh Benoit (Music) and Jenne Wason

Joseoh Benoit (Music)

The Band-Britton Matthews, Rick Snell and Alec Bart

Daniel Stanton

Michael Valvo, Daniel Stanton

Kathryn Eader (Lighting Designer) and Jenne Wason

Daniel Stanton and Merete Muenter (Associate Director/Movement Coordinator)

Performances will run through July 2024 at The Jerry Orbach Theater at The Theater Center (210 West 50 Street).

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Events

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Ashley Griffin and Danny Gardner

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We are so pleased to announce our guests this week are Director/ performer Ashley Griffin and Broadway’s Danny Gardner Join us Wednesday May 22nd at 5pm.

Ashley Griffin

Ashley Griffin is a Broadway writer/performer most well known as the first person in history to be nominated for a major award (New York Innovative Theater Award) for both playing and directing Hamlet (for a theatrical production.) As a writer Ashley’s work has been produced/developed at New World Stages, Manhattan Theater Club, Playwrights Horizons and more. Ashley received the WellLife Network Award and a county commendation for her Off-Broadway play Trial (directed by Lori Petty and heralded as “If this show were on Broadway it would win the Pulitzer” – Stagescore) which is currently in talks for a transfer. She has written extensively for film and T.V. and is the author of two bestselling novels, Blank Paige and The Spindle. As a performer, Ashley has appeared extensively on and Off-Broadway as well as in T.V. and film. Highlights include work at The Gershwin Theater, Lincoln Center, Playwrights Horizons, MTC and The Public Theater, as well as on The Greatest Showman and “Homeland.” She holds a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and has trained at RADA, the National Theater and the Boston Conservatory. www.ashleygriffinofficial.com

Danny Gardner

Danny Gardner starred io Broadway Flying Over Sunset, A Christmas Carol and Dames At Sea. City Center Encores!: Dick Trevor in Lady, Be Good! (Subsequent Album). Radio City Music Hall: Dad / George M. Cohan in The NY Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes. His national tours include Here to Stay – The Gershwin Experience!, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and 42nd Street. Off-Broadway: Cheek To Cheek (The York Theater), Time Step (New Victory Theater), Room 17B and Everybody Gets Cake(59E59th Street Theaters). His regional theatre experience includes; Dial M For Murder (Geva Theater Center & Dallas Theatre Center), Bach At Leipzig (People’s Light and Theatre Company), Crazy For You (Signature Theatre), Singin’ in the Rain (Chicago’s Marriott Lincolnshire), Mary Poppins (Houston’s Theatre Under The Stars), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (John W. Engeman Theater). @dannyjgnyc, www.danny-gardner.com

These two are staring in a limited three-week engagement of The Opposite of Love presented by NewYorkRep May 28 through June 15 at Royal Family Performing Arts Space (145 W. 46th Street, NYC). The Opposite of Love is an intimate story about a down on his luck hustler and a trust fund baby who form an unlikely bond when she hires him to help overcome her sexual trauma. Can this unexpected connection transcend their darker inclinations in a world where love is a commodity? Directed by Rachel Klein (The Gospel According to Heather). Opening night is Thursday May 30 at 7PM. Tickets are now on sale at EventBrite.com.

“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents ”, is a show filmed at the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. To see our past episodes; First episode click here second episode click here,  third episode click here, fourth episode click here, fifth episode click here, sixth episode here, seventh episode here, eighth episode here, ninth episode here, tenth episode here, eleventh episode here, our twelfth episode here, thirteenth episode here, fourteenth here and fifteenth here.

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Broadway

The Outer Critics Circle (OCC) Awards And You Are There Part 2

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Yesterday we gave you part 1 of The Outer Critics Circle (OCC), awards ceremony held at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center’s New York Public Library for The Performing Arts 111 Amsterdam Avenue, NYC).

In this part Steve Guttenberg gives the award to Outstanding Featured Performer in an Off-Broadway Play: Jay O. Sanders – Primary Trust


Outstanding Lead Performer in an Off-Broadway Musical:
 Andrew Durand  Dead Outlaw

Current President David Gordon introduced Andrea Martin who gave away the awards for Outstanding Direction of a Musical: Jessica Stone – Water for Elephants

A special award was given to Harry Haun longtime OCC member who served on the board as well.

Outstanding Choreography (Broadway or Off-Broadway):Justin Peck —Illinoise

And the tie for Outstanding Lead Performer in an Off-Broadway Play: William Jackson Harper, Primary Trust

Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play: Primary Trust

Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical: Dead Outlaw

Kelechi Watson presented the awards for Outstanding Featured Performer in a Broadway Musical: Kecia Lewis  Hell’s Kitchen

Outstanding Direction of a Play: Daniel Aukin – Stereophonic

Outstanding Lead Performer in a Broadway Musical: Kelli O’Hara  Days of Wine and Roses


Outstanding New Broadway Play:
 Stereophonic

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Outstanding New Broadway Musical: Suffs

Founded during the 1949-50 Broadway season by respected theater journalist John Gassner, The Outer Critics Circle is an esteemed association with members affiliated with more than ninety newspapers, magazines, broadcast stations, and online news organizations, in America and abroad. Led by its current President David Gordon, the OCC Board of Directors also includes Vice President Richard Ridge, Recording Secretary Joseph Cervelli, Corresponding Secretary Patrick Hoffman, Treasurer David Roberts, Cynthia Allen, Harry Haun, Dan Rubins, Janice Simpson and Doug Strassler. Simon Saltzman is President Emeritus & Board Member (Non-nominating) and Stanley L. Cohen serves as Financial Consultant & Board Member (Non-nominating). Lauren Yarger serves as the Outer Critics Circle Awards ceremony executive producer.

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Broadway

The Outer Critics Circle (OCC) Awards And You Are There Part 1

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The Outer Critics Circle (OCC), awards ceremony for the winners was held on Thursday, May 23, 2024, in the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center’s New York Public Library for The Performing Arts (111 Amsterdam Avenue, NYC).

Current President David Gordon and  Vice President Richard Ridge welcomed everyone. There were celebrity presenters and Tony Danza proved why he is a comedy star. The first award given out was to Outstanding Video/Projections: Peter Nigrini – The Who’s Tommy.

Danza also gave out the awards to Outstanding Orchestrations Marco Paguia – Buena Vista Social Club.

Outstanding Costume Design: Linda Cho – The Great Gatsby

Outstanding Lead Performer in a Broadway Play: Jessica Lange – Mother Play

Receiving the John Gassner Award for New American Play (preferably by a new playwright): Oh, Mary! and a tie for Outstanding Lead Performer in an Off-Broadway Play (tie): Cole Escola left a video message.


Next to present was Montego Glover who gave Outstanding Featured Performer in an Off-Broadway Musical (tie) Judy Kuhn – I Can Get It For You Wholesale

and to Thom Sesma – Dead Outlaw

Outstanding Book of a Musical and Outstanding Score Shaina Taub – Suffs

Outstanding Scenic Design (tie): Paul Tate dePoo III – The Great Gatsby

Outstanding Lighting Design: Brian MacDevitt  The Outsiders

Outstanding Featured Performer in a Broadway Play: Kara Young – Purlie Victorious

Next up Steve Gutenberg gave awards to Outstanding Revival of a Play: Appropriate

Outstanding Sound DesignRyan Rumery – Stereophonic

Outstanding Solo Performance: Patrick Page – All the Devils are Here

Founded during the 1949-50 Broadway season by respected theater journalist John Gassner, The Outer Critics Circle is an esteemed association with members affiliated with more than ninety newspapers, magazines, broadcast stations, and online news organizations, in America and abroad. Led by its current President David Gordon, the OCC Board of Directors also includes Vice President Richard Ridge, Recording Secretary Joseph Cervelli, Corresponding Secretary Patrick Hoffman, Treasurer David Roberts, Cynthia Allen, Harry Haun, Dan Rubins, Janice Simpson and Doug Strassler. Simon Saltzman is President Emeritus & Board Member (Non-nominating) and Stanley L. Cohen serves as Financial Consultant & Board Member (Non-nominating). Lauren Yarger serves as the Outer Critics Circle Awards ceremony executive producer.

Tomorrow Part 2.

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Broadway

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet Times Three

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It’s going to be some Shakespeare-heavy months ahead, especially around those famously doomed lovers named Romeo and Juliet, as I fly into the Stratford Festival (formally called the Stratford Shakespeare Festival) here in Ontario, Canada for their first big opening week of six shows. The week will start with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night followed by the musical comedy about Shakespeare, Something Rotten, and then Shakespeare’s Cymbeline on night three. The fourth night will be the opening of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler; the fifth, La Cage Aux Folles, followed by, lastly (at least for this coming week) the final opening of this particular opening week, show number six, Shakespeare’s ultimate romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. (Much more follows over the summer of Canada’s fantastic Stratford Festival.)

As directed by Sam White, the founding Artistic & Executive Director at Shakespeare in Detroit, Shakespeare’s great romance Romeo and Juliet slides in at the Festival Theatre on Saturday, June 1st, 2024, starring Jonathan Mason (Stratford’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Vanessa Sears  (CS/Obsidian/Necessary Angel’s Is God Is) as those starcrossed titular characters and lovers. As with the whole season, I’m hoping this production, and all the others, will live up to the festival’s high standards, and be just the beginning of a spectacular year of Shakespeare. And of these two young lovers.

Kit Connor and Rachel Zegler. Photo by Sam Levy.

After that jam-packed week in Stratford, Canada, it doesn’t end for this theatre junkie and his faithful companion. Jetting off soon after to London, England, we have another week of theatre planned. As scheduled, the two of us will see an onslaught of plays, including Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard at Donmar, two National Theatreproductions; Hills of California and the Olivier-winning Standing at the Sky’s Edge, as well as Ian McKellen in Player Kings (Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1 & 2), the Royal Court Theatre’s Bluets, and (of course) the much-talked-about production of Romeo & Juliet, directed and produced by Jamie Lloyd. It just opened this week at the Duke of York’s Theatre, running from Saturday, May 11 through Saturday, August 3, starring Tom Holland as Romeo and Francesca Amewudah-Rivers as Juliet.

#RomeoJulietLDN production photography by Marc Brenner

From the photos popping up on Facebook, Lloyd’s pulsating new vision of Shakespeare’s immortal tale of wordsmiths, rhymers, lovers, and fighters is sure to be something to see. It will definitely be talked about all over the world, yet it was truly disheartening to read about all the hateful postings around the casting choice of Lloyd’s Juliet. It says, sadly, so much about our world right now, but it seems to have quieted down some (although the sting and stink must still be lingering in the air for us all), and although the reviews of this West End production came out today, I will try to stay away from them until long after. Whether the production will follow the successful path of other Lloyd hits, including the pared-down stagings of A Doll’s House that starred the incredible Jessica Chastain or the phenomenal Betrayal with Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Cox, and Zawe Ashton, remains to be seen, but I am curious if it will also find its way across the pond to Broadway.

If it does, it will have some pretty fierce competition, as another Romeo & Juliet, this one starring Heartstopper‘s Kit Connor and West Side Story‘s Rachel Zegler will begin Broadway performances on Thursday, September 26, at Circle in the Square Theatre, with an official opening night set for Thursday, October 24. The run, directed by Sam Gold, is a strictly limited, 16-week engagement, and I can not wait to get in to see it as well. All three really. And I won’t have to ask the forever question, “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” I’ll just have to ask which Romeo are we looking for? And which Juliet.

See video here. 

Often called the greatest love story of all time, Romeo + Juliet has captivated audiences and artists for centuries and provided the inspiration for hundreds of films, ballets, operas, novels, including the iconic Broadway musical West Side Story.

Stratford Festival’s production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet officially opens on June 1 and runs until October 26 at the Festival Theatre. Tickets are available at stratfordfestival.ca

The West End’s Romeo & Juliet officially opened on May 23rd at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London, and runs until Saturday, August 3. Tickets are available (although probably sold out) at https://www.thedukeofyorks.com/romeo-and-juliet

The Broadway production of Romeo + Juliet at Circle in the Square Theatre, with an official opening night set for Thursday, October 24, and running for a limited engagement of 16 weeks. Tickets will be available at https://romeoandjulietnyc.com/

For tickets and more information, click here.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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