As a playwright and director, my personal mandate has always been to tell women’s stories. When I had my little theatre in Los Angeles, if a play was submitted without any female roles, I returned it, unread, to the playwrightwith a polite note explaining why. As a producer, I hire women whenever I can. I can’t cure the inequity of generations by myself, but I can do my tiny part. I started my career in the soaps, which traditionally had women in the leads; the men were only there to marry us, torment us, or otherwise be part of OUR storylines, not the other way around. So I got spoiled. When I began to work in episodic TV and films, I found it to be very male-dominated, on both sides of the camera. As I have aged as an actress, my roles have become increasingly smaller and less interesting. As an old woman now, no one is telling my stories so I have to tell them myself. I refuse to be silenced or to let my talented sisters of a certain age be ignored. I will continue to create roles for me and my friends. We are an invisible yet still a vital and valuable part of our society. A crone, a hag, a witch. These stereotypes scare people. When did I change from being an object of desire to one of fear and scorn? It happened so insidiously, I hardly felt a thing. The problem starts in the writers’ rooms and the solution lies there, as well. “Me too!” I want to shout, but for a different reason than those young women do. The abuse I suffer from is being left out in the cold by an industry I have given good service to for fifty years. I can still do it, I can still be compelling. And so can other actresses in the third act of their careers. Just give us the chance. Write for us. Maybe my own midwinter won’t be so bleak after all.
New York City
September 8, 2018
Dorothy Lyman’s new play, In the Bleak Midwinter, tackles what happens when an older person loses their spouse and their child feels responsible. Married to a fourth-generation dairy farmer, 76-year-old widowed Elizabeth Gladstone’s (Dorothy Lyman) husband has died. Still feisty and full of life, we first meet Elizabeth as she is returning home from the hospital having been bitten by the family boar. She has been working and taking care of 11 acres of farmland with only Christie (Shannon Stowe), a girl she helped years ago, who now serves as her housekeeper and friend.
Elizabeth’s overly dramatic and snotty daughter, Betsy (Abigail Hawk), and her business-minded husband, Tom (Tim Bohn), want her to sell the land to a developer. They want Elizabeth to move into a retirement village, first in the hometown where she lives, then to Florida so they can all have a comfortable life. When their daughter, Liz (Jeanne Lauren Smith), a school teacher who has just survived the suicide of an aide, arrives with her idealistic fiancé, Jason (Brennan Lowery), a new plan is born. Jason, who has a degree in agriculture, wants to save the land and Elizabeth’s independence. In the end, her daughter who really only cares about herself wins, and Elizabeth, Betsy, and Tom are off to Florida.
Ms. Lyman’s performance is riveting. She embodies this woman with a fighting spirit with comedic chops and handles the resignation with heartbreaking resolve. She shows why she was such a success on “All My Children” and “Mama’s Family.” This performance makes us want to see much more of her on stage. “Blue Blood’s” Abigail Hawk makes us hate Betsy. She is perfectly sweet, manipulating, and is beyond selfish in her wants. I understand that children do not want to be a parent to their own parent, but at the rate we dismiss another person’s life for our own, I just find it disgusting. Tim Bohn as her husband doesn’t win any sympathy votes either, but that is the thing about good acting: it stirs up intense feelings for a character when done well. Shannon Stowe, Jeanne Lauren Smith, and Brennan Lowery all bring a delightful realism and layered performance to round off the perfect casting.
Director Katie McHugh uses the space well and allows the actors to really dig deep into a very touching play. Johanna Pan’s set design and Elizabeth Mak’s lighting makes us feel as if we are actually in a farmhouse in Midwinter. Even James Higgins’ sound design with animal sounds, gunshots, and music is done with an outstanding earthy touch.
Lyman lived on an old dairy farm in upstate New York. When her son and her daughter had children, she felt as if she was missing everything. She relocated from upstate New York to Connecticut. In the Bleak Midwinter was Lyman’s way of dealing with leaving her home and making herself feel better about the big moves everybody has to make in life. Lyman manages to bring in all the controversial subjects people are talking about today, without making the play seem overstuffed. Lyman’s writing is poignant, funny, and an emotional rollercoaster. I hope to see this play get a longer run, as it is sure to tug at your heartstrings and make you think just a little bit more about what it is like to grow old.
In the Bleak Midwinter: Bridge Theatre at Shetler Studios & Theatres, 244 W 54th St. through September 23.
Featured photo Aigail Hawk, Jeanne Lauren Smith and Dorothy Lyman star in In the Bleak Midwinter. Photo courtesy of Sally Davis / Provided by Alton PR with permission
Have You Begun Dreaming of It Yet? (PART I)
What else – White Christmas, of course!
December is jampacked with great entertainment, so I hope you’re caught up on your shopping, because there are lots of treats for you this month. Here’s a stockingful of events that you shouldn’t miss.
If you’re looking for probably the most glamorous gift of the season, drop by Doyle Galleries to at least look at The Ellin and Irving Berlin Sapphire and Diamond Ring. Bidding is estimated to begin at $200,000 at the December 14th auction.
Jason Henderson kicked off the month reprising his highly acclaimed latest venture, Getting to Noël You at Don’t Tell Mama on the 4th. If you missed this evening, don’t worry – he’s back by popular demand—same time, same location—on January 24th and February 11th. It’s quite a curious and fast-paced ride he takes us on, and it’s one not to be missed.
The York Theatre has delivered a mitzvah–just in time for Christmas. Billed as a Musical Comedy of Biblical Proportions, The Jerusalem Syndrome certainly lived up to expectations. You must see it to discover the meaning of the title, which is fact, not fiction.
While this has been in development for several years, the skilled midwifery of the York brought forth a little bundle of joy that had the audience laughing at its humor and touched by its message. Sensitive to the current Middle East conflict, the York bravely went ahead with the project, which affords everyone a chance to marvel and understand the miracle that is Israel.
It’s running through the end of the year—visit the York website https://yorktheatre.org for more info.
Urban Stages has announced its “2023 Winter Rhythms” series, the award-winning music festival at Urban Stages Theater (259 West 30th Street – between 7th & 8th Avenues).
It began with a gala on December 6 entitled “Nights at the Algonquin: A Celebration of The Oak Room Supper Club,” featuring many legendary cabaret performers including Natalie Douglas, Boots Maleson, Steve Ross, and Daryl Sherman. Hosted by Michael Colby (author of The Algonquin Kid), the evening began with a champagne and wine reception followed by the show at 7:30 with a post-show gathering to follow.
On Sunday, December 10 at 3pm “Created at the Algonquin: Songs from Musicals Written at The Algonquin,” featuring performances by Craig Bierko, Shana Farr, Jenn Gambatese, Anita Gillette, Jon Peterson, Steve Ross and others. The program will be directed by Sara Louise Lazarus with Michael Lavine directing the music.
As part of the festivities, Shana Farr will reprise her glorious Barbara Cook tribute on the 16th. Ice Cream,. Anyone?
Everyone’s favorite is Karen Mason, whose show Christmas! Christmas! Christmas! is one night only at Birdland at 7 pm on the 11th.
Stay tuned for Part II for Christmas romance, tradition, and good will!
T2C Talks to Patrick Olson About Emergence
Patrick Olson, is a musician-scientist and now a performer with his own show Emergence, Off-Broadway at The Pershing Square Signature Center through January 7, 2024.
T2C talked to this prolific artist to learn more about what seems more like a movement and a unique experience.
See t2C’s review here.
Emergence: Things Are Not As They Seem: Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street through January 7th. Tickets and information: emergenceshow.com
Video by Magda Katz
Off Broadway Girl Talk Madwomen of the West
Right now at the Actors Temple Theatre, 339 West 47th Street is the New York premier of Sandra Tsing Loh’s Madwomen of the West. The show in a way reminded me of the 1996 play Love, Loss, and What I Wore, where celebrities joined on stage. Here you have Caroline Aaron, Brooke Adams, Marilu Henner, and Melanie Mayron, all actors who have performed on film, TV and stage. They are like long lost friends, they are so familiar.
The four have gathered together for Claudia’s (Mayron) birthday. It is being thrown at the Brentwood home of Jules (Adams) and Marilyn (Aaron) has decorated. Enter the long lost Zoey (Henner) and what you think you know about these friends, isn’t what it seems. As a matter of fact, this birthday brunch is about to turn into the brunch from hell. These Baby Boomers, are also feminists admiring Hilary Clinton and Gloria Steinem, though not always on the same side. They break the 4th wall, as they banter back and forth to themselves and to us, the audience. They confront, encourage, justify and talk about transgender, health, the horror of Trump and those “pussy hats”, sex and so much more. Think “girl-talk” to the max.
They sit on couches, as a backdrop of palm trees, and a lone piñata take center stage, thanks to set designer Christian Fleming. The play has no money, so the production is bare bones…. so they say. Everything about this show is tongue and check and is well directed by Thomas Caruso.
Each actor here shines and in an out of the way aside, each has pieces of their real selves written into the roles they play. Not having seen Aaron on stage before, I was impressed by her vocal quality and humor. Adams brings sophistication and Mayron adds that knowing, we are all in the same messed up boat. Henner will make you want that body and her sex appeal.
These women knocked down doors for the women to come, but I was surprised that the one issue they missed out on was that women are still not equal in this country. It takes 1, count it 1 state to approve this and yet plays about feminism leave this vital information out.
The show ends with “The Bitch is Back.” they sing in glee. I guess it is ok when we call ourselves that.
Madwomen of the West: The Actors Temple Theatre, 339 West 47th Street through December 31.
“Stereophonic” at Playwrights Horizons Sings Solidly
It’s July 1976, in a recording studio in Sausalito, CA and we are being invited into a space that only a select few get to visit, let alone witness. This is art in the making, pure and simple, with ego and love, getting mixed and faded in through the process most musically. In Playwrights Horizons‘s magnificent new play, Stereophonic, written most delicately by David Adjmi (The Blind King Parts I and II), a band on the cusp of greatness has assembled, and they are tasked, casually and with great intent, to something magnificent and meaningful, a lasting piece of musical art, to follow up their last album that has become, over the timeframe, a breakout hit.
The play is exceptionally well framed and constructed; both musical and meandering, in the best of all possible ways, yet somewhere inside Adjmi’s engaging Stereophonicand its three-hour running time, a deeper level of contextual art formulation is unpacked quite beautifully. It saunters forward, with a complicated level of exhaustion, angst, and inspiration, unearthing something that almost defies expectations and compartmentalization. It’s a 1970s rock saga, clearly modeled on the legendary Fleetwood Mac and their dynamic backstage friction, that leans into and plays with the problematic relationships within this unnamed band as they try to create magic behind a glass wall, while also trying to fulfill their emotional needs in the confines of the studio and real life.
It’s all emotional breakups and reconciliations, with a layer of bored and sleep-deprived banter; around a broken coffee machine and the annoying reverberations of (not only) the drum. It’s electric and conflictual, playing havoc on every one of these characters’ insecure hearts, while offering up no grand solutions or final product. Stereophonic is all about the tiny details and the little frustrations that grow and become emotional cannonballs bent on destruction, leveled and defused out of an undercurrent of love and need for creation. It is incandescent in its artful construction, displaying and writing about a realm few of us can understand. It’s the agony and ecstasy that lives and sings inside the magnificent creative process of musicians, arts, singers, and writers, who hear aspects that most of us can’t understand, let alone hear or comprehend. And we have been invited in, to bear witness to its creation, in all its meticulously dull and exhausting detail. Giving light to the darkness of the process, and how art can both create and destroy those involved in its coming to life.
Vineyard’s “Scene Partners” Gets Stuck Between Floors
“This is exactly how it happened “ we are told, followed by a big wide screen opening that descends upon us, but it does not quite land where it, and our leading lady’s character, most likely intended it too. Finally escaping the 11th floor on a folding chair and faulty pulley system, Meryl Kowalski, as portrayed as only the magnificently gifted Dianne Wiest (Broadway’s All My Sons; “Purple Rose of Cairo“) could, finds flight and falter inside this fascinating exploration of some sort of demented dream. Giving the “correct response“ to abstract questions and assignments, Wiest delivers a befuddled and determined performance that elevates a play that fractures realities every chance it gets. As written with a wild wandering spirit by John J. Caswell, JR. (Wet Brain), the play is an absurdity of utter invigorating complexity, playing with and sometimes delivering itself forward in a fascinating but distancing dementia. Is it a post-traumatic disassociation of epic proportions or a fractured descent into grief and mental illness, played for a laugh or a tug at the heart? Or is it something quite else that was lost on this avid fan of this Oscar-winning actress? And I don’t even know if there is a clear correct answer to this. But that is half the fun in this half-fun exercise in abstractionism and determination.
It’s big on ‘concept’, directed with a strong forward vision by Rachel Chavkin (Broadway’s Hadestown), obviously enjoying the ride and the wandering with glee. The visuals ride and slide in and about, thanks to the incredibly detailed and smooth work of video and projection design by David Bengali (Broadway’s The Thanksgiving Play), lighting designer Alan C. Edwards (Vineyard’s Harry Clarke), and scenic designer Riccardo Hernández (Broadway’s Indecent), giving depth and clarity to this otherwise meander into fractured and fantastical thinking. Supported by clever extravagances by costume designer Brenda Abbandandolo (Broadway’s The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window), the effect is a fevered dive into the mind of a woman beaten down hard to the ground by a now-dead husband whose death has freed her to her desire; her dream and determination to be a big famous movie star, and she’ll point the barrel at anyone who might stand in her way or say otherwise.
Scene Partners feels anything but safe and secure, as we join Wiest’s 75-year-old widow from the Midwest as she steadily abandons her needy mess of a daughter, played with clever calculations by Kristen Sieh (Broadway’s The Band’s Visit), to jet, train, or sled herself off to Hollywood to become a big gloriously famous movie star even before her now-dead violent abusive husband has been buried six feet under. The framing is slanted, with efforts to keep us off balance. Finding a flavor in its madness and splitting. The name of Wiest’s woman is Meryl Kowalski, and she’s not to be ignored. She is told quite clearly and quickly that she must change it if she really wants to be an actress, as that first name of hers has already been taken by that other, already famous and award-winning actress with the same first name that we all know and love. But this Meryl holds firm, inside and out of her first acting class somewhere out there in Los Angeles. It’s there, when confronted by her over-the-top acting teacher, played with wild abandonment by the perfect Josh Hamilton (Broadway’s The Real Thing), that she reveals another level of strong abstractionism. This particularly twisted Meryl’s dead husband was named Stanley Kowalski, and her Streetcar husband made Tennessee Williams’s character seem like quite the gentle nice guy.
At this point, the play stands shakily in some abstract parallels that are fun, clever, complicated, and a bit distancing, playing with fragments of trauma and grief that don’t fully come together. It pulls and pushes at about the same level of conflicted engagement, until Johanna Day (Broadway/MTC’s How I Learned to Drive) as Meryl’s half-sister comes into play, shifting the formula with a centered grounding that makes us sit back and question what’s really going on. When a doctor also enters the picture, played well by Eric Berryman (RT’s Primary Trust), a medical diagnosis once again adds a different framework that could alter the whole process. Where are we with these two half-sisters and their shared knowledge of a non-collaborated trauma of abuse? Especially after a (pre-recorded) interview with a very well-positioned Sieh asking pertinent questions that illicit praise from Hamilton’s pompous character and a disappearing act of a half-sister who might never been. It plays with the head, in both an engaging and disassociating manner that works, and doesn’t.
Scene Partners doesn’t play easy with our unpacking, leading us down blind endless alleyways decorated with an abundance of movie imagery that either leads us to brick walls or bottomless pits to fall into. Wiest’s Meryl has necessarily immersed herself in these vintage cinematic panoramas, probably to unconsciously avoid the abusive reality she found herself trapped in, and in that trauma response, Wiest has found the perfect embodiment for Mrs. Kowalski, bringing feisty and forceful complexities to the forefront as she shuffles and stabs herself into frame. And even if it doesn’t, in the end, add up to much, this Vineyard Theatre production is flavorful in its twisted construction and projections. The “Doctor Zhivago” impressions and pop-culture references overwhelm, not just our heroine, but also our connections to emotional clarity and authenticity, leaving us hanging halfway down and in between floors waiting for something to fully make an impact.
Boop! Leaps To Life In Chicago
Countdown to Christmas Day: Map The Song Of Your Life
Have You Begun Dreaming of It Yet? (PART I)
Romantic and Meaningful Love Quotes For Her To Help Win Her Heart
How to Take Advantage of Virtual Numbers for SMS
Entre Institute Review – Is Jeff Lerner’s Program a Scam?
Family2 days ago
Countdown to Christmas Day The Gift of Self
Events58 mins ago
Happy Chanukah Day 2: Light One Candle With The Carney’s
Family56 mins ago
Countdown to Christmas Day: Map The Song Of Your Life
Broadway4 days ago
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Spamalot
Events3 days ago
A Day of Enlightenment at Caviar for a Cause with Julia Haart & Batsheva Haart
Events4 days ago
Music News: Julie Benko, Karen Mason, Debbie Wileman, Klea Blackhurst, Jim Caruso, Billy Stritch, KT Sullivan, Jeff Harnar, Stacy Sullivan and Todd Murray
Book Reviews3 days ago
Countdown to Christmas: For The Dancer and Theatre Lover Chita Rivera
Cabaret4 days ago
Adrienne Haan Celebrates Irving Berlin and Christmas at the Triad