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Rosemary Allen

Rosemary Allen All photos: New York City Players

What should one expect when walking into a Richard Maxwell play? Depends on who you ask? Performance art? or live theatre? I have never had the opportunity nor have I heard much about Maxwell, but he is a well-known fixture worldwide for his experimental theatrical writing and directing style.  When I took my seat at the Abrons Art Center on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, I knew nothing except that this play, Good Samaritans, is critically acclaimed and has toured the world. Returning to New York, it is being presented by the New York City Players with the original cast from its Obie-winning St. Ann’s Warehouse production back in 2004. So I was intrigued.

Rosemary Allen

At first Maxwell’s style is off putting. The set is stark and the lighting fluorescent. Extreme realism is presented here in full glorious action (set, lights, costume design: Stephanie Nelson).  It felt like we were be invited in to watch these characters speak words and phrases that many would describe as more of our ‘inner chatter’, rather than external dialogue. It had an ego/id quality to the dialogue that was complicated to take in at times. The speech was also being presented with a very flat delivery, in a way that both felt devoid of love and attachment, while holding on to a sliver of care and humanity. I can’t say that I stayed intrigued very much once it got started.

After the production, reading the press release and some different articles from Bomb (John Kelsey, Fall 2008) and ArtForum (Maxwell, David Velasco, April 25, 2012), one particular quote struck me as relevant, “the particular awkward liveness of Richard Maxwell’s production has something to do with stripping theatre down to a particular truth”. The idea, of ‘stripping away’ all the dramatics and emotive acting intentions to delve into the true inner meaning of people connecting as best as they know how, yet also presenting the concept of our disconnection, seems interesting but uncomfortable. He seems to be exploring the disconnect of words spoken and the inner meaning of what is not being said. Which after reading the interview, made some sense, artistically speaking.

Rosemary Allen, Kevin Hurley

Rosemary Allen, Kevin Hurley

Rosemary Allen, a former nurse and actress who’s been connected to this piece since performing in it in Australia, Europe and at St. Ann’s from 2004-2006, feels perfect for this style and the role of caregiver and rehab coordinator. Straightforward and plain spoken, she has reduced the theatricality in her delivery but oddly enough, the emotion still registers; sometimes with subtle intensity. She runs a shelter or rehab housing center and deals with recovering addicts day in and day out. She has the worn out physicality of a social worker that has devoted herself to helping people all her life, without receiving much in return. As a psychotherapist myself, something in her manner resonated in me initially, although the actual words spoken were jarring.

Kevin Hurley

Kevin Hurley

After singing a song (numerous original songs written by Maxwell) as she gazes out the high basement window, we register her realness, not embellished by the artifice of theater, as her singing is off key and plain. The singing throughout this play is at best engaging; sometimes sweet or melancholy, but rarely beautiful in tone (fantastic performances by the musicians James Moore/guitar and David Zuckerman/piano). In walks a man, (Kevin Hurley); an addict, a drunk, or a homeless man? We never are sure, but these two spar, and argue, while Rosemary tries to engage and settle him in to this rehab environment. Over the course of the 90-minute play, a bizarre and abrupt romantic affair blossoms, culminating with the closest thing to a harmonious love song being sung by the two. It’s hard to fathom this interaction but as the interview from Bomb explains, Maxwell likes to engage in “strangely simplified, sometimes explosive action”, and that is definitely on display here. Surprisingly, when Kevin abandons her, in what appears to be a heartless and selfish act, I found myself feeling Rosemary’s pain of abandonment even when the delivery of the spoken word and the believability of the relationship was so difficult to believe.

Rosemary AllenIt’s a strange brew, this theatrical piece. I would tend to label this more as ‘performance art’ over theatre, as it seems to require reading the writer’s artist statement to fully understand the experience, and even then, it’s hard to completely engage with. It’s equal to a visit to a modern art gallery, much like the one I passed on Grand Street after the show. To appreciate the pieces of sculpture, one needs to read about the intentions of the artist. I can appreciate that personal involvement in the process, especially with modern art installations, but I’m not one of those people who feel theatre should require reading prior to the performance in order to understand and become invested. In order to dig deeper into the meaning and the art of a play, I do believe that an artist statement can enhance a performance on many intellectual levels. That is an idea I can wrap my head around, but in the moment of viewing, I found the piece difficult to engage with. This performance piece is not for this particular theatre addict, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its place in the world of art and performance. Just not mine. Maxwell might disagree, and that, my friends, is the beauty of art and theatre.

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

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Broadway

Move Over Daisy Jones & The Six Stereophonic Has Taken Up The Gauntlet

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Daisy Jones & the Six is a hit series on Amazon Prime that follows a rock band in the 1970s from their rise in the LA music scene to becoming one of the most famous bands in the world. This was based on Taylor Jenkins Reid’s book of the same name and was partly inspired by Fleetwood Mac. Stereophonic is like binge watching episodes of this TV series, live on stage for three hours. 


Opening tonight, David Adjmi’s high drama play is set in a recording studio in Sausalito, California in 1976, until the last act when they record in LA. The set by David Zinn, has us inside the control room where we can see inside the sound booth. In the beginning, it is hard to hear the words as everyone is talking over each other. Sex, drugs especially coke, alcohol, cigarettes, joints, infidelity and music are what’s at stake and we are eavesdropping in.

Andrew R. Butler and Eli Gelb Photo by Julieta Cervantes

We first meet Grover (Eli Gelb), an untested producer who has lied to everyone about his credentials and his nerdy assistant Charlie (Andrew R. Butler), who are trying to keep the band who are very much like Fleetwood Mac on track. On lead guitar and vocals, Peter (Tom Pecinka) a control freak, perfectionist, lead songwriter and vocalist who is emotionally abusive. He is in a nine year relationship with Diana (Sarah Pidgeon), also the lead singer who is insecure, neurotic, an up and coming songwriter, who very much like Riley Keough in Daisy Jones & the Six. From England are keyboardist and singer Holly (Juliana Canfield) who is stable, warm and going through a terrible marriage to bassist Reg (Will Brill), who is an addict in every sense of the word. And finally Simon (Chris Stack), a drummer who parties to the hilt, as his marriage falls apart due to the recording of the album going way over the time frame given.

Photo by Julieta Cervantes

The question becomes; can this group of talented performers complete this album without killing each other or themselves? In the course of the 3+ hours, we start to really care about the outcome.

Sarah Pidgeon Photo by Julieta Cervantes

In the meantime, we hear fragments and whole songs that are really well done. Tender, yearning ballads of hope and despair written by Will Butler highlight this slice of life. The songs become the feelings that are unexpressed.

Chris Stack and Will Brill Photo by Julieta Cervantes

The cast is incredible, with each one giving us a complete profile. Gelb and Butler give us comedic dazed and confused nerds, whose chemistry is infectious. Gelb’s character is so out of his depth, as he is forced to be the one to keep this gang together despite Pecinka egocentric narcissistic personality. Pidgeon and Pecinka are perfect as lovers tearing each other apart. Stack gives us loss that is heartbreaking. Canfield gives us layers in a role that could be lost but it is Brill who steals the show with his brilliant portrayal as a rock star who lives his life to access.

Juliana Canfield Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Juliana Canfield Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Enver Chakartash’s costumes, Tommy Kurzman’s wigs and hairstyling, Jiyoun Chang’s  lighting, and Ryan Rumery’s multidirectional sound are groovy and out a sight.

Tom Pecinka and Sarah Pidgeon Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Director Daniel Aukin keeps this chaos intact, as the music exacts its reward.

Tom Pecinka, Juliana Canfield and Sarah Pidgeon by Julieta Cervantes

The music is so good that Sony Masterworks Broadway will release an original cast recording produced by Playwrights Horizons where the show originally played and features the original songs by Academy Award® nominee and Grammy Award® winner Will Butler, formerly of Arcade Fire wrote. The digital album arrives May 10, 2024, with the physical CD release set for June 14. The Album is available for preorder now.

Stereophonic: Broadway’s Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45th Street.

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Broadway

Chip Zien Is Honored at Sardi’s and The Original Cast of Falsettos Unite

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The iconic Chip Zien was honored with his portrait at Sardi’s. Sierra Boggess roasted him to the hilt

Zien has spent almost 50 years on Broadway.


Zien was the Baker in the original 1987 production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods filmed by the PBS.

The Baker’s Wife Joanna Gleason

In the 90’s he replaced Michael Jeter is Grand Hotel.

Stephen Bogardus, Chip Zien, Alison Fraser, Mary Testa

In 1992 he was Mendel in the groundbreaking William Finn and James Lapine musical Falsettos. He appeared in all of the “Marvin Trilogy” musicals by Finn: In Trousers (1979), March of the Falsettos (1981), Falsettoland (1990) and Falsettos (1992).

Carolee Carmella

Alison Fraser

Gregg Edelman, Barbara Walsh, Stephen Bogardus, Chip Zien,  Carolee Carmello, Mary Testa, Alison Fraser

Gregg Edelman, Barbara Walsh, Stephen Bogardus, Chip Zien, Carolee Carmella, Mary Testa, Alison Fraser

In 1998 Zien was featured in another Finn musical A New Brain. He received a 1999 Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical for this role.

Anne Nathan and Mary Testa

He appeared in the Off-Broadway play Isn’t It Romantic by Wendy Wasserstein and was nominated for the 1984 Drama Desk Award, Featured Actor in a Play.

Gregg Edelman, Carolee Carmella, Christine Pedi

In 2005, Zien played the part of Goran in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on Broadway.

In 2007, Zien was a replacement in the Broadway revival of Les Misérables in the role of Monsieur Thénardier.

Richard Kind

From April 1 to June 19, 2011, Zien appeared in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of The People in the Picture, which played at Studio 54 on Broadway.

Sierra Boggess

Zien appeared in the Broadway musical It Shoulda Been You at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

Chip signing his portrait

In 1973, Zien made his television debut on an episode of Love, American Style. More guest roles followed. In 1981, he appeared on Ryan’s Hope and began a two-year run in Love, Sidney, then Reggie. He provided the voice of the title character in Marvel Comics’ Howard the Duck. Zien later starred on the short-lived CBS drama Shell Game in 1987.

Carolee Carmello, Joanna Gleason, CHip Zien

In the 1990s, Zien was part of the ensemble cast of the CBS sitcom Almost Perfect and had regular roles in the daytime soaps Guiding Light and All My Children, until 2001.

Stefano Da Frè, Chip Zien, Sierra Boggess

From 1999 to 2000, Zien had a recurring guest role on the CBS primetime drama Now and Again and  appeared repeatedly as Attorney Cromwell on Law & Order.

During the 2002–03 season, Zien was the announcer on daytime’s The Caroline Rhea Show, and in 2006, he appeared in the critically acclaimed film United 93 was in the vampire comedy film Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead.

Joy Hermalyn

He was also in Caroline or Change on Broadway.

Bruce Sussman

Sierra Boggess, Chip Zien, Danny Kornfeld

Blake Roman, Steven Telsey,Sean Bell, Chip Zien, Danny Kornfeld, Eric Peters, Zal Owen

His last show was Harmony, the musical by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman. His role as the adult Rabbi, the last surviving Harmonist was hailed by the critic’s and audiences alike. He was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for his portrayal.

It was so fitting that this prolific performer hang on these hallowed walls. Congregations this was well deserved.

Up Next for Chip Zien is Titanic at City Centers Encore series.

 

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Broadway

Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman for Hamony at The Museum of Broadway

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On Thursday, April 18th, The Museum of Broadway located at 145 W. 45th Street, just east of Times Square, presented a brief A Cappella performance by The Comedian Harmonists played by Steven Telsey, Blake Roman, Danny Kornfeld, Eric Peters, Sean Bell and Zal Owen, welcoming remarks were made by Julie Boardman, Co-Founder Museum of Broadway, Chip Zien the lead in Harmony was in attendance, as were Barry Manilow & Bruce Sussman.

The reason for this event was the unveiling of the Museum of Broadway’s Harmony-inspired window dedicated to The Comedian Harmonists.


In Berlin, 1927, The Comedian Harmonists were six remarkably talented young men form a singing group who become international sensations: They sold millions of records, starred in major motion pictures, and played the biggest theaters around the world. By 1935, they were never heard from again. What happened? That’s the extraordinary true story of Harmony that played on Broadway. Now The Museum of Broadway is keeping their memory alive.

Bruce Sussman and Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow

The Comedian Harmonists and Bruce Sussman and Barry Manilow

Julie Boardman, Co-Founder Museum of Broadway

Steven Telsey, Blake Roman, Danny Kornfeld, Eric Peters, Sean Bell and Zal Owen, and Chip Zien

 

 

 

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Cabaret

Autumn in New York, in April 

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Have you ever had an acquaintance that you knew for many years, and then one day you realize there’s so much more to this person, and before you know it, you can’t get enough of them?  If this is familiar, you’ll understand the kind of experience we all had at Chelsea Table + Stage Sunday night when Klea Blackhurst left us no choice but to fall in love with Vernon Duke.   

Klea took us on a journey exploring the life and music of this man, who was born Vladimir Dukelsky,  and operated under both names.  He wasn’t a spy, but one of those rare remarkable talents that could have one foot in Tin Pan Alley and the other in Carnegie Hall.  Klea reminded us of others in this category: Leonard Bernstein and Kurt Weill were two.  Even Cole Porter dabbled on the classical side, producing the ballet Within the Quota.  Dukelsky took charge of the classical side of this man, composing symphonies and concertos, and even a ballet for Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes.    

Life took a turn for Mr. Dukelsky when he met George Gershwin who told him to “not be scared about going low-brow—that’s where the money is!”.  Gershwin also encouraged him to change his name, and Vernon Duke was born!    

Klea delivered the standards Duke was known for: Taking a Chance on Love, Autumn in New York, April in Paris et al with her usual panache.  But then there were songs I had never heard before, like Not a Care in the World and Poor as a Church Mouse which had a charm that made one hope for more. 

With her characteristic warmth and enthusiasm, Klea peppered this lesson in Vernon Duke with tidbits that those of us who live for this music relish.  Did you know that Duke wrote April in Paris in ten minutes?  No show of Klea’s is complete without a mention of Ethel Merman.  In 1944, Ethel was to star in a new musical by Duke and Deitz entitled Sadie Thompson.  After a brief rehearsal period, Ethel quit over a dispute about the name of a lipstick!   

Finally, did you know that Mary Martin was asked by Rodgers and Hammerstein to be the original Laurey in Oklahoma!?   And after she turned it down, they sent her flowers on every anniversary of the opening.  For details, catch this show next time around.  Or ask Klea yourself—she’ll be back at Chelsea Table+ Stage on May 5 for her Jerry Herman show—One of the Girls.  But wait—there’s more!   On September 15 you can join her for Dreaming of a Song—a salute to Mr. Stardust himself, Hoagy Carmichael.  and on November 20 join in the fun with An Evening with Klea Blackhurst.    

For those unfamiliar with the Blackhurst magic, Klea’s love and enthusiasm for what she does is infectious, and no one leaves one of her performances without catching some of her fire.  If there was ever an antidote to the blues, it’s Klea Blackhurst. 

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Entertainment

Tribeca Festival Announces TV Lineup

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The 2024 Tribeca Festival, presented by OKX, today announced its lineup of television and original indie episodic series. The Festival, which takes place June 5-16, showcases highly anticipated world premieres of new and returning programs from networks and streamers at the forefront of groundbreaking storytelling including Apple TV+, AMC, HBO, Hulu, Paramount+, and more.

This year’s TV lineup features 11 series premieres and two first looks at returning classics. World premieres include Hulu’s Mastermind: To Think Like A Killer, executive produced by Dakota Fanning and Elle Fanning, an in-depth exploration of Dr. Anne Burgess’ career and her successful journey to closing some of America’s most infamous criminal cases; Hollywood Black, executive produced by Justin Simien, an examination of the Black experience in Hollywood featuring conversations with Issa Rae, Lena Waithe, Ryan Coogler, and Ava DuVernay; and Apple TV+’s Presumed Innocent, a legal thriller starring and executive produced by Jake Gyllenhaal, hailing from David E. Kelley and executive producer J.J. Abrams, also with Ruth Negga and Peter Sarsgaard.

The program also spotlights docuseries from ESPN’s In the Arena: Serena Williams, a masterclass in professional sports excellence, exploring the most pivotal and intimate moments of Serena Williams’ life and career; MSNBC’s The Turning Point: To Be Destroyed follows Dave Eggers in a fiery investigation of a local school district’s banning of his novel; and Paramount+’s Melissa Etheridge: I’m Not Broken, an impactful two-part special about Melissa Etheridge’s bond with incarcerated women at the Topeka Correctional Facility and the power of music as a conduit of empathy and healing. Etheridge will perform a short acoustic set at the Beacon Theatre following the world premiere, presented by City National Bank.

Fan favorite shows include a return to The Walking Dead universe with season two of AMC’s The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon – The Book of Carol, which follows Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) in a post-apocalyptic France and Carol Peletier’s (Melissa McBride) journey to find him, and the final season of HBO’s My Brilliant Friend finds Elena (Alba Rohrwacher) and Lila (Irene Maiorino) entangled, once again, amid the political violence and social unrest of the late 80’s in Italy.

“The episodic realm is rich in phenomenal storytelling, and Tribeca’s 2024 TV and NOW program delivers the very best of narrative and documentary series. Audiences can look forward to diving into the testimonies of brilliant visionaries like Serena Williams, Melissa Etheridge, and the original subjects of the Stanford Prison Experiment, all of whom will be joining us at the Festival to present their stories,” said Tribeca Senior Programmer Liza Domnitz. “We’re also thrilled to present international adaptations of beloved books from award-winning novelist Bernardine Evaristo with Mr. Loverman and the farewell season premiere of Elena Ferrante’s stunning My Brilliant Friend.”

Tribeca Festival’s NOW program continues to uncover compelling independent episodic work, including short and long-form pilots and series. The 2024 NOW showcase focuses on seven standout titles, including a special Untitled Tim Burton Docuseries, a journey of Tim Burton’s excellence in melding the ominous and the frightful with a sense of whimsy created by Tara Wood; Yanqui, a story of love and life’s unexpected outcomes directed by award-winning filmmaker Kyle Hausmann-Stokes; and Juice, Mawaan Rizwan’s hilariously surreal BAFTA TV nominated series, co-starring Russell Tovey (Feud).

Over the years, Tribeca’s TV program has world-premiered numerous award-winning series, including season one of FX’s The Bear with Jeremy Allen White, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, and Ayo Edebiri; HULU’s The Handmaid’s Tale starring Elisabeth Moss and Alexis Bledel; HBO’s Chernobyl with Jared Harris, Emily Watson, and Stellan Skarsgård; and more.

The Tribeca Festival is curated by Festival Director and SVP of Programming Cara Cusumano, Artistic Director Frédéric Boyer; VP of Shorts Programming Ben Thompson; Senior Programmers Liza Domnitz, Faridah Gbadamosi, Jarod Neece, José F. Rodriguez; Programmers Casey Baron, Jason Gutierrez, Jonathan Penner, and Madison Egan; VP of Games and Immersive Casey Baltes and Immersive Curator Ana Brzezińska; EVP of Artist Relations Nancy Lefkowitz and VP of Artist Relations Meredith Mohr; Curator of Audio Storytelling Davy Gardner; Music Programmer Vincent Cassous; along with a team of associate programmers; supported and inspired by the legendary Paula Weinstein.

The full TV and NOW lineups are detailed below. For more updates on programming follow @Tribeca and #Tribeca2024 on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and to purchase passes and ticket packages for the 2024 Tribeca Festival, go to tribecafilm.com/festival.

 

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