Already in previews is Kathleen Chalfant, in Sarah Ruhl’s For Peter Pan On Her 70th Birthday at Playwrights Horizons. Les Waters directs. Playing Peter Pan at her hometown children’s theater is one of Ann’s fondest, most formative memories. Now, fifty years later, Neverland calls again, casting her and her siblings back to this faraway dreamscape where the refusal to grow up confronts the inevitability of growing old. Opens September 13th.
Also in previews is Suzan-Lori Parks The Red Letter Plays: Fuc*ing A and In The Blood. A playwright of Pershing Square Signature Center this year Jo Boney directs a cast that includes Brandon Victor Dixon, Joaquina Kalukango, Marc Kudisch, Christine Lahti and Elizabeth Stanley in a remixing The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s seminal masterpiece, The Red Letter Plays tear open notions of gender and hypocrisy. Fucking A’s Hester Smith is an abortionist, forced to ply her trade to save her own son. The two plays share a cast and director as they seek to powerful indictment American society. Opens September 11
The Atlantic Theatre Company at the Linda Gross Theater presents Simon Stephens’ On The Shore Of The Wide World. Something is about to happen that will change one family forever. Set over the course of nine months, Neil Pepe showcases this play about love, family, Roy Keane and the size of the galaxy. Blair Brown stars. Opening night is September 12th.
T2C is a fan of director Will Davis, so we are looking forward to Philip Dawkins’ and MCC Theater Company’s Charm. Mama Darleena Andrews is a 67-year-old, black, transgender woman who takes it upon herself to teach an etiquette class at Chicago’s LGBTQ community center. Will the idealistic teachings of Emily Post clash with the very real life challenges of identity, poverty and prejudice faced by her students? Inspired by the true story of Miss Gloria Allen and her work at Chicago’s Center on Halsted. Opening is set for September 18th.
You saw the movie A Clockwork Orange, but now the novel by Anthony Burgess is being turned into a play at New World Stages. Get ready to be lured into testosterone-filled underworld of a dystopian future. Little Alex and his rebellious gang of Droogs will bring ultra-violence and sexuality to the stage and will make 1984 look tame. First Preview begins September 2nd with and opening set for the 25th.
A.R.T/New York Theatres, Ma-Yi Theater, Jason Kim and Woodshed Collective, Helen Park and Max Vernon bring you KPOP. Enter the Korean Pop music factory where stars are made… or broken. Directed by Teddy Bergman, choreographed by Jennifer Weber. Preview begin September 5th with an opening set for the 25th. Mark our words this will be hot!
The New York Theatre Workshop is offering Amy Herzog’s Mary Jane. During a rain-drenched summer in New York City, an indefatigable single mother navigates the mundane, shattering and sublime aspects of caring for a chronically sick child. Anne Kauffman directs. Previews begin September 6th with a opening set for the 25th.
David Cromer may have The Band’s Visit on Broadway but he is also directing Max Posner’s The Treasure at Playwrights Horizons. Ida Armstrong is broke, lonely, and fading fast. She’s spending all of her children’s money, forcing her son to assume the unwanted role of The Treasurer: an arrangement that becomes untenable the more he questions his devotion to her. Follow the strained ties between a son and his aging mother, and the hell of a guilty conscience. Marinda Anderson, Pun Bandhu, Deanna Dunagan and Peter Friedman star. Previews begin September 6th with an opening night set for the 26th.
Classic Stage Company is bringing a new musical of As You Like It with music by Stephen Schwartz. John Doyle directs a cast that includes Ellen Burstyn, André De Shields, Cass Morgan and Kyle Scatliffe. An exiled Duke, his banished daughter, a gentleman in love, and a melancholy traveler. Shakespeare’s pastoral romance comes into the Jazz Age, with lovers in disguise, troubadours in trouble, and some of Shakespeare’s most beloved characters. Previews begin September 13th opening, TBD.
Atlantic Theatre Company/Linda Gross Theater presents Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical follows 8-year-old Lily Polkadot who just moved to the “Squares Only” small town of Rockaway. As the first Polkadot in an all Square school, Lily faces an almost impossible task of gaining acceptance from her peers. From daily bullying, to segregated drinking fountains, Lily’s quest seems hopeless until she meets Sky, a shy Square boy whose curiosity for her unique polka dot skin blooms into an unexpected pal-ship. Inspired by the events of The Little Rock 9, Polkadots serves as a colorful history lesson for children, reminding them that our individual differences make us awesome, not outcasts. Previews begin September 16th with an opening: TBD.
Measure For Measure comes back to The Public thanks to the Elevator Repair Service. With athletic theatricality and Marx-Brothers-inspired slapstick, the ERS ensemble brings exciting new life to this story of impossible moral choices in 17th-century Vienna. Radical experiments with speed set the play’s combination of the comically absurd and the tragically serious in stark relief, and deliver a remarkable new show that marries the company’s unique performance style with the Bard’s exquisitely lyrical language. Previews begin September 18th with an October 10th opening.
John Patrick Shanley directs his newest play The Portuguese Kid at the Manhattan Theatre Club. In Providence, Rhode Island, habitually widowed Atalanta pays a visit to her second-rate lawyer Barry Dragonetti. Intending to settle her latest husband’s affairs, this larger-than-life Greek tightwad quickly becomes a nightmare for her cheesy, self-aggrandizing attorney. Add Barry’s impossible Croatian mother, a dash of current politics and a couple of opportunistic young lovers, and you have in hand a recipe for comic combustion. Jason Alexander, Pico Alexander, Sherie Rene Scott and Mary Testa star. Previews begin September 19th with an October 24th opening.
Following its critically-acclaimed and sold-out run last season, the uplifting and richly funny Tiny Beautiful Things returns to the Public’s larger Newman Theater with Academy Award-nominee Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) reprising the role of Sugar. Thousands of people wrote letters asking for advice from an anonymous online columnist named Sugar, who drew from her own life experiences to answer in a candid, often brutally honest exchange. It was later revealed that Sugar was Cheryl Strayed. Vardalos adapts Strayed’s book, weaving together the real letters to explore the monstrous beauty, unfathomable dark and glimmering light, which are at the heart of being human. Previews begin September 19th with an October 10th opening.
Set in South Central LA, Oedipus El Rey is an electrifying new take on the Greek tragedy, written by acclaimed playwright Luis Alfaro (Electricidad, Straight as a Line). Oedipus is reimagined as a troubled Latino whose dreams of controlling his own destiny soar above the barbed wire of the prison where he’s spent his life. But in a place where everyone is trapped—by desperation or fate, history or violence—no one man can change his story alone. Love, family and belief collide in this chilling, incredibly powerful new play that asks: what’s fate, and what’s just the system? Previews begin October 3rd with an October 24th opening at The Public Theatre.
In Julie Cho’s Office Hour Gina was warned that one of her students would be a problem. Eighteen years old and strikingly odd, Dennis writes violently obscene work clearly intended to unsettle those around him. Determined to know whether he’s a real threat, Gina compels Dennis to attend her office hours. But as the clock ticks down, Gina realizes that “good” versus “bad” is nothing more than a convenient illusion, and that the isolated young student in her office has learned one thing above all else: that for the powerless, the ability to terrify others is powerful indeed. Previews begin October 17th with an November 8th opening at The Public Theatre.
This season, Richard Nelson, the writer-director of the acclaimed Apple Family Plays and The Gabriels, returns to The Public to reveal a forgotten chapter in The Public Theater’s celebrated history. In Illyria, it is 1958, and New York City is in the midst of a major building boom; a four-lane highway is planned for the heart of Washington Square; Carnegie Hall is designated for demolition; entire neighborhoods on the West Side are leveled to make room for a new ‘palace of art’. And a young Joe Papp and his colleagues face betrayals, self-inflicted wounds and anger from the city’s powerful elite as they continue their free Shakespeare productions in Central Park. Previews begin October 22nd for a opening TBA.
Rajiv Joseph’s play Describe The Night is coming to The Atlantic Theatre Company. In 1920, the Russian writer Isaac Babel wanders the countryside with the Red Cavalry. Seventy years later, a mysterious KGB agent spies on a woman in Dresden and falls in love. In 2010, an aircraft carrying most of the Polish government crashes in the Russian city of Smolensk. Rajiv Joseph’s epic new play traces the stories of seven men and women connected by history, myth and conspiracy theories. Previews begin November 1st.
Shaun and Abigail Bengson’s Hundred Days unleashes an exhilarating and raw story about embracing uncertainty, taking a leap, and loving as if you only had a hundred days to live. Come to the New York Theatre Workshop November 15th to see Anne Kauffman direct this new musical.
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.
Make Me Gorgeous Tells Of One Man’s Authenticity
Make Me Gorgeous! playing at Playhouse 46 in a nut shell is about the life and times of LGBTQ+ trailblazer Kenneth Marlow. Embodying Marlow is Wade McCollum, who tells us how he was born in 1926 in Des Moines, Iowa, and how he became a hustler, private hairdresser, stripped in mob-controlled nightclubs, became a female impersonator, a madam of a gay prostitution ring, until in the 70’s when he became Kate, throwing a “Ball to End all Balls” to fund gender-affirming surgery. We learn how she documented her life in books. In between he was a private in the U.S. Army; a Christian missionary; a mortuary cosmetologist and a newspaper columnist.
In a sense Marlow was raised to be who he was dressed in girls clothes as a child, then became drawn to feminine clothes and his female relatives encouraged him. In high school he ran around in drag. in Iowa in the 30’s took some kind of guts. His father never showed him love and left, his mother was a raging alcoholic. He took to the cinemas populated by men to find what was missing in life, then to the church. When he is shipped off to California, he meets and hangs out with the transgender prostitutes finding feeling at home. He ends up with a sugar daddy who is unattractive, ends up in Chicago, ends up as a hairdresser and then a stripper in Calumet City as “Mr. Keni Marlo, Exotic Queen of the Boys” and that takes us to the 40’s.
In the end he ended up becoming the hairstylist to Phyllis Diller, Lucille Ball, and Gypsy Rose Lee, among others. His side job need up being documented in Mr. Madam: Confessions of a Male Madam, Cathouse Mother, Male Oral Love, and Around the World with Kenneth Marlowe.
I have loved McCollum’s work ever since Ernest Shackleton Loves Me. This man is a consummate actor, whose rich voice and glamours gams make him perfect to tell this story. He brings everyone he is talking about to life. You feel as if you know each character. McCollum’ has oodles of charisma, so the tawdry tale he is telling comes off less crass. With lines like “I liked that men paid to have sex with me. And those who appealed to me usually didn’t have any money…so I did a lotta pro-bono work” if you are not exactly open this may not appeal to you. A couple walked out the night I went. McCollum is a natural with Sally Rand’s Fan Dance and glorious performing a song Marlow wrote with jazz pianist Reggie DuValle. The most pignut part of the story comes when he is drafted and is raped by 14 men. There is however a disconnect as on a book cover he wrote “He was raped by fourteen men in his barracks — and enjoyed it!”
The theater is styled like a cabaret, with velvet curtains and bistro tables. Black and white photographs of drag queens hang on the walls. On the stage Walt Spangler’s set looks like a cross between Barbie’s house and cotton candy. I really want the black dress designed by Jeffrey Hinshaw and the lighting by Jamie Roderick’s and sound by Ien DeNio’s really help to enjoy the evening
Smartly directed and written by Donald Horn, I was on the edge of my seat the whole performance and definitely learned a thing or two or three about this culture.
Make Me Gorgeous! Playhouse 46, 308 W 46th Street, through Dec. 31st.
Here We Are Or The Search For The Meaning of Life
Let me just state that I love the Stephen Sondheim/David Ives musical/play Here We Are. It’s as if the genius, known as Sondheim was trying to resolve his life. The first act is cynical and the characters are hypocritical, while the second act is about coming to with grips with life’s choices and surrendering to the inevitable.
The music is like playing Sondheim jeopardy. His motif’s from other shows are blended into new songs that make you want to have a pen and paper to play the game. I can’t wait until the CD comes out. I’ve been told that it is being recorded in January.
The show is highly surreal, with life’s journeyIn question. Think “The Outer Limits” or “The Twilight Zone,” very Rod Serling.
Based on two Luis Buñuel films “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (1972) and “The Exterminating Angel” (1962). Act one has Leo Brink (Bobby Cannavale) a entitled tycoon whose opinion is the only one that matters, his wife Marianne (Rachel Bay Jones) who lives for beauty and is a bit on the vaped side, their friends Paul Zimmer (Jeremy Shamos), a plastic surgeon celebrating his 1,000th nose job, his wife, Claudia (Amber Gray), an agent who lives for the celebrity of it all, Raffael Santello Di Santicci (Steven Pasquale), an ambassador from Moranda who lives for the number of notches on his belt and Fritz (Micaela Diamond), Marianne’s younger sister, who wants a revolution, while also wanting to live the good life, searching for brunch. It turns out Leo, Paul and Raffael run a drug cartel. As the day goes down the hill Marianne keeps asking Leo to “buy this perfect day for her.”
Act two is a little more dark. While they finally find food, the consequences of their choices keeps them trapped in purgatory. Enter a colonel (Francois Battiste) whose parents were killed for $26.15, a soldier (Jin Ha) who has feelings for Fritz due to his dreams and a bishop (David Hyde Pierce) who wants another job, has a shoe fettish, and plays piano, until there is no more music. This act is very reminiscent of Steambath. I love the homage to “The World According to Garp” and the bear.
Playing butlers and maids and assorted restaurateur’sare the incredible Tracie Bennett and Denis O’Hare. Kudos has to go out to the wigs by Robert Pickens and Katie Gell and the neon various establishments. white box set and costumes by David Zinn.
Joe Mantello’s staging is exquisite, allowing for each of these brilliantly talented performers to take center stage. This is true ensemble acting and I hope when the Drama Desk is giving out awards this wins.
Where many have criticized the lack of music in the second act, it makes perfect sense. The music stops. The concept very much reminds me of Davids Cromer’s Our Town, when Emily dies and suddenly things are in color and have smells. It makes complete sense that once you are trapped the music would die.
Natasha Katz’s lighting really helps the shinny set take shape, Tom Gibbons’s sound makes the inner world come to life and Sam Pinkleton’s choreography is just enough to make this move seamlessly.
Alexander Gemignani, and Jonathan Tunick, make Sondheim’s music an art and I for one appreciate the subtlety and musicality. Many may not know that Sondheim was a game master and in this it is like he won the final game of “putting it together”.
Here We Are, is intelligent, witty with so much to say and if you ponder the meaning of life you to will walk away extremely fulfilled.
Here We Are, The Shed, 545 West 30th through January 21st
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