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“I can’t stand the Moor, but I have to admit that he’s a reliable, loving, and good-natured man.”

Chukwudi Iwuji, Corey Stoll

Chukwudi Iwuji, Corey Stoll Photo by Joan Marcus

Othello speaks to the of drawbacks and perils of jealousy. First with Iago, who is so consumed with hate that he plots his revenge with a vengeance, then with Othello, who cannot believe the one he loves could love him as much and allows himself to be manipulated to the point of murder. In order for this show to work, you must understand how hatred consumes Iago so that he becomes a master manipulator. Daniel Craig in Othello in the 2016 New York Theatre Workshop production was mesmerizing. Christopher Plumber in the 1982 Broadway production was magnificent.

In this production, Iago is portrayed by Corey Stoll as a resentful, middle-aged man who cannot believe his foreign boss has passed him over for a younger, inexperienced Cassio (Babak Tafti) who is also foreign. In the text, Iago is supposed to be 28. “I have looked upon the world for four times seven years”. To justify his action, Iago believes Cassio and Othello have both slept with his wife, which is also unbelievable in this production since Cassio is so young and Emilia (Alison Wright) doesn’t seem to be his, or Othello’s, type. She is too worldly, so you don’t really understand how she has loved and trusted Iago for so long.

Chukwudi Iwuji,Heather Lind

Chukwudi Iwuji,Heather Lind Photo by Joan Marcus

Also because of the age difference between Othello (Chukwudi Iwuji) and Desdemona (Heather Lind), coupled with his foreign birthright, Othello is insecure. Mr. Iwuji struts with the swagger of a young rock star in tight leather pants of the day and boots, with an open white shirt. Once that confidence is knocked down a peg, Mr. Iwuji’s Othello never seems to recover, and never seems to grow with madness. When he goes to kill Desdemona, he gives her a body squeeze then smothers her with a pillow. Highly odd choice. However, Ms. Lind’s Desdemona has an intelligence and radiance to her. She is childlike and sexual, and we understand her love and lust for this easily deceived Moor.

Chukwudi Iwuji

Chukwudi Iwuji Photo by Joan Marcus

Under the direction of Ruben Santiago-Hudson, there seems to be a cutting off of some of Othello’sthemes. Cassio, the Duke of Venice (Peter Jay Fernandez), Cassio’s mistress Bianca (Flor De Liz Perez) which is always portrayed this way, and Roderigo (Motell Foster) the man in love with Desdemona, take away from the fact that Othello is supposed to be the only foreigner there, thus part of the reason for his insecurity. The theme of racism has been for the most part been erased, and thus in a sense a pivotal part of the plot.

The time frame from marriage to death is no more than 48 hours, so it is rather odd that Iago was able to pull off this scheme in such short time. Othello’s self-destructive behavior had to be as bad as Iago’s. Different men, but two spectrums of jealous insecurities. This production points out those flaws.

The show is beautiful to look at with the period costumes by Toni-Leslie James and the golden arches by Jessica Paz. There are duels, stabbing, and a number of deaths and Shakespeare lives on under the stars.

Othello: Delacorte Theater in Central Park under the stars until June 24th.

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

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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Off Broadway

The Lonely Few Rocks Big and True at MCC

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Diving into the emotionally turbulent world of rock and roll, courtesy of MCC Theater, The Lonely Few demands to be heard. It sings out loud and true with an immersive clarity, taking over the MCC space with its power and emotive energy. It’s destined to make us engage and fall in love with its guitar riffs and maddingly good vocals, as well as its two rock and roll lover leads. It carries a freshness and rawness within its more traditional power ballads and less traditional spins, and with music and lyrics by Zoe Sarnak (A Crossing; Galileo) and a book by Rachel Bonds (Roundabout’s Jonah), the achingly touching story strides and strums forward with fierce determination and a strong musical backbone, mainly because of the compelling force that lives, breaths, and sings out from the magnificent Lauren Patten (Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill) as its center stage star, Lila.

Helen J Shen and Damon Daunno in MCC’s The Lonely Few. Photos by Joan Marcus.

As the compelling lead of a mildly successful local rock band called The Lonely Few, Patten is astonishing, and the impact of the band’s musical rendering is intense and very satisfying. It’s powerfully driven and performed, with the exceptional cast giving it their all during their standing gig at Paul’s Juke Joint in their small Kentucky town. It’s a sharply defined space, courtesy of scenic designer Sibyl Wickersheimer (TFANA‘s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar) with solid costuming by Samantha C. Jones (The Gift Theatre’s Hamlet), captivating lighting by Adam Honoré (CSC’s Carmen Jones), and a solid sound design by Jonathan Deans & Mike Tracey (ATC’s Buena Vista Social Club), immersing many inside the world of the Juke Joint, and even when the space almost gets in the way of the unraveling, it lives and breaths an air of authenticity and connectivity. Backed by her loving bandmates, played engagingly by Damon Daunno (Broadway’s Oklahoma!) and Helen J Shen (Playwrights Horizons’ Teeth), making it hard to imagine they aren’t more successful, the band seems to carry the room and all of us inside with an open heart and a thrilling voice, like a well-tuned and lovingly regarded local band would, and we can’t help but join in adoringly.

Taylor Iman Jones and Thomas Silcott in MCC’s The Lonely Few. Photos by Joan Marcus.

The narrative is pretty straightforward, wrapped in musical performances built on a conventional landscape with a slight twist around a push and pull. This is a tenderly told woman-meets-woman love story, played out on stage, off stage, and somewhere out on the road, that plays its first chords when a far more famous rockstar and songwriter by the name of Amy, played strong and true by Taylor Iman Jones (Broadway’s Head Over Heels) stops by Paul’s Juke Joint. She’s there mainly to say hello to an old friend, musician, and bar owner, played lovingly by Thomas Silcott (Signature’s Boesman and Lena), and it is a tender unpacking that exists in their history, unveiled in song and storytelling. But the real sparks fly when Amy hears Lila take over the stage, the club, and the microphone with such power and emotional energy. It’s hard not to be swept up by Patten’s vocal performance and captivating presence, and Amy is smitten. As are we.

Granting us with a sharply tuned glimpse inside the lives of rock musicians living somewhat large on the road, playing the stage and their world straight from their hearts, this exquisite cast finds momentum and connection within a book that digs deep, even as it holds on to a few wrinkles in its outstretched hands that need to be ironed out. The love story is pure and connecting, even if it needs fleshing out, but we are totally forgiving and determined to believe in them as we feel the power of attraction almost as soon as they do. It’s as hypnotic as the songs and vocals we are being gifted with, courtesy of music supervisor Bryan Perri (Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill) and music director Myrna Conn (Broadway’s Pretty Woman), taking us on an emotional journey and tour of the backroads of America while navigating the music industry that these tender souls want to experience life within.

Lauren Patten and Peter Mark Kendall in MCC’s The Lonely Few. Photos by Joan Marcus.

Adding to the emotional heart is the disturbing sad arc that has Lila leaving her older and troubled brother, played well and true by Peter Mark Kendall (ATC’s Blue Ridge), to follow her dream and heart on the road with Amy. There is an ache that feels so complicated and authentic in their unpacking, thanks to the fine work done by director Trip Cullman (Broadway’s Lobby HeroSix Degrees of Separation) and director/choreographer Ellenore Scott (Off-Broadway’s Titanique), and even in the quick harshness of how it plays into the story, we stay tuned in to the engagement and complications that are thrown their way.

There is conventionality in the story, and an unconventionally in its unraveling, with emotional heartstrings pulling hard by each of the character’s dreams and fears. There is clarity and compassion in this rock musical that is getting its NYC premiere off-Broadway at MCC Theatre with some compelling back stories and attachment figures that make The Lonely Few even more powerful and electric than the performances and their songs. There is quiet engagement, even in the musical’s loudest moments, taking us in and holding us tight throughout.

Taylor Iman Jones and Lauren Patten in MCC’s The Lonely Few. Photos by Joan Marcus.

For tickets and more information, click here.
For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com
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