Tuesday, May 25, 2010

2009-2010 Most Annoying Audience Member Awards

My World's a Stage of Bad Theater Etiquette
By Lauren Yarger
In between the Drama Desks, the Outer Critics and Tony Awards honoring the best in theater performance, we mustn’t forget to award the other top folks in the theater -- the people attending the shows – so here are the 2009-2010 Most Annoying Audience Members, presented annually by yours truly.

Just when I think I can’t observe any more rude or annoying behavior, another audience member, usually seated right next to me, proves me wrong. And this year, we have 15 honorees instead of just 10 like we did last season. It seems like a lot, but take heart. For the number of shows I attend, this doesn’t even mean that I’m annoyed at 10 percent of the performances, so overall, good audience members far outweigh the bad. (For last season’s winners, click here).

Here are this year's winners in ascending order (saving the bext for last). I hope you enjoy reading about them more than I enjoyed encountering them. Each one happened at a different theater. The names have been left out to protect the innocent:

15.) The two very tall teenage girls who sat on booster seats to form a virtual Amazon wall past which no one behind them could see.

14.) The guy who snored through a play. He was across the theater in a different section from where I was seated, so I didn‘t have the pleasure of hitting him with my program, but he could be heard throughout the orchestra section of the theater. It wasn’t a boring play. There was no need for the log sawing -- and what’s wrong with the person or persons who were with him that they didn’t stir him to interrupt the rude, constant noise? I did take a little guilty pleasure, however, when I saw the person behind him kick the back of the seat and jar him awake.

13.) The woman next to me with the Japanese fan. She flipped it open and closed and fanned herself all night long wreaking havoc with my peripheral vision. It wasn’t hot in the theater -- in fact it was a little chilly and the constant wind chill factor from my left made it even more so. I sympathize with women experiencing hot flashes, but seriously, be a little more considerate of your neighbor.

12.) The guy whose I-phone protruded from his pocket into my seat (the seats were VERY cramped with no arm rest in between) and jabbed me all the way through the first act. At intermission, assuming he was unaware of the assault, I politely explained that my hip was bruised and asked if he couldn’t switch it the other pocket (thereby giving his wife, seated on his other side, the pleasure of being prodded). He exploded and told me that his wallet was in his other pocket and gave me a choice of being poked by his wallet or his phone. “Well, I choose neither you clod,” I wanted to respond. I think he had had a few too many before arriving at the theater, so maybe that explains his rude response and his droning on for the rest of intermission to his wife about the rude person seated next to him. To his credit, while he didn’t switch pockets, he did readjust the phone several times to keep it from visiting me during the second act.

11.) The guy in front of me who scratched his head, his back, his neck, his face, his armpits, his chest, his butt and a few other parts during the entire show. He was more active than the dancers performing on stage. And he never clapped-- a legitimate use for hands at the theater.

10.) One of my favorites-- a 6-year-old kid who kept talking loudly and yelling at Charles Ross during his performance of One Man Star Wars. The performer finally stopped the performance and said, “Kid, you don’t know how badly I need you to shut up right now” and went on to question why his parents hadn’t told him to be quiet. He was greeted with cheering applause from the audience. Parents, ushers, where were you?

9.) Another kid-- whose cute loud giggle at a joke early in the show brought laughter from the audience. Suddenly consumed with a need to perform, the child laughed out loud obnoxiously at everything, funny or not, for the rest of the evening. The first natural response was amusing. The subsequent 100 forced responses were annoying. Again, where are the parents?

8.) The guy with the camera who took about 300 photos of the set before the start of the show, then continued snapping after the curtain rose. I walked down the aisle and told him to power off, which to his credit, he did, though I think he was startled at intermission to discover that I was an audience member and not the theater manager (those old House manager authoritative tones still come in handy). Where the heck were the ushers? Oh, that's right -- standing there watching him snap away.

7.) The woman who texted five times during the first act after an announcement specifically asking audience members not to test during the show.

6.) The woman who unzipped and zipped her purse about 12,000 times rummaging incessantly for something during the first act. When intermission was almost over, she announced, “I found it!” (I am not making this up). My favorite part was that she did it again during the second act -- then shushed a woman in front of her for talking to her companion (This, by the way, was the only time the other woman had spoken during the show. She probably was saying, “Is that woman behind us ever going to stop rummaging around in her purse?”) Then Purse-zilla noisily unwrapped some candy for a while.

5.) The couple in front of me who were more interesting than the play we were watching. He was bald and she had a unbelievably big curly mop, which in itself was kind of funny, but they fought about everything all night long, which would have been amusing if it hadn’t been so sad and annoying (There probably was some good dialogue there for a scene showing the disintegration of a marriage. I should have taken notes.) They threw barbs all night and were genuinely unpleasant with each other. He had a broken leg. I could only speculate as to how that had happened…..

4.) The woman who commandeered a seat because she decided she didn’t want to walk down a few steps to get to hers, The usher tried to explain that someone else would be arriving with a ticket for the seat she had selected, but the woman simply replied that he or she could have her other seat instead. She had attached herself to an aisle seat. Her real seat, of course was not. The usher was super nice and went to get the manager, who told the woman the same thing. She refused to move from her new seat. Eventually, of course, the ticket holder arrived and she had to move and was VERY upset…..

3.) The woman who left during the second act, then returned toward the end of the show. Her companion welcomed her back loudly, then proceeded to tell her what she had missed during the last 40 minutes.

2.) The guy with the smelly feet. At a musical, I suddenly was nauseated by a horrible odor. Everyone started looking at me, as though I were the cause, and in fact, I did seem to be, though I knew it wasn’t me and wanted desperately for everyone to know that. At intermission I discovered the cause: the guy behind me had removed his shoes, then stretched his legs out placing his feet directly under my chair.

1.) And my personal favorite from this season, the one that can make a trip to the theater seem very surreal: The Pizza Lady. A woman plopped down next to me with a full-sized pizza box, opened it and started to chomp. I glanced around the theater thinking that perhaps I had missed advertising about this being “bring your own dinner” or “pizza and beer” night at the theater. No one else was eating anything. No one was even chewing gum.

She turned to me and asked in pizza breath with bits of mozzarella and sausage flying in my direction, whether I got to the theater much. “Yes,” I wanted to reply, “and this is the first time anyone has brought their own pizza.” Instead, I engaged in polite conversation (by polite I mean I didn’t gag at the flying food) and refused (again I was polite) to switch my seat with her companion who had a ticket in the cheap seats (and who probably was hoping to have a chance to chomp his half of the pizza).

This woman produced the loudest laugh I ever have heard and proceeded to force it and her pizza breath on all of us throughout the performance. She also repeated every punch line out loud. Then she threw her jacket on me (I had to ask her to remove it four times) and told everyone around us to be quiet if they even breathed loudly.

For being offensive on so many levels and for making me pinch myself 100 times to convince myself that this was a real person and not some dream, The Pizza Lady wins the 2009-2010 Most Annoying Audience Member Award!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Memphis, Red Take Top Drama Desk Awards

Memphis. Photo: Joan Marcus

Two Ties Announced: Catherine Zeta-Jones and Montego Glover tie for Outstanding Actress in Musical; A View from the Bridge and Fences share Outstanding Revival of a Play
Memphis captured Drama Desk trophies for Outstanding New Musical, Outstanding Music (David Bryan) and Outstanding Orchestrations (Daryl Waters and David Bryan) while Oustanding Play Red also won for Outstanding Director (Michael Grandage) and Outstanding Lighting Design (Neil Austin).
In addition to sharing the Outstanding Revival of a Play award, Fences also garnered the Outstanding Actress in a Play award for Viola Davis and Outstanding Music in a Play award for Branford Marsalis. La Cage Aux Folles won for Outstanding Revival of a Musical, for Outstanding Actor in a Musical (Douglas Hodge) and for Outstanding Costume Design (Matthew Wright).
Jan Maxwell (The Royal Family) was voted Outstanding Actress in a Play. The Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical award went to Katie Finneran (revival of Promises, Promises) and the Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical trophy was presented to Christopher Fitzgerald (the revival of Finian’s Rainbow). Santino Fontana (Brighton Beach Memoirs) won the Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play Award

Michael Mayer (American Idiot) was named Outstanding Director of a Musical and Twyla Tharp (Come Fly Away) was voted Outstanding Choreographer. Sondheim on Sondheim won the Drama Desk Award as Outstanding Musical Revue and John Kander and Fred Ebb (The Scottsboro Boys) were voted Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Lyrics. The Outstanding Book of a Musical went to Alex Timbers (Off Broadway’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson).
The Outstanding Set Design Drama Desk was won by Phelim McDermott, Julian Crouch & Basil Twist for The Addams Family. The Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical went to Acme Sound Partners (Ragtime), and Fitz Patton (When The Rain Stops Falling) captured the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Sound Design in a Play.
Jim Brochu won the Outstanding Solo Performance Drama Desk Award for his portrayal of Zero Mostel in Zero Hour. The Unique Theatrical Experience Drama Desk award was voted to Love, Loss and What I Wore. Matthew Wright (La Cage Aux Folles) won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costumes. Acme Sound Partners (Ragtime) was voted the award for Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical and Fitz Patton (When The Rain Stops Falling) won for Outstanding Sound Design in a Play.
The following awards were voted by the nominating committee and were presented at the 55th awards ceremony, hosted by Patti LuPone Sunday, May 23:
Outstanding Ensemble Awards for acting were presented to the cast members of two shows -- The Temperamentals and The Orphan’s Home Cycle. Therefore, individual cast members for these shows were not eligible for acting awards in the competitive categories.
Each year the Drama Desk votes special awards to recognize excellence and significant contributions to the theater. These awards were presented this evening to:
• To the cast, creative team and producers of Horton Foote’s epic The Orphan’s Home Cycle: saluting the breadth of vision, which inspired the exceptional direction, performances, sets, lighting, costumes, music and sound that maItalicde it the theatrical event for this season.
• To Jerry Herman for enchanting and dazzling audiences with his exuberant music for more than half a century.
• To Godlight Theatre Company for consistent originality and excellence in dramatizing modern literature, and especially for the vibrant theatricality of its innovative productions.
• To Ma-Yi Theater Company for more than two decades of excellence and for nurturing Asian-American voices in stylistically varied and engaging theater.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Theater Review: The Screwtape Letters

A Devilishly Clever Performance
By Lauren Yarger
Max McLean is a deliciously loathsome demon giving advice on how to keep humans from following God (and in consequence, dispensing some sage insights into how we allow the enemy to trip us up) in a slick Off-Broadway presentation of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.

McLean (right, photos courtesy of Fellowship of the Performing Arts) has been touring the show, co-adapted and directed by Jeffrey Fiske, for a number of years, and practice has paid off. This version is tighter and more polished than the show that ran here in New York a few years ago.

Screwtape, a sort of dean of devils, writes a series of letters to his nephew, Wormwood, a recent graduate of the Tempters' Training College for young demons, who has been assigned to lead his first human subject to claim him for “our father below” and away from the “enemy” above. Sitting in large leather chair in his hellish quarters, glowing red and lined with the bones of human skeletons (Cameron Anderson, set design; Jesse Klug, lighting design), he dictates his advice, then closes each one with, "Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape," accenting the "P" heavily and triggering a crackling sound, as though the letter is sealed with a flame.

His servant demon, Toadpipe (Karen Eleanor Wight, right), climbs a curved staircase to deliver the missives to a postal box not unlike a bank suction tube that sends them up to the waiting Wormwood.

McLean is both comical and scary as he suggests ways for Wormwood to keep his “patient” away from things that will lead him to God. When that fails, and the man becomes a Christian, the senior demon helps his protégé plan a strategy to keep the human from becoming too serious about his new-found faith and to stealthily direct him back towards hell.

“Bring us back food,” Screwtape cautions his nephew, “or be food yourself.”

You can almost hear him licking his lips in anticipation of devouring the man’s soul.

The adaptation captures much of Lewis’ dry wit and sage insight in the dialogue (a memorization tour de force for McLean) and more than once the audience gives a collective, cognitive "hmmm" as the truth of the enemy’s strategy and purpose is revealed.

“A moderated religion is just as good as no religion at all,” he says knowingly.

Wight, who has no lines but only grunts in a devilish way while crawling around gnawing on a bone or transcribing Screwtape’s words onto paper with a claw, is quite entertaining and wears a vivid costume designed by Michael Bevins. She also acts out the parts of humans Screwtape uses as examples in his letters to Wormwood. John Gromada’s original music and sound design, including select prerecorded pieces that help lend an other-worldly effect to Screwtape’s voice, complete the effect.

It’s a powerful production and enjoyable whether you are a C.S. Lewis fan or are asking, "C.S who?" Don’t miss it at the Westside Theatre, 407 West 43rd St., NYC. For tickets, visit http://www.fpatheatre.com/current/nyc.

Christians might also like to know:
• No content-related notes. Learn something!

Special Note: Hell freezes over at the Westside Theater where it is really cold during the 90-minute presentation without intermission. Bring a sweater or jacket and hit the restroom before.

Marc Robinson Receives George Jean Nathan Award for Criticism

Lauren Yarger photo

Marc Robinson, left, professor of English and theater studies at Yale University School of Drama is the 2010 winner of the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. He won for his book "The American Play 1787-2000."

The presentation was made Monday by Ellis Hanson, right, chair of the Cornell University English Department, at the 50th anniversary celebration of the award at the Yale Club in New York. Robinson read an excerpt from his book.

The award, which includes a $10,000 prize, is given annually to the "best piece of drama criticism during the theatrical year (July 1 to June 30), whether it is an article, an essay, treatise or book."

New Victory Theater's Season of Family, Kid Shows Announced

The New Victory Theater, New York’s theater for kids and families, opens its 2010-11 season on a high note – literally. From New York’s Gotham Chamber Opera and celebrated Broadway director and founder of Tectonic Theater Project, Moisés Kaufman, in association with London-based puppet company, Blind Summit Theatre, comes the opera Puss in Boots (El gato con botas), a stunning and entirely new adaptation of the beloved children’s story. Puss in Boots (runs from Oct. 2-10at The New Victory Theater.

Below are a few highlights of the upcoming season:

· For its annual holiday show, The New Victory will present Momentum by Tel Aviv’s Mayumana. A thrilling, high-energy multimedia show with music, dance, drumming, acrobatics and audience interaction, Momentum boasts a cast of 10 outstanding young talents from as many countries.

· Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe by Catalyst Theatre is a Tim Burtonesque dreamscape about literary sensation and master of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe. Nevermore uses haunting song, poetic storytelling and surreal, Victorian-inspired imagery to explore the events that shaped Poe’s career and ignited his lifelong battle with “visions dark and sinister.”

· Once again, The New Victory will present several shows for pre-school aged children and younger, as well as their adult companions: Egg and Spoon (Lyngo Theatre, London/Venice), a cozy and gentle interactive adventure; Potato Needs a Bath (Shone Reppe Puppets, Scotland), a charming puppet tale, and Mischief (Theatre-Rites and Arthur Pita, London), an award-winning production that marks the first commission for family audiences by London’s Sadler’s Wells.

· Peter and Wendy, by Mabou Mines, brings J.M. Barrie’s celebrated story of exuberant joy and bittersweet longing to life. Karen Kandel recreates her OBIE Award-winning role of The Narrator, telling the story and embodying every character. Peter Pan, the Lost Boys and a “very classy” Hook are brought to life using bunraku-style puppets and scraps of cloth and paper. Original Celtic music supports Barrie’s lyrical language.

The other shows in The New Victory Theater’s 14-production 2010-2011 season include:

· ZooZoo, Imago Theatre, Portland Oregon, Oct. 15-24

· Squirm Burpee Circus: A Vaudevillian Melodrama, The Handsome Little Devils, Denver Colorado, Nov. 12-28

· Nearly Lear, Susanna Hamnett, Toronto, Canada, Jan. 7-16

· Circus INcognitus, Jamie Adkins, Montreal, Canada, Feb. 11-27

· Skellig by David Almond, The Birmingham Stage Company, Birmingham, UK, March 4-13

· Boom Town, Cirque Mechanics, April 8-24

· The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy, Slingsby Theatre Company, Adelaide, Australia, April 29-May 8

Theater-goers who buy tickets for three or more New Vic shows qualify for free membership benefits, including up to 35-percent savings with tickets as low as $9. Tickets for new members are available online starting July 7, 2010, or by telephone starting Aug. 4. To purchase tickets online, visit www.NewVictory.org, or call 646-223-3010.

Beginning September 7, The New Victory Theater box office (209 West 42nd Street) will be open Sunday and Monday from 11 am to 5 pm and Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 7 pm.

The New Victory Theater is New York City’s first and only full-time performing arts theater for kids, their families and classmates. In addition, The New Victory also offers daytime school performances ($2 per student), family workshops and jobs to high school and college students. Interactive Lower Lobby Activities, FYIs (performance-related exhibits) and Talk-backs with the artists are offered in conjunction with select performances throughout the season.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Theater Review: White’s Lies

Tuc Watkins, Peter Scolari and Christy Carlson Romano
PHOTO CREDIT KEN HOWARD

A Breakneck Speed and Some Good Old Fun
By Lauren Yarger
If you can keep up with the speedy dialogue and quick-change sets in the Off-Broadway production of Ben Andron’s White’s Lies, you’ll probably find yourself enjoying the play, even if you can’t quite put your finger on why.

Tuc Watkins (of TV’s “Desperate Housewives”) stars as Joe White, a womanizing divorce lawyer who depends on partner, Alan (a fine, but underused Peter Scolari), to come by early every morning and interrupt the trysts held at the office so that the cad doesn’t have to breakfast with (or feign any kind of commitment to) his conquests. He’s content with his life until a sobering visit from his estranged mother (Betty Buckley), who wants to put their differences aside after being told that she doesn’t have long to live. Her one regret, she tells her son, is that he didn’t give her a grandchild.

When an old college flame, Barbara (Andrea Grano), wants the expensive firm to represent her in her divorce, White offers a trade instead: his services free in exchange for Barbara's going along with a scheme to convince Mrs. White that Barbara’s daughter, Michelle (Christy Carlson Romano), is the product of her past relationship with White yielding an instant granddaughter. Romano, known to fans of TV’s “Kim Possible,” wears the coolest wardrobe and shoes ever thanks to costume designer Michael Bevins.

A highlight of the play is Robert Andrew Kovach’s set design which transforms the office into a restaurant/bar where the owner (Jimmy Ray Bennett, who plays multiple roles) changes the establishments from American to Mexican to French, to sleazy bar, etc., almost instantaneously with the use of some rotating walls and a cracker-jack stage crew. Changing almost as quickly is Rena Strober, who plays to humorous satisfaction various women White has taken advantage of in his past.

The script is totally predictable, and you’d think some of the bits re-used multiple times throughout the play would grow old, but Director Bob Cline infuses a high-speed farce tempo on the ever-complicating piece that doesn’t let you think about it too much. In fact, some of the punch lines are delivered in such a drive-by style, that they don’t hit you until a few seconds later (there’s a great line about Buckley’s character not being able to sing).

The show also works because the cast appears to be having a lot of fun themselves. When Romano’s unbelievably high, spiked heel caused her to trip while exiting, Buckley gamely adlibbed, “she’s a little clumsy, but lovely” to the delight of the cast and audience. When Romano returned, she comically gave the chaise lounge, over which she’d tripped, a wide berth.

The characters are likable as well. You want everything to work out for them, and because the script really isn’t that complicated, of course it does. It’s an enjoyable night at the theater – if you can just keep up.

White’s Lies plays at New World Stages, 340 West 50th St., NYC. For tickets call (212) 239-6200. Group discounts are available for friends of Masterwork Productions at http://www.givenik.com/show_info.php/Masterworks/251/groups.

Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• Lord’s name taken in vain
• Sex outside of marriage

Monday, May 17, 2010

Theater Review: The Housewives of Mannheim

Compelling Performance Highlights This One
By Lauren Yarger
Pheonix Vaughn gives a compelling performance as May Black, a Brooklyn housewife trying to keep things running on the home front while her husband is away at war in Alan Brody’s The Housewives of Mannheim Off-Broadway at 59/59 Theaters.

May has a battle of her own, as well, as she fights to come to terms with her sexuality after longtime friend, Billie Friedhoff (an engaging Corey Tazmania), who sells linens to help make ends meet, makes romantic advances. May might never have considered such a relationship before the arrival of the sophisticated and beautiful Sophie Birnbaum (Natalie Mosco), who escapedsthe Nazi terror in her native Austria to relocate in the women’s apartment building.

May idolizes the independent Sophie, who was a concert pianist before the war and who also happens to be a lesbian. May craves knowledge. She wants to visit museums with Sophie, listen to her recordings, and maybe even take some college classes – something she’s never thought much about because she always assumed good looks were all a woman needed to get ahead in life. And though she’s supposed to yearn for the return of her husband, she starts to wonder whether any of those opportunities will be available to her once he’s home again.

Making a fourth at May’s table for coffee and conversation is contest-entering and label-collecting, but emphatically not lesbian Alice Cohen (Wendy Peace), who tries to keep May from coming under the influence of the other two women.

All of the performances, directed by Suzanne Barabas, are solid, but Vaughn’s emotional portrayal really stands out as a woman who wants so much more than keeping house, but who feels trapped in her kitchen by society’s rules and her own fears about what she wants. A very nice metaphor is given in the display of a fictional Vermeer painting titled "The Housewives of Mannheim" that May goes to see (all by herself – a big deal for a woman in 1944 – to the Metropolitan Museum of art) featuring four women around a table, which, in May’s mind, freezes them in their period of history. The scene is recreated with the four Brooklyn women.

This cast reprises their roles from the original New Jersey Rep company production.

The Housewives of Mannheim runs through June 6 at 59/59 theaters, 59 East 59th St., NYC. Tickets are available by calling Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or online at http://www.ticketcentral.com/. For more information visit www.59E59.org.

Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• Lord’s name taken in vain
• Homosexual activity

Theater Review: Children of Eden in Astoria

The snake tempts Eve (Emmy Raver-Lampman).
Photo Credit Jen Maufrais Kelly.jpg. Credit

A Visually Pleasing Take on Old Testament Stories
By Lauren Yarger
If you don’t mind some major rewriting of the Old Testament stories of Adam and Eve and Noah’s Ark, take in Astoria Performing Arts Center’s visually satisfying Equity Showcase production of Children of Eden playing through Saturday at the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church in Queens.

If you’re a stickler for biblical accuracy, then John Caird’s book with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, isn’t for you. But if you’re OK with a little fictionalization, you’ll enjoy this wonderfully designed production with sets by Michael P. Kramer, who creatively transforms a recreational area of the church into a wall-to-wall garden of Eden for the first act and the animal-filed ark for the second act. It’s really fun to watch on the multi-leveled, multi-shaped stage, including some fun shadow puppetry, multi- purpose poles and a beautifully embroidered tunic for God (though I really hated the modern footwear worn by most of the cast -- Hunter Kaczorowski, costume and puppet design; Nicole Gaignat, props design). It’s also great to see the full musical, often presented commercially only in concert or reading form because of the cost of a large cast and sets.

Heading the cast directed by Tom Wojunik are James Zannelli as Father, a really grumpy God who apparently gets out on the wrong side of his heavenly bed to create Adam (Joseph Spieldenner) and Eve (Emmy Raver-Lampman), who gives new meaning to the phrase “talk back to God.” Spieldenner and Raver-Lampman take on the roles of Noah and his wife for the second story.

The band is housed up in the “heavens” above the action, which results in a few missed timings when songs start or end and the un-miked cast can be a little hard to hear at times, especially Eve when she’s singing, but overall, there are fewer glitches than I would have expected given the difficult setup.

Again, there’s a lot of fiction between the lines of scripture here, and an unfortunate apparent message that man needs to rely on himself, rather than God, but the consequences of disobeying God also come through loud and clear, If you haven’t experienced this musical, catch this really satisfying production of it before it closes Saturday. It’s worth the train ride.

Children of Eden runs through May 29 at the Good Lutheran Church, 30-44 Crescent St, Astoria, NYC. Tickets are $18, available online at www.apacny.org or by calling 866-811-4111. Performances are Thursday and Friday at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 and 8 pm. Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the Theatre Box Office, 30 minutes prior to the performance. Directions to the theatre: Take the N or W Subway to 30th Avenue. Walk down 30th Ave. to Crescent St. (Mount Sinai Hospital is on the corner.) Walk one block South to 30th Road.

Christians might also like to know:
• No notes in addition to letting you know that the story is fictionalized, rather than biblically accurate.

Memphis, LaCage top Outer Critics Awards; Ties in 3 Categories

Memphis won the Best Musical and Red was named Best Play in the Outer Critics Circle Awards for the 2009-2010 Broadway and Off-Broadway season.

Ties were announced in three categories:
Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical where Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
and The Scottsboro Boys share the honor; Choreography, shared by Bill T. Jones, Fela! and Sergio Trujillo, Memphis; and again in the category of Best Actress in a Musical with Montego Glover of Memphis and Catherine Zeta-Jones in A Little Night Music sharing.

Meanwhile, The Orphans' Home Cycle and its director Michael Wilson took top Off Broadway play honors. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis took top play acting honors for their roles in Fences and Douglas Hodge was named best actor in a musical for his role in La Cage aux Folles. For a complete list of the winners and nominees (Winners are indicated by an *), see below:

OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY PLAY
Next Fall
* Red
Superior Donuts
Time Stands Still

OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY MUSICAL
American Idiot
Come Fly Away
Fela!
* Memphis
Sondheim on Sondheim

OUTSTANDING NEW OFF-BROADWAY PLAY
Clybourne Park
* The Orphans’ Home Cycle
The Pride
The Temperamentals

OUTSTANDING NEW OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL
* Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
* The Scottsboro Boys
Tin Pan Alley Rag
Yank!

OUTSTANDING NEW SCORE
(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
* Memphis
The Scottsboro Boys
Yank!

OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A PLAY
(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
* Fences
Lend Me a Tenor
The Royal Family
A View From the Bridge

OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
* La Cage aux Folles
Finian’s Rainbow
A Little Night Music
Promises, Promises

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A PLAY
Doug Hughes The Royal Family
Kenny Leon Fences
Stanley Tucci Lend Me a Tenor
* Michael Wilson The Orphans’ Home Cycle

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL
Christopher Ashley Memphis
* Terry Johnson La Cage aux Folles
Susan Stroman The Scottsboro Boys
Alex Timbers Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHER
Rob Ashford Promises, Promises
* Bill T. Jones Fela!
Susan Stroman The Scottsboro Boys
* Sergio Trujillo Memphis

OUTSTANDING SET DESIGN
(Play or Musical)
John Lee Beatty The Royal Family
Beowulf Boritt Sondheim on Sondheim
* Phelim McDermott & Julian Crouch The Addams Family
Donyale Werle Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN
(Play or Musical)
Jane Greenwood Present Laughter
Martin Pakledinaz Lend Me a Tenor
* Matthew Wright La Cage aux Folles
Catherine Zuber The Royal Family

OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN
(Play or Musical)
* Kevin Adams American Idiot
Kevin Adams The Scottsboro Boys
Ken Billington Sondheim on Sondheim
Justin Townsend Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Bill Heck The Orphans’ Home Cycle
Jude Law Hamlet
Liev Schreiber A View From the Bridge
Christopher Walken A Behanding in Spokane
* Denzel Washington Fences

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Nina Arianda Venus in Fur
Laura Benanti In the Next Room, or the vibrator play
* Viola Davis Fences
Laura Linney Time Stands Still
Jan Maxwell The Royal Family

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Brandon Victor Dixon The Scottsboro Boys
Sean Hayes Promises, Promises
* Douglas Hodge La Cage aux Folles
Chad Kimball Memphis
Nathan Lane The Addams Family

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Kate Baldwin Finian’s Rainbow
Barbara Cook Sondheim on Sondheim
* Montego Glover Memphis
Bebe Neuwirth The Addams Family
* Catherine Zeta-Jones A Little Night Music

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
James DeMarse The Orphans’ Home Cycle
* Jon Michael Hill Superior Donuts
David Pittu Equivocation
Noah Robbins Brighton Beach Memoirs
Reg Rogers The Royal Family

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Hallie Foote The Orphans’ Home Cycle
Rosemary Harris The Royal Family
Marin Ireland A Lie of the Mind
* Jan Maxwell Lend Me a Tenor
Alicia Silverstone Time Stands Still

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Kevin Chamberlin The Addams Family
Christopher Fitzgerald Finian’s Rainbow
* Levi Kreis Million Dollar Quartet
Dick Latessa Promises, Promises
Bobby Steggert Ragtime

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Carolee Carmello The Addams Family
* Katie Finneran Promises, Promises
Angela Lansbury A Little Night Music
Cass Morgan Memphis
Terri White Finian’s Rainbow

OUTSTANDING SOLO PERFORMANCE
Jim Brochu Zero Hour
* Carrie Fisher Wishful Drinking
Judith Ivey The Lady With All the Answers
Anna Deavere Smith Let Me Down Easy

JOHN GASSNER AWARD
(Presented for an American play, preferably by a new playwright)
John Logan Red
Jon Marans The Temperamentals
* Geoffrey Nauffts Next Fall
Bruce Norris Clybourne Park

Outer Critics Circle, the organization of writers and commentators for all media covering New York theatre announced today its award winners for the 2009-10 season in 23 categories.

As previously announced, the cast of the hit comedy "God of Carnage" --- Dylan Baker, Jeff Daniels, Lucy Liu and Janet McTeer will serve as presenters at the organization's 60th Annual Award ceremony on Thursday, May 27 at 4 pm at Sardi's Restaurant (234 West 44th St., NYC).

Celebrating its 60th season of bestowing awards of excellence in the field of theatre, the Outer Critics Circle, is an association with members affiliated with more than ninety newspapers, magazines, web sites, radio and television stations, and theatre publications in America and abroad.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Theater Review: The Temperamentals

Thomas Jay Ryan, Michael Urie
(Photo: David Rogers David Rogers)
A Look at the Start of the Gay Movement
By Lauren Yarger
Back in the early 1950s, Communist Harry Hay (Thomas John Ryan) wrote a manifesto arguing that gays, code word "temperamentals," should be recognized as a sexual minority. He and his lover, fashion designer Rudi Gernreich (Michael Urie), try hard to sign up members for their Mattachine Society, which eventually becomes obsolete following the McCarthy Senate hearings on anti-American activity and the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Now, if you stretch that paragraph into two hours, you have Jon Marans’ play The Temperamentals, playing Off-Broadway. The play presents interesting information about a little-know movement and some insight into men living double lives – Harry is married with children – in order to keep up appearances in a culture that wasn’t accepting of openly homosexual behavior. In this, however, it seems a rehash of every other gay-themed play about two guys who can’t be together because something, usually either society or religion, won’t let them.

The performances directed by Jonathan Silverstein are good. Ryan and Urie are backed by Arnie Burton, Matthew Schneck and Sam Breslin Wright playing multiple roles.

“I intend never to be mistaken for a heterosexual again,” Harry claims and decides to start wearing women’s shawls and other garments to the delight of Rudi who also is getting pressure at work to find a wife to maintain appearances.

When one of the group’s members is arrested for lewd behavior, Harry urges him to fight in court so that his status as a sexual minority can be established. He wins the case, but the press shows no interest and Harry’s hopes for publicity about their “underground railroad” are dashed. The group sings “God save us queens” to the tune of “God Save the Queen.”

It just wasn’t interesting enough to me, nor were the characters likable enough, to justify a two-hour play, but I myself am in a minority, it seems. The Drama Desk has given the play a special ensemble award and the Outer Critics Circle has nominated it as Best Outstanding Play and for its John Gassner Award, presented for an American play, preferably by a new playwright.

The Temperamentals runs through May 30 at New World Stages, 340 West 50th St., NYC. Discounted tickets are available for friends of Masterwork Productions here.

Christians might also like to know:
• Homosexual themes
• Homosexual activity
• Language

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Broadway Theater Review: Fences with Denzel Washington

Fences Can Keep People in, or Out
By Lauren Yarger
The fence behind the Maxson’s Pittsburgh home in August Wilson’s Fences is more than just a symbol of the people it keeps in or out of the family’s circle. For Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington in an explosive performance), each post and each plank represents one of his poor choices that has built a boundary between him and the people he loves.

The gatekeeper with figurative control over who gets to be on which side of the fence is his wife, Rose (a marvelous Viola Davis who probably will take the Best Actress Tony for this performance). She has brought happiness to Troy’s life, giving him a son, Cory (Chris Chalk), being a mother to his oldest son from a previous marriage, Lyons (Russell Hornsby), and helping to look after her husband’s war-damaged brother, Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson).

This play, which won the Pulitzer Prize, is one of 10 written by Wilson depicting the black experience in Pittsburgh decade by decade. Fences is set in 1957.

At first, the family is happy and Troy’s friend and work mate Jim Bono (Stephen McKinley Henderson) enjoys hanging out with the family, sharing jokes and few drinks with Troy on Friday paydays when Lyons usually visits looking for a handout to support his musician lifestyle. Troy entertains the gang with stories of his days in the Negro Baseball League and of how he just missed a chance to play in the Majors. Cory shares his father’s athletic ability and hopes to play professional football, but Troy refuses to allow it, insisting instead that his son hold down a job.

Troy’s selfishness continues to guide his decisions and when his affair with another woman results in a daughter (played later by Sacha Stewart Coleman and Eden Duncan-Smith at alternating performances), he just might have put a lock on the fence gate and separated himself from his family forever. The play, tightly directed by Kenny Leon, is a brilliant, poetic look at self destruction and the power of family and forgiveness.

Designer Santo Loquasto expertly shows the exterior of the house as well as a glimpse into the kitchen giving the set a nice depth. Scene changes are enhanced by some really pleasing jazz composed by Branford Marsalis.

Don’t get caught outside the fence on this one. The play and performances are well worth it.

Fences runs through July 11 at the Cort Theatre, 138 West 48th St., NYC. For tickets, call (212) 239-6200.

Christians might also like to know:
• Sexual dialogue
• God’s name taken in vain
Special note: Women, the line for the inadequate restroom at the Cort at intermission is insanely long. There’s a good chance you won’t be able to get in before the curtain for Act 2 is going up, so plan accordingly.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Broadway Theater Review: Collected Stories

Loss of Focus Scatters a Dynamic Play
By Lauren Yarger
The first act of Manhattan Theatre Club’s Collected Stories starring Linda Lavin as a celebrated writer and Sara Paulson as her wannabe assistant is fascinating, especially if you’re a writer, but everything so skillfully “collected” in that first act is lost and scattered in the second as the actors become unfocused.

Lavin is Ruth Steiner, an eccentric, but likable writer/professor who takes a chance on student Lisa Morrison (Paulson) who shows some talent, not to mention unbridled excitement about working with an author of Ruth’s stature.

Lisa runs the show from Ruth’s book-lined apartment (Santo Loquasto, set design) and when her first work is published, the relationship between the two women starts to morph into a friendship as well as mentor/mentee. Lonely Ruth opens up and shares her “shining moment” in life: an affair with her older writer/mentor.

As Lisa’s career takes off, she’s hailed as the “voice of a generation” and in a role switch, Ruth, failing in health and sinking into obscurity, asks her for input on her latest manuscript. The relationship starts to deteriorate, in part because Lisa’s new novel is based largely on stories she stole from Ruth.

The dynamic between the two women is fascinating, the work of playwright Donald Margulies (whose Time Stands Still played Broadway this year and is scheduled for a revisit next fall). We can’t wait to see what will happen beween these writers. When the curtain goes up for Act 2, however, everything previously “collected” unravels. An intense show down should take place between the women, but it’s almost as though Director Lynne Meadow stepped out at intermission and the actors no longer are quite sure where their characters should go.

We’re not sure whether Ruth is just a little hurt or furious or whether Lisa is a ruthless opportunist or just clueless and self absorbed. We really need to know for the play to work. The fault is not Margulies’ – all of the right dialogue is there, but without focus, it ends up sounding like two actors reciting lines and the confrontation – if that’s what you can call what happens -- is void of depth and intensity.

It’s disappointing. I really wanted to see Lavin go for the jugular. Unfortunately, she was too “collected.”

Collected Stories plays at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th St., NYC through June 13. Discounted tickets are available for friends of Masterwork Productions here.

Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• God’s name taken in vain

Broadway Theater Review: Enron

Photo by Joan Marcus
Love the Set and the Raptors, but Enron Fails to Make Me Want to Invest My Time
By Lauren Yarger
The story of the fall of Enron is depressing and no amount of flashy lights, cool video projections, amusing songs or even people walking around in Jurassic Park raptor heads can save it from itself, much like the corporate giant itself tried and failed to do, though all of the above give this production a “wow” factor unusual with Broadway plays.

The real Enron, recreated here by playwright Lucy Prebble, went down in flames in 2001 when investors discovered that the energy company had no real assets and that fake companies had been sustaining its debt. This production saw sold-out success in London before transferring to New York, but it didn’t find an audience here (or a Tony Award nomination for Best Play), so the producers, who ironically will lose a ton of money invested in the show, have announced it will close Sunday after only 22 previews and 16 performances.

Who can explain exactly why the Brits embraced the tale and why New York audiences have stayed away (literally – the house was sparse when I attended)?
Well, perhaps it’s due in part to the fact that Enron’s fall just really isn’t entertaining subject matter and a lot of people who suffered financially from the company’s follies still don’t sit around laughing about it. More, I think to blame, is the current economic climate. Reliving the start of it all – the first company we knew of who had acted so irresponsibly simply out of greed -- knowing that others in various industries continued to do the same over the years until we’re where we are in the middle of bailouts and a national debt we can’t even calculate with government spending out of control – well, it’s downright depressing.

And by the way, the play without all of its special effects, isn’t all that great either.

Broadway veteran Norbert Leo Butz stars as Jeffrey Skilling, the president who takes Enron from being America’s most innovative company to the energy-trading conglomerate which uses its influence to elect a US president and which has corporate giants like the Lehman Brothers (a couple of guys in one suit like conjoined twins) and Arthur Anderson (a ventriloquist and his dummy) begging to be part of its action.

Skilling collaborates with CFO Andy Fastow (Stephen Kunken) to bet on Enron’s future profits while hiding current debt. Fastow creates “raptor” models, four actors with dinosaur heads, representing the false companies created to secretly eat the company’s debt – until they are full and can eat no more.

Along the way to the top, Skilling has a rather vulgar office romance with rival Claudia Roe (Marin Mazzie) and keeps CEO Kenneth Lay (Gregory Itzin) in the dark so he can schmooze with the right people to get George W. Bush and his pro electricity deregulation policies into the White House. If that happens, Enron will have a chance at turning a profit if Skilling can just keep the stock price up. (Itzin is perfectly cast since fans of TV’s “24” know that the actor, who plays sleazy President Charles Logan, is more than capable of portraying a corrupt official pretending he doesn’t know what’s going on.)

That all-important stock price ticks across a screen in a video projection (Jon Driscoll, design) in the rear center of Anthony Ward’s really cool set featuring rod-like lights that form office cubicles lined by rows of filing cabinets along the sides.

The large cast sings and dances (Scott Ambler, choreography), a lot for a play, actually, and there even are some lStar Wars light sabers. Overall, Director Rupert Goold does a good job making this production big and fun to look at. The story just doesn’t grab you.

Prebbles sticks mostly to the facts of the case, and except for a few personal interjections about Skilling’s affair, his distracted thoughts about his young daughter and his pro-Charles Darwin/ atheist Richard Dawkins philosophy, we know very little about this unlikable man and even less about the other unlikable characters. The result is more than two and a half hours of reliving a pretty depressing period in America’s history with the nagging thought lurking that the financial world outside the theater today is even worse. It’s just not a fun way to spend an evening of entertainment, despite the really cool raptor heads.

The show runs at the Broadhurst Theatre, 235 West 44th St., NYC. Discounted tickets for friends of Masterwork Productions are available here. A show has been added at the end of the run Sunday evening at 7:30.

Christians might also like to know:
• Sexual activity
• Sexual dialogue
• Language
• God’s name taken in vain

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Broadway Theater Review: Promises, Promises

The Minor Roles are the Real Stars Here
By Lauren Yarger
Much hype, not all of it positive, preceded the Broadway revival of Promises, Promises. Was the book by Neil Simon too dated? Was star Kristin Chenoweth miscast as Fran Kubelik? Would adding some popular Burt Bachrach (who wrote the musical with lyrics by Hal David) tunes help beef up her role? Would TV star Sean Hayes of “Will & Grace” fame be able to hold his own in his Broadway debut as lead man Chuck Baxter?

The answer to all of the above is yes, but in the midst of all the angst, Katie Finneran, who is on stage for a total of about 15 minutes makes all those questions irrelevant. She stops the show as Marge MacDougall, a drunken woman Baxter picks up in a bar, and her performance alone makes a trip to Promises, Promises worthwhile (and I’ll make my own promise: Finneran will win the Tony for Featured Actress in a Musical).

Also giving a terrific performance in another minor role is Dick Latessa as Dr. Dreyfuss, the neighbor who thinks Baxter, who lends his apartment out to business associates for their trysts, is the one making all that noise next door. The veteran actor’s comedic timing is impeccable and he and Finneran really are the stars of the show.

That isn’t to say that Hayes and Chenoweth aren’t fun. They are. Hayes does well as the beleaguered ad exec who is devastated to learn that his love interest, Kubelik, is the woman for whom his boss, J.D. Sheldrake (Tony Goldwyn) has reserved Baxter’s apartment.

Powerhouse Chenoweth obviously is miscast as the gullible, helpless Kubelik, but makes a decent go of it any way, looking great in Bruce Pask’s smart 1960’s inspired costumes and sounding nice, if a little country twangy, backed by a full orchestra directed by Phil Reno. Excellent sound design by Brian Ronan let’s us hear the singers over the music (not always a given these days). The songs added for her: “I Say a Little Prayer” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” are some of the best in an otherwise unmemorable score, but unfortunately add to the already too-long run time of more than two and half hours. Cutting a couple of other songs might have been a good idea.

Rob Ashford directs and also choreographs a lot of busy, big arm flapping numbers on Scott Pask’s large paneled set. A number where the couples take turns meeting at the apartment is tastefully and cleverly staged and a freeze-frame technique is used effectively to stop action throughout as Baxter speaks directly to the audience.

Is it the best revival ever? No, but it’s certainly not the worst, especially given the rather dated, not really funny premise of a bunch of guys cheating on their wives with girls from the office. The musical was based on the 1960 Billy Wilder film “The Apartment” starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray, back in the days before sexual harassment suits and women’s lib.

Finneran makes sitting through even this worn plot fun, though, and LaTessa’s wise counsel, humor and advice as Dr. Dreyfuss offer a balance to all the chaos.

Promises, Promises runs at the Broadway Theater, 1681 Broadway, NYC. Discounted tickets are available for friends of Masterwork Productions by clicking here.

Christians might also like to know:
• Sexual dialogue
• Lord’s name taken in vain
• Suicide attempt

Theater Review: Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson

Photo Credit Joan Marcus

It’s Bloody, Bloody Funny and Quite Contemporary
By Lauren Yarger
An emo musical about the seventh president of the United States, particularly titled Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, just didn’t reach out and make me want to see it, but it is one of those pleasant surprises I’m treated to in the theater from time to time: the show I thought I would hate but ended up enjoying.

Benjamin Walker is the energetic Andrew who rises from backwoods farmer to president of the US – all in 90 minutes and with the help of some rocking tunes and witty lyrics by Michael Friedman played by a four-person band on stage (Justin Levine, musical director). The ensemble cast, directed by Alex Timbers, who also wrote the book, play various parts as the life of Andrew Jackson takes stage, narrated to some degree by a wheelchair-bound Storyteller (Colleen Werthmann), though I must admit that the significance of the wheelchair was lost on me.

Jackson marries Rachel (Maria Elena Ramirez), despite the fact that she’s still technically married to someone else, then sets out on his goal to wipe out all of the Native Americans whose land he can’t steal with treaties. When he’s not hating “Indians,” he’s hating the British, the Spanish and Washington’s aristocrats and things get very bloody. It’s sarcastic and crude, and definitely not politically correct, but it is very funny.

The parallels between Jackson’s policies concerning pluralism and making decisions for the people who aren’t smart enough to know what’s good and criticisms of the present administration in the White House are really too numerous to believe.
He’s the people’s president, bringing equality for all, Jackson tells us, and promises a transparent government. He won’t let the people stop him from doing what he knows the people really want him to do, so he’s going to do it and he won’t let little things like the Supreme Court or his cabinet get in the way. It’s a good thing we have him to make important decisions, he assures us, especially about how to secure the borders…

“Wall Street will destroy the nation!” Jackson also warns us.

I found myself guffawing out loud throughout the savvy show and got the main theme: politics haven’t changed all that much in the last 200 years or so.

Donyale Werle’s set that looks like a tag sale explosion with presidential portraits lining the walls out into the house is lighted, often in dark red hues by Justin Townsend. Danny Mefford’s choreography (tightly done with a large cast on a small stage) lends to the energy of the show and Emily Rebholz expertly combines period and modern to costume the cast.

Rounding out the ensemble are River Aguirre, James Barry, Michael Crane, Michael Dunn, Greg Hildreth, Jeff Hiller, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Kate Cullen Roberts, Ben Steinfeld and Emily Young.

It’s a bloody, bloody funny time.

Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson has been extended through June 27 at the Public Theatre, 425 Lafayette Street, NYC. For tickets, call 212-967-7555.

Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• God’s name taken in vain
• Homosexual topics
• Homosexual activity
• Sexual activity
• Blood
• Sexual dialogue

Broadway Theater Review: Sondheim on Sondheim

A Company Full of Passion, Singing a Little Sondheim
By Lauren Yarger
The music is great. It’s Sondheim, conceived and directed by James Lapine after all, and some of the greatest tunes penned by the Broadway icon are given another moment on a Broadway stage as part of Sondheim on Sondheim, a review of the composer’s work, by the likes of Barbara Cook, Vanessa Williams, Tom Wopat, Leslie Kritzer, Norm Lewis, Erin Mackey, Euan Morton and Matthew Scott.

The really terrific part, however, is Beowolf Boritt's set which incorporates a video screen, talented all by itself (it breaks apart, moves around, etc.) which brings Sondheim himself into the show to talk about how he was influenced by Oscar Hammerstein, how some of the songs came to be written (I would have loved a lot more of these) and to share anecdotes about the various productions.

Some of the songs (David Loud provides musical direction and arrangements) are performed by the group, others are solos or duets. Some are better than others. Wopat’s “Epiphany” from Sweeney Todd left a lot to be desired and Cook unfortunately wasn’t in the best voice the day I attended, though I particularly enjoyed her moving “Send in the Clowns” and a duet from Follies with Williams, who looks and sounds terrific. That the company loves the music they are singing is apparent and if you’re a Sondheim fan, you’ll enjoy this celebration of the man’s work.

Sondheim on Sondheim runs through June 27 at Studio 54, 254 West 54th St., NYC. For tickets, call (212) 719-1300.

Christians might also like to know:
• Some of the romantic songs include same sex pairings
• One of the costumes is a little scanty

Theater Review: Zero Hour with Jim Brochu

Jim Brochu as Zero Mostel. Photo credit: Stan Barouh
A Stage Icon Comes to Life
By Lauren Yarger
Seeing Zero Mostel perform in Fiddler on the Roof was one of those rare theatrical experiences where you weren’t watching a performance of a man named Tevye – you were watching Tevye, so real was the actor’s portrayal. The torch now is passed to writer Jim Brochu, directed by Piper Laurie, whose portrayal of Mostel in Zero Hour is so real, so polished, so riveting, that you’d swear Mostel himself were sitting on the stage at DR2 Theatre telling you about his life.

And what a life it is. In the guise of speaking to an unseen reporter from The New York Times, Mostel reluctantly takes a break from his first passion in his painting studio (scenic design by Josh Iocovelli) to reluctantly discuss the ups and downs of his far-ranging and until now, not well known (at least not to me), career.

Working on a painting while talking with the reporter in 1977, Mostel shares details of his first failed marriage and how his parents disowned him when he remarries Kate, a Catholic. Kate encourages him to pursue a career on stage and he finds success as a comedian. The gigs stop coming, though, when Mostel in blacklisted during the McCarthy Senate hearings to investigate a number of artists alleged to have ties with the Communist Party.

It was an “intellectual final solution,” Mostel tells us, saying that Jewish minds getting their message out were the ones targeted. Brochu communicates the full range of emotions that Mostel feels at being questioned, the loss of a close friend who commits suicide over the ordeal and at being forced to work again with "Loose Lips," director Jerry Robbins, who named names during the questioning.

The actor finally starts to get work again when he almost loses a leg when he is crushed by a bus. He survives numerous surgeries, becomes good friends with the bus driver (something good came out of it, he tells us) and overcomes the guilt of his parents’ rejection to go on to fame in shows like A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Rhinoceros and Fiddler. Eventually invited to dine with the president, he realizes he’s made it from blacklist to white house.

It’s absolutely fascinating. Brochu’s performance is so full of depth that you feel like you've just spent a couple of hours with the stage legend.

Zero Hour plays at DR2 Theatre, 103 E. 15th St., NYC. For ticket information, visit http://www.zerohourshow.com/

Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• Sexual dialogue

Fela!, La Cage, Fences Top Tony Award Nominations

Sahr Ngaujah in Fela!
Nominations for the Tony Awards, which will be presented Sunday, June 13 at Radio City Music Hall, have been announced with Fela! and La Cage aux Folles leading with 11 nods each. The revival of Fences receivd 10 nominations.
Here's the list:
Best Play
In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play by Sarah Ruhl
Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts
Red by John Logan
Time Stands Still by Donald Margulies

Best Musical
American Idiot
Fela!
Memphis
Million Dollar Quartet

Best Book of a Musical
Dick Scanlan and Sherie Rene Scott, Everyday Rapture
Jim Lewis & Bill T. Jones, Fela!
Joe DiPietro, Memphis
Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, Million Dollar Quartet


Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
The Addams Family, Music & Lyrics: Andrew Lippa
Enron, Music: Adam Cork, Lyrics: Lucy Prebble
Fences, Music: Branford Marsalis
Memphis, Music: David Bryan, Lyrics: Joe DiPietro, David Bryan

Best Revival of a Play
Fences
Lend Me a Tenor
The Royal Family
A View from the Bridge

Best Revival of a Musical
Finian's Rainbow
La Cage aux Folles
A Little Night Music
Ragtime

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Jude Law, Hamlet
Alfred Molina, Red
Liev Schreiber, A View from the Bridge
Christopher Walken, A Behanding in Spokane
Denzel Washington, Fences

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Viola Davis, Fences
Valerie Harper, Looped
Linda Lavin, Collected Stories
Laura Linney, Time Stands Still
Jan Maxwell, The Royal Family

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Kelsey Grammer, La Cage aux Folles
Sean Hayes, Promises, Promises
Douglas Hodge, La Cage aux Folles
Chad Kimball, Memphis
Sahr Ngaujah, Fela!

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Kate Baldwin, Finian's Rainbow
Montego Glover, Memphis
Christiane Noll, Ragtime
Sherie Rene Scott, Everyday Rapture
Catherine Zeta-Jones, A Little Night Music

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
David Alan Grier, Race
Stephen McKinley Henderson, Fences
Jon Michael Hill, Superior Donuts
Stephen Kunken, Enron
Eddie Redmayne, Red

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Maria Dizzia, In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play
Rosemary Harris, The Royal Family
Jessica Hecht, A View from the Bridge
Scarlett Johansson, A View from the Bridge
Jan Maxwell, Lend Me a Tenor

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Kevin Chamberlin, The Addams Family
Robin De Jesús, La Cage aux Folles
Christopher Fitzgerald, Finian's Rainbow
Levi Kreis, Million Dollar Quartet
Bobby Steggert, Ragtime

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical

Barbara Cook, Sondheim on Sondheim
Katie Finneran, Promises, Promises
Angela Lansbury, A Little Night Music
Karine Plantadit, Come Fly Away
Lillias White, Fela!

Best Scenic Design of a Play
John Lee Beatty, The Royal Family
Alexander Dodge, Present Laughter
Santo Loquasto, Fences
Christopher Oram, Red

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Marina Draghici, Fela!
Christine Jones, American Idiot
Derek McLane, Ragtime
Tim Shortall, La Cage aux Folles

Best Costume Design of a Play
Martin Pakledinaz, Lend Me a Tenor
Constanza Romero, Fences
David Zinn, In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play
Catherine Zuber, The Royal Family

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Marina Draghici, Fela!
Santo Loquasto, Ragtime
Paul Tazewell, Memphis
Matthew Wright, La Cage aux Folles

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Neil Austin, Hamlet
Neil Austin, Red
Mark Henderson, Enron
Brian MacDevitt, Fences

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams, American Idiot
Donald Holder, Ragtime
Nick Richings, La Cage aux Folles
Robert Wierzel, Fela!

Best Sound Design of a Play
Acme Sound Partners, Fences
Adam Cork, Enron
Adam Cork, Red
Scott Lehrer, A View from the Bridge

Best Sound Design of a Musical
Jonathan Deans, La Cage aux Folles
Robert Kaplowitz, Fela!
Dan Moses Schreier and Gareth Owen, A Little Night Music
Dan Moses Schreier, Sondheim on Sondheim

Best Direction of a Play
Michael Grandage, Red
Sheryl Kaller, Next Fall
Kenny Leon, Fences
Gregory Mosher, A View from the Bridge

Best Direction of a Musical
Christopher Ashley, Memphis
Marcia Milgrom Dodge, Ragtime
Terry Johnson, La Cage aux Folles
Bill T. Jones, Fela!

Best Choreography
Rob Ashford, Promises, Promises
Bill T. Jones, Fela!
Lynne Page, La Cage aux Folles
Twyla Tharp, Come Fly Away

Best Orchestrations
Jason Carr, La Cage aux Folles
Aaron Johnson, Fela!
Jonathan Tunick, Promises, Promises
Daryl Waters & David Bryan, Memphis

These awards already have been announced:

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Alan Ayckbourn
Marian Seldes

Regional Theatre Tony Award
The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Waterford, Connecticut

Isabelle Stevenson Award
David Hyde Pierce

Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre
Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York
B.H. Barry
Tom Viola

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lynn Redgrave Dies

Acting legend Lynn Redgrave, 67, who appeared Off Broadway this season in Nightingale, a one-woman show she penned, based loosely on the life of her grandmother, passed away last night at her Connecticut home. Her children, Ben, Pema, and Annabel, and close friends were at her side.

In a statement, her children said, “Our beloved mother Lynn Rachel passed away peacefully after a seven year journey with breast cancer. She lived, loved and worked harder than ever before. The endless memories she created as a mother, grandmother, writer, actor and friend will sustain us for the rest of our lives. Our entire family asks for privacy through this difficult time.”

In addition to her children, Lynn Redgrave is survived by six grandchildren, her sister Vanessa, and four nieces and nephews.

Redgrave was the moving speaker at this seasons' Broadway Blessing held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. She spoke about how her faith had helped her through her illness. Retta Blaney, director of the event has posted some thoughts about Redgrave on her blog here.

Broadway theaters will dim their lights tomorrow. A private funeral with be held later this week.

Ragtime, Scottsboro Boys Lead Drama Desk Nominations; Special Awards Also Announced

The Scottsboro Boys and Ragtime lead this year's Drama Desk nominations with nine each. In addition, Circle MIrror Transformation and The Temperamentals will receive special ensemble awards for acting for their casts.

Special awards to recognize excellence and significant contributions to the theater for 2009/2010 also will be presented to:
• the cast, creative team and producers of Horton Foote’s epic The Orphan’s Home Cycle: to salute the breadth of vision, which inspired the exceptional direction, performances, sets, lighting, costumes, music and sound that made it the theatrical event of this season.
• Jerry Herman for enchanting and dazzling audiences with his exuberant music and heartfelt lyrics for more than half a century.
• Godlight Theatre Company for consistent originality and excellence in dramatizing modern literature, and especially for the vibrant theatricality of its innovative productions.
• Ma-Yi Theater Company for more than two decades of excellence and for nurturing Asian-American voices in stylistically varied and engaging theater.

The following are the nominations for the competitive categories. Winners will be selected by the voting membership of the Drama Desk and will be announced at the annual awards event May 23, hosted by Patti LuPone:

Outstanding Play
Alan Ayckbourn, My Wonderful Day
Annie Baker, Circle Mirror Transformation
Lucinda Coxon, Happy Now?
John Logan, Red
Geoffrey Nauffts, Next Fall
Bruce Norris, Clybourne Park

Outstanding Musical
American Idiot
Everyday Rapture
Memphis
The Addams Family
The Scottsboro Boys
Yank!

Outstanding Revival of a Play
A View from the Bridge
Brighton Beach Memoirs
Fences
Hamlet
So Help Me God!
The Boys in the Band

Outstanding Revival of a Musical
A Little Night Music
Finian's Rainbow
La Cage Aux Folles
Promises, Promises
Ragtime

Outstanding Actor in a Play
Bill Heck, The Orphans' Home Cycle
Jude Law, Hamlet
Alfred Molina, Red
Eddie Redmayne, Red
Liev Schreiber, A View from the Bridge
John Douglas Thompson, The Emperor Jones
Christopher Walken, A Behanding in Spokane


Outstanding Actress in a Play
Ayesha Antoine, My Wonderful Day
Melissa Errico, Candida
Anne Hathaway, Twelfth Night
Kristen Johnston, So Help Me God!
Laura Linney, Time Stands Still
Jan Maxwell, The Royal Family

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Brandon Victor Dixon, The Scottsboro Boys
Douglas Hodge, La Cage Aux Folles
Cheyenne Jackson, Finian's Rainbow
Chad Kimball, Memphis
Nathan Lane, The Addams Family
Bobby Steggert, Yank!

Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Kate Baldwin, Finian's Rainbow
Montego Glover, Memphis
Jayne Houdyshell, Coraline
Christiane Noll, Ragtime
Sherie Rene Scott, Everyday Rapture
Catherine Zeta-Jones, A Little Night Music

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play
Chris Chalk, Fences
Sean Dugan, Next Fall
Santino Fontana, Brighton Beach Memoirs
Adam James, The Pride
Hamish Linklater, Twelfth Night
Nick Westrate, The Boys in the Band

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
Victoria Clark, When the Rain Stops Falling
Viola Davis, Fences
Xanthe Elbrick, Candida
Mary Beth Hurt, When the Rain Stops Falling
Scarlett Johansson, A View from the Bridge
Andrea Riseborough, The Pride

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical
Kevin Chamberlin, The Addams Family
Robin De Jesus, La Cage Aux Folles
Jeffry Denman, Yank!
Christopher Fitzgerald, Finian's Rainbow
Jeremy Morse, Bloodsong of Love
Bobby Steggert, Ragtime

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical
Carolee Carmello, The Addams Family
Carrie Cimma, Lizzie Borden
Katie Finneran, Promises, Promises
Angela Lansbury, A Little Night Music
Kenita Miller, Langston in Harlem
Terri White, Finian's Rainbow

Outstanding Director of a Play
Jonathan Bank, So Help Me God!
Jack Cummings III, The Boys in the Band
Sam Gold, Circle Mirror Transformation
Michael Grandage, Hamlet
Michael Grandage, Red
Ethan Hawke, A Lie of the Mind

Outstanding Director of a Musical
Warren Carlyle, Finian's Rainbow
Marcia Milgrom Dodge, Ragtime
Igor Goldin, Yank!
Terry Johnson, La Cage Aux Folles
Michael Mayer, American Idiot
Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys

Outstanding Choreography
Warren Carlyle, Finian's Rainbow
Marcia Milgrom Dodge, Ragtime
Lynne Page, La Cage Aux Folles
Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys
Twyla Tharp, Come Fly Away
Sergio Trujillo, Memphis

Outstanding Music

David Bryan, Memphis
Michael Friedman, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Joe Iconis, Bloodsong of Love
John Kander & Fred Ebb, The Scottsboro Boys
Andrew Lippa, The Addams Family
Joseph Zellnik, Yank!

Outstanding Lyrics

Rick Crom, Newsical The Musical
Kevin Del Aguila, Click, Clack, Moo
John Kander & Fred Ebb, The Scottsboro Boys
Dillie Keane and Adèle Anderson, Fascinating Aïda Absolutely Miraculous!
Andrew Lippa, The Addams Family
David Zellnik, Yank!

Outstanding Book of a Musical
Joe DiPietro, Memphis
Joe Iconis, Bloodsong of Love
Dick Scanlan & Sherie Rene Scott, Everyday Rapture
David Thompson, The Scottsboro Boys
Alex Timbers, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
David Zellnik, Yank!

Outstanding Orchestrations
William David Brohn, Ragtime
Larry Hochman, The Scottsboro Boys
Tom Kitt, American Idiot
Tom Kitt, Everyday Rapture
John Oddo, All About Me
Daryl Waters & David Bryan, Memphis

Outstanding Musical Revue
Fascinating Aïda Absolutely Miraculous!
Million Dollar Quartet
Newsical The Musical
Simon Green: Traveling Light
Sondheim on Sondheim

Outstanding Music in a Play
Adam Cochran, A Play on War
Adam Cork, Red Gaines, A Lie of the Mind
Philip Glass, The Bacchae
Hem, Twelfth Night
Branford Marsalis, Fences

Outstanding Set Design
Sandra Goldmark, The Boys in the Band
Phelim McDermott, Julian Crouch & Basil Twist, The Addams Family
Derek McLane, Ragtime
Christopher Oram, Red Jay Rohloff, Underground
Karen Tennent, Hansel and Gretel

Outstanding Costume Design
Antonia Ford-Roberts & Bob Flanagan, The Emperor Jones
Santo Loquasto, Ragtime
Clint Ramos, So Help Me God!
Bobby Frederick Tilley II, Lizzie Borden
Matthew Wright, La Cage Aux Folles
David Zinn, In the Next Room or the vibrator play

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play
Neil Austin, Hamlet
Neil Austin, Red
Christian M. DeAngelis, Lizzie Borden
Maruti Evans, John Ball's In the Heat of the Night
Natasha Katz, The Addams Family
Dane Laffrey, The Boys in the Band

Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical
Acme Sound Partners, Ragtime
Jonathan Deans, La Cage Aux Folles
Ashley Hanson, Kurt Eric Fischer & Brian Ronan, Everyday Rapture
Peter Hylenski, The Scottsboro Boys
Scott Lehrer, Finian's Rainbow
Brian Ronan, Promises, Promises

Outstanding Sound Design in a Play
Dan Bianchi & Wes Shippee, Frankenstein
Dale Bigall, Underground
Adam Cork, Enron Lindsay Jones, Top Secret:
The Battle for the Pentagon Papers
Fitz Patton, When the Rain Stops Falling
Elizabeth Rhodes, John Ball's In the Heat of the Night

Outstanding Solo Performance
Theodore Bikel, Sholom Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears
Jim Brochu, Zero Hour
Colman Domingo, A Boy and his Soul
Carrie Fisher, Wishful
Drinking Judith Ivey, The Lady With All the Answers
Anna Deavere Smith, Let Me Down Easy

Unique Theatrical Experience
Charles L. Mee's Fêtes de la Nuit
Hansel and Gretel
John Tartaglia's Imaginocean
Love, Loss, and What I Wore
Stuffed and Unstrung
The Provenance of Beauty

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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