Saturday, May 18, 2013

Quick Hit Theater Review: Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812

The cast. Photo: Chad Batka
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
By Dave Malloy
Adapted from War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Choreography by Sam Pinkleton
Direction and Musical Staging by Rachel Chavkin
Kazino (West 13th Street and Washington Street)

What's It All About?
This recipient of the 2013 Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater is a mixed cocktail of romance, war, operetta, literature and vodka. The scandalous romance of Natasha (Phillipa Soo) and womanizer Anatole (Lucas Steele) is sliced from the pages of Tolstoy's classic tale of war and peace just before Napoleon's invasion of Russia. 

Designer Mimi Lien sets the show as a dinner theater in a Russian club, Kazino -- Off, Off-Broadway in the heart of the meatpacking district. The show is staged in a tent lined with red drapery, framed portraits and paintings reflecting the lights of elegant light fixtures. The mood is further enhanced by aristocratic costumes from the early 19th-century designed by Paloma Young. Your ticket includes a Russian meal, right down to the borscht with food service before curtain and during a break separating parts one through three from four and five (this is, after all, War and Peace-- run time is about two hours and 40 minutes).

The tone is anything but serious, however, and the tongue-in-cheek prologue, where writer Dave Malloy (who plays Pierre) deftly introduces all of the major and minor characters, while instructing the audience to read the information in their programs, is a quick who's who and a hoot to boot. Here's a snippet: 

"This is a complicated Russian novel; everyone has nine different names.... Hélène is a slut; Anatole is hot; Marya is old school; Sonya is good; Natasha is young; And Andrey isn’t here."

An eight-member band accompanies the vocalists from various stations throughout the house, continuing an interactive theme that might well find a character sitting down at your table or sharing your glass of vodka.

What are the Highlights?
Vodka with a twist -- it's entertaining and engaging with catchy, memorable tunes. The ensemble is good. The vegetables are very tasty.

What are the Lowlights?
Sorry, I am not a fan of shared food at tables with people I don't know. The hors d'oeuvres-type food (vegetables, pierogies, bread, shrimp, fish and chicken) is served family style and without serving utensils. My companion told me I am too concerned about such things, but a woman arriving at our table right at curtain started foraging around for food in the dark. She used her fork to spear what she thought was an round appetizer, took a large bite, then RETURNED IT TO THE DISH declaring that it was just butter. Call me Monk, but eeeeeew.

But the biggest lowlight was that I had to leave before the end to catch a train. I might just go back to enjoy the experience fully.

More information:
Food service begins about an hour before the how. http://kazinonyc.com/. You can listen to some music here:
http://www.davemalloy.com/comet.html.

Notes: bathrooms are sort of glorified portable toilets.
I would say this is for adults.

No comments:

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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.

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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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