Saturday, April 15, 2017

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Joan of Arc: Into the Fire

Jo Lampert .Photo: Joan Marcus
Joan of Arc: Into the Fire
Book, music, and lyrics by David Byrne
Directed by Alex Timbers 
Choreography by Steven Hoggett
The Public Theater
Through April 30

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
The world premiere of a rock musical about the life of Joan of Arc (Jo Lampert) directed by innovative Alex Timbers (The Robber Bridegroom; Rocky; Here Lies Love, Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson). The book, music, and lyrics by David Byrne explore the story of a young girl who spoke with angels and in the name of God, defied the times and authority to lead soldiers into battle to restore the nation of France. What does it cost to be free? For Joan, the ultimate price was her life when she was burned at the stake as a heretic.

What Are the Highlights?
It's an ambitious undertaking with choreography by Steven Hoggett and a two-story, creatively staired set designed by Christopher Barreca, expertly lighted by designed Justin Townsend (colored lighting helps tell the story and set the mood, and he even makes creative use of flashlights). Lambert, a Brooklyn-based performer and DJ, holds her own as rock star Joan in flashy, tight-fitting armor designed by Clint Ramos. Her backup singers, 10 hunky guys, play her soldiers and other various characters from her 15th-century life.

What Are the Lowlights?
On stage, Joan kind of looks like a guy. We are told that she forgoes her femininity to be able to take leadership of the men in battle, but this is a bit too much as some end up wondering whether Joan is a she or he and get distracted from the story. One theater-goer told me he had not purchased tickets because he thought Joan was being played by a man after seeing an ad for the show. We finally get a musical about an interesting musical and this shouldn't be the result! In short, Joan's story would have more impact if the heroine were portrayed in a more feminine manner.

The score is engaging and uses odd ending notes to haunting effect, but Byrne's lyrics don't capture the drama of the story or do much to develop the character of Joan. She goes through the motions of what we know about her historically (and projections by Darrel Maloney keep us updated on when and where the action takes place), but we don't really know much about Joan, except that she is a virgin, because there is more than one disturbing inspection of her body by the authorities to prove this.... A scene featuring Joan's mother, Isabelle (Mare Winningham had played the role and Jody Gelb has stepped in),  is tacked on at the end to give us a bit more insight, but by then it's too late. Additional musical direction is needed to provide some harmonies and to keep everything from sounding the same throughout the one hour and 40 minutes.

Timbers decision to have musicians on stage amidst the action doesn't appear to have any purpose except to mix the old and modern. Other musicians remain dimly lighted on the second story of the stage while two guitarists, for example, are center stage with the actors. The modern rock score itself speaks for itself. We don;t need to see the musicians.

More Information:
The run of Joan of Arc: Into the Fire has been extended through April 30 at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 8:30 pm; Wednesday at 1:30 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 2:30 pm (with some variations). Tickets are $90-$120: publictheater.org; 212-539-8605.

Additional casting:
Terence Archie (Warwick)James Brown III (Priest, Judge)Jonathan Burke (Priest, Judge)Rodrick Covington (Priest, Judge); Jody Gelb (Isabelle)Sean Allan Krill (Bishop Cauchon); Mike McGowan (La Tremouille); Adam Perry (Priest, Judge)John Schiappa (Priest, Judge)Kyle Selig (Dauphin, King Charles)Michael James Shaw (Baudricourt)

Additional credits: 
Sound Design by Cody Spencer; Special Effects Design by Jeremy Chernick; Wigs, Hair and Make-up Design by Dave Bova and J. Jared Janas.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- I would recommend this for 14 and up

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.

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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