Thursday, November 8, 2018

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Williston

Kate Grimes and Robert LuPone. Photo: Jeremy Daniel
Williston
By Adam Seidel
Directed by Valentina Fratti
Miranda Theatre Company
Through Nov. 10

By Lauren Yarger
Something's not quite right in the small town of Williston, North Dakota.

That much is obvious just from the fact that oil company deal closers Barb (Kate Grimes) and Larry (Robert LuPone) are expected to share quarters in a trailer camp setting (drably designed Graham Kindred, who also designs the lighting). And how is it that their parent company didn't let them know that they were sending a new numbers guy, Tom (Drew Ledbetter) to bring in the lease on one of the largest and possibly most productive tracts of land? After all, the killer team of Barb and Larry has been working for years on "Indian Jim," the Native American holdout who is reluctant to allow drilling on his land.

Playwright Adam Seidel crafts a nifty three-hander where everything and everyone is not as it seems. A greedy corporate message takes a back seat in this work to the interaction among characters. We think we might know them. They may even think they know themselves, but when push comes to shove, .what they are willing to do to get ahead, make a buck and grab some power surprises all.

Deftly directed by Valentina Fratti, the actors are given the freedom to unwrap layers. Fratti keeps the action moving around the small stage to mimic the ever-changing status of the characters and their relationships to each other.  We even experience a meeting where six other people are unseen.

Grimes goes deep as the seasoned woman who knows how to hold her own and get ahead in a man's world. There are hints at more than just a business relationship between her and long-time collaborator, Larry. LuPone portrays a tough guy on the outside, but stuns with the revelation of a scared vulnerable man just under the surface.  Ledbetter strikes a nice balance between his character's innocent newbie facade and the ruthless power grabber who hides waiting for a chance to strike without mercy.

Just how far are people willing to go? In Williston, pretty far...

The limited run plays at IATI Theatre, 64 E 4th St., NYC, through Nov. 10 mirandatheatrecompany.com. There is a clever surprise takeaway at the conclusion of the 90-minute production.

Additional Credits: costume design by Matsy Stinson, sound design by Margaret Montagna.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- Language (lots of it)
-- Lord's name taken in vain (lots of times)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Broadway Theater Review: The Waverly Gallery -- TOP PICK

Lucas Hedges, Elaine May, Joan Allen, David Cromer, Michael Cera. Photo: Brigitte Lacombe
The Waverly Gallery
By Kenneth Lonergan
Directed by Lila Neugebauer
Golden Theatre

By Lauren Yarger
The Waverly Gallery in Greenwich Village has seen better days, It's not longer a vital part of the art landscape. No one comes in or thinks what it has to offer is important. The same can be said for its owner, elderly Gladys Green, played with astonishing alacrity and pathos by Elaine May, who no doubt will be nominated for a Tony.

With her mind and hearing fading, Gladys spends her days at the gallery passing time waiting for someone to come in and buy the less than exciting art displayed on its walls. When she's not there, she lives in an apartment behind the shop. As her health deteriorates, the anxiety of her family increases, especially as she repeats family stories ad nauseam and keeps messing with her hearing aid settings so the family has to incessantly yell or adjust them for her. Her grandson, Daniel (Lucas Hedges, who snagged an Oscar nomination for his role in playwright Kenneth Lonergan's film "Manchester by the Sea," making a noteworthy Broadway debut) lives next door and increasingly spends sleepless nights as his grandmother rings his bell to check in or ask for help.

Daughter Ellen Fine (a fabulous Joan Allen) knows what needs to happen. Her mother can't be on her own and must move in with her and her husband, Howard (a jovial David Cromer getting some time on stage instead of off stage where he has distinguished himself as one of Broadway's finest directors). She dreads it, though, and doesn't think she will survive the arrangement.  The family gets a little help from Don Bowman (Michael Cera), an awkward guy from Boston who fancies himself a talented artist. Gladys offers him a place to stay and his dream come true: a show in a Greenwich Village gallery. Don helps look after Gladys a bit, but disaster strikes when the building owner decides to turn the gallery into a restaurant and gives Gladys her notice.

The story is told through the eyes of Daniel, who steps out of the action (with excellent lighting by Brian MacDevitt)  to serve as a narrator from time to time. His rapport with the audience is not severed when he returns to the action and we cannot help but appreciate his subtle humor.

David Zinn's set creates a feeling of imposing doom as a second story of brick towers above the gallery location with exterior walls blocking escape. Director Lila Neugebauer expertly guides time passages and our heart breaks as Gladys deteriorates. Allen's performance as the daughter torn between loves, duty and despair is gut-wrenching. May's fear as she realizes what is happening to her -- then when she doesn't understand any more what is happening to her -- is palpable. The 86-year-old gives a bold, extraordinary performance that should not be missed.

May's iconic show An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May played the Golden Theatre  in 1960. She is a Grammy Award winner and an Academy and Golden Globe Award nominee (and like I said, be will be adding Tony-Award nominee to that in May...)

Lonergan's script is a delight. He packs an amazing amount of character development, engaging dialogue and emotion in to just two hours and 10 minutes. It deserved its Pulitzer Prize nomination in 2000.

More information:
The Waverly Gallery plays at the John Golden Theatre, 252 W, 45th St., NYC. thewaverlygalleryonbroadway.com

Additional Credits:
Ann Roth (Costume Design), Leon Rothenberg (Sound Design), Tal Yarden (Projection Design) and Luc Verschueren and Campbell Young Associates (Hair and Makeup Design).

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
--Language
--God's name taken in vain

Broadway Theater Review: The Ferryman

The company. Photo: Joan Marcus
The Ferryman
Credit:
© 2018 Joan Mar
The Ferryman
By Jez Butterworth
Directed by Sam Mendes.
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre

By Lauren Yarger
It's 1981 in Northern Ireland and the happy Carney clan has gathered for the harvest, but the local priest (Charles Dale) and an ominous visitor  from the IRA (Stuart Graham) threaten their happy celebrations. The family finally discovers what happened to their beloved Seamus, who disappeared more 20 years ago, leaving behind his wife, Caitlyn (Laura Donnelly) and son, Oison (Rob Malone). 

They stayed on with Seamus's brother Quinn (Paddy Considine) and his invalid wife, Mary (Genevieve O'Reilly) and their seven children (one of whom is a baby who charms the entire audience). Filling out the household, in which playwright Jez Butterworth evokes the best of the eclectic family of You Can't Take It with You, are humorous Uncle Pat (an engaging Mark Lambert), not to be confused with Aunt Pat (Dearbhla Molloy) and Aunt Maggie Far Away (Fionnula Flanagan), the elderly aunt who entertains the children with her adventures in other times and places as she fades in and out of dementia while parked just off the action in her wheelchair. 

A slow-witted Englishman named Tom Kettle (Justin Edwards) and some visiting Corcoran cousins, including Shane (Tom Glynn-Carney), who might have ties with Seamas's disappearance, add to the tension -- and the crowd on stage. Rounding out the ensemble are Dean Ashton, Glynis Bell, Peter Bradbury, Trevor Harrison Braun, Sean Frank Coffey, Will Coombs, Gina Costigan,  Fra Fee, Carly Gold, Cooper Gomes, Holly Gould, Carla Langley, Matilda Lawler, Conor MacNeill, Michael McArthur, Willow McCarthy, Colin McPhillamy, Bella May Mordus, Griffin Osborne, Brooklyn Shuck, Glenn Speers, Rafael West Vallés, and Niall Wright.

Sam Mendes directs the Royal Court Theatre production with excellence, setting an undercurrent of unrest despite the seemingly happy existence of the family, marked by singing, dancing (choreography by Scarlett Mackmin) and cute animals trained by William Berloni. But inside, dark secrets threaten to cloud the external. The ferryman, after all, is a reference to Caron, the mythologcal transporter of souls across the River Styx. A surprise twist at the end of the three-hour, 15 minute run will have you gasping.

Rob Howell helps create the atmosphere with scenic and costume design, aided by Peter Mumford;s lighting design), Nick Powell's sound design and original music.

More information:
The Ferryman opened at The Royal Court in May 2017 and was the fastest selling play in the theater’s history. The sold-out show transferred to the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End. In London, The Ferryman won three 2018 Olivier Awards, including Best New Play (marking Butterworth’s second Olivier win), Best Actress Donnelly and Best Director  Mendes (marking his fourth Olivier win). 

The Ferryman runs at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 W. 45th St., NYC. theferrymanbroadway.com

Additional credits:
Tim Hoare (associate director), Benjamin Endsley Klein (resident director), Campbell Young Associates (hair, wigs and makeup design), Terry King (UK fight director), Thomas Schall (US fight director), Majella Hurley (UK dialect coach), and Deborah Hecht (US dialect coach).

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- Language
-- Violence
-- God's name taken in vain

TheWritePros.com

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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 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. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

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. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

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 Episcopal Actors' Guild.

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- 2018 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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