Friday, October 29, 2010

Angels in America

The revival of Tony Kushner's epic hits town. Yes, Angels in America is back, all seven and a half hours of it. I like the play but didn't love the new production, which fails to deliver the big moments.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Back to the Mudd Club

Oops, forgot to cross-post this one. On Sunday I had a short piece about the Mudd Club/Club 57 reunion. Well the event is happening tonight at the Delancey Lounge, so better late than never.

Spirit Control

It's twofer Thursday at the Post, and my second review is of Beau Willimon's Spirit Control at Manhattan Theatre Club.

Law & Order sighting: Jeremy Sisto plays the lead. Now if only Mariska Hargitay could do a play, I'd be a happy camper.


The Ridge Theater Company's Persephone is at BAM until Saturday. Hey, indie-rock friends, do you remember the late-80s band Hugo Largo? Its singer, Mimi Goese, wrote the lyrics for the show's songs, and she performs them on stage, too. Okay, that's it for the reminiscences. My review here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles

You know me: If I'm going to see a tribute band, it's going to be one about Abba.

But duty called and there I was on Sunday evening, watching Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles on Broadway. I think it would have benefited from more Yoko. Or any Yoko. Review here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Driving Miss Daisy

Alfred Uhry's Driving Miss Daisy opens on Broadway (it actually was off the first time around). The stars: Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones. My warm-ish review can be found here.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Here's my review of the new Broadway show Lombardi. In case you're wondering, it is about the Green Bay Packers coach. Needless to say, the scene explaining the Power Sweep left me dumbfounded, but other than that the play's not too bad.

The Mankell-Bergman connection

Why didn't I know this? Today I learned that Henning Mankell is married to Ingmar Bergman's daughter Eva. I had no idea!

Mankell was talking about Bergman in an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, pegged to the French release of The Troubled Man -- apparently the final Wallander novel (at last!). At one point the interviewer says to Mankell that the characters in Depths are depressive, and asks if that's a trademark of Scandinavian literature, from Strindberg to Hamsun:
If you want really melancholy literature, check out Portugal! I'm not sure melancholia is a dominant trait of Swedish or Scandinavian literature. That's a myth spread by the movies of my father-in-law, Ingmar Bergman. He often joked that it was all his fault! But there's an inherent melancholia to an Europe that's searching for itself right now.

Q: What did you talk about with Bergman?

We were very close. The last few years, I was one of the last people he stayed in touch with. We chatted a lot, mostly about music. You can talk about music in a thousand different ways. And he had his own little cinema. We watched about 150 movies together: silent classics as well as recent films. It was always thrilling to hear his comments. He was the first one to read my plays. I miss him a lot.

Q: Can you name a specific memory?

He was very happy that I joined him in loving Hour of the Wolf, one of his most underrated, most misunderstood movies. I think I represented the brother he never had. The last time I saw him was a few days before his death. I knew he was dying. And in fact he died at the hour of the wolf, between 4 and 5am -- allegedly the time when people are born or die.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Language Archive

Julia Cho's The Language Archive is at the Roundabout's Laura Pels Theatre. A lovable cast (Jayne Houdyshell, Heidi Schreck), but a bad play. My review here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

It should get better now

I just have to get something off my chest.

The "It Gets Better" campaign is great and well-meaning and all, but something about it bugs me. Discussing it with a friend last night, she really zeroed in on the problem. The campaign seems to suggest that gay teens just grin and bear it until they get older and it gets better. Okay, but what about trying to stop the bullying now? The campaign puts the responsibility on the victim, whereas people should clamor for schools and the authorities to clamp down on the offenders, stat. If a kid attacks another kid, you need to take care of the victim and make sure the aggressor is stopped. It's basic discipline and justice.

As my friend put it, right now it's as if we were telling the kids, "It's okay to ride in the back of the bus, because one day in the future you'll get to drive your own rainbow-colored RV!"

Friday, October 15, 2010

La Bête

David Hirson's La Bête is back on Broadway after a very, very short run back in 1991. And it got the best production one could dream of, reuniting Matthew Warchus and Mark Rylance after Boeing-Boeing. Rylance alone is worth the price of admission. I liked.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson revisited

This is a milestone of some kind for me: I've now reviewed what's essentially the same production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson three times.

The first was when the musical played the Public Theater's Lab series in May 2009. The second was when it moved up to the Public proper this past spring. The third was today, on the occasion of Bloody's transfer to Broadway. Phew!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Life in the Theatre

David Mamet's 1977 comedy A Life in the Theatre gets a good Broadway production starring Patrick "Engage!" Stewart and T.R. Knight. I liked it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tigers Be Still

Playwright Kim Rosenstock, director Sam Gold and their awesome cast bring on the funny in Tigers Be Still (my review here) at the Roundabout Black Box. And it's only $20!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

How not to do historical fiction

Following recommendations, I picked up Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir trilogy. This has got to be a cult classic of some kind, because two more people, seeing me read it outside the theater and on the subway, broke out in spontaneous praise for Kerr. But I have to admit I gave up after the first novel, March Violets, and didn't finish the trilogy. A couple of things kept tripping me, preventing full immersion.

One is Kerr's relentless use of hard-boiled similes. Taken separately, they're inventive and evocative, but when you have three per page, it becomes a tiresome tic.

A building's red-brick walls "heaved into sight like the muddy flanks of some horny-skinned dinosaur."

A black door is "polished so keenly they could have used it as a mirror in a negro jazz-band's dressing room."

"He edged towards me like a crab with a bad case of corns."

"The voice emptied slowly out of the Boris Karloff mouth, with its slightly protruding teeth, like grit from a bucket."

"She produced a small lace handkerchief which seemed as improbably in her large, peasant hands as an antimacassar in those of Max Schmelling, the boxer…"

The last brings me to the other thing that bugged me: the constant overexplaining of terms and references — something that's particularly common in historical fiction. "She poured herself a glass of Bowle, Berlin's favorite summer drink, from a tall, blue-glass pitcher…"

So Berlin Noir went back to the mid-Manhattan library, unfinished. I replaced it with Sofi Oksanen's Purge, a Finnish-Estonian literary novel that's getting excellent reviews in France. Only a dozen pages in so far, but it's very promising.

And today I did my first trade at the Mystery Swap run by the Community Bookstore in Park Slope: Bring in a mystery novel, pay $1 and you can take one from their stash. I brought a couple of books, gave my $2, and made off with Carl Hiaasen's Basket Case and Maj Swöwall and Per Wahlöö's The Terrorists.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Time Stands Still redux

My review of Donald Margulies' newly reopened Time Stands Still is out today. I deeply disliked the play the first time around; now I only dislike it. I suppose that's progress of a sort. Still, I'm not convinced there was any need to bring the show back, since it ran on Broadway in the spring. Were people really clamoring for more middle-brow stuff?

Thursday, October 07, 2010


At long last, Elevator Repair Service's Gatz has made it to New York! I was half captivated, half bored to death — although the latter seemed to take up more of the show. So I didn't try to hide behind critical cool and was candid in my review: The most hyped show of the fall sent me into a catatonic state at times.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Deer House

I was left dumbstruck by Jan Lauwers' King Lear in 2001 and loved Isabella's Room in 2004. Alas, his new The Deer House, at the BAM Harvey this week, isn't so hot. Review thataway.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Mrs. Warren's Profession

Today's review is of Mrs. Warren's Profession, the George Bernard Shaw play the Roundabout just revived at its American Airlines Theatre. Hmm, Roundabout + period play = ostentatious period sets? Bingo!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Freckleface Strawberry

Frecklace Strawberry is am off-Broadway musical based on Julianne Moore's children's book. My take on it can be found here.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Pitmen Painters

In today's Post, a mostly positive review of Lee Hall's The Pitmen Painters. The show is often described as "Billy Elliot without the music," and it's not untrue: similar author (Lee Hall), similar background (coal miners), similar narrative arc (the discovery of art transforms working-class men).