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Report for March 2016

Report for March 2016



At The Lucille Lortel Theatre:

Noah Haidle?s SMOKE FALL [*****]

Grand-Rapids Time-Machine Needs Serious-Rewiring! But What Did TS Eliot Know About Time?

That One Manhattan-Critic described the Backwards-&-Forwards Dysfunctional-Family Generational-Trajectories of SmokeFall as Thornton Wilder on Acid seems Not-Far-Off-the-Mark.

The Action begins?down at the former Theatre De Lys?with what looks like a MoMA-Makeover of Generic-Interior-Design of the Marcel-Breuer-Period.

This is also one of the few Off-Broadway-Plays that is Narratively-Explained as we go along.

As Footnote, the Initial-Narrator, Zachary Quinto, is both Handsome & Baffled by this Extremely-Odd-Family.

But, later, as One of Two-Identical-Twins?this is a Script in which one might well have Three-Twins from the Same-Egg?he is Fetus-Two, so we have some Interesting-Insights into what goes on Down-There with effectual Audience-MRI-Viewings.

Unfortunately, his Unborn-Twin-Brother, Fetus-One [Brian Hutchinson], has some Hang-Ups about Original-Sin in the Womb.

He is, of course, worried about that Original-Sin in the Original-Womb, not in their Current-Womb?

In fact, he is so Hung-Up that, when it?s time to Download, he strangles himself in his Umbilical-Cord, which rather reminded me of Old-Film-Footage.

Central to Haidle?s Time-Warped-Fantasy is the Retired-Colonel, fustily played by Tom Bloom, with his Over-Anxious-Daughter, Violet [Robin Tunney], always on the Edge of Happy-Family-Status.

Violet?s Loving-Husband Daniel [Hutchinson, again] finds this family he has Married-Into a Bit-Too-Much, so he Falls-in-Love-with-Long-Distance?to Borrow-a-Phrase from Tennessee Williams. He keeps-on Driving-West from Grand-Rapids?

But Life-Goes-On & On & On, with Actors assuming New-Lives in an Old-Family?

Playwright Haidle borrows, not from Playwright Tom Williams, but from Playwright TS Eliot: Time Past & Time Future/Allow but Little-Consciousness/To be Conscious is Not to be in Time/?/?/The Moment in the Draughty-Church at Smokefall/Be Remembered; Involved with Past & Future/Only through Time, Time is Conquered. [Emphases-Added]

That was Abstracted from TS Eliot?s Four Quartets, but if you are Really-Hungry for more TS Eliot, especially as Playwright, how about Murder in the Cathedral?

TS Eliot?s The Cocktail Party doesn?t really Make-It as a Play?

At The Tiny Little Booth Theatre:

Gene O?Neill?s HUGHIE [***]

Grand Industrial-Strength Staircase Dominates Hotel-Lobby-Drama, Featuring Forest Whitaker?

Knowing that he was Making-a-Broadway-Debut, why did Forest Whitaker?or His-Handlers?choose one of Gene O?Neill??s least-interesting One-Acters?

Even Jason Robards couldn?t make this Pot-Boiler Compelling.

See, it works like this: Hughie was the Night-Clerk of a Shabby-Old-Hotel, circa 1928, that may once have been OK, but is now nothing more than a Flop-House.

When Hughie died?possibly of Stale-Tobacco-Fumes or Drink, or Both?Hotel-Roomer Eric Smith [Forest Whitaker] goes on an Epic-Bender.

Just now, Eric has returned to the Hotel-Lobby, to discover that the New-Night-Clerk has a Last-Name of Hughes.

Eric then launches into an Epic-Bender of Total-Rambling-Recall which is of Little-Perceivable-Interest.

Fortunately, the Small-Stage of the [Edwin] Booth Theatre is Dominated?if not Overwhelmed?by a Monumental-Staircase, with High-Risers that only a Giant-Bowery-Bum could easily climb.

Chris Oram designed both Set & Costumes?the latter being fairly Pre-1929-Crash Period-Generic?

If the Whitaker-Debut had to be O?Neill-Infused, why not The Iceman Cometh?

Mourning Becomes Electra is definitely not Forest-Whitaker-Territory?

David Cote, writing in Time Out New York, also wasn?t thrilled with either Play-Choice or Movie-Star-Performance: "To use Gambling-Lingo, this Revival of Hughie is a King-Short of a Royal-Flush.?

Nonetheless, Hilton Als, the Premiere-Critic of The New Yorker, was, as usual, Fulsome in his Admiration of All-Concerned. Of both Whittaker & the Night-Clerk [Frank Wood], he writes?with some Emphasis-Added: Together & separately, they?re more than Fine-Actors: they?re Poets equal to O?Neill?s Poeticism.

At The Helen Hayes Theatre:

Stephen Karam?s THE HUMANS [****]

Look Where It Comes Again! Humans Moves To Broadway, With Reed Birney & Jane Houdyshell!

Here is what I wrote about Stephen Karam?s The Humans way back in November 2015, when it was produced at the Laura Pels Theatre of the Harold & Miriam Steinberg Center, just off Sixth-Avenue:


Family-Skeletons Exhumed on Two-Levels of Generic-House?

Plus Jane Houdyshell & Reed Birney Providing Vintage-Performances?

Moved virtually-intact to the Helen Hayes?replacing Dames at Sea?it was, for me, Virtually-the-Same-Experience.

The Excellent-Cast all worked very hard to Recreate this Boiling-Cauldron of Familial-Resentments, Recriminations, & Reproaches on a Desperately-Festive-Thanksgiving in a Doomed-Rental.

Déj??Vu all over again?

At The Cherry Lane Theatre:

Dan O?Brien?s THE BODY OF AN AMERICAN [*****]

Catastrophe-Seeking Photo-Journalist Forever-Haunted by Dead-American-Soldier He "Shot??

This Thought-Provoking Two-Hander is one of the most Intercut-Intensive, Photo-Flooded Off-Broadway Productions in Memory.

Michael Cumpsty is amazing as Paul, a Manically-Driven Photo-Journalist who specializes in Wars, Disasters, Catastrophes, & even in Global-Warming in the Arctic.

What?s even more Amazing is that he is able to do this so well, even though his Left-Hand is just a Stubborn-Clump.

How can he hold that Heavy-Camera & Shoot with Only-One-Hand?

His Most-Fateful-Day comes when he discovers the Shattered-Body of an American-Soldier, Shot-Up in one of our Ongoing-Middle-Eastern-Wars.

As he raises his Camera, preparing to Shoot, he hears the Soldier?s-Voice: If you take my picture, I will own you forever?

He cannot resist this Potentially-Prize-Winning Battle-Image?which goes Viral.

Michael Crane, as the Inspiration-Hungry-Author Dan, teams-up with Paul, following his various Photo-Forays.

Their Projection-Rich Intercut-Adventures provide some of the most Tense & Fascinating Factual-Substance & Emotional-Power to be seen on any Off-Broadway-Stage.

The Historic Cherry Lane Theatre is the new "Permanent-Home? of Primary-Stages?which has been seen here & there in Manhattan, over the years, founded by Casey Childs & longtime Artistically-Directed by Andrew Leynse of Steamboat-Springs Festival-Fame.

But Dan O?Brien?s Body of An American has had a most interesting Previous-Stage-Life.

Deftly directed by Jo Bonney, it comes to the Cherry Lane Theatre from the Hartford-Stage, but it seems to have originated in Portland, Oregon, staged by Bill Rauch, who Artistically-Directs the Oregon-Shakespearean-Festival in Ashland, Or.

In London, Body of An American premiered at the prestigious but small Gate-Theatre.

Both Dan O?Brien & Michael Cumpsty are lucky to have Richard Hoover as Set-Designer & Alex Basco Koch as their Rear-Screen Projection-Genius.

For The Record: Dan O?Brien is a 2015-2016 Guggenheim-Fellow & the Winner of Four-Prestigious-Awards for Body of An American.

He is currently working on a Script about Syria, ISIS, & Hollywood for LA?s Center-Theatre, as well as a new Drama about the History of Guns in America for both Oregon-Shakespearean-Festival in Ashland, Or.

& NYC?s Public-Theatre?

At The Fisher Theatre? Fishman-Space at BAM:

The Civilians & John Ashbery?s RIMBAUD IN NEW YORK [***]

Arthur Rimbaud Was Never Actually In New York,

But The Civilians Like to Imagine That He Was, Perhaps In Spirit, Notably in the 1980s?

This Odd-Show is a Sort of Riotous-Rattling-Rimbaud-Ramboesque-Ramble Down-Memory-Lane in the East-Village.

But it?s really a Grab-Bag?or a Hotch-Potch?of Visual & Audio-Images of Those Good-Old-Days when East-Village-Trendies were Doing-Drugs, Zonking-Out, Fucking-Anuses, Singing Bob Dylan & Patti Smith, & Idolizing the Preciously-Prestigious-Poetry of John Ashbery.

A Distinguished-Professor at Brooklyn-College, John Ashbery was the Resident-Poet in the English-Department.

As I was then an Undistinguished-Professor in the Theatre-Department, I didn?t have much Occasion to learn about Rimbaud as Translated by John Ashbery.

Steve Cosson?the Presiding-Genius of The Civilians?illuminates Rimbaud?s Illuminations in various ways, using Poetic-Props, Period-Projections, & Cute-Costumes.

But what are Innocent-Audiences to think of a Lyric-Line like: Tough-Shit! Tough-Shit! Tough-Shit! Tough-Shit! Tough-Shit!

I was first introduced to the Lives, Loves, & Lyrics of Rimbaud & Verlaine at UC/Berkeley, way back in 1948, so it was a bit of a stretch to find them Retreaded in a 1980s "Downtown.?

What especially astonished me about Cosson?s Take on Lives & Loves in the East-Village was his Insistence that Rimbaud was Everywhere in the Air.

In the 1980s, I was Everywhere in both the East-Village & the West-Village. As well as at Brooklyn-College?

I saw Charles Busch almost Naked up in a Swing at Club-Limbo.

I saw Charles Ludlam Pissing-in-a-Bucket at the Ridiculous-Theatre.

I worked with Ellen Stewart from the first at LaMaMa-ETC?

Not once did I hear the Name-of-Rimbaud Uttered, much less Invoked as an Influence or Inspiration.

Essentially, Rimbaud in New York is a Stand-Up, Microphone-Enabled, Hard-Rock-Concert, with Odd-Dress-Up-Turns now & then.

In Effect, even getting to the BAM Fisher-Theatre?s Fishman-Space?to paraphrase Paul Verlaine?s Les Fleurs du Mal?is rather like Les Flurries du Mal-MTA-Scheduling?

At Playwrights-Horizons on Theatre-Row:

Danai Gurira?s FAMILIAR [*****]

"Familiar? as Pertaining to The Tendi-Family?from Far-Off-Zimbabwe,

Who Are Now Living in Comparative-Modern-American-Luxury in a Prosperous-Suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, but for Whom Old-Tribal-Traditions Die Hard?

No, I was not initially a Big-Fan of Danai Gurira?s Zimbawean-Fable, Eclipse?which has moved to Broadway?but now I am certainly fascinated by what happens when Zimbabweans emigrate to the United-States-of-America.

Donald Trump! You are completely Off-Base when you Lash-Out at what you seem to believe are Lax-Immigration-Laws!

Donald & Marvelous Tendi?as Almost-Assimilated-Americans?would be a Credible-Credit to any Upscale-Neighborhood where they might choose to settle-in.

In fact, Marvelous, as the Family-Matriarch, is a Force-to-be-Reckoned-With. "Bossy? does not begin to describe her Management-Strategies.

But the Tendi?s Lovely-Young-Daughter has Fallen-in-Love with a rather Priggish-Young-White-Male, who seems to Set-Great-Store by Doing-Things-Right.

For the Tendi-Clan?whose Roots are still clinging to Zimbabwean-Soil?this involves fetching a Native-Witch-Doctor to deal with Ancient-Tribal-Rituals?


Unfortunately, Donald Trump is too-often Out-of-Manhattan?on his Presidential-Quest?to be able to sit back & enjoy an Inter-Racial Family-Fest made possible both by Living-Wages & Current?Immigration-Policies.

Rebecca Taichman deftly-staged, balancing both Humanity & Hilarity.

I surely must be one of the Very-Few, California-Born, Passport-Carrying, White-American-Males in the Familiar Audiences who have actually been to Zimbabwe?both to Harare & Victoria-Falls?during the Appalling-Ascendency of President Robert Mugabe?

Cross over the Bridge by the Falls & you are immediately in Zambia!

Donald Trump! Why don?t you take some Time-Off & go to Zimbabwe to see how Robert Mugabe made Zimbabwe Even-Greater than it had been when it was British-Rhodesia, named for that Pioneering-White-Adventurer, Cecil Rhodes!

At Historic Town-Hall:

Scott Siegel?s BROADWAY BY THE YEAR: The 1950s [*****]

Great Hit-Songs, Strongly-Sung by Outstanding-Broadway-Based-Vocalists, Plus Tapping-Toes!

Thanks to the Time-Tested-Talents of such Broadway & Cabaret-Pros as Karen Akers, Lisa Howard, Jill Paice, Marilyn Maye, Jim Brochu, Luke Hawkins, Douglas Ladnier, Josh Grisetti, & Jimmy James Sutherland, Town-Hall was briefly transformed into a Musical-Wonderland.

What was Especially-Great for Your-Roving-Reporter about this Broadway-By-The-Year Trip down Musical-Memory-Lane was the Final-Recognition that you do not have to suffer through the often Stupid-Plot-Contrivances of Severely-Dated-Narratives to Relish the Lyrical-Gems on Visual & Vocal-Display.

Among the Fifties-Golden-Oldies were such Beloved-Tunes as: On the Street Where You Live, They Call the Wind Maria, Mr. Wonderful, Stranger in Paradise, Heart, Everything?s Coming Up Roses, Lazy Afternoon, Trouble, Till There Was You, Climb Ev?ry Mountain, & Love, Look Away.

I spent almost Half-of-the-Fifties in Europe, North-Africa, & the Middle-East, so I did not have a Close-Personal-Experience with some of the Broadway-Hits on-offer.

Even those that were rapidly translated into Movie-Formats were often remote for me, as Sa?udi-Arabia, for instance, did not even have Movie-Theatres. They still do not, but there seems to be a Private-Film-Festival promised!

As for Europe, American-Made-Movies were always Delayed-a-Year or so.

Aside from England?which did not need Oxford-Accented-Sound-Tracks?Hollywood-Film-Dialogue was often Dubbed, rather than Sub-Titled.

Just think about West Side Story in German, not to Overlook the Audial-Horrors of Italian & Swedish!

Fortunately, the actual American-English Sung-Lyrics remained intact?

For me, this was an Evening-of-Silent-Tribute to Frances Norkin, a Longtime-Supporter of Scott Siegel?s Town-Hall Musical-Adventures & a Beloved-Friend. Fran had passed-on just a few days before?

I?m in hopes that Scott will be able to Organize a Musical-Memorial-Tribute to Fran sometime in the Near-Future.

Fran Norkin was not only a Great-Lady in Her-Own-Right, but she was also the Main-Life-Support-System for her Dearly-Beloved-Husband, the Longtime-Caricaturist for The Daily News: SAM NORKIN!

Sam?s Papers & Drawings are to be Archived by the Library of the Performing-Arts at Lincoln-Center.

But Sam Norkin was also an Adventurous-Painter in Oils, who never had a Gallery-Show of his Wonderful-Works.

This should happen soon! But which will be the Blessed-Venue?

At The Belasco Theatre:

David Harrower?s Harrowing BLACKBIRD [*****]

Lives Disrupted & Destroyed by One Man?s Illicit-Passion for Young-Girls, One a Consenter?

Tony-Awards© or Tony©-Nominations for both Jeff Daniels & Michelle Williams

Thanks to the Ingenuity of Designer Scott Pask, we seem to be in a Cluttered-Conference-Room, with various Dimly-Seen-Employees scurrying-about outside as Ray [Jeff Daniels] tries to cram Crumpled-Refuse into an already Overfilled-Waste-Container.

Something is obviously Eating-at-Him?

Could it be Dark-Memories of that Long-Ago Jury-Trial that sent him Off-to-Prison for having Illegal-Sex with an Underage-Girl?


Here she is! Una [Michelle Williams] has tracked Ray down!

Does she want to Settle-Old-Scores?

Not Exactly, as it soon develops that she still has a Kind-of-Letch for Ray?

Although he?d like Una to believe that he some kind of Executive in this Corporate-Beehive, she soon surmises that he is, in effect, The Janitor!

Scots-Playwright David Harrower knows how to Build-Tension, but the Pay-Off in Blackbird cannot be Revealed for it might well Spoil-the-Show for you?

Most-Favored Broadway-Director Joe Mantello elicits Searing-Performances!

Ann Roth designed the Costumes, such as they were?

At The Walter Kerr Theatre:

Arthur Miller?s Masterpiece THE CRUCIBLE [*****]

Ivo Van Hove Provides a Potent, Powerful Presentation of an Early-American-Witch-Hunt:

Originally, It Happened in Salem, but Now at the Kerr, Crazy Girls Cavort in an Empty-Warehouse!

Along with Bertolt Brecht?s Galileo, Arthur Miller?s The Crucible is one of the Great-Dramas of the Twentieth-Century!

So the Announcement that Belgian-Bad-Boy Ivo Van Hove had been chosen to stage this Miller-Revival?having recently reduced Miller?s View from the Bridge to a Water-Soaked-Curiosity?raised Real-Fears.

Down at the New-York Theatre-Workshop, Van Hove had already shown how deftly he could Deconstruct-Ibsen, with a Hedda-Gabler-Makeover that Ibsen-Addicts are still clucking about.

Oddly enough, by staging The Crucible not in Puritan-New-England?with Cramped & Airless Period-Interiors?but instead in what could be a Huge-Abandoned-Factory-Space, he has given Miller?s Fact-Based-Drama a Human-Universality that it Originally-Lacked.

Left-Leaning Miller?possibly a Com-Symp, enough so that he had been ordered to appear before HUAC?was, at the time of the Broadway-Premiere, accused by some Conservative-Critics of trying to Equate the Witchcraft-Trials in 17th-Century-Salem with the then Current-Hearings of the House-Un-American-Activities-Committee.

Thanks to the Religious-Fevers of the Mad-Brain of the Puritan-Mystic, the Reverend Cotton Mather?who wrote Wonders of the Invisible-World, a Basic-Text in Witch-Hunting?certain Land-Hungry or Revenge-Minded Salem-Residents began denouncing Decent-Neighbors.

This Death-Fest was set-in-motion by a group of Young-Salem-Girls?led by Abigail, who had a Brief-Affair with John Proctor, in whose home she was a Servant?who were seen Dancing-in-the-Forest, invoking the Devil, under the Tutelage of Tituba [Jenny Jules], a Servant from the Voodoo-Haunted-Caribbean.

Decent, Honest People were Hanged, as a result.

Crusty Old Giles Corey?who would not admit to Witchcraft?was Pressed-to-Death under Stones, to Preserve his Property for his Heirs?

A Dark-Chapter in the Annals of Early-America, but by no means the Equivalent of the Red-Scares Orchestrated by the Red-Baiting Senator Joseph R. McCarthy?

Arthur Miller got Off-the-Hook by going to Washington for the HUAC-Hearings accompanied by his Lovely-Wife, Screen-Star Marilyn Monroe!

The Entire-Cast of the Van Hove Crucible was Admirable, but Especially-Outstanding were Ben Whishaw [John Proctor], Sophie Okonedo [Elizabeth Proctor], Ciar?n Hinds [Dep. Gov. Danforth], & Saoirse Ronan [Abigail].

Before Miller wrote The Crucible, but in the midst of Red-Scares-on-Sunset, I was already studying at Stanford What Happened in Salem?a Just-Printed-Documentation, from the Original-Records?made by my American-History-Professor, who was Newly-Minted from Harvard, the Stanford-of-the-West?

At The Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre of the Lincoln-Center-Theatre:

Marco Ramirez? THE ROYALE [*****]

Stomping Instead of Punching: Jack Johnson Gives the Square-Ring a Movement-Workout!

Relive the Big-Boxing-Matches of Yester-Year!

Thanks to the Design-Ingenuity of Nick Vaughn, almost Everyone in the Newhouse-Theatre at Lincoln-Center has a Ringside-Seat!

But Director Rachel Chavkin has also so ingeniously-orchestrated the Moves, Feints, & Punches that this Evocation of the Great-African-American-Pugilist, Jack Johnson, is almost Abstracted into Choreography.

Bravos for McKinley Belcher III, Khris Davis, Montego Glover, John Lavelle, & Clarke Peters!

Playwright Marco Ramirez suggests?for a Look at the Real-Life-Inspiration behind The Royale, as well as its Inspiring-Aesthetic?that we might well want to read Joyce Carol Oates? On Boxing.

Donald Trump loves to be Ringside!

One wonders what he would today think about the Boxing-Triumphs of Black Jack Johnson?

Way-Back-When, what many Angry-Old-White-Men desperately wanted was a Challenger who could decisively Defeat Jack Johnson.

They called this Wished-For-Champion: THE GREAT WHITE HOPE.

The Drama of that Same-Name was staged Long, Long Ago down at The Arena-Theatre in DC, by Ed Sherin, who invited me down for Rehearsals, so I could write an Account of the Birth-of-the-Play.

At The Ades-Performance-Space of the Manhattan-School-of-Music:

Léo Delibes? LE ROI L?A DIT [*****]

Astounding Musical-Theatre Discovery Premieres Way-Up-Broadway!

Léo Delibes?

Anyone ever heard of Léo?

Especially Léo Lately?

How about Lakmé?

The Bell Song: That?s The Delibes Hit-Song every Card-Carrying Opera-Lover still Knows-&-Loves!

The Late Lily Pons made it her Signature-Song.

Now, the Altogether-Remarkable Dona D. Vaughn has not only Discovered a New-Delibes, but she has also Ingeniously staged this Forgotten-Treasure of Opéra-Bouffe at MSM, where she is Artistic-Director of Opera-Programs.

Le Roi?or Le Roi Soileil/The Sun King?does not actually sing in Le Roi l?a dit!

In fact, His-Imperial-Radiance, The-Glorious-One, does not even make a Stage-Appearance!

Fortunately, the Layers-upon-Layers of Lavishly-Gold-Threaded-Costuming & Gilded-Accessories draped upon the Agile-Form of Le Marquis de Moncontour [Benjamin Dickerson] more than make-up for any Lack of Regal-Pomp, & Princely-Pretension.

As this Audio-Visual-Astonishment soon reveals, the Fading-Family-Fortunes of the Moncontours are about to be Miraculously-Revived.

Le Marquis has Four-Lovely-Marriageable-Daughters?deliciously-costumed, with Panniers-Exposed, by Summer Lee Jack.

The King can certainly make Noble-Matches for these Lovely-Giggling-Ladies, but the Rusty-Mannered-Marquis has to practice Bowing-&-Scraping for his Appearance at the Court-of-Versailles.

He gets some rather Ornate-Moves from his own Personal-Trainer?

With Vases of Majestic-White-Flowers, the Stage is sparely, sparsely set, leaving ample room for the Huge-Cast to Show-Its-Stuff?for this is the Senior-Opera-Theatre?s Annual-Production.

The Lively-Libretto, devised by Edmond Gondinet, is rarther like a Period-French-Farce?Set-to-Music.

Also, it?s less about the Moncontours than it is about the Love-Difficulties of the Ambitious-Peasant, Benoit [Philippe L?Esperance] , & his Perky-Serving-Girl Beloved, Javotte [Alexandra Linde].

Benoit looks & dresses like a Peasant, but he has Dreams far above His-Station.

He believes he can be as Arrogant-&-Overbearing as any Aristocrat, which he suddenly is able to demonstrate when The Marquis has to produce His-Own-Son at the Court-of-Versailles.

Even though Delibes? Rhythms are sometimes somewhat Tick-Tock in their Articulation, nonetheless, there are Solos. Duets, & Trios of Charm & Originality.

Maestro Jorge Parodi conducted with Wit-&-Brio the Always-Excellent Young-Musicians & Performing-Artists of MSM.

Even though Delibes has given us?This Late-in-Time?an Hilarious-Musical-Parody, Parodi has refrained from making it Totally-Ridiculous?

Delibes? Le Roi l?a dit is apt to become a Major-Staple of Opera-Ensembles around the United-States. They are always on the Lookout for Novelties: How many times can you revive Carmen or Faust?

But the Pity of it is, you see, they won?t have Dona D. Vaughn?s Hilarious & Sparkling-Production!

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