Thursday, August 29, 2013


September is shaping up with some very exciting prospects and I wanted to keep you informed of what I’ve already booked, since I won’t be reviewing anything for several days. That's because of my current immersion in the five-play cycle of plays by Lucy Thurber being presented by the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, at various Off-Broadway venues, with two at the Cherry Lane, one at the Rattlestick itself, one at the Axis Theatre, and one at the New Ohio. I’ve already seen SCARCITY and ASHVILLE, and will be attending WHERE WE’RE BORN, KILLERS AND OTHER FAMILY, and STAY over the rest of the week. The entire series will be covered in a single review, as per the request of the press rep, so mum’s the word until then.

            After that I’ll be traveling to the Flea on White Street to see the Bats perform THE RECOMMENDATION, a new play by Jonathan Caren, described in these words: “Aaron Feldman is popular and connected. He is everything his best friend Iskinder Iudoku is not, but when Feldman gets pulled over for a broken taillight, he is introduced to a world where privilege means nothing and Iskinder has the advantage. A play about friendship, class and where loyalty has its limits.” Then there’s a new work about Freud, FINAL ANALYSIS, at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre at the Signature on W. 42 St. and another work by the same company in the same venue, BREAKFAST WITH MUGABE. The former is described thusly: “FINAL ANALYSIS, was part of the 2012 Midtown International Theatre Festival and was honored with seven MITF Awards, receiving an unprecedented 13 nominations. The play, directed by Ludovica Villar-Hauser, is set in turn-of-the-century Vienna--the crossroads of civilization, a major confluence of art, music, science and politics. But, festering beneath the facade of frivolity and joy, the city is rotting at its core, sickened by moral corruption, obsessed with death, and ravaged by a growing hatred of the Jews. Against this background, Gustav Mahler, the great composer and conductor, falls in love with the talented, tempestuous Alma Schindler; Joseph Stalin meets a dangerous young man over a game of chess; Ludwig Wittgenstein, destined to become a dominant force in world philosophy, runs into an old schoolmate with unpleasant consequences, and in the midst of this, Sigmund Freud faces what he has always denied:  the essential, evil nature of man.”

            BREAKFAST WITH MUGABE, already the recipient of a positive review by the New York Times, is described this way: “Fraser Grace’s thriller is inspired by newspaper reports that Robert Mugabe, severely depressed, and convinced he was haunted by the ghost of a dead comrade, was treated by a white psychiatrist. It premiered at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Other Place in 2005,” and then transferred to the West End, with other important productions following.

            59E59 will be presenting THE LIFE AND SORT OF DEATH OF ERIC ARGYLE: “Eric Argyle is having a bad Sunday. It’s late. He’s still in his pyjamas. A room full of people are staring at him. And he died at 11.42am, two days ago. An issue that people don’t seem all that receptive to.” And then I’ll be off to FETCH CLAY, MAKE MAN, at the New York Theatre Workshop, a play that examines a true but surprising relationship. “In the days leading up to one of Cassius Clay's most anticipated fights, the heavyweight boxing champion forms an unlikely friendship with the controversial Hollywood star Stepin Fetchit.  With a rhythmic script by award-winning performer and playwright Will Power, who received rave reviews for his hip-hop productions of Flow and The Seven at NYTW, and direction by Tony Award winner Des McAnuff, FETCH CLAY, MAKE MAN explores the improbable bond that forms between two drastically different and influential cultural icons. One a vibrant and audacious youth, the other a resentful and almost forgotten relic, together as they fight to form their public personas and shape their legacies amidst the struggle of the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-1960s. This true story is as powerful and poetic as Clay himself while also humorous and irreverent like Fetchit's signature act. Finding commonality in contradiction, FETCH CLAY, MAKE MAN examines the true meaning of strength, resilience and pride.”

            On the evening of the day I see FETCH CLAY, MAKE MAN, I’ll be privileged to attend Lear DeBessonet’s staging (with 200 actors!) of THE TEMPEST, a huge civic undertaking sponsored by the Public Theatre and being premiered at the Delacorte in Central Park before moving to other NYC venues. “Public Works is the Off-Broadway company's new program, which aims to build audience engagement in all five boroughs of New York City.The Tempest will feature individuals from such diverse groups as Children's Aid Society (Manhattan); DreamYard (Bronx); Fortune Society (Queens); Brownsville Recreation Center (Brooklyn); and Domestic Workers United (all boroughs). Participants will be cast in lead and ensemble roles alongside professional actors.”

            THE HATMAKER’S WIFE will follow at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre on 42nd Street, with Rachel Chavkin (NATASHA, PIERRE AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1812) at the helm of Lauren Yee’s “whimsical and poignant new play [in which] a young woman moves in with her boyfriend expecting domestic bliss, but instead has trouble getting comfortable. Her strange new home seems determined to help out - and soon the walls are talking. They reveal the magical tale of an old hat-maker and his long-suffering wife, who runs away with his favorite hat. This sweet and surreal story bends time and space to redefine the idea of family, home, and true love itself.”

            Then comes BRENDAN AT THE CHELSEA, at the Acorn on Theatre Row, described as “a warm and funny play set in the 1960s when the notorious Brendan Behan absconded from Ireland to New York and set up residence in the bohemian Chelsea Hotel where his neighbors included Arthur Miller, Bob Dylan and other artists. He’s drunk, broke, hung over and way past the delivery date of his latest book; then a wire arrives from Dublin with the kind of news that’s guaranteed to put his blood pressure through the roof.” The next night brings PHILIP GOES FORTH, a revival of a 1931 George Kelly comedy at the Mint, and yet another comedy revival the night afterward, Shaw’s YOU NEVER CAN TELL, at the Pearl.

            A solo show from Ireland follows, I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW (THE WHEELCHAIR ON MY FACE), written and performed by Sonia Kelly, at 59E59, with a play by Horton Foote scheduled for the next day at the Signature. It’s called THE OLD FRIENDS and stars musical theatre great Betty Buckley. A couple of days later Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad costar as the fated lovers in ROMEO AND JULIET, the first Broadway revival of this Shakespearean classic in well over 30 years, with a new play by Regina Taylor at the Signature a day later. It’s title is STOP.RESET and it's described as follows: "As e-books outsell printed books, Alex Ames, the owner of Chicago’s oldest African American book publishing company, must question each of his employees to determine who is still relevant in a rapidly changing world. When he meets J, a mysterious youth plugged into the future, Mr. Ames is forced to discover just how far he will go to survive. A new play from Residency Five playwright Regina Taylor, stop. reset. asks powerful questions of legacy, identity and survival in a world where the real and the virtual are more closely tied than we think."

            Then there’s something by Ethan Coen, of the movies’ Coen brothers, at the Atlantic, WOMEN OR NOTHING. This is Coen's first full-length play. It’s “about two women so desperate to have a child that one of them will even sleep with a man. Who the man is, what he thinks is going on, what the women think about what he thinks, and what the mother of one of the women reveals about her own colorful past—it all defies belief. Why then does it all make sense?” Finally, there’s ARGUENDO, staged at the Public by the adventurous Elevator Repair Service. “In Barnes v. Glen Theatre, a 1991 First Amendment case brought by a group of go-go dancers, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court debate whether dancing naked in a strip club is an exercise of artistic expression or a crime. In ARGUENDO, ERS presents the case's oral argument, verbatim, revealing a compelling intellectual struggle and the court's often-absurd sense of humor. There will be a 20-minute talk back following every show, included in the price of admission.”
            All this and it will only be September 22, with another week still remaining in the month for additional shows. Let's hope these productions turn out as well on stage as they sound on paper, and that the season before us proves a memorable one.