Results tagged “theater” from ARTicles

I can't wait for the battle that will break out on Broadway when the Desirees of this world realize that there's another delicious role in the works. There is nothing wrong with the aging actress that a really great role can't fix, and Sarah Ruhl's "Stage Kiss" is just the cure for that long dry agony of waiting between Juliet and Lady Macbeth, as Ruhl's leading lady puts it.

We first meet her as she is struggling to keep it together, in a priceless audition setpiece that has the audience screaming with laughter and wide open to all that follows. (The production's enjoying its world premiere at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, where the summer fireworks have obviously begun.) "Stage Kiss" is a sly and loving ode to the life of the stage, distilled to comic absurdity, but ever so deftly, retaining a seductively sober whiff of the real thing. 

The plot in brief: She gets the romantic lead in a bad '30s chestnut, only to discover that her old flame in the play is also her old flame in real life. The romp that follows is an exquisite send-up of the actor's dutiful struggle to make the imaginary seem really-really real, resulting in the classic absurdities that Ruhl explores with gusto. In effect, she is doubling down -- creating a play about a play for characters fighting demons who play characters fighting demons ... 

Anyway, it's a funhouse, but a funhouse with a warm heart. There's a delicious thread of farce in the backstage and rehearsal scenes, and yet the show is lyrical at its core. "Stage Kiss" has the kind of balance between a two-character romance and a superb ensemble of stock supporting characters that one finds in the best Astaire-Rogers movies. The stage director's a cheerful nebbish with closet acting pretensions; the male understudy's a preener, the daughter spits knives. One and all, you gotta love 'em. 

My guess is that the show will tighten somewhat on its inevitable path to Broadway, but the Goodman has done very well by Ruhl in "Stage Kiss," which has been nearly two years in development.

A pitch-perfect trio of veteran actors in the lead roles -- Jenny Bacon as She, Mark L. Montgomery as He, Ross Lehman as the Director -- has captured the humor, both broad and delicate. The show's creative team -- director Jessica Thebus, designer Todd Rosenthal and fight choreographer Nick Sandys -- have made a stylish, high-energy showcase for this delightful new work. If you have a chance to see it, by all means go.

Photo by Liz Lauren: He (Mark L. Montgomery) and She (Jenny Bacon) in Sarah Ruhl's "Stage Kiss" at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. 
May 10, 2011 8:21 AM |

ShrewThumbCST.jpgShakespeare's Katherina of Padua is outrageous, hostile and terribly funny, and "The Taming of the Shrew" is a great game of wits as long as the game seems fair. But there's the rub for modern audiences. Never mind that the shrew was a stock character with a stock remedy. You can feel the squirming begin as Kate is systematically humiliated, muddied, starved and sleep-deprived.

Faced with the prospect of half an audience pleading, "Say it ain't so!" as Kate kneels for peace, her hand below her husband's foot, what's a producer to do?

Chicago Shakespeare Theatre has tried something new with Neil LaBute, a playwright who knows a thing or two about sexual politics in the modern era.

May 17, 2010 6:54 AM |
ComeFlyAway1.jpgOnce more there is a conversation in the ArtsBeat blog between critics of different disciplines, in this case Charles Isherwood and Alastair Macaulay, on the subject of the Broadway dance musical "Come Fly Away," choreographed by Twyla Tharp to music of Frank Sinatra. I have been lapping it up.

Isherwood has called "Come Fly Away" a "major new work" of theater, and Macaulay has decried its dance as "intimacy perverted into exhibitionism." I am interested in the discussion that is developing over the nature of Tharp's work, for what it is and what it isn't, breakthrough or compromise, as judged from the perspective of these critics who write about related but different genres. Here's the link to the conversation, best read from the bottom up.

For the record, I saw "Come Fly Away" in one of its last previews. I found it exhilarating, and I would have been happy to tell you why over a bottle of wine after the show. But because I was a 

March 30, 2010 10:52 AM |

This is part of a series on people and organizations that make it possible for artists' work to be made and presented.

Robert Lyons Ohio Theatre.jpg

It was 9:30 at night when Robert Lyons ducked out of rehearsal at the Ohio Theatre, on Wooster Street in New York's Soho, to get some coffee. He's a big guy, 6 feet 4 inches tall, so walking unaccompanied to the deli should not have been a problem. But it was the late 1980s, and Soho then wasn't what Soho has become; for one thing, there were still delis to go to. There was no Barneys Co-Op on the next block, no Trump hotel-condominium sales office just up the cobblestoned street. There wasn't the pervasive sense of safety.

So when he returned a few minutes later with his coffee and saw four guys with broomsticks walking by, his impulse was to close the door to the Ohio and stand in front of it, as if he were protecting the theater. "And they just circled around me, and they wanted my money," Lyons recalled yesterday, sitting at a café table in the theater's lobby as the rain came down outside. "They all kind of hit me at the same time, and then somebody down the street yelled, and then they all ran, so they didn't even get my wallet. But my chin split open, and so blood was pouring down." At 50, he still has the scar.

March 13, 2010 5:51 PM |

pattigypsy.jpgI've just started to teach arts journalism to a wonderful class -- sure, give me a few weeks, but I go in optimistic. But then a colleague asked me the question anyone in this business would, should, ask: Why teach a skill for jobs that are drying up?

Tuesday night (March 25), I was handed a solid answer, one that I must admit I already knew. I went with my very dear friend, a Tony-voting theater critic for a major metropolitan newspaper, to the St. James Theater for a critic's-night preview of Gypsy, with Patti LuPone as you-know-who. Opening night is Thursday, so even though I am straining to tell you what I thought of it, I can't.

Yet I bet you want to know, may even be dying to know, which is why, as long as curtains go up, critics will always have work.

My friend, let's call him Brooks, because of a series of editorial circumstances was under absolutely no obligation to review. So the evening was a streetcar-man's holiday, which seemed to make him happy; he even had a glass of wine with his pretheater burger, something I'd never seen him do.

We remained sitting, silent, as lights came up after the first act. Then Brooks hit his fist on the arm of the infant-size seat: "I don't care, I'm going to write about this, whether or not they print it." I could see on his face that he was thinking of scribbling some retroactive notes and already rehearsing his lede.

What would induce a member of any audience to swap an evening of guaranteed leisure and potential enjoyment for a stretch of strenuous observation and then hours of immersion into the sweat-making cauldron of writing? Marx -- remember him, Karl with a K? -- ages ago provided the cliché: unalienated labor, work that's not work but irresistible love. Brooks had no choice. The words (and music!) on stage demanded company, and continuation, for themselves, and he was there.

As you can see, the same thing happened to me.

March 26, 2008 6:36 PM |
The Guardian, home to some of the smartest and most entertaining arts blogs on the Web, has a thought-provoking piece by Andrew Haydon, who takes the British tabs to task for giggling and snorting like a pack of schoolchildren every time an actor does a nude role onstage. He's right, of course, that their behavior is juvenile; he's also right to censure theater PR people for encouraging and colluding in the idiocy.

Where Haydon goes wrong is in dragging Douglas Carter Beane's play, "The Little Dog Laughed," into the argument. " Already in the US this year," he writes, "column inches have been frittered away noting the trivial matter of a playwright objecting to some nudity that he wrote into a play being ignored by its current director."

 But there's nothing trivial about Beane's objection, and it's a legitimate story. As Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones reported on his blog, Beane took issue with About Face Theatre, a gay and lesbian company in Chicago, for leaving out the nudity that is unambiguously written into his script. (The crucial stage direction: "When they are both naked, Mitchell kneels before Alex, the door opens, Diane walks in.") According to Playbill's Kenneth Jones, Beane had refused a pre-opening request to cut the nudity and threatened to shut ...

February 8, 2008 11:27 PM |
BeeHive.jpgThe Internet might be the all-powerful Beast in newsrooms these days, but there's still a stigma attached to a story being labeled as "Web-only." It's as if an editor came by and decreed, "OK, this is sort of important, but not important enough both to print in the newspaper AND put on our Web site." I think this is particularly the case for cultural stories, especially reviews and commentary. Stuff gets buried really easily online. On many newspaper Web sites, it's hard enough to find  the top news story from yesterday, much less a theater review of a show that opened two weeks ago.

But at The Fresno Bee, where I am a cultural jack-of-all trades (I cover movies, theater, visual arts, classical music, you name it), I've been experimenting with ways to make our Web-only (and Web-expanded) coverage not only enhance the print product but create an online following of its own.
February 2, 2008 8:14 PM |


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