News & Reviews from New York

April 24

Do you love an old-fashioned, high spirited, tap dancing romantic musical with some really great performers and an airy, imaginative Deco set (by David Gallo)? Take a trip to New York in 1922 and THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE. You'll have a good time. It's a light, breezy, no surprises romp, with a crisp, perky Millie, Sutton Foster, who really puts over a number, a beautiful (in voice, face and physicality) second lead, Angela Christian, a very comic Harriet Harris, and the amazing Marc Kudisch, in a purple suit, who blazes onto the stage lighting up the theatre with his presence, energy, great voice in Gilbert and Sullivan patter, in Victor Herbert, and whatever else they throw him, with perfect comic timing and a twinkle in his eyes. Choreographed by Rob Ashford with panache and zip, with zany costumes
by Martin Pakledinaz, fine lighting by Donald Holder, directed by Michael Mayer with proper tongue-in-cheek, MILLIE is a fun evening for those whose cup of theatre is the genre of "42nd Street."

***1/2 Richmond Shepard Performing Arts INSIDER


April 22

XTRAVAGANZA, now running at St Ann's Warehouse `in "Dumbo," in Brooklyn, between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges (718/858-2424), is a dazzler. It's the history of big spectacular shows and theatrical inventions in Europe in the 1800's thru Flo Ziegfeld on Broadway and Busby Berkeley's kaleidoscopic visions in the movies. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show to the
thump of an electronic drum, The Chicago World's Fair to a rock beat. Actors against a blue screen projected onto century old street or film backdrops with a New Age sound, some numbers, like "Blue Rose," with a surreal expressionistic feeling. The story line is directly from "42nd Street," and satirical dialogue is a step behind the visuals of this multi-media show, but the company, The Builders Association, directed by Marianne Weems, has given us a better mousetrap- beat a path to their door.

**** Richmond Shepard Performing Arts INSIDER

Ibsen's JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN at the Century Center, is a colossal bore. Poorly translated, poorly acted and directed, this rendering of Ibsen's eleventh play will send it right back into the oblivion in which has languished for some time.

* Richmond Shepard Performing Arts INSIDER

BLUE SURGE by Rebecca Gilman at The Public theatre, is a rare bird: a first rate working class drama. It's a hot, very funny, contemporary comedy, perfectly cast: Rachel Miner, Joe Murphy, Colleen Werthmann, Steve
Key, Amy Landecker, directed with energy and great timing by Robert Falls, well designed by Walt Spangler, costumed by Birgit Rattenborg Wise and
lighted by Michael Philippi. The people are proletariats: cops, hookers, the uneducated working class (except for a middle-class girlfriend of one of the cops as a contrast in aspirations), people with a simple earthy sensuousness, with limited imagined possibilities, and no solutions. Odets isn't writing today, but Gilman's concerns about the frustrations of people trying to (perhaps) surge upwards, might be his, and Falls' flair keeps the audience riveted.

**** Richmond Shepard Performing Arts INSIDER


April 12

FORTUNE'S FOOL, Turgenev's mid-nineteenth century play is more of a valid drama for today than most plays written in the last decade. There are people on the stage with deep feelings, deep inner pain, ultimately in a moral dilemma, played brilliantly by two of today's finest actors, the great farceur Frank Langella and the amazing Alan Bates, who gives us long
monologues without a moment that isn't fascinating. What a privilege to see a master like Bates play a character who declaims while getting progressively drunker- it's one of the all time great drunk scenes. You feel for him, his anguish, and marvel at his performance. And Langella, a world class snidemaster, balances the stage with his hilarious, serious hauteur. A bravura performance. Enid Graham as the young wife and George Morfogen as a friend are fine, but the rest of the cast is uneven, with Benedick Bates miscast (or perhaps misdirected in Act 1) as the young husband. I counted seven different accents, several physical styles. Director Arthur Penn either
put all his effort into the two masters, Langella and Bates, or perhaps let them alone to do what they know how to do- be powerful presences on the stage who can make their characters blaze with a theatrical light. The work of John Arnone- sets, Jane Greenwood-costumes, Brian Nason-lighting, is all first rate. Don't miss this show- you won't see its like very often.

**** Richmond Shepard Performing Arts INSIDER, and


April 11

TOP DOG/UNDERDOG by Suzan-Lori Parks starts with incomprehensible babble, and segues into comprehensible babble. More of a vaudeville turn with two terrific actors than a play, it gives us brothers named Lincoln and Booth, with Booth (Mos Def) the verbal one, the rapper, as a petty thief, and Lincoln (Jeffrey Wright), a black man playing Lincoln in whiteface in a carnival, the physical comedian. Wright's mimimg is super, especially as he drunkenly shows Lincoln being shot several ways. As an entertainment, it can be fun for an audience that understands the jive lingo. Others stared in blank noncomprehension at the verbal barrage and the antics of the brothers as they drink and talk shit. Although the performances were quite good, and the direction of this non-play by George C. Wolfe probably fulfilled the author's vision, I didn't find the analogy profound, the show particularly moving, or the theatrical experience as a whole worth a full evening's attention.

** Richmond Shepard Performing Arts INSIDER, and

THE GRADUATE is a hoot. Kathleen Turner's star turn is in the best Bankhead mode, and her impeccable timing brings a heartfelt laugh to every punchline in this fun from start to finish comedy. We know what's going to happen in this tale of seduction and first love, and this play's success is all in the telling. Adapted and directed by Terry Johnson, with a brilliant sense of what real comedy is, and long knowledge of whom to cast in the leads, the show totally succeeds. Jason Biggs and Alicia Silverstone, both movie stars, bring major comedy talent to Broadway. Let's hope they stay, and come again. The paneled set by Rob Howell is a bold original departure
from the ordinary that works perfectly for this fast moving play, as do his costumes and Hugh Vanstone's lighting. The supporting cast are all excellent, but the three stars carry the night- and beautifully-- extending themselves into comic portraits that are both exaggerated and real.

**** Richmond Shepard Performing Arts INSIDER, and


April 03

I still remember the headlines in 1946 about the reclusive Collyer Brothers whose apartment was so full of papers and junk that it took sixteen days to find the body of one of them buried under the debris. Richard Greenberg has imagined their neurotic, and eventually psychotic, life from 1905 when the
reclusion begins to their death in '46 in his engrossing play THE DAZZLE. Peter Frechette and Reg Rogers as the brothers have each created character idiosyncrasies that make the ordinary fascinating.
What could be mundane is turned into witty, almost Wildesque, banter in the hands of these two skilled actors and the lovely Francie Swift as the sole intrusion into their lives. Greenberg's imagination and sense of humor set the play in motion, exposing the peculiar relationship between the brothers, and although it extends a bit long on the downhill turns in the end phase, as they deteriorate, THE DAZZLE remains riveting. It's really good theatre by fine actors in just the right costumes by Gregory A. Gale,
played on an amazing set by Allen Moyer with proper lighting by Jeff Croiter, all tied together by the sure hand of director David Warren.

*** 3/4 Richmond Shepard Performing Arts INSIDER

March 2002