News & Reviews from New York

December 30, 2002

EILEEN VALENTINO's cabaret show is an odyssey of love and romance in New York-a tasteful agglomeration of songs, mostly unknown ones that tell tales of adventures in the city. It's one of the best constructed cabaret shows you'll ever see, and includes a cute integration of her daughter into it--
well sung, well told; a first class act, totally entertaining, enjoyable from start to finish.

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER


December 24, 2002

A note on the just-closed BOSTON MARRIAGE by David Mamet: This attempt at a 19th Century comedy of manners dotted with deliberate anachronisms, is Mamet's shot at Wilde, and it wildly misses. There is
an occasional humorous quip, but as an experiment in style, it falls short, as does the acting of Kate Burton. She does say all the lines quite clearly, but her foil, Martha Plimpton, does better-she also has an inner life for her character. Period costumes by Walt Spangler for this unromantic, basically same sex, romance are fine, but as directed by Karen Kohlhaas, BOSTON MARRIAGE is an exterior rendition of a flawed play that could have used some real juice rather than mere recitation. The third character, the maid, is
played by Arden Myrin, who does her best, but is miscast, and so can only take it so far. A production of The Public Theatre.

* 1/2 Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and


December 16, 2002

ADULT ENTERTAINMENT by Elaine May is a hilarious spoof on the porno industry and Robin Byrd's TV show, the morons involved in it, and what happens when they start to read books and plays. It's written in Elaine
May's unique comic voice, and her daughter Jeannie Berlin has the great dead-pan delivery of her mother. We start with comedy, and segue into real humor as the porn stars delve into literature. Although I feel it could be tightened into an intermissionless piece, and that director Stanley Donen could have taken it even further, as performed by a fine comic ensemble, most of it is so funny that it is indeed one of the best comedies in town.

*** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and

Baz Luhrmann's brilliant production of LA BOHEME by Puccini, set in 1967, is a truly spectacular spectacle. The inspired design by Catherine Martin
and lighting by Nigel Levings take the physical production of opera into a new, flashing, eye-filling dimension, and the beautiful young people in the show, with their magnificent voices, make this powerfully directed opera, with exciting, imaginative physical action in the staging, a great theatrical experience. They have two or three people cast in each role, and alternate performances, but it would be hard to beat the ones I saw: Jesus Garcia, Lisa Hopkins, Mark Womack and Chloe Wright. Each beautifully fulfills,
and goes beyond our expectations, in their perfectly cast roles. Want to see where Jonathan Larson got his inspiration for "Rent?" Go see this original-it goes far far beyond the hapless contemporaries.

**** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and

MAN OF LA MANCHA (book by Dale Waswerman)is an inspiring musical for all time. This production, with a magnificent, ponderous yet airy expressionistic set by Paul Brown and magical lighting by Paul Gallo,
starts with acting on the level of Children's Theatre, with lines declaimed. Pretty dull, until a bit of theatrical magic when they create horses out of
scraps, Brian Stokes Mitchell opens up his pipes, and it's a musical! About Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Aldonza- there's something almost obscene to see this sweet, very pretty, somewhat classy woman trying to play the slovenly whore (even if she does reveal a heart of gold). Also- pardon me- but I have the weird idea that a leading lady in a musical should really be able to sing. Ms. Mastrantonio gives it a valiant try. The production is really two shows: one in which people stand and speak or sing, and another when the
dynamic choreography by Luis Perez takes over the stage with exciting, muscular, energetic action. Although Mitchell, one of the finest singers on
Broadway, comes through as an actor towards the dramatic conclusion, his performance is a bit stiff and formal, without being bitten by the antic muse to float it. Ernie Sabella as Sancho gives us the only lightness in the show, and I particularly liked Mark Jacoby as the priest. Director Jonathan Kent has it all hooked together, but it lack leavening. All in all, by the end, it's still a powerful show with great songs by Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion.

*** 1/2 Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and

TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE by Jeffrey Hatcher and Mitch Albon, is the not fascinating portrayal of a dying old scholar and his former student. Basically, we watch an old man suffer and die. Aside from some amusing moments here and there, a smile and a chuckle or two, it's mostly maudlin sentimentality. It was great to see my old mime teacher, Alvin Epstein, as the professor, He's still a real mime, and his performance of the physical requirements of the show, including dancing, are superb. He still has style and grace in body and range and dimension in voice. And Jon Tenny is a fine foil for him; but I wanted a deeper profundity, and perhaps flavorful wit rather than saccharine banalities and inanities. Some of the schmaltz, directed by David Esbjornson, works, and at the end there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER, and


November 23, 2002

What a pleasure to encounter a fresh, new (to me), bright contemporary writer like Alexander Dinelaris. He's got a keen ear and an antic mind, and his short plays THE CHAOS THEORIES, now at Don't Tell Mama on West 46th St., put contemporary relationships under his comic and dramatic microscope: finance, celebrity, homelessness, religion (a hooker at confession). His strength is comedy, and a Eugene O'Neilesque inner
voice/outer voice dating piece is terrific. All of the acting by these members of Shotgun Productions company is top level, with Andrea Gallo, Mary Cross and Darcie Siciliano outstanding. Co-directed by the author and Stewart M. Schulman, the 90 minute show gives us the voice of a writer who has wit, sensitivity, and a mischievous mind in a very entertaining evening of short theatre pieces that had the audience laughing and applauding.

***1/2 Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER

DEBBIE DOES DALLAS is hilarious. The satirical little musical at the Jane St. theatre about five nitwit cheerleaders, led by Debbie, who want to go to Dallas to cheer for the Dallas Cowboys, is entertaining from start to finish. It has the funniest choreography in town, by Jennifer Cody, marvelous idiotic performances by the girls, who never cross the line into actual pornography, fine comic support by the three men who play many roles, and some of the most brilliant comic timing and direction in town by Erica Schmidt. With a
mix of comic sexuality by the trisexual girls (they'll try anything sexual) and big laughs, with great outrageous costumes by Juman Malouf, a Debby who can really sing, Sherie Rene Scott, This is a show not to be missed by anyone with a feeling for light, very contemporary humor. (If you're a square, don't go there; if you're a prude, you'll find it rude.)

**** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER


November 15, 2002

There's an old saying: "Shoemaker, stick to you last." Remember when Michael Jordan tried t play baseball? Carol Burnett wrote a play (with her daughter), HOLLYWOOD ARMS, now on Broadway. Sorry- she's a great
performer. The acting by Linda Lavin, Michele Pawk and Frank Wood is fine- but you also know the one about the silk purse.

* Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER

ACTS OF PROVIDENCE, two one acts by Edward Allan Baker, a strong writer with a good ear, is an intriguing evening of theatre. The first play,
"Jane's Exchange," sets up a fascinating mystery about the relationships among four people in the kitchen of a bakery that totally engages, and fully satisfies at the ending revelations. The four actors, Amorika Amoroso, Joe Capozzi, Julie Karlin and the scintillating Tonya Cornelisse fulfill their roles
perfectly, and Russell Treyz directs with verve. The second play, "North of Providence," is a confrontation between a depressed brother and his sister who is trying to pull him out of it. It is convincingly acted by Judy Del Guidice and Mark Belasco, who knows how to underplay, and although a rather good piece of theatre, it rambles a bit. But, once again, Baker comes thru with a theatrical revelation at the end.

*** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER

Here's a real curiosity: Al Pacino starring in Bertold Brecht's play about the rise to power of a monster (like Hitler), THE RESISTIBLE RISE OF ARTURO
UI, with a huge cast directed by Simon McBurney. There is physically precise, stylized action, with all lines screamed- it's all declaiming and reciting- no acting, only performance, like a bunch of fast-talking puppets. This fulfills Brecht's idea of a play not engaging the audience emotionally- keeping your distance as an observer rather than being a participant. Pacino is interesting. He comes out in a sort of ridiculous Halloween clown makeup as a sloppy, slumping, whining character, looking ridiculous, with a sing-song speech rhythm. And that's what makes it interesting: to see a star as a slobby schlemiel. And you could see he was having a lot of fun with the
image he projected. Charles Durning played as real as possible, Chas Palminteri was formidable, as were John Goodman and Steve Buscemi. The outstanding entertainer for me was Tony Randall, who is marvelous as a ham actor. He has strength and grace. I found it all interesting and boring at the same time, and, ultimately, in its interminable length, irritating. I seem to need empathy with at least someone on the stage, and precise action can only take me so far. So- you want to see a movie star looking ridiculous?
Go see Arturo Ui.

** Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER

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