News & Reviews from New York
       

February 07th, 2008
   
Notes on DEEP TRANCE BEHAVIOR IN POTATOLAND (A Richard
Foreman Theatre Machine) which Foreman wrote, designed, directed (stage and film) and created the sound for:
Mysteriousness and obscurity as images are projected or posed as blurred guttural voice images are growled.Japan and England on film. Attractive young women on screen and on stage in costumes. They are not actors,they are figures- on screen and off. Performance Art- a pastiche of images including a male
Vampiric figure. Foreman creates a surreal abstract world of sight and sound. Aphorisms that pretend profundity, and can get a bit
tiresome. Foreman is a trip, and it's all him-- all the performers
are replaceable since they are only called upon to pose, move a bit, pose. When you're about to doze, Martial Music! And Loud
Buzzing-- Wake up!!!. OK- enough with the machine gun firing already. A great, giant, rather charming humming bird appears
with flags on his head. Oh yeah-- there's the too-bright flood of light in our eyes- repeated repeated repeated re............
It's a rare voyage through a newly-created personal world.
It began to remind me of the film "The Hucksters," about the advertising industry-- "Irritate, irritate, irritate.......
Foreman has created his own theatrical world- a rare conglomeration of a kind of personal madness/genius that reminds me of the Expressionism of Weimar Germany-- an experience no explorer of tangential theatrical expression should miss.

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER and
lively-arts.com.


Director Daniel Sullivan does Harold Pinter proud in the current production of THE HOMECOMING. His meticulous direction of this profound but delicate play is impeccable, and his marvelous cast beautifully acts the complex twists of our most obscure yet
revealing playwright. The negativity, the viciousness of the father (Ian McShane) holds the play together as his loser brother (Michael McKean) and three sons (Raul Esparza, Gareth Saxe, James Frain) interact in the family manse with a visiting wife (Eve Best-- who can be more sexy doing nothing than any wriggler on
Broadway). Esparza is vivid, Saxe is a heartbreaker as a slow thinker, and the calm of Frain is eerily impossible. Much of the play is about nothing, and it is all totally gripping, with dramatic tension from start to finish. All is strange in this skewed family, and Act Two shifts into full absurdity, but sustains a sense of actuality. It's a bizarre, different, fascinating universe where values are topsy-turvy, relationships bend, and wheels turn
within wheels as our comprehensibility may become wavy, but it's all very theatrical and comprehensible as such. Eugene Lee's imaginative open but closed-in set, defining costumes by Jess Goldstein and lighting by Kenneth Posner complete the picture in this rare, fascinating play which sticks in my consciousness-
replaying scenes and moments of the masterful cast fulfilling Pinter's unique vision.

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER and
lively-arts.com.

       

February 01st, 2008
   
In COME BACK, LITTLE SHEBA William Inge captures a reality and makes the ordinary engaging and dramatic as a lonely middle-aged woman, beautifully played by S. Epatha Merkerson, trapped in a blank, unloved marriage, interacts with her off-center girl boarder, a quirky Zoe Kazan, and her jock boyfriend. Kevin
Anderson gives a wonderful, multifaceted performance as her complex husband, sober almost a year. With a marvelous set by James Noone, exquisite lighting by Jane Cox, and perfect period costumes by Jennifer von Mayrhauser, the splendid cast, directed with insight and perfect timing by Michael Pressman, takes us on a moving theatrical trip where every note plays true, including the dramatic finish. This is a play with heart, heartbreak, and an ironic inevitable conclusion. Good Theatre by one of our best
playwrights.


Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER and
lively-arts.com.


You can't win 'em all. Not even Disney. I'd blame much of the failure of THE LITTLE MERMAID, which seems geared to 8 year olds, (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, book by Dour Wright) on the director, Francesca Zambello and choreographer Stephen Mear. We know the story. Theatrical success would be based on how it is told. In places where movement could be thrilling it is ordinary. There is a bird without birdlike movement-no flight of creativity. The innovative use of
Wheelies to give an underwater feel is great when introduced, but becomes so redundant that it loses impact. The music is a strange mixture-- from Lloyd Webberesque to Calypso, to some very Russian-sounding tunes (but no Tevya). The lead is played by a delightful, adorable, charming elf, Sierra Boggess, who brings charm, flexibility, and believability while skating, dancing, singing-- everything. The rest of the cast is just fine, except for those busy trying to be funny-- like clowns at a children's birthday
party. I found that annoying. Act 2 is more engaging as the familiar story reaches its climax. The set by George Tsypin is odd, with a terrific counterpoint between ship and ocean, and pieces that look like a Jules Verne chemist's lab in 1890. Natasha Katz's lighting is, as always, just fine, and costumes, especially those of the mermaids, by Tatiana Noginova inventively solve the movement problems while suggesting fish tails on pretty girls. Norm Lewis is a strong Titan, beautiful Sherie Rene Scott is a
terrific villain, and the cast works its ass off in this sometimes very physical, but misdirected show. We're happy at the happy ending, and lots of merchandise is bought on the way out.


Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER and
lively-arts.com.

       

January 22nd, 2008
   
Rena Strober is a real entertainer with a strong, beautiful Broadway voice. In her show SPAGHETTI & MATZOBALLS her songs range from near operatic to a song with a country resonance, and they and her stories about her journey-- a Jewish Songbird finding her Inner Italian-- are riveting. Her charm,
femininity and good story-telling give us a mixture of tales and songs from a touch of Hebrew to "Les Miz," show tunes, ballads. She has the vocal capability to tackle all genres with beautiful,
lyrical tones. As she sings and tells her stories, she becomes our favorite relative - but- the one who sings better than all the rest.

Richmond Shepard-- lively-arts.com

       

January 17th, 2008
   
NEW JERUSALEM- The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656 by David Ives. What a title! What a play! How often do we see a play that expounds ideas, philosophical and practical, that wake up the corners of our minds in fascinating dramatic fashion. With a
powerful cast including David Garrison, Jeremy Strong as the young Spinoza, and Fyvush Finkel, who can't help making us smile, even in a very serious role, Act One gives us new, fascinating ecumenical ideas as Spinoza is interrogated by a Christian legislator for possible atheism, setting the Jewish community in Amsterdam in danger. The arguments open lines of
thought in us, and the good acting keeps us enthralled. In Act Two, I wanted to get up and throw my two cents into the argument, but restrained myself. So I'll throw it in here. As Spinoza gets specific in his repudiation of the soul, he blows it for me. No soul doesn't work for an audience member who knows
from experience that it exists. And Determinism takes choice away. Uh uh. But to be at a well done play that bats ideas around that we can agree with or disagree with is a rare and pleasing experience. Director Walter Bobbie keeps the intellectual dance physically moving on John Lee Beatty's set which suggests a synagogue, a study hall and a courtroom. Period costumes by Anita Yavich and subtle lighting by Ken Billington evoke the time quite well, and the atmosphere of the 1600's where shunned people try to survive in a moderately tolerated (don't stand out)
political/religious atmosphere in Holland. I ran home and Googled Spinoza. So for me the play lasted a long time after the final curtain. If intellectual stimulation in first rate Theatre is your cup of tea, run and get your ticket.


Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER and
lively-arts.com.

       

January 15th, 2008
   
Alfred Hitchock's THE 39 STEPS, now on Broadway, is a great way to start the new year. Adapted (or rather deconstructed and reconstructed) by Patrick Barlow from the film, brilliantly directed with impeccable timing and grand innovation by Maria Aitken, this is a stylized melodrama played seriously by a team of master farceurs Each of the four cast members, except for Charles Edwards, the innocent drawn into a web of spying and deceit, plays a multitude of characters, changing costume, accent, physicality and voice in split seconds as danger pursues our blameless protagonist, and the saga unfolds. There are great
comic touches in the magical, flexible set design and costumes by Peter McKintosh, perfect lighting by Kevin Adams and sound design by Mic Pool. The performances are all award level, with two "clowns," Arnie Burton in fast-changing costume and attitude, and the amazing Cliff Saunders, who, as well as doing a multitude of clearly-defined characters that are so real that they
are comic, bravely performs the nearly impossible straight back fall. Twice. I have never in my life seen anyone except the great comedian George Hopkins perform this feat. Not even the Chinese acrobats or Cirque de Soleil gymnasts. All Hail movement creators
Toby Sedgwick and Christopher Bayes. The requisite beautiful girl-- victim, conspirator, innocent- is faultlessly played by the beautiful, vivacious, talented Jennifer Ferrin. I hereby nominate these four extraordinary performers for "Best Ensemble."


Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER and
lively-arts.com.

       

January 08th, 2008
   
Christine Pedi is a marvelous actress, and a strong singer who can sing anything- funny, sentimental, romantic, absurd- a wide variety of songs. In her brash impressions of Great Ladies, including Julie Andrews, Streisand, Comden and Green songs, etc, she is spot on. Her finale of "Twelve Days of Christmas," in which a different celebrity sings each verse, is a masterpiece- twelve distinct recognizable voices-- each brilliantly portrayed. Pianist Matthew Ward is more than an accompanist- he's a foil for her, and the show I saw at The Metropolitan Room is totally
entertaining-- comedy, wonderful singing, innovations.


Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER and
lively-arts.com


Once again the New Victory Theatre has presented a thrilling, world-class international entertainment-- THE NEW SHANGHAI CIRCUS. With sublime movement, impeccable timing, tasteful, beautiful costumes, this troupe, which includes gymnast/contortionist clowns who accomplish feats that are impossible for the human body to do-- graceful, geometric, with just beautiful feats of balance, is stunning. All the women are
beautiful and flexible beyond belief, the men are strong, handsome and can fly. It's a great show for all families all over the world.

Richmond Shepard-- Performing Arts INSIDER and
lively-arts.com

       
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