News & Reviews from New York
       

October 28th, 2008
   
EQUUS by Peter Shaffer is a fascinating exploration of a psychiatric aberration-- the treatment by a psychiatrist of a boy who has blinded horses. It’s a stunning production— a brilliantly done work of Theatrical Art with perfect specific lighting by David Hersey on a great arena set, with the greatest costumes in town, all by John Napier, whose horse’s heads and hooves are frighteningly dazzling. The play has a stylized script, and is staged by director Thea Sharrock in a powerful stylized manner. The horse movements, with Lorenzo Pisoni as the major horse, designed by Fin Walker, are some of the best Mime in town. Richard Griffiths, a mountain of a man, as the sensitive, intuitive, knowledgeable psychiatrist, is the play’s center, and he keeps it steady. Kate Mulgrew as his confidant is attractive and solid, as is the rest of the cast. Daniel Radcliffe as the boy is quite good— he is earnest, and willing to go all the way to the
fullest of his capability, and Anna Camp as his almost seductress is a convincing lively sprite. This production of EQUUS is one of the most brilliant pieces of Theatre, in both conception and execution, of our time.


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

       

October 27th, 2008
   
A BODY OF WATER by Lee Blessing is one of the world’s strangest plays. Each day starts anew with no memories for the (probably) married couple who wake up next to each other in bed every morning in a beautiful house on a gorgeous lake (superb setting by Neil Patel which changes with the hours and the seasons, fine lighting by Jeff Croiter). Actually not so strange if you’ve seen Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore’s film “The First 50 Dates.” Same premise, except that in the film only she had the aberration. Caught in a loop, with a young woman, possibly their daughter, explaining it all (with variations) to them each morning. The absurdity of two people with total amnesia, with (maybe) a murder mystery thrown in, is an intriguing idea. But, for me, the puzzle, the mysteries of their lives goes on too long without truth being revealed-- truth about what caused it and what is really going on. The actors in the play have totally different
styles: Christine Lahti has a great sense of timing, and there is not a moment of her performance that is not totally believable with every word she utters, every gesture she makes. She has not a moment that isn’t true— this is a real human being behaving and reacting. Michael Cristofer as the husband is “doing” it rather than “being” it, in a mannered performance with a gesture for every word-- like a conductor leading an orchestra. Laura Odeh is fine as the light-hearted daughter. Staging by director Maria Mileaf seems to fulfill the script. Lahti is worth the trip to 59E59.

Playing in rep with “A Body of Water” AT 59E59 is LOVE CHILD,” written and performed by Daniel Jenkins and Robert Stanton, a two-hander about Showbusiness that takes place backstage, on stage, and in the audience in which the two versatile actors play about twenty characters between them— actors, agents, audience members, relatives, male and female. It’s a try at virtuoso performances that tries too much, and loses differentiation, especially among the female characters. They are indeed accomplished caricaturists with a plethora of voices and physicalities. It’s all nonsense and mostly fun, but it goes on too long as they attempt to dazzle us with their comic abilities. The non-set (several mismatched chairs) by Neil Patel, lighting by Jeff Croiter and Grant Yeager are just fine. Director Carl Forsman could have adjusted the pace-- you more biting wit and Cliff Saunders (of ”The 39 Steps”) and maybe a couple of hats to do what these
men are attempting. Charles Busch— where are you dahling?


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

       

October 21st, 2008
   
Martin Zimmerman is a young playwright whose reflection on Balanchine and his wives has a good outline, interesting performers (Mike Timoney as an overbearing pain-in-the-ass choreographer, the lovely Erin Fogarty, who is quite a good ballet dancer in the clear choreography of Avichai Scher, as the ingénue, and Maria Portman Kelly as the polio-ridden wife who also gets to dance in flashbacks) and needs a bit of a blue pencil. Because of too much exposition, too much of the teacher lecturing by an authoritarian dictator about dance in general and specific terms, going too deep into the intricacies of the narrow world of ballet, although the performers are engaging, too much of the play is not. Director Maura Farver’s staging is fine, but she might have found more varying tones for the strong persona and wide capability of Timoney to play— a little lightness, a little humor, the charm that might seduce a succession of dancers. Zimmerman: keep writing. Let’s see what you come up with next year.


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

       

October 20th, 2008
   
A TALE OF TWO CITIES, with book, lyrics and music by Jill Santoriello: ‘Tis a far, far better show than I expected. James Barbour rocks the theatre with his powerful base-baritone voice and deep emotional commitment, the very beautiful Brandi Burkhardt shakes chandeliers when she sings, the entire cast is top Broadway level in acting and voice, and the active imaginative set by Tony Walton, good classic costumes by David Zinn and fine lighting by Richard Pilbrow, all directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, adds up to a Broadway spectacle that, although speckled with flat spots, and very little humor, is mostly an engaging Musical Theatre experience. Yes, some of the portrayals are caricatures, some sections of carousing are boring, I did not walk out humming any of the very derivative music, but ultimately it is a simple entertaining show that the audience enjoyed-- a historical drama that is sort of a “Les Miz” reduced. Not the best of times, and far, far from the worst of times.


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

       

October 14th, 2008
   
The New York Clown Theatre Festival at the Brick Theatre in Williamsburg gave us a wide assortment of clown styles-- all of very high caliber. I only saw a few of them:
A GLASS OF WINE— created and performed by Daniel Fortano, an enchanting, charming clown with great physical flexibility and perfected circus skills whose struggles to drink a glass of wine cause him to juggle, do hat tricks, balance on a ladder, and more, all with gymnastic plasticity and great charm.

THE NOSDRAHCIR SISTERS (Kimberly and Sara Richardson) give us terrific, innovative, totally engaging comedic sketches with a bevy of fully-realized characters. Both of these women have great physical elasticity, and their various characters are very clearly defined. Lots of fun.

THE BIG BANG, a Performance Art piece with colored lights and text, has two outstanding Mimes, Mitchel Evans and Jeff Robinson, the delightful clown Tara Strand, and a beautiful, sexy classic woman, Aryiel Hartman, in a mixture of literal and abstract. Written and directed by Evans, who is one of the best classic Mimes and a good soft shoe dancer, countered by Robinson, whose humor shines through, and abetted by the two women, it’s a winning combo giving us an exciting encounter with talent, skills and innovation.


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

A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS by Robert Bolt is a fascinating portrayal of a man pursuing a sophistry. Although the part of Thomas More is written to show him as a martyr who won’t betray his loyalty to the Roman church by following his king and the new Church of England, and Frank Langella gives a towering performance, this vivid look at a treacherous piece of English history, an age of ingrained superstition, for me, shows the idiocy of being loyal to the church rather than to God. Believing that the Roman church is the only way to Jesus, and that Jesus is the only path to God, is rather like a suicide bomber thinking he’s going to heaven if he supports his church. More should have moved his family to Spain or Italy. Anyway, you can tell that the play engaged me, with Cromwell the villain, Henry the fool and More the saint. The cast is quite good, especially Patrick Page as Henry VIII and Zach Grenier as Cromwell, and the incandescent Langella soars,
even at the end when the play slips from pathos to bathos as More over-suffers. With a terrific construction of a set by Santo Loquasto, Catherine Zuber’s clear period costumes, perfect lighting by David Lander and David Van Tieghem’s powerful drum music and sound design, director Doug Hughes has given us an exciting production of the play with impeccable timing and action.


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

The Actors Company Theatre (TACT) is one of my favorite troupes in New York, and their current work, the superbly inventive theatrical experimenter Alan Ayckbourn’s BEDROOM FARCE, is a prime example why. This is serious marital farce at its best, with a first class eight character acting ensemble, all of whom are totally adept at vocal and physical comedy. With three almost overlapping settings by Robin Vest, action from each to the others, great physical schtick from director Jenn Thompson and “fight” director Ax Norman, this is as delightful an evening of theatrical fol-de-rol as you’ll find anywhere. If you don’t want to laugh and have fun, don’t go.


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

       
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