Thursday, July 9, 2015

With a Little Bit of Luck

Jan Maxwell in Scenes from an Execution.

For someone's who quite the introvert, I've had an interesting couple of days Twitter-wise.

On Wednesday, Time Out New York ran my interview with multiple Tony nominee Jan Maxwell, who surprised me by revealing that she plans to retire from stage acting after her stint in Scenes from an Execution with PTP/NYC. By the time I logged on to Twitter to tweet the article around noon, it was already trending with more than 100 tweets.

Michael Urie hides from Patti LuPone in Shows for Days (not because he was texting).

Then, that night, I attended Shows for Days, a new play at Lincoln Center's Off Broadway space starring Patti LuPone and Michael Urie. The performance has now become famous/infamous because a woman sitting by the left side of the stage (maybe in the second row?) was using her smartphone during the beginning of the second act, and as the first scene came to an end, LuPone walked by her while she was delivering her final lines, took it out of her hands and exited the stage.

It was a beautiful moment, so perfectly timed it almost looked like it was part of the show. And it solved a problem without breaking the flow of the play. Despite the late hour when I finally got home, I knew I had to tweet this before I went to bed:
I have never gotten such a response to one of my tweets: 23 favorites and 18 retweets. The Guardian even used my tweet in their article.

Both instances were heavily reliant on the luck factor. And that's a big factor in social media success — one that even the so-called experts have no control over.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Generation of Ad-Blockers

This Adweek article suggests that election ad-spending could be headed from TV stations to social media because more millennials get their political news from Facebook instead of television.

There's just one problem with that cause-and-effect scenario, however. According to this 2014 piece in the Guardian, millennials are big consumers of free ad-blocking browser extensions: 41 percent of them block Internet ads.

Interesting to see that German courts have been siding with consumers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Differences in Age Differences

Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan in Skylight.

It's interesting that the Gigi creative team was so concerned that people would be revolted by the age difference between Gaston and Gigi that they ineffectively made them nearly the same age. But the age difference between Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan in Skylight in no way detracts from the power of their story. Didn't care for the former, but loved the latter.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Some Pleasure in Fish in the Dark

Rosie Perez and David in Fish in the Dark.

I didn't expect to enjoy Fish in the Dark as much as I did. That's not to say I had a great time. Larry David's Broadway debut as actor and author is only moderately amusing, but since the appeal of his popular HBO comedy series Curb Your Enthusiasm always eluded me, modest enjoyment was more than I expected.

I loved Seinfeld, which David co-created, as far back as when it was called The Seinfeld Chronicles, but I don't find him very engaging as a performer, either onscreen or onstage. Fortunately, he's surrounded by enough talented Broadway veterans — in particular, Jayne Houdyshell, Marylouise Burke and Lewis J. Stadlen — that it's not as big a problem as it might have been if Fish in the Dark were a star vehicle instead of an ensemble show with an 18-member cast, huge for a play.

Not that I find these characters any more likable or interesting than the ones that populated Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I only had to spend two hours with them, not revisit them week after week, which was fine. Now I have no need to see any of them ever again.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Theater Close-Up: Home Theater on PBS

The cast of the Apple Family Plays: DeVries, Robins, Sanders, Kunken, Plunkett and Murphy.

I was late to the party in discovering Richard Nelson's Apple Family Plays. I caught only the last two during their Off Broadway runs at the Public Theater. So I was delighted to hear that one of New York's PBS stations, WNET, taped all four as part of a TV series called Theater Close-Up, attempting to do for the city's Off Broadway theaters what National Theatre Live has done for theaters in the United Kingdom: expose their work to larger audiences that might not otherwise have a chance to see theater, whether due to money, location, time or other factors.

NT Live does things on a larger scale, broadcasting to movie theaters, and their camerawork is sharper, but I found Theater Close-Up's Oct. 16 third offering, and the first featuring the Apple Family, That Hopey Changey Thing, as fun, insightful and moving as the other installments. All take place in the last four years: two on election night, one on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and one on the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination. Hopey Changey takes place on the night of the 2010 midterm elections, when the Democratic-leaning Apple siblings are assembled in upstate Rhinebeck, N.Y., after voting and before the polls close.

Nelson, who also directed the quartet, brilliantly captures their mood, and by extension, the mood of a certain segment of the U.S. population two years into President Obama's first term: disillusion, determined and at various points in between. Both he and his cast — Jon DeVries, Stephen Kunken, Sally Murphy, Maryann Plunkett, Laila Robins and Jay O. Sanders — manage to do that while still creating characters that are beautifully real and compelling in their faults as well as their virtues, and that you want to spend time with.

I went to WNET's website today to check the schedule for the remaining three plays — Sweet and Sad, Sorry and Regular Singing — and noticed that while the first two are scheduled to air in the next two weeks, nothing is slated for the 10 p.m. time slot on Nov. 6. There's just a blank space after an Endeavour rerun. Which has me wondering if ratings haven't been good and the station has decided to air something else at that time. I found this schedule posted in another area of the website that has Regular Singing slated for Nov. 6 and lists other broadcasts each Thursday through Thanksgiving. But it doesn't include London Wall, the Mint Theater show that launched the series Oct. 2, so I'm not sure how accurate the rest of it is.

I emailed WNET to find out more. I'll see what I learn next week.

UPDATE: And the very efficient viewer-relations department got back to me: Regular Singing is scheduled for Nov. 6 at 10 p.m.; it just hasn't been entered into the online listings yet. Hamish Linklater's play The Vandal follows on Nov. 13.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Is Religion Your Thing?

Katharine McLeod and Jamie Geiger in The Religion Thing.
Religion isn't really my thing, but that didn't prevent me from thoroughly enjoying
Renee Calarco's The Religion Thing, currently on the boards at the Cell thanks to Project Y Theatre, originally base in Washington, D.C.

I went with a longtime friend who happens to be an interfaith minister, and we took a roundabout route to the subway after the show, so that we could discuss the play. Not just what we thought of it (we both loved it), but characters and the choices they make and they ways they respond to each other. No character is easily forgiven or roundly condemned -- not even the "formerly gay" character now married to a woman.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Slow-Going for Donogoo

Ross Bickell, George Morfogen, James Riordan and Mitch Greenberg in Donogoo.
The Mint Theater strays from its usual diet of American, British and Irish drama with a French curiosity from 1930 called Donogoo, about a South American land scheme.

But comedy doesn't always translate well, whether from a foreign language or a historical period. Although the first act is mostly setup and the post-intermission payoff amuses, this production, which I reviewed for Time Out New York, isn't sturdy enough to turn decent satire into trenchant theater.