Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Minor Break

Tracee Chimo and David Duchovny in The Break of Noon

Someday I hope to have as transformative an experience at a Neil LaBute play as I did when I saw The Mercy Seat with Sigourney Weaver and Liev Schreiber. It was the day after a snowy Christmas back in 2002 (I had to look up the year or I would have sworn it was closer to 2005), and it remains my favorite post-9/11 play.

Not to sound like a Grinch as we embark on the holiday season, but I wasn't in a very merry mood after seeing David Duchovny in LaBute's current offering, The Break of Noon, which has little to recommend it beyond a memorable closing monologue and rising star Tracee Chimo, who was part of Circle Mirror Transformation's stellar quartet a year ago.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Haunted by Rapp's Ghosts

Sarah Lemp and Nick Lawson in Ghosts in the Cottonwoods.

Had the pleasure of introducing a friend to the work of one of my favorite contemporary playwrights, Adam Rapp, last week when I was assigned to review the New York premiere of the first full-length play he ever wrote, Ghosts in the Cottonwoods, presented by the plucky young Amoralists troupe down at Theatre 80.

Sitting in that packed house full of members of the X and Y generation was the closest theater experience I've had to a rock concert since Rock of Ages, which essentially is a rock concert. Among the opening-night crowd I spotted Sam Waterston (not surprisingly) and Annie noticed America Ferrera.

Annie usually just drinks wine, but she needed a martini after this show, a bloody tale of a backwoods family homecoming that ends in brutality. I was transported, felt like I'd been put through the wringer, my usual response to Rapp's plays, so while I enjoyed a margarita, she sipped her martini at Simone and asked me to fill her in on what I knew of Rapp's oeuvre which, for what it's worth, is quite a lot.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Favorite Mistakes

Shannon in Mistakes Were Made.

Here's my love letter to the marvelous Michael Shannon ... also known as my review of Craig Wright's Mistakes Were Made. I didn't expect the Oscar-nominated actor to be such a scintillating comedian, but he brings much-needed vitality to Craig Wright's musty play.

The first time I saw Shannon onstage he was starring in a gonzo piece of playwriting -- also at the Barrow Street Theatre. And since it wasn't written by Adam Rapp, it could only have been by Tracy Letts. The show was Bug, and it's actually too bad it played before New York City's bedbug crisis took hold. It would be even more more tense and disturbing to watch now.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Political Hangover ...

Marin Ireland and O'Connell in In the Wake.

No, I'm not talking about last night's election results, I'm referring to In the Wake, Lisa Kron's ambitious new play (here's my Time Out New York review) that begins during the chaotic mess of the 2000 presidential election and follows its main character, Elle, through the next several years -- her personal life imploding as the U.S. spins woefully out of control. It's a smart, compelling drama that doesn't quite knock one out of the park but does offer an array of intriguing characters, including six high-caliber roles for women.

The most memorable is Judy (played by Deirdre O'Connell), a woman from a disenfranchised Kentucky family who, even though she works in relief aid, doesn't believe that voting will change the system. She was able to escape her upbringing because she was smart and lucky, she argues. And she cites the failure of her niece, whom she'd taken in, to finish high school as proof.

Is Judy right? Maybe, but it's also possible that her niece sensed her aunt's defeatist attitude and assumed from that that her efforts would never amount to anything. This is a prime example of Kron challenging her audience to debate the merits of each character's self-awareness, and one example of why I found In the Wake so stimulating.