Friday, December 23, 2011

Brits a-Plenty

Matthew Cottle and Frances Grey in Neighbourhood Watch.

The end of the year also ushers in the end of the annual Brits Off Broadway series, which had me making repeated trips to 59E59 for Neighbourhood Watch (above), an enjoyable new comedy by Alan Ayckbourn, and Farm Boy (below), a gratifying two-character follow-up to War Horse from the same author.

Richard Pryal and John Walters in Farm Boy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Broadway's Bounty

Hugh Jackman in Back on Broadway. is a nifty little website that's kept me off the streets the last few years by giving me the opportunity to review some of Broadway's seasonal offerings. This fall's harvest has been rather bountiful so far, with the mesmerizing revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical Follies and Hugh Jackman's rousing song-and-dance fest, Back on Broadway (above), as well as new plays from a talented up-and-comer (Katori Hall's The Mountaintop) and an established veteran (Theresa Rebeck's Seminar) that are providing great roles for actors of note Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Alan Rickman, Jerry O'Connell, Hamish Linklater and Lily Rabe.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sugar and Spice

Ali Ahn and Christopher Larkin in The Sugar House at the Edge of the Wilderness.

Carla Ching sets Hansel and Gretel adrift in NYC in her evocatively titled The Sugar House at the Edge of the Wilderness, a darkly enchanting fairy tale, from Ma-Yi Theater, that unfortunately fractures before its finale.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Grossly Talented

Paul Gross and Kim Cattrall in Private Lives.

I never realized I knew so many people so enamored with Paul Gross. Unless you've caught some of his films, or TV series like Due South, He doesn't have the kind of name recognition south of the Canadian border that he does on his home turf. But when I mentioned that I was interviewing him for Time Out New York, I was peppered with questions like, "How did the interview go?" "What was he like?" "What did he have to say?" He is as charming and witty as the Broadway revival of Private Lives that he's currently starring in with Kim Cattrall.

Incidentally, at the performance I attended there was a light but noticeable murmur in the audience when Gross's character, Elyot, uttered the words, "Thank you kindly"--a line that became a catchphrase for Constable Benton Fraser, the Mountie mired in Chicago that he played on Due South. Did that line really come from Noel Coward, I wondered? Or was Gross having a bit of fun with his fans? And when I got home and looked it up, I discovered that, sure enough, "Thank you kindly" did indeed come from Coward. Almost makes you believe Gross was destined to play Elyot, which, judging by his funny and commanding performance, could very well be the case.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Demon Puppet of EST

Steven Boyer and Scott Sowers in Hand to God.

Steven Boyer delivers a deliciously attuned performance as a shy teenager and the devil puppet who comes to control him in Hand of God, a very funny, if somewhat uneven, play by Ensemble Studio Theatre Youngblood member Robert Askins.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Kids Back in the Day

Margaret Nichols, Richard Thieriot and Darrie Lawrence in Children.

A.R. Gurney's 1974 play Children takes place on an island off the coast of Massachusetts, and under the auspices of the sure-handed TACT, it's aged quite well.

Friday, October 14, 2011

My Meeting With Jane

Former NEA chair Jane Alexander

My first journalism job was at Back Stage, which asked current and former colleagues for reminiscences for its 50th anniversary. Mine — about halfway down the page — involves Jane Alexander, the NEA and a trip to D.C.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Not Quite Front-Page News

John Viscardi, Vladimir Versailles and Melanie Charles in The Wood.

I had never heard a newspaper's front-page story referred to as "the wood," until Time Out assigned me to review a play with just such a title. The Wood is described as a "no-holds-barred" account of the life of controversial New York Daily News columnist Mike McAlary, but I suspect some holds were definitely barred.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Enter, Stage Left

The New York Neo-Futurists in The Complete and Condensed Stage Directions…

Leave it to the New York Neo-Futurists — with a just little help from Eugene O'Neill — to turn stage directions into an engaging evening of theater, with a title that's nearly as long as the 80-minute show, The Complete & Condensed Stage Directions of Eugene O'Neill, Volume 1: Early Plays/Lost Plays. It's also a nifty primer for those unfamiliar with O'Neill's early works (and let's admit that's most of us), kind of like a Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). See it if you can.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Levels of (Partial) Comfort

Chad Beckim and Molly Pearson of Partial Comfort Productions.

The Off-Off Broadway theater company Partial Comfort Productions scored a slew of accolades last year with A Bright New Boise, a play that was more solid and satisfying than many produced by major Off Broadway companies. Their new show, After., is about an innocent man released from prison thanks to DNA. Somehow its author, Chad Beckim, one of the company's founders, and his colleague, Molly Pearson, have kept the company afloat while for 10 years pursuing that thankless task of developing and producing new plays. I had the chance to talk to them about how they do it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Teresa's Powers

Aidan Redmond and Rosie Benton in Temporal Powers.

I'm disappointed that I only have one more Teresa Deevy production at the Mint to look forward to, next fall's Katie Roche. The good news is that there's such demand for their current Deevy offering, Temporal Powers, that it's been extended through Oct. 9. She's fantastic with character and plot, and I think her female characters are especially rich.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sweet But Not So Short

Jeff Binder, Mando Alvarado and James Chen in LaBute's "The New Testament." 

It was good to see Christopher Durang and Neil LaBute in fine form in the first installment of Summer Shorts 5—although they were the longest bunch of shorts I've ever seen at the annual event. Favorite Durang line: "So my next husband was a heroin addict. I mean, I learned my lesson with the crystal meth guy."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chicago Casey?

Jose Baez and Casey Anthony (AP)

Am I the only one who thinks the Weisslers are hoping that doe-eyed Casey Anthony will be acquitted of that they can sign her up as the next Roxie Hart in Chicago? And from what I've seen of her sly and scrappy defense attorney Jose Baez on HLN's trial coverage, he's a natural to play Billy Flynn. Just imagine the two of them singing and dancing their way through "We Both Reached for the Gun." They been performing a metaphorical rendition in Orlando for the past six weeks.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Zoo Story

Cotter Smith and Joely Richardson in Side Effects.

When upper-middle-class couples start behaving like undomesticated animals, chances are good that you're watching one of Michael Weller's recent two-handers, Fifty Words or Side Effects, which I reviewed for Time Out New York, and which boasts a big, brassy performance from Joely Richardson as an emotionally troubled, unhappily married woman desperate to break free.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Solo in Times Square

The Theatre for One "playhouse."

I waited for more than two hours to see Theatre for One yesterday, but it was worth it to have Dallas Roberts hold my hands and tell me a story. He is one fearless actor, and his powers of concentration are immense. The portable booth where one actor and one audience member gather for a five- to ten-minute performance was in the middle of Times Square, just down the block from the TKTS booth, and since yesterday was Tony Awards Sunday, New York 1's live red-carpet pre-show was spilling forth from the Jumbotron for two hours' worth of the one-on-one performances.

Since the booth, which is the brainchild of Tony-winning scenic designer Christine Jones (who's also Roberts' wife), isn't soundproof, it wasn't the most ideal circumstance from which to watch him enact Zayd Dohrn's wrenching eulogy to a lost younger brother, "Legerdemain," but enjoying any sort of unique theatrical experience in New York requires patience and tolerance -- and it was free. (Plus, taking part in this intimate actor-audience exchange didn't prevent me from learning in real time that Kathleen Marshall won the Tony for best choreography.)

Black on the outside, and lined with red fabric inside, the booth is intentionally reminiscent of old-time peep shows, and my experience was akin to a theatrical lap dance -- with emotional nakedness instead of physical nudity. A chair was placed in front of the booth's built-in seat, and I understood why when the board separating actor and audience was pulled away and Roberts and I were facing each other with our knees almost touching. He asked if he could hold my hands while he told me a story about the band he and a friend formed in high school and how his younger brother, who was a gifted classical musician, wanted so much to be a part of it, even though the storyteller and his friend didn't have much talent.

Oh, and I should mention that as he tells this story he's trying, unsuccessfully, to choke back tears and hold himself together. I'm surprised I didn't feel more discombobulated by the whole experience (when friends cry in my presence I never know what to say or do), but Roberts is an actor who's hard to look away from -- especially when his hands are holding yours and resting on your knees. David Cote mentions in his Time Out New York review having trouble making eye contact with Lauren Ambrose at Theatre for One, but I looked away only a couple of times. And I didn't know if I was supposed to reply when the dialogue included questions (I mumbled the odd word) or applaud at the end (it didn't seem appropriate to).

The impact, the thrill even, that I felt when I stepped out of the booth and the nice young man shepherding people in and out handed me a "playbill" card with the name of the actor and the author sticks with you. As Charles Isherwood notes at the end of his New York Times review, that kind of close connection, whether physical or mental, can be a rare, unnerving and ultimately very rewarding experience.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Red Alert

4000 Miles author Amy Herzog.

One of the great things about writing for Time Out New York is having the chance to talk to an array of up-and-coming American playwrights, including Amy Herzog, a Jersey gal with a colorful assortment of relations, whose latest, 4000 Miles, begins performances Off-Broadway this week. "There's a huge rift in my family between the socialists and the Communists," she told me. And I thought Thanksgiving with my family was interesting.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Family Matters

Alexander Chaplin and Mia Barron in Knickerbocker.

Jonathan Marc Sherman's new play about expectant parenthood, Knickerbocker, isn't exactly a bundle of joy, even if you're familiar with the parent-child themes he digs into in previous works like Women and Wallace. The program note from the Public Theater's usually effusive artistic director, Oskar Eustis, even seemed tentative. But at least you get to keep company with stage notables such as Christina Kirk, Bob Dishy and Zak Orth.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sister Act

The Shaggs creative team: Joy Gregory, Gunnar Madsen and John Langs.

‎"They’re sort of tortured by music, and they can’t make it come out of themselves the way that they want to — what a great idea for a show!" So says Joy Gregory, book writer of The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World, a musical about the worst band in history, in my Time Out New York preview piece.

Speaking of previews, I caught an an excerpt of the show at the Guggenheim as part of its Works in Progress series last month and was reminded of another dark, intriguing musical that I saw at Playwrights Horizons a few years ago — Grey Gardens.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wonder Widow

Jill Eikenberry and Wrenn Schmidt in Be a Good Little Widow.

Amid all the Broadway openings of late I caught this charming little play at Ars Nova about a young woman coming to terms with widowhood, Be a Good Little Widow.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Keen Look at Benefactors

Daniel Jenkins, Vivienne Benesch, Deanne Lorette and Stephen Barker Turner in Benefactors.

I read Michael Frayn's Benefactors many years ago, and it had such an impact on me that I could still remember assorted lines as I watched the Keen Company's smart revival.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Heads Up

Anna Stromberg, standing, Mara Lileas, Sarah Roy and Jordan Tisdale.

The photo above could very easily give you the wrong impression about Bring Us the Head of Your Daughter, the latest provocative production from The Amoralists. Based on the visual, I would have pegged the show as a slight, playful campfest, and it's anything but. The bracing anarchist spirit that this East Village theater company has built its reputation on is very much alive.

At times author and director Derek Ahonen's reminds me of the work of a young Adam Rapp. Both have a knack for putting their characters into emotionally harrowing and brutally absurd situations. But Ahonen shows more refinement in the way he explores the destructional codependency of a lesbian couple and their 18-year-old daughter, who's wanted for murder and cannibalism.

Some animals eat their offspring, but in Daughter it's the reverse—metaphorically speaking, at least. Garance (Sarah Roy), who makes a late-inning entrance, has been accused of killing mothers, as her own two fall apart at home. Jackie (Anna Stromberg), the biological mother, is an alcoholic whose moods shift suddenly and violently from raging fury to weeping apology. She's perfectly paired with her wife, relationship junkie Contessa Springs (Mara Lileas). That Contessa never gets out of her pajamas during the three-day period over which the play is set speaks volumes about her. So does the understanding she bestows on her half-brother, Dexter (Jordan Tisdale), who raped her when she was a teenager and now comes face to face with her for the first time since then.

Ahonen couldn't care less about political correctness as he explores the ways we indulge children, forgive those close to us too easily, or condemn them too harshly. Garance spews venom at Contessa but worships Jackie, and in the physical and emotional melee that ensues, all four characters try passive-aggressively and aggressive-aggressively to negotiate a settlement that they can live with, even if it's probably not the best choice for any of them. Early news releases listed Daughter's running time at 95 minutes, but it's actually closer to 110 minutes, with no intermission. Even with spells of comic relief, it's hard to watch so much destruction for so long, but it's also hard to look away from.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Play-Filled Spring Season

Sara Topham, David Furr and Brian Bedford in Earnest.

The Broadway season is no longer a 12-month affair, or even a nine-month liaison. Aside from a smattering of shows that opened in the fall and winter, the overwhelming majority of Tony hopefuls have been crammed into the final two months of the 2010-11 season, as close to Tony Award time as possible.

Below are my thoughts on some of the first plays to hit Broadway in 2011, via links to my reviews and ranked in order of appeal:

The Importance of Being Earnest


Ghetto Klown

That Championship Season

Monday, March 28, 2011

Praise for Critics

Late, great theater journalists Gussow and Kuchwara

I don't usually get choked up reading about critics and other assorted theater journalists (even though I am one), but this tribute to Mel Gussow and Michael Kuchwara by Howard Sherman, the soon-to-be-former executive director of the American Theatre Wing, is so well written and moving that it's hard not to. Thanks, David and Jason, for bringing it to my attention.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

All Albee in D.C.

A T-shirt from the Edward Albee Festival.

The only thing as good (or better) than seeing great theater in New York is seeing great theater out of town. My grandfather always said that food tastes better when you dine out, and the same is often true of theater. Perhaps that's because many regional theaters just have more actual space for their spaces — large lobbies where audiences can congregate and not feel suffocated by the hordes. Perhaps it's also the excitement of getting to see the work of actors who don't normally perform in New York.

Those two elements contributed to my enjoyment of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and At Home at the Zoo, the two plays that Washington D.C.'s Arena Stage is presenting in full productions as part of its Edward Albee Festival. The rest of the two-month-long event includes readings of all the other plays in his canon. And I love theater people with a sense of humor, so of course I had to snap up the official festival "Team Edward" T-shirt (pictured above), which riffs on the Twilight phenomenon. Someone who works for Arena Stage said that Albee loved the shirts.

As for the productions, both were subtly ferocious; I noticed I was leaning in to the characters as if I were part of their conversation. Definitely not something I expected to do during Pam Mackinnon's Virginia Woolf, because I have such vivid memories of the last Broadway revival where Kathleen Turner and company raised the roof with their high-decibel (but also effective) performances.

I'd never seen Tracy Letts act onstage before — only had the pleasure of enjoying his playwriting with shows like Bug and August: Osage County (talk about plays that raised the roof). Somehow he plays George as both milquetoast and a commanding presence. In the same vein Carrie Coon captures Honey's etherealness while also showing that she's a heck of a lot savvier than the others think. All four characters (Amy Morton played Martha and Madison Dirks as Nick) are considerably less glamorous than they were in Anthony Page's Broadway production, which makes their struggles, conceits and failures resonate that much more forcefully.

At Home at the Zoo was just as much of a treat because I didn't see it when it was presented in New York by Second Stage a few years ago as Peter and Jerry, and I'd never seen a production of The Zoo Story, which is part two of these combined one-acts. James McMenamin is quite captivating as Jerry, who seems like a relatively normal, if overly talkative, character when he first approaches Peter in the park. You can feel him fighting and losing his battle with his demons as the show reaches its climax.

The one moment that jarred me out of the play was a Stephen King reference that obviously was added well after the play's Off-Broadway premiere in 1960. Originally, Jerry asks Peter if he prefers Baudelaire (a French poet) or J.P. Marquand (a popular early 20th-century novelist). In the current production, he replaces Marquand with Stephen King. I'm guessing it's because the assumption was made that not many audience members would know who Marquand was — although I question how many of them would know the name Baudelaire. It seemed out of place because Albee's plays feel both timeless and rooted in the era in which they were written. Change just a word or two and you notice the difference.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Normal Joys

Let's go over how shallow I am. When I first heard that a production of The Normal Heart was coming to Broadway, I wasn't terribly excited. Not that I didn't like the play. But I'd read it and seen the Off-Broadway revival about 10 years ago and didn't feel a strong need to see it again. Then I read the announcement that Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory is joining the cast and suddenly ... it's must-see theater!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Birmingham on My Mind

The Birmingham Stage Company's Skellig at the New Victory Theater.

It intrigues me when different parts of my life come together around a certain thing or theme. As I was making my way through Catherine O'Flynn's beautifully haunting second novel, The News Where You Are, I was assigned to review the stage version of David Almond's award-winning, and equally beautifully haunting, children's novel Skellig at the New Victory Theater.

The common denominator is Birmingham, England. O'Flynn's novel is set there, and Almond's play was presented by the Birmingham Stage Company. Not sure if this means I'm due for a trip to the Midlands (I haven't even been to Birmingham, Alabama, although I have a friend from college who lives down there now.)

You can see my Skellig review on the Time Out New York website. News Where You Are I read purely for pleasure and enjoyed as much as I did her first novel, What Was Lost. O'Flynn writes incisively and poetically about people with solitary lives and the space they occupy in the world. Almond focuses on children finding their place in the world; O'Flynn on elderly people dealing with theirs.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

General Francisco Franco Is Still Dead ...

Steven Rattazzi, Steven Hauck and Chad Hoeppner in Spy Garbo.

... but he's onstage at 3LD Art & Technology Center in Spy Garbo (played by the wonderful Steven Rattazzi), along with double agents Wilhelm Canaris and Kim Philby. But what could be a devilishly clever production often plays like a bewildering academic lecture. I reviewed this multimedia fantasia for TheaterMania.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Trove of Treasure Tickets

Noah E. Galvin and Tom Hewitt in Treasure Island.

A friend sucked me into the guilty pleasure of Living Social. Like Groupon, it's a website that offers daily group discounts on everything from exercise classes to dry cleaning.

Over the last few months I've purchased quite a few things (gotten some great discounts on Body Shop and American Apparel merchandise). But I'd never seen an offer for Off-Broadway theater tickets until today. You can purchase $21 tickets to Treasure Island, starring Tom Hewitt at the Irondale Center in Brooklyn, which was also home to Sarah Ruhl's Passion Play and the Civilians' In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards.

Any time I can see a play without leaving Brooklyn, I'm happy, but this deal also includes a Rum Punch at the Smoke Joint, a barbecue place en route from the subway to the theater. However, I'm not sure how successful the promotion has been so far. As of 4 p.m. today, 37 tickets have been sold. The offer will be available through the weekend, so it will be interesting to see what the final total amounts to.

UPDATE: The final numbers are in: 73 tickets were sold. At $21 to $26 each, this isn't exactly a financial windfall — the total would be between $1,533 and $1,898 — but for at the Off-Broadway level, it's not an insubstantial amount either.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A New Page in Anne Frank's Diary

Mandy Patinkin and a marionette in Compulsion.

Here's a piece I did about Rinne Groff, whose new play Compulsion, is now running Off-Broadway at the Public Theater. The cast includes Mandy Patinkin and an Anne Frank marionette:

Rinne Groff can't remember a time when she didn't know Anne Frank. The daughter of a mother who was both Dutch and Jewish, she's had copies of The Diary of Anne Frank from the time she was a child. Talking by phone about the Public Theater's production of Compulsion, her play about an actual writer obsessed with adapting Anne's diary for the stage, Groff, whose first name is pronounced "Rinna," casts her eyes to a bookshelf stocked with different editions of the source material. Some were part of her collection even before the Amsterdam teen who hid from the Nazis for two years became part of Groff’s professional life.

"I can see a paperback that is very old that was mine, a new version of the diary that just says 'the definitive edition,' which was something my mom gave to me because she wanted to share it with me," says Groff, 41, herself the mother of two young girls. "And a few years ago something came out called 'the revised critical edition' that I bought when I was already working on this project."

Sharing space on that shelf is a rare copy of Meyer Levin's stage adaptation, which Groff's husband purchased for her on eBay for about $50. That script, which Levin boldly self-published after his play was presented in Israel in 1966, despite not having the legal rights to Anne's story, continued to haunt him until his death in 1981 at age 75. He railed against the official Pulitzer Prize-winning stage version for not authentically capturing Anne's voice and sought to win recognition for his, alienating colleagues and friends in the process.

Levin felt he was the ideal candidate to adapt Anne's diary for the stage, since he helped to get it published in the U.S. But he was passed over by producer and Group Theatre cofounder Cheryl Crawford in favor of Hollywood screenwriters Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, whom Levin felt downplayed Jewish elements of the story. His destructive obsession stirred Groff's passions 16 years ago when she read a review of a nonfiction book about Levin and Anne Frank.

"Anne Frank was definitely the hook, but it struck other chords with me," says Groff, whose previous Public Theater production, The Ruby Sunrise, dealt with how to tell the story of a would-be television pioneer. "It brushes up against so much great American theater history, it's also a backstage saga about a writer trying to get something on. Then there are larger cultural issues that are raised as to who has the right to control something and how are those rights exercised, and if there are differences morally, it opens up the notion of what should be in the public domain."

Yet even though Compulsion is a true story, Groff wasn't entirely comfortable depicting real-life characters, so in her play Levin (played by Mandy Patinkin) is called Sid Silver, the nom de plume he gave himself in his historical fiction novel, also called Compulsion, about the Leopold and Loeb trial. Another dramatic element Groff culled from Levin's life was his work with marionettes, which drop in and out of the action. Well before Anne Frank became part of his life, Levin designed marionettes and ran a puppet theater in Chicago, staging productions that included O'Neill's The Hairy Ape. Groff's Compulsion opens with a marionette Anne writing in her diary.

That device also gives rise to the image of Levin as puppeteer, desperate to have a hand in controlling Anne and her story. Compulsion questions whether his motives are selfless (to give a voice to all the Jews who died in the Holocaust) or selfish (to attach his name to the work of a writer destined to endure the ages). Silver’s conviction to his vision is as admirable as his abrasiveness and tunnel vision are off-putting, but in spite of everything Groff believes he was good at heart, a man fighting forces that wanted to "de-Judaize" Anne.

"I have great sympathy for Sid Silver, I have great love for Sid Silver," she says tenderly. "His way of being in the world is a flawed way of being, but it's also very earnest. He stops being able to see accurately because he is so interested in not having his vision perverted. I always like to emphasize is that he is buoyed by love. And it's a romantic love in a way. He fell in love and would do anything, go to the ends of the earth, because of that love."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Tale of Two Plays

Sue Cremin and Edoardo Ballerini in Honey Brown Eyes.

With America's political attention aimed at ourselves these days, and what little energy we have to focus on international affairs devoted to conflicts in the Middle East, Honey Brown Eyes' subject — the Bosnian War — seems like it happened a century ago. (I know it happened in the 20th century, but you get my drift.)

Promising playwright Stefanie Zadravec shows the effects of the war on two former friends who were members of a rock band and now are on opposing sides of the conflict. Not only do they end up in different cities, but they also appear to be stranded in different plays in the Working Theater production that I saw for Time Out New York. The first act plays like an over-the-top melodrama, the second, an understated character study.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Younger Brother Also Rises

Pablo Schreiber in Gruesome Playground Injuries.

The first time I saw Pablo Schreiber act was either in the TV crime drama The Wire or the Off-Broadway play Sin: A Cardinal Deposed. Both were around five or six years ago, and the order escapes me. In Sin he sat silently onstage for nearly the entire 90-minute show before delivering a stirring closing monologue about the sexual molestation he suffered at the hands of a priest when he was a boy. In The Wire, still the show for which he's best known, he played, to quote my friend Joshua, "the less-stupid guy from season two."

I knew back then that he was Liev Schreiber's younger brother, but he's become such a successful actor in his own right that it's easy to forget. Now he's back on TV in another cable series, FX's critically acclaimed but low-rated Lights Out and appearing in another Off-Broadway show, Rajiv Joseph's Gruesome Playground Injuries. When I interviewed him for Time Out New York he told me that for him to ever work with brother Liev, it would have to be a project with two great roles for actors that are 10 years apart, like True West. I think they should they just hold out for the next Waiting for Godot revival.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Doused and Deconstructed

Rouner and Ryan in Tom Ryan Thinks He's James Mason...

How I am growing to embrace weird downtown experimental theater. I quite liked Tom Ryan Thinks He's James Mason Starring in a Movie By Nicholas Ray in which a Man’s Illness Provides an Escape from the Pain, Pressure and Loneliness of Trying to be the Ultimate American Father, Only to Drive Him Further Into the More Thrilling Though Possibly Lonelier Roles of Addict and Misunderstood Visionary -- whew! -- which has a milk-drenching scene (above) that brought back memories of the tomato-juice-dousing scene in Elizabeth Marvel's Hedda Gabler. Not only are these great ways to illustrate power struggles, but they're also lots of fun to watch.

The back of the one-page program thanks a list of folks for providing financial support to the production, from director Daniel Fish and starring Thomas Jay Ryan and Christina Rouner. I was heartened to see so many theater artists contributing to the development of weird experimental theater. Among the names: Michael Cerveris, Kathleen Chalfant, Jesse Berger, Colleen Werthmann, David Zinn, Linus Roache, Moises Kaufman, David Herskovits, Emily Mann, Henry Stram, to name a few.