Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Not Much Will Power

Jeremiah Kissel, Christianna Nelson and Pendleton in The Last Will.

Think formalizing your final will is one of life's more soporific labors. I'm afraid it's not much more interesting watching Shakespeare accomplish the task in The Last Will, Robert Brustein's look at the late-in-life Bard, retired from the theater and back home in Stratford. The respected Austin Pendleton both stars in and directs this production, a herculean assignment under the best of circumstances.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Who's in Once

Darvill and Christie in Once.

When I heard this morning that Arthur Darvill was stepping into one of the lead roles in the Broadway production of Once, I was sure I missed a press release or three. Surely producers knew he was one of the stars of Doctor Who, and that his presence might generate a bump in ticket sales. But it's like he appeared on Broadway out of nowhere (via TARDIS perhaps?).

The New York Times and the Associated Press cited immigration issues as the reason no advance notice was given prior to Darvill and his new British costar, Joanna Christie, joining the cast. Both articles claim that they're starting Tuesday, but the Stage Door Dish has physical evidence that they've already started, last Friday according to the blog.

Whether planned or not, sneaking up on Broadway like this is kind of a shrewd move for someone with the sort of fan-following Darvill has. Had there been a big announcement leading up to his first performance, there would have been a lot of anticipation for that first performance, not to mention requests for media interviews (I probably would have been one of them). But now he's "starting" with four performances already under his belt, so by the time Whovians start buying tickets and seeing the show and tweeting and blogging about it, he'll have already settled into the role. You get pretty smart when you hang around the Doctor...

This probably has nothing to do with what really happened, but it makes for a nice theory, don't you think?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Remaking Macbeth

Alan Cumming in Macbeth.

It sounds gimmicky, but I was really impressed with the creepy, evocative Macbeth now on Broadway, in which Alan Cumming gets to stretch his Shakespeare muscles by playing all of the major characters. I'd become accustomed to thinking of Cumming as more of an entertainment personality than as the rigorous and talented actor he proves to be in this condensed version of the Scottish Play, set in an asylum.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Aaron Serotsky, Ned Eisenberg and Miriam Silverman in Finks.

Until I saw Zero Hour, a solo biodrama about the brilliant, difficult Zero Mostel, a few years back, I wasn't aware that Jerome Robbins had given names of suspected communists to the House Un-American Activities Committee. I knew about Elia Kazan, of course, but Robbins had seemed untainted by it all.

There's a not-even-thinly-disguised dancer-choreographer based on him in Finks, a funny, moving new Off Broadway play that at first glance can seem lightweight due to the amount of comedy it contains but is quite substantial. It's by Joe Gilford, whose actor parents, Jack Gilford and Madeline Lee, were blacklisted thanks to Robbins's testimony. Whereas Zero Hour was a diatribe, Finks reaches for understanding, which makes what happened to the playwright's parents all the more powerful. And an Abbott and Costello spoof with a Red Scare slant is brilliant and hilarious.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Great with Two-Handers

Blythe Duff and Andrew Scott-Ramsay in Good with People.

Amid all the big spring Broadway openings, don't overlook David Harrower's Good with People. I was reading a book of Pinter plays (how pretentious does that sound!) when I caught this thorny, stirring show, part of this year's Brits Off Broadway festival. Like his much-praised Blackbird, about a now-grown woman confronting the older man she had an affair with when she was girl, it's the ultimate in awkward-encounter plays: A woman in a town in northern Scotland meets one of the now-grown-up young man who took part in an attack on her son when they were teenagers. What's stunning is how minimalist yet penetrating both plays are.