Let's Talk Off Broadway

Yvonne Korshak reviews Off-Broadway, Broadway, Film and Art

Category: Adaptations From Great Authors Page 2 of 6

Review | The Burial At Thebes | By Seamus Heaney | From Sophocles’ Antigone | Directed by Charlotte Moore | Irish Repertory Theatre

… don’t bother …

Sophocles’ Antigone is among the greatest plays ever written, Seamus Heaney is a Nobel Prize winning poet, and Irish Repertory Theatre produces wonderful shows with outstanding actors.  How then did The Burial At Thebes turn out to be a  poor derivative of Antigone, with amateurish acting?

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Jean Lichty at the early feminist NORA, and Todd Gearhart as her husband, Torvald in Bergman's NORA after Ibsen's A Doll's House

Review | Nora | by Ingmar Bergman | After Ibsen’s A Doll’s House | Directed by Austin Pendleton

… a doll’s household … 

Jean Lichty at the early feminist NORA, and Todd Gearhart as her husband, Torvald in Bergman's NORA after Ibsen's A Doll's House

Todd Gearhart as Torvald and Jean Lichty as Nora. Photo Carol Rosegg

In the name of “crystallization,” Bergman’s paring down of Ibsen’s compelling play with its early feminist theme sticks to the plot but gives us fewer ways to know the characters.  It puts major, inner change on fast forward — making for an unconvincing drama.

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Review | Songbird | Based on Chekhov’s The Seagull | Written by Michael Kimmel | Songs by Lauren Pritchard | Directed by JV Mercanti

… a terrific new musical is born …

Here is a really amazing idea – Songbird  is a country music musical based in Chekhov’s The Seagull.  While it stays quite close to the plot of the symbolist and heavily psychological end-of-the-19th century Russian drama, it soars on its own life-affirming wings.

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Review | Travels With My Aunt | Based on Graham Greene’s Novel | Adapted by Giles Havergal | Directed by Jonathan Silverstein | Clurman Theatre

… the numinous fluidity of paintings in WW II … 

A stuffy, inhibited 50-year old British banker, Henry, meets up with his mother’s sister, 75-year old Aunt Augusta, at his mother’s funeral and is drawn by her into traveling to far away places and a new view of life with this free-wheeling, libertine, and slightly criminal Aunt.

The first surprise Augusta has up her sleeve is that Henry’s mother, whose ash urn he is clutching, was not really his mother.

Who is his mother?  We know right off the bat.  But it takes Henry the full play to find out.

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Review | Iphigenia in Aulis from Euripides | Transadaptation by Anne Washburn | Classic Stage Company

… Lucidity …

Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis is a very great play and its force comes across in this production.  It leaves you shaken by the tragic, and elated.

The play’s force lies in the extraordinary power of Euripides’ mind, and the experience of seeing the play in this production by Classic Stage is mind-to-mind, his and yours.  What a privilege!

The Greek army is on its way to Troy when its ships are becalmed at Aulis.  For days on end no winds arise to fill the sails.  The army is frustrated, morale is low.  A seer reveals to Agamemnon, the Greek leader, that there will be no wind until Agamemnon sacrifices his own virginal daughter, Iphigenia – sacrifice as in slit her throat on altar — to appease the gods who are angry for their own reasons.  Goaded to fulfill the gods’ demand by his brother Menelaus (some nerve, it’s to bring Menelaus’ wife, Helen, back from Troy that Greeks have raised this army) Agamemnon sends for Iphigenia, using the ruse that he’s arranged her marriage with Achilles.

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Review | Desire | Six Plays Based on Tennessee Williams Short Stories | The Acting Company | 59E59 Theaters

Echoes of Tennessee Williams

Most of these six plays are sketches, some are better than others, and some bring you closer to Williams than others – which isn’t always the same thing.

The Resemblance Between A Violin Case And A Coffin by Beth Henley is about an over-close brother and sister, Tom and Roe, whose hot-house relationship with its submerged sexuality is upended when Roe, who gets her first period on stage complete with blood running down her leg (i.e., she’s reaching sexual maturity), develops an intense crush on a new boy in town, a violinist with whom she’s slated to play a recital.  It’s fun to recognize Williams’ dramatic themes – frail people living in dream worlds and thwarted, immature love. The playwright seems uncertain about what’s really causing his character’s, particularly Roe’s, troubles, and the role imagination plays in his character’s lives.

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Review | A Month In the Country by Ivan Turgenev | Translated by John Christopher Jones | Directed by Erica Schmidt | Classic Stage Company

This is a stunning, constantly amusing, and deeply intelligent production of Turgenev’s iconic play about realism, romanticism and love.

Set at a country estate in Russia in the 1840’s, it features a grand group of characters, young and old, male and female, aristocrat and peasant enmeshed, each in his or her own way, in love.  I’ve read that Turgenev, best known as a novelist, didn’t like this play of his but I think he must have enjoyed working out this witty and thorough set of variations on his theme.  True, the family’s little boy, Kolya, isn’t in love — but the playwright saw to it he had a bow and arrow to play with, Cupid personified.

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Review | The Woodsman by James Ortiz | Directed by James Ortiz and Claire Karpen | Music Composed by Edward W. Hardy | Strangeman and Co | In Association with Robb Nanus and Rachel Sussman | 59E59 Theaters

The Woodsman, using actors, puppets, mime and music, gives us back story, based on not well-known writings of Frank Baum, on how the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz came to be:  it’s a rich multi-media hour-long spectacle, but the story ends up pointless.

We’re in eastern Munchkinland where one tiny nuclear family finds a bit of freedom from the domination of the oppressive Witch by living self-sufficiently in a remote section of the woods, making a living by cutting trees.  As the Mother and Father mature and eventually die, young Nick is left on his own, following in his father’s footsteps as a woodsman.

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Bray Wilkins and Sarah Beckham Turner in SLOW DUSK. Photo Buckman

Opera Review | Slow Dusk and Markheim by Carlisle Floyd | New Chamber Arrangements by Inessa Zaretsky and Raymond J. Lustig | Little Opera Theatre of NY | 59E59 Theaters

What a wonderful evening of theater.  Two short American operas, narratives set to dramatic music, superbly performed.  One leaves thrilled and elated.

L-R Jennifer Roderer, Sarah Beckham-Turner, Alexander Charles Boyd in SLOW DUSK. Photo Buckman

L-R Jennifer Roderer, Sarah Beckham-Turner, Alexander Charles Boyd in SLOW DUSK. Photo Buckman

Slow Dusk takes us from commonplace to ecstatic, to tragedy, from afternoon to dusk.  Aunt Sue is shelling peas on the porch of a farmhouse in the Carolinas when Jess comes in from the fields, we learn of their concern about their niece, Sadie, who’s seeing to much of Micah — his family belong to the Truelights and they belong to the Disciples, and anyhow she’s smart and he never finished eighth grade.  They’re wild for one another and agree to marry but — not family as in Romeo and Juliet — accident intervenes, as fast as it can in life. 

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Colin Waitt as Jesus and the cast. Photo Jonathan Hollingsworth

Review | The Mysteries, 52 Episodes From the Bible Written by 48 Playwrights | World Premier | Conceived and Directed by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar | Dramaturg Jill Rafson | Featuring The Bats | Flea Theater

The Mysteries is one whopper of a project!

It’s an epic telling of the Old and New Testaments, referring to Medieval and later “mystery plays” of the life of Christ, 52 episodes more or less in sequence divided into three parts:  The Fall, The Sacrifice, The Kingdom.  Written by 48 playwrights, it’s performed by 54 actors who act, sing and

Sarah Keyes of the Angel Chorus. Photo Hunter Canning

Sarah Keyes of the Angel Chorus. Photo Hunter Canning

dance 78 parts or so in 5 ½ hours, all taking place on the relatively small performance space of the Flea, with the audience in touching distance of the actors, and not only that, it includes dinner! .

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