Let's Talk Off Broadway

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

Category: Adaptations From Great Authors Page 3 of 6

Review | Cry, Trojans (Troilus & Cressida) | Text by William Shakespeare | Directed by Elizabeth LeCompte | Performing Garage | Wooster Group

… not nice guys …

Diving into disjunction, deconstructing anything and everything, and squeezing ambiguities out of certainties, The Wooster Group has always stayed theatrically steps ahead.  In staging this play they seem to have taken on their ultimate challenge because Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida is already a work of deconstruction … a few centuries avant la lettre.  So what’s left for The Wooster Group to do?  Exuberantly, they add their own disjunctions and ambiguities to Troilus and Cressida for a stimulating take on Shakespeare’s play based on Homer’s epic about that war between the Greeks and Trojans.

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Roger Rathburn as Charles, Hayley Hoffmeister as Emma. Photo: Andrew Nuzhnyy.

Musical Review | Madame Bovary | Based on the Novel by Gustave Flaubert | Adaptation, Music and Lyrics Paul Dick | Direction and Choreography Marlene Thorn Taber | PASSAJJ Productions

This musical adaptation conveys to a remarkable extent the epic scope and compelling narrative force of Flaubert’s novel.  One is intent, watching the musical, on catching every word and the meaning of each episode in the personal saga of Emma Bovary, beautiful and given to romanticism but in other ways not truly remarkable.  What a lot of havoc romanticism can cause!  The songs are abundant, and carry us effectively through the emotional phases of the narrative;  musically they were somewhat expectable.  For me, the best of the songs are the ones that are tough and “realistic.”   

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Review | Kafka’s Monkey | Based on “A Report to an Academy” by Franz Kafka | Adapted by Colin Teevan | Starring Kathyrn Hunter | Directed by Walter Meierjohann | Theatre for a New Audience

Kathryn Hunter in Kafka's Monkey.  Photo:  Keith Pattison

Kathryn Hunter in Kafka’s Monkey.  Photo:  Keith Pattison

Kafka’s Monkey is original, creative and one of the great theater experiences.  It brings together a great author, a talented playwright, and a brilliant actor so, after the fact, one might say “how could it be otherwise.”  Still it’s totally unexpected.   After all, a play consisting of an invited speech delivered by an African chimpanzee to an august Academy is … well, unlooked for.

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Review | Donnybrook! The Musical of the Movie The Quiet Man | Music and Lyrics by Johnny Burke | Book by Robert E. McEnroe | Directed by Charlotte Moore | Based on The Quiet Man, Short Story by Maurice Walsh | Irish Repertory Theatre

The world doesn’t need this musical.  Set in a fictional Irish village, Innisfree, in the 1920’s, it’s about the “cute Irish,” and their quaint ways including the great fun of settling conflicts with a brutal, free-for-all fight — a “donnybrook.”

The central idea, from Maurice Walsh’s 1933 Saturday Evening Post short story, is interesting — an Irish-American boxer, having killed a man and determined never to fight again, returns to his Irish village where he’s forced into a fight mandated by custom (the “donnybrook”) in order to uphold the honor of his village bride. 

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Review | Clive by Jonathan Marc Sherman | Based on Bertolt Brecht’s Baal | Directed by Ethan Hawke | New Group

What a disappointment!  I went to Clive because of two actors, Ethan Hawke, who was outstanding recently in Chekhov’s Ivanov at Classic Stage, and Vincent D’Onofrio whose superb acting I watch with fascination on “Law and Order CI” and was excited at the chance to see him on stage.  The upshot:  Hawke gives a stellar, energetic, balletic performance in a play that goes nowhere and has no reason for being, and D’Onofrio’s great gifts are beside the point in the role he plays. 

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Watch  out for that that telescope! ...  Allison Buck as Amanda, Seth Moore as Worthy. Photo Aaron Zebrock

Review | Restoration Comedy by Amy Freed | Directed by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar | Featuring The Bats | Flea Theater

Winter doldrums? … Let Restoration Comedy completely restore you!

Magic unfolds in the relatively small performing space of the Flea Theater flanked by a few rows of audience seats.  That central space comes alive with color, wit, music, dance, energy.  In fact the energy spills from the stage throughout the theater — at the entrance actors costumed in the flounce and style of the 17th Century greet you with drinks and mill everywhere to talk with you, get to know you in the way of director Iskandar’s immersive theater — seen last season in the Flea’s masterful production of These Seven Sicknesses

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Art Review | Matisse: In Search of True Painting | Metropolitan Museum of Art, December 4 2012 – March 17, 2013

… translations …

Although this large exhibit covers most of Matisse’s painting career, it has a specific focus: to bring together examples of the many pairs, trios and series of copies and reinterpretations of notably similar subject matter and composition, such as Le Luxe I  and Le Luxe II, above.  Usually (when the order of their creation is known) Matisse’s versions move from greater realism and detail to abstraction.

In this he’s like van Gogh who called these kinds of versions of his own work “translations,” and I think that’s a profound term;  it sees “realism” and “abstraction” as different artistic languages connected by a bridge.   Since a key theme of the modern movement was a development toward greater and greater abstraction, it’s not surprising that Matisse’s versions show his fascination with exactly that:  the relationship between “realism” and “abstraction”.

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Film Note | Simon and the Oaks | With Bill Skarsgard, Helen Sjoholm, Jan Josef Liefers, Stefan Godicke | Directed by Lisa Ohlin | Swedish with English Subtitles | Based on the Novel by Marianne Fredericksson

. . . not a dragon tattoo but a . . .

Simon and the Oaks is about two families with characters so vivid, attractive and complex that one becomes totally absorbed in them, worries for the obstacles they face and cares to the very end about how things work out for them.

Two families, very much opposite, are drawn tightly together on the eve of World War II:   the rural, home-grown Swedish Larssons and the urban, well-to-do, Jewish Lentovs who are in Sweden as fugitives from Nazi Germany.  Each family has one son, who feels alienated from the expectations of his own family and, friends in school, the boys Simon Larsson and Isak Lentov are each powerfully drawn to something in the other’s family.

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Review | Job by Thomas Bradshaw | Directed by Benjamin H. Kamine | Featuring The Bats | Flea Theater

… why do the righteous playgoers suffer? …

The story of Job reinterpreted by a contemporary playwright:  what an intriguing idea.  Exotic times and places — here the ancient Near East — are appealing.  And a play that takes you to supernatural venues, like Heaven, as this play does, and to actually “see” God, at home, so to speak, always have an extra magnetism. 

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Review | Men’s Lives by Joe Pintauro | Adapted from the Book by Peter Matthiessen | Directed by Harris Yulin | Bay Street Theatre, Sag Harbor, Long Island

… endangered species …

Men’s Lives tells the story of what happens to fishermen on the East End of Long Island when the forces of change and politics put an end to the only way they know to make a living.  No more skeining with big nets, comes the law from Albany.  And with that, their way of life, based on a tradition of 300 years, is sucked out from under them the way, when you’re standing near the surf, the waves pull the sand out from under your feet.

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