Let's Talk Off Broadway

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

Tag: Classic Stage Company Page 2 of 3

Unnatural Acts.  Photo:  Classic Stage

Review | Unnatural Acts | Written by Members of the Plastic Theatre | Conceived and Directed by Tony Speciale | Classic Stage Company

Unnatural Acts is a strong and thought provoking play based on a true and tragic event:  the purge of a group of gay men at Harvard University in 1920.  The catalyst was the suicide of Cyril Wilson, assumed to be gay, which led Harvard to get rid of the group of homosexuals associated with him, evidently to avoid scandal.

One by one, ten students and one instructor suspected of being part of Wilson’s cadre of homosexual friends were interrogated by a “Secret Court” of high level administrators which determined their “guilt” as homosexuals, or their “innocence.”  Most were found “guilty” and were expelled.  We learn, by the end of the play, of the blight the investigation and expulsion cast on almost all of their lives.

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Review | The School For Lies by David Ives | Directed by Walter Bobbie | Classic Stage Company

… triple play …

What a romp!  What sheer fun!  Moliere would have loved The School For Lies.

And what a record, three for three, for Classic Stage and David Ives:

  • 2009:  Classic Stage produces Ives’ brilliant play about Spinoza,  New Jerusalem:  The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza
  • 2010:  Classic Stage produces Ives’ Venus in Fur which was a big success and launched Nina Arianda into stardom (though I found it tiresome)
  • 2011:  Classic Stage produces Ives’ The School for Lies, from Moliere’s The Misanthrope, and they’re right back on brilliant

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Review | Double Falsehood by William Shakespeare* and John Fletcher* | Adapted by Lewis Theobald | Directed by Brian Kulick | Classic Stage Company

A rumored connection to Shakespeare’s the thing here — not the play.

Is Double Falsehood  based on a play Shakespeare wrote* in collaboration with John Fletcher,* that has come down to us through an 18th-century adaptation by Lewis Theobald?  Classic Stage would like us to entertain that possibility.  It’s worthy to examine Shakespearean controversies but — theater is theater and this is not a good play.  And there’s nothing of Shakespeare to experience in it.

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Review | Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov | Translated by Paul Schmidt | Directed by Austin Pendleton | Classic Stage Company

… three ages of women …

Chekhov wrote Three Sisters for production on a proscenium stage but I think he would have been thrilled to see this expansion of his work in Classic Stage’s magnificent large and high performance space.  The potential breadth of Three Sisters is fulfilled in a way I’ve never seen before: the philosophical vision, the psychology and the drama enlarge as if here they’ve found a space to unfold their wings.

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Review | Jacques and His Master by Milan Kundera | Adapted from Diderot | Dramatic Reading, Directed by Brian Kulick | Classic Stage Company

… 18th-Century Post-Modern …

What a play!  And what a marvelous way to get to know it!

Monday, September 27, Classic Stage presented a reading of Jacques and His Master, written by novelist Kundera as an adaptation of Denis Diderot’s 18th-century novel.  Read by a cast that completely fulfilled the play, headed by two wonderful actors, Dan Oreskes as Jacques and F. Murray Abraham as Jacques’ Master, it was as vivid as any totally dramatized production — like radio drama, one sees it all!

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Review | Orlando, from Virginia Woolf’s Novel | Adapted by Sarah Ruhl | Directed by Rebecca Taichman, choreographed by Annie-B Parson, with Annika Boras, Francesca Faridany, David Greenspan, Tom Nelis and Howard Overshown | Classic Stage Company

… another great first act …

The first act of Orlando is a kind of enchantment — like falling in on Prospero’s island.  We are in the 17th Century:  Orlando appears as a swashbuckling young nobleman in a solo sword dance beautifully choreographed by Annie-B Parson.  We go on to follow his adventures, his love adventures, that is — we never see him do much else with the sword.  Much is narrated, with the playwright, Sarah Ruhl, using Virginia Woolf’s words from the novel, which adds to the sense of magical “Once upon a time … “  This is a play about liminality, in gender, in modes of story telling, and in time.  We understand quickly that boundaries are permeable, and everything can change into its other.   It’s a wonderful beginning.   

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Review | The Forest by Alexander Ostrovsky | Adapted by Kathleen Tolan | Starring John Douglas Thompson and Diane Wiest | Directed by Brian Kulick | Classic Stage

… realm of the free spirit …

Alexander Ostrovsky was one of the most popular and prolific Russian playwrights of the 19th Century.  The Forest, written in 1870, nine years after the emancipation of the serfs, reflects shifting relationships between the classes:  Raisa, an elderly, wealthy landowner, is selling off her forested estate bit by bit to Ivan, once a peasant and now a wealthy wood merchant.

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Review | Venus in Fur by David Ives | Directed by Walter Bobbie | With Nina Arianda and Wes Bentley | Classic Stage Company

… SM …

The Marquis de Sade died in 1814, which left over half a century for sadism to languish alone until masochism “arrived” in the 1870 erotic novel Venus in Furs — the author’s name, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, providing the word.

Ives’ play Venus in Fur roughly follows the extreme SM relationship between the man and woman in the novel, which allows for plenty of sadism, masochism, and a beautiful woman in Victoria’s Secret type of lingerie tempting and teasing a man.  Voyeurism, sexual revelation, sanctified by touches of social history and the “serious” overtones of a “classic novel” — you can see why someone thought this would be a good play to produce.  The play’s repetitive quality and predictability, and — a casting problem — a total lack of chemistry between the actors playing the man and woman, make it boring.

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Review | The Age of Iron from William Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida and Thomas Heywood’s Iron Age | Adapted and Directed by Brian Kulick | Classic Stage Company

(Also pertinent … Cry, Trojans (Shakespeare’s Troilus & Cressida), by The Wooster Group)

Just about the entire legend of the Trojan War is told — or at least “covered” — in The Age of Iron, from Paris’ abduction of Helen to the sack of Troy by the Greeks using their ruse of the “Trojan Horse,” all the way to the suicide of Ajax.  Brian Kulick achieved this mainly by appending to Shakespeare’s play, which is focused on a short period toward the end of the war, the “beginning” and the “end” from another Elizabethan play, Heywood’s Iron Age.   The Age of Iron is beautifully produced and you both hear the poetry of Shakespeare’s language and understand every word.

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Review | Waste of Time after Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past | Adapted by Robert David Macdonald | Classic Stage Company

… what a Waste of Time …

Over the epic course of generational time that marks Remembrance of Things Past, Proust charts subtle and ever evolving change in societal attitudes — the acceptance of modernity, and of democratic values.  Waste of Time gives only the slightest nod to this grand topic and immerses itself in gossip.

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