Two one-act plays by A. R. Gurney are presented in tandem, Ajax, as in the ancient Greek hero, and Squash, as in the game. Having enjoyed many Gurney plays, I was keen to see these but Ajax and Squash are not Gurney at his best.
Making the best of it … Brooke Adams as Winnie. Photo Joan Marcus.
Brooke Adams’ Winnie is as great a tour de force as I’ve ever seen in theater. As she speaks, what’s everyday for most of us becomes, for this poetically, physically, allegorically limited woman, heroic. Adams is “on” most of the play, it’s a near monolog, but Tony Shalhoub as Willie balances her greatness, reduced in old age to strain against his set of physical limitations to save her. Brooke Adams and Tony Shalhoub in Happy Days are breathtaking.
The opening afternoon of The Nomad was a cold winter Sunday: we made it from the subway to The Flea as falling snow cloaked everything in all-over veils of white to gray … and then the show began. What a burst of color, brightness, and music, what delicious vibrance, as the play carries you to North Africa and its hot deserts.
With insistent percussive music saturated with North African overtones, theatrical effects to delight and astonish, and the superb performance of Teri Madonna in the lead role, it tells the story of Isabelle Eberhardt (1877-1904), a well-educated Swiss woman who left Europe to immerse herself in North Africa culture and the Sahara desert. She dressed as a man for the freedom it afforded her, converted to Islam, married an Algerian, wrote about North Africa, and died in a flash flood and died at the age of 27.
Danielle Slavick and Stephen Barker Turner. Photo Hunter Canning.
This play is a compendium of current topical concerns about the environment, junk food and junk in our food, etc., built around a romance between a man and a woman, each with children and each married to someone else.
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
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! .
“My ancestors fought the Indians along the Mohawk River before they signed up with George Washington,” says Russell, father of the family. “Your mother’s great great grandfather helped plan and design the Erie Canal.” This is an amusing, beautifully observed and perfectly acted play about an upper class “WASP” family — Gurney’s favorite territory — on the cusp of social change in the aftermath of World War II. It’s set in 1954 at a summer lake house near Buffalo, NY.
Costumed actors take your tickets, will for a modest amount pour you a glass of wine, and engage in gorgeous and intriguing dance-like interactions in front of a stunning backdrop of silky delicately-toned hangings. It makes you sure you’re in for great theater. Once Sarah Flood in Salem Mass starts, though, the fun dissipates. With its reference to the Salem Witch Trials, the play takes on the trappings of seriousness but flings itself into making a jumble of the actual events and persons; that could be OK, except that it offers no thoughts or ideas in return for its use of this tragic historical episode and the multitudes who suffered hideously because of it.
ak bleak bleak — a bold way to start a play, but it works wonderfully. Strangers, a woman and a boy, on a cold, road at night, next to a cemetery, waiting for a bus, but the vivid characters bring it to warm, pulsating life — which is exactly the point.