Let's Talk Off Broadway

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

Tag: New York Theatre Workshop

Review | An Iliad by Denis O’Hare & Lisa Peterson | Based on Homer’s The Iliad | Translated by Robert Fagles | Directed by Lisa Peterson | With Denis O’Hare and Stephen Spinella | New York Theatre Workshop

Denis O’Hare gives  a magnificent performance as “The Poet”, a bard transported through time from ancient Greece to today, picking up our style and our way of speaking to tell us the story of The Iliad.   A smallish man on a near-bare stage with pipes and a sink near the back wall, he’s travel worn, time worn, his only baggage a knocked-about canvas suitcase — that and his memory. 

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Review | The Select (The Sun Also Rises) | Based on Ernest Hemingway’s Novel | Directed by John Collins | Created by Elevator Repair Service | New York Theatre Workshop

… so what’ll we do now? …

With The Select, The Elevator Repair Service, an outstanding experimental theater company, has for some reason, created a complete misfire.  The adaptation, the acting, the direction, the set — it misses in just about every way possible.  How could this have happened given their recent illuminating adaptation of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, which did everything right?

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Review | Restoration by Claudia Shear | Directed by Christopher Ashley | New York Theatre Workshop

… on restoring Michelangelo’s David …

This is a very enjoyable play, a light comedy with enough seriousness about its characters and thematic consistency to give it ballast.

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Review | Things of Dry Hours by Naomi Wallace | Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson | New York Theatre Workshop

It’s the deep South, 1932, during the Great Depression and we’re in the home of Tice Hogan, a Black man who’s lost his job at the local factory, and his daughter Cali, a young woman with a sour marriage behind her.  They’re making do — Tice picks up some odd jobs and Cali does laundry for White folks — when a White guy, Corbin Teel, tumbles into their house, he’s probably killed a foreman in a fight at the factory, needs a hideout, and forces the Hogan’s to let him stay by using as a lever his knowledge, from some guys at the factory, that Tice is a member of the Communist Party.

How unusual for current theater — a sympathetic communist character.  Things of Dry Hours  has an important point to make:  capitalism, not racism, is the fundamental enemy of men and women at the bottom of the barrel, a view Marx would endorse.  Racism is a capitalist device and diversion.

Naturally, and metaphorically, bonding takes place among the three.  Corbin has probably been sent by the higher-ups as a snitch.  Nevertheless Tice’s humanity and belief that people can change lead him to try teaching the illiterate Corbin the truth about capitalism as he sees it, as well as how to read, using the Communist Manifesto as the text for both.  Corbin falls for the bitter and eccentric Cali.  She’s the toughest nut to crack of the bunch but love, of a kind, does filter through her hard veneer.

This is promising dramatic material.  Unfortunately, the play is not well written and makes several missteps.  To mention just a few.  In Scene 1 Tice Hogan has just arrived at a dark entry to heaven after an uncomfortable journey a number of years after the incidents of the play;  this scene has nothing to do with the play as it unfolds.  The grotesque sexual humiliations Cali forces on Corbin, and Corbin’s acquiescence, don’t ring true:  explanations are provided that she’s turning the tables in response to humiliations she’s suffered, and he’s hot, but nevertheless these sadistic scenes seem dragged in and motivated by something outside the play itself.  The nude male forced strip scene, not of Cali’s doing, did not emerge from the play but also seemed dragged in.  And all these characters are much too well spoken and knowledgeable about the world at large than is plausible.  If we weren’t told we were in a small town in Alabama in 1932 we’d never guess it.

What makes Things of Dry Hours  at least interesting to watch is Delroy Lindo as the Biblically magisterial yet vulnerable Tice, Roslyn Ruff as the ornery but tender Cali, and Garret Dillahunt as the frantic, doomed Corbin.  In spite of the fine cast, though, in its present state, it seems like a play with potential seen in an early workshop production.

Things of Dry Hours plays at New York Theatre Workshop in NYC’s East Village through June 28.

Review | The Grand Inquisitor, from Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov | Directed by Peter Brook | Starring Bruce Myers | New York Theatre Workshop & Theatre for a New Audience

Did Dostoevsky read this over before he published it?

It’s hard to take on Dostoyevsky but this really is somewhat sophomoric. Bruce Myers was too appealing and spry for the aged Grand Inquisitor with terrifying power over life, death and torture — and that’s the whole piece, a dramatic monolog. Christ just sits and listens with his back to the audience until the end when he gets up, gives the Grand Inquisitor a kiss (love? betrayal?) and walks off, released from the Inquisitor’s threat to burn him at the stake, presumably because we all know that never happened. The whole does not add up to a “great argument” as people like to say, and as  was repeated often at a recent roundtable.

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