… all the world’s a vanity fair …
This is a mind-expanding production of Vanity Fair. It’s also funny, extravagant and visually fascinating.
Relax, Moliere doesn’t need help – not this help anyhow
Is it possible for Don Juan to be dull? Unfunny? Unsexy?
The answer is yes. Oh shucks. Jess Burkle’s tedious adaptation relies on the audience identifying with contemporary lingo and clichés, rather than on new wit.
… which side was it you said you’re on? …
The audience — myself included — stood and applauded with pleasure at the end of Major Barbara, but the applause was more for the laughter and sheer theatrical delight that came earlier in the play than for the confusing ending. First, toward the end, you think you’re missing something and then you realize it’s not quite making sense. No fault of the performers who were perfect throughout, but Shaw just did not fully resolve this play. But he gives you much to enjoy and think about.
… all the stage’s a world …
The back stage magic of And Away We Go makes me think of the wonderful song about a dogged and devoted itinerant theater group in Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate, “We Open In Venice” (“then on to Cremona …. and on to …. and on …”). And Away We Go, too, is on the move — with the feel of a story about an equally valiant itinerant theater troupe only here the wanderings take them not just through Northern Italy but through time, back and forth. This imaginative, mind stretching extravaganza is beautifully pulled off by the Pearl Theatre group.
… beyond Peter Pan …
Best known now for Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie was a popular playwright in early 20th-century London and here’s a chance to see two of his witty and enjoyable comedies — about grown-ups.
The first of these, Rosalind, is a real gem. A beautiful, popular actress has donned a shapeless housedress and floppy slippers, and lets her hair go, holed up in a rural boarding house where she takes on the persona of her own mother just to get away from it all, to find respite from her frenetic London life where she’s relentlessly the center of attention.
If you’ve never seen Henry IV Part 1, the Pearl’s production will bring you close to it and if you’ve seen it before you’ll love it all over again.
This last assumes you’ve loved it in the past which is probable because it’s one of Shakespeare’s best loved plays, for good reasons. Among them, it’s hilarious. Falstaff is so vivid and original a character, so complex and real, that it’s hard to believe he’s a creative invention; and, in the character of Prince Hal, the play deals with issues of fundamental fascination and importance for all of us, growth to maturity.
A Moon for the Misbegotten is a tense, character driven play that demands great acting and this excellent production provides it: Kim Martin-Cotton is as fine an actress as I’ve seen anywhere and she makes the role of the tough-on-the-outside farm girl, Josie Hogan, come alive.
The play, written in 1943, takes us back to a 1923 farmhouse. Like O’Neill’s earlier play, Beyond the Horizon, currently Irish Repertory Theater, this, too, is about trying to hold on to the farm. Josie and her father Phil Hogan, are tenant farmers, and their landlord, James Tyrone, Jr., is a local boy who made it in the big city as an actor, and whose self-weary, drunken lack of self-respect leads him to mock his own success. Josie’s in love with Tyrone, but hides it behind a cynical, sluttish affect. He claims, in an affected, stentorian way, to love her, but she doesn’t believe a word, comparing her big farm girl self to the dainty women she figures he knows in the city.
… pre-vintage Shaw …
Shaw’s early play, The Philanderer of 1893, is a romantic comedy that’s as focused on the ideas of Henrik Ibsen as it is on love, and with good reason: for Shaw ideas and love were equally suffused with eros.
Shaw saw Ibsen’s A Doll’s House five times around 1893 and this iconic drama was revelatory, bringing him to the possibility of a theater of ideas. And, with his comic bent, and awareness of the pitfalls of stern moralizing, Shaw sought a humorous way to explore Ibsen’s theme of the independent woman. This led him in The Philanderer to comic exaggerations which today to me seem dated, though when the play was first produced, they may have seemed fresh and provocative. As a gauge of that, the Pearl’s program tells us that “…due to strict censorship … it was not performed on the stage until 1902.”
… two great productions … (lucky playwright!)
In the Wooster Group’s visceral production of Williams’ Vieux Carre, a writer/narrator allows his memory to transport him to the past, and to a run-down boarding house in New Orleans’ French Quarter in the 1930’s. Why this place at this time? Because it’s the site of his coming of age recognition of his homosexual nature. But he’s not alone here: the place is crowded with other tenants who, in their different ways, take part in the drama of his self-recognition. His memory brings to life their passions and agonies as well as his own. There are two proud, old southern ladies who scavenge garbage pails to stay alive, the “rapacious”, tubercular old artist coughing into his handkerchief, the young woman from the north whose particular pain we learn of late in the play, her stud man, the landlady, the maid, and the young drifter who becomes the writer’s ticket to a free life.
Click to read about The School for Lies, from Moliere’s The Misanthrope currently playing at Classic Stage –and it’s great!
… opposites attract …
There’s a magic to Moliere’s The Misanthrope and here’s what it is. It’s a play in which just about nothing happens … and yet you leave it with a big smile and the sense that you’ve seen something delightful. What is it? The
language! It’s witty and charming: it makes you feel like you’ve been at a party with vivacious, intelligent guests.