Monday, August 2, 2021

Weekly Margin 2021, W31: Edges, An Iliad, Rough Crossing, The Wolves

 7/29/21: Edges
What: Chance Theater presents Pasek and Paul's first collaboration, a song cycle written when they were 19.
And? I'm trying to keep the "they were only 19" dominant in my head because the writing in this show isn't there yet (wasn't there yet? tense is weird). It has strong vibes of wanting to be Songs For a New World without actually reaching those heights (there's even a semi-"Stars and the Moon" song in the last third). Too many of the songs lack a journey--they're catchy and tuneful, but they don't go anywhere new between the first and last verses. So, that aside: yes, I cried as soon as I sat down, in my first time in an indoor theater since March 11, 2020. The four performers have good voices, and Tyler Marshall and Elizabeth Curtin especially have great timing and physicality throughout, doing the most work to build an arc to the songs they sing. Bradley Kaye's scenic design is an appealing abstract space for the different songs to exist, and director James Michael McHale makes good use of the thrust space, playing to three sides without neglecting sections. There is some work done by McHale and costume designer Christina Perez to create throughlines for suggestions of characters (connecting songs out of the vacuum to be some sort of arc), but this work is so uneven and unbalanced (much more work has been done to build arcs for the women than the men, with any arc for Jewell Holloway treated more as an afterthought than any sort of plan). If this show is aspiring to be a new SFANW, this is another place it misses the mark: SFANW trusts its audience to do the work of building an emotional arc for the four performers and doesn't try to superimpose anything on top of the individual songs. I felt, watching, that I was being asked to either forgive the slight mismatches that resulted in joining up different songs to the same character, or allow myself to acknowledge that the lack of specificity of voice in the lyrics--more common in pop music than in musical theater--is what they're counting on. Still, I was happy to be back in a theater and hear songs sung live, right in front of me. That was huge.

Tyler Marshall, Elizabeth Curtin, Jewell Holloway, and Sarah Pierce.
Photo by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio.

Streaming Theater Related Content I Watched

Theater Developments
The Broadway League is requiring all Broadway audiences to show proof of full vaccination.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Weekly Margin 2021, W29: Merry Wives, Ride Share, An Iliad, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

7/13/21: Merry Wives
What: Shakespeare in the Park presents Jocelyn Bioh's adaptation of the Bard's somewhat obscure spin-off about Falstaff, this time set in South Harlem.
And? This was so damn delightful. I'll confess it's a play I don't know at all, but this adaptation was full of so much playfulness and joy, a truly excellent cast (especially Pascale Armand and Susan Kelechi Watson as the titular Merry Wives, oh my god so good). Other standouts include Gbenga Akinnagbe as the attempted-cuckolded Ford and Joshua Echebiri in the dual roles of Slender and Pistol. Jacob Ming-Trent's Falstaff was funny if a bit less nuanced than either of the two wives he attempts to seduce. Jocelyn Bioh's script adapt is quick and punchy, and a happy blend of Shakespeare's text and the eclectic language of the blended West African immigrant communities in South Harlem. Dede Ayite's costume design is swoonworthy gorgeous, Beowulf Boritt's set is appealingly modular, and Jiyoun Chang's lighting achieves breathtaking beauty in the climactic spirit scene. What a happy return to the Delacorte after a terrible year.

Jacob Ming-Trent and Susan Kelechi Watson as Falstaff and Madam Nkechi
Ford. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Streaming Theater Related Content I Watched

Monday, July 12, 2021

Weekly Margin 2021, W28: Love's Labour's Lost, A Cold Supper Behind Harrods, Dumb Waiter, Sweat

 Live theater! I saw live in-person theater! My first live theater since March 11, 2020!

What? Hudson Classical Theater Company's outdoor performance of Shakespeare's comedy (co-starring my friend Emily Bradshaw!), about four sets of would-be lovers and, well, the labours they undergo in the wooing, and then whoops it just sort of stops and the sequel is lost to the sands of time. Full disclosure: at the performance I attended, a light rain started about an hour and a half in, eventually increasing enough that the performance was called for rain before it concluded. We saw up to the prelude to the Worthies.
And? It was so thrilling to be back in a performance space again after all this time. Hudson Classical's production is fully vaccinated and semi-masked (when the performers are near the fully-masked audience). The courtyard area behind a monument in Riverside Park is a cozy and magical space, backed by trees and the sound of the city beyond. Fireflies even joined us around eight. This is a charming production of a play I'm not particularly fond of, and Nicholas Martin-Smith's direction helped remind me of the play's better parts, the charm and the banter, as well as the delights of Armado and Costard. John-Ross Winter's costume design is beautiful and appealing (including masks to match each costume), the women winsome and the men dapper. Among a generally solid cast of performers, highlights included Daniel Yaiullo's clever Berowne, Emily Bradshaw's brassy Rosaline, Bryan Bryk's Groucho-inflected Costard, Peter Sullivan's cheerfully dim Antony Dull, and Austin Reynolds's blustery and charismatic Don Adriano de Armado.

Streaming Theater Related Content I Watched

Monday, June 28, 2021