Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W49: Head Over Heels, All's Well That Ends Well

12/05/18: Head Over Heels
a repeat visit with a friend. still delightful

12/06/18: All's Well That Ends Well
What: Hedgepig Ensemble's production of one of Shakespeare's problem plays
And? Full review here.

Basil Rodericks and Sara Hymes as the King of France and Helena, with
Andy Baldeschwiler as Lafeu. Photo by Allison Stock.

Margin Notes: All's Well That Ends Well

Elizabeth C.J. Roberts and Kariana Sanchez
as the Widow and Diana.
Photo by Allison Stock.

Seen on: Thursday, 12/06/18.
My grade: B-

Plot and Background
Helena, daughter of a deceased doctor and ward of the Countess of Roussillon, loves the Countess's son Bertram, though he barely notices her. After she cures the ailing king, she is offered her choice of husbands, and she chooses Bertram--who reluctantly weds her, then immediately flees to the war in Italy and starts wooing a local girl, Diana. Helena follows and bed trick hijinks ensue. Hedgepig Ensemble is a company which "elevates the voices of all women by reimagining the classics."

What I Knew Beforehand
Weirdly, this is a play I didn't know beforehand, aside from having heard a monologue or two.

Thoughts:

Play: Emily Lyon's director's note in the program acknowledges that All's Well is a problem play (boy is it ever), then places Helena's plight in the context of our country's current situation, which includes the #MeToo movement, 45, and the midterm election results. And I have to say, that's a weird context for me. What's interesting about the play is the way it gender-flips problematic tropes that are walking red flags in the #MeToo movement, but that doesn't necessarily reflect well on anyone. Helena loves Bertram, who doesn't love her (which she has to realize on some level), but forces him to marry her anyway; when she pursues him after his flight, she tricks him into sleeping with her, which is pretty damn rapey. But we're used to seeing these tropes with the men disregarding the woman's autonomy and consent. I think this narrative would have been difficult for me to watch, whichever way the disregarding went. And by the time we reach the conclusion, the supposed ending-well which makes all the rest well (as the title indicates), it's just so hard to buy why anyone would love either Helena or Bertram, much less why they would love each other (and don't get me started on Helena's final reveal, in a glamorous dress, hearkening to everyone's favorite moment in teen romcoms, when the geeky girl takes off her glasses, puts on a dress, and suddenly jock boy is in love).

Monday, December 3, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W48: Pretty Woman, Julius Caesar, Once On This Island

11/28/18: Pretty Woman
What: A musical adaptation of the beloved '90s romcom.
And? Really boring. Almost none of the dialog worked (even that lifted straight from the film), most of the songs paused the story rather than furthered it, and even quality performers came off as awkward and uninteresting. The most embarrassing sequence was the opera sequence, where Edward's milquetoast falling-in-love song sounded so crude and clumsy when thrown into relief against the exquisitely emotional arias in Verdi's La Traviata (and I don't even like opera!). Standout was Tommy Bracco as Giulio the Porter.

Eric Anderson and Tommy Bracco as Mr. Thompson and Giulio, and company.
Photo by Matthew Murphy.


11/30/18: Julius Caesar
What: Hamlet Isn't Dead's latest, about the rise and fall of both Julius Caesar and his assassins.
And? Full review here.

Mia Isabella Aguirre as Marcus Brutus (with Noah Ruff as Cassius).
Photo by Mia Isabella Photography.


12/02/18: Once On This Island
a farewell visit, as they've posted their closing date for January. I cried through half the show (as is right)

Margin Notes: Julius Caesar

Mia Isabella Aguirre as Marcus Brutus (with Noah Ruff as Cassius).
Photo by Mia Isabella Photography.

Seen on: Friday, 11/30/18.
My grade: B+

Plot and Background
Hamlet Isn't Dead's latest venture, about the rise and fall of both Julius Caesar and his assassins.

What I Knew Beforehand
I've reviewed and enjoyed HID's productions over the last several years, and I've seen a few productions of Caesar as well.

Thoughts:

Play: Director Emily Jackson inverts the Balcony Theater so that the audience is seated in the pit, looking up at a stepped space, allowing for dynamic (and literal) level-playing, as well as facilitating the many side-conference schemes that happen throughout. The stage pictures created against this are clear and interesting, with the audience leaning forward, leaning in, part of the crowd and unseen witness to inner turmoils. Part of the flavor of a HID production, aside from the live music, is the playful approach to the text by the performers, tossing in sotto voce (or simply voce) asides during each other's speeches. In the comedies, this usually works fairly well, and adds to the enjoyment of the story unfolding; but somehow here, perhaps because it's a weightier story, it undercuts (at least for me), some of the moments of rhetoric for which this play is known.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W47: Thom Pain (based on nothing), To Kill a Mockingbird, Network, Torch Song, The Lifespan of a Fact, The Ferryman, The Hard Problem, Apologia

11/19/18: Thom Pain (based on nothing)
What: Signature's revival of Will Eno's stream of consciousness monologue play, with Michael C. Hall.
And? I remember reading the script years ago and being completely befuddled by it, but I'd heard that it was amazing live; I also thought Michael C. Hall did excellent work in the Broadway run of Eno's The Realistic Joneses, so I was excited to see this. It's still weird, and confusing, but a bit easier to track than when you're just reading it on the page. Compelling and strange.

Michael C. Hall as Thom Pain. Photo by Joan Marcus.


11/20/18: To Kill a Mockingbird
What: Aaron Sorkin's adaptation of Harper Lee's classic novel about the importance of principles and goodness, in a small southern town with a black man on trial for a crime he didn't commit.
And? While I don't think this can eclipse the book or film, which are pretty perfect executions, this is adequately done. Knowing both the source material and Sorkin's style well, it's kind of fun to watch and think "That's Harper Lee's line. That's a Sorkin move. Lee. Sorkin." While I have a few complaints about choices which I think weaken the arc (including Scout's growth), it's largely a powerful piece of theater with a deep bench of talented performers.




Monday, November 19, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W46: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, The Play That Goes Wrong

11/16/18: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
What: CSC/John Doyle's new production of Bertolt Brecht's play about the rise of a gangster in Chicago in, of all things, the produce market. Also it's an allegory for the rise of Hitler. And in this case, it bears ominous shadows of America's current political situation.
And? Brecht is never going to be a favorite playwright of mine, but Doyle's style is a good fit for his work. The cast is fantastic, especially my favorite (Raul Esparza) as Ui, Christopher Gurr as Dogsborough, and Thom Sesma as Givola.

Raul Esparza as Arturo Ui with the cast. Photo by Joan Marcus.


11/17/18: The Play That Goes Wrong
a repeat visit (family in town)

Monday, November 12, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W45: Super Awesome World, The Niceties

11/05/18: Super Awesome World
What: Part of the United Solo Theatre Festival, Amy Conway's piece uses her love of classic video games as a lens to explore her struggles with depression.
And? Delightful and powerful. Full review here.


Playwright/star Amy Conway.

11/06/18: The Niceties

What: Playwright Eleanor Burgess's new play at MTC, about a clash of ideasand ideologiesbetween a white history professor and her black student that leads to unexpectedly viral complications for both women. Inspired by a real-life incident at Yale in 2015.
And? A contemporary revisioning of Mamet's Oleanna, where the conflict may no longer be about gender, but it most assuredly is still rooted in the flipping of power. I find it interesting that this is the second play I've seen this year (the first being JC Lee's Relevance at MCC) to feature an older white woman, who fought and won her own crusade for gender equality in academia, being challenged for her unexamined and internalized presumptions about race by a younger black woman joining her field. While I think Relevance stumbled into permanent imbalance by having the older woman at last use the N-word (and thus turn irredeemable), Burgess's work here is subtler and more elegant. She challenges the audience to think, but she doesn't instruct the audience what to think. Both women are right; both women are wrong. The degree of wrongness, or the category of wrongness, spans the gamut from basic ideologies to blind spots to intersectionality to the tenets of solid and professional scholarship (to say nothing of how to examine revolutions, both moderate and radical, and the fallout and recovery from sudden unwanted media attention). Both women say things that are hard for me to forgive, but both women also have a point (and before I forget, both are perfectly performed by Lisa Banes as the professor Janine and Jordan Boatman as the student Zoe).

Lisa Banes and Jordan Boatman as Janine and Zoe.
Photo by T. Charles Erickson. (note: photo does
not reflect final costume or scenic design)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Margin Notes: Super Awesome World

Playwright/star Amy Conway.

Seen on: Monday, 11/05/18.
My grade: A

Plot and Background
Amy Conway brings her solo show, which has also played in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, to New York's United Solo Theatre Festival. Her interactive one-hour play uses her love of classic video games as a lens to explore her struggles with depression.

What I Knew Beforehand
I knew the premise, and that the play came highly recommended from a good friend of mine who'd seen it in Edinburgh. I will admit to not being a gamer myself (I never did have good hand-eye coordination), but I used to watch when my sister and brother played Nintendo and, later, Super Nintendo, so the game references were not entirely lost on me.

Thoughts:

It's more interactive than I usually prefer my sit-down theater (as opposed to the immersive stuff where you more or less know what you've committed to, going in), and yet I didn't mind that element. The quest to defeat the darkness becomes a joint mission, not just for Amy, but for all of us in the room. We help gather empathy points, heart points; we serve as the negative thoughts for her to defeat; and in one moment during which I held my breath, one audience member helps guide a blinded but trusting Amy across a treacherous lava floor. It was no surprise, at the performance that I saw, that once the show was complete, the entire audience stayed to help clean up the mess we'd made. That's part of healing, too, after all. Conway's piece balances the humor of play, the nostalgic fondness for (wow, those graphics) old video game tech, and the desolate ache of feeling like there's no way out. She doesn't shy from the pain of depression, or from how insurmountable it can seem when one is buried in sadness. Even as the piece gets intensely personal, she also makes her audience feel seen, feel recognized. On top of all those effective #feels, Super Awesome World is also just a really well-built piece of theater with a simultaneously surprising and inevitable conclusion.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W44: The Prom, Mike Birbiglia's THE NEW ONE

10/29/18: The Prom
What: A new musical from Drowsy Chaperone scribe/star Bob Martin (and Chad Beguelin and Matthew Sklar), about a group of narcissistic theater actors desperate to reform their image, who glom onto a manageably-sized social justice battle: a teenage lesbian in Indiana who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom.
And? It's not perfect, and it definitely paints nearly everything with a broad brush, both the pastiche and the earnestness. But it's a funny time, with dynamic Nicholaw choreography, and some stellar work from Brooks Ashmanskas. I saw it on a special Monday night preview where the casts from Nicholaw's other three shows currently running were invited (Aladdin, Mean Girls, and Book of Mormon), so the audience was full of supportive insiders, laughing at all the theater jokes (which means I don't necessarily know how everything will play in front of a civilian audience).

The cast. Photo by Deen van Meer.


11/01/18: Mike Birbiglia's THE NEW ONE
What: It's the new Mike Birbiglia show, you guys.
And? He's such a good storyteller. And I forget what a good storyteller he is, because the non-Mike Birbiglia roles he often plays are ineffectual prats, but he as an actual human is much smarter than that, and it shows in his original work. He's able to synthesize every piece of what seems at first like a disjointed train-of-thought narrative, in a really satisfying way. I'm deliberately not getting into the content here, because it's more fun to discover it as the story goes on.


Monday, October 29, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W43: School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play, Travisville

10/25/18: School Girls; or,  the African Mean Girls Play
What: MCC's encore presentation of Jocelyn Bioh's critically acclaimed play about young girls in Ghana's most exclusive boarding school, hoping to compete in the Miss Universe pageant.
And? Totally lived up to the hype. Constantly surprisingly, achingly human, and delightfully funny. Really a marvelous cast, particularly Maameyaa Boafo as the most popular bully, Paulina, Joanna A. Jones as the sweet-tempered newcomer Ericka, and Myra Lucretia Taylor as the sharp and caring Headmistress Francis. (and omg the adorable Mirirai Sithole and Paige Gilbert as Mercy and Gifty)

Abena Mensah-Bonsu, Mirirai Sithole, and Paige Gilbert as Nana, Mercy,
and Gifty. Photo by Joan Marcus.


10/28/18: Travisville
What: EST presents William Jackson Harper's play about a black community in Texas who are about to be displaced for a new commercial development (Travisville), and a newcomer who spurs them to action.
And? Though it could use some tightening, this was a powerful piece of theater with overlapping scenes reflecting the inner conflict of the play's protagonist, Ora Fletcher. The entire cast is truly excellent, honest and vulnerable. Well worth seeing.

Denny Dale Bess, Nathan James, and Bjorn DuPaty as Gillette, Gunn, and
Min. Ora Fletcher. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W42: Goodbody, The Thanksgiving Play, Oklahoma!, Plot Points in Our Sexual Development, National Theatre Live: King Lear

10/16/18: Goodbody
What: The Crook Theater Company's first original work, about a woman with no memory, a dead body, a bloody beaten man, all in a barn in upstate New York, with a clock to beat before the consequences come knocking.
And? Full review here.


Raife Baker as Spencer. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

10/17/18: The Thanksgiving Play
What: A school theater director, a street artist, a history teacher, and an LA actress gather together to craft a devised play for the school's Thanksgiving observance, determined to be as progressive and virtue-signaling as possible.
And? It felt, in a way, like a sequel to Playwrights Horizons's earlier Miles for Mary (it even played in the same upstairs space). The actors were good, there were funny moments, but a lot of this play indulges in the cringiest aspects of both tacky careless racism and overly-demonstrative privilege-battling. Not bad, but not for me.

Greg Keller, Jennifer Bareilles, Jeffrey Bean, and Margo Seibert as Jaxton,
Logan, Caden, and Alicia. Photo by Joan Marcus.



Thursday, October 18, 2018

Margin Notes: Goodbody

Amanda Sykes and Raife Baker as Marla
and Spencer. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Seen on: Tuesday, 10/16/18.
My grade: B-

Plot and Background
In a barn in upstate New York, Marla has just shot and killed a man, and in doing so seems to have wiped out most of her memories of her adult life. Spencer, cowering before her and covered in blood and duct-taped injuries, must convince her to lower her weapon and cooperate with a hasty escape from the crime scene. A tangled web of lies, betrayal, and organized crime spirals into a McDonagh/Tarantino-inspired confrontation. Goodbody marks The Crook Theater Company's first original work, written by co-founder J.C. Ernst.

What I Knew Beforehand
Just the basic premise, of a woman with amnesia standing over a dead body.

Thoughts:

Play: My knee-jerk impulse is to tell everyone this play needs a few trigger warnings; but since the opening tableau is a blood-spattered barn, a dead body, a severely injured man in a chair, and a woman firing a gun, perhaps that's all the trigger warning one needs. But just in case: there's a fair amount of torture, violence, and gore in this play, particularly in the back third. There's also a somewhat problematic (not to say disappointing) treatment of mental illness and the too-common crutch of using it as an explanation for violence. And in all honesty, it's hard for me to look past that. The conclusion feels like lazy storytelling, opting for a simpler absurdist explanation, rather than one rooted in character or even the arc of the players at hand. But to give it a fair shake, playwright J.C. Ernst has a good ear for dialog, for finding the humor in the grotesque, and director Melissa Firlit makes able and dynamic use of the intimate space, never making the physicality of the piece feel crowded or inorganic. The show could use some tightening of its beats, and (in my wish) a re-examination of its conclusion, but if you're out for a bloody weird evening this Halloween season, this is a good bet.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W41: King Kong, India Pale Ale, Your Invisible Corset

10/09/18: King Kong
What: It's a musical about King Kong, you guys.
And? Listen, everyone's going for the puppet, so I'll quickly go through the rest and then get to the meat: Terrible writing (not just clunky dialog--though, yes, that too--but so many character beats and moments that were entirely unearned). Questionable choreography choices. Often unintelligible lyrics. Christiani Pitts is pretty good as the lead. Mediocre costume design, not bad set design, excellent projection design, excellent sound design.

The puppet: wow. Gorgeously built and beautifully articulated and specific and (dare I say?) honest in the contemplative moments. The athleticism of the puppeteer crew is also thrilling to watch. However, the big guy can't move very quickly. Sometimes they compensate by staging the action sequences in slo mo, but not always; and when he's not in slo mo, he just seems, well, slow.

Sidenote: my friend (and co-blogger) Daniel and I have terrible luck with Broadway previews. We attended the infamously aborted first preview of Groundhog Day (a show we both loved; after an hour's pause, they resumed as a concert staging); at this performance of King Kong, the show paused for a half hour right before the titular character's first appearance. For both pauses, we were informed that whatever went wrong had never happened before. Obviously, Daniel and I are the common factor here. Our new band name is Technical Difficulty.

King Kong and Christiani Pitts as King Kong and Ann Darrow.
Photo by Joan Marcus.


10/12/18: India Pale Ale
What: Jaclyn Backhaus's new play about a tight-knit Sikh community in Wisconsin, and the rippling effects when one member leaves and a violent outsider invades. 
And? I loved Backhaus's earlier play, Men on Boats (also directed by IPA's Will Davis), but was let down by this show. It felt a little undercooked, both in the writing and the performance (particularly in the first half, I did not believe in the supposedly deeply rooted relationships among the family and friends gathered, and so much of the weight of the second half was lost.

The company. Photo by Joan Marcus.


10/13/18: Your Invisible Corset
What: Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, adapted to modern day and retold through Mina's eyes: Your Invisible Corset examines the stigma surrounding assault survivors, and what self-actualization truly looks like.
And? Full review here.

Patricia Lynn and Patrick T. Horn as Mina Murray-Harker and John Harker.
Photo by Al Foote III.

Margin Notes: Your Invisible Corset

Emily Kitchens as Lucy Westenra.
Photo by Al Foote III.
Your Invisible Corset

Seen on: Saturday, 10/13/18.
My grade: B+

Plot and Background
Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, adapted to modern day and retold through Mina's eyes: Your Invisible Corset examines the stigma surrounding assault survivors, and what self-actualization truly looks like.

What I Knew Beforehand
Only the premise (I've seen several Dracula adaptations, though I've never read the source material). And that I'd reviewed Hunger & Thirst's earlier Pericles: Born in a Tempest.

Thoughts:

Play: Playwright and star Patricia Lynn begins the narrative in medias res (or does she?), with Mina waking in a hospital, unsure of what she remembers and what she doesn't; the play continues to unpack her broken psyche, pulling her into memories that may or may not be hallucinations, guided by her dead friend Lucy, pursued and haunted by Dracula and his servant Renfield. But all is never what it seems and the narrative further deconstructs, as Dracula seduces Mina with promises of autonomy and liberation—freeing her, as he claims, from her invisible corset—all the while tightening his grip on her mind and will. But Mina, a tenured professor and headstrong enough that no man, mystical or otherwise, can keep her shackled, is not content to be the hot potato tossed about in the duel between John Harker and Dracula, nor will she let herself be gaslit or shamed into fear and immobility. Not everything about this updated approach to the story works perfectly, but I was quite taken with the way it attacked and dismantled much of the language of rape culture and emotionally abusive relationships, drawing overt lines between Stoker's original narrative, and conversations happening every day in the public sphere.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W40: The Other, Other Woman, Uncle Romeo Vanya Juliet, Then She Fell

10/04/18: The Other, Other Woman
What: A developmental reading of Emily C. A. Snyder's new verse play about polyamory and love-crossed souls in a small town in 18th century France.
And? A lot of talent and potential. Full review here.

Regina Renee Russell, Chris Rivera, Justy Kosek, Amanda Roberts, Joe Raik,
and Bridget Randolph. Photo by Duncan Pflaster.


10/06/18: Uncle Romeo Vanya Juliet
What: Bedlam's mash-up of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
And? This was not for me, unfortunately. It seemed oddly tame for Bedlam, and the connection between the R&J moments and the more dominant UV moments were not clear. Some good performances, especially from Bedlam regulars Susannah Millonzi and Edmund Lewis, and some interesting choices, but it felt like a lot of missed opportunities.

Randolf Curtis Rand, Zuzanna Szadkowski, Eric Tucker, and Susannah
Millonzi. Photo by Ashley Garrett.


10/07/18: Then She Fell
a repeat visit with friends (2013 review here)

Margin Notes: The Other, Other Woman

Laura Iris Hill as Mother Abbess. Photo by Duncan Pflaster.

Seen on: Thursday, 10/04/18.
My grade: B+

Plot and Background
A developmental reading by Turn to Flesh Productions of Emily C. A. Snyder's new verse play about polyamory and love-crossed souls in a small town in 18th century France.

Disclosure, and
What I Knew Beforehand
I've seen several of my friend Emily's verse plays at this point, so knew we'd be in capable hands, but I had avoided a plot synopsis so I could go in cold. (Continuing disclosure: Not only am I friends with auteur Snyder, I'm also friends with several of the cast members)

Thoughts:

Play: As this was a developmental reading (albeit an extremely polished one) and therefore a work in progress, I thought I would break down my feedback into what worked for me, and what I think could use more work or examination.

What works: Snyder's sparkling wit balanced with sillier humors--she's so clearly happily in her wheelhouse in this medium, and it's a pleasure to witness. The scenes flow swiftly and easily around each other, and the staging is poetic and clear. The polish and clarity of every moment belie all assurances that this is merely a workshop or reading. An able use of the ensemble as storytellers, witnesses, symbols, and people dealing with trying times. An abundance of female roles, of all stripes. When the rhyming couplets break apart into simple and honest speech, the audience takes a collective breath and holds it. The ache of love unexpressed and inexpressible.

What could use some examination: The occasional comic nods to the constraints of rhyming couplets--say, forcing a word into mispronunciation in order to make the rhyme perfect--would land more strongly if there weren't a number of slant rhymes elsewhere. Although the first act seems to champion polyamory, I was a bit disappointed to see that the second act paired nearly everyone off (except the queer characters), rejecting polyamory as an unsustainable option (indeed, Madame Evolette is soundly chastised by her husband Monsieur Beaudemonde for honoring their marriage contract so faithfully by indulging in countless sexual encounters but giving her heart to no one else). I felt uncomfortable watching what seemed like callous treatment of an emotionally unstable woman (played, in the first half, for laughs) and her abusive behavior toward her husband, and even more uncomfortable when that couple makes some fairly ugly choices which they know will make neither of them happy (choices which honestly seemed made in order to achieve a specific end in the plot, rather than following the characters on a journey of growth and change). I was disappointed that, with so many strong, varied, and interesting women portrayed in the piece, their lives all still seem entirely governed by the choices of the two male foils in the narrative, Beaudemonde and Valentine.

There's beautiful potential in this piece, piercing heartache and hilarity both.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W39: The Waverly Gallery

9/27/18: The Waverly Gallery
What: Kenneth Lonergan's memory play about Gladys, a woman slowly succumbing to Alzheimer's, who runs a small obscure gallery on Waverly Place, and how her family copes.
And? I was really really bored. Sorry guys.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W38: Be More Chill, I Was Most Alive With You, Bernhardt/Hamlet, Bigfoot Stole My Wife (and Trudy Carmichael's Character Cabaret)

9/19/18: Be More Chill
What: My easiest allusion to make here is Little Shop of Horrors meets 21st century high school popularity woes. Be More Chill is the new hot show among the youths (who, for the record, were very well behaved during the show), about the lengths to which people will go to achieve popularity. They've already announced a Broadway transfer.
And? It didn't blow me away, but it's fine. Everything felt like it was at level 11, which is a bit exhausting, especially in a relatively intimate space. The cast is funny, though I don't love the timing of the actor who played all the adults (but his bio tells me he's collaborated with the composer for over a decade, so he's not going anywhere). Jason Tam is fantastic as an increasingly glammed-out Keanu-inflected Squip, and it's nice to see a fairly diverse cast. Musically I felt a lot of echoes of this genre's (youth-geared) predecessors (opening number recalling Dear Evan Hansen themes, "The Smartphone Hour" causing simultaneous Bye Bye Birdie and JRB's 13 flashbacks, etc.), which isn't necessarily a criticism (I can still recall many of the melodies days later). I think the show definitely knows its market, and that market is responding with great enthusiasm.


Jason Tam and Will Roland as The Squip and Jeremy. Photo by Maria Baranova.

9/21/18: I Was Most Alive with You
What: Craig Lucas's new play at Playwrights Horizons, inspired by his own struggles with addiction, about a family who must come to a peace with the things they are helpless to change. Taking a heavy allegorical parallel from the Book of Job, I Was Most Alive with You is performed with a shadow cast of Deaf actors, performing the show in ASL (this is not a gimmick: one of the characters, Knox, is Deaf (played by noted Deaf actor Russell Harvard), and another character, Farhad, is losing his hearing.
And? Very powerful theater. Both the ground level cast and the elevated shadow cast were compelling and daringly vulnerable in their performances, making it equally as engaging to watch one cast as the other. Russell Harvard, for whom the play was written, is gut-wrenching and poetic. The beauty of his signed prayer, contrasted with the clumsy but well-intentioned signing of his family, or even the more eloquent signing of the shadow cast, highlights the purity of his soul, and making it ache further, when that beauty is lost. And the ending, you guys, is perfect. Bring tissues.




Monday, September 17, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W37: The Nap, Hamlet (What Dreams May Come); Bonus Content: Disney Magic Cruise

9/13/18: The Nap
What: A new play from One Man, Two Guv'nors scribe Richard Bean, about a competitive snooker player, and the forces around him conspiring to convince him to corrupt his sterling integrity by throwing a game.
And? You guys, I had such high hopes, and nearly all of them were dashed. This play isn't funny or even engaging, the stakes feel completely fabricated, and the only times I (and, to my belief, the rest of the audience) was at all emotionally invested were during the actual snooker matches (filmed from above and livestreamed onto a large screen), conducted by the protagonist and the show's ringer, actual snooker champ Ahmed Aly Elsayed, as his various competitors. The accent work was a mess, and the only solid (and funny) performances were from John Ellison Conlee and one of my favorites, Max Gordon Moore.

Ahmed Aly Elsayed, Ethan Hova, and Ben Schnetzer as Baghawi Quereshi,
Referee, and Dylan Spokes. Photo by Joan Marcus.


9/14/18: Hamlet (What Dreams May Come)
What: Ript Theater Company makes its debut with a 90 minute, four person Hamlet, the story of a tortured Danish Prince who takes his time planning his revenge.
And? While some clarity was lost in the cutting of text and doubling of performers, it was well-produced and gorgeously designed. Full review here.

Nathan Winkelstein, Ade Otukoya, Chauncy Thomas, and Lindsay
Alexandra Carter. Photo by Reiko Yanagi.

Margin Notes: Hamlet (What Dreams May Come)

Nathan Winkelstein and Lindsay Alexandra Carter.
Photo by Reiko Yanagi.

Seen on: Friday, 9/14/18.
My grade: A-

Plot and Background
Ript Theater Company makes its debut with a 90 minute, four person production of Hamlet, following the dissolution of two families as Prince Hamlet plans to exact revenge on his uncle for his father's murder.

What I Knew Beforehand
I knew Hamlet quite well, of course. This was actually my second four person Hamlet, thanks to Bedlam.

Thoughts:

Play: In his director's note, Winkelstein explains that he became most interested in following the destruction of the two families (Hamlet's and Polonius's) and thus pared down the play to eliminate Norway, England, and the inner machinations of the court. Unfortunately with this economic cutting, some important facets of the story do get lost, most especially (regrettably) Hamlet himself as an active player in the drama. It becomes too easy to get caught up instead in Polonius's schemes, as the more proactive plotter at hand. Lost, too, is Horatio's importance, as witness to the action, and sole survivor of the principals (that's more a personal preference, I suppose). It becomes a bit too easy to forget that Hamlet is the main character here, were it not for the fact that he's the one performer in black, and the one performer not doubling. I worry too that the story as told would be unclear to someone not already familiar with the text (I had to remind myself whether Hamlet was speaking to Laertes or Horatio from scene to scene). I'm picking at this a lot because the work otherwise is very very strong. The staging of the show is economic and clear, with smooth transitions for the performers to shift roles, or retreat to corners to observe the action, hoods drawn. Cat Yudain's fight choreography for the duel between Hamlet and Laertes is dynamic and thrilling, and, frankly, better staged than some I've seen on Broadway.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W35: A Sex Thing

*publishing a few days early, as I'll be internet-less for the next week*

8/31/18: A Sex Thing (or, a bunch of liberals getting uptight about the sociopolitical implications of their desires)
What: A three-years-later revival with much of the same creative team of Kati Frazier's play about two couples struggling to connect, both emotionally and sexually, and the delicate balance between what they want and what they think the world thinks they should want. One couple, Ann and David, are dealing with the aftermath of an abusive relationship and a seemingly easy if uneventful co-existence, while the other couple, Stevie and Alice, contend with a hesitant interest in S&M, tempered by a resistance to Stevie's masculine presentation and the patriarchal implications.
And? I was psyched to see this revival because I missed it the first time (and heard nothing but good things about it), and it stars my very good friend (and Rosencrantz), Erin Keskeny. And I'm so glad I was able to catch it this time. I like the frank discussions these characters have, the conviction that while it's not an easy process, open communication is the only way for love and deep relationships to flourish. I understand that in this iteration, the two parallel couples have an awareness of each other they didn't before (before, they ran in tandem/parallel but without acknowledging each other), and I think that could be taken even further, so that it's not just about taking turns during the storytelling monologues (duologues?), but having some sense of conversation in the content - my one complaint would probably be that, without a connection between the duologues, it can be a challenge to follow both threads fully in the moment. However, that connection is more strongly forged in the parallel scenes, throwing both couples into crisis at pivotal and powerful moments. Frazier is a gifted writer and I can't wait to see more from them, and the cast, particularly Keskeny (Ann) and Mia Kang (Stevie) are terrific.


Monday, August 20, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W33: Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties

8/17/18: Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties
What: The play's full title, per the poster and playbill, is Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties; In essence, a queer and occasionally hazardous exploration; do you remember when you were in middle school and you read about Shackleton and how he explored the Antarctic?; imagine the Antarctic as a pussy and it's sort of like that. This long conversational title is a good clue to the additive and irreverent storytelling style of Jen Silverman's play. Five women, all named Betty, and connected daisy-chain style to each other, come together to create a devised theater piece inspired by the Pyramus and Thisbe play-within-a-play of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and discover themselves in the process.
And? I don't quite know how to talk about this show but I will say that I was delighted. I'll also say that while what I wrote above could technically be the plot, it's not really what the show is about. It eschews traditionally plot beats, but gives instead a collection of scenes, strange and earnest, silly and absurd, of the Betties interacting, discovering themselves. I think if you're a big theater nerd like me, you'll adore this, too. Protip: above the playing space are projected the scene title names, which stack their clauses until they're as long as the play's full title. Sitting in the second row, I had difficulty tipping my head up and catching everything, so I'd recommend sitting a bit farther back.



Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W31: Surfacing

8/03/18: Surfacing
What: Part of the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, Surfacing is about surviving damage, whether inwardly or outwardly inflicted, and the connections made and broken on that journey. Marissa may have survived her suicide attempt, but with a metal rod holding her hip together and a sense of humor so dark she can't see a helping hand in front of her face, she's got a long road ahead of her before happiness is a possibility. When her sister, who's come to live with her through her recovery, convinces her to give Tinder a try, they both find some unexpected results.
And? Having worked with both playwright Mike Poblete and director Daniella Caggiano before, I was psyched to get to see their collaboration, and I was not disappointed. Poblete's writing is full of so many surprises, both hilarious and poignant (Marissa, a painter, talks about the pain of being able to see forever but not being able to be in it). Caggiano directs the performers with a sure but delicate hand, letting the quiet moments breathe, and not backing down from the intensity of confrontation. All four actors are wonderful, and the show is performed well within the limitations of a festival setting (I believe they had less than half an hour to transition from the show prior): I can only imagine how much richer this will be with full production.

Joey Donnelly, Suzannah Herschkowitz, Montana Lampert Hoover,
and Jak Watson as Atticus, Marissa, Chelsea, and Jed. Photo by Mike Poblete.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W30: Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope, Gettin' the Band Back Together

7/25/18: Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope
What: New York City Center's Encores! Off-Center summer series concludes with Micki Grant and Vinnette Carroll's Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope, an ecclectic revue from the early 1970s covering a wide spectrum of experience within the Black community in the States.
And? Helmed by Savion Glover as both director and choreographer, and with a few pointedly updated references mixed in, Don't Bother Me is at times joyous, at times defiant, playful, contemplative, but always full-throated and dynamically staged. Particularly memorable were the strident "They Keep Coming," the proud "My Name is Man," and the titular finale.

Wayne Pretlow and the company. Photo by Joan Marcus.


7/26/18: Gettin' the Band Back Together
What: A new musical by Ken Davenport and The Grundleshotz (a group of performers and writers) about an unemployed stockbroker who returns to his mother's house in Sayreville, New Jersey and is goaded by his old nemesis and current slumlord into getting his old high school band back together to challenge him in the Battle of the Bands.
And? Two perspectives: one, the crowd around me laughed and gave an almost immediate standing ovation during curtain call; two, I mostly didn't care. The story was too derivative, which could be fine if the jokes were more surprising. As the villain Tygen Billows, Brandon Williams is very funny, and I think if the show were a bit better written, he could really make something memorable out of it. I try not to get too snarky here (except if I'm trashing Annie or Eugene O'Neill, but both of them are old as velociraptors, and they can take it), so I'll just say that during the bulk of the show I remained indifferent, which is a pity.

Manu Narayan, Jay Klatitz, Paul Whitty, Sawyer Nunes, and Mitchell Jarvis
as Rummesh "Robbie" Patel, Bart Vickers, Sully Sullivan, Ricky Bling,
and Mitch Papadopoulos. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W29: The Boys in the Band, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, As You Like It, The Damned

7/16/18: The Boys in the Band
What: Fifty years after its Off-Broadway premiere, Mart Crowley's groundbreaking play about the homosexual lifestyle in the 1960s makes its Broadway debut. Michael and his friends throw a birthday party for Michael's frenemy, Harold, but the party is crashed by Michael's straight and conservative college roommate, Alan. Alcohol flows freely, and resentments and jealousies rise to the surface.
And? At the time of its initial production, this play went a long way toward building empathy for the gay community from the larger heteronormative world. Today, it is more of a time capsule, especially when we consider just how much this lifestyle was demolished by the AIDS crisis less than twenty years later (five the original cast members, as well as the director and one of the producers, died during the crisis). The cast is excellent, with Robin de Jesus as a particular standout (when isn't he?), and the humor is biting and funny, but it's also got a caustic and unpleasant edge to it, and it's very hard to get past some of the slurs the characters toss off carelessly. I get it, and I know people talked (and still talk) this way, but it's hard for me to maintain empathy for someone who calls his friend the N word multiple times.


Robin de Jesus, Michael Benjamin Washington, Andrew Rannells, and
Jim Parsons as Emory, Bernard, Larry, and Michael. Photo by Joan Marcus.

7/18/18: On A Clear Day You Can See Forever
What: Irish Repertory's revival of Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner's 1966 musical about Daisy, a young woman with a slight case of ESP who, under hypnosis, becomes Melinda, an elegant and romantic woman in 18th century England. Dr. Bruckner, her psychiatrist/hypnotist becomes infatuated with Melinda, while Daisy develops a crush of her own.
And? Talk about a show not aging well. The romance in this story, such as it is, is unpleasant, unearned, and ethically gross. And because it's an Alan Jay Lerner show, the male lead has a monologue bemoaning the irrationality of women. I have to wonder how palatable this was in the 60s, because it sure wasn't palatable to me when I saw it, lovely music or no. I read online that there was a revised production seven years back, which I missed, that split Daisy/Melinda into David and Melinda (casting a man as David, a woman as Melinda). This sounds interesting, and perhaps a cool touch to add the queer bent to it, though it means losing the virtuosity of the Daisy/Melinda doubling, which I imagine was the primary charm of the original production, with Barbara Harris in the role. As for Daisy/Melinda, Melissa Errico is delightful, on another level from the rest of the company. There's a definite pleasure in hearing the cast sing the score sans mic (and they sound terrific), but the acting is inconsistent otherwise.

Stephen Bogardus and Melissa Errico as Dr. Mark Bruckner and Daisy
Gamble. Photo by Carol Rosegg.



Margin Notes: As You Like It

Lily Waldron and Caroline Aimetti
as Phebe and Celia. Photo by
Andy Ingalls.

Seen on: Saturday, 7/21/18.
My grade:  A+

Plot and Background
Rosalind and Celia are close as two cousins can be, even though Celia's usurping Duke father sent Rosalind's usurped Duke father into exile in the Forest of Arden. However, Duke Frederick is temperamental and banishes Rosalind soon after, as well as a young man named Orlando. Luckily for all of us, Orlando and Rosalind have recently fallen in love with each other, so when they meet again in the forest (she now in disguise as young man), she tutors him in the proper ways of wooing. And that's just the A plot. Hamlet Isn't Dead presents As You Like It as part of its ongoing mission to present the entire Shakespeare canon in chronological order.

What I Knew Beforehand
As we all know, I am a habitual and enthusiastic audience member/reviewer for Hamlet Isn't Dead's playful and music-filled productions. I've seen a few productions of this play, so had an idea of what to expect.

Thoughts:

Play: Another tight, terrific, and tuneful comedy from the Hamlet Isn't Dead crew. Director David Andrew Laws stages the show in the round, with twinkle lights strung overhead and a squishy moss floor below, and keeps the pace swift and free-wheeling, as characters cross - and skirt - paths throughout the forest while accompanied by live music (courtesy of Anna Stacy's Amiens and others). He achieves a sweet and joyful condensing of the comedy (the most significant cut, for any purists, is anything involving Touchstone and Audrey; and the biggest shuffle is a reordering of much of Jaques's material to allow him to be our shepherd through the show), keeping Rosalind at the center as the unassuming mastermind of much of the goings on in a place she barely knows.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W28: Gone Missing, Straight White Men, The Play That Goes Wrong, Head Over Heels

7/11/18: Gone Missing
What: New York City Center's Encores! Off-Center summer series continues with Gone Missing, a musical based on interviews with real people about lost items, by The Civilians's Artistic Director Steve Cosson and recently deceased Michael Friedman.
And? I really do enjoy The Civilians's style and aesthetic. This was enjoyable, funny, and often touching, taking me by surprise a few times. Glad I caught it.

Susan Blackwell, with John Behlmann, Deborah S. Craig, and
David Ryan Smith. Photo by Stephanie Berger.


7/12/18: Straight White Men
What: Downtown playwright Young Jean Lee's Broadway debut, Straight White Men attempts to find an empathetic insight into the plight of the Straight White Man, as organized and framed by two Persons in Charge, both of whom are genderfluid or nonbinary. The plot of the play tracks a family at Christmas, three grown sons visiting their father; aware of their privilege as Straight White Men, they work to stay #woke (including playing a game called Privilege, built from the skeleton of a Monopoly board), but can't seem to reconcile the seeming failure of the eldest brother who, rather that capitalizing on his early potential, has moved home with their father and is working a temp job.
And? At a recent conference, I heard someone cite this adage about American theater (I can't find the source right now): if a man is unhappy, it's society failing him; if a woman is unhappy, that's her own failing. What's interesting here is the reversal: younger brothers Jake and Drew have decided that since Matt is unmotivated, unambitious, he must also be unhappy, and that the fault for that unhappiness lies in him. What's frustrating is how they repeatedly try to explain him to each other, not letting him speak for himself. What's charming (when everyone's not fighting) is the family dynamic: these boys love playing their games, calling back to old jokes and routines, and the performers are at their most delightful and charismatic in these moments. There's a lot in this show that works, and it's a well-moving ride, but I wonder if the thesis is fully realized yet. It's still an interesting examination, that no matter how progressive these men strive to be, they're still holding themselves to standards of performance and male ambition where growth is the only success and stagnation the truest sign of character fault.




7/13/18: The Play That Goes Wrong
a repeat visit (taking a friend)

7/14/18: Head Over Heels
a repeat visit (taking a friend)

Monday, July 9, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W27: Pass Over, Log Cabin

7/04/18: Pass Over
What: Moses and Kitch, two young black men, pass the time on an empty street under a lamppost, sleeping in shifts, sharing a hoodie and keeping watch. When the night comes, they banter, they dream, they plan for their escape to the promised land, and they keep alert for any passing policemen - the only danger they fear, and one that keeps them trembling. Per the program, this play takes place "Now. Right now. But also 1855. But also 13th century BCE ... A ghetto street. A lamppost. Night. But also a plantation. But also Egypt, built by slaves."
And? The program includes an insert with a note from playwright Antoinette Nwandu, listing some of the play's influences. Waiting for Godot, obviously, makes the list. Also listed are Exodus 7-12, Ava DuVernay's documentary 13th, Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?" routine, and the "Dashcam Video of Philando Castille Shooting." This play has a lot of humor and heart, but there is no escaping that it is fundamentally about institutionalized violence against black men. And there should be no escaping that confrontation. It needs to be confronted. As I left the theater, I saw two women discussing it: the white woman asked the black women what she thought; the black woman raised her eyebrows and said wryly that it was nothing she didn't already know. If theater is a place for creating empathy, then this is a play that more people, especially white people, need to see. The fear that keeps Moses and Kitch trembling and still, arms raised, at just the hint that a policeman might be near, is as shocking to some as it must be self-evident to others. Empathy must be built, both in the theater, and especially in the world, so that the same helpless rage fills everyone, when Moses demands of the policeman, "Stop killing us!"

Not listed among the influences, but another clear reference, was the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood; and as I watched, I thought of how stories about the Big Bad Wolf led to wolves landing on the endangered species list. A creature is labeled a menacing predator and a danger to all, is hunted, is killed. Here in Pass Over, a white man (a walking embodiment of optimism, he sings "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin" with no irony, confident that "everything's goin' [his] way") accidentally wanders onto Moses and Kitch's block, carrying a picnic basket full of food for his mother. But it is clear that Moses and Kitch fear his presence far more than he could ever fear theirs (also, notably: the red hood in this case is the hoodie shared by the two men).

Clearly this play gave me many thoughts. It's devastating. It's excellently crafted and carefully built. Nwandu is a gifted voice directed impeccably by Danya Taymor. The three actors, Jon Michael Hill, Namir Smallwood, and Gabriel Ebert, are perfect. The design, too, is brilliant, simultaneously pointed and subtle (Wilson Chin, Sets; Sarafina Bush, Costumes; Marcus Doshi, Lighting; Justin Ellington, Sound).

Jon Michael Hill and Namir Smallwood as Moses and Kitch.
Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

7/05/18: Log Cabin
What: Speaking of empathy, that's a capitalized word in Log Cabin, which tracks the friendship between two married couples (two gay men, two lesbians) and their trans friend in the halcyon years just prior to our current administration. Tensions arise as empathy is tested and privilege is confronted.
And? In the context of the current Scarlett Johansson nonsense, I was very pleased to see that at least New York theater is making some strides, casting actual trans actors in trans roles. The play itself, while witty and quick-moving, left me a bit tired: I wouldn't want to be friends with any of these people, competing to see who is the most marginalized, who has the least privilege.

Ian Harvie, Dolly Wells, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Phillip James Brannon,
and Cindy Cheung as Henry, Jules, Ezra, Chris, and Pam.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W26: Head Over Heels, Conflict, Songs For a New World, Mary Page Marlowe, Godspell, Hamilton

6/25/18: Head Over Heels
What: In Arcadia, King Basilius rules with a stubborn but benevolent-ish hand. But when Arcadia's new Oracle warns of four prophecies which could bring ruin to the land, Basilius flees the kingdom and the curse (with his entire family and court retinue in tow). Hijinks (sooooo many hijinks) ensue when his daughter's shepherd suitor Musidorus secretly dons an Amazon's costume to join the royal progress and basically the entire family falls in love with him/her. Head Over Heels takes its score from the songs of the groundbreaking punk group, The Go-Go's (known for "We Got the Beat" and "Heave Is a Place on Earth," among others).
And? Let's go on a journey. You hear there's another jukebox musical coming, this one using the Go-Go's song catalog. You roll your eyes, but it's on tdf and you like when people break into song in general, so you buy a ticket. You think you know what you're in for: another Margaritaville with a bland, cliche-ridden story and an audience filled with people who know the songs they're about to hear waaaaaay better than you do (you're right about the second part only). Guys, this thing was so joyous, so delightfully intersectionally queer, so downright silly, and I had a fantastic time. I laughed really loudly, I clapped enthusiastically (instead of merely politely), I even teared up at one point (NO ONE saw that coming). Sporting a book by Tony winner Jeff Whitty, directed by also Tony winner Michael Mayer, and featuring a fucking hilarious and talented cast (including Broadway's first principal role originated by a trans woman), Head Over Heels is a giddy fever dream of a Shakespeare-meets-Greek-comedy, full of cross-dressing, sapphic love, and absolutely zero invalidation of anyone's gender or sexuality (did I mention the non-binary plural Oracle, Pythio?). I didn't realize until I saw this show how thirsty I've been for a feel-good musical that wasn't shit. It's been a hot minute since Come From Away, you know?


Taylor Iman Jones as Mopsa, with the company. Photo by Joan Marcus.

6/27/18: Conflict
What: Conflict begins when the privileged decadence of the 1920s is confronted with the harder truths of poverty and desperation. Major Sir Ronald Clive is running for office on the conservative ticket, and is surprised to see a former Cambridge classmate, Tom Smith, less than two years after being reduced to begging for food and lodging, cleaned up and running against him for the labour party. The Lady Dare Bellingdon, sometime-paramour of Clive, begins to question her long-held but barely examined convictions as she befriends and confronts Smith.
And? Mint Theater Company's mission is to produce "worthwhile plays from the past that have been lost or forgotten." This yields, in general, a rather mixed bag. This production, however, though it showed the same creaking signs that a lot of the old plays at Mint do, also felt timely in a rather bittersweet way: a longing for the days (did they exist?) when politicians ran on principles rather than personalities, leaving pettiness at the door. I found myself more invested than I expected, especially considering that this was more an ideas-play than anything else (particularly as each side of the political conflict argued his point). But I credit the even hand in the writing of both sides, the belief in integrity which underlines much of the worldview, and the earnestness of the performers, particularly Jeremy Beck and Henry Clarke as the two candidates, and Jessie Shelton as the woman who begins to think. And I was impressed that, though this play is focused on the affairs of men, it is the woman at the center who grows and changes, who truly pushes the action of the play forward. Not bad for a play almost 100 years old.

Jessie Shelton, Jeremy Beck, and Graeme Malcolm as The Lady Dare
Bellngdon, Tom Smith, and Lord Bellingdon. Photo by Todd Cerveris.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Weekly Margin 2018, W25: Girls & Boys, Little Rock, Fire in Dreamland

6/19/18: Girls & Boys
What: An import from The West End's Royal Court Theatre, Dennis Kelly's Girls & Boys is a one woman show, split between an audience-address monologue and memories of raising her children at home. An exploration of family, self-knowledge, and the nature of violence.
And? Absolutely incredible performance from Carey Mulligan - it seemed less a performance and more a real person speaking to us. The marriage of Es Devlin's set design and Luke Halls's video design was elegant and stunning, a beautiful physicalization of the Woman's journey. Kelly's script is well-built and well-directed by Lyndsey Turner.

Carey Mulligan as Woman. Photo by Marc Brenner.


6/20/18: Little Rock
What: A play with music about The Little Rock Nine, nine black teenagers who broke segregation at Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. Per the program note, the play is "based on research, numerous testimonials, and interviews conducted over a 13-year period."
And? The cast wasn't bad, but the script had the subtlety of an anvil. This was such an important moment in our country's pockmarked history of race relations and discrimination, and I wanted something more out of it than a pedestrian series of scenes explaining the conflict.

Damian Jermaine Thompson,  Rebekah Brockman, Charlie Hudson III,
Stephanie Umoh, Justin Cunningham, Peter O'Connor, Shanice Williams,
and Anita Welch as the Little Rock Nine. Photo by Carol Rosegg.