Monday, June 17, 2019

Weekly Margin 2019, W24: Improvised Shakespeare, Othello[s], Fairview

6/10/19: Improvised Shakespeare
What: A troupe of five players improvise a ninety-minute play in iambic pentameter (ish), based on a suggestion from the audience, using familiar Shakespeare tropes, style, and structure.
And? A delightfully silly romp through Athens in "The Philosopher's Revenge."




6/14/19: Othello[s]
What: Shakespeare Forum's centerpiece of its annual El Barrio's Shakespeare Festival, a re-examination and deconstruction of the tragedy in a variety of iterations and perspectives (Roderigo, Desdemona, Iago/Emilia, and finally Othello himself), with the performers switching roles for each iteration.
And? I know this phrasing isn't terribly helpful to outsiders, but I love how forum the last several Forum productions have been: leaning in to the unique qualities of individual performers to inform the characters portrayed, rather than trying to slot bodies into predetermined personality slots. It yields such heartbreaking honesty, such  simple and clear work, and surprising new relationships. Of especial note here were the different colors visible in Iago, depending on whose lens he appeared in: the Alpha friend to Roderigo, bossy and athletic and confident; the kind if somewhat snarky ally to Desdemona, his duplicity never revealed; the man in the midst of a crisis, unsure of what is true or if everything is true, to himself (I had issues with this iteration, compelling as it was, with whether it is actually Othello; the other three were still Othello, if that makes sense); and the Puck-ish sidekick whose treachery is only at the last revealed, to Othello. I love the first half of this production (Roderigo and Desdemona) and had some issues with the second half, but I also knew that the Iago section had to break the pattern somehow, and was pleased that it did, and did it so thoroughly. Some final quick highlights: Ari Dalbert's heartbreakingly confused Roderigo meeting his death, and Antonio Disla's brash and charismatic Iago delivering his death blow, then leaving him to die alone; Kia Nicole Boyer was honestly my favorite Desdemona I've seen (she also made a good Othello in a later cycle), and I loved the honest love between her and Amara James Aja's Othello; Tyler Moss's precision and active presence as a performer: he's the kind of living actor we all want to be, reacting in the moment to the moment, alive and honest; a small moment containing a world of story: Sara Malinowski's Desdemona in the final cycle, approaching the curtained bedchamber, hesitating, just a moment, as if remember the devastation within those four posters in a previous life.

Kia Nicole Boyer and Sara Malinowski as Desdemona and Emilia in the
Desdemona cycle. Photo by Allison Stock.



Monday, June 10, 2019

Weekly Margin 2019, W23: Mac Beth, A Strange Loop

6/04/19: Mac Beth
What: Red Bull's new production of Shakespeare's tragedy, as directed and adapted by Erica Schmidt: seven schoolgirls gather in an abandoned lot to play-act the story of Macbeth, with menacing undertones.
And? Seconding Wendy Caster's review on Show Showdown: the idea of another high-concept Shakespeare can get a bit tiring, but this one absolutely worked, I think in large part because concept aside, the Shakespeare was so clear. The text was economically trimmed down, but entertaining and clear, the relationships were beautiful crafted (honestly the most loving Mac and Lady Mac I've ever seen), the entire cast is ridiculously talented, and the concept enhanced, rather than got in the way of, the actual story being told. As the dramaturgical notes in the program warn us (well, those of us who had a chance to read them), there is a bit more at play than seven girls telling each other a story, and I definitely have some thoughts about the pluses and minuses of that bit more; but overall this was such excellent execution, with a much stronger demarcation of the influence of the three Witches on the proceedings, that really enriched the whole thing for me. By the time this posts, the production will have closed, but I'm glad I got to catch it before it did.

AnnaSophia Robb and Sophie Kelly-Hedrick as the two Murderers.
Photo by Carol Rosegg.


6/07/19: A Strange Loop
What: Playwrights Horizons presents Michael R. Jackson's (deep breath) musical about a black, queer musical theater writer writing a musical about a black, musical theater writer writing a musical about ... you get it. Though he assured us at the talkback it's not autobiographical so much as it occasionally borrows from the truth.
And? Hot damn, this was brilliant. Sondheim-level cleverness-meets-neurosis in the faster songs (to say nothing of the pastiche). Angry and hilarious and painful and the full gamut, with a transformative space and a crazy talented ensemble.

Larry Owens, center, and the cast as Usher and his Thoughts.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

My Annually Inaccurate Tony Predictions

RIP Head Over Heels
The Tony Awards are this weekend, which means I'm legally obligated to have an opinion about who should win, and who should suffer. It's been another kind of weird season for me (well, for Broadway). Not a lot of shows really blew me out of the water, though most shows at least had some element that really stood out, be it design (King Kong) or performance (the Best Featured Actress in a Musical category is a surfeit of riches, with the resulting heartbreak that there are some notable omissions there: I thought Beetlejuice's Leslie Kritzer was a shoe-in for a nomination, and even people who hated the delightful Head Over Heels walked away talking about how brilliant Bonnie Milligan was).

Other disappointing omissions (at least for me) included the stellar work in Lifespan of a Fact and Mike Birbiglia's The New One, as well as Michael Urie's performance in Torch Song. I was surprised that Mockingbird  wasn't nominated for Best Play, especially in light of its other nominations, but that could be due to Scott Rudin being rather an impolitic tool.


Let's get to it!

Monday, June 3, 2019

Weekly Margin 2019, W22: Octet, The Prom

5/31/19: Octet
What: Dave Malloy's new a cappella musical at Signature, and it's really best if I don't spoil anything further about the content.
And? Holy crap, this was incredible. Thrilling vocals, honest and understated performances, and just an utterly brilliant execution of a concept that, in lesser hands, could have been cynical and clumsy. An astonishing evening at the theater, a truly special show that I'm so grateful I got to see. (also if they don't record me a cast album, I will cry)

The cast of Octet. Photo by Joan Marcus.


6/01/19: The Prom
a repeat visit (family in town)