Monday, April 29, 2019

Weekly Margin 2019, W17: Lady in the Dark

4/25/19: Lady in the Dark
What: Master Voices's concert staging of the Weill/Gershwin/Hart musical play about psychoanalysis.
And? This was very good timing for me, as my dad and I are working on final revisions on a paper which covers this show in addition to Man of La Mancha, next to normal, and Anyone Can Whistle. It's a weird show with two really memorable showstoppers toward the end, rendered wonderfully by David Pittu and Victoria Clark. The cast is good, the costumes are sumptuous, and the sound design leaves much to be desired.

Ben Davis, Victoria Clark, and Christopher Innvar as Randy Curtis, Liza
Elliott, and Charley Johnson. Photo by Richard Termine.

Also, and I know this is totally off-brand for this particular blog, but I saw Endgame this weekend and no spoilers, but damn was that a satisfying conclusion to eleven years of MCU.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Weekly Margin 2019, W16: Stephen Mosher: The Story Teller, Nantucket Sleigh Ride, Tootsie

4/19/19: Stephen Mosher: The Story Teller
What: My friend Stephen Mosher's cabaret, a mix of songs that make him happy and stories from his career, and his family.
And? Absolutely lovely. Stephen is an engaging storyteller (and oh boy, does he have some good stories to tell) with a sweet voice and a disarming humor. I missed the last time he did a cabaret, so I'm grateful I got to catch it this time around.

Stephen Mosher. Photo by Bob Bowen.

4/20/19: Nantucket Sleigh Ride
What: Lincoln Center presents a new work by John Guare, a memory play about a memory play where the memory of everything is incredibly fallible (I think?).
And? I really don't know what to make of this play. It felt deliberately incoherent. John Larroquette seemed almost apologetic at curtain call. There was some talent in the cast (Douglas Sills and Will Swenson were both delightful, but what were they in?) amidst the confusion, but the whole play was just annoying coy about everything.

John Larroquette and Will Swenson as Edmund Gowery and McPhee.
Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Weekly Margin 2019, W15: [King Lear], Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma!, What the Constitution Means to Me

4/09/19: [King Lear]
What: Glenda Jackson stars in and Sam Gold directs a new production of Shakespeare's tragedy
And? Oh boy, what a mess. Glenda Jackson is great, but the rest ... what a mess. There's no unity in performance style (or consistent scansion), the designers don't seem to have been in any kind of conversation with each other (or maybe the sound designer just never noticed how the sound bounced off the walls of the gilt box set), the costume designer seems to have some beef with Elizabeth Marvel because what was that cut and color palate, and if there was any unifying vision for the production or any specific story being told, I couldn't find it. I'm starting to think Sam Gold is the latest naked emperor, that Annie Baker's John and the musical Fun Home were good despite his influence, because between this and his nonsense production of Glass Menagerie, I don't really see a coherent storyteller. And I am so extremely tired of putting up with directors who don't take into account all sightlines. We were in the extreme side seating, yes, and the Cort Theatre is a notorious beast for its side seats, but you know what? Rebecca Taichman's production of Indecent didn't neglect any of those seats. It can be done. So I'm done with directors who are too lazy to figure out how. There were entire scenes that took place along the side wall of the box set that I couldn't see. I checked my ticket. Nowhere was it stamped with the phrase "Partial View." The whole thing felt like a waste of everyone's time, energy, and money.

Glenda Jackson as King Lear. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.

4/11/19: Fiddler on the Roof
What: The new production of Shraga Friedman's Yiddish translation of Fiddler transfers to Stage 42 after a celebrated and sold out run at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
And? Guys, please don't be scared off by the not-in-English aspect (for one, there's supertitles; for two, the performances are so honest and clear, you'll get it anyway). This is hands down the best production of Fiddler I have ever seen. I have never been so moved, so invested in the story of Anatevke, and of Tevye and his family, as I was here. Every moment, every choice, was so specific and honest and personal, from Tevye's wry but loyal regard for Der Fidler (the personification of "Traditsye"), to his trusting but injured relationship with God, to his deeply-felt love for every member of his family (honestly, this is the first time I've ever seen how much Tevye needs to know the answer when he asks Golde if she loves him). I was quietly crying for much of the show, at the love in these characters, at the ache, at the banked fear, and with the grim knowledge of how much worse is to come. But I'll tell you something else: I often think of the tone of the finale as one of grim acceptance and quiet despair; here for the first time I saw a new tone in tandem with these: the will to survive. This will not be the end for these people--they won't let it be. They will not be erased.

Steven Skybell, center, as Tevye with the cast.
Photo by Victor Nechay/ProperPix.

4/12/19: Oklahoma!
a repeat visit

4/13/19: What the Constitution Means to Me
a repeat visit

Monday, April 8, 2019

Weekly Margin 2019, W14: Beetlejuice, Hadestown, Hamlet

4/02/19: Beetlejuice
What: A musical adaptation of the Tim Burton classic about a dead couple haunted by a new family taking over their home, and the demon who just wants to be loved (and to be allowed to destroy everything).
And? We saw it in previews, which means they're probably still tinkering before the official opening on April 25th. The show is uneven, but when it's good it's really good (and when it's not, it's bloated). Fantastic work by the entire design team. There's a lot of cleverness in the songs (though the ballads are more repetitive than clever--I think the writers have difficulty balancing the very dark humor with an attempt at heart). It runs the standard musical length, 2.5 hours, but it feels longer, and some filler still needs to be removed, from both book and score. Strangely, the two least successful musical numbers are the two Harry Belafonte songs from the film. They just don't stop the show the way you expect them to (the way Miss Argentina's "If I Knew Then What I Know Now" does). (speaking of, Miss Argentina is an uncredited doubling by Leslie Kritzer, who absolutely steals the show as Delia and is my favorite) The cast is pretty good (including NY favorites like Alex Brightman, Sophia Anne Caruso, Kerry Butler, and Rob McClure), wisely not trying to recreate the iconic performances in the film, but finding their own way in (the story, too, deviates from the source material on a number of points, so it's best to go in with an open mind). Also, if you're thinking this is a kid-friendly show, keep in mind what kids you'll be bringing. Because our title character says "Fuck Brigadoon," and he means it.

Alex Brightman, Rob McClure, Kerry Butler, Sophia Anne Caruso, Leslie
Kritzer, and Adam Dannheisser as Beetlejuice, Adam, Barbara, Lydia, Delia,
and Charles. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

4/04/19: Hadestown
What: A new musical adaptation of the Orpheus and Euridice myth, written by Anaïs Mitchell and developed and directed by Rachel Chavkin.
And? I adored Chavkin's production of The Great Comet to so many pieces, and I've heard nothing but good hype about this, so perhaps those expectations set me up for a bit of disappointment. Don't get me wrong, the show isn't bad. But it didn't blow me away. It could just be that there was a bit of a void with the two lead performers and their story. I was way more invested in the estranged-to-reconciled arc between Persephone and Hades (a show-stealing Amber Gray and an always wonderful Patrick Page dropping to the bottom of his range to do his best Leonard Cohen--they both had better get Tony noms for this). The design is gorgeous, particularly when the space breaks (Rachel Chavkin does like to break her plays), and the muscular staging and choreography is meticulously perfect (those Fates! those harmonies! Like three voices and bodies with but one guiding mind, are Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, and Kay Trinidad). The one other complaint I'll voice: we were very close, which is amazing, but in the side section. The stage pictures in this production are very much front-facing proscenium stage pictures, but they do not favor the side-seating, so I didn't get the full visual experience that some others were getting. All this to say: people are loving this show, audibly weeping through it. I had some issues, but I won't tell you not to see it.

Amber Gray and the National Theatre cast. Photo by Helen Maybanks.