Monday, May 13, 2019

Weekly Margin 2019, W19: Burn This, Ink, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, All My Sons, High Button Shoes

5/07/19: Burn This
What: The second major NYC revival of Lanford Wilson's play about the many shapes of grief after a sudden loss.
And? Lanford Wilson is a playwright who's had a big impact on me, and I was excited to see a major revival of one of his plays, especially as it's one I've only read. This was a fairly decent production, though it didn't solve the puzzle the play has always had for me: why does she find Pale so appealing when he's so terribly awful so much of the time? What is it in him that is speaking to her? That aside, I thought it was very well directed and well paced, with great sound and scenic design (*glares angrily at the mess that is Sam Gold's King Lear*), and Brandon Uranowitz was absolute scene-stealing perfection as Larry, and I'm so glad he got a Tony nom for this.

David Furr, Keri Russell, and Brandon Uranowitz as Burton, Anna, and Larry.
Photo by Matthew Murphy.

5/08/19: Ink
What: A transfer from the West End: James Graham's play about the first year of Rupert Murdoch's ownership of the British tabloid The Sun, and his collaboration with editor Larry Lamb.
And? Terrific theater. Great rhythm, great staging, GREAT design, sharp writing, and a good cast anchored by Bertie Carvel and Jonny Lee Miller. It was interesting watching this, and thinking about how differently it must have played for a UK audience, where they're more familiar with The Sun, as well as with the real people portrayed in the play (I'd only heard of Murdoch, but none of the others). That being said, it still plays well here, just with less of the Greek tragedy element, of everyone watching knowing where this all is going. Pointed references toward the end, of Murdoch's support for this up-and-comer Margaret Thatcher, or his intention to go into television in the U.S., resonated more with our crowd, however. I was surprised, ultimately, at how sympathetically both Murdoch and Lamb were portrayed, the doubts and hesitations they had along the way. I suppose the point is no one starts out a monster; but we see the choices they make, and how monstrous they can become.

Andrew Durand, David Wilson Barnes, Rana Roy, Bill Buell, Eden Marryshow,
Jonny Lee Miller, Bertie Carvel, Tara Summers, Colin McPhillamy, Robert
Stanton, Erin Neufer, and Kevin Pariseu. Photo by Joan Marcus.

5/10/19: Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune
What: A revival of the Terrence McNally two-hander about two lost souls deciding whether or not to fall in love, at three in the morning.
And? Gorgeously acted by Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon, with a marvelous scenic and lighting design by Riccardo Hernandez and Natasha Katz, respectively. It's not a show I'm gaga over, but each act managed to end on a very moving note, and sometimes that's all you need. (on a personal note, I was also thrilled to be witnessing my friend Claire Warden's Broadway debut in this production, as the Intimacy and Fight Director.)

5/11/19: All My Sons
What: Roundabout's revival of the Arthur Miller play about two families a few years after the end of the second world war, the things they did to survive, and the echoing repercussions.
And? It wasn't as dull and bloodless as Roundabout revivals often are, but it also wasn't anywhere near breathtaking. While Benjamin Walker did great work as Chris, I felt like the rest of the cast were going a bit through the motions; I could actually see them entering on cue, as if from a void, rather than people who exist in a world beyond this backyard and who are not only entering a space but exiting another with a purpose. Just oy. Additionally, this was my first exposure to the play, which made the unpacking of the story and backstory engaging, at least, though my god is it a morally depressing piece of work. Just when you think a character is going to take responsibility for his actions, to face the consequences, when we finally understand what the title of the play means, and the beautiful heartache of the sentiment, he chickens out again because he's nothing but a cowardly little shit. I'm getting a bit done with the Great American Playwrights.

Tracy Letts, Benjamin Walker, and Annette Bening as Joe Keller, Chris Keller,
and Kate Keller. Photo by Joan Marcus.

5/12/19: High Button Shoes
What: New York City Center's Encores! series ends its season with Jule Styne's 1947 Broadway debut, originally a vehicle for Phil Silvers.
And? A bit anemic, though not spare on talent. It felt like Music Man Lite, even though it predates that show by a decade. Encores has offered a less-than-engaging crop this season, unfortunately.

Michael Urie and the company. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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