5/08/23: Grey House
What: A new play by Levi Holloway about a couple who, after crashing their car in a blizzard, find refuge in a strange house hosted by a moody woman, four teenage girls, and a quiet nameless boy. And then more strange stuff happens.
And? I'm still mulling over what I think of this. The cast is fantastic and properly creepy, the production is really well-designed (all the tricks and magic are very effective), but when the mystery of the house and its inhabitants is finally revealed, it's not quite a satisfying enough clarity. I might appreciate this more when I get a chance to read over the script, but until then, it leaves me a bit unsatisfied. Still, it's fun and rare to see a creepy play on Broadway, and I'm definitely here for commercial theater expanding its repertoire. (Representation notes: it's nice to see some Deaf representation with Millicent Simmonds as Bernie, but damn this is a super white cast, and it didn't need to be)
5/09/23: & Juliet
What: The Broadway transfer of the West End jukebox musical, wherein Shakespeare's wife decides to rewrite the ending of Romeo & Juliet to let Juliet survive and discover herself. Husband and wife battle over control of the narrative, so many amazing hijinks ensue, and it's all set to the chart toppers by Max Martin (and friends).
And? This show is a goddamn delight, start to finish. Every single cast member is living their best life, and inviting us to join in on the fun. Somehow everyone's comic timing is spot on (props to director Luke Sheppard), their voices are top-notch, and it's just all so beautifully packaged (god, I love Paloma Young's costume design: a playful blend of Renaissance and contemporary, and every single character is wearing sneakers made to move). Lorna Courtney delivers a career-making performance as Juliet: playful, intense, empathetic, and a voice to shake the rafters. Betsy Wolfe is always delightful but she really gets to show her comedy and range as Anne/April. Justin David Sullivan shimmers with heart and joy as Juliet's bestie May, with a beautifully clear singing voice. Paulo Szot, best known on Broadway for melting everyone's hearts with his powerful performance in South Pacific, is having so much fun camping it up as patriarch Lance Du Bois, complete with ridiculous codpiece. And Melanie La Barrie as Angélique/Nurse, she just owns my entire heart for her rendition of "Fuckin' Perfect." On top of all this we've got some good gender diversity rep (not only nonbinary actor Justin David Sullivan, but also a number of ensemble cast members as well), good ethnic diversity, and at least some strides toward body diversity.
I don't want to spoil the jokes or surprises along the way, because they're such a damn treat to experience live. Jukebox Musicals, especially ones that aren't just using the song catalog to tell a bio-musical, can be such a crapshoot. (Yes, I know Mamma Mia! was a hit, but not with Zelda) Head Over Heels will probably remain my favorite of this genre of musical, but I got a kick out of & Juliet, with its self-aware and hilarious book by David West Read and its overall joyousness at being here.
|Lorna Courtney, Betsy Wolfe, Justin David Sullivan, and Melanie La Barrie|
as Juliet, April, May, and Angélique. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
What: The Public presents Erika Dickerson-Despenza's play about mother and daughter Magalee and Ruth, trapped in their bar Shadowland while Hurricane Katrina devastates New Orleans around them. The Public first presented this work as an audio play in 2021.
And? It almost feels beside the point to talk about the theatrical quality of a play by Erika Dickerson-Despenza, even though her work is consistently tremendous, because I think what she actually wants the audience to take away from her work is anger at the perpetual and systemic mistreatment of Black people in this country, as well as a determination to make changes to stop those patterns once and for all. Her plays devastate in part because they demand we stop reducing these tragedies to statistics, and instead look into the eyes of the people who are left behind to die. What is particularly piercing about this play is that Magalee and Ruth don't know what play they're in. They're having mother-daughter squabbles, arguments about whether or not to sell the bar, whether or not Ruth should leave her husband, and the difficulties of Magalee's encroaching dementia. But as the water rises and the two must climb to the bar's surface to stay dry, each of these outside concerns is submerged under the heavy question of whether or not they'll survive the ordeal at all. The presence of Christine Shepard as the black-clad Grand Marshal--a New Orleans funeral tradition--is our grim reminder from the start that we already know the answer. She is death, she is release, she is the voice of the dying as they die.
|Lizan Mitchell and Joniece Abbott-Pratt as Magalee and Ruth. Photo by|
Streaming Theater Related Content I Watched
- Wilma Theater's recording of Eternal Life Part 1.