Sunday, October 9, 2016

Critical Shrinking; Broadway Update

Elysa Gardner, no longer with USA Today,
now freelances
The NYC community of theater critics continues to shrink. We're like some rare endangered species in a seldom-visited jungle and nobody seems to care as our numbers diminish. (We don't even get a late-night commercial with sad music pleading for funds to save us.) It was barely noticed that Elysa Gardner left USA Today where she was the theater and rock critic since 2000. There has been no announcement as to whether she was let go or departed voluntarily. She briefly tweeted the information that she was no longer with the nationwide publication on Aug. 1. Worse, there was no mention of it in any of the chat boards or on any of the theater-related websites (Not that I could find anyway.) USA Today has apparently dropped theater coverage altogether. They did not assign anyone to review the first two Broadway openings of the fall--The Encounter and Holiday Inn

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Who's Afraid of Virginia State?

The 2016 Presidential Debates will resemble
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The moderators for the 2016 presidential debates have been announced and a startling image came into my mind. The second debate will be co-hosted by CNN's Anderson Cooper and ABC's Martha Raddatz. This will be the first time both the debaters and the moderators will be opposite-sex pairs. It made me think of the event as a horrible nightmare version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, two drunken couples clashing in an all-night boozefest. Here's my version of the debate:

Who's Afraid of Virginia State (with apologies to Edward Albee)
Hillary Clinton as Martha
Donald Trump as George
Anderson Cooper as Nick
Martha Raddatz as Honey

The scene: a living room in Washington DC, late at night. The set is in darkness. We hear loud voices arguing offstage. The door opens, Hillary and Donald enter, returning from a late-night party.

Hillary: What a dump!...What's that from?
Donald: How the hell should I know?
Hillary: It's from some damn movie. Some damn Warner Brothers epic.
Donald: Ah ha! Your memory is failing. Just like I've been saying. Your health is terrible. You're falling apart. You don't have the stamina to be president.
Hillary: Listen, baby, I can drink you under any goddamn table you want and don't you forget it. You're the one who's in terrible shape in spite of what that crazy doctor of yours says. Now fix me a drink, lover.

Friday, August 19, 2016

2016-17 Broadway Season Update

Andy Karl in Groundhog Day,
now in London and coming to Broadway, but when?
Credit: Manuel Harlan/Old Vic Theater
We are in the valley between seasons. It's the trough of summer and nothing will open on Broadway until well after Labor Day. The only hot-weather openings have been revivals of Motown (which has already closed) and Cats. The upcoming 2016-17 roster has a few highlights,  but very few new plays. Right now there are only five new plays announced--two are American and both have appeared Off-Broadway previously (Oslo and Significant Other), the other three are British or Australian (The Encounter, The Present, Heisenberg which played MTC Off-Broadway last year). The most exciting nonmusical productions are revivals with an all-star Front Page and Cherry Orchard, Jake Gyllenhaal in Burn This at the newly renovated Hudson Theatre (Broadway's 41st theater), Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon alternating lead roles in The Little Foxes, and Julie Taymor's take on M. Butterfly. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Clinton vs. Trump: Wicked Stepmother vs. Drunken Uncle

I get it. I understand how many voters are frustrated by both major party candidates in this presidential election. Let's take a look at both sides of this difficult bargain. Trump is a total non-starter, totally unacceptable even in a nightmare to be the leader of the free world. Can you imagine the havoc he would wreak. Every day he'd shoot his mouth off insulting a world leader, breaking a treaty, being "sarcastic" and we'd be on the perpetual brink of World War III. It's reached the point now where even members of his own party are disowning him. He doesn't even understand basic grammar or concepts of rhetoric. This past week, his "off-the-cuff" controversial statements on "Second Amendment people" and Obama "founding" ISIS caused violent reactions among the media and in the halls of power, and were purposefully ambiguous. He could have clarified them, but he wanted the explosions to detonate. It's his way of having fun. (He often says during his rallies after inciting violence and mocking his enemies, "Isn't this fun?")

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Trump or Clinton: Who Is the Biggest Pirate?

Jimmy Olsen #118
Politics rears its ugly head in the weirdest of places. Earlier this week I went to return a Jimmy Olsen comic to the guy on 40th street in Manhattan who sold it to me (It turned out I already had a copy of it--It was the one from the late 1960s where Jimmy turns into a hippie and launches a Hate-In against Superman.) The comic-book seller also has numerous campaign buttons for both Clinton and Trump on his card table. He was engaged in conversation with another gentleman with a British accent. The English guy was saying he'd won a bet of several hundred pounds that Trump would win the Republican nomination and he was laying a similar wager that the Donald would become President. He went on to say that Hillary was a tremendous crook and there would a Watergate-sized scandal if the Justice Department did not indict her for the email thing.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

More Critics Axed; B'way Update

Elisabeth Vincentelli
The number of paid, professional New York theater critics has been reduced yet again. Jeremy Gerard of Deadline and Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post have both been given the axe. It's becoming like a remake of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None where ten strangers are called to a remote island for a weekend and are bumped off one by one. Gerard and Vincentelli are just the latest in a long line of scribblers to be shown the door as print shrinks, the web expands and fewer readers click on theater reviews. Media corporations are losing money, slashing budgets and cutting out marginal, niche writers. Steven Suskind, David Finkle, Jesse Oxfeld, Michael Sommers, the late Jacques LeSourd, and many others were let go from their long-standing perches. Some have landed on their feet. One such is Michael Feingold who was dismissed from the Village Voice in 2013 but was reinstated this year when the paper got a new owner. There is no shortage of bloggers and freelancers but they are paid little or nothing. In another disturbing development, Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press announced the wire service would no longer be covering Off-Broadway because their client publications felt it was a waste of money.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

2016-17 B'way Preview: Big Stars, Blasts from Past

Spongebob Squarepants the Musical
Credit: Joan Marcus
With the broadcast of the Tony Awards, the 2015-16 Broadway theater season is now officially over. It was one of the most exciting and original ones in recent memory. Hamilton transferred to the Richard Rodgers from the Public and totally transformed America's relationship to the stage, making it cool to go the theater again. Similarly, Stephen Karam's The Humans and Danai Gurira's Eclipsed made the voyage from Off-Broadway to on, allowing new, young playwrights to have their voices heard by a larger audience. Hopefully, we'll have more fresh talent on the Main Stem in 2016-17, but so far, as per usual, the majority of announced productions are revivals with big Hollywood stars or British imports. We've already started with a retread--Sean Hayes in An Act of God which we've seen just last summer with Jim Parsons. Next are two more blasts from the recent past--Motown and Cats.

There are two Off-Broadway musicals set for transfer: Dear Evan Hansen and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. But very few original musicals are solidified at this point. In fact the only two with a firm official  opening date are Holiday Inn based on the 1942 Hollywood film with Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby, from Roundabout Theater Company., and Groundhog DayA Bronx Tale, based on Chazz Palminteri's autobiographical one-man show, is unofficially set for the Longacre. In the Tony Award press room, the producers announced it was coming in after a run at the Paper Mill Playhouse, but there has been no press release. There is a stage version of the animated Nickelodeon series Spongebob Squarepants, opening this month in Chicago and projected for a Broadway opening sometime this season. The long-awaited stage version of Anastasia is currently at Hartford Stage and is much-buzzed for a New York production.