Sunday, September 23, 2018

MacTrump A Shakespearean Farce Act III

Keeley Hawes, Judi Dench, and Phoebe Fox
in BBC's TV version of Richard III
The MacTrump saga continues. For a switch, this scene focuses on the women in Trumpy's life, much like the one in Richard III where his mother, wife, the deposed Queen Elizabeth (his sister-in-law), and mad Queen Margaret join together to curse the "bunch-backed toad."

Act III, Scene One

Scene: The entry hall of the G7 Summit Meeting, several months after Act II. Theresa May and Angela Merkel stand center stage.

Merkel: How canst thou treat this ill-mannered swine as a seasoned statesman?
Know you not his boorish behavior where women are concerned?

May: Chide me not, lady. My counsels differ from thine.
Thou are not head of a conservative party leading a divided land.
Art not dealing with withdrawal from the Common Market.
McTrump is the key to mine triumph and must be coaxed and flattered.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Broadway Update: Lane and Martin to Star in Mac's Gary and Network Moves

Andrea Martin and Nathan Lane
The weirdest press release of the year just came into my mailbox. At first I thought it was a joke. Tony winners Nathan Lane and Andrea Martin will be starring in a new comedy called Gary, A Sequel to Titus Andronicus by Obie-winning performer-playwright Taylor Mac. Weird title, huh? But it's legit. The show will be directed by another multiple Tony winner George C. Wolfe and begin previews at the Booth Theatre on March 5 with an opening set for April 11. (The Booth will play host to American Son with Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale in a limited run in the fall. Also, Glenda Jackson's King Lear has announced an April 11 opening but no theater. So somebody will have to change their dates.)

Thursday, August 9, 2018

B'way Update: 'Network' 'Glengarry' News; Dziemianowicz Out at the Daily News

Bryan Cranston in the London production of Network
The new Broadway season just got more exciting. In addition to Glenda Jackson playing King Lear and Elaine May appearing on a Broadway stage for the first time in 50 years in The Waverly Gallery, Tony-Emmy-Golden Globe winner Bryan Cranston will recreate his Olivier-winning performance as crazed newscaster Howard Beale in a transfer of Ivo van Hove's stage version of the Oscar-winning Network. Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) adapted Paddy Chayefsky's screenplay. Previews begin Nov. 10 at the Cort Theater in advance of a Dec. 6 opening. No announcement if the rest of the cast will be American or British. Michele Dockery (Lady Mary on Downton Abbey) took on the Faye Dunaway role of a ruthless network exec in London. She would certainly qualify as an international star. In one of van Hove's staging coups, audience members were seated on stage enjoying a five course meal prepared in an onstage kitchen. Characters would play scenes amidst the diners. There was nothing in the press release stating if the onstage restaurant would be recreated for the Cort, but the elaborate video design and numerous giant screens and cameras will no doubt make the transatlantic trek. Network was prescient in its vision of a reality-TV-mad society where rage and flash outweighed honest journalism. In the age of Trump, Beale's rants should resonate deeply.

This just in: Tootsie has announced specific dates and a theater: previews begin March 29 at the Marquis and it opens on April 23. Also Amy Morton (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Chicago PD) will direct an all-female version of David Mamet's profanity-laden Pulitzer winner Glengarry Glen Ross, set to open on Broadway next May. This should be interesting since all the characters are  testosterone-fueled real estate salespeople and casting them with women will shatter many stereotypes.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

On Digital Programs

The "cover" of the
Carmen Jones digital program
Along with the admonishments to turn off cell phones and unwrap their hard candy, theatergoers attending the Off-Broadway revival of Carmen Jones at Classic Stage Company are getting an unusual greeting from the volunteer ushers. "The theater is going green," they tell the patrons, "there are no paper programs. You can go online to CSC's website and view the program digitally." This came as a bit of a shock to me since, up until recently, I have saved the theater program from every single show I have ever seen--and many I haven't. I used to scour the Broadway Flea Market, used book stores and antique places in upstate NY for Playbills of significant shows, sometimes even historic flops like Dude and Carrie. But lately I've been purging my collection. Do I really need the program from the Alaska Rep production of Mrs. Warren's Profession or the 37th Off-Off-Broadway revival of Three Sisters?

But for the shows I did see, it's difficult to part with the paper reminder. If there is no physical program, it feels to me as if the experience did not exist or that it wasn't official. That's a bit irrational on my part, but it's how I feel. It's a hard habit to break and digital programs may be the wave of the future, just as digital books, the internet, and I-phones are killing print journalism, physical tomes, and photo albums.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Thoughts on Handmaid's Tale and Roseanne

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT. If you have not watched all of Season 2, spoilers ahead.

Elisabeth Moss in The Handmaid's Tale
The Internet abounds with jokes about The Handmaid's Tale, Hulu's adaptation of Margaret Atwood's classic dystopian novel, actually being a documentary. The show which just concluded its second season and received 20 Emmy nominations, provides progressive liberals a satisfying opportunity to dump on Trump by comparing its totalitarian vision of Gilead, a future America, to the Donald's administration. "Look, aren't Commander Waterford and his terrible wife Serena Joy just like those bad old Trump supporters," we say to ourselves, as an act of consolation for having to tolerate such a racist jerk for a president. For a moment, we feel our anger and frustration relieved. It was such a thrill to see Waterford and Serena kicked out of Canada and reviled by protestors after the letters from captive handmaids were downloaded. Waterford and Serena's expressions of shame were what we want to see on our Trump-loving countrymen's faces when and if he is ever exposed for the vile creature he is. But then it's back to reality.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

2018-19 B'way/Off-B'way Update

Ivo Van Hove
Credit: Stephanie Berger
Several new shows have been announced for the 2018-19 Broadway and Off-Broadway season since our last update and they all sound intriguing. International avant-garde sensation and Tony winner Ivo Van Hove will direct his first Broadway musical with a revival of West Side Story. Heaven knows what the unconventional helmer with do with the Bernstein-Laurents-Sondheim-Robbins classic. He turned A View from the Bridge, The Crucible and A Streetcar Named Desire inside out and his current production of The Damned at the Park Avenue Armory just opened to reviews praising his daring. What's really weird is the show starts begins Dec. 10, 2019 and it is
Damon Daunno in Daniel Fish's staging of Oklahoma! 
at Bard College in 2015.
slated to open Feb. 6, 2020 at a theater TBA. That's almost two months of previews! Maybe van Hove, who is extremely busy with upcoming stage productions of All About Eve in London, A Little Life in Amsterdam, and Don Giovanni in Parsi and at the Met on his plate, needs time to work out his startling ideas. West Side Story is also getting a film update from Tony Kushner and Steve Spielberg as well as current productions at the Guthrie and Glimmerglass. Oklahoma! will also get the revision treatment when Daniel Fish's production opens at St. Ann's Warehouse in October. I saw this production at Bard College in 2015 and it treats the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic in a radically new and relevant style.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Ninth Annual David Desk Awards

Barrett Wilbert Weed, Erika Henningsen,
and Grey Henson in Mean Girls
Credit: Joan Marcus
It's time once again for the annual David Desk Awards for outstanding work on and Off-Broadway--actually it's way past time since the Tonys, Drama Desks, and Obies were handed out a month ago. But I have been busy with finishing my first full year as a teacher and attending graduate school classes. 

There is some overlap with my accolades and the better-known theater prizes, but some significant differences. Both the Drama Desks and Outer Critics lauded such mediocre musicals as Desperate Measures and SpongeBob SquarePants since The Band's Visit, the big winner at the Tonys, was ineligible because of its Off-Broadway run in 2016-17. The Tonys consider only Broadway shows, while the DDs and OCCs combine on and Off-Broadway, so Band's Visit was part of last season's candidates, winning Outstanding Music and Lyrics and Director of a Musical at the Drama Desks and Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical and Score from the Outer Critics.

As a result of Band's Visit's absence, I only had one new musical in my list for the top--Mean Girls--which I think was unfairly overlooked by many awards. Tina Fey did win the Outstanding Book from the DD and OCC, but I think it should have won score from both groups. The New York Drama Critics Circle voted to give no Outstanding Musical award at all.

I also included many fine performances which were totally snubbed in other circles such as the always sterling Zach Grenier as a complex Communist commander in Describe the Night, Mark-Linn Baker as a hamster-loving mental patient in Good for Otto, and Seth Numrich's athletic Dadaist in Travesties. The compete list of the 2017-18 David Desks follows:

Thursday, June 21, 2018

2018-19 Broadway/Off-Broadway Forecast

The Tony Awards have been handed out and the 2017-18 New York theater season has drawn to a close. The big winners were The Band's Visit and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Band swept the evening with a near-record ten wins including Best Musical (only two shows The Producers and Hamilton have won more). Harry Potter took six accolades including Best Play and most of the design categories. Because Band played Off-Broadway last season it was ineligible for all the other theater awards this season. The Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle went for SpongeBob SquarePants while the New York Drama Critics Circle opted to give no award for Best Musical. The NYDCC and Drama Desk skipped over Harry Potter to name Off-Broadway plays, Mary Jane and Admissions respectively, the best of the season.

Will the next Broadway season be similarly lean? We can expect another pseudo-jukebox/diva musical and some of the straight plays will be Off-Broadway transfers such as Choir Boy and Second Stage's Torch Song as well as hits from London (The Ferryman, The Nap). Cher (in the fall) and Michael Jackson (in 2020) will follow Donna Summer in the latest trend as subjects of bio-musicals.
Cher is the subject of an
upcoming B'way musical

There will be a few new American plays such as American Son with Kerry Washington and Steve Pasquale as an estranged interracial couple waiting in a police station for news of their missing son. The Lifespan of a Fact will star Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones, and Bobby Cannavale. The play is based on the real-life controversy surrounding an essay about the suicide of a Las Vegas teen.

Comedy legend Elaine May will make her first official onstage Broadway appearance since her comedy act with Mike Nichols played the Golden Theater in 1960. May headlines a revival of Kenneth Lonergan's The Waverly Gallery at the same theater in the role which won Eileen Heckart an Obie and a Drama Desk Award. Michael Cera and Lucas Hedges co-star. Sidenote: I said "official" because according to, May starred in a forgotten comedy called The Office, which only ran 10 preview performances and closed before opening in 1966. It sounds like a fascinating flop. The script was written by Maria Irene Fornes, the multiple Obie winning playwright (this is her only Broadway credit) and directed by Jerome Robbins. The supporting cast included Tony Lo Bianco, Doris Roberts and Jack Weston.
Elaine May

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

DeNiro, Trump and Tony Awards

Robert De Niro at the Tony Awards
It had been one of the better Tony Awards in recent memory. The hosts Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles were funny and charming, and not the disastrous Kevin Spacey of the year before or the over used Neil Patrick Harris or Hugh Jackman. The pop duo even wrote their own original musical material. The numbers from the nominated musicals showcased their respective shows with wit and precision. Acceptance speeches were short and the orchestra cut-offs were ruthless at times--Harry Potter playwright Jack Thorne did not get to speak at all, but mostly winners appropriately thanked their colleagues. Any political messages were subtle and not obscene or blatant. In one stunningly moving sequence, drama students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida who had suffered through a horrific school shooting sang "Seasons of Love" from Rent to honor their teacher for winning a special Tony Award. Nobody carried a Gun Control protest sign or pointed out that two years ago the Tonys were overshadowed by the Orlando Pulse Nightclub massacre. The kids singing got the message across.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Updated Tony Predix

Ethan Slater in SpongeBob SquarePants
Credit: Joan Marcus
Last minute Tony predictions/updates for tonight at 8PM on CBS:

I am leaving all the major categories as they were in my last post EXCEPT I am changing Best Actor in a Musical from Tony Shalhoub in The Band's Visit to Ethan Slater in Spongebob. Slater won both the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards and I hear Shalhoub has missed some performances to film The Amazing Ms. Maisel for Amazon. This is the closest race of the evening. I voted for Joshua Henry from Carousel for Tony, DD and Outer Critics and i hope he wins, but I have a feeling the Tony voters will reward Slater's eccentric, athletic performance.

Other categories:
Orchestrations: Carousel
Scenic Design (Musical): My Fair Lday
Scenic Design (Play): Harry Potter
Costume Design (Musical): My Fair Lady
Costume Design (Play): Harry Potter
Lighting Design (Musical): The Band's Visit
Lighting Design (Play): Harry Potter
Sound Design (Musical): The Band's Visit
Sound Design (Play): Harry Potter.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

2018 Tony and Drama Desk Predictions

Just like last year the Tony and Drama Desk Awards are going to be very different. In 2017, Dear Evan Hansen and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 dominated the Tonys, but were ineligible for the Drama Desks because they were in the running for 2016 because of their earlier Off-Broadway runs. The Tonys are only for Broadway shows and the Drama Desks include on and Off. Usually the DDs and Tonys results are pretty similar because the DD voters tend to go for Broadway shows. (The Tonys are voted on by 841 industry insiders including producers, directors, designers, actors, stage managers and a few critics who belong to the New York Drama Critics Circle, while the Drama Desks are voted on by about 100 theater reviewers, editors and reporters.) This year, The Band's Visit is the likely Tony champ, but it played Off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theatre Company last season, taking home several 2017 DD Awards as well as the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical. In addition, several Broadway performers and creative personnel who received Tony love are absent from the DD list, particularly Lauren Ambrose and Norbert Leo Butz of My Fair Lady (the seven-member DD nominating committee didn't seem to like Bartlett Sher's Lincoln Center revival of the Lerner and Loewe classic.) Ambrose won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical for her scrappy Eliza Doolittle and Butz took the OCC Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his boisterous Alfred Doolittle. Harry Hadden-Patten's Henry Higgins is in the running for both a DD and a Tony.

Here are my predications for both awards. The Drama Desks will be presented on June 3 and the Tonys the following week on June 10.

Best Play
Tony: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two
Drama Desk: Admissions
Harry Potter isn't even nominated for the top DD play category. In fact, all of the DD outstanding play candidates are Off-Broadway shows. This will be one of the few times the DD award goes to a non-Broadway show. In the over 40 years since the Drama Desk began given out Best Play awards, they have only done it six times. The rare past exceptions are Tribes (2012), Ruined (2009), Wit (1999), How I Learned to Drive (1997), Marvin's Room (1992), and A Lie of the Mind (1986).

Saturday, March 3, 2018

My Trip to Israel and Jordan

At Petra in Jordan

I thought Israel would be all cobblestone streets, tiny shops, shouting vendors, stern soldiers with weapons at the ready, and constant danger. That’s the image Americans get from news broadcasts. But on a ten-day sojourn to the embattled Jewish state, what we saw was safe and modern. Of course, we didn’t visit the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. We stayed in the apartment of a friend in a residential section of Jerusalem. When the only images you get of a place are filled with violence, you get a distorted picture. Some relatives still think I lead of life of constance chaos because I’m a New Yorker. 

My images of Jerusalem came from the Old City, made of centuries-old structures and surrounded by a massive wall erected by the Ottoman Empire. The first full day we took a walking tour of this section including the Wailing Wall. Several young boys were being Bar Mitzvahed as their families danced from the gates to this epicenter of Jewish faith, surrounded by bearded men in dark coats and hats. One family had hired a band and huge balloon rabbi like a float in the Thanksgiving Day parade. Thousands of scraps of paper were stuffed into the cracks and the women peaked over the partitions as their sons became men. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

A Scene from Trump's America

While riding the bus home from work yesterday, I encountered an ugly interaction. I was seated at the back. The bus was remaining at a stop for a long time. Then I saw that the driver had lowered the ramp and an elderly black woman with one of those walkers with wheels was getting on. All of the seats in the handicapped section were filled and she upbraided the ungentlemanly occupants in a distinct Jamaican accent. "This is for the handicapped," she shouted. "Please one of you get up and let a poor, helpless old lady sit down." She sounded far from helpless. I had stopped paying attention and went back to my book (The Swans of Fifth Avenue on my Kindle app on my I-phone). But then another voice began shouting as loudly as the black woman's, hurling racist invective. "Who do you think you are, you old hag?" was coming from a tall white guy in his late 30s or early 40s. Evidently, the black woman had shamed him into getting up because he standing across from her. The woman called him an idiot. He answered with slurs on her race and accent, "Look in the mirror. You notice there are no people like you in this neighborhood. You're not wanted here. Go back to your shithole country where you came from. Trump was right about Haiti and those other shitholes."

Thursday, January 25, 2018

My First Show in Every Broadway Theater

A recent trend on Facebook is to list the first show you saw in every Broadway theater. I thought it would be easy for me, but my memory is not as razor sharp as it used to be. Plus I no longer keep all my Playbills in either chronological or alphabetical order. So I had to go online and actually do research. Internet Broadway Data Base (ibdb) which lists every show ever played in every theater, was most useful. Other sites only listed major long-running hits. It was fun and raised a lot of memories. Here's my list along with anecdotes and thoughts. 
Ambassador: DREAMGIRLS--a revival
American Airlines: THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER--This was the first production in the new AA Theater
Atkinson: THE DRESSER--on a trip to NYC while I was in college in Philly.
Robert Duvall, John Savage, and Kenneth McMillan
in David Mamet's American Buffalo
Barrymore: LILLIAN--Zoe Caldwell in a one-woman show as the playwright Lillian Hellman.
Beaumont: THE FRONT PAGE (John Lithgow, Richard Thomas)
Belasco: AMERICAN BUFFALO (w/Robert Duvall)--I was in high school and my family took a trip to NYC for a weekend and I crammed in as many shows as possible. Duvall was brilliantly scary.
Bernard B. Jacobs (Royale): YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU (Eddie Albert, Frances Sternhagen, Colleen Dewhurst, George Rose)--I got cheap seats from Audience Extras when I first moved to Gotham. This revival had been running a while. Eddie Albert had replaced Jason Robards as Grandpa.
Booth: GOOD--a British play about a well-meaning German who gradually becomes a high-ranking Nazi.
Broadhurst: LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

3 Degrees of Separation Among Best Picture Nominees

Michael Stuhlbarg
Let's play three degrees of separation among this year's front-runners for the Oscars. Michael Stuhlbarg is in three of this year's possible Best Picture Oscar nominees--Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water, and The Post. Timothee Chalamant is touted as Best Actor for Call Me By Your Name and has a small role in Ladybird. Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and Tony winning actor Tracey Letts is in The Post and Ladybird (Letts also starred in The Lovers, a small independent film). Laurie Metcalf is a favorite for Best Supporting Actress for Ladybird as Letts' wife and Saoirse Ronan's mother. She won a Tony last year for A Doll's House Part 2. Stephen McKinley Henderson was in the replacement company of Doll's House and has a supporting role in Ladybird. Lucas Hedges is in both Ladybird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Lois Smith is also in Ladybird and Marjorie Prime--she also did the play version and she is nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for the movie.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Oprah Emerges as Possible Prez and Trump Reveals His Racism

Oprah Winfrey at the Golden Globe Awards
In 2004, CBS ran a short-lived drama series called Century City. It starred Viola Davis and Hector Elizondo, was set in the year 2030 and combined elements of science fiction and legal procedural. In one episode, it is revealed that Oprah Winfrey is president and her VP is an openly gay, one-armed, retired general. The show only ran four episodes before it was cancelled and has been forgotten. But it may be remembered for predicting our next president, ten years early. Winfrey gave such a stirring speech at last Sunday night's Golden Globes Awards upon receiving the Cecil B. De Mille Lifetime Achievement Award that it sparked calls for her to ran for Chief Executive in 2020.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Donald E. Trump: Super Genius!

Wile E. Coyote (r.) with
the explosive Tallullah Bankhead-like robot
Our idiot president's declaration that he is a "very stable genius" on Twitter in response to Michael Wolff's book "Fire and Fury," caused innumerable social media wits to compare him to the immortal Warner Brothers character Wile E. Coyote who was constantly bragging about his intellect when pursuing Bugs Bunny. Wile E. is more famous for the series of cartoons he starred in with the Road Runner, which later served as the basis for a Saturday morning series on ABC. (It later expanded to the Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Hour.) The difference between the two series is Wile E. remains mute in his encounters with the RR while he builds more and more elaborate contraptions--usually employing supplies from the Acme Company--to ensnare his feathered prey. In his jousts with Bugs, Wile E. is extremely verbal, bragging about his colossal intellect and that Bugs should give up since he can never win in their battle of wills.