Something that I make sure to ask about on my next community theater gig:
TOM MOORE: I put the blame squarely on the Nederlanders. I don’t think Jimmy Sr. had any fondness for [1981’s Frankenstein]. And Woman of the Year was waiting in the wings.
VICTOR GIALANELLA: Lauren Bacall had done Applause at the Palace, and her dressing room still had the paint color she had wanted.
Casting calls can be miserable. But, in the 17th century, Nathaniel Giles pushed into really bad behavior: he and Henry Evans, exercising a royal warrant, illicitly kidnapped children to perform at Evans’ Blackfriars Theater. They snatched thirteen-year-old Thomas Clifton off the street,
… handed the boy a script and threatened him with a beating if he didn’t learn his lines.
Ben Brantley puts aside his notebook, but not his love for theater.
I can honestly say I’ve never been bored at the theater during the past several decades. That’s because I’ve learned that nothing is boring if you really focus on it.
The Vermont collective brings a touring version of its low-tech didactic theater to the Washington Monument grounds. It’s a collection of satiric sketches (with some utterly corny gags), provocations, and tableaux—with, shall we say, some stately transitions between—perfectly matched to the outdoor scene of kids running around, cyclists and scooters passing in front of the stage on the paved walkway, and the occasional bark of critique from a dog over my right shoulder. The vibe is a little Woodstock ’69, a little Medieval mystery play. Equally strong and effective are a lament in song for the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide and an enormous five-person puppet that suggests the world tree Yggdrasil, the branches of its crown brushing the proscenium arch. The loose structure of the work admits of breaking-news topicality: a brief memorial dance for Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a silly re-enactment of the recently observed collision of two black holes. If the puppeteer-actors paint with an overly broad brush, at least their earnestness is restorative.
Fight call at the National Theatre: The Hour by Pinny Grylls.
Live theater during the plague, from Michael Paulson. TIL that Actors’ Equity (wisely) is blocking all onstage work by members of the union.
Voice actor Jan Johns nailed it:
Artists spend so much time alone to create. But then the goal is to collaborate and connect and to finally be in that room with the other artists and creators to be able to come up with something together. And that is the joy of it.
Middle-aged literature professor Robert returns to Dublin to explore a what-might-have-been romance: a chance encounter with a superstitious guide to a walking tour of the city of James Joyce’s Ulysses comes to an abrupt, unsatisfying end. The slippery nature of time, particularly as experienced by Cait, the tour guide, engenders a dialogue between past and present.
When the focus is on young Robbie (Josh Adams) and Caithleen (Danielle Scott), the energy picks up, especially in the key scene in Sweny’s.
But playwright Dietz makes Robert a teacher of literature for no particular reason, unless it is so that Robert can commit the apostasy of bashing the novel for the benefit of audience members who regret never having read the book.
- Bloomsday, by Steven Dietz, directed by Kasi Campbell, Washington Stage Guild, Washington
The stars of this highly theatrical comedy-thriller are Christopher Walker and Gwen Grastorf, each playing “cast of dozens”—with the assistance of three backstage dressers. Grastorf is particularly effective as the self-effacing Mr. Memory and is just plain adorable as the innkeeper Mrs. McGarrigle, who dotes on Hannay and Pamela as the “runaway couple.” There are shards of Bernard Herrmann’s film scores from at least three Hitchcock movies in Gordon Nimmo-Smith’s sound design. And, yes, there are shadow puppets.
- The 39 Steps, adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan and the movie by Alfred Hitchcock, directed by Nick Olcott, Constellation Theatre Company, Washington
Too often too true: Chekhov’s Dramatic Principles for Community Theatre, by Ross Murray.
If in rehearsals an actor relentlessly points out the break with realism inherent in hanging a loaded pistol on the wall, then proceedings will grind to a halt until the director testily reminds the actors that this is not a democracy and that his sole compensation for this theatrical endeavor is two comp tickets for any performance.
WATCH adjudication assignments for 2020 are released. Along with four TBD’s, I will see
- Chapman/Cooney, Move Over, Mrs Markham
- Hutchinson, Moonlight and Magnolias
- Kitt and Yorkey, Freaky Friday
- Davis, Purlie Victorious
- Knott, Dial “M” for Murder
- Knott, Wait until Dark
A relentless comic monologue, purportedly structured as a recitation of every item in Kitson’s house. The soloist, with a background in stand-up, can match heckle for heckle, calling out on this Wednesday two different audience members who had drifted away from total engagement. Quickly, the piece becomes less an itemization of the things that Kitson hangs on to and more a dump of the ideas and narrative wisps that he can’t let go of. He speaks well of keeping things around that make one sad; in one specific case, a shelf of clean, empty jam jars like “horrible little pockets of hope.” Despite the direct audience address, Kitson’s rapid-fire delivery sucks most of the air out of the room, leaving little breath with which to make a genuine connection with his listeners.
- Keep., written and performed by Daniel Kitson, Studio Theatre Mead Theatre, Washington
Michael Cooper watches the Metropolitan Opera change into four shows in a weekend.
The weekend would feature star turns, passionate love scenes, and no fewer than five deaths (suicide, beheading, suicide, fallen woman-itis, and a doubly fatal combination of snake bite and a husband looking back during a rescue from the Underworld).
The most powerful moments in this production come from the no song, no dance passage told by Paul (Jeff Gorti), a honest confession of a story not captured by cast recording albums. Samantha Marisol Gershman brings a naturalness to “Nothing,” dropping at times from a clear singing voice into speech. Emily Tyra’s Cassie shows us the fragility of a performer who’s hit some bumps in the road.
- A Chorus Line, book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, directed by Matthew Gardiner, Signature, Arlington, Va.