Category: Theatre Reviews

Theatre Review: "Man & Boy"

by Jonathan Warman

This one took me by surprise. British writer Terrence Rattigan was a closeted homosexual who was known for his well-constructed, understated and intelligent dramas. About half-way through Act I of Man & Boy the action takes a decidedly gay turn that comes out of left field (marvelously played by Frank Langella as ruthless financier Gregor Antonescu). This play, while full of subtleties, is far from understated – in fact it something of a gripping, suspenseful thriller.

Man & Boy is set in 1934 New York, at the height of the Great Depression (Rattigan wrote the play in 1963, which explains the explicitness of its gay twist). Antonescu’s finance business teeters on the brink of collapse. Gregor tracks down his estranged son Basil (Adam Driver) to use his Greenwich Village apartment to make a company-saving deal.

The play hits a number of nerves in these days of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. I think it’s quite a good play, stronger and certainly more intelligent than many recent works, and encourages me to look more deeply into Rattigan’s plays (I had never read or seen one before). Frank Langella is always a compelling reason to see whatever he’s in, and that’s certainly true here, where he gives a thoughtful, measured – but still marvelously mannered – performance.

Langella is ably aided by the supporting cast, Driver in particular, as well Zach Grenier as a business partner with a secret or two up his own sleeve. Director Maria Aitken (best known on these shores for The 39 Steps) manages the play’s intricate action deftly. Based on everything I knew about Rattigan, I was prepared to dismiss him without a second thought – this fine production of this intriguing play has completely changed my mind.

For tickets, click here.

For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.

Cabaret Review: John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey

On the basis of their new cabaret act at the Cafe Carlyle, entitled “When Worlds Collide”, I can confidently call the husband and wife team of John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molasky the king and queen of mash-ups. No, really. These may not be dance-floor-ready combos of club and pop hits, but this show is all about unexpected combinations of songs and arrangements; in fact they raise the idea of the mash-up to as high and rarefied an art as you can get while still being “pop”.

The Pizzarellis represent the very height of cabaret’s jazzier side, with profound musical intelligence at work. The combinations they make are more than apt, they’re positively elegant. Some of them are almost too sophisticated to make an impact in a live situation. Their intricate combination of James Taylor’s “Traffic Jam” with Joe Henderson’s “The Kicker” will probably reveal itself better on repeated listens on their upcoming CD.

More often, though, they are right on target. There’s an instantly moving, very satisfying “fire and ice” mash-up of Jessica soulfully singing Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game” opposite John smoothly whispering Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “The Waters of March”. And then there’s the Allman Brothers rock instrumental “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” cooled down and sped up in the spirit of jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, allowing John and the band to solo with vigor, verve and virtuosity – breathtaking.

Overall, the singing’s smart, the music’s deftly swung and the atmosphere sparkles. Cabaret doesn’t get much better than this.

For tickets, click here.

For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.

 

 

 

 

Cabaret Review: Marilyn Maye

by Jonathan Warman

Ella Fitzgerald once called Marilyn Maye “the greatest white female singer in the world”. That’s no exaggeration – she may be the only singer alive who combines a great vocal instrument with interpretative flair and savoir faire equal to Ella’s own. There are younger singers who might posses more powerful voices but I can think of no other singer who possesses Maye’s combination of interpretive ability, rhythmic verve, and vocal range – at 83, her voice would be the the envy of singers 40 years her junior.

Her new show at Feinstein’s (until November 12), “The Best Of Times Is Now!” honors the legendary Broadway composer Jerry Herman on this 80th Birthday year, featuring songs from his shows, both hits and obscurities. Marilyn starred in Herman’s Hello, Dolly! many times – she was known as “the singing Dolly” for the simple reason that no-one else who played the role sang it with more musicality. She loves the show so much that she’s recorded an album including every song (by every character) from the Tony Award-winning score.

Herman’s songs bring out the showman in Maye, the high spirits spurring her on to high kicks. Musical director Tedd Firth brings a glossy, sophisticated jazz musicianship to the proceedings, providing a luscious frame for Maye’s multifarious artistry. Maye exquisitely tailors her style of singing to the individual song, smooth for the ballads, swinging for the standards, and truly gritty for the bluesier numbers.

Maye appeared on Johnny Carson’s edition of “The Tonight Show” a total of 76 times, a record not likely ever to be beaten by any other singer with any other host. If you love classic songs sung like they’re meant to be sung, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

For tickets, click here.

For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.

 

 

 

 


Performances Begin Tonight for "Now the Cats with Jewelled Claws"

I am proud to announce that the New York premiere of Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws by Tennessee Williams and directed by yours truly Jonathan Warman, will begin performances tonight  Thursday, October 27, at 10pm, at The Club at La MaMa, (74A E 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery). Direct from a sold-out run at the 2011 Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival,  Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws will play October 27-November 13, 2011. Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws plays Thursday through Saturday at 10pm, with a Sunday performance at 5:30pm, at The Club at La MaMa, 74A East Fourth Street at Second Avenue.  General admission tickets are $18; student/senior tickets are $13. For tickets and information, visit lamama.org or phone 212-475-7710.

Society matrons and street hustlers intent on enjoying a cocktail-laden lunch break into song-and-dance numbers as apocalypse approaches. The production features John Waters phenomenon Mink Stole, as society lady Madge, together with Everett Quinton, a core member of Charles Ludlam’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company, as a lecherous and prophetic restaurant manager.The remainder of the cast of Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws is Erin Markey (NIGHT MOTHER with Cole Escola and Kenny Mellman, Jeffery and Cole Casserole, and her solo musical, Puppy Love: A Stripper’s Tail); Regina Bartkoff (Love, Medea, Struck/Break); Joseph Keckler (Stuck Elevator at the Sundance Theater Lab, John Moran’s experimental opera Saori’s Birthday, You Will Experience Silence, Jobz, Human Jukebox, A Voice and Nothing More); Max Steele (You Will Experience Silence, Jeffery and Cole Casserole); and Charles Schick (The Strangest Kind of Romance, Back Bog Beast Bait , Humanity at The Living Theatre, Love, Medea).

Mink Stole’s career as an actor began nearly 45 years ago, when she was introduced to John Waters in Provincetown in the summer of 1966.  She has since appeared in 13 films directed by Mr. Waters, creating such roles as Connie Marble in Pink Flamingos, Taffy Davenport in Female Trouble, and Dottie Hinkle in Serial Mom.  Among her non-John Waters roles, she has played Natasha Lyonne’s mom in Jamie Babbit’s But I’m a Cheerleader, and a bible-addled death row inmate in Steve Balderson’s Stuck!  In last year’s All About Evil, directed by Joshua Grannell, she was Evelyn, the too-talkative librarian, and this year she continued her recurring role as Aunt Helen in installments Four and Five of the popular Eating Out film series by Q. Alan Brocka. On stage, Mink was lucky to have the chance to work on two shows with the late, great Charles Ludlam, Love’s Tangles Web, andSecret Lives of the Sexists.  She worked with the legendary Cockettes in the early 1970s.  More recently, she appeared as Autolycus in the L.A. Women’s Shakespeare Company’s production of The Winter’s Tale, a role which led her to her new passion, music.  With her Wonderful Band (West Coast and East Coast editions) for the last few years she has been performing a cabaret act, Do Re MiNK, and her Christmas show.  She is currently working on her first CD.

Everett Quinton has recently appeared in The Witch of Edmonton at Red Bull Theater, as FlorenceWexler in Devil Boys from Beyond at New World Stages, as Dr. Caius in The Merry Wives of Windsorat the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., and as Jacob Marley in The McCarter Theatre’s A Christmas Carol. Everett is also a member of Cleveland State University’s Summer Stages where he appeared as Madam Rosepettle in O Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feeling So Sad. Everett previously appeared at Red Bull Theater in Women Beward Women (2008 CallawayAward, Best Actor). Everett was a member of The Ridiculous Theatrical Company and served as its Artistic Director from 1987-1997. He has appeared in Charles Ludlam’s MedeaThe Secret Lives of the SexistsSalammboGalasThe Artificial Jungle and the original production of The Mystery ofIrma Vep (Obie and Drama Desk Award). He was also seen in Georg Osterman’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Brother Truckers (Bessie Award); Richard and Michael Simon’s Murder at Minsing Manor(Drama League Award); as well as in his own plays: Carmen, Linda, MovielandA Tale of Two Cities(Obie Award), and Call Me Sarah Bernhardt. Everett has directed revivals of Charles Ludlam’s Big Hotel, Camille, Der Ring Gott Farblonjet and How to Write a Play. He also directed Brother Truckers(in New York, London and as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival), Carmen, Sebastian Stewart’sUnder the Kerosene Moon, as well as The Beaux Stratagem at the Yale Rep and Treasure Island at theOmaha Theatre for Young People. Film and TV credits include Natural Born KillersBig Business,Deadly IllusionForever Lulu, “Miami Vice” and “Law & Order.”

Director Jonathan Warman’s New York theatre credits include Andru’s Head at NeoNeo Theatre  (new musical, featuring Brooke Elliott  from Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva”),  J. Stephen Brantley’sStruck / Break (Emerging Artists Theatre), American Fabulous (NeoNeo Theatre). International credits: Dreams Reoccurring (Clubul CFR, Iasi, Romania and Nu Festival, Timisoara, Romania),Break (Dublin Gay Theatre Festival). Regional: Murray Mednick’s Heads (Omaha Magic Theatre),The Strangest Kind of Romance (2009 Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival, with national tour). Notable assistant credits: Stage Directors & Choreographers Society 50th Anniversary Gala (Assistant to SDC Board President Karen Azenberg), Three Sisters (La MaMa ETC, dir. Richard Schechner),Rosencrantz si Guildenstern sunt Morti (Teatru National Vasile Alecsandri, Iasi, Romania, dir. Ovidiu Lazar). He has served as Artistic Director of NeoNeo Theatre Company and Literary Manager for Access Theater, and is conceiver of White City, a new musical with music and lyrics by Pete Townshend of The Who, currently in development.Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws has choreography by Liz Piccoli (Erotic BroadwayCrazy Sexy Disco) and original music by Trystan Trazon (Here Come the Alligators, The Animal Cracker Box,  EDIT (Kafkafest @ Columbia University)).

The scenic design for Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws is by Jonathan Collins (GreenwoodAwesome Allie, associate set designer for Lysistrata Jones  and Everyday Rapture); costume design is by Karl Ruckdeschel (Vital Theatre’s The Country Wife, associate costume designer on Rock of Agesand Avenue Q); lighting design is by Yuriy Nayer (The Mire, Colored People’s Time, assistant designer on The Shaggs  and The Night Watcher).

The stage manager is Allison Carroll; dramaturg is Thomas Keith; assistant director is Jonathan Chang; production consultant is Adam Weinstock.

La MaMa’s 50th season has been titled “Homecomings” as it will be comprised of more 40 productions by a wide array of artists whose work has been performed at La MaMa through the years, along with resident and international companies, and emerging artists who will make La MaMa their ‘home’ for the first time.

La MaMa is a remarkable arts institution with a world-wide reputation for producing cutting-edge work in theater, dance, performance art, and music. Founded in 1961 by theater pioneer and legend, Ellen Stewart, La MaMa has produced and presented more than 3,000 theatrical productions to date and is a vital part of the fabric of cultural life in New York City and around the world.

La MaMa provides a supportive home for artists and takes risks on unknown work. Artists such as Sam Shepard, Lanford Wilson, Philip Glass, Robert Wilson, Harvey Fierstein, Blue Man Group, David and Amy Sedaris, -and others whose names you haven’t heard of yet – began their careers at La MaMa.

International artists introduced to America by La MaMa include Tadeusz Kantor, Andrei Serban, Kazuo Ohno and, more recently, the acclaimed Belarus Free Theatre.La MaMa has been honored with more than 30 OBIE Awards, dozens of Drama Desk and Bessie Awards, and, in 2006, Ellen Stewart was recognized with a special TONY Award for “Excellence in the Theatre.”

Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws plays Thursday through Saturday at 10pm, with a Sunday performance at 5:30pm, at The Club at La MaMa, 74A East Fourth Street at Second Avenue.  General admission tickets are $18; student/senior tickets are $13. For tickets and information, visitlamama.org or phone 212-475-7710.

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