Showing posts from October, 2012

Bad Jews

Three Jews and a shiksa gather after a funeral. Sounds like the set up for a bad joke but instead it’s the set up for Joshua Harmon’s fantastic new play, Bad Jews.

At rise, Jonah Harber (Philip Ettinger) is playing a video game. His cousin, Daphna Feygenbaum (Tracee Chimo), soon emerges from the bathroom and begins talking about Poppy, Jonah and Daphna’s dearly and recently departed grandfather. They are awaiting the arrival of Jonah’s brother, Liam (Michael Zegen), and Liam’s non-Jewish girlfriend, Melody (Molly Ranson), who have missed Poppy’s funeral but are nevertheless cutting short their ski vacation to be with the family. Daphna feels entitled to Poppy’s chai, which has particular familial and Jewish significance, and is about to be abruptly clued into the fact that Liam has the chai and intends to give it to Melody. Arguments (and some hilarity) ensue.

I hope that doesn’t make Bad Jews sound like a bunch of people senselessly complaining. It isn’t. Instead, it’s an exhaustivel…


The thing about history plays is that we all already know what happens. There can be no M. Night Shyamalan plot twist. So the journey needs to be dynamic and engaging. The psychic insight needs to be penetrating. The characters need to be charismatic. Richard Nixon and his story are none of those things.

In Checkers, a new play by Douglas McGrath and directed at the Vineyard Theatre by Terry Kinney, what we “learn” about Nixon (as the story – told through flashbacks – shows us what led up to the famous “Checkers” speech) is that he is paranoid and always feeling like an outsider.

But we already knew that. This play – both its texts and performances – doesn’t reveal anything new or of interest. (And for what it’s worth, the final moments of the play were aggressive and incongruous with the tone of the rest of the play. They were almost violent and made Nixon look like a monster. Agree or disagree with his politics and CREEP-related actions, but he was not a monster.)

Then again, maybe…

Media Morsels 10.26.12

Theatre Updates New cast members have been announced for the upcoming world premiere production of Richard Greenberg's play The Assembled Parties. Joining the previously announced Judith Light (Other Desert Cities) and Jessica Hecht are Jeremy Shamos (Clybourne Park, the now-in-previews revival of Glengarry Glen Ross), Mark Blum (We Live Here) and Sam Robards. The Assembled Parties will be directed by Manhattan Theatre Club's artistic director Lynne Meadow (Wit); it runs at MTC's Friedman (nee Biltmore) Theatre beginning March 19, 2013. Opening night is April 17 and the run continues through June 2. Playbill has details.

A revival of Pump Boys and Dinettes will bow on Broadway in spring 2013. John Doyle (Company, Wings) will direct. Playbill has more.

The man who writes the songs is coming to Broadway. For only 17 performances, Barry Manilow will take up residence at the St James Theatre (currently home to Bring It On). Performances will run from January 18, 2013, through Feb…

Media Morsels 10.19.12

Golden Globe Update
Ricky Gervais had a nice run, but this year, funny ladies Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will host the Golden Globes! The SNL alumnae proved a potent pair when they co-anchored Weekend Update on the late night sketch show, and I'm confident they'll bring the funny to the award season staple. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (that is, the folks who organize, vote on and decide the awards) said in a statement, "The HFPA is thrilled to have the magnetic duo be a part of the show's 70th anniversary!" So are viewers! The Golden Globe Awards will be handed out on January 13, 2013. The broadcast will air on NBC.

Reactions to the announcement:
Vulture listed 17 things Fey and Poehler should also be in charge ofThe Hollywood Reporter pits Fey and Poehler against Oscar host Seth MacFarlane in an award show host showdown. (For the record, I wish reports about MacFarlane and his audience would stop saying women are not part of his audience. I am a woman a…

Modern Terrorism

“It’s kind of nice to laugh at what we fear the most,” commented a woman during a post-show discussion with Modern Terrorism’s writer, Jon Kern, and director, Peter DuBois.

Engaging us from the start, Modern Terrorism brings us inside a New York apartment in which Qala (William Jackson Harper) is planning an attack on the city, to be carried out by the youthful Rahim (Utkarsh Ambudkar). Yalda (Nitya Vidyasagar) is on hand for logistical help and stoner neighbor Jerome (Steven Boyer), or 3A, as Qala and Yalda call him, finds himself becoming a willing participant in Qala’s plot.

With the full title Modern Terrorism, or They Who Want to Kill Us and How We Learn to Love Them, Kern’s play turns the typical depiction of terrorists on its head (the terrorists are really quite charming) and begs the question, can we sympathize with someone whose methods of effecting change are abhorrent?

For example, one night Rahim and Yalda are discussing how they got into the business, as it were, and the…

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

George and Martha: America's sweethearts. Truly, though, even at 50 years old, Edward Albee's classic Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? feels uniquely America and evergreen.

Over the course of one long, gin- and Scotch-fueled night, middle aged couple George (Tracy Letts) and Martha (Amy Morton) entertain, spar and break down with and in front of their guests, young couple Nick (Madison Dirks) and Honey (Carrie Coon). 

In this superlative production of Albee's classic play, director Pam McKinnon leads her actors to inspired, layered performances. Those unfamiliar with Virginia Woolf will hang on every word as they try to keep up with the verbal harpoons George and Martha lob at each other. And folks who've read and/or seen Virginia Woolf already will sit back and revel in the incredible way Letts, Morton, Dirks and Coon unearth treasures in Albee's text and characters.

There isn't much more to say about this top-notch production of one of the most well-known…

Media Morsels 10.12.12

Top 50 Showrunners This week, The Hollywood Reporter released its list of the top 50 showrunners. (Showrunners are often, but not always, the creators of shows, and often the head writer and sometimes the chief director.) With separate lists for comedy series and drama series, the list is full ofsome of the most creative forces working in television today. (Check the main page for bonus video footage.) In candid interviews, the showrunners reveal secrets of their show(s) and let us into their creative processes, both past and present. Check it out to hear from Girls' Lena Dunham, Veep's Armando Ianucci, The Newsroom's Aaron Sorkin, Family Guy's Team Seth MacFarlane and more!
2012-2013 Theatre Season Update Tom Hanks will make his Broadway debut when the late Nora Ephron's last play, Lucky Guy, bows on Broadway next spring. Lucky Guy begins previews on March 1, 2013, in advance of an April 1 opening, and will conclude the strictly limited engagement on June 16. The pr…

City Ballet: Two Hearts; Year of the Rabbit; and Les Carillons

It was a special night at New York City Ballet on Friday, October 5. In addition to pieces from Christopher Wheeldon and Benjamin Millepied, Friday night marked the world premiere of company member Justin Peck’s Year of the Rabbit. As terrific as he is dancing in a ballet, Peck is equally skilled at choreographing one.
But we begin, as the program did, with Two Hearts, Millepied’s most recent work for his former company. This was a second viewing for me (I saw it this past spring) and I had the same reaction: I liked everything except for the final movement.

The beginning of Two Hearts is fluid and dreamlike, almost as if the dancers, led by principals Tyler Angle and Tiler Peck (no relation to Justin), are dancing underwater. The penultimate movement is furious and strong, with Angle performing with a commanding, almost manic energy. The music, a Nico Muhly composition commissioned by City Ballet, builds, growing slightly ominous and then the end begins. That’s when the music, partic…

City Ballet: Duo Concertant, After the Rain, Moves and Hallelujah Junction

New York City Ballet's fall season is in full swing, and on Thursday night I got to see a mixed repertoire program that included one piece from each of the company's four leading choreographers.

First up was Duo Concertant, one of the many pieces on which George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky collaborated. Unlike all the other pieces on Thursday night's program, I had never seen this before, but with Robert Fairchild and Sterling Hyltin as the sole dancers, I knew I'd be in for a treat.
And what a treat it was. Stravinsky's composition is for one piano and one violin. It's simple yet so effective. In the first movement, Fairchild and Hyltin just stand and thoughtfully watch the musicians. Then they begin dancing and it is nothing short of breathtaking.
Balanchine created a beautiful love story that isn't expressly narrated but rather suggested in the movements, and Fairchild and Hyltin's chemistry enhances the 40-year-old piece. They begin by mirroring e…