Friday, June 17, 2011

THE VISIT • Stray Dog Theatre

After seeing this play, I could hardly wait to rush home and google Tragicomedy.  This 1956 play in three acts by Swiss playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt presents some pretty absurd ideas, but getting sucked into how irrational ideas eventually become rationalized during the course of a story like this is chilling, but uncomfortably familiar at the same time.
As the play begins, the town of Güllen is gathered at the train station planning a grand welcoming for Claire Zachanassian (a commanding Julie Layton).  She's a billionaire home town girl who has scheduled a visit to her old stomping grounds.  With the loss of the town's industries, Güllen is drowning in its own poverty, and they hope that Claire might throw some bank their way.  Anton Schill (R. Travis Estes), who runs the general store, has been assigned the task of buttering her up.  She arrives early and catches the townsfolk off-guard.  After a blustery welcome by the Burgomaster (Jan Niehoff), Claire announces her intentions -- she is willing to offer 1 billion marks, half to the town and half to the citizens, in exchange for the life of one of the most popular guys in town.  That's right -- Anton Schill.  See, Anton and Claire were sweethearts back in the day, but Anton got her pregnant when she was 17.  Claire lost a paternity suit against Anton and turned to prostitution for awhile to get by after being forced out of town, so Claire's looking for some revenge.  I mean uh, justice.  The town is appalled and rejects her offer, but Claire asserts that she'll wait.

Monday, June 13, 2011


In celebration of the big winner tonight…  Oh…  last night…  I felt compelled to post another song from THE BOOK OF MORMON -- the opening number called "Hello!".  Congratulations to all of the Tony Award nominees and winners!

Yay, theatre!!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

WAR HORSE • Vivian Beaumont Theatre

Well, here on the day of the 65th Annual Tony Awards, I've finally gotten around to posting about this show -- my favorite from this past NYC trip.

I rarely cry at the theatre.  It's happened twice -- once during WICKED's "For Good" (I was seeing it with my best friend so… you know…) and then once during the first 10 minutes of  THE LION KING because it was just so visually beautiful.  But during WAR HORSE?  I cried like a little bitch.

This play with music was adapted from a children's book of the same name that was written by Michael Morpurgo.  There's also a Steven Spielberg film in the works.  Admittedly, the book for this play has received some criticism for its simplicity, but whatever.  The real draw of this production is the life-sized horse puppets (along with a very animated little puppet goose) developed from the creative talents of the Handspring Puppet Company.  Kind of like AVENUE Q, after awhile you don't even see the puppeteers.  The team of 3 or 4 operating the horses disappear, and you're looking at a horse on stage.  The twitching ears, head shaking, the subtle movements of the front legs and hooves, the flutter of the tail, that spark in the eyes -- theatre magic, baby…

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

THE IMMIGRANT • New Jewish Theatre

Not all Jews who escaped the pervasive violence in Russia ended up in Manhattan's Lower East side.  About 10,000 ended up in Galveston, Texas through a resettlement program called the Galveston Movement.  The New Jewish Theatre closes its season with THE IMMIGRANT, directed by Edward Coffield, a play that serves as a tribute to the playwright's grandparents, Haskell and Leah Harelik and their migration to Hamilton, Texas.

The set (Josh Smith) draws you in -- a warm, rustic cedar paneled framing and a thrust stage.  In addition to the title being projected onto the back of the set, the play begins with projections that set up the story that include real photos from the Harelik family album as well as photos from the harrowing journey to America.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

BARE • New Line Theatre

Some themes are universal.  The high school years tend to expose many of these coming-of-age themes -- especially at a co-ed Catholic Boarding School -- where you might happen to be gay.  With about 33 songs and very little dialogue, BARE (or alternatively, BARE:  A POP OPERA) is truly a pop opera.  When this show was first presented in 2000, there were some comparisons to RENT, but I think I liked this one better.
The kids are getting ready to put on the school play, ROMEO AND JULIET.  Within this framework, we see the struggles of Jason and Peter's attraction to each other -- Peter willing to be "out", and Jason, trying to stay "in".