Oscar E Moore

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MARY JANE – a young mother copes, along with the audience at NYTW

September 28th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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This newest play by Amy Herzog and directed by Anne Kauffman features a cast of five women spearheaded by Carrie Coon as Mary Jane.  You wouldn’t want to be in her shoes.

She is strong, cheerful and most probably in denial – afraid to actually face the horrors that she deals with so matter-of-factly.  She is thankfully healthy.  She has decided to lovingly take care of her three year old son who from a premature birth has been stricken with what amounts to an incurable disease.

Alex needs constant care.  He is monitored by a machine in what used to be Mary Jane’s bedroom.  She now sleeps on a pull out sofa bed.  The beeping machine alerts her to any problems from an unseen Alex in the other room– even in the middle of the night.  He is also on a feeding machine.  He likes his goldfish.  And music.

Mary Jane has had to forego her teaching career and now works for a real estate company.  Her husband has abandoned them.  Her superintendent (Brenda Wehle) is attempting to unclog her kitchen sink as we meet her.  Mary Jane is a good listener.  Others have problems too.

They include the home healthcare nurse Sherry (Liza Colon-Zayas) and Brianne (Susan Pourfar) a friend who shares a similar situation with her child and is having a tough time navigating how to go about solving her problems.  Our pleasant steadfast heroine deals with them all.

Even the niece of the nurse Amelia (Danaya Esperanza) who arrives to visit. When an emergency occurs we are transported to the hospital from Mary Jane’s living room (the set design by Laura Jellinek threatens to overtake the proceedings – and must cost big bucks for such an intimate play) In any event we are now in the hospital where the actresses other than Carrie Coon take on new personas.

The best scene in the play is between Mary Jane and Chaya (a terrific Susan Pourfar) an Orthodox Jewish woman.  It is tender, compelling and amusing.  Chaya has seven children one of whom is in the hospital and these two women bond immediately.

Brenda Wehle becomes a Buddhist chaplain where the sex of the goldfish is explored.  The play ends ambiguously.  This gets people talking about what happened or what didn’t happen as they leave the theatre.

All this brings me to my pet peeve that it is sometimes extremely difficult to hear these actresses.  Maybe it’s the acoustics of the theater.  Maybe my hearing – although others agreed with me.  More likely they are used to close-ups and amplification.  Not projection.  And sometimes it is the director who has someone speaking upstage so we miss vital information.  To make matters worse the sound therapist for a short while wears a hospital half mask.  She then sings Alex a song…

Second pet peeve:  Have you ever wondered how reviewers are so specific with quoting lines and details?  They have the script available to read.  Audiences do not.  If you don’t understand and get the play without reference material to check – that’s not as it should be.  The audience is at a disadvantage when clarity in the vocal department could help remedy the situation tremendously.

MARY JANE is produced in association with Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven, Connecticut.  95 minutes – no intermission.  Just extended through October 29th

www.nytw.org

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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A CLOCKWORK ORANGE – the beautiful face of terror

September 27th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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Welcome to the dystopian world of Anthony Burgess as seen through the eyes of Alexandra Spencer-Jones set in England – Today.  It might be better set in 1984.

This ultra-violent, unpleasant, homoerotic world (with all those half naked males) that began as a novel by Mr. Burgess in 1962 (supposedly written in three weeks as a Jeu d’espirit – a light hearted display of cleverness) and then a Stanley Kubrick film in 1971 and then a theatrical adaptation in 1987 and now – the acclaimed Action to The Word “event” imported from across the pond has landed at New World Stages through January 6, 2018.

While watching this alienating, stark and menacing production on a black bare bones tiered set where the lighting and sound designers (James Baggaley and Emma Wilk respectively) take precedence there are nine very fit men playing a variety of roles headed by an Adonis – Jonno Davies as Alex deLarge – a violent “droog” (one of the many made-up words that will at first baffle) who is fixated on his looks (as you will be) as his wickedness runs rampant until he is caught and reprogrammed by being forced to watch people being tortured.  He is reduced to being a number 6655321 which might very well become a popular passcode in honor of Mr. Davies.

I started thinking about dark, underground S&M porn movies.  That led to Warhol and Edie Sedgwick.  And guess what.  They were involved with Mr. Burgess in a very loose adaptation of Clockwork in a 1965 experimental film – VINYL.

It’s fascinating that so many find violence entertaining.

This Clockwork is done stylistically with a lot of robotic movement that you might grow impatient with.  Alex is obsessed with Beethoven and Ludwig Van’s music is omnipresent.  The props and some costume accessories are appropriately orange.   The teen droogs (thugs) drink milk.  Spiked with drugs.  The music blares.

To say that this production is a mesmerizing wonderment would be an exaggeration.  The acting is fine – especially of Jonno Davies whose physique is unparalleled and who passes this physical endurance test with phenomenal flying colors as the beautiful face of terror.  He even enunciates beautifully while you may not understand some of the made up Russian influenced language that somehow sounds Shakespearean.

I particularly thought Timothy Sekk outstanding in his four portrayals.  Others in this Charles Atlas ensemble are:  Jimmy Brooks, Matt Doyle, Sean Patrick Higgins, Brian Lee Huynh, Misha Osherovich, Ashley Robinson and Aleksander Varadian.

No intermission.  1 hour 45 minutes.  Seems longer – all that pumped up near nakedness and testosterone notwithstanding.  It dulls the senses.  Through January 6, 2018

www.aclockworkorangeplay.com

Photos:  Caitlin McNaney

Visit www.talkentertainment.com

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FOR PETER PAN ON HER 70th BIRTHDAY – Sarah Ruhl’s homage to her mom

September 14th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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Sarah Ruhl’s mom Kathleen grew up playing Peter Pan in Iowa. As in why oh why oh why-o?  Excuse me that’s Ohio.  In any event she played Peter in Community Theater in Iowa.

 

Now Kathleen Chalfant is portraying Sarah’s mom portraying Peter as the character Ann – one of five siblings gathered for the any-minute-now death of their Father (Ron Crawford) who lies in state in his hospital bed having his feet massaged by Wendy (Lisa Emery) as we all wait for him to succumb to cancer.  It takes quite a while.  Actually the whole of the first part of three in this one act play, Off Broadway production at Playwrights Horizon – which could be labeled Waiting for Death.  They pray.  They snack.  They sleep.  He finally dies.

The second part is a celebration of his life – drinking and conversing around the affable family’s dinner table with the ghostly spirit of dad floating around.  The only conflict, it seems, to be over politics.  I won’t go there.

They remember dad’s bad puns and what a good old time they all had as a close knit Irish- Catholic family.   A little bit of this a little bit of that.  More drinking.  They do have differing views but they come across as part of one egg and one sperm.  They have a problem with growing old and dying.  Don’t we all.

One of the Big Questions pondered is – When did you feel you were a grownup?

It isn’t until part three – a fantasy of the sibs as the characters in Peter Pan that we find some enjoyment despite it being a bit ridiculous.  I particularly liked Keith Reddin as Michael and David Chandler as Hook.  Nicely staged by Les Waters.

Kathleen Chalfant seems to have been waiting throughout her illustrious career to finally Crow! As Peter Pan.  She is terrific.  As usual.  Despite some flying this Peter peters out as a play.

I have never been a fan of Ms. Ruhl – with all due respect to her many productions and accomplishments.  I remain in that corner.

There is a musical interlude as we go from hospital bed to dining room table of When The Saints Go Marching In.  Kudos to set designer David Zinn who gives this production a Broadway sheen.

The distinction between Broadway and Off seems to be diminishing.

There is a wonderful dog – Macy – who either is adverse to applause or forgot to take a curtain call.

It’s a nice gesture to her mom – but really?  90 minutes.  No intermission.  Through Oct 1st

www.playwrightshorizons.org

Photos:  Jessica Fallon Gordon/Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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PRINCE OF BROADWAY – Hal’s Hit Parade – with some misses

August 30th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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You know, he’s the guy with the glasses perched atop his mostly bald pate.  Prince.  Hal Prince.  Producer.  Director.  Visionary.  Twenty one count ‘em twenty one Tony Awards – and counting.

At 89 he’s not finished yet.  You can see samples of his work at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre in PRINCE OF BROADWAY where a retrospective revue of his work in on view featuring a cast of nine, 36 musical numbers from 16 musicals including Cabaret, Follies, Showboat, Fiddler on the Roof and She Loves Me etc.  Quite an achievement if he doesn’t say so himself.  Co-directed by Susan Stroman.

Ed Sullivan would have loved it.  For those of you youngsters who don’t remember Mr. Sullivan  he would feature numbers from hit Broadway shows on his Sunday night TV variety program that gave everyone who had a TV the opportunity to see live performances of the most recent Broadway season.

The numbers recreated from Hal’s catalog of shows is the next best thing to seeing the originals – in most cases.

It’s a sweeping panorama of Hal’s hits and some misses.  Mostly mega hits.  After 30 years The Phantom of the Opera is still crashing its chandelier nightly.

By his own admission he’s been one lucky duck.  And smart!  He’s worked with some of the greatest writers and composers.  Especially Stephen Sondheim.  It helped that Prince Hal was extremely hungry and determined to be a part of the best of Broadway.

However. you will learn more from his “NOTES” in the PLAYBILL than you will from the sparse intros (Book) by David Thompson – where the nine member cast each speak in turn as Hal wearing his trademark distracting glasses that get lost mostly in the hair of the mostly excellent performers.

PRINCE OF BROADWAY is a Reader’s Digest version of memorable (and some not so memorable) songs/scenes from the incredible resume of Hal’s productions.  But without proper lead-ins some might be lost as to what is going on at times.  No matter.  Enjoy the songs and performances.

Especially those of Tony Yazbeck who shines in whatever he does, Karen Ziemba, Chuck Cooper as a magnificent Tevye, Brandon Uranowitz and Emily Skinner with able support from Michael Xavier, Janet Dacal, Kaley Ann Voorhees and the bombastic Bryonha Marie Parham.

Some segments work much better than others but I’ll leave the final voting up to those who see the show for themselves.  There are spurts of brilliance but also some low points as well.  PRINCE OF BROADWAY is less than the sum of its parts.

The sets and costumes are by Beowulf Boritt and William Ivey Long respectively.

Jason Robert Brown has written an original number that ends the two act, two and a half hour show for the ensemble “DO THE WORK” – It’s very good and I wish it had opened the show and then bookended it as its finale.  His overture could be called “Name That Tune.”

Limited engagement through Oct 22nd.  Manhattan Theatre Club production

www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com

Photo:  Emilio Madrid-Kuser

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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Jerry Lewis starred in Damn Yankees on Broadway: Mitchell Maxwell remembers working with the icon

August 26th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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Jerry Lewis passed away last week.

If you are of a certain age, that is a notable item for throughout his long and public life he was a man of consequence. He was indeed worthy of a “front page obit” and if you were of that certain age or wished to revisit another time, another era you may have taken a few moments to read about that life.

True he was a polarizing figure.  He had nearly more enemies than fans yet whatever one felt about him it was always infused with passion.  He caused you to feel!  Good or bad he was only capable of provocation.  He was not beige.

I have nothing to add to the hundreds of obituaries that have fueled the papers and news outlets since his death.  They were accurate and told of both the bright and dark sides of Jerry.  They painted him as the man he was, brilliant, quixotic, driven and defined by chaos.

Yet, in all that I read there was no point of view or understanding about this great and deeply flawed man.  The dissemination of his life was practically void of feeling offering no sense of loss.  It was simply news.  And that is more tragic than his passing.

I met Jerry Lewis out of a mutual need dealing with commerce.  I was the lead Producer on a wonderfully received revival of the Broadway Musical DAMN YANKEES, I needed a replacement for the star part of “The Devil” and Jerry was in need of a job.  In show business that makes for a perfect match.

When I mentioned to my partners, associates and our director the idea of Jerry Lewis the response was varied to put it mildly. Passionate? Indeed.

Some thought it brilliant, others a train wreck, while one person on the project of great import refused to work with him if hired, stating “Jerry Lewis is an idiot, his humor is that of an idiot . . .” and then he got even more uncomplimentary from there on.  And yet as the man in charge I offered him the part and subsequently I hired him. From that day on my life changed.

Meeting Jerry for the first time was tantamount to an old western gunfight.  Two gunslingers sizing one another up before the draw followed by one poor soul laying dead in the dirt.

We met in a conference room at Lincoln Center during a matinee of CAROUSEL and in turn our meeting was accompanied by the glorious score from that classic show.  Apropos I guess.

He was dressed in a dark expensive suit, sunglasses (indoors) spit polished back mini boots and a scowl.  A few steps behind him were three callow cowed Junior agents from the William Morris Agency. Lewis looked like a mobster the three young agents searching for an exit.

We talked.  And then some more.

He had seen the my show the night before and offered high praise.  I was grateful.

He then said “Jerry would do the show if the price was right.” I wondered whether referring to himself as Jerry was an attempt at mirth but there were no smiles in the room and I realized it was simply weird.

The price Jerry quoted for “Jerry” was an absurd number and the meeting took a sour turn.  In a moment of irony as I spoke the words “if that is Jerry’s bottom line I will have to pass”  CAROUSEL ended and the cast was taking their bows to tremendous applause.  I was certain they were cheering my resolve.  It was a mirage, the applause was indeed for the show upstairs and Lewis walked out calling me a “putz”.

I sat in the now silent and empty conference room for a long while and wondered what I would tell my partners of the meeting.  I had taken a stand to hire this legendary actor and there was to be no deal.  I felt a bit the fool.

Late that night I received a call from “Jerry”.  He was hostile asking if I knew “who he was” and that he was the “biggest star in the history of movies.  That the fallout of my error in judgement would end up closing my show and ruining my career.”

Respectively, I replied.  “Mr. Lewis, you may be all that and more but my nine year old son never heard of you.”

The phone went dead.

The next morning turned out to be a snow day and my son had the day off.  We went to the park and slid down the mountain at least ten thousand times.  We returned home red faced and hungry.  Waiting for us with the doorman was a box from Jerry with a card inside that said  “for your son, my of introducing him to Jerry”.  The card sat nestled in dozens of VHS tapes of movies starring Jerry Lewis.

I have said meeting Jerry Lewis changed my life and that change began on the that snowy afternoon as my son and I watched “The Jerry Lewis Film Festival” while eating pizza.

Jerry Lewis was in fact brilliant.  He was also an idiot. In many ways he was contemptuous of his audience.  He refused to not get a laugh and was shameless in his pursuit of that laugh or frankly any laugh.  It was both sad and glorious.  His ambition leapt from the screen and it was exhausting.

We spent hours with Jerry that day, VHS after VHS were punched into the tape player and we watched him on the TV screen.  We laughed often and stayed up way past my son’s bedtime, after all Jerry was a big star and it was a snow day.

I learned something from him that at times served me well and allowed us to have a productive and loving relationship for some ten years.  What I learned (and had never behaved in such a manner in my life before or since) was that he didn’t care about anybody or anything except himself.  I was frightened by this, it was born through his insecurity and I was struck in awe by his hubris.

Obviously we made a deal or I would have no story to tell.  And in doing so I stared him down and got my price and he got his job. I never worked harder on any show than I did over the next few weeks getting him into DAMN YANKEES.  He would call all hours of the night.  Hostile, cajoling, frightened and with endless ideas of how to change the show for the better.  He was kind and professional with everyone else involved with the production yet with me he was always angry except when scared, which was an often and welcome respite.  At those times I talked him “off the ledge” and assured him he was funny.  Imagine having to convince this man, the comic genius of a generation that he “was funny”.

Jerry loved to lecture, tell stories, jokes:  to hold court.  We would sit in his dressing room post curtain, drinking expensive red wine with Sinatra wailing on the boom box and he would often say, “Comedy is a man in trouble” or “comedy starts with pain” and as I grew to know him, to help birth his Broadway debut and protect him from doubt I too owned his pain.  He couldn’t hide it behind the goblets of red, or the stories of the icons he knew or behind a facade of manic humor.  I saw he was terrified.  All day every day.

Jerry missed three shows in the four plus years he worked for me.  He often performed in terrible pain when his back went out and his salve was the applause as he walked downstage for his electric bow at the end of the show.  He behaved poorly and often, spending the show’s money without consent and causing conflict.  He also showed unbelievable kindness to his cast members that I am sure they will hold in their hearts forever.

For me it ended some ten years after our first meet.  The cause is mine to own, to take to my grave but suffice it to say it was because of his petulance, his need to create chaos, to hurt others in order to wield “his power” and I was no longer of use to him.

I felt more relieved than sad.  I had lived with his demons for almost a decade and frankly I had my own which needed attention.

Now that he is gone I choose to remember only the good.  I was the man who brought Jerry Lewis his dream to play Broadway and at great cost to me.  I was told (between hostile diatribes) that he loved me and that I was brilliant and visionary and who doesn’t want to hear that?  I saw him hold an audience in his hand and own them, bring them joy and forget their troubles but unable to forget his.

He was magic.

Yet like all clowns he hid his sadness behind a mask.  His was one of anger and discontent keeping everyone at safe distance.   I wish he passed away without the pain but rather still embracing the adoration he was given seventy years ago when he exploded on America, all crazy pratfalls, silly voices and pleading underneath it all for an unconditional love.

He will be missed and remembered.  I can only hope for a very long time for comedy is “pain cleansed by the passage of time”.

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GEORAMA – a lively musical lesson in art appreciation

August 9th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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Chances are there are not too many people who have heard of the American artist John Banvard who found his fifteen minutes of international fame painting a three mile long “moving” panorama of the Mississippi River circa 1850.

As a struggling portrait artist he hooked up with Chapman (Nick Sullivan) an operator (entrepreneur) of a Mississippi showboat and impresario Taylor (Randy Blair).

With the assistance of his musical accompanist who later became his wife, he traveled far and wide with his original and unique idea – even presenting it to Queen Victoria.

So successful was he that many copied his idea least of all his friend Phineas “Taylor” Barnum who kind of pulled the wool over Banvard’s eyes and swept the canvas right from under his feet.

Also tintype photography came into vogue and moving panoramas were no longer popular with the fickle paying public.

Banvard quickly became a millionaire and then just as quickly lost it all – save for the love of his life – his wife – Elizabeth Goodnow.

Which brings me to the radiant Jillian Louis who portrays this feisty and adventurous woman opposite the handsome, naive and charming P. J. Griffith in the just closed New York Musical Festival production of GEORAMA – An American Panorama Told on Three Miles of Canvas which was first presented at the St. Louis Repertory Theatre.

The 1 hour and 30 minute production (without intermission) has just received a slew of NYMF “Outstanding” Awards of Excellence which should compel someone to continue its stage life so that many more can enjoy its merits.

Which are many.  First off the beautifully painted and projections of the panorama as backdrop by Scott Neale and Jason Thompson.

Then we have the story itself by West Hyler (who also directed) and Matt Schatz who wrote the music and lyrics (additional lyrics Jack Herrick).  The songs are perky and tuneful.  Skillfully played by Jacob Yates and Ana Marcu who also partake in the action.

The lyrics are witty and propel the story forward fleshing out the characters albeit with a sometimes repetitious three rhyme scheme.  Queen Victoria’s number, while amusing, seems a false fit for the show.

Nick Sullivan has his multi characters (including Queen Victoria) down pat.  And Randy Blair (a combination of Dom DeLuise and Jackie Gleason) as P.T. Barnum is delightfully manipulative.

And of course my favorite actress Jillian Louis who continues to enchant and amaze with her performances.  Along with a charismatic and dynamic P.J. Griffith they give heart to this quite entertaining artistic enterprise.

Photos: Jagged Edge Arts

http://www.georamamusical.com

 

 

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IN A HEARTBEAT – animated short is a must see

August 3rd, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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Beth David and Esteban Bravo have created an instant masterpiece.  It is magical and moving with a beautiful score.  Without a single word of dialogue it conveys what one’s heart truly desires and that you should follow it – chase after it – in four minutes flat.  Bravo!

Music by Arturo Cardelus

It’s on YouTube – in a heartbeat  https://youtu.be/2REkk9SCRn0

www.teenvogue.com/story/in-a-heartbeat-short-film-gay-crush

 

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Sam Gold’s HAMLET – Here’s mud in your eye

July 24th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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Are we at The Public Theater or La Mama or some Greek amphitheater to witness the revenge tragedy of Hamlet starring Oscar Isaac (scampering around barefoot in his black undies and tee shirt) with a mixed bag of supporting players including a cellist (Ernst Reijseger) supplying odd and mournful background musical accompaniment for the cast who sometimes portray multiple characters with confounding results skewered with a slew of accents not spoken so trippingly on the tongue or at a celebration of the undisputed talents of Sam Gold?

In the intimate arena-like Anspacher space where the in demand, imaginative and willing-to-try-just-about-anything director of the moment Sam Gold reigns it is both.  With an emphasis on Gold’s experimental ego.  One might even call Hamlet – Gold’s Folly.  Not everything works in this minimalist long drawn out almost four hour almost impossible to get a ticket version which runs through September 4th.

One of Gold’s better ideas is having Ritchie Coster portray the Ghost of Hamlet’s father and Claudius his uncle – who after killing Hamlet’s dad has married Gertrude (Charlayne Woodard) his mother.  A rather bland Ms. Woodard dressed in a purple lounging-pajamas-of-sorts outfit appears uncomfortable.  Perhaps it’s the mules she is wearing fearing they might slip off at any moment?  Perhaps she is attempting to decipher what Claudius is saying?

One of his not so great ideas is having Ophelia (Gayle Rankin) in full Antigone mode burying Polonius with buckets of soil (Peter Friedman – one of the only actors aside from Isaac to come out smelling like roses) and then taking a garden hose bath simulating her drowning and then cuddling up next to him AND THEN BOTH becoming the muddied Gravediggers – in what is probably the most successful scene in this drawn out folly giving new meaning to “here’s mud in your eye.”

Then there is Polonius pontificating on his bathroom throne with his pants around his ankles that not everyone is privy to seeing due to the sightlines.  This is where the hose is hooked up to a sink that creates lots of mud on stage that got me thinking about Stanley Steemer as my mind wandered during this hodge-podge production where an over-the-top Play Within a Play has Keegan-Michael Key (AKA Horatio) having a drawn out inappropriate albeit comical in the extreme demise.

Oscar Isaac does himself and I am sure Mr. Gold proud in this marathon role.  He is best at being mad.  There really is a method to his madness.  Although after the second intermission (allowing patrons to empty their swelling impatient bladders) he becomes a bit long winded with some mighty monotonous sounds being emitted as we eagerly await the tragic denouement of revenge.

Unfortunately the play is not the thing here.  Sam Gold is.  A simple case of murder most foul.

www.publictheater.org

Photos:  Carol Rosegg

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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NAPOLI, BROOKLYN – 1960 time capsule

July 8th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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Playwright Meghan Kennedy remembers Mama in her scattered memory kitchen sink drama NAPOLI, BROOKLYN – a series of short all-around-the-mulberry-bush scenes now playing off-Broadway at the Laura Pels Theatre through September 2nd.

Mama is Ludovica (Luda) Muscolino (a strong Alyssa Bresnahan) – an Italian immigrant with a slew of delicious recipes, a good heart, a thick accent and an even thicker husband Nic (Michael Rispoli).  A real stereo-typical brute.

Luda desperately wants to be able to cry again.  Even the cut onion she carries around and speaks with in lieu of God doesn’t do the trick.  Nor the cigarette burn Nic inflicts on her while shuffling around between the sheets.

They have bred three daughters.  Nic probably wanted sons so that they could follow in his mis-steps but that didn’t happen.  Luckily.  This is their two hour – one intermission story according to Meghan Kennedy via the Long Wharf Theatre, directed with acute details of the period by Gordon Edelstein – and now a Roundabout co-production.

Francesca, the youngest (a feisty and delightful Jordyn DiNatalie) wants to be able to run off to Paris as a stowaway with her best friend Connie Duffy (Juliet Brett) to seek adventure and develop their budding love for one another.  She has chopped off her hair that resulted in her sister Vita (Elise Kibler) being sent off to a reform convent as a result of Nic breaking her nose and a few ribs while protecting Francesca from his brutality.  She always wanted to be a nun but has changed her mind after losing her faith.

She wants to return home and communicates with her sisters by sending letters from the convent bringing back fond memories of Tracey Nelson as Sister Steve in FATHER DOWLING with her Brooklynese accent.

The eldest daughter Tina (Lilli Kay) wants to help out at home by working in a packing factory with her Afro-American friend Celia Jones (Shirine Babb) who attempts to help Tina with her self-esteem issues.

The neighborhood Irish butcher Albert Duffy (Erik Lochtefeld) the dad of Connie dreams of being with Luda wanting some sort of romantic relationship to develop.  It is their scenes together which are most memorable.  Along with those of Connie and Francesca.

So there is a lot of wants on the table.   And accents.  Which sometimes tend to obscure the dialogue.  All this is served on a serviceable realistic/symbolic set by Eugene Lee that features the Muscolino’s kitchen, a large Crucifix, Stained Glass Window, a large bed, a butcher block and boxes to pack up some the tiles at Tina and Celia’s place of employment.  A background of the block of houses and a lamp post set the scene precisely.  The costumes (Jane Greenwood) are an excellent representation of the time period.

And then it happens.  Near the end of Act I.  A catastrophic event that crashes down into the home and lives of all those involved and jolting the audience from its reverie.  This is explained during intermission with a news article of the tragic event projected on a screen.

Unfortunately you may well remember the event more than the rest of NAPOLI, BROOKLYN.  Certain aspects are not believable (particularly Nic’s transformation) and because there has not been a truly focused through line – too many stories going on – the not fully cooked production is ultimately unsatisfying with the onion making a return albeit under different circumstances.

www.roundabouttheatre.org

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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1984 – Back to the future

July 6th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore
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When does two plus two not equal four?  When you are being subjected to torture till submission.  That is the horrific answer that George Orwell proposed with his ground breaking 1949 novel “1984” that has been given an extraordinary, frightening, theatrical and thought provoking production by the team of Robert Icke and Duncan MacMillan (adapters and directors) that runs through October 8 at the newly refurbished and reopened Hudson Theatre on West 44 Street.

The new seats may be more comfortable and supportive.  The ability to bring an entire bottle of wine to your seat is possible – for $48.00 (is this really a good idea?) The producers seem to have gone out of their way to make this production as palatable as possible.  But the words and actions speak volumes in this visionary work that seems to reflect where we are headed if not careful.  In fact, we may well be on our way without fully realizing it.

Big Brother is watching over the characters in “1984” – spying on them would be a better description.

Winston Smith (Tom Sturridge) writes in his secret diary in opposition to the in control regime.  He of a slight build and strong willed passion seeks to resist.  The party in power is taking away certain words, trying to obliterate the past, changing facts to suit their own needs and yet Winston resists.

He is confused.  But has a strength of purpose.  A quiet dignity.  Throughout.

Love is illegal and yet he has a secret affair with Julia (a calm and careful Olivia Wilde) who has slipped him a note stating that she loves him while seemingly ignoring him in front of others.  In a brilliant stroke the directors and adapters have their affair off stage but projected on an on stage screen.

O’Brien (Reed Birney) is head honcho for Big Brother.  Mr. Birney is cool, controlled and calculating.  Against all odds he comes off as a likable slimy villain.   He offers to help them.  If they are willing to give up most of what they believe in.  They only hesitate when “love” comes into question.  They will not give up their love for one another.

Real chocolate.  Real coffee are highly sought after commodities.  As is real truth.

Much has been made of the graphic torture of Winston in Room 101.  Yes it is truly horrific.  But we know this is not real on stage as opposed to the nightly newscasts from around the world.  But the torture looks real.  It could happen.  It has happened.  It is happening.  All too often.

“Pain compels truth.”  So if you experience a little discomfort watching this production perhaps that’s a good thing – the truth of what is happening around us might become clearer and we might feel more inclined to resist the rampant corruption and lies being spewed by our very own Big Brother.

The staging is magnificent.  The acting superb.  The Video Design (Tim Reid) a break-through in stage craft.  Sound (Tom Gibbons) Lighting (Natasha Chivers) Scenic & Costume Design (Chloe Lamford) are completely in sync with the overall vision of “1984.”  Highly recommended.  101 riveting minutes without intermission.  Through Oct 8th.

Photos:  Julieta Cervantes

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