Oscar E Moore

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THE CHER SHOW – Déjà vu

December 12th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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Déjà vu – a feeling of having already experienced the present situation, best describes this cursory, surreal, Reader’s Digest condensation, “This Is Your Life” Las Vegas type extravaganza aptly named THE CHER SHOW now on view for all Cher’s adoring fans and then some at the Neil Simon Theatre where it most probably will run till the last of her fans departs this earth.

There’s only one true CHER and she is not on stage.  Like the brooms in Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice Cher clones are in abundance in this fantasia of her life as scripted by Rick Elice.  It takes a trio of gifted and talented actresses to narrate and star in Cher’s edited life in this kaleidoscopic Wikipedia version.

From a shy Armenian oddball named Cherilyn Sarkisian born in El Centro California to “a goddamn goddess warrior” the beat goes on and on and on.  Cher is like the Energizer Bunny.  At age 72 she keeps going and going and going.  At least she is not a hologram.  Yet.

She is blessed with having Stephanie J. Block as Star, Teal Wicks as Lady and Micaela Diamond as Babe representing the three ages of Cher somewhat like Albee’s THREE TALL WOMEN.  They speak with each other, make jokes.  They have her swagger and hair toss down pat.  They sing with that throaty timbre and have the attitude that seems to have come naturally to Cher.  They are wonderfully entertaining.  In addition there is another Cher – a great dancing Cher (Dark Lady – Ashley Blair Fitzgerald) who gives our trio a bit of a rest.

In quick succession Cher’s life flashes before our eyes not giving us enough time to take it all in or for the numerous (too many to count) musical numbers shoehorned into the narrative.

At 16 she meets Sonny Bono (a charmless Jarrod Spector; the butt of many short jokes) age 28.  He promises her the world – within two years – and they team up.

We learn she is a Taurus (no surprise!) and that she has trouble reading.  “Just sign this,” Sonny orders and she does.  She is afraid and not very confident despite her mom’s advice to her that “the song makes you strong” repeating this mantra often during the two and a half hours (one intermission) production.

Ms. Skinner holds her own as Georgia Holt, Cher’s mom.  A confident beauty with a wry sense of humor.  She also appears as Lucille Ball who advises her to “take charge of her life” in a bizarre scene.  Following Ball’s advice she is one of the three above the title producers of this musical memoir about empowerment and ego.

We also meet Gregg Allman (Matthew Hydzik) husband number two and Rob Camilletti (Bagel Bob).  He 23 to her age 40.  There are ups and downs and a brief unexplained sickness and her babies Chaz and Elijah, tax problems, fear problems, money problems, poor me problems, not enough time problems (after becoming rich for the moment it seems) and feeling alone problems and a slew of montages.  Her Oscar.  Her unemployment.  Her hairspray infomercial. Et al.

But she keeps going on and on and on in this fast paced and much too loud show directed by Jason Moore and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli with a chorus of hunky and handsome bare chested men showing more navel than the belly button incident made famous by Cher on CBS.  It kind of wears you down and into submission.

Before I end this review of a revue there is another star in this show.  And that is Bob Mackie’s costumes.  Mackie is portrayed by Michael Berresse.  Some of the infamous costumes we have seen before.  They are still magnificent.  Backstage must be something with so many costume changes.

Davy, a friend, summed up THE CHER SHOW succinctly as we left.  “Well, it’s cheaper than going to Vegas.”  I have to agree.

www.thechershowbroadway.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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NETWORK – starring a brilliant Bryan Cranston

December 11th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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I’m pleased as punch and I’d like to take in this production again and again – all the time wondering why it has taken so long for this theatrical jewel to arrive and wondering if Paddy Chayefsky had a crystal ball and wondering how satire became reality.

In 1976 Paddy Chayefsky’s original screenplay won an Oscar for NETWORK.   But ROCKY won Best Picture.  NETWORK deals with a fictional television network UBS and its struggle with poor ratings.  It was a satire.  They said this could never happen.

Lee Hall has adapted this eerie, frightening and pertinent production currently running at The Belasco Theatre.  It is impeccably directed by Ivo Van Hove who has turned the Belasco into a television studio, with monitors, large video screens and hand held cameras.  Close-up and personal.

There is the production control booth at one side and a small dining area on the other.  Why? Many have wondered.  Well, how do most of us watch the evening news?  Eating dinner, no?  Watching terrorists murder and blow up bodies and buildings as we swallow a piece of apple pie ala mode for dessert.

So much is going on that at times one doesn’t know where to look.  But Mr. Van Hove gets our focus back immediately.  And the outstanding portrayal of Mr. Cranston as the beleaguered newscaster as a man on the edge is unparalleled somewhat akin to the descent of King Lear.

Having been ousted after many years at UBS Howard Beale (Bryan Cranston) by his best friend and president of Network news Max Schumacher (Tony Goldwyn) he announces live on the broadcast that he is going to “blow his brains out” on live TV the following week.  Cut to commercial!

Ratings soar as Howard Beale slowly disintegrates on and off screen.   Sick of political lies and being manipulated, corporate bullshit, a decaying and demented world is enough to put him almost over the edge.  Watching all this is fascinating and frightening.

I expected audience members to rise up and shout out along with him as he rants his famous line “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  Actually that happens a bit later when a newly revamped show by the treacherous Diane Christensen (Tatiana Maslany) has a warmup guy manipulating the audience into this rant-along.  Along with an “APPLAUSE” sign.  It’s a bit late for our audience members to realize that they are being manipulated.

Unfortunately Ms. Maslany is the very weak link – not the formidable foe that she should be – in this otherwise excellent cast.

The set and lighting design by Jan Versweyveld and video design by Tal Yarden are superb.  Tech rehearsal must have been fun.   Two hours without intermission.  See this disturbing and all too real production.

And please do not rush out after the curtain call.  There’s a bit more video.

www.networkbroadway.com

Photos:  Jan Versweyveld

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THE PROM – Love thy neighbor and love this show

December 10th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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Make a date.  Take a date.  With a friend.  A lover.  A teenager or person of a certain age who remembers what “musical-comedy” was in its prime.  Better yet take someone who doesn’t see eye to eye with you and see what happens after seeing this most clever, tuneful, original, uproariously funny, sweet and chock full of show-stopping numbers that is at the Longacre Theatre.  THE PROM is its title.  THE PROM is much more than the sum of its parts.  THE PROM is a feel good musical.  Better still, it is a feel good about yourself musical.

Favorable word of mouth, the best publicity there is, along with a ton of great critical reviews will keep this show running for a long time.  Following in the footsteps of BYE BYE BIRDIE and HAIRSPRAY it bridges the generational gap that will have many regional theatres just waiting to stage this courageous and tender tuner.

The book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin doesn’t mince words.  It get rights to the point.  The plot is deceptively simple.  Four almost has been Broadway stars and their press agent hear about a teenage lesbian in Indiana who wants to go to the prom with her not as yet out girlfriend but the PTA has banned same sex couples from the school prom.

This immediately after a disastrous review in the New York Times closes their musical of Eleanor Roosevelt starring diva Dee Dee Allen (Beth Leavel) and the lighter than air Barry Glickman (Brooks Ashmanskas) who are accused of being narcissists and unlikable.

They along with Angie (Angie Schworer) who has been toiling in the chorus of CHICAGO for years awaiting her turn to go on as Roxie and Trent Oliver (Christopher Sieber) who is at the moment a waiter at the opening and closing night party of the Eleanor musical who repeatedly boasts of his training at Juilliard and their press agent Sheldon Saperstein (Josh Lamon) concoct a scheme to help Emma (a wondrous Caitlin Kinnunen) without whom THE PROM would not be the delightful show that it is.

Emma does not want to cause a fuss.  She certainly doesn’t want these crazy actors from New York.  With her honest and sweet portrayal you immediately feel for her and want her to achieve her wish to simply dance with her girlfriend at the prom.  She has just the right tone and attitude to counterbalance the outrageous behavior of the actors who have come to help her.  Or have they come to get some good PR and revitalize their sinking careers?

The score (Music by Matthew Sklar) and (Lyrics by Chad Beguelin) will probably become a best-selling original cast album.  The songs are exciting and uplifting.  THE PROM is a perfect marriage of book and score and talent.

Emma’s girlfriend Alyssa (Isabelle McCalla) makes for a great mate.  Their ballads are honest and heartfelt.  Alyssa’s homophobic and in denial mom Mrs. Greene (Courtney Collins) is head of the PTA that wants to ban the prom.  She locks horns with the pro-inclusive Principal Mr. Hawkins (an excellent Michael Potts who is a great longtime fan of the diva Dee Dee, Ms. Level.  He adds gravitas to the show beautifully.

Production numbers are quite exciting as they build and build to their climax.  The choreography and direction by Casey Nicholaw are both superb with the cast of energetic teenagers wowing us time after time.

The “quartet of actors” each have show-stopping turns:  Angie’s “Zazz” – Sieber’s “Love Thy Neighbor” Ashmanskas’ “Barry Is Going to Prom” and Beth Level’s vocal powerhouse rendition of “The Lady is Improving.”

And now a word about the brilliant and exceptional Kate Marilley who is responsible for my seeing THE PROM twice.  I thank her profusely for her courage and talent.  At the matinee performance on Saturday November 17th the curtain was held for some time as backstage havoc was wrought.  A small slip of paper in the program stated that Kate Marilley would be performing the small role of Olivia Keating – reporter.  When the show finally started and Beth Leavel was not on stage something was amiss.  As it turned out they were finding a costume for Kate – a simple red dress.  And without ever performing the role of Dee Dee, and without a rehearsal – a new star glowed brightly.  She didn’t miss a beat.  Her comedic timing was brilliant and she stopped the show with “The Lady is Improving.”

Remember her name.  KATE MARILLEY.  She might be hard to find on stage as she is not assigned a role but understudies multiple parts, is a swing and assistant dance captain!  Brava !!!

NOTE:  I do hope the very impatient to exit pushy woman in my row (gesturing with her hand for me to move) who obviously did not understand the message imparted by this great “It shouldn’t be all about me” production and who didn’t realize how difficult it is for me to maneuver my cane and wobbly knee got to her couldn’t wait another second appointment on time – even though the exit aisle was packed with departing patrons.  It was like being stuck in a traffic jam and having someone behind me honking for me to move.  So…making room for her to squeeze past me I simply asked her if she was in a rush.  “Yes,” she replied.  “Did you not understand the message imparted by the show?” No reply as she scurried away stuck in the middle of the hoard of happy theatergoers.

Based on an original concept by Jack Viertel.  Very highly recommended. 2 hrs 25 min.  One 15 minute intermission.

www.theprommusical.com

Photos:  Deen van Meer

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AMERICAN SON – in stark black and white at the Booth

November 24th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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This is not a great one act play.  It is a taut and timely play.  A play torn from the horrific racial headlines that we read daily.  And see nightly on the news.  And so it is predictable in its outcome.  From the onset.  With some gasp inducing offensive language.

Reminiscent of the late 50’s early 60’s TV drama The Naked City a police and crime investigative series based in New York City where the tag line was “there are 8 million stories in the naked city, this has been one of them,” playwright/lawyer Christopher Demos-Brown (Broadway debut) has set this somewhat documentary styled drama in Miami Florida, in a stark and pristine police station at 4 am as a thunderstorm pelts the glass enclosed waiting area; where a pensive Kerry Washington distraught and rapidly losing her patience with the young white officer Paul Larkin (Jeremy Jordan) on duty awaits hearing news about her son Jamal who has not returned home.  Nine hours missing.

She cannot reach him on his phone.  And that is so unlike her son.  This after they had an argument and he drove off into the storm.  She waits for her estranged husband Scott, an F.B.I. Agent to arrive.  He is white and Irish and played by Steven Pasquale.

Her name is Kendra.  She is a shaken, vulnerable and black.  A psychology professor who isn’t about to sit back and wait for news.  She wants information right now.

Which unfortunately is not forthcoming.  The polite but condescending officer Larkin citing protocol holds back awaiting the arrival of liaison Lieutenant John Stokes (Eugene Lee) who will facilitate communication between one and all.  He is an older black man.  And so the battle field is equally fortified or so it seems.

Racism, parenting and police procedure rear their ugly heads.  And the longest wait for a cup of coffee, ever.

Little by little we learn the back story of the couple’s marriage and their privileged teenage son Jamal who is rethinking becoming a cadet at West Point where his corn rows might cause some concern.  He wants to find himself and play guitar.  Dirty laundry is aired while awaiting that cup of coffee.

Eventually the car, registered to his dad, Mr. F.B.I. is located with a couple of other black guys along with Jamal – with an all-important bumper sticker that ignites the situation.

Fireworks ensue on stage at the Booth as tensions build becoming melodramatic under the direction of Kenny Leon, waiting for what you most probably will not be surprised with the revelations and outcome.

The only thing Kendra and Scott love is their son Jamal and the music of Thelonious Monk.

All four actors are excellent, especially Kerry Washington.

You might want to give a listen to some Monk to cool things down a bit.

www.americansonplay.com

Photos:  Peter Cunningham

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KING KONG – The beast has landed. Kerplop!

November 17th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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Remember the original Gong Show?  Mid-70’s TV fare?  Where amateur talent might be stopped mid-act by the “striking of a large gong” putting an abrupt end to the dubious talent on view.  Every so often, especially before the beasts roaring, majestic entrance on the same stage that Ethel Merman wowed in GYPSY, I was hoping desperately that I could strike that old gong.  So ridiculous were the goings-on.

Remember CINERAMA?  Innovative 50’s film process where a deeply curved screen had you whizzing along in a roller coaster?  Projections seemingly putting you in the picture?  This process has been updated and improved tremendously by ARTISTS IN MOTION.  The projections in KING KONG are one of the true stars of this technological wonder.  Especially the rolling seas on board the SS Wanderer that almost induces seasickness or is it the script?

Remember when a musical had memorable music?   Real, tuneful songs with great lyrics?  Not just some cinematic background instrumentals (underscoring by Marius de Vries) that reminds one of the good ol’ MGM days or is it Victory at Sea? – With “songs” by Eddie Perfect.  Which they aren’t.  But KING KONG isn’t billed as a musical. So the powers that be say.  What is it then?

Based on the classic 1933 film (and its remakes) KONG has been adapted to the stage by none other than Jack Thorne who has been given the almost impossible task of writing the connective tissue that surrounds the beast.  It is most difficult to believe that he also wrote the terrific book for HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD.  Here we have one dimensional characters that can’t decide if what they are saying is meant to be dead serious or satirical.  The dialogue falls flat somewhere in between.

Unfortunately the actress portraying Ann Darrow (Christiani Pitts) who is “a warrior and not a damsel in distress” lacks just about everything and that is what brought back vivid memories of the infamous gong.  We never care about her.  She does however have a strong voice.

The opportunistic director Carl Denham (an earnest and determined Eric William Morris) searching for a star for his project to be filmed on Skull Island finds Ann in a diner, offers her the stardom she seeks and lots of glamorous outfits if she can scream on cue and look pretty.

Erik Lochtefeld as Carl’s assistant Lumpy comes off best.  He and the beast do some actual emoting on stage.

The beast is what will sell some tickets.  He is the star that doesn’t sing or dance or speak.  The show cost 35 million dollars to produce – with a list of producers almost as long as the large cast of characters on stage at the Broadway Theatre – one of the only theaters large enough to house the beast that is a mammoth marionette (creature designer Sonny Tilders) operated by ten marionettists/puppeteers in full view of the audience which diminishes the effect even though they are clothed in black.

But are people willing to shell out big bucks to see this gargantuan fiberglass marionette roar, pounce, leap tall buildings in a single bound, show off his pearly whites, roar, sniff, fall in love, roar, save Ann from another mammoth snake puppet, be captured roaring, brought back to New York to be the star of a ludicrous Dames at Sea type musical version of what we have just been suffering through, then running amuck through the streets of New York and finally going apeshit atop a high rise as planes shoot him down?

I suggest watching the video trailer on line instead.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/e6XsJ3y7L9s?controls=1&enablejsapi=1&modestbranding=1&rel=0&showinfo=0

For the record, the beast is 20 feet high.  2,000 pounds.  Computer operated along with the village of guys physically moving him around the stage.  This truly is magnificent.  Especially his eyes.  This silver back gorilla has its eyes on success in New York but unfortunately for all its technological wonders the production falls way short.  Great, bravo inducing Lighting Design (Peter Mumford) Sound Design (Peter Hylenski) and Kong/Aerial Movement Director, Gavin Robins.

This theme park looking production hailing from Melbourne (2013) is sadly misdirected and bizarrely choreographed by Drew McOnie.

Next!  Roll the credits, please.

www.kingkongbroadway.com

2 hrs. 30 minutes.  One intermission.

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

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THE OTHER JOSH COHEN – a clever, joyous off-Broadway mensch-ical

November 14th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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Finally, a respite from mediocrity.  A relief from rap and unrelenting horrible headlines.  A Rolaids-like cure for indigestible musicals can be found at the Westside Theatre/Downstairs in this very clever, tuneful and bouncy 90 minute escapist journey through the maze of Josh Cohen’s downtrodden yet uplifting, amazing life as he attempts to find love and do the right thing with integrity and honesty.  In other words being a “mensch.”

Actually there are two of him.  A case of double vision as the saga unfolds with the present Josh as a balladeer retelling what happened to him a year ago as we see the past Josh facing up to the fact that his apartment has been stripped of his most prized possessions including a Bundt cake resting in his fridge.  He is without a girlfriend, brokenhearted and broke.  Facing Valentine’s Day alone.  Again.  With only a Neil Diamond CD and kitty-cat calendar left behind by the robber.

They are dressed identically.  The narrator Josh (David Rossmer) is upbeat.  The past Josh (Steve Rosen) isn’t, a bit heavier and has a mustache.  They make beautiful music together.  In fact, they are both responsible for the very funny book, catchy music and spot on lyrics to this delightful modern morality tale superbly directed with minute attention to every detail by Hunter Foster.

If it is a bit slow to get started – after all they have to set up his character and loveless situation – it goes into high gear with the arrival of a check for 56,000 thousand dollars made out to Josh Cohen from an Irma Cohen in West Palm Beach Florida.

We might be one step ahead of the authors at this point after all the title of the show in THE OTHER JOSH COHEN but once the check arrives the authors are two, three and four steps ahead of us all to our great amusement as they zanily steer us through the maze of seemingly endless characters that Josh has to contact in order to decide what the right thing is to do regarding the check.

All the other characters are superbly rendered by the five versatile cast members who also play various instruments, sing backup and wear great wigs as they scamper around the stage in this very entertaining production.

They are Kate Wetherhead, Luke Darnell, Elizabeth Nestlerode, and scene stealers Louis Tucci (Josh’s dentist dad) and Hannah Elless (as Aunt Bea) – all doing justice to the almost stereotypical collection of characters that include Darth Vader and Neil Diamond.

For those feeling unloved and lonely and perhaps feeling that the world is against you and that fate has dealt you an unkind deck of cards you may discover the real underlying problem is you and that your outlook may need an adjustment.  In other words be a mensch.

Go.  Be kind and be honest and optimistic – don’t give up and it will turn out just fine.  If this sounds a bit Pollyannaish.  So be it.  Absolutely nothing wrong with that.  It’s the right thing to do.

Through February 24th 2019

www.otherjoshcohen.com

Photos:  Caitlin McNaney

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THE WAVERLY GALLERY – Into the abyss with ELAINE MAY on Broadway

November 1st, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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At the Golden Theatre, where “An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May” opened 58 years ago, Elaine May – a spry 86 with all her faculties and comic instincts intact – is once again taking center stage in Kenneth Lonergan’s loss of memory, memory play THE WAVERLY GALLERY first produced off-Broadway in 1999.

Suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease isn’t at all funny.  The play is.  Particularly Act I.  By Act II we are deep in the depths of dealing with the disease both for victim and her caregivers as they ponder what to do; how to react.

Under the guidance of director Lila Neugebauer, the words of Lonergan and the artistry of Elaine May as Gladys Green, a former lawyer who is a bit hard of hearing and a bit shopworn, this tale unfolds in docu-drama style.  She lives for company and conversation.  She’s a real non-stop chatterbox.  With plenty of money so she says.

Gladys has operated a small, quaint art gallery on Waverly Place in Greenwich Village New York and lives in the same building as her grandson Daniel Reed (an excellent narrator Lucas Hedges – somewhat shy with a splash of dry humor) a speech writer for the Environmental Protection Agency and her watchful neighbor down the hall.

Suddenly her landlord wants to replace the gallery with a café.  She’s never had a lease and has a growing fear of not knowing what to do if she can’t continue to sell some paintings.  And talk to people.

In walks an artist from New England.  Young and naïve with little money and nowhere to live, Don Bowman (Michael Cera – without his trademark tics) – more an optimist than a great artist.  They immediately bond.  Kindred spirits.  Like Harold and Maude. And Gladys (bringing to mind Ruth Gordon) offers to allow him to stay in a back space much to the dismay of her daughter Ellen Fine (Joan Allen) and her second husband Howard Fine (David Cromer).

They need to approve.

What follows is the decent into the abyss of Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s funny until it’s not.  The patience needed to hear things repeated ad nauseam.  The frustration that is inevitable.  The not knowing how to cope.  The ordeal of it all.  The fear.

All the actors are first rate with Elaine May taking top honors.  She is still amazing.  There is an unseen dog that intrudes into the action as Gladys tries valiantly to over feed him.  And talk.

The scene changes are a tad too long with vintage videos projected of the changing Greenwich Village that Gladys cannot comprehend due to her slowly progressing terminal illness.

Through Jan 27th.  2 hrs and 15 minutes.  One intermission.

www.thewaverlygalleryonbroadway.com

Photos:  Brigitte Lacombe

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THE FERRYMAN – A Family Affair – Northern Ireland 1981

October 27th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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Undoubtedly those of you interested in the latest openings on and off Broadway have heard all the positive hoopla over the multiple award winning play imported from London – THE FERRYMAN written by Jez Butterworth and directed by Sam Mendes.

And you know what, it’s all so very well deserved.  Beautifully written with sharp dialogue.  Staged magnificently.  With a backdrop of political strife to frame the action.  A vanished body of ten years suddenly found pickled in a bog with a bullet to the head.  And its repercussions to the large and extended Carney family.  It’s a fascinating, honest and true to life representation of human relationships and the sadness of love.

THE FERRYMAN is a must see production.  Even for those who agree with W. C. Fields that to act with children or animals is a no-no.  Not here.  For here we get a live goose who has escaped from her pen seeking to avoid being the main course of the Harvest Day dinner, a tiny rabbit and a real live human nine month old baby boy who smiles and gurgles right on cue and a slew of Carney children and their cousins – the Corcorans.

Despite this cuteness there is a feeling of melancholy and despair, of forlorn love, of missed opportunities to express the love felt from various characters that permeates the over three hour long production that goes by so quickly that you actually want to see more of this family as they continue their lives despite all the distractions and troubles surrounding the household.  Go.  Meet the Carneys.  Once you do some of the images will be etched on your mind forever.

Aunt Pat (Dearbhla Molloy) stiff as a rod sitting and listening to the latest report of the hunger strike deaths with her constant cigarette and whiskey that allows the truthful barbs that fly from her mouth to both sting and amuse.

Aunt Maggie Far Away (Fionnula Flanagan) wheelchair bound and lost in her memories and reveries yet coming to lucid life at times – especially to reminisce and enlighten the young girls of the clan of the beautiful lad she loved who loved another.  Salty language included.

And the dancing and the drinking and the laughter and the shouting and the fear from the sinister IRA honcho Muldoon (Stuart Graham – his very presence evokes shivers to one and all) as he attempts to keep certain facts secret about the IRA informant’s body that has been found.  That of Seamus Carney.  Brother of Quinn Carney – a forceful and eloquent Paddy Considine.

Seamus’ wife the frustrated Caitlin (Laura Donnelly) has lived without closure for ten years – not knowing about Seamus’ whereabouts; moving in with her son Oisin (Rob Malone) to her brother-in-law Quinn’s farmhouse sharing with his wife and seven children who spends most of her life upstairs in bed dealing with a mysterious virus.  Caitlin has taken over the wifely duties of the ill Mary (Genevieve O’Reilly) – everything except giving birth to all the children.

Technically speaking nothing could be improved upon.  Set and costume designer (Rob Howell) Lighting (Peter Mumford) are excellent.  And there is a huge plus.  These actors know how to enunciate and project.  Even so, if you do not want to miss a single word and you well shouldn’t get yourself a set of headphones.  They are terrific.

And finally there is Tom Kettle (a magnificent Justin Edwards) – a charming farmhand who happens to be the odd Englishman in this Irish populace – a poet and a bit slow on the uptake.  He who distributes shiny apples and cuddles his tiny rabbit has one of the most heart wrenching and beautiful scenes in the entire production that reinforces the sorrow of love.

At the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.  Go.  Be transported and entranced by the Irish.  One 15 minute intermission.  One brief three minute pause following Act II.

www.theferrymanbroadway.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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THE NAP – Don’t be snookered by a lot of malarkey

October 4th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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I would love to report that it doesn’t matter if you don’t know heads or tails of the rules of SNOOKER – a game similar to billiards (pool) made famous by Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason in the outstanding 1961 film THE HUSTLER around which the shenanigans of the oddest group of characters have migrated out of the mind of playwright Richard Bean in this muddled and not very amusing two act comedy – where gag jokes land like cow pies – if and when you can understand what these Sheffield England residents are spouting.

Their accents are thicker than the walls of Fort Knox which make it quite difficult to explain the thin and twisted plot.  You get an idea of what is happening without the details.  And details are important in a comedy.

Mr. Bean had great success in 2012 with his breezy and freely adapted version of Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters – ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS which featured an amazing James Corden who instantly became a huge star.  And rightfully so.

This time around we get an original story (not an adaptation) without the talents of James Corden to bring it to vivid life.  Instead we get:

Dylan Spokes (Ben Schnetzer) a rising star in the world of SNOOKER.  His Archie Bunker like ex-convict dad (John Ellison Conlee) his colorful manager (Max Gordon Moore – both in manner and dress) his weird mother Stella Spokes (Johanna Day) and her gambling cohort (Thomas Jay Ryan) and two investigators into the alleged future “fixing” of the competition (Bhavesh Patel) and Eleanor Lavery (Heather Lind – who isn’t quite the cop she appears to be).

Last but not least is the cherry on the top of this oddest cast of characters – Waxy Bush (Alexandra Billings) a majestic transgendered woman with one operable hand who happens to be a gangster and prone to easily understandable foul words.

Fast forward to the actual Act II competition (two rounds) between Dylan and the actual U.S. National Snooker Champion Ahmed Aly Elsayed where we get amplified comments that are amusing and understandable.  Where a large on stage screen zeroes in on all those red balls and where audience participation is encouraged to support the players – vocally!

Loosely directed by Dan Sullivan.  Sets by David Rockwell.  Act I as they set us up is quite a snooze.   Act II zany.  Don’t be snookered by all this malarkey.

A MTC production at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.

Through November 11th if all this silliness is your cup of tea.

www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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BERNHARDT/HAMLET – poetic/artistic license taken to the extreme

October 3rd, 2018 by Oscar E Moore
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Historical dramas can prove to be problematic.  To stick to the facts or not, that is the question.  In BERNHARDT/HAMLET playwright Teresa Rebeck attempts to straddle the best of both worlds:  fact and fiction.  She is somewhat successful.  Throwing in some heavy duty female empowerment discourse to boot.

We meet the formidable French actress Sarah Bernhardt who is at a crossroads in her illustrious career in Paris, France 1897 portrayed by the very English and very formidable actress Janet McTeer (in top form) at the American Airlines Theatre for the Roundabout Theatre Company, long absent from the New York stage.

Sarah is 55, heralded as the best, most divine actress of the century but she’s feeling a bit blue as she is a bit long in the tooth to continue portraying ingénues in this quasi-historical opus that fishtails into the story of a woman seeking power and respect for her talent.

She also faces huge debts incurred from her last fiasco written by a younger Edmund Rostand (Jason Butler Harner) who happens to be working on his newest project CYRANO de BERGERAC while canoodling with the Divine Miss Sarah behind his wife Rosamond’s back.  This is where the creativity of Ms. Rebeck wanders off into fiction-land I believe.  The canoodling part.

And so to revitalize her career she decides to portray Hamlet.  Before I continue I have to mention that we are asked to accept – in our suspension of disbelief – that all we see takes place in turn of the century Paris where all our actors speak English.  Only Matthew Sandoval as the French artist Alphonse Mucha, who created her many art nouveau posters, has a tinge of Continental speech.  That’s about all the French you’ll get in this production.

Helping us along are the exceptional sets by Beowulf Boritt that evoke the period beautifully as do the costumes by Toni-Leslie James.

And so Sarah ponders the part of Hamlet.  Poses.  Pontificates.  Rules the roost backstage during Act I, rehearsing and looking for motivations as we wait for some kind of action which arrives at the very end of the Act when she decides that Rostand will rewrite Shakespeare’s HAMLET without all the poetry.  After intermission the play happily takes off in what may seem like too many directions to some.

We meet Sarah’s son Maurice an excellent Nick Westrate.  And Rostand’s miscast wife (Ito Aghayere also a writer) who penned the famous adage “I love you more than yesterday and less than tomorrow.”  Which might be the most memorable line of BERNHARDT/HAMLET.

We see a bit from CYRANO (Dylan Baker as actor Constant Coquelin) and then a return to HAMLET and the formidable Janet McTeer for its very surprising conclusion.

Other than the I-am-the-star performance of Janet McTeer, BERNHARDT/HAMLET is a slow going and disappointing affair directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel where the real Sarah Bernhardt remains elusive.

Through November 11th.

www.RoundaboutTheatre.org

Photos:  Joan Marcus

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