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THE OTHER MOZART – In her brother’s shadow

June 26th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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There were two Mozarts.  Two child prodigies.  The famous Amadeus (Wolfie) and his older, overshadowed sister Maria Anna (Nannerl).  Maria Anna started playing the harpsichord at eight and by age twelve was an accomplished and acclaimed pianist throughout Europe with a seven year old Wolfgang tagging along – vying for attention and then exploding onto the musical scene with his genius genes that were shared by his set aside and soon to be forgotten sister.  Until now.

Sylvia Milo a Renaissance woman herself has written a fascinating, surreal and theatrical one woman homage to Maria Anna – THE OTHER MOZART.  She is performing this seventy five minute “true and untold” story at the HERE Arts Center 145 Sixth Avenue – based on family letters that are strewn across and concealed inside the period eighteen foot diameter dress that fills the stage.

Itself a work of art by Magdalena Dabrowska and Miodrag Guberinic covered with sheet music and conceling miniature props that cleverly enhance the story.  A metal framework complete with panniers enable Miss Milo to fit herself into the dress when called for – a metaphor for her being imprisoned for being a woman with an enormous talent and not allowed to use it - as women were only supposed to sew and cook and find a husband.  They were not to think, not to perform and not allowed to express their innate talents as Maria Anna’s mother keeps harping on.

Miss Milo is quite mesmerising.  With expressive arms and hands that match her expressive and impressive ability to convey her brother, father and mother – among others - with vocal dexterity.  She is also quite the vixen with a sharp sense of humor.

Almost dancelike she narrates the tale appearing sometimes to be a marionette – the invisible strings being manipulated by her father – not allowing her to blossom while his son (and her younger brother) becomes more and more famous leaving her to languish at home, bored and frustrated.  Sylvia Milo is breathtakingly beguiling as Maria Anna.

Original music by Nathan Davis and Phyllis Chen partner with the sublime sounds of Wolfgang.  Great lighting design by Joshua Rose and a wonderful do atop the head of Miss Milo by Courtney Bednarowski are perfect adornments.  Directed by Isaac Byrne – a wonderful collaboration with his creative team is the result that begs to be seen.

Maria Anna Mozart was resigned to her fate as a woman.  She was strong willed.  Talented.  But alas she was a woman.  Just imagine if she had been born a man.  Would she then have eclipsed Amadeus and not been a mere footnote to his illustrious career?  Through July 12th.

NOTE:  At the performance I attended the show started twenty minutes late – without any explanation or apology.  I was not amused.  However, Sylvia Milo and the production itself more than made up for any inconvenience.

Also please note that the understudy Julia Rosa Stockl will appear at certain performances.

www.TheOtherMozart.com

www.here.org

Photos:  Peter Griesser & Charlotte Dobre

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HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME – Hip-Hop RAP at a shrunken Palace

June 20th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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Tupac Shakur.  Palace Theatre.  Broadway’s newest odd couple.  What’s really odd is that the producers of this new hip-hop-rap musical have redesigned the orchestra section of the Palace Theatre – at what must have been a considerable expense – to make it more intimate.  Losing about half the number of seats in the process.  We now have “stadium seating” – the seats are no larger however nor are they more comfortable.  Only closer to what is happening on stage.

And what is happening on the black bare bones stage with a few movable steps standing in as the stoops of the “hood” has some very mixed results.  A bit of background.

For those uninitiated – myself included – Tupac Shakur has sold over 75 million albums.  His rise to fame as a poet and actor (circa 1991-1995) with his very special brand of hip-hop-rap was intensely passionate and political – touching upon the plight of the niggers (the show uses this word freely) in his East Harlem ghetto neighborhood, their trouble with each other and the whites, peace, love, sex, gangs, poverty, violence and hope.  All written while in his twenties.

He was an angry, militant young man who had a high regard for his mother and all that she did for him.  He was shot dead in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas when he was 25.  He was born of June 16th 1971.  HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME opened on June 19th 2014 – a very belated birthday gift from the dedicated creative team.

I suppose he would be honored by this tribute to his soul and his music.  It is claimed that this is not a bio-musical.  But all of the songs used are biographical – coming from the man himself – his passionate beliefs bared in rap.

All of his stories are shoe horned into a new book by Todd Kreidler who has moved the ghetto to MY BLOCK in a Mid-Western industrial city.   With an assortment of characters to voice Tupac’s thoughts.  The time is now.  The songs are from the 90’s - given new arrangements and orchestrations by Daryl Waters.  Unfortunately there is little to be done with gangsta rap.  The rhythms pulsate as the words spew forth.  However Tupac’s themes of entrapment, despair and pain are timeless.

Kenny Leon, a magnificent director who has just received the Tony for the acclaimed revival of A RASIN IN THE SUN (which has just closed) helms this large and very talented cast.  He seems out of his element here directing a musical and does not receive much help from his choreographer Wayne Cilento.

Musical numbers fade out.  The show doesn’t catch fire as we follow John (Saul Williams) who has just gotten out of jail and tries to get back his life in the old hood (that is dealing with the aftermath of a tragic shooting), attempting to reconnect and get a job at the garage that is owned by whites.  Griffy (Ben Thompson) is running the place as his dad is dying in a hospice as a homeless street preacher (John Earl Jelks) wanders around with megaphone and Bible.

John attempts to rekindle the sparks with Corinne (Saycon Sengbloh) a fine “Unconditional Love” - the next best thing that you’ll get to a traditional song.

Christopher Jackson plays friend Vertus who gets to sing the best number “Dear Mama” to Tonya Pinkins.

But the real revelation is Ben Thompson who gives great meaning to the rap number “California Love” strumming on his guitar atop a purple Cadillac newly refurbished at the garage. He puts meaning and emotion behind the words – he doesn’t just rap them out.

As I left the show I had to walk past all those empty orchestra seats that reminded me of the rows of headstones at Arlington Cemetery.  An eerie ending to HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME.

www.hollerifyahearme.com

Photos: Joan Marcus

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JUST JIM DALE – Then and Now - a revival of sorts

June 4th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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Two awards:  The first for most original shut-your-cell-phone-off warning and the second for outstanding stamina and longevity in the grand manner of British Music Hall entertainment go to Jim Smith aka Jim Dale – singer, songwriter (lyric for “Georgy Girl”) - Shakespearean actor, Broadway star (Barnum, Scapino) limerick man and all around raconteur who was born with show business DNA and hungry, make that famished, to escape the confines of a suffocating life in a shoe factory to go on and on and on entertaining audiences every charming tap step, song and joke along the way.

Jim Dale learned some of these jokes and dance steps back then at the age of seventeen.  He is now a ripe seventy nine and you would never know the difference.  Lithe and limber still, he is strutting his life across the stage of The Laura Pels Theatre in JUST JIM DALE – a musical memoir of his life thus far.  He isn’t the least bit tired.  Some of his material is.

However, Mr. Dale obviously loves to entertain his audience.  He is on stage with just a grand piano played to perfection by Mark York for almost two hours – no intermission – sipping once in a while from a small cup – never once out of breath as he jogs through his most memorable achievements as a performer.  And reader of the Harry Potter audio series with a slew of voices to match the slew of characters created by J. K. Rowling.

Mr. Dale has written this show and my one quibble is that it could be a bit shorter – perhaps by ten minutes.  Some tales, as charming and interesting as they are, begin to repeat themselves in words and actions.  That being said, I think you will have a most enjoyable time in the company of Jim Dale.

As directed by Richard Maltby, Jr. JUST JIM DALE is a time capsule of a performing style of a bygone era by a man who originated these many numbers and is still able to perform them magnificently.

In the blink of an eye he is performing “The Lambeth Walk” – from Me and My Girl (1937) then he is Barnum – singing a tongue twister of a song a la Danny Kaye – then a monologue of Shakespearean quotes in the style of Victor Borge that is brilliant and then a tidbit from Noel Coward as a hen-pecked husband escaping from his nagging wife and daughter and then an audience participation excerpt from JOE EGG.  It’s a master class of how to go from getting titters, to giggles, to guffaws and then applause.

Some jokes are groaners – but Mr. Dale delivers them with perfect comic timing that make them seem fresh and not merely recycled.  Jim Dale loves his audience and his audience loves him in return in this easy going stroll down memory lane in JUST JIM DALE - a revival of his life in the biz called show.

Limited run through August 10th.  A Roundabout production.

Photos:  Joan Marcus

www.roundabouttheatre.org

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THE CITY OF CONVERSATION amazes at Lincoln Center

May 11th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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Once in a blue moon an actress has the good fortune to be cast in a career defining role that she is ready, willing and more than able to take advantage of.  Jan Maxwell has been given this wonderful gift by playwright Anthony Giardina in THE CITY OF CONVERSATION that has just opened – and been extended (rightfully so) – at The Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center.  She is fantastic.

The role is that of the glamorous, smart, sophisticated and lethal Hester Ferris – a liberal/activist/ hostess (and controlling mother) who makes the most of her gorgeous Georgetown townhouse (another classic design by John Lee Beatty) by giving political deal making dinners, bringing together those opposing Senators and such and allowing their opposing ideas to be hashed over, over brandy and cigars with the hope of persuading them to be swayed – one way or the other - in the process.

One such dinner is on the menu the day that Hester’s son Colin (Michael Simpson) whom she has been “grooming” from day one, unexpectedly arrives back from London armed with his ruthless fiancée Anna Fitzgerald (Kristen Bush) in September 1979 – during the Carter Presidency.

Guests for the evening include George Mallonee (John Aylward) conservative Senator from Kentucky and his wife Carolyn (Barbara Garrick) whose tongue has been sharpened for the event, Hester’s long time married boyfriend Chandler Harris - D. VA. (Kevin O’Rourke) who is seeking a VP place on Ted Kennedy’s ticket and her sister Jean Swift (Beth Dixon) who acts as secretary, maid and bottle washer.  I’ve left out “chief cook” as there is never much food in the house as per Hester’s request (never fully explained).  Why Aunt Jean stays and puts up with this is also never fully explained.  But I quibble.

Politics and family are dished up with wit and zingers.  Deftly directed by Doug Hughes.  The dialogue is fast, taut and at times furious. We soon discover that Anna is as conniving and sharp tongued as Hester with strong political ambitions that are on the opposite side of Hester’s agenda, bringing to mind another opportunist - Eve Harrington (ALL ABOUT EVE).  Sparks fly and the fight is on.  Round one ends with Anna securing a job with Mallonee.

Act II – October 1987 – The Reagan Presidency - finds a dismayed Hester lovingly doing day care for Colin and Anna’s six year old son Ethan (Luke Niehaus) who likes bouncing his ball, running around inside the house and watching Cinderella - while secretly writing a letter to block the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court – which is at odds with her son and Anna’s political agenda.

More sparks fly as they verbally spar.  Anna threatens to take Ethan away from grandma’s care – never to be seen again – if the letter isn’t destroyed.  What’s a stubborn hostess who is losing ground fast but with her principles still intact to do?

Fast forward to January 2009 – The Obama Inauguration – a grown up and openly gay (I didn’t see this coming) Ethan – age 27 played also by Michael Simpson beautifully - unexpectedly drops in with his boyfriend Donald Logan (Phillip James Brannon) who just so happens to be black, just as young and an historian - to visit his estranged grandmother – a now physically frail but still strong willed Hester and Aunt Jean for a reconciliation of sorts.  Jan Maxwell’s transformation is awesome.  The final moments are touching and will bring tears.

THE CITY OF CONVERSATION is an entertaining and gripping examination of how far one will go to prove a point.  Prove a point and lose a family.

Nice work Mr. Giardina to start off the new theatrical season. Through July 6th.

www.lct.org

Photos:  Stephanie Berger

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THE LOVESONG OF ALFRED J. HITCHCOCK – the mind inside the man

May 9th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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In this somber, strangely poetic, esoteric and dull as dishwater play by David Rudkin and directed by Jack McNamara (as if he were wearing blinders) THE LOVESONG OF ALFRED J. HITCHCOCK – a riff on the T.S. Eliot poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock - is two hours of prolonged torture reminding one of Marat/Sade.

It aspires to make some sort of tragic Shakespearian hero out of the iconic film director of such classics as Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo and Strangers on a Train.  Better to rent one of these films than to catch this opus which is part of the Brits Off Broadway at 59E59 Theaters.

This limited engagement, through May 25th – would be fodder for those interested in what was going through the mind of the master if only it were more interesting with at least a modicum of entertainment.  Does mental abuse make a genius?

Mr. Hitchcock (an unconvincing Martin Miller) was also funny.  Scary yes, but with a droll, dry sense of humor that is absent in this production with the exception of three, no make that two jokes in Act II as he struggles to come up with the motivations of his actors and the plot of a film he is working on with an American writer (Tom McHugh).  Here he is a prime candidate for the funny farm.

An excellent Roberta Kerr gets to chew the scenery (what little there is of it) playing his dragon of a mother Emma who instilled “fear” in her little boy and his wife Alma (his severest critic – that is, until now) who is attempting to write a book that might be titled “My Life with a Serial Killer”.

Poor Hitch was obsessed with his weight – having been jeered at by others but continued his love of food – as well as his muddled relationship with women.  Racked with guilt we discover his obsession with religion and we even get to witness his “confession” – which only makes us want to flee the theatre all the faster.

Anthony Wise portrays a Jesuit Teacher, Priest and Stranger on a train.

The short, staccato words and phrases do little to help and their repetition tends to make one fall asleep.  I kept anticipating someone yelling “CUT!” which would bring to a close this ill- conceived character study that began its life as a 1993 radio play…

www.newperpectives.co.uk

www.59E59.org

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

Photo:  Carol Rosegg

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FORBIDDEN BROADWAY Comes Out Swinging - knocks ‘em dead at The Davenport

May 6th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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Can you imagine if Gerard Alessandrini wasn’t an out of work actor thirty years ago?  His creative, sharply witty and blistering expose of the blemishes of Broadway musical revue– FORBIDDEN BROADWAY would never have been born.

And now thirty years later, emerging in its newest incarnation FORBIDDEN BROADWAY – Comes Out Swinging (and boy do they mean it) - at the newly refurbished DAVENPORT THEATRE – where it sparkles like a treasure chest filled with diamonds.  It is immense fun.  And knowing the show’s reference points make it twice as much fun.  No one is safe.

With a quartet of players (Carter Calvert, Mia Gentile, Scott Richard Foster and Marcus Stevens) blessed with outstanding comic timing, an ability to mimic the multitude of stars represented, terrific voices and the dexterity to manage hand held microphones - we are bombarded with Mr. Alessandrini’s take on the present and recently departed Broadway scene with its extended family represented by the television live special of THE SOUND OF MUSIC included, re-writing the lyrics to the famous tunes to suit his own satiric purpose.  How could he resist lampooning Carrie Underwood?  Or pointing out the corporate take-overs rampant on the Great White Way?

Mr. A has the courage to say what many people think but are afraid to say.  Bless him!  And he says it with a sometimes scathing wit that is based in truth - the whole truth and nothing but - which makes it all so deliciously amusing.  That is, if you are not the target of his barbed arrows.

The other stars of the production include the expert pianist David Caldwell, who keeps things humming along like a well-tuned engine as the actors quick change characters, fabulous right on wigs (Bobbie Cliffton Zlotnik) and amazingly elaborate costumes (Dustin Cross/Philip Heckman) and director Phillip George who has also provided some snappy dialogue (along with his co-director Mr. A.)

Highlights include everything.  And I won’t give any of the specifics away - they must be heard for the first time for full effect.

If I must I will point out Mr. Foster’s Robert from BRIDGES, Frankie Valli JERSEY BOYS, Sylvester Stallone ROCKY, Steve Kazee ONCE and Alan Cumming CABARET.  Mia’s Patina Miller PIPPIN, Cristin Milioti ONCE, Audra McDonald THE SOUND OF MUSIC and Stark Sands KINKY BOOTS.  Then we have Carter Calvert as Andrea Martin PIPPIN, Fran Drescher CINDERELLA, Francesca BRIDGES, Carole King BEAUTIFUL, Carrie Underwood THE SOUND OF MUSIC and Liza.  Mr. Stevens shines as Matthew Warchus Trunchbull MATILDA, Jason Robert Brown, JASON ROBERT BROWN, Andy Karl ROCKY, Woody Allen BULLETS and the amazing Mandy Patinkin.

There are more laughs per minute than any other production on or off Broadway.  Who could ask for anything more?  Two Acts.  Almost two hours.  Too funny for words.

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

Photos:  Carol Rosegg

www.forbiddenbroadway.com

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ACT ONE – celebrating the life of Moss Hart magnificently

May 4th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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Something new and wonderful has been added to the stage of the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center – a gorgeous, traditional, translucent red show curtain trimmed in gold for its production of James Lapine’s adaptation of the Moss Hart 1959 autobiography ACT ONE – a celebration of his life that is done magnificently under Mr. Lapine’s direction and starring Santino Fontana and Tony Shalhoub as the younger and older Hart respectively.  There is also an even younger Mossy played by Matthew Schechter.  It takes three excellent actors to fill Mr. Hart’s shoes admirably as he was a force of nature who loved the theater and became a world famous writer, director and bon vivant.

But it didn’t come easy.  His success was a combination of passion for the theater instilled in him by his theatrical Aunt Kate (Andrea Martin) his obsessive reading, his desire to do anything to get near a stage, his need to escape the poverty of his English-Jewish parents in the Bronx, some good connections (the Confederation of Office Boys), his obvious potential, his hunger for food and fame, his persistence and his life changing collaboration with the famous and quirky George S. Kaufman (Tony Shalhoub) on ONCE IN A LIFETIME – a very lucky break indeed.

But Moss Hart made his own luck.  Pursuing his dream with vigor and not letting anything or anyone distract him from his ultimate goal of being a successful writer.  It seems like a charmed life.  But it did have many ups and downs.  His persistence ultimately wins out.  One couldn’t make this up.  It would be hard to believe.  But it actually happened and is brought to vivid life in this perfect production highlighting the years 1914-1930.

As the play begins the curtain parts to reveal the mammoth and brilliant stage set design by Beowulf Boritt – a large, multi-tiered turntable that serves as the many locations – Hart’s home, the theatrical office where he was a clerk, a theatre and Kaufman’s sumptuous apartment - among the many others where life continues to go on as Moss Hart’s story unfolds narrated by both the young, naïve and ambitious Santino and the confident, urbane Shalhoub – who does triple duty here.

Not only is he the older Hart but he portrays the cockney accented father of Mossy and the fastidious Kaufman – earning him a Tony nomination as best leading actor in a play - beating out Santino only by a split hair.  They are both excellent.

As is the phenomenal Andrea Martin who not only plays Aunt Kate but Frieda Fishbein (Hart’s pushy agent) and the wise and elegant Mrs. Kaufman – Beatrice - wearing lovely dresses designed by Jane Greenwood.  Ms. Martin is a delight whenever she is on stage.

Time appears to fly by in this almost three hour production thanks to the set and direction by Mr. Lapine who has done a great job in condensing Mr. Hart’s tome.

The second act deals with the odd couple collaboration of Hart and Kaufman – the apprentice and the master at work and their attempt – attempts - to bring to fruition a successful ONCE IN A LIFETIME that opened to raves at the Music Box Theatre in 1930.

As we view a troublesome scene from the satirical comedy they are writing revisions elsewhere and as they change the script the actors change the lines in the play.  Back and forth.  It’s a brilliant touch.  Both as writer and director.

You don’t have to be an aficionado of the theatre to love this production.  Anyone who has a dream, who has the hunger, the desire to succeed in whatever will be given enlightenment and encouragement by the exemplary and ultimately successful life story of Moss Hart.  Persistence is the key word.  That and potential.

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

www.lct.org

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HARVEY FIERSTEIN’S CASA VALENTINA – skirting the issues

April 28th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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CASA VALENTINA is a fascinating and bizarre drama that examines a group of straight men who have a need to dress as women.  They are not gay.  Not flamboyant drag queens nor female impersonators.  They are men, most of whom are married – some with children.  Men that feel trapped and choked in their male clothing – needing to don dresses and slips and wigs and make-up to release whatever they need to be released.

Playwright Harvey Fierstein has based this documentary like drama/comedy on true life events in the Catskill Mountains resort “Chevalier d’Eon” where the world of the “self-made woman” was created in 1962.

Together with director Joe Mantello they have cast a stellar ensemble of men who are totally believable as women in this Manhattan Theatre Club production at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre that is totally well-intentioned but a bit contrived and melodramatic as it tackles a bit too many issues.  Mr. Fierstein has bitten off a lot more than we can digest.

We first meet Rita a GG (Genuine Girl) Mare Winningham the relaxed and soft spoken wife of George.  She literally wears the pants in the family as George is mostly in a dress as his alter ego Valentina.  Their child is the resort they run that is losing money.  In addition, George has been mailed an envelope containing gay porno that was meant for another person.  An envelope that somehow was unintentionally opened allowing the photos to spill out resulting in George being investigated.

Bessie (Tom McGowan) quotes Oscar Wilde a lot.  She is warm hearted and welcoming of first time attendee Jonathan (Gabriel Ebert) who is a nervous wreck.  He is so completely unprepared for this festive weekend as Miranda that he is given a complete make-over by the other women –Gloria (Nick Westrate) Terry (John Cullum) The Judge (who arrives hunting rifle in hand – before he becomes Amy (Larry Pine) and the VIP guest Charlotte (Reed Birney) the publisher of the group magazine who has been arrested and jailed as has an agenda that is cause for a heated debate among the members.

Looking very much like a chic Bette Davis, cigarette in one hand and drink in the other she wants them all to sign an affidavit that she hopes will legalize transvestites and that will exclude all gays – as that is not what these members are.  Wait…

The heated debate takes up most of Act I.  They then take a rest at the opening of Act II as a trio lip syncs a recording of “Sugartime” by the McGuire Sisters as the others enjoy.  Then melodrama kicks in until the rather downbeat ending.

All through the play I kept wondering about the wives.  Some know, some don’t.  The ones that know accept or do they?  Rita does up to a point and we get some insight as to how she feels but George/Valentina seems so selfish and unfair to her.

At the very least Mr. Fierstein has gotten this secret topic out in the open creating discussion.  At best he has created some very juicy roles for men to explore their inner woman.

CASA VALENTINA was inspired by the book CASA SUSANNA by Michael Hurst and Robert Swope.  Whose story is it?  Miranda’s?  Valentina’s?  Amy’s? or Charlotte’s?

Photos:  Mathew Murphy

Visit:  www.TalkEntertainment.com

www.casavalentinabroadway.com

www.manhattantheatreclub.com

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DANIEL RADCLIFFE in THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN

April 27th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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Daniel Radcliffe may be the bait to entice audiences to buy tickets to the Michael Grandage Company’s production of Martin McDonagh’s quirky yet moving play THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMANN that has been brought over from London lock, stock and barrel of peas and baskets of eggs intact at the Cort Theatre but there are many other wonderful assets to enjoy in this incredibly well acted and directed production by Michael Grandage.

First and foremost the gracious and talented Mr. Radcliffe is not the star of the production, per se.  He is part of an ensemble of fine-tuned actors portraying the various eccentric characters that inhabit the bleak Island of Inishmaan where gossip reigns supreme.  There isn’t much else to do.  But like all gossip one never knows what is true and what isn’t.

Mr. Radcliffe, as Cripple Billy has decided to forsake his comfort zone in what appears to be a most uncomfortable position as he hobbles across the stage - almost hopping - as he becomes the twisted albeit adorable Billy – a sickly orphan who has been brought up by his two spinster aunts after both his parents died in a boating accident.  Or did they?

Auntie Kate Osbourne (Ingrid Craigie) a most negative person who speaks to stones and Auntie Eileen Osbourne (Gillian Hanna) who sneaks treats that should be for sale in the General Store that they run while forever worrying about Billy – a bullied boy who loves to read and look at cows and who is trying to muster enough courage to date Helen McCormick (Sarah Greene) the beautiful, tough and foul mouthed sister of Bartley McCormick (Conor MacNeill) who loves telescopes, making fun of others and who has a tough time deciding on which candy he wants to choose and who is forever being brow beaten by his sister.

It’s a boring life in this town.  So gossip is always welcomed.  But at a price.  Johnnypateenmike (Pat Shortt) is willing to deliver his very important choice bits of news for a slab of bacon, or a can of peas or some eggs to help him out as he is caretaker of his ninety year old mom – Mammy (June Watson) who likes to argue with her son and have a few shots of whiskey to get her heart started in the morning – a heart that her son wishes would just stop.

Mr. Shortt reveals that an American film company has arrived to make a documentary – The Man of Aran.  Billy wants to audition for the part of a crippled boy.  And so he persuades Babbybobby (Padraic Delaney) to take him and Helen and Bartley off Island to try to get into the picture.  He does so by delivering a letter from his Doctor (Gary Lilburn) describing an illness that Babbybobby’s wife died of.

Has Billy got only three months to live?  Will he get the part?  Will he go to America or die of TB?  Does he ever get to kiss Helen?   Will Mammy ever stop berating her son?  Will Mammy live forever?  Will we see blood shed?  Eggs crushed?  Will we learn the truth about Billy’s parents?

Mr. McDonagh has a wonderful lyrical style of writing which can be darkly humorous.  His characters say the most horrible things.  We shouldn’t laugh but we do.

Daniel Radcliffe’s performance is flawless.  He has a depth of character and his inner soul shines right through his penetrating eyes.  He is heartbreaking and funny.  Mr. McDonagh has written a part that twists and turns as much as Billy’s malformed left foot – we never quite know what the truth is and where we are headed – but we are moved and enlightened during this incredible journey to the Island of Inishmaan.  A superb production.

www.crippleofinishmaan.com

Photos:  Marc Brenner

Visit:  www.TalkEntertainment.com

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OF MICE AND MEN – stark, searing and sad revival starring James Franco & Chris O’Dowd

April 26th, 2014 by Oscar E Moore
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While it’s never made clear by playwright John Steinbeck how George (James Franco) and Lennie (Chris O’Dowd) met and became fast friends – Are they cousins?  Did a horse really kick Lennie in the head? - they simply are.

In this stark and no-nonsense limited engagement revival of the 1938 drama that is ably directed by Anna D. Shapiro, James Franco and Chris O’Dowd are part of a terrific ensemble, bringing to life the dreams of the desperate, the weary and downtrodden workers in the Salinas Valley of California during the great depression of the 1930’s with atmospheric music by David Singer and scenic design by Todd Rosenthal.

Looking out for each other and looking for work that will enable them to fulfill their dream of owning their own homestead and living off “the fat of the land” they land new jobs in a place that Lennie instinctively feels is bad, foreshadowing all that will tragically follow.  Both give assured performances and their chemistry is palpable.

These two unlikely buddies find solace in their long term friendship.  They need each other to survive.  The dominant and mostly patient George is the protector of the childlike but strong like an ox Lennie having the fortitude to look after his mentally disabled friend who has a knack for getting into trouble because he loves to pet nice, soft things – mice, rabbits and pups.  Petting and unintentionally killing them in the process.

The other ranch hands find it strange that these two men are so close and have been traveling together and that George speaks for both of them while Lennie smiles and laughs and picks up words and phrases but has trouble remembering - always ready to hear, like a bedtime story, what George has envisioned for their future.

An uncertain future for sure as they try to adapt to their new surroundings.  There is the old ranch hand Candy (Jim Norton) with his stinky old dog that Carlson (Joel Marsh Garland) wants to shoot.  When Candy finds out about the plan to buy some land he offers his life savings to be a part of their new life.

The boss’s short son Curley (Alex Morf) takes an immediate dislike to Lennie.  He likes to intimidate and start fights, usually over his pretty and fragile wife (Leighton Meester) who seeks out the other men to talk to (in particular the handsome Slim – Jim Parrack) as her marriage isn’t what she thought it would be and still dreams of being an actress.

Also on hand is Crooks (Ron Cephas Jones) a black worker who is not allowed to be with the others, but who manages to befriend Lennie and who also would love to join them in their escapist pipe dream.

When Curley’s wife decides to leave, she accidently meets Lennie.  They speak and she innocently lets him caress her hair that ultimately leads to the stunning and shocking ending that leaves the audience stunned into silence.  OF MICE AND MEN is a sad and searing revival with very strong performances – particularly those of Franco and O’Dowd and Norton.

www.ofmiceandmenonbroadway.com

Photos:  Richard Phibbs

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