Oscar E Moore

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JAGGED LITTLE PILL – a new hybrid musical beset with problems

December 15th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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You think you’ve got problems?  Meet the Healys in what is billed as “our new musical” – a hybrid of songs written by Alanis Morissette from her skyrocketing 1995 album of angst and pain and pills with an original story culled from the songs by Diablo Cody creating characters and a plot to sort of fit Morissette’s lyrics with music by co-composer Glen Ballard with additional music by Michael Farrell & Guy Sigsworth.

Back to the Healys.  From Connecticut.  The perfect family.  Or so it seems as they pose for their annual Christmas photo.  All smiles.  But lurking beneath all the joy their problems are simmering.  Waiting to explode.

Steve Healy (an extremely likable Sean Allan Krill) is a very successful lawyer.  A workaholic.  He has come to rely on porn to fulfill his sexual needs that his wife Mary Jane (a phenomenal Elizabeth Stanley) no longer supplies.  She has had a car accident and because of the excessive pain she relies more and more on excessive amounts of pain medication.  She is in denial of a past event and a perfectionist.  And wants everyone else to follow suit.  They can no longer communicate with one another – something that Steve longs for.  It is only in Act II when she agrees to “marriage therapy” that the production gets on the right track.

Their son Nick (Derek Klena) is the “golden boy” and pride of the family.  Early admission to Harvard.

Everything seems to be going his way until the “inevitable” party scene where he is the sole witness of the rape of his semi-unconscious friend Bella (a compelling Kathryn Gallagher) by Andrew (Logan Hart) – Think Supreme Court Justice…

Then there is Frankie (a terrific Celia Rose Gooding) – the adopted black daughter trying to find her way in the lily white land of Connecticut and her attraction to Jo – (a show-stopping powerhouse LAUREN PATTEN) a smart and very droll lesbian until Frankie finds herself in bed with Phoenix (Antonio Cipriano) rising.  Resulting in Jo seeing them.  Resulting in Phoenix escaping said bed across the first row of the theatre and up the aisle.  Resulting in Jo’s gut wrenching number “You Oughta Know” in Act II which is far better than Act I.

Problems.  Problems.  Problems.  Do we really need to be darkly entertained with a family (and friends) so troubled with deep set problems, anxieties, addictions and confusion?

It’s ironic that the final number is “You Learn” – we obviously haven’t as the same problems still plague us today:  Racism, white privilege, opioids and date rape et al.

I would attempt to describe the music but I cannot remember any of it.  It’s loud.  Very loud.  And similar sounding.  Almost to the point of being monotonous.  But you either love Morissette’s tunes or you don’t.  And there was a full house of fans obviously relishing each number as the many storylines untangle under the strong and unique direction of Diane Paulus and terrific synchronized body movement/choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.

Everything but the actors are on rollers.  The sets.  The desks.  The church pews.

Twisting and turning in every direction giving us the feeling of being high and dizzy on drugs.  With blurred projections aiding and abetting by Lucy Mackinnon.

The lighting by Justin Townsend is more than outstanding and should be rewarded at Tony time if he doesn’t win for his lighting design for Moulin Rouge!

Back to the Healys.  Elizabeth Stanley’s downward spiral is incredibly sad to witness climaxing in the most memorable number in the show – when MJ overdoses on black market pills and duets with herself (the dancer – Heather Lang – slithering around as MJ sings) winding up in a hospital bed.  It is quite special.

Will she recover?  That’s a rhetorical question.  It’s a musical!  At the BROADHURST THEATRE  – an American Repertory Theater production.

www.jaggedlittlepill.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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THE INHERITANCE – In for the long haul

December 8th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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Matthew Lopez certainly has a lot to say.  Too much in fact.  Almost seven hours’ worth of words.  In two parts.  With 28 characters portrayed by 15 onstage performers in his sprawling tangled gay web saga woven around his inspiration from E. M. Forster’s HOWARDS END with a dose of Angels in America, Love! Valor! Compassion! And The Normal Heart thrown in for good measure.  Oh, and Boys in the Band.  I suggest not seeing both parts in one days’ sitting as THE INHERITANCE – uncensored and uncut – is a lot to digest.

Your head might be spinning, as mine was, from this intense, emotionally draining, cramp inducing gay history overload: self-hate, self-pity, unnatural acts graphically described, the searching for love and acceptance, AIDS, Fire Island, tops and bottoms and discarded young men – even with several intermissions and a dinner break.

Nothing new is exposed here.  From the restrictive times of Edwardian England to the Summer of 2015-Spring 2017 (Part One 3hrs 15) to Spring 2017 to Spring 2018 (Part Two 3hrs 10) New York City and its environs.  However, lots of bare feet are.  It’s a foot fetishist’s dream come true.

A good friend suggested that I should read HOWARDS END before seeing the show.  I declined.  It is up to the playwright to make clear what his intentions are and he cannot expect the viewer to do research to help him clarify his work.  What you see is what you should get.

After the fact, I think that reading Forster’s novel would just have confused me more.  As is, I went home to make a chart of the characters and their relationship to one another.  Yes, it is a tangled gay web woven by Mr. Lopez.

Verging on the cusp of being a soap opera.  With a lot of highbrow intelligence, campy humor and raunch.  But much too long.  If you decide to see this production I highly recommend PART ONE.  With the exception of a monologue by Lois Smith PART TWO has diminishing returns as it ventures off into Clinton’s loss and Trump’s triumph with the main thrust of the story losing its way until a series of false endings.  PART ONE is very good and that should suffice.  Date of closing 3/1/2020.

I am offering my chart to help decipher the characters and their connection to one another.  Some actors double.  There is a gay man’s Greek chorus that helps narrate the story along with Morgan (E.”M” Forster – Paul Hilton) who is also Walter Poole – the long-time companion/lover of the bi-sexual wealthy businessman Henry Wilcox (John Benjamin Hickey).

Eric Glass (Kyle Soller) lives with his lover Toby Darling (Andrew Burnap).  Toby is a writer and Eric is a busy bottom who pays $575.00 in his rent controlled (grandparent’s) apartment that the landlord wants to evict him from.  Toby writes a successful novel that becomes a hit Broadway play.  But Toby does martinis and drugs and is self-destructive.

Into their arms arrives Adam, a naive actor (Samuel H. Levine).  But not for long.  He gets to star in the show.  Now Toby splits from Eric and pays for sex with look-alike Leo (Samuel H. Levine) who will show up at the wedding of Henry and Eric.  Henry and Eric?  Yes.  Walter had died and wanted to leave his and Henry’s home in the country with an infamous cherry tree to Eric.  No dice.  As it turns out – Henry has also paid for Leo’s services.  I told you it was a tangled web.

At the height of Toby’s success and from the depth of his drug induced despair he writes a new very lengthy play, submitting it to his agent who tells him that no audience should be expected to have to sit through a seven hour play to which the audience who has been doing just that explodes in ironic laughter.

To make a too long story shorter I’ll cut to the chase.  The Cherry Tree Manor (as I refer to it) becomes a haven/hospice for AIDS victims as Walter intended.  Margaret (Lois Smith) is its caretaker.

The conclusion of PART ONE is a very moving tearjerker and beautifully directed by Stephen Daldry – as is the entire production that is presented on a stark platform unit set by Bob Crowley.  All the actors are exceptional.

I hope this helps.  I think that I want to read Forster’s MAURICE – a homosexual love story published after his death.

At the Ethel Barrymore Theatre 243 West 47 Street – The Young Vic Production

www.theinheritanceplay.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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A CHRISTMAS CAROL – a dickens of a production

November 26th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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If you are dreaming of a white Christmas but fear the cold blustery wind or hate to shovel snow, head on over to the Lyceum Theatre where “The Olde Vic production” of a very new A CHRISTMAS CAROL (In prose.  Being a ghost story of Christmas) adapted by Jack Thorne and directed by Matthew Warchus will warm the cockles of your heart, bring back your inner child and spread cheer and good will to all – enacted by an exceptional ensemble with a perfectly lovely snow shower to boot!

Not being overly optimistic about seeing this production I was immediately engaged in the proceedings.  From the moment one enters the beautiful and appropriately old fashioned Lyceum Theatre – a perfect fit as it turns out to house this dickens of a production – one is beguiled by the multitude of lanterns hanging from above and surrounding the space in a golden glow as some actors/musicians in period costume start to play some lovely tunes; fiddling away on stage while others distribute lots of aromatic clementines and small packets of chocolate chip cookies – for free! – mingling and chatting with the audience members.

In the true spirit of giving that puts a smile on everyone’s face and prepares them for the NICHOLAS NICKLEBY type story-theater telling of the tale of the miserly and miserable Ebenezer Scrooge in this old chestnut of a novella that first arrived in 1843.

A very festive and congenial atmosphere has been created (set & costume design Rob Howell – expert lighting Hugh Vanstone and excellent sound design Simon Baker) and it pays off in this cornucopia of treats for the holiday season.

You cannot help but be pleased by the transformation of Scrooge (a fine Campbell Scott) from a bitter man who hates “those singing creatures” – a man who treats his employee Bob Cratchit (Dashiell  Eaves) quite badly – a man whose father (Chris Hoch) bullied him – a man whose future dreams and love for Belle (a stalwart Sarah Hunt)

were squashed when the lust of making money overtook all other desires – by hooking up with his departed business partner Marley (Chris Hoch redux) who arrives in a nightmare to warn Ebenezer that he is about to be haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Past (Andrea Martin) the Ghost of Christmas Present (LaChanze) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Rachel Prather) – to help him change his ways and to open his eyes as to what a miserable creature he has become.

In this dark and dreary tale there is much uplifting music and dancing.  Christopher Nightingale has done an excellent job as composer, orchestrator and arranger of the soundscape.

A bountiful feast is created to celebrate Scrooge’s redemption that must be seen to be appreciated.  In which all of the audience unexpectedly participates.  It is quite joyous.  Especially the arrival of the brussel sprouts.

That and the ringing of the bells.  The singing of Christmas Carols.  And of course the presence of Tiny Tim – here portrayed alternately by two actors that each have cerebral palsy.  To see the happiness on the young Sebastian Ortiz’s face as he speaks his famous last lines made everything very worthwhile.

One last item.  There is a glorious magical snowfall – not confetti – a new type of snow that is moist and white and disappears quickly – no clean-up necessary.

Please make an effort to take the kids, the grandkids and perhaps your parents to this delightful theatrical experience with a meaningful message that we all need to hear once again.  To open our eyes and become kind and caring to what is truly important in our lives.  Oh, ring those bells!

There is a terrific video on the show’s website.  www.achristmascarolbroadway.com

Watch it and then go purchase some joy!  Rekindle the spirit of the season!

2 hours 15 minutes – one intermission LIMITED RUN THRU Jan 5th

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainmment.com

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TINA The Tina Turner Musical starring doppelganger Adrienne Warren

November 19th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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This fearless, extraordinarily talented firecracker named Adrienne Warren ignites this long-winded jukebox journey of the still very much alive Tina Turner (executive producer) who graced the opening at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre a few nights ago resulting in Adrienne Warren being sanctified into that special select category called superstardom.

She is amazing.  As is Tina Turner.  Tina who survived the abusive and egocentric Ike Turner (Daniel J. Watts) who discovered Anna-Mae, changed her name and beat her more often than not.  Tina who after getting a divorce from Ike and losing everything found the strength to reinvent herself and her music to become a major star; finally finding her long-standing soulmate Erwin Bach (Ross Lekites) – but don’t blink as you might miss him.

And it is truly amazing that her most perfect doppelganger has been found to tell her tumultuous story – Adrienne Warren.

But do not expect to see her performing Wednesday and Saturday matinees.  That difficult task belongs to Nkeki Obi-Melekwe.  I hope she is as sensational as Adrienne Warren.

It has taken three writers (Katori Hall, Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins) to come up with the chock-a-block superficial book that sometimes is as limp and boring as a Wikipedia summary.  It is only when the songs take center stage with our illustrious star that this musical soars.  And it does.  Intermittently.

Even when the songs don’t exactly fit the plot (as it is) or the songs are not given enough time to breathe and build – they sometimes just segue into yet another scene with more characters.  Even when due to the sound design (Nevin Steinberg) the words are unintelligible.  Even when die-hard fans start to applaud the first intro notes of whatever song is going to be sung.  Cheering it merrily along.

And it is the fans who are paying to hear her music.  And there is a lot of it to be heard.  The best being an après-curtain call coda, a mini-concert that shakes the rafters as Adrienne Warren, dressed in a typical Tina outfit and bewigged in a typical Tina wig and ascending and descending up and down a flight of stairs in typical stiletto heels after almost two and a half hours of being beaten and downtrodden and fighting for her career we see and hear a survivor who deserves all that she has achieved.

What’s love got to do with it?  As it turns out.  An awful lot.

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd who let the genie out of the bottle – let loose the genre of jukebox musicals with the mother of them all MAMA MIA!

Perhaps it’s time to simply do a concert of the music and forego any attempt of making songs fit the life of whomever.  They seem to come and go.  One after another.  Only the strongest survive.  Perfect example: Tina Turner.

www.tinaonbroadway.com  2hrs 40 minutes – one intermission

Photos:  Manuel Harlan

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THE LIGHTNING THIEF – a misfit on Broadway strikes out

November 1st, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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I survived the matinee performance on October 30th, 2019.  Barely.  Resulting in what was called in the 60’s – an Excedrin Headache Number so and so.  It is deafening loud.  So loud that one cannot distinguish one word from another.  The sound mixer must have abandoned his board.

Balance between the instantly forgettable music (Rob Rokicki) and the screeching singers is non-existent.  You will get snippets of dialogue every now and then.  Forget the lyrics (Rob Rokicki).  I seriously thought of writing this review IN ALL CAPS to overpower the noise battle still echoing in my head.

For many reasons this young adult, tween, teenybopper musical THE LIGHTNING THIEF, the Percy Jackson musical simply should have stayed off-Broadway or continued on its lucrative tour across America – maybe not even that.

First and foremost, the astronomical cost of tickets.   Off-Broadway the TheaterWorksUSA production was a trim one hour and FREE.  The bloated, bare bones show now at The Longacre Theatre runs over two hours with a top price of almost two hundred dollars each.

Coming in at a close second is the hawking of water (SIX DOLLARS) and candies (FIVE DOLLARS) before the show starts.  A circus sideshow in itself.

The hawker, with his patience waning, told the rambunctious kids that the high prices were due to capitalism.  Did they get it?  Whatever.  I found it criminal.

Even more confusing is the Olympian convoluted plot that follows – engaging the cast of seven to spread themselves way too thin playing gods and demi-gods and humans as Percy (Chris McCarrell) looking like a young Michael Urie without his requisite charisma is expelled from school in this Mythology 101 chock-full-of-characters surrounded by noise, flashing lights, frenetic sword fights, falling confetti and toilet paper being blown in our faces.  Throw in a trip to Hades and to California; add an informative squirrel into the mix and you’ve got an Excedrin Headache.  Lucky Medusa gets her head chopped off.

Perhaps this Poseidon disaster can be partially explained by the fact that the director (Stephen Brackett) book writer (Joe Tracz) Ryan Rumery (sound designer) and Vocal Coach (Amanda Flynn) were also responsible for that short-lived BE MORE CHILL similar looking and sounding show that evaporated quickly on Broadway not so long ago.

Under all this over-the-top business lurks a story of sorts.  One that isn’t new at all.  These poor kids are angst ridden.  Even as demi-gods.  Parents absent.  The gods just have too many kids!  Feeling that they don’t belong.  Not feeling normal.  Until we are told “normal is a myth.”  Perhaps better parenting is the answer.  Not expensive substitutes.

There is one bright spot however, that saved the day for me.  Ryan Knowles making his Broadway debut.  Playing a variety of roles including Chiron (a centaur) to the max.  That’s a good max.  With his terrific voice and diction nary a word was missed.  Great comedic timing.  And believable in this mythological frenetic fantasy.

Sad to say the theater was a sea of empty seats.  THE LIGHTNING THIEF is supposed to run through January 5th.  But that could just be another myth.

www.lightningthiefmusical.com

Photos:  Jeremy Daniel

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

www.TWUSA.org

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THE ROSE TATTOO – a leaning tower of votive candles and the big banana

October 26th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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Director Trip Cullman has taken it upon himself to turn Tennessee Williams slight 1950 romantic-comedy into a Sicilian commedia dell’arte, Fellini inspired burlesque show.  Thickening the atmosphere is occasional not unpleasant guitar music and vocals.

There is nothing subtle about this Roundabout production at the American Airlines Theatre where true to its name the seats are as uncomfortable as those when one flies.

But I digress.  There is a flock of pink plastic flamingos that share the stage with its main draw – Marisa Tomei – who awaits the return of her handsome, hunky and supposedly hung husband, Rosario.  He hauls bananas.  He has a rose tattoo on his chest.  They have sex nightly.

However, underneath the bananas are drugs.  This is to be his last trip.  As indeed it is.  Serafina becomes a widow that very night.  Three years later she is a mess.  She has discovered her Rosario has been with other women.  One in particular, The Lady in White Estelle Hohengarten (Tina Benko) with an over-the-top Southern draaaawl.

Serafina is now a loner.  A sexually frustrated woman who wants her daughter to be exactly like her.  When Rosa dates a sailor named Jack (Burke Swanson) who unfortunately comes across as Gomer Pyle – she has him swear to not have intimate relations with her 15 year old daughter.

With a projected panoramic seascape; with its soft waves gently caressing the Gulf Coast – somewhere between New Orleans and Mobile, 1950, phallic symbols abound.  The telegraph pole.  The gigantic palm tree.  The infamous bananas.  All on a bed of sand.  Along with her bare bones living quarters.  The set by Mark Wendland doesn’t quite work.

THE ROSE TATTOO, when first produced in 1951, must have raised a few eyebrows with its sexual innuendos juxtaposed with the religious Sicilian community where Serafina Delle Rose (Marisa Tomei) – a seamstress raising her daughter Rosa (Ella Rubin) who is on the cusp of discovering her own sexuality prays intently to Our Lady for omens and signs with the ashes of Rosario in an urn along with the tower of votive candles.

It is a large cast with the neighboring chorus of women dressed in black, children scurrying hither and yon, clients looking for their garments.  If you survive the melodramatic Act I you will suddenly find yourself in I LOVE LUCY land in Act II.

Where mild laughs become guffaws as Serafina meets her new banana man.  Emun Elliott as Alvaro Mangiacavallo – loosely translated as “eat the horse.” To Serafina’s delight he is Rosario reincarnated – with her husband’s body and the face of a clown.  A French Sex Farce ensues.  With Italian accents and over the top hand gestures to swat away imaginary flies.

They go for broke in the sex department.  And most of the audience eats this up.  They want their money’s worth and they get it.  All at the expense of the play that could and should have some heart and bittersweet tenderness.  All absent.  Only the daughter Rosa brings some sincerity to her role.

If you want a wild evening, with stereotypical characters and outlandish performances THE ROSE TATTOO might be the answer.  Through December 8.  2 hours 30 minutes – one intermission

www.roundabouttheatre.org

Photos:  Joan Marcus

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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THE SOUND INSIDE – ONLY through January 12, 2020 DO NOT MISS IT

October 19th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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We sometimes, more often than we would like, wonder the why and how certain shows make it to Broadway.  Transferring a small intimate production into a much too large commercial space more often than not does not work.  But with the right director and the right actors and the right creative team – not to worry.

As is the case with the superb, fresh, new, original, compelling, mysterious, intriguing 90 minute two character play by Adam Rapp that has just opened at Studio 54.  Incredibly it works beautifully under the astute and careful direction of David Cromer, himself a fine actor.  He knows how to coach and direct and lead actors to the heights.  He is a master and his work on THE SOUND INSIDE simply proves it.

This production is chock full of unexpectedness.  And that is a very good thing.  A pleasure to hear the educated thoughts and words – serious and darkly humorous – of playwright Adam Rapp spoken aloud – as an extraordinary Mary-Louise Parker as Bella Baird narrates this suspenseful Hitchcockian tale both in the present and past tense.

After all she is a writer.  A successful writer who now teaches in an Ivy League school.  Writing notes on a pad as she thinks of just the right words for…who knows?

David Cromer has picked up on this aspect and visually brings this concept to vivid life.  It’s almost like hearing an audio book – live on stage.  This happened and then it does as dialogue takes over in the present.  It’s a fascinating concept that might confuse some audience members.  Just go with it and you will be justly rewarded.

Bella is 53.  A loner.  She loves books.  Loves words.  And teaching.  She has cancer.  Barging into her office – without the usual necessary appointment arrives Christopher.  He is a freshman who wants to write and needs to connect with Bella.  He is brash.  He doesn’t follow protocol.  But likeable and strange and aloof and testy.  You can’t help but pay attention to him.

His name is Will Hochman, making his Broadway debut as Christopher.  He will have an important career.  In the words of David Cromer – Will Hochman is “compelling, fascinating and strange.”  That’s why this relatively unknown actor has made it to Broadway with the already established Mary-Louise Parker who has met her match in THE SOUND INSIDE.

Many famous authors are discussed as their relationship develops, as he writes his novella and she mentors Chris.  The foremost is Dostoevsky and his classic Crime and Punishment.

Bella has decided that she wants to end her life, her way.  And askes Chris to assist her in administering the three drugs necessary to accomplish this.  In a quid pro quo he asks her to honestly read and evaluate his manuscript.  She accepts and what follows is why we go to the theater.

Please do not miss this riveting and emotional production.  Mr. Cromer has collected a fine creative team to enhance his vision:  Alexander Woodward (scenic design) David Hyman (costume design) Heather Gilbert (lighting design) Daniel Kluger (music and sound) and Aaron Rhyne (projection design) – Everyone should be remembered at award time.

And last but not least, be there to say that you saw Will Hochman in his auspicious Broadway debut.

www.soundinsidebroadway.com

NOT a Roundabout production

Photos:  Jeremy Daniel

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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SLAVE PLAY – a pseudo-intellectual sexual exercise in power or who’s on top?

October 15th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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The flavor of the moment on Broadway appears to be controversial playwright Jeremy O. Harris who along with director Robert O’Hara have been anointed masters of “pushing the envelope” when it comes to SLAVE PLAY – a fantasia of sorts.  Part porn.  Part psycho-babble.  Part satire.

And satire, to paraphrase George S. Kaufman –“is what closes on Saturday night.”  If you get too intellectual thinking, people tune out.  But not when, as in this case, blatant, off the wall kinky sex acts are portrayed that are once again in the all too capable hands of Claire Warden – intimacy and fight director.

The envelope starts being pushed as we enter the Golden Theatre as loud, irritating music is assaulting our ears.  Could that be a calliope?  Whatever, it continues on as we sit staring at ourselves staring back at us in the full-across-the-stage mirrored panels that also reflects a panoramic view of the McGregor Plantation where the action – and I do mean action in the sexual sense takes place – in “the Old South” where Master and Slave have their well-defined positions in place.

Then our bladders start to thinking too much about the length of SLAVE PLAY.  Two hours plus WITHOUT AN INTERMISSION.  Be forewarned!

The final push comes when well into the first part of a three part construction we wonder what the hell is going on.  Dressed in appropriate antebellum costumes three pair of lovers cavort as they are introduced separately.  How brave these fine actors are.

Behind the mirrored door number three emerges Jim (Paul Alexander Nolan – bravest of all) whip in hand to oversee Kaneisha, the black woman sweeping up (Joaquina Kalukango).  Mistreating her and humiliating her after she unexpectedly goes into some native dance that has aroused Jim he forces her to eat a watermelon that is a cantaloupe and then…

Behind the mirrored door number two, center stage, emerges a four poster bed with its mistress in full antebellum hoop skirt Alana (Annie McNamara – the nuttiest) and her tall dark and handsome servant Phillip (Sullivan Jones).  She is older and hot to trot.  She drops her hoops to reveal a leather dominatrix outfit and after some foreplay with his violin takes charge and has her way with Phillip from the rear with a large black dildo – that has been passed down from generation to generation by its white ladies – its owners, keepers and users…

Last but not least we meet Dustin (James Cusati-Moyer) – a white indentured servant working on bales of cotton.  Not for long.  Gary enters from door number one.  He is black.  Both are handsome and in great physical shape.  We soon learn who is in charge in this duo soon after they have had a strip/fight/game foreplay scene (where we notice Calvin Klein on his undies) Dustin is forced to lick the boots of Gary as…

Back to Jim and Kaneisha who in the midst of a sexual climax he yells STARBUCKS! (another product placement?) – as two new characters – Tea (Chalia La Tour) with lengthy dreadlocks and Patricia (Irene Sofia Lucio) her white counterpart – interrupt and proclaim that it would be good to have a break here and come back in ten or so minutes.  No such luck.  No intermission.

Now all of the above is greatly acted and quite amusing in a deranged sort of way if that is what turns you on or off as the case may be.

In part two – an all too long meditation on what we have seen and what it all means we discover that these people have been for four days involved in a “Antebellum Sexual Performance Therapy” session “to help black partners reengage intimately with white partners from whom they no longer receive sexual pleasure.”  I found the two in charge who are also a gay couple have just as many issues as the participants and they are looked at in a most satirical manner so we do not take them too seriously.  Harris defeats his own intentions here.

Jim reverts to his original British accent.  An Obsessive Compulsive Disorder victim Kaneisha is mostly quiet.  We learn about all the participants.  Alana refers to her notes.  Phillip is still handsome and low key.  Dustin is an actor and has a terrific monologue.  His lover Gary sulks.

The two psychologists Tea (Oprah for me) and Patricia (Dr. Ruth to me) go on and on and recap and reaffirm and hand out tissues when needed.  We get it.  We hear you.  No need to repeat and repeat.  It is here that the bladder starts to act up as we lose interest.  I will cut to the chase as this is far too long already.

In part three we return to Jim and Kaneisha.  The mirrors have been reconfigured so that we can see front, behind and above. Jim in all his naked glory as he rapes Kaneisha.

And so SLAVE PLAY ends.  To recap…No I won’t do that to you.  If interested you have until January 19, 2020

www.slaveplaybroadway.com

Photos:  Matthew Murphy

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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THE GREAT SOCIETY – LBJ part 2 – Politics as usual

October 14th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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Just the facts, Ma’am.  Just the facts.  A misquoted phrase from the 1950’s TV show Dragnet that swept the nation, is unfortunately what playwright Robert Schenkkan delivers in his follow up quasi documentary to ALL THE WAY (2014) that starred Bryan Cranston about Lyndon Baines Johnson – 36th President of the United States.  That production was wonderful as directed by Bill Rauch.  Not so with THE GREAT SOCIETY, starring Brian Cox also directed by Mr. Rauch.  With a set looking very much the same.

What one might take away from this almost three hour production (thankfully one intermission) besides a numbing headache is that not much has changed in Washington D.C. since LBJ was running and/or ruining our country.  It’s politics as usual.

Attempting to get bills passed.  International vs. Domestic issues.  Behind closed doors negotiations and deals.  Schmoozing.  War.  Medicare.  Voting.  Blacks vs. Whites.  Discrimination.  And the list goes on.  Blah, blah, blah.  As does Mr. Schenkkan.

There is just too much of everything to digest.  When one actor portrays four or five characters with just a change of wig or jacket or voice, confusion takes over.  THE GREAT SOCIETY becomes a play about exits and entrances between the avalanche of details and facts.  It’s numbing, resulting in that we give up on caring about the participants.  At least I did.

The arena-like set (David Korins) utilizes video screens and projections (Victoria Sagady) that at times either add or detract from the story.  LBJ’s story.  Brian Cox is not Bryan Cranston who we believed wholeheartedly as LBJ.  Charming, charismatic, and cunning.  Mr. Cox doesn’t come close.  He is loud and bombastic.  And then louder.  It’s a one level performance.  Nothing to remotely bring LBJ to life.

The production is too big.  Too loud.  Too academic.  With little emotion.  Or humor.  At the helm is Bill Rauch who seems to be a traffic coordinator without much feeling for the characters.  It’s all too superficial.  Hitting all the headlines and co-players of his days in office.  The Viet Nam war and its increasing casualties.  Selma, Alabama.  Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.  Robert Kennedy.  Hoover.  VP Humphrey.  McNamara and Westmoreland.  Nixon.  Wallace.  And briefly Lady Bird to name but a few.

Surprisingly, it is Nikkole Salter as Coretta Scott King and Sally Childress (Secretary and gatekeeper to LBJ) who shines in this over stuffed production.

There is an insert – a double sided listing of all the characters and actors.  You may find yourself referring to it throughout when your interest wanes.

At the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center.  Through November 30.

2 hrs. 45 minutes.  One intermission.

www.greatsocietybroadway.com

Photos:  Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

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LINDA VISTA – by Tracy Letts, a Steppenwolf production at 2ndStage

October 12th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore
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Dick Wheeler’s life is anything but a pretty picture.  He seems to have been born with low self- esteem.  He is in the middle of a prolonged divorce, bickering over child support and whatever else there is to bicker about.  His thirteen year old son is into porn and refuses to go to school.  But that’s his life not Wheelers.

At age 50 he is experiencing a monumental mid-life crisis working at repairing cameras (those that use film) when he was once a budding photographer.  Michael (Troy West) a man of a certain age, his boss, still lives with his mother, is suicidal in an amusing way and coverts the breasts of co-worker Anita (Caroline Neff) herself in recovery mode.

Wheeler is just moving into his new apartment in LINDA VISTA – San Diego California, as the play by Tracy Letts opens; being assisted by his squash buddy and longtime pal Paul (Jim True-Frost) who is married to Margaret (Sally Murphy) a long ago girl friend of Wheeler.

They worry for Wheeler and have set up a double/blind date in a Karaoke bar with Jules (Cora Vander Broek) a “life coach” who has her own set of problems yet has a Masters in Happiness.  LINDA VISTA runs just under three hours in two acts and worth every minute.

It is, at times, hysterical.  You will never see a more realistic and excruciatingly funny sex scene between Wheeler and Jules.  Beautifully and tastefully staged by director Dexter Bullard and Claire Warden (Intimacy Consultant) – who certainly knows her stuff.  Full frontal nudity for both participants.  If that isn’t enough to sell tickets then the play itself will do its best to give you something to laugh about and to think about.

IAN BARFORD is Wheeler, giving an honest and well rounded, first you love him then you hate him, no holds barred incredible performance.  With a hang dog look and a grumpy mid-life crisis attitude he runs away with this comedy.  Yes, this is an extremely funny play.  Yet truthful and moving with dialogue that is sharp and wise and caustic.  Covering everything from “foam” in restaurants to that orange monster who shall not be named to old movies and that old standby betrayal, Wheeler rants and raves with great comedic dead pan timing.  An Archie Bunker meets Jay Leno type of dude who prefers Wheeler over his first name which is Dick.

Into this mix arrives Minnie (Chantal Thuy) a 26 year old Vietnamese American with pink hair and red high-tops.  Wheeler meets her in a bar and as fate would have it she has seen him at his pool in the complex and arrives in the middle of the night (post-sex with Jules) as her boyfriend has beat her and she is pregnant and she has nowhere to go.  So our accommodating Dick invites her to stay…

Wisely Anita has refused to date this troubled Dick who is caught between his past and his future all the while having to deal with his present.  Serious and troubling stuff included.

The various locations are cinematically presented on the functional turntable set by Todd Rosenthal.  A panoramic view of Palm trees and a San Diego skyscape is truly a beautiful view.  Odd musical selections accompany the scene changes.  Appropriate costumes by Laura Bauer.

But it is the writing of Tracy Letts that wins the evening.  That and the terrific performance by Ian Barford strongly supported by all the other cast members.  A fine ensemble.  And oh, that sex scene!

A Steppenwolf production.  At Second Stage Theater.  The Helen Hayes Theater.  Highly recommended.  Through November 10th.

2hrs. 40 minutes.  One intermission

 

www.2st.com

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

Photos: Joan Marcus

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