In no particular order, here’s a bunch of stuff I’ve been getting out of the house and watching lately. I have a bunch of playbills stacked in front of me on my desk and I’m not so good about archiving them. Peter Brook once said the most important thing after a performance is done is the impressions you retain. Here are some of mine.
First was Fanny, with music and lyrics by Harold Rome and book by S. N. Behrman and Joshua Logan. It was the 50th Encores production at City Center. I actually may have already recycled that playbill so this will be spotty at best. It was my first time seeing an Encores production. By and large, I’m not a fan of musicals but they do these amazing stripped-down versions of the shows. The orchestra is upstage facing the audience and because the actors only get 8 days to rehearse, they still carry their scripts with them. The people I told I was going to see this kept asking if it was about Fanny Brice and I kept responding, “No, I don’t think so.” It wasn’t. It’s about how love never happens easily. Things happen at the wrong time and as you get older, you become wistful about what you’ve missed but more aware of what you have. The music was great, David Ives put some good licks in the book, and George Hearn and Fred Applegate gave me new aspirations as a character actor.
Next was The New York Coalition of Professional Women in the Arts and Media‘s evening Celebrating Women Artists Over 40 at Symphony Space. This was about ten days before Kathryn Bigelow won the Oscar for Best Director. There were musical numbers, scenes, speeches and clips from a doc called Invisible Women. When you see how the industry sets women aside after a certain point, you can’t help but feel outrage. Anne Kaufman, daughter of George S. Kaufman, told 2 great stories before a few of his scenes were read. Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford did a couple numbers from their upcoming sequel and several former residents of the all-women’s hotel that Stage Door was based on read a scene from that. I assume that’s also where the idea for Bosom Buddies came from.
Caught Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind by the New Group. Great actors, amazing set, cool live alt-country soundscape, and feckless direction. I hope one day to act with Laurie Metcalf. I had some bits of nostalgia while watching this. My friend Sarah Bass played an incredible Beth back in college and my first scene I directed for a class was with the mom and daughter. I was the only one in class who used music in their scene. Elvis’ “Blue Christmas.”
I hit 4 shows in the Frigid Festival. I freakin’ love that festival. The Bike Trip, Medea, Four Quarters and No Traveler. It’s always amazing what people can pack into 60 tight minutes. My hats go off to anyone who attempts this. As a viewer of indie theater, you get to zip from show to show. It was great that this festival gave a lot of shows an extra performance. So much work and heart goes into these, it’s a shame the festival ends so quickly. It’s picking up steam and doing pretty well now. Also there’s the FAB Box Office on 4th Street, which combines downtown cool with tourist friendly card-swiping machines. NYC needs more districts like this and more box offices too.
Then I caught my good friend Lisa Barnes kicking ass in a one-act called Rye ‘N Ginger at Kettle of Fish in the West Village. Honest to God, I thought she was channeling Stella Adler at the performance I saw. And that was the first one. Now there’s an actress who deserves having writers write material for her. I felt so much pity for her character. It just was a good time. I understand it will be coming back. It’s a well-written piece and it was only five bucks. And you could drink, for crying out loud.
Went through the torrential rains to see Craig Wright’s Blind at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. I think I liked it but I didn’t really see the point of updating Oedipus but keeping the situation basically intact. “The people of Thebes are angry.” Veanne Cox volleyed like a damn Williams sister. Seth Numrich held his own with her. Danielle Slavick was amazing with almost nothing. You do get to see Veanne Cox naked for no good reason at the top of the show and there is fairly graphic simulated sex. It goes on to a point where you forget why the play has it’s title until-SNAP SNAP-blood spurts and there’s a lot of screaming. Moral of the story: if you’re gonna f*ck your mom, wear safety goggles. I overheard a nice old lady on the 2 train say, “that’s the second play in 2 weeks where a boy f*cks his mother.”
Samara Bay starred as Kate Keepdown in Theatre for a New Audience’s Measure for Measure at the Duke on 42nd. Jefferson Mays was good as the Duke. Tough role. Again I had flashbacks from playing Angelo in that with Ben McKenzie as the Duke and Lolita Foster as Isabella. I alternated nights in the role with Emily Swallow. The director was batshit crazy. On a good day. Some days I think if there wasn’t so much insanity in the theater, I just might enjoy it. Then I wonder if it would hold any interest.
Lenin’s Embalmers at Ensemble Studio Theater was a handsome show. Smart and funny. If it’s still running by the time you read this, go see it. The ensemble was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. It was a treat for me because Scott Sowers is in this. I met Scott when I was a 15-year-old intern at the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival and he was in the acting company. That’s the summer I decided I wanted to be like those guys. It was like living Slings and Arrows, only mom picked me up at the end of the day and I didn’t sword fight anyone.
When the Rain Stops Falling at Lincoln Center started with a great monologue, has an interesting double revolve stage, and some stunning moments. Moments aren’t always enough to sustain an evening. I fell asleep between 2 critics (literally) during the first half and was frustrated by the second. This wasn’t helped by the 105 minute running time without intermission. The show started late, which is a pain. And it was St. Paddy’s day so I really wanted to be entertained or having a Guinness.
Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of Equivocation knocked me on my ass. Pure and simple. I don’t know how much of it was based on fact but it’s about Shakespeare (called Shag in this) being commissioned to write a play for the king about the Gunpowder Plot. “He who writes the stories controls the history.” He winds up writing something else. The actors were brilliant and the script is one that will be hitting all the Shakespeare Fests around the country. I’d love to be in this show. I always say if I want to be up on the stage with those actors, then I know I’m really enjoying it beyond a place of rationalizing it. This piece echoes justifying Operation Iraqi Freedom in a smart way. I would see this again and again. John Pankow’s James Mason voice bothered me a little but I freakin’ loved this show.
I hope to see the Wooster Group’s North Atlantic and will be going to Playwrights’ Horizons on Friday.