Going to see a one-man show is always a dicey venture, as the details of one’s personal life are bound to hold much more weight for the person who lived them than the one who has to listen to them. While Ghetto Klown, John Leguizamo’s latest one-man show, does not disrupt that trend, Leguiszamo manages to keep it entertaining. Those fond of him and interested in the story of his life will most likely feel he pays the bill for this on-stage therapy session, generously giving energy, humor, and sincerity for his time on the couch.
We've been slightly battered over the past decades into believing that if a Tennessee Williams play wasn't already part of our beloved theatrical canon, it was a lesser work. In recent years, though, thanks to daring companies such as The New Group and Tectonic Theater Project, we've learned the problem was a conglomeration of lesser critics (e.g. John Simon), not so much a lesser genius.
Proving the point is Moises Kaufman's brilliant adaptation and direction of a neglected Williams short story, which had been turned into an unproduced screenplay and then forgotten. "One Arm," which was released in a collection of short stories back in 1967, has been kept in print ever since by New Directions Publishing under the exquisite leadership of one Barbara Epler.
It has been a good season for musicals on Broadway. The Book of Mormon is a huge hit, and several other new shows seem poised for nice runs. Nine new musicals opened featuring original scores, as compared to just two last year. We have also had two praised and successful musical revivals. A lot of these musicals proved to be entertaining and crowd-pleasing. How will all this play out on June 12, when the annual Tony Awards are presented?
It is not going out on a limb to predict that The Book of Mormon (pictured) will have a good night. It is almost a sure bet that Mormon will win not only Best Musical, but several other awards. That said, given the strength of the season, there are some competitive races with many worthy nominees.
Written and Directed by Dale Walkonen
A Staged Reading
Mayday! Mayday! is an extraordinary and brilliant play, written and directed by Dale Walkonen. A bold statement -- yes! As I enumerate the reasons for such a blunt proclamation, you may get the impression that I am joking, because the play is centered on what might be considered a preposterous array of both global and personal issues, which in other hands would result in a mélange of overblown oration and artificiality. Ms. Walkonen takes on, in turn, early 20th Century feminism, environmentalism, war profiteering, capitalistic manipulation, government censorship, covert and overt propaganda, pacifism, the challenges of the young coming into adulthood, national origin prejudice, the squalor of the Manhattan slums, and then some.
Questions My Mother Can’t Answer
Performed and Written by Andrea Caban
soloNOVA Arts Festival
May 23, 2011
Getting slammed to the pavement by a New York taxi is as fine an occasion as any for the start of a "vision quest." Just such an incident jars Andrea Caban to begin the journey. The Native American vision quest can be defined as: "the learning and initiation process of the apprentice under the guidance of elders." Both women and men engaged in such quests. For Andrea, the comprehensive trauma of her accident and its repercussions leave her with "time out of joint," an uneasy bewilderment, and a kind of universal aversion. Her customary daily life is decidedly "off," and she wishes to regain what she calls her "flow." Thus commences Andrea Caban’s excellent and ultimately profound solo play Questions My Mother Can’t Answer.
The Normal Heart
With Marriage Equality moving to the forefront of the political spectrum, the past two seasons of theater have responded with revivals of some of the strongest gay-themed plays and musicals in the American canon. Despite some very worthy competition, the current revival of The Normal Heart stands out as the strongest production.
After close to three decades from its Off-Broadway début, Larry Kramer's play about the initial silence and lack of government response to the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic still retains the power and emotional potency to render its audiences silent, with the exception of muted sobs of righteous outrage.
You have to give credit to Daniel Radcliffe. With his Harry Potter success, the young star could have played it safe with movie and occasional stage roles. Instead, he made a terrific stage debut a few years in the demanding play Equus. Now he is back on Broadway, this time taking on the challenge of musical comedy in a revival of Frank Loesser's prize-winning 1961 musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Radcliffe makes a winning musical theater debut, and with able help from director/choreographer Rob Ashford, How to Succeed is a thoroughly enjoyable evening of musical comedy.
This production features the words of Anton Chekhov in his native tongue and, through the use of technology, allows English-speaking audiences to hear the words as they were written with one ear while receiving the line-by-line translations with the other.
Broadway Theatre, NYC
Several trends were in evidence during the recently concluded 2010-2011 theater season. First, we continued to see new musicals based on hit motion pictures -- three among this season's newcomers. Musical comedy continues its comeback; at least three of the new musicals, along with both musical revivals, were shows that emphasized the laughs and spirit of old-fashioned musical comedy. Another trend, at least for me, was that the new musicals, while entertaining and often fun, did not rise to the level of greatness.
The Book of Mormon
Eugene O'Neill Theatre, NY
Clearly the hit musical of the season and a heavy favorite to win multiple Tony awards, including Best Musical, The Book of Mormon is the new musical by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with Robert Lopez, a Tony Award winner for the delightful Avenue Q. The three have collaborated on the book, music, and lyrics, while Parker co-directed the show with Casey Nicholaw, who also did the inventive choreography. But though it is irreverent, funny, slick, and tuneful, the show did not totally win me over.