Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramagoâ€™s novel Blindness is a deeply unsettling meditation on human nature and how quickly human society can unravel when people are gripped by irrational fear. In many ways its mood echoes the similarly cautionary tale of Ray Bradburyâ€™s Fahrenheit 451, which Godlight Theatre Company adapted strikingly well last year. So one would be justified in expecting that Joe Tantalo (founder/artistic director of the company) would have comparable success adapting Blindness for the stage. Unfortunately, the new production, which opened Tuesday at 59E59 Theatres, does not live up to those expectations. Despite the inherent tension of Saramagoâ€™s story, the plot drags here, with the most striking bursts being those of violence, making for a display that is often physically horrifying, sure, but that fails to strike the notes of moral horror Saramago achieved on the page.
How often does one go to the theatre and get to hobnob on the stage before the play starts with all oneâ€™s fellow theatergoers and the star?
We are served champagne on the drawing room set. Itâ€™s a discreet little party, with the guests just slightly shoving in that aggressive New Yorker way towards a moment of discourse with Wallace Shawn. And, yes, he stands there in his tweed sports jacket and discreet tie, beaming, and gabbing away like a genial host.
Tom Stoppard has bitten off a huge mouthful of Russian history with his trilogy at Lincoln Center, The Coast of Utopia. Itâ€™s a brilliant production so far, with the first two plays, Voyage and Shipwreck, having opened. The narrative concerns a group of political revolutionariesâ€”Bakunin, Herzen, Belinsky, and othersâ€”from the 1830s and 1840s, precursors of the Russian Revolution of 1917, but so far in advance of their times as to be more dreamers and talkers than actual soldiers of the revolution. Revolutions of a sort were occurring in Western Europe (like the brief one of 1848). But most of Russia was still asleep, under the repressive Tsar Nicholas I, and that situation drives these passionate men first to heated political discourse, and later to travel abroad to Paris and other European hotbeds of exile activity.
Sarah Ruhlâ€™s The Clean House is her first major production in New York City, even though she was a runner-up for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in drama and won a MacArthur Fellowship (otherwise known as the genius award) in 2006. She comes bearing much critical praise, and given that she is only 32 years old, this could prove to be a problem. Will she live up to Charles Isherwoodâ€™s effusive claim in his New York Times review that The Clean House is â€œone of the finest and funniest new plays youâ€™re likely to see in New York this seasonâ€?
In a strange way, and despite its apparent experimental techniques, it is a very safe play, just the kind they love at Lincoln Center: pretty, witty, well acted, with nothing too disturbing. And the play has a lot of laughs. But where are the crazy raw edges of life, the truly risky discoveries?
Playing to full houses at the Duke of Yorkâ€™s Theatre in London, Tom Stoppardâ€™s latest play, Rock â€˜Nâ€™ Roll lays out a theory of art as well as a political story line. Basically the play suggests that artâ€”in this case the music of classic rock â€˜nâ€™ rollâ€”thrives on a deeper level in countries that censor it (like those behind the Iron Curtain prior to the fall of Soviet Communism).
Now, this is not a new vision; there was a good deal of talk in the 1970s and â€˜80s about how literature, particularly poetry and fiction, held a much more sacred and significant place where it was censored. American poets envied their Russian peers, who lived in a place where a poetry performance might be a major cultural event, where people actually lined up to hear poets read their work and sometimes smuggled banned books across borders for friends.
Anticipation for Sarah Michelsonâ€™s DOGS at BAM ran high. Prior to a premiere, the British-born dancer/choreographer is passionately tight-lipped about her work. Shunning press releases and brochure blurbs, Michelson whips up a frenzy of curiosity that few artists enjoy. With a BAM debut added to the mix, a coveted prize for many â€œdowntownâ€ artists, the pre-opening frenzy reached a fever pitch of expectation -- perhaps unfair, perhaps cultivated â€“- but nearly impossible to fulfill.
The visual elements, designed by Michelson and Parker Lutz, who both danced in the work, were truly breathtaking.
A farce about the State Department in contemporary times could be just what we need, but James Armstrongâ€™s Foggy Bottom only partially hits the spot. The acting is quite fine, and the direction by Rob Urbinati keeps it all moving at a lively pace. The premise is promising: a mid-level employee pretends to be his boss, Pat Simon, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, in order to seduce immigrant women with the promise of green cards. Dan Cordle plays Dick, the lusty bureaucrat, staying after-hours so that he can lure sexy exotic women (all with one accent or another) into the empty office of his boss.
Act one is basically a series of sexual gags, some humorous, but most rather tasteless,
Red Metal Mailbox has created what at first appears to be a delightful confection of 1890s-style all-female vaudeville. Three talented performers dance, sing, pout, tell jokes, do tricks, and generally create the intimate atmosphere of a Parisian nightclub in the basement of an industrial building just on the edge of Long Island City. Standing outside on a warm spring night, one can see the buildings of Manhattan just across the East River. For a jaded Upper Westsider, itâ€™s worth the trip to Queens.
Presented as part of the Chocolate Factoryâ€™s Visiting Artists Program, Old Tricks is the creation of Sarah Maxfield, Rachel Tiemann, Sarah Gancher, and Ali Harmer. Red Metal Mailboxâ€™s mission is to create â€œinvestigative performance by linking original text with a highly physical aesthetic.â€
Is Robert Wilson a genius? The answer, I think, is yes. His latest directorial work, Peer Gynt, a coproduction of the National Theatre of Bergen and the Norwegian Theatre of Oslo at BAM, reveals once again how he can bring alive on stage a mesmerizing visual world, reinvent it, ensnare us in it, and take a long time to let it go. His method succeeds particularly well in this early Ibsen work, a strange folktale-like enactment of one manâ€™s life of fierce and often futile adventure.
Ibsen completed Peer Gynt in 1867, and was pleased with what he saw as a play in verse not meant for the stage; its fantastic elements (scenes with trolls and other mythical