Monday, December 31, 2012

Quick reviews 2012

These are the shows I've seen in 2012 with a quick rating for each and links to reviews (some still to come). Please scroll down for other recent posts.

I also have a list of shows I've seen since 2007. (Ok, it's a bit out of date now.)


Black Watch - National Theatre of Scotland at Shakespeare Theatre - D.C.

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs - Public
Assassins - Broadway Reunion Concert - Roundabout
Cock - The Duke
Da - Gate - Dublin, Ireland
Dirt, Part I - HERE Summer Sublet Series
DruidMurphy cycle - Druid Theatre/Lincoln Center Festival
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity - Company One - Boston
Freestyle Love Supreme
Once - New York Theatre Workshop and Broadway transfer
Prison Dancer: The Musical - NYMF
Tribes - Barrow Street
Uncle Vanya - Sydney Theatre Company/Lincoln Center Festival
The Whale - Playwrights Horizons

Assistance - Playwrights Horizons
The Best Man - Broadway
Billy Elliot - Broadway
The Canterbury Tales Remixed - SoHo Playhouse
Chimichangas and Zoloft - Atlantic
Falling - Minetta Lane Theatre
Glengarry Glen Ross - Broadway
An Iliad - New York Theatre Workshop
Lonely, I'm Not - Second Stage
Long Day's Journey into Night - New Rep - Boston
Macbeth - National Theatre of Scotland/Lincoln Center Festival
No Room for Wishing - Company One and Central Square Theater - Boston/Cambridge
A Number - Whistler in the Dark - Boston
Outside People - Vineyard
Slowgirl - Lincoln Center
Uncle Vanya - Soho Rep

Backbeat - Mirvish Productions - Toronto
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo - Company One - Boston
Bring It On - Broadway
Le Cabaret Grimm - NYMF
Car Talk - Underground Railway Theater - Cambridge
Chinglish - Broadway
The Columnist - Broadway
The Common Pursuit - Roundabout
Death of a Salesman - Broadway
Dogboy & Justine - workshop production at American Theater of Actors
An Early History of Fire - New Group
February House - Public
Fried Chicken and Latkes - Actors Temple Theatre
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - Encores
Golden Age - New York City Center
Good People - Huntington - Boston
Harold and Maude musical - York Musicals at Mufti
Hedwig and the Angry Inch - Rose Tinted Productions/A.R.T. - Cambridge
*Hedwig and the Something Homunculus (that's what I remember about the working title) - workshop presentation at AFTERGLOW - Provincetown, MA
The Heiress - Broadway
If There Is, I Haven't Found It Yet - Roundabout
Ingmar Bergman's Persona - HERE Summer Sublet Series
Leap of Faith - Broadway
The Lyons - Broadway
Merrily We Roll Along - City Center Encores
Modern Terrorism, or They Who Want to Kill Us and How We Learn to Love Them - Second Stage
Next to Normal - Speakeasy - Boston
One Man, Two Guvnors - Broadway
Potted Potter - Little Shubert
Stick Fly - Broadway
Storefront Church - Atlantic
That Beautiful Laugh - La Mama
Through the Yellow Hour - Rattlestick
Two Gentlemen of Verona - Actors' Shakespeare Project - Somerville
Wit - Broadway

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Go see No Room for Wishing / Life update

(Hey. Go see No Room for Wishing. It's in Brooklyn Oct. 18, Boston Oct. 19, and Manhattan Oct. 22. More info at the bottom of this post.)

I have been a neglectful theater blogger again. I apologize to you and to myself. I know I get more out of the experience when I pause to reflect on the performance in the way that blogging about it requires. I have seen plenty of theater lately (well, never enough, but certainly more than many do), but I talk about it mostly in person with my theater wife, Lisa.

And I've connected with so many brilliant and funny theater fans on Twitter, so I've been discussing shows there. The immediacy and interactivity is quite fulfilling, but there's only so much you can say in a series of 140-character posts.

Also, my grandmother has needed more caregiving lately, which I have been happy to provide. I'm so lucky, as a 37-year-old, to have the opportunity to still have her in my life and so nearby. Her stories are amazing, and I just feel blessed to have the opportunity to get to know her better and better. But I hate that at 92 her eyesight and sense of balance are failing and that she's losing some of her independence.

On an entirely positive note, I have begun a part-time gig as the communications coordinator at the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. I'm working on the e-newsletter and a website revamp, which is pretty exciting. (HTML, my old friend. WordPress, my new friend!) You may recall that I left my position as a book editor partly because of my reaction to seeing The Normal Heart. Academic publishing is worthwhile and very important, but I was aching to do something to more directly effect positive change in the world. And I believe MTPC is a great place to do that.

I don't have time to make an elegant transition to this, but I really highly recommend that you go see the fantastic actor Danny Bryck in his one-man documentary play about the Occupy movement. No Room for Wishing is an insightful look at the passion and conflicts within and around Occupy. His performance is stunning, as always. The characters (definitely unreliable narrators) are at times inspiring, funny, and embarrassing. Bryck is mostly a Boston-based actor, so if you're in New York, definitely take this opportunity to see him. He is one of the most exciting actors I've seen, and I make it a point to see every show he's in. (He was the best Hedwig since John Cameron Mitchell and great in Caryl Churchill's A Number.)

I'm working on an interview with Danny Bryck, but it seems unlikely that I'll have that ready by tomorrow. Sorry about that. In the meantime, just go see No Room for Wishing, please. You're welcome.

Friday, July 6, 2012

NYMF plans for the overly ambitious

As I am fantastically (purposely) unemployed this summer, I can finally gorge myself on shows at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. The shows seem to range from fetal to adolescent and awful to awesome. It's a very exciting gamble.

At NYMF 2011, I endured Fucking Hipsters! because I love Heather Robb of the band The Spring Standards. She was charming and sounded lovely, as usual, but the show was a mess and not really much fun. At NYMF 2010, Shine! really impressed me. It was a well-developed, full-scale musical (with a huge cast for such a small space) based on Horatio Alger's Ragged Dick stories and set in 1876. The staging was minimal and resourceful, reminding me a bit of Peter and the Starcatcher in that way. And Andy Mientus was really good.

So for NYMF 2012, I am cramming in as many shows as I can while I'm in town. Unfortunately, the scheduling means I'll miss one of the productions I was most looking forward to, Re-Animator The Musical (there's some punctuation missing in that title, no?).

Other shows that look promising but don't fit my calendar: Rio (set in a Brazilian favela), Stuck (strangers on public transportation), and Sidekicks! (about superheroes' lesser halves, starring Alex Brightman, recently of Nobody Loves You at San Diego's Old Globe, which it crushed me to miss).

In happier news, I have tickets to all the shows below. Please cross your fingers for me that the timing works out so that I can get to them all on time (and that I can crash the opening night party and Part of It All a bit late).

In chronological order:

* Himself and Nora (about James Joyce and Nora Barnacle)
* Happy Endings (a New Yorker inherits an independent bookstore in a small New England town)
* A Letter to Harvey Milk (as stated on tin?)
* Shelter (about a counselor at a Philadelphia women's shelter)
* Part of It All (work from new composers, lyricists, and performers)
* Zelda (about F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald)
* Prisoner Dancer (Filipino maximum-security prisoners in a dance-based rehabilitation program)
* ZAPATA! (Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata steps out of the past to show a member of Occupy Wall Street how to fight for the 99%)
* Le Cabaret Grimm (punk cabaret)
* Stand Tall (a David and Goliath story ... with a Guitar Hero battle--and with the not-particularly-tall Gerard Canonico, of Spring Awakening and American Idiot, as Goliath)
* Swing State (click the link to read the description--I'm worried about the rampant stereotyping that will probably be included)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dogboy and Justine workshop production

I was a Kickstarter supporter for this show, and then my friend Hilary was cast as Justine. Add grains of salt as needed to suit your own tastes.

Right, so ... this is a musical about dominatrixes (dominatrices?) and their clients. It centers on down-on-her-luck Justine, who resorts to sex-related work when she fails to find another job, and Danny, one of her clients who happens to consider himself to be a friendly and loyal dog. The show includes a duel with dildos (or dildoes, if you prefer). It also has tons of musical-theater in-jokes. It's as though they intended to write it just for me.

The concept is ace and the songs are interesting and hella listenable. The production is very funny but also depicts a diverse, often-misunderstood--or even completely unknown--community. (Ugh, don't get me started on the travesty that is Fifty Shades of Porn for Misinformed, Twilight-Obsessed Middle-Aged Women Grey). Underneath the titillation and humor is an interesting examination of loneliness and unexpected opportunities for connection along with commentary on the crappy economy and accidental discoveries of one's own talents. In well-orchestrated song.

This was a short-run, bare-bones developmental production in the worse-for-wear American Theater of Actors. I hear Racheline Maltese (book) and Erica Kudisch (music and lyrics) will be retooling it before an expanded production, which I look forward to seeing.

This show gets so many things right (especially the musical-theater references) and shows tons of promise. Below are my notes on what I hope will be improved before Dogboy and Justine's next production.

* The show is a bit short, and the relationship between the titular Dogboy and Justine needs fleshing out. It jumps to their closeness at the end without earning it. As I mentioned to Hilary after the show, one way to address this without taking much stage time would be to have them speak to each other on the phone inaudibly during scene changes, to highlight the frequency and duration of their interactions. The audience doesn't need to be privy to the entirety of their growing connection, but they do have to believe it happened.

* Considering that he is supposedly the main character--and arguably the most interesting one--Danny (Dogboy) is given suprisingly little stage time. Also, as Jonathan Kline is a freaking amazing singer giving a fantastically nuanced performance, this is a musical-theater crime.

* Dogboy's mother and her relationship with him is underdeveloped. She needs to be more than a plot device if the ending is going to achieve an emotional impact.

* The show is much more negative about the clientele than I expected, and this disappointed me. I'm fine with the doms looking down on their clients and being in it just for the money, but that should be tempered by sympathetic portrayals of at least some clients beyond Dogboy.

* There are some cheap laughs. This is true of most musical comedies, but it disappoints me here even more because there's enough situational comedy that the jokes could be much more complex and unexpected.

As I said, I like the production. It shows a great deal of promise. Even though it's uneven and perhaps isn't as good yet, I enjoyed it more than I did the Broadway drag-queen musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Perversely excited: Xanadu tonight

Lisa and I are headed to the Boston Center for the Arts tonight to experience what I hope will be a fantastically cheesy musical: Xanadu. I've seen the original movie (seriously, WTF was that mess?), but I've never seen the stage adaptation. I hear it's very campy and probably involves hotpants* and rollerskates. I love things that are intentionally cheesy as long as they're clever. So I have my fingers crossed!

* Alas, this production contains no Cheyenne Jackson.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Too tired for a three-show day

I'm tired, y'all. I hate the summer heat. I feel gross all the time and have trouble sleeping. So forgive me if this post makes even less sense than usual. Also I'm writing it out on my phone using Swype, so there are sure to be embarrassing errors. I just hope they're funny ones.

Anyway, I'm up early (for me) and hadn't posted in forever, and my already questionable judgment is compromised, so it seemed like a good time to say things on the Internet for everyone (or maybe five people) to see.

Today is day three of a four-day, seven-show weekend in New York with Lisa. Thursday I almost got a migraine laughing my head off at James Corden in One Man, Two Guvnors. I'm not a huge fan of that kind of farce in general, so extra kudos to Corden and his crew for the thoroughly delightful evening.

Yesterday was a two-movies-and-a-musical day. I saw The Avengers movie again followed by watching Cabin in the Woods again. I really love them both, and not just because I'm a Joss Whedon fangirl. (What, Swype didn't have "fangirl" in its standard dictionary? Disappointing.)

Then we saw Newsies. Finally. So that happened. And won't be happening again.

This afternoon we're seeing Topher Grace in Lonely, I'm Not at Second Stage. (Really, Swype? You give me "fecund" and "devine" before "second"?) Then we're catching the early evening performance of Potted Potter before splitting up so Lisa can see The Lyons, which I already saw recently (alas, not decadently, Swype!). (Don't worry, Nicky Silver, I'm sure she'll love it. You can stop pacing.) I'm going to Chimichangas and Zoloft at the Atlantic. (So, Swype knew "Zoloft" but not "chimichangas"? That's very disturbing.)

Tomorrow we're getting our lit-nerd on with the musical February House at the Public. I'm predisposed to like it.

To wrap up the weekend, we're going to try to get tickets FOR (not "fir," you stupid tiny portable generally awesome pocket computer) Rapture, Blister, Burn* at Playwrights Horizons. (I'm really looking forward to seeing Virginia Kull, whom I loved in Assistance.)

So, anyway, it's time for about seven frigid showers to wake me up for this long (awesome) day.

See you on the flip side. (See? Dementia from overheating!)

* Update: We ended up paying $25 to see Cock (what a bargain!) instead of rushing Rapture, Blister, Burn. We'll catch Kull's show in June instead. Also, you can bet your ass I'll be paying more money for Cock in the future. ;)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Out of Iceland

Well, kudos to the Culture Project's Out of Iceland for leaving me at a loss for words. Unfortunately, that's about the kindest thing I could say about it. Honestly, I don't even know how to review a show this unentertainingly bad. If they're even remotely like this one, please let me never see another play by Drew Larimore. I can't judge Josh Hecht's direction because the play itself is so bad. Maybe he took it on just because he loves Lea DeLaria as much as I do? I mean, I also made the poor decision to see the show because she's in it. Now we both know better.

The good:

* DeLaria is always a pleasure to watch. She's great here as a mischievous troll(?) with a wandering accent. I also loved her in Prometheus Bound at the A.R.T., and she's the main reason I bought a ticket to Out of Iceland.

* DeLaria's tattoos. No, this has nothing to do with the show, but they gave me something else to watch as I counted down the minutes until I could leave the theater.

* DeLaria's blue pseudo-mohawk. It's hot.

* Stagehand mimes. More amusing for them actually existing as part of this production than anything in particular that they do. Say it with me now: STAGEHAND MIMES.

* It's short, so there's time to drink yourself into oblivion afterward.

The bad:

* Everything else.

No, really, pretty much everything else. The plot is trite even though it's cloyingly quirky at the same time. The characters are unbelievable, but not in a fun campy way. The dialogue is just terrible. The acting is bad, particularly from Jillian Crane, who takes bad material and then somehow makes it worse. Michael Bakkensen manages to be charming sometimes despite everything. But his Southern accent is awful.

Note to actors: Sounding Southern is not the same as sounding like the stereotype of a learning-disabled child. Also, not everyone in the South has the same accent. Stop being so lazy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Leap of Faith

What? You're trying to decide whether to see Leap of Faith*** on Broadway? How is that even a question?

Ok, it's possible that I can't be even a little bit objective about this show. I love the movie on which this musical is based. And we all know I'm a sucker for it raining on stage. Plus Raúl Esparza is a sexy beast. And--as you can see above--he wears a freaking mirror-ball jacket. While singing his balls off. Alongside Jessica Phillips singing her ovaries off.

Overall, the movie is much better, but I think you'll like the musical too (though pretty much ALL the professional reviewers seem to disagree). I don't even care that I can't remember any of the songs right now. They sound great when they're happening, and the show is just so. much. fun.

Esparza as a womanizing, swindling, fake revival preacher? YES PLEASE. Phillips as a jaded sheriff and single mother? Oh yeah. (Seriously, her voice is so amazing in this that I really wish I'd seen her in Next to Normal.) Leslie Odom Jr., Kendra Kassebaum, and the rest of the cast are fantastic and have huge voices. For me the only problem is Talon Ackerman as the wheelchair-bound son, but that part is seriously underwritten so it's not entirely his fault.

All in all, I found Leap of Faith to be more fun than Bonnie & Clyde, Catch Me if You Can, and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert combined.

*** I saw this show in previews.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

If you're in Boston: Next to Normal, Long Day's Journey into Night

I'm halfway through my first week of blissful unemployment and still haven't made a dent in my review backlog. But I did change out of my PJs to head to the theater twice in two days. [Thanks for getting me out of the house, Todd!] So here are quick recommendations for two Boston-area shows you should catch before time runs out.

If you're a fan of the pill-popping musical, go enjoy the Speakeasy production of Next to Normal. There are some powerful performances on that BCA stage. I hear there's good availability for the last two weeks of the run, but sit toward the back for the best experience--it's a bit overwhelming from up close.

Also definitely set aside a good three-and-a-half hours to take in O'Neill's powerful family drama Long Day's Journey into Night at the New Rep out in Watertown. Everything about it is fantastic, and it's especially great as a vision of how the family in Next to Normal might have been a century earlier. Seriously.

Yay for more theatrical synergy! Be sure to catch both shows before they close April 22. For your mental health, though, I don't recommend seeing them the same day.

I'll be back with more next week, after I see Leap of Faith, Freestyle Love Supreme, and the Broadway transfer of Once!

* Sadly, I do not own these actual pyjamas. Yet.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My favorite searches

I'll get back to my reviews next month, I promise. I'm just so AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!! from trying to wrap up my current job that I can't think critically about anything else.

To tide you over--in case you've already seen every cat photo on the Internet--here is a list of my favorite search terms that have brought people to this blog:
  • "mark rylance" "hot" "michael esper" "sexy" "assistance"
  • "mark rylance" "hot and sexy"
  • "Michael Esper hot."
  • michael esper beard
  • ginger beard
  • steve kazee s bare feet
  • bobby steggert barefoot (Someone has a foot fetish, eh?)
  • should i go see american idiot
  • "the power of theatre"
  • "the normal heart" sobbing
  • lupone's belch during anything goes (Please tell me that really happened!)

I love all you crazy Googlers. Let's be BFFs. Let's drink lots of Jameson and Guinness next time I'm in the city, which happens to be this weekend. (When buying theater tickets, I didn't think through the implications of being in New York for St. Patrick's Day. Or, as my friend Hilary calls it, Amateur Night.)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Go see Assistance. Now.


So, as I mentioned earlier, I'm leaving my awesome publishing job at the end of this month. And this is interfering with my theater life. Wrapping everything up is taking over my life. I suppose leaving a job I love and moving on to a new adventure should be difficult, though. And the end is in sight!

I'm really looking forward to no longer canceling New York weekends. Last weekend I missed all of the following:
* How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (canceled in advance because Michael Urie was going to be out to film a pilot, and I didn't really need to see it without him and without Mary Faber, who has left the show).
* CQ/CX, at the Atlantic Theater (closing March 11, so I won't get to reschedule because I'll be in Denver this weekend visiting my brother and seeing the American Idiot tour again)
* Once, on Broadway (rescheduled for early April, which cannot come soon enough because I loved it the 4 times I saw it at the New York Theatre Workshop)
* How I Learned to Drive, at Second Stage (also closing March 11, so I won't get to reschedule)
* An Iliad, with Denis freaking O'Hare, at NYTW (closing March 25, so I hope I get to reschedule--I do still have tickets to see it with Stephen Spinella at least--they're alternating performances) [ETA: SORTED! As Stockard Channing will be out of Other Desert Cities to film a pilot with Mandy Moore(!), I got a ticket to see O'Hare. So I'll be seeing An Iliad twice in one weekend!)

Anyway, the real purpose of this post isn't actually to complain! *gasp* I just want to highly recommend that you run out to Playwrights Horizons to see Leslye Headland's OMGSOFANTASTIC play Assistance.

Every single person in the cast is perfect (Michael Esper, Sue Jean Kim, Virginia Kull, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Amy Rosoff, Bobby Steggert). Headland's play is great. David Korins's set design is unfrakkingbelievable. Trip Cullman's direction is wonderful. Really, I love pretty much everything about this show. So go see it. Now. Because it closes March 11. If I could recommend only two shows currently running, they would be Once and Assistance. And you would kiss my feet to thank me for seeing both. I promise. (But don't do that, please. Ew.)

Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting back to actual theater reviews next month. In the meantime, just do as I say and go see Assistance? Thanks. And you're welcome.

ETA: Here are two photos of the cast of Assistance being awesome.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Broadway houses (wistful thinking)

It's good to have goals. Like many a theater nerd, I'd like to see at least one show in every Broadway theater. As of today, I'm still missing 10. And I'm not going to see Chicago, Jersey Boys, Mama Mia (saw on tour), Spiderman, or Wicked (saw on tour), so I'll have a long wait for those last 5. Well, it's good to have goals anyway.

Al Hirschfeld Theatre
Ambassador Theatre
American Airlines Theatre
August Wilson Theatre
Belasco Theatre
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
Booth Theatre
Broadhurst Theatre
The Broadway Theatre
Brooks Atkinson Theatre
Circle in the Square Theatre
Cort Theatre
Ethel Barrymore Theatre
Eugene O'Neill Theatre
Foxwoods Theatre
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
Gershwin Theatre
Helen Hayes Theatre
Imperial Theatre
John Golden Theatre
Longacre Theatre
Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
Lyceum Theatre
Majestic Theatre
Marquis Theatre
Minskoff Theatre
Music Box Theatre
Nederlander Theatre
Neil Simon Theatre
New Amsterdam Theatre
Palace Theatre
Richard Rodgers Theatre
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
Shubert Theatre
Stephen Sondheim Theatre
St. James Theatre
Studio 54
Vivian Beaumont Theatre
Walter Kerr Theatre
Winter Garden Theatre

Monday, February 6, 2012

The power of theater

I am making a big change in my life. It's only fitting that I have theater to blame thank. Last summer, The Normal Heart devastated me. It broke me. Or, rather, it showed me that my life was a bit broken. Seeing all those names projected on the walls just ... hurt. I cried for half an hour. I could barely speak. I couldn't even string words together more than to say that I was wasting my life. That I needed to do more. That I missed the kind of passion for a cause that Ellen Barkin scorched the stage with. I missed feeling that I could change the world--that I could fix more problems than I was causing.

It took me six months to gather my courage to act on the epiphany I had walking out of the Golden Theatre. How funny it was, so soon after making my decision, to be back in the Golden in December seeing Seminar--a play about editing, which is the profession I am about to leave. (To all my former authors: Just be glad that I'm nothing like Alan Rickman's character in that show.)

I'm giving myself two months to phase out of my job and into my new one as part-time caregiver to my grandmother. She's a 91-year-old force of nature, and I'm really looking forward to hanging out with her and causing as much trouble as we can possibly get into together. (After moving into her retirement building in Brookline, she produced a reading of My Fair Lady that rehearsed for two years before playing to the residents and garnering great acclaim. I bought her the book with the scripts for Pygmalion and My Fair Lady at the fantastic Drama Book Shop in Manhattan.)

Eventually, this time-out should help me plan my next step, which will be volunteer work (or an extremely underpaid job) at a nonprofit organization in the Boston area. I think I'd like to work with transgender teens and young adults, or maybe to help people transitioning off Welfare with their interview skills and resumes. The more I think about it, the longer the list grows with things I want to do with my free time, once I have some.

I'll come back and talk more about this later, I'm sure, but I started this post a month ago, so it's time to just throw this out there. And it's past time to publicly thank theater, and The Normal Heart in particular, for kicking me in the ass. I have so much gratitude for Larry Kramer, Joel Grey, George C. Wolfe, Ellen Barkin, and the rest of the cast and creative team for setting me on this new path--wherever it takes me.

Please, go back and read what I said after seeing the show last June. That feeling I had as I left the theater never went away. What a powerful show! I'm looking forward to taking a trip to D.C. in June to see it on tour. That should wrap this story up perfectly, I think.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dreamcasting Anais Mitchell's Hadestown

I'm still awaiting more news on when we'll see a full stage production of Anais Mitchell's brilliant Hadestown, a depression-era folk-opera retelling of the story of Euridice and Orpheus. In the meantime, I can't help but do a bit of dreamcasting.

Listen to the show recorded live at Club Passim (legally) then tell me your dream cast!

u/s Elizabeth Davis, Arielle Jacobs [NOT Laura Osnes!]

u/s Stark Sands, Bobby Steggert

Hades, king of the underworld: TOM WOPAT
Persephone, who runs a speakeasy: SARA RAMIREZ
The Three Fates: HEATHER ROBB (of The Spring Standards), ASPEN VINCENT, and HOLLY BROOK (of Duncan Sheik's Whisper House)
u/s Alysha Umphress, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Lauren Pritchard

Hermes the storyteller (a hobo): RAUL ESPARZA

Director: John Tiffany

Choreographer: Steven Hoggett

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thank god for Broadway tours (American Idiot is back!)

Boston is an amazing city with tons of great local theater. Plus it's a doable bus distance from New York. It also launches shows that later transfer to New York, hosts Broadway tryouts, and always brings in big Broadway tours. And I am SO thankful for that, especially when dearly departed Broadway shows come around on national tour. (Billy Elliot just closed, and I'm already ready for the tour to get here. I can't believe I have to wait until July!)

This week, I finally get to see American Idiot again. (A lot.) Oh, how I have missed this musical since it closed on Broadway nine months ago! And I'm so excited to see familiar faces from the Broadway cast, especially Van Hughes reprising his role as Johnny and two excellent former understudies now in leading roles: Leslie McDonel as Heather and Joshua Kobak as St. Jimmy.

Mostly, I'm in love with Tom Kitt's gorgeous arrangements of Green Day's cathartic music and Steven Hoggett's powerful choreography. I really can't get enough of either. Sure, eight shows in one week is excessive. But surely that's not surprising to any of you who have read this blog before.

I'll write up a review at the end of the week, but I can tell you now that it will be mostly positive!


A special hello to my new theater friend, Jorge. It was great talking with you before the show, and I look forward to seeing you at other performances in Boston and New York. Theater people are the best!


ETA: There is a ticket lottery for $28 seats in the first 2 rows. Cash only. Submit your name 2.5 hours to submit your name. Winners will be chosen 30 minutes later.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Weekend in review (1/7-1/8/2012): The Mountaintop, Chinglish, Billy Elliot closing

I started the weekend with three very funny shows about serious topics: The Mountaintop (closing Jan. 22), Chinglish (closing Jan. 29), and Billy Elliot (closed Jan. 8). What a way to start my year in theater!

First up was Katori Hall's The Mountaintop, a strange fictional account of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s last night on earth. I'm not a religious person, but I do care about civil rights, so it's really a shame I don't know more about the man. And this play really didn't do much to correct that ignorance, I suspect. Was he really a philandering, chain-smoking, sometimes-foul-mouthed megalomaniac? Ok, that might be overstating the play's portrait of him a bit. A bit.

I went in excited to finally see Samuel L. Jackson in something that wouldn't be curse-strewn, to see him act in a role different from anything else I'd seen him in. (I'm pretending those terrible Star Wars prequels didn't happen.) While it's true that Jackson doesn't curse--much--Angela Bassett more than makes up for him in her role as a maid/newly minted angel. (Huh? Yeah, it makes about that much sense a lot of the time.)

Jackson is great, which doesn't surprise me at all. Bassett disappoints me, though, and I suspect it's because the writing for her character is pretty awful. I appreciate the effort to humanize MLK and inspire everyone to "pick up the baton" and make the most of the time we have on this earth. It isn't a very good effort, and it shouldn't have worked on me at all. But it did. And it rains on stage, which almost always wins me over. Mostly, though, the show sucker-punched me at the very end with a weird spoken-word bit that made me think of The Normal Heart, a play that rocked my worldview last season. (More on that soon!)

Up next was Chinglish, my first encounter with Henry David Hwang. I laughed a lot at this display of the communication troubles and culture clash that results when American businesses expand into the Chinese market. The enormous supertitles showing the correct translations for the words misspoken on stage are hilarious, as is its somewhat charming example of sad-sack American As Buffoon. The performances are excellent, and the set movements are fun. The show is basically great fun with a few serious points thrown in. I liked it well enough that I insisted that Arthur see it the following weekend. I'll talk more about this show in connection with another Chinese-English bilingual play, Zayd Dohrn's Outside People, which I saw the following weekend at the Vineyard Theatre.

Last up was the closing performance of Billy Elliot, the dancing/mining/Thatcher-hating musical that I have been lucky enough to see many times with various casts and will miss very, very much. There were so many Billys on stage over the course of the show. Brilliant! The scene of the dance class interwoven with the police brigade is still one of my favorite stage scenes ever.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I can't get the SOPA / PIPA blackout code to work. But I support the movement to prevent Internet censorship.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Farewell, 2011 (the best and the worst)

I've already organized the theater shows I saw in 2011 into categories ranging from Best Ever to Kill Me Now. So I'm doing a different kind of wrap-up post here.

2SD's favorite things about theater in 2011, in no particular order:

* Steven Hoggett took over the city. On stages across New York City this year, you could see Hoggett's magic in theatricalizing the history of the Scottish military's Black Watch, Green Day's disaffected Aughts soundtrack American Idiot, the otherwise-awkward Peter Pan retelling Peter and the Starcatcher, and the stage adaptation of the Irish indie-darling film Once (at NYTW and now transferring to Broadway).

* We found out that the Handspring Puppet Company exists. Their puppet horses made a bleak WWI children's story a hit (but also proved that the Tonys need separate categories for playwriting and production). I actually hated the treacly story of War Horse, but all the design and puppetry aspects of the production are fantastic. The National Theatre knows how to make a gorgeous, stunning production (see also Frankenstein, below). And the puppets are unbelievable in their believability. I trust we'll see more from Handspring in coming years, and I can't wait.

* London's National Theatre took pity on those of us stuck on this side of the pond by screening awesome productions in movie theaters. Thanks to National Theatre Live, which screened both versions of Danny Boyle's lead-swapping Frankenstein play, I got to see my longtime movie obsession Jonny Lee Miller and my current TV obsession Benedict Timothy Carleton Cumberbatch (best name ever) swap roles as Dr. Frankenstein and his Creature. It's one of the most visually stunning things I've ever "seen" on stage. I wish it would kick War Horse out of the Vivian Beaumont Theater immediately. Alas, I missed the screening of One Man, Two Guvnors--but I definitely plan to see James Corden in it on Broadway this season. And I really wish they'd broadcast Sinéad Cusack and Ciarán Hinds in Juno and the Paycock.

* We got a second chance to savor the perfection of Martin McDonagh's The Cripple of Inishmaan. I first saw this Druid production at the Atlantic Theater in Feb. 2009, and it is still the most perfect performance of anything I have ever seen on stage (just edging out Conor McPherson's The Seafarer on Broadway). I'm not sure why it didn't transfer to Broadway, but I'm so glad it went on a short U.S. tour so that I could enjoy it again. I love ArtsEmerson for bringing shows like this to Boston. I wish they could convince National Theatre Scotland to bring us Black Watch.

* Stephen Karam rewarded Roundabout Underground's investment in the young playwright. Sons of the Prophet in Boston in the spring and the streamlined production that just closed in New York showed the same wit as Karam's Speech & Debate and much more depth. I really love the play and hope Karam continues to work on it. If it doesn't jump to Broadway, it should have a great future in regional theaters.

* Anything Goes had an awesome, never-ending tap number. It lost a bit of its surprise by being blasted via every medium to advertize the show, but HOLY CRAP that performance is amazing to see live.

* The Normal Heart ripped ours out. I am not being hyperbolic when I say that this play inspired me to change my life. I'll post more about that in a few weeks. (Also, it gave rise to Ellen Barkin's F-bombing Twitter domination campaign.)

* Reed Birney was perpetually employed. As he should be. The most natural everyman I've ever seen on stage. His sheer honesty in every moment grounded even Adam Rapp's increasingly bizarre Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling.

* Mark Rylance made two fairly gross characters kind of hot and sexy. In the same season. He won the Tony for his jaw-dropping performance as Rooster in Jerusalem, but I think his work in La Bête was even more impressive. He made a twenty-minute monologue (an exaggeration, surely, but it was wicked long)--part of which was delivered while he was flatulently on the pot--riveting and almost charming, even in pompous, rhyming couplets. Rylance's awards acceptance speeches are themselves award-worthy (2011 and 2008).

* DanRad is a righteous dude. Daniel Radcliffe proved himself to be a true theater fan and completely a dedicated performer. He can come back to Broadway any day. Or out with me for a cup of coffee. Or out to a drag show with me. Or whatever, really. He seems charming and hilarious, and I can't wait for the next time Susan Blackwell gets a hold of him.

* Michael Esper got around. His excellent character development made the couch-ridden Will a character to watch even amid American Idiot's visual barrage of violent choreography and sensory-overloading projections. After he got off the couch, he turned in a beautiful performance in Tony Kushner's new play iHomo and went crazy-pants in Nicky Silver's The Lyons. He did a couple things at Vassar/NY Stage and Film over the summer. And he's just been announced for Assistance at Playwrights Horizons with Bobby Steggert, and that makes me wicked happy. Oh, and on the side, he formed an as-yet-unnamed punk band with fellow Idiots Johnny Gallagher and Gerard Canonico (see photos below).

2SD's least-favorite things about theater in 2011:

* War Horse got the Tony for best play. Just ... NO.

* People created musicals that somehow made awesome things boring. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert made drag queens boring. Catch Me If You Can made one of history's most famous con men boring. And Bonnie & Clyde made sexy, deadly, road-tripping bank robbers boring. How is that even possible?


Here, have some pretty! Look at the bromance! Now with bonus ginger beard!

Michael Esper and John Gallagher Jr. having some bro moments at Rockwood with their unnamed punk band (Gerard Canonico was stuck behind the drum kit)

Photos by Monica Simoes, from

Thursday, January 5, 2012

January is a bitch

In the theater world, January is a cruel, cruel bitch. Productions hang on through the holidays hoping the hordes of tourists will save their ailing shows, but come January, the closing notices go up all over town. Bonnie & Clyde died a violent death. Lysistrata Jones is giving it up this weekend. The relatively unloved Relative Speaking slinks away at the end of the month. It's a sad time for the already underemployed and underpaid. But it opens up theaters for new shows that might do better. And it opens up my schedule, too.

Poorly reviewed Close Up Space, the editorially (un)inspired play starring David Hyde Pierce and Rosie Perez, is closing up early, so yesterday I received notice that my ticket has been canceled. In hunting for something to take its place, I was reading through's listings and almost choked on my Coke Zero when I read that Bobby Steggert and Michael Esper are starring in a play together at Playwrights Horizons, and that I can go see it on my now-free Sunday afternoon.

How is it possible that Michael Esper is going to be in a play and I didn't know? How is it that Michael Esper is going to be in a play WITH Bobby Steggert and I didn't know??? And in a play by Leslye Headland, the woman who gave me Topher from Dollhouse (Fran Kranz) and Fat Pat from Wonderfalls/Shitbrick from the American Pie movies (Eddie Kaye Thomas) as sleazy guys getting lucky at a bachelorette party!

I screamed my question to the Twitterverse and many of my other theater friends hadn't heard of it either. But Steggert himself confirmed the news! So of course I bought the ticket immediately. And now, today, there's an article on Playbill announcing the casting.

In summary: The theater world took away David Hyde Pierce in a mediocre play about an editor (have I mentioned that I'm a book editor?) but it gave in return a chance to see Bobby Steggert and Michael Esper on stage together in a play that's likely to be really good. I call that a pretty big win for me.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012: A Look Ahead

How can it be 2012 already when I still haven't finished my reviews of shows I saw in 2011? Less than twelve hours into the new year, and I'm already disappointed with myself. And not just because of my behavior last night.

But now that I mention it:
1. Next year I shall try to not be the drunkest person at the party.
2. Even when I'm drunk at a NYE party, I still talk trash about theater.

(This time I was complaining about the gay lumberjack outfits for the supposedly straight-dressing gay older brother in Sons of the Prophet at Roundabout. If your flannel shirt is fitted, even in a small Pennsylvania town people will start to wonder if you are gay. Right? And both brothers were way less flaming when the show was at the Huntington. More on this later when I double-back to finally reviewing that show, which I really liked, by the way.)

In exciting news, I already have tickets to 27 theatrical performances for this year (in chronological order):

The Mountaintop
Billy Elliot (closing performance)
The Canterbury Tales Remixed (Soho Playhouse)
Stick Fly
Outside People (Vineyard)
Once (NYTW, closing performance)
Red (SpeakEasy, Boston)
American Idiot (tour, Boston)
CQ/CX (Atlantic)
Assistance (Playwrights Horizons)
Yosemite (Rattlestick)
Merrily We Roll Along (Encores!)
Once (Broadway transfer)
American Idiot (tour, Denver)
Death of a Salesman
Carrie (MCC)
Next to Normal (SpeakEasy, Boston)
Xanadu (SpeakEasy, Boston)

(No, I'm not terrible at math. I'm seeing the American Idiot tour multiple times in Boston. Yes, every performance. It's all Steven Hoggett's fault. Well, mostly.)

It seems unlikely that I'll match 2011's record of 102 theater performances ever again, but perhaps that means I'll read more than 10 books this year.