Friday, August 22, 2014

Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter @ The Minetta Lane Theatre

Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter is a surreal and philosophical story of a small and somewhat naïve nation located in the elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson and their desire for greatness. Roiled by passion and great ambition, what will this once-idyllic community find... riches, ruin or redemption? The heart of Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter lies in its songs, which were written over the course of several years by Ívar Páll Jónsson — a gifted Icelandic songwriter who pursued fronting a rock band several years ago and released an album, but felt confined in the spotlight. He worked as a journalist but kept writing songs, and ultimately, with the encouragement of his younger brother Gunnlaugur, found his comfort zone behind the curtain. He wrote the entire score and, with his brother, the book for the musical.

Revolution is like no musical you have ever seen before, it's comparable to Urinetown: The Musical but edgier and a more intense score. Leading the cast is Cady Huffman(The Nance) as the "evil" Mayor of Elbowville. Huffman is seductive, satanic, and just all around perfect. Kate Schindle(Wonderland) stops the show with her legendary vocals. Marrick Smith, Graydon Long, and Brad Nacht are the perfect brothers, that is until they betray one another. Smith's incredible range leaves the audience in awe. Jesse Wildman is adorable, sweet, and sexy. This cast as an ensemble is a straight up knock out.

Set & projection design were done by Petr Hloušek. Hloušek delivers a truly stunning atmosphere, that at first glance leave the audience uncomfortable as we watch Ragnar Agnarsson sleeping on his couch, then as the show opens and the show goes on, his designs prove to be brilliant. Costume design is by Hrafnhildur Arnardottir and Edda Gudmundsdottir were different, riskay and groundbreaking. Rounding out the design team was lighting design by Jeff Croiter (Tony winner for Peter and the Starcatcher) and Cory Pattak which brought the entire show together as a whole. 

Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter began performance on July 31st at the Minetta Lane Theatre and it official opening night took place on August 13th, 2014.

Review By: James Russo
Photos By: Carol Rosegg

Friday, August 8, 2014

Phoenix @ The Cherry Lane Theatre

Phoenix, written by Scott Organ and directed by Jennifer Delia is a two-person play starring Julia Stiles (Oleanna) as Sue and James Wirt (Let’s Kill Grandma This Christmas) as Bruce. It takes place in New York City and Phoenix though it really could be a story told anywhere in the United States. A one-night-stand with a consequential outcome serves as the catalyst for these two people’s very unlikely, and even curiously awkward, relationship.
Cherry Lane Theatre is set on a quaint street in SoHo and is certainly a place I’ll visit again. There is not a bad seat in the house, but do bring a sweater as the AC was set for a menopausal woman. Yikes! Caite Hevner Kemp did the set design which was hip and contemporary and together with Rick Carmona who did the lighting design, Janie Bullard who did the sound design, and Burton Machen who was the scenic artist, created an aesthetically pleasing view even if it did not make sense nor lend itself to a better understanding of the plot. Amit Gajwani costumed the two characters so they could really be any 20 or 30 something which is fitting with the American culture that serves as foundation to the storyline.
The ethical dilemmas that arise when you have two completely contradictory goals is present in the script though the articulation missed the mark. I could not tell if Sue was an emotionally vacant and self-consumed woman or if she was simply portrayed that way. And Bruce, bless his heart, seemed to be a well-intentioned man, but definitely a door mat for this woman who seemed to equate “the right to her body” with the right to be rude, abusive, vacillating between a femme fatale and “my way or the highway” gavel pounder. The severity of the issues: unwanted pregnancy, abortion, death, loss of hope, heartbreak, loneliness were hardly impressed upon the audience beyond sarcasm, yelling, or a science fiction fantasy story, more whimsical than tragic. There is a lot that can be done with this play and I really felt that the audience was pulling for Julia and James even if not for Sue and Bruce- the two have chemistry between them.
Along with Rose Riccardi, production state manager, Katie Fergerson, assistant stage manager, Jeremy Duncan Pape, production manager, Brierpatch Productions, general management, there was a host of producers: Nicholas Jabbour, Julie Pacino, Poverty Row Entertainment, Rian Patrick Durham, and Rattlestich Playwrights Theater. Get tickets for this one-act play with a limited engagement through August 23rd.

Review by: Michele Seven
Photos by: Harry Fellows

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

King Lear @ The Delacorte Theatre

The Public Theater has revisited William Shakespeare’s currently popular drama King Lear this summer with all the glorious tragedy the sad ruler deserves.  And they have done the Bard proud.

The staging at the Delacorte by director Daniel Sullivan lends itself beautiful and smoothly to the space and the piece, transporting us back to the days of not only the great King himself, but the old common English theater as well.  Accessible and sarcastically comical, the lens through which Sullivan allows us to glimpse Lear hoists the tragedy on us in a mercurial swing of moods not unlike those of the mad and foolish that are portrayed.  An awe inspiring vision, softening us just enough to allow the depth of the loss and pain to dig into our skin like loose soil; where it can grow and flourish, mirrored in our modern day.

As aid to the work, there are solid and insightful portrayals throughout the cast.  John Lithgow is a strong and versatile Lear, leading the way in his descent into madness.  He humanizes the epic King, leaving no wonder to the cause and purpose of his spiraling transformation.  Eric Sheffer Stevens' delivery of Edmund is second to none.  His casual wit and charisma endears him to the audience even as his actions horrify.  Stevens shines in this role, owning the stage. He gives us an Edmund that cannot be turned away from the moment he is left alone with his audience.  Other notable contributions come in the dynamic delivery of Steven Boyer as the fool, a pleasing balance of laughter and insight.  Clarke Peters as the Earl of Gloucester gives a well-grounded performance, a wonderful support in his paralleling tragedy with Lear.  Edgar, played by Chukwudi Iwuji, is free and vulnerable with nothing standing between him and his viewers.

Somewhat disappointing were the three sisters.  Annette Bening (Goneril) seemed uncomfortable with the language.  Jessica Hecht (Regan), though she elicited some laughs, was often ludicrous with her more serious moments.  Neither woman looked comfortable with their space on the stage.  Jessica Collins as Cordelia allowed herself to be immediately emotional available for the audience, but left little room for growth.

The scenic design of John Lee Beatty and costumes by Susan Hilferty are rustically elegant.  The use of drummed metal sheets, as well as the additional music completes the simple yet perfectly rendered environment.

King Lear, given life at The Public Theater, is an ideal night of theater for both those well versed in or new to Shakespeare, giving all something to take away.  Running through August 17th, this limited engagement should not be missed.
Review By: Paul Morin
Photos By: Joan Marcus