Monday, April 25, 2016

Stupid Fu**ing Bird @ Pearl Theatre Company

We’ve all seen so many adaptations and incarnations of all the greats. And we all know it gets repetitive, redundant and more times than not completely superfluous and vein.

Then a “sort of” adaptation comes along and changes how you see and experience the classics forever. And how does it begin?
…with yelling at the actors to “start the f^cking play!”

Stupid F^cking Bird is so damned refreshing. Not only does it brilliantly satirize Chekov-isms, but it has such amazingly powerful statements about the theatre we patronize today. Each and every scene is littered with asides of incredible statements and ideas that physically punch you in the gut, and when you’re thinking about them late (because  you can NOT stop talking about them), you have that moment of: Holy crap. Were they experiencing this in the 1800s too?
Christopher Sears as Conrad, Bianca Amato as Emma, and Erik Lochtefeld as Doyle in Aaron Posner's Stupid F**king Bird at the Pearl Theatre Company. 
The plot is literally that of the Seagulls, except in the end of this one, we don’t know if Conrad kills himself. Christopher Sears plays Conrad and he is hands down, one of the most captivating individuals you will lay your eyes on this entire season.  His intensity and passion never falters, almost as if he’s running a marathon the duration of the show.  Every moment, every subtlety you pick up on because he has your constant attention. Bianca Lochtefeld plays his mother, Emma, and she is absolute perfection, delivering a monologue in the second act that chills you to the bone.  Joey Parsons as Mash is hilarious; totally nailing and epitomizing the over the top “poor me” Chekhovian female.

Davis McCallum’s staging could not be more perfect or powerful, utilizing a unique space to the fullest. His meta approach both invites and isolates you. Sandra Goldmark’s set design was so visually stimulating and truly allowed you to focus on whats being said and whats not being said in an environment that made us feel that we were all in a play together. Her concept for act one was vastly different than act two, mirroring the point that act one is merely a rehearsal, act two is life.

This is one not to miss. Something this honest, raw and thought provoking only comes around once in a blue moon. Run to go catch this stupid f^cking bird before another play shoots it out of the sky.

Review By: Brittany Goodwin
Photos By: Russ Rowland

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Waitress @ The Brooks Atkinson Theater

If someone were to tell you there is a place in the city that you can hear killer new music and experience every emotion known to man all the while smelling warm pie wafting through the air, you’d think we're was crazy, right?

Look no further, folks: WAITRESS IS HERE.

The crown jewel of Broadway just arrived at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre and audiences couldn’t be more excited (hence their hashtag #worththewaitress)

The story of Waitress is beautifully simplistic: Our heroine marries the wrong guy.  He gets her pregnant. She has an affair with her ob-Gyn. She has the baby and leaves them both. Did I mention she makes pies?

Jessie Mueller took on the role of Jenna (originated by Keri Russell in the 2007 movie) with grace, humanity and ingenuity. Her Jenna was completely different than her predecessor and it left the audience so blissfully connected, you could find them audibly weeping when struggles came afoot. Mueller’s voice filled Sarah Bareilles’s iconic style absolutely perfectly, and her connection to the words- be it playful phrases or palpable pathos- was just an absolute treat.
Her sidekicks Kimiko Glenn and Keala Settle were perfect juxtapositions to Mueller’s Jenna that you couldn’t help but smile and laugh when the three were together at Joe’s Pie Diner. Drew Gehling as Dr. Pomatter simply stole your heart and served as an amazing hero to Jenna’s tragic tale.

Diane Paulus did wonders staging this beautiful show. Every bit of Jenna’s “out of body” thoughts were physicalized by the ensemble; be it handing her all the ingredients to her hilarious pies or simply going through contractions all together. The fluidity of their movement was flawless and propelled the piece forward. Time simply flew in that theatre. Scott Pask’s set design flipping from Joe’s Pie Diner to the Ob-Gyn’s was so much fun to watch and mirrored the fluidity of the staged movement. Christopher Akerlind’s lighting design is much to be commended for as well. Akerlind captured the color of thought and whimsy as well as absolute sadness in all of Jenna’s thoughts, which provided so much depth to what you were seeing and feeling.
Kimiko Glenn and Keala Settle
So what are you waiting for? Go now to the Brooks Atkinson and see for yourself! But don't have dessert with your meal that evening- you can buy a pie at the door!

Review By: Brittany Goodwin
Photos By: Joan Marcus

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Father @ The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

The Father makes it’s American premier at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre with three-time Tony award winner Frank Langella returning to the stage—and he stole the show.

Directed by Doug Hughes, The Father takes a look into the mind of a man suffering from Alzheimer’s/memory loss. A popular theme this year, The Father took a unique approach to this brand of play. Hughes and scenic designer Scott Pask chronicled our main character, André’s, loss of memory with at first subtle changes to the stage—a missing book, a shifted chair; and then more dramatic—missing set pieces, rooms and whole shelves bare. Lighting designer Donald Holder also expressed the juxtaposition of André’s perception of time with angle changes of sunlight and street lamps.

The play begins with an exchange between Anne (Kathryn Erbe) and André (Frank Langella) in which we are introduced to André’s consistent repetition of sentences and loss of his watch and Anne’s exasperation and undying love for her father. André’s refusal to accept that he may be incorrect while his more lucid and caring daughter, Anne has had it right the whole time is a common theme throughout the play.

The rest of the production spans different timeframes in André’s life and by the audience’s account, in no uncertain order. We are left just as confused as André by the end and the journey itself is an interesting one. André is constantly afraid that his daughter will leave him alone in Paris to pursue her love interest in London, or did she already leave?

Langella interprets and expresses André’s character with the precision of an actor of his stature. Always taking up the whole stage, Langella brings into his performance a depth that infects other cast members. Easily the beacon of the show, he brings anger, confusion and the fear of being unable to properly perceive reality to the audience.

You are left to interpret whether or not Anne (Kathryn Erbe) quickly came to the end of her patience with her father—who has scared away countless nurses and refuses to allow her to enjoy her life while pining away at her long lost sister, or if she endured as long as we were left to perceive. Erbe captures this inner tumult easily, becoming a relatable character during Langella’s frustration-laden outbursts.

Anne’s husband, Pierre (or was it Antione?) is played by Brian Avers. At a loss for his second-class seat in his marriage with Anne, Avers takes us on the journey leading to the end of his love and rise of his hatred toward André’s condition. Avers’ anger is measured, consistent and believable.

André’s favored nurse, Laura (Hannah Cabell) had great chemistry with Langella. Reminding him of his lost daughter, Elise, Cabell brings a charming air out of Langella that spans the stage. Although she could also be Kathleen McNenny, yet another nurse of André’s while his doctor (Charles Borland) could easily be Pierre, or Antione.

The Father brings to light the recent popularity of discussing mental illness. Dark and at times humorous, the play was a long 90 minutes. While a great mental exercise to follow, Langella’s journey out of his flat and into a hospital was not perfectly riveting. However, seeing Langella light up the stage was well worth the journey.

Review By: Alex Lipari
Photos By: Joan Marcus

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Eclipsed @ The Golden Theater

An eye-opening event, Eclipsed is something that will leave a lasting impression on you. Set in 2003, it tells the story of five different women’s survivals during the Second Liberian Civil War.  
Each woman’s experience is different, but at the same time, the core value of persistence and preservation thrives.

You enter the Golden Theater to be met with a minimalistic set that looks like a broken down hut.  The show begins and you are instantly transported to war.  We meet Wife #1 and Wife #3 who show fear and strength when the unseen Commanding Officer comes to select who will be joining him that night. We are then surprised when out from an unsuspecting set piece, comes Lupita Nyong'o, playing The Girl.  

The story continues and you learn that these women have been abducted and collected as the “wives” of the CO who he uses for his pleasure when he pleases.  The wives try to keep The Girl from being seen, but she is found and soon becomes Wife #4. Here, we see one of the ways women survived this brutal war.  Next, we meet Rita, who is a peace officer (with her own motives) who goes from camp to camp urging the COs to end this conflict.  She befriends Wife #1 and urges her to abandon her CO and become a peace officer, learn to read and have a chance of survival on her own terms.  Finally we meet Wife #3, who has left her place as wife and rapee, to become a solider.  She tries to sway The Girl to join her and take control of her destiny, putting a machine gun in her hand and promising her that anything she wants can be hers for the taking.  The Girl must choose between life of protection but no control of her body, or taking a place in the army and leading other girls to the same fate.  

A play about women, by women and starring all women, Eclipsed truly shines.  While the dialect and accents are can be hard to follow, you eventually settle in and have no trouble following along, empathizing and yearning for resolution.  While Lupita Nyong'o does well in the role, it was Pascale Armand, playing the wise-cracking, but all truthful, pregnant Wife #2 who really stole the show.  With her own battle of survival based around her unwanted pregnancy, her feelings about the CO and her eventual unwavering mother’s love toward her child, you cannot help but want the best for her.

Overall, Eclipsed gives a wonderful insight to a war that many, including myself, were completely unaware about.  You empathize with the women, even if you do not agree with their choices.  You are transported to their land, their homes and their turmoils through the skillful use of lighting (Jen Schriever) and the powerful sound design (Broken Chord).  You are exposed to a world that is unlike your own.  Kudos to Danai Gurira for her writing and to Liesl Tommy for her direction on a play that is unlike anything you have seen before.  Eclipsed is running on strictly limited engagement through June 19th.

Review By: Renee Demaio
Photos By: Sara Krulwich

Monday, April 4, 2016

Bright Star @ The Cort Theater

Looking for a unique Broadway experience with a breath of fresh air from the hip hop and heaviness of the past season? Somewhat of a hybrid between a feel good time and a thought provoking evening? A show that makes you say “Huh, I’ve never seen anything like that before.” Well, look no further, because Steve Martin and Evie Brickell’s Bright Star is most certainly the show for you.

The time is 1920-1940 in sugar sweet North Carolina where the heat is hot and the actors are hotter. The heart of Bright Star’s story is that of the love persuasion that spans for 20 years between Alice Murphy (Cusak) and Jimmy Ray Dobbs (Nolan).   At the top of show, we meet Billy Cane (Shivley) who just came home from war and wants to be a writer. That dream takes him to Asheville, where he meets Alice Murphey and the news he receives from her will change his life forever.

Carmen Cusak was simply radiant in her Broadway debut. Her portrayal of Alice Murphy was beautifully organic and gave so much dimension to a simple story. Paul Alexander Nolan was nothing short of energized sex appeal, pushing forward the story with him as he danced along. A.J. Shivley was the naïve Southern boy that pulled at our heartstrings and laced the piece all together.

At the shows end, Walter Bobbie and Josh Rhode’s staging and dancing floods your mind and you can’t help but gush over the nuances. It filled so much air and added excitement, almost as if it were a written narrative within itself. One particular stand out scene was a flashback in which the cast danced the whole vignette in reverse. Eugene Lee’s set concept perfectly mirrors the spirit of the bluegrass music, even providing an epicenter for the band: the wooden cottage that sweeps constantly across the stage as if it were a character as well. 

So toe tap on down to the Cort Theatre and be ready to get swept away by the powers of love, loss and bluegrass music!

Review By: Brittany Goodwin
Photos By: Joan Marcus