Monthly Archives: April 2011

The King’s Speechless: Synetic’s Lear, reviewed

Irakli Kavsadze as King Lear and Ira Koval as Goneril

Now what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate. At least that’s what a smarter-than-me friend of mine says we’ve got in the text. Synetic’s wordless version is an action flick. I like action flicks.

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Feint Praise: The Sweet Science on Stage

From the University of Maryland's original Joe Louis opera, "Shadowboxer," April 2010.

Boxing! So misunderstood! I hate to keep picking on Golden Boy, but mulling over what rubbed me so wrong about it did me the idea to examine some boxing plays that’ve been performed here in DC and in New York recently. So I did that. And before you tell me, yes, I know that some of the movies Clifford Odets worked on in Hollywood are, for all his agita about selling out, much better than Golden Boy. (The Sweet Smell of Success springs immediately to mind.) Continue reading

Theater on the TV: Discussing Art and The Walworth Farce on WETA’s Around Town

These are the two plays I wrote about in the City Paper last week. I was invited to the WETA Studio on Monday, April 11 to discuss them with Around Town host Robery Aubry Davis and regular panelist and Washington Post theatre columnist Jane Horwitz. I had never been on television before. From this taping I went directly to my doctor’s office, where a throat culture revealed I had strep. So, you know, bear that in mind if you watch these. Continue reading

Enda the Road: Studio’s The New Electric Ballroom and Capital Fringe’s Unquiet Mind, review’d

Jennifer Mendenhall, Nancy Robinette and Sybil Lines in "The New Electric Ballroom"

The final entry in Studio Theatre’s Enda Walsh festival, The New Electric Ballroom, is the least rewarding, squandering some lovely performances — and, as always, Walsh’s muddy lyricism — in the service of an opaque story that asks you to accept that a mild romantic disappointment in adolescence would drive not one but two women smeared-lipstick crazy for 40 years. The show is often called a companion piece to the concurrently-running The Walworth Farce, which it preceded by a year, but to me it feels more like an early draft.

My Washington City Paper review is here, along with a complimentary assessment of the Capital Fringe-affiliated Run Through the Unquiet Mind.

Clybourne Park Won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama Yesterday

Jefferson A. Russell, Dawn Ursula, Kimberly Gilbert and Cody Nickell will all return in Woolly's summer reprise of the Pultizer-winning CLYBOURNE PARK

Way to go, Bruce Norris.

CAKE at the 9:30 Club, reviewed

OUT: More Cowbell.

IN: Enough with the Goddamn Vibra-Slap Already.

“We’re opening for ourselves!” CAKE frontman John McCrea announced last night at the first of three consecutive sold-out evenings at the 9:30 Club. He was explaining their appearance at earlyish hour of 8:15. It’s “an evening with CAKE,” he said, stretching out the word “evening” in his mouth. Sounds like the eclectic Sacramento group — riding high on the strength of Showroom of Compassion, their first new music in seven years — had prepared a lengthy program and we’d all best get comfy, right?

Nope! They played exactly 90 minutes, the minimum acceptable amount for a band with a 17-year catalog. Which would’ve been okay if they didn’t do everything possible to drain the gig whenever any momentum or excitement threatened to accrue. A 20-minute intermission after only 45 of music? Allowable if you’re going to play at least double that upon your return, or if you’re an aged legend who physically requires a midshow rest. These guys? All in their mid-40s.

Post-intermission, they burned another 10 interminable minutes giving away a tree to an audience member. And eliciting a promise from the unlucky winner to re-plant said tree. And to use it to teach his students — he’s a teacher — “where food comes from.” And to post photos of himself with the tree on the band’s website. I have a compost pile in my apartment, and this was, even to me, insufferable. Continue reading

Unholy Trinities: Art and The Walworth Farce,  reviewed

Mitchell Hébert and John Lescault / photo by Scott Suchman

Art by Yasmina Reza; translated by Christopher Hampton
Directed by Matt Gardiner
At Signature Theatre to May 22

To frame things as reductively as possible, Yasmina Reza’s Art and Enda Walsh’s The Walworth Farce are both about two guys reacting to the alarming behavior of a third.

Admittedly, it’s a pretty slim commonality. Dinny, the tyrannical patriarch who runs the show in Walworth, is violent, delusional, sadistic—the very model of a modern major depressive sociopath. Serge, the catalyst of Art, is merely pretentious, dropping 200,000 clams on a painting that appears to his pals, and to us, to be a blank white canvas. “The resonance of the monochromatic doesn’t really happen under artificial light,” he explains, like an emperor protesting that his new clothes need only be brought in a bit.

Serge is a dermatologist by trade. That a surface unperturbed by form or color would call out to his soul is one of the better jokes here, which is to say this is neither the funniest nor the most insightful work ever to win the Tony Award for best play, which it did, or to follow its denouement with a deflating coda, which it does. Continue reading