My review of Scena Theatre’s production of the the Duncan MacMillan/Robert Ickes adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four that I first saw at the Shakespeare Theatre two years ago is in this week’s Washington City Paper. In the years since I saw this script staged the first time, I have acquired a copy of Eurythmics’ Greatest Hits on LP, which includes the unfortunate “Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)” that accompanied the release of Michael Radford’s 1984 movie version.
Photo: Oscar Ceville as Winston Smith (Jae Yi Photography)
Lee Ordeman in “Shining City” (Jae Yi)
Danielle Davy in “Molly” (Jae Yi)
My reviews of Scena Theatre’s repertory of Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s acclaimed Shining City and the world premiere of George O’Brien’s Molly are in today’s Washington City Paper. You are alerted.
Malcolm MacDowell in Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film version, which remains upsetting and inescapable.
Scena Theatre’s production of A Clockwork Orange,
using Anthony Burgess’
adaptation of his own 1962 novella, did not make me want to throw up. Reviewed
in today’s Washington City Paper. Continue reading
I Wish You Love, a new, original “drama with music” from St. Paul, MN’s Penumbra Theatre tells the tale of how beloved entertainer Nat “King” Cole chose to end his 1956-7 TV variety show, the first primetime network program hosted by an African-American.
Cole dipped into his own pocket to keep it going, and A-list friends like Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Tony Bennett appeared for scale, but it was no use: With Montgomery Bus Boycott still in effect, no national sponsor would risk paying to bring a black man into America’s homes. When NBC insisted Cole segregate the players in his band, which didn’t even appear on camera, he finally balked. Ironically, lack of a live band is what keeps this show from living up to its considerable potential. It features 20 songs; far too many given that its Cole, Dennis W. Spears, is singing to prerecorded music. And several songs fail to advance or comment upon the story in any resonant way — not necessarily a problem, if Spears can sing the shit out of them. Continue reading
Orson Welles’s hour-long radio play The War of the Worlds was the greatest Halloween prank of the 20th century. Twelve million people tuned in for the original broadcast on Oct. 30, 1938 — about the same number as watch Glee now, but the population of the U.S. was only 40 percent of its current size back then. In a 1947 Princeton University survey, roughly one in 12 respondents said that upon first hearing Welles’s radio verite report of hostile Martians landing at Grover’s Mill, NJ, they had indeed believed it to be real news coverage of a frightening calamity. Continue reading
Nothing shores up a foundering head of state’s popularity among the electorate like a quick war, decisively won. The British response to Argentina’s 1982 invasion of the Falkland Islands looks from three decades on something like what the Bush Administration promised the seven-plus-year-old war in Iraq would be: The Falklands War lasted only 74 days, and the U.K.’s victory helped propel the Conservative government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to big electoral gains the following year.
Sink the Belgrano!, a 1986 play by British actor and director Steven Berkoff, is not a cool-headed history of the conflict or anything close. It’s an astringent piece of agitprop condemning what Berkoff sees as a violent overreaction by Thatcher — called “Maggot Scratcher” here, in the plainest example of his appropriation of sing-songy, infantile language — whom the playwright argues rebuffed all attempts at diplomacy, knowing her political aims would be better served by bloodshed. The title refers to an episode a month after the Argentine invasion, wherein the British nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror fired upon and destroyed the vessel ARA General Belgrano, killing 323 crewmen.
Sara Barker as Algernon / Photo: Ian C. Armstrong
Back to the grind. Here’s my CP review of Scena’s promising but under-rehearsed drag production of The Importance of Being Earnest. That’s Sara Barker as Algernon up there. It’s a fact she was blowing lines left and right at the presser last weekend, but hers was one of my two favorite performances in a show that had more than two strong ones, so.
What’s with the photos? Well, My City Paper review of the Belfast-set Kenneth Branagh play Public Enemy ran yesterday. It’s a confused and often confusing show, a very uneasy meld of character study and political parable. While writing about it I thought back to when I visited Belfast in May 2007.
These political murals fascinated me. They were not subtle. The painting was often crude, the messages cruder. They were heartfelt as a heart attack, and they were everywhere. Continue reading
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Tagged Belfast, California, Dan LeFranc, Ireland, Kenneth Branagh, masculinity, movies, navel-gazing, Scena Theatre, Studio Theatre, The Troubles, theater
Halloween is done and gone, but Scena Theatre’s aptly sepulchral Poe double-header — The Fall of the House of Usher followed after intermission by director Robert McNamara’s solo performance of The Tell-Tale Heart — is still neatly matched to the season.
Not only is Usher set, in one of several Poe phrasings that playwright Steven Berkoff’s adaptation uses as a kind of mantra, “in the autumn of the year,” but by the time the show closes on Nov. 29, the holidays will be hard upon us. ‘Tis the season of joyless and compulsory engagements, and surely no social call was ever more dismal than the three days’ journey the dapper narrator of Usher (David Bryan Jackson) undertakes when summoned by his withered and demented old chum, Roderick (Eric M. Messner). Continue reading