Tag Archives: The Washington Examiner

Constellation’s Three Sisters, Give or Take

Amy Quiggins, Nanna Ingvarsson, and Catherine Deadman

Life is hard. Life is hard and long. Life is hard and long and cold and pointless, and so it shall be for our descendants a thousand years from now, until at last, perhaps, the mystery of creation is revealed. Until then, we must suffer and endure. Any respite from said suffering and endurance shall be brief, and shall chiefly take the form of alcoholism, gambling, infidelity, and should we be so lucky, duels.

No wonder Anton Chekhov thought his plays were comedies!

Constellation’s Theatre Company’s new production of his Three Sisters finds some levity amid its pervasive existential gloom, but not nearly enough of it to prevent this handsome but staid production from feeling like a march through the Russian winter. That isn’t automatically a reason to stay away, but we don’t feel the weight of its tragedy, either — the characters seem to be miserable mostly because their creator says so. The result, despite a handful of memorable performances, feels listless and underdeveloped. Continue reading

Signature’s goodly Wife, Long on Persuasion

Whatever scenario Doug Wright had in mind when first he interviewed Charlotte von Mahlsdorf with the aim of writing a play about her, we can safely assume it was something more conventional than his prismatic meta-biography, I Am My Own Wife.

Wright’s single actor, multi-character opus won the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2004, more than a decade after Mahlsdorf first began recounting her strange (and possibly tall) tale into his tape recorder. Along the way, the playwright grappled with a Berlin Wall of writer’s block, beguiled by premise-thickening revelations about a subject he’d initially hoped to venerate as a hero. But the complexity that so confounded him turned out to be the very thing that gives his play about a cross-dressing furniture collector in fascist East Germany an unlikely universal resonance.

Director Alan Paul’s absorbing new Signature Theatre production of I Am My Own Wife is — sorry — an ideal marriage of performer and material, entrusting its 36 roles to the versatile craftsman that is Andrew Long. Biographies seem more suited to the solo-performer approach than do other kinds of stories: We are vast, we contain multitudes, etc. Continue reading

Young Frankenstein, Getting Older by the Minute

It’s aliiiiiiive!

Well, sort of. In places. For a while.

But not really.

The stage-musical adaptation of Mel Brooks’s beloved 1974 horror film spoof Young Frankenstein will haunt the Kennedy Center Opera House through the holidays, and it’s an utterly explicable choice for this season of multi-generational out-of-town guests: bland and familiar even if you’ve never seen the movie, offering neither challenge nor much reward.

Sporting a brow even lower than that of the stitched-from-corpses creature at its center, and with about as much to say, the show — which began its 14-month Broadway run two years ago — represents Brooks’s attempt to repeat the success of The Producers. As with that 1968 film-cum-2001 Broadway smash, Brooks once again joined new music and lyrics to a story he brought to the screen more than three decades earlier. Continue reading

Please Allow Me to Re-Introduce Myself: The Screwtape Letters Returns

Karen Wright (foreground) and Max McLean in The Screwtape Letters. (Jonny Knight)

Actor and dramatist Max McLean was thinking hard about hubris versus humility even before he had a hit show on his hands.

“According to [C.S.] Lewis — and he gets most of his ideas from John Milton —pride is the first sin, the real sin,” McLean says. “All other sins are byproducts of that.”

The star of The Screwtape Letters — a wickedly seductive adaptation of Lewis’s 1942 novella about a senior demon in Hell advising an apprentice demon on Earth as he tries to effect a man’s damnation — has reason to be cautious. His show, which is of course about the very process by which a man may be corrupted, is enjoying boffo success. It begins a return engagement at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Landsburgh Theatre tonight. Continue reading

An As You Like It Gone Hollywood

Francesca Faridany’s Rosalind and John Behlmann’s Orlando.

All the world’s a stage, except when it’s a film set.

The Shakespeare Theatre’s new production of As You Like It, the philosophizing romantic comedy set largely in a curative mystical forest, has adopted the trappings of an altogether different wood, one that no one ever accused of being good for you. (That’d be the one that starts with Holly.) The show begins ingeniously as a flickering silent film with title cards, but quickly assumes the props and types of a modern movie shoot, with boom-mic operators and cameramen and headset-wearing production assistants scurrying between scenes. We even hear Ted van Griethuysen growl “Cut!” now and again. Continue reading

The Last Days of Disco Pigs

Solas Nua’s current production of Enda Walsh’s Disco Pigs runs only 60 minutes, and you’re relieved when it’s over. Not because it’s bad — on the contrary, it’s a work of sparkling, propulsive genius, astutely staged and brilliantly performed.

But know this: Its brilliance is of the combative, exhausting variety. Its pace? Frenetic! Its language? Formidable. Our protagonists/narrators, Pig and Runt, don’t communicate in mere Irish slang, but in their own intimate, infantile, often impenetrable argot, one that recalls the Russian-influenced dialect Anthony Burgess concocted for his novel A Clockwork Orange. (Malcolm MacDowell memorably cooed it while terrorizing London with his “droogs” in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation.)
Continue reading

Forum’s “Angels in America,” preview’d

Michael Dove

And that handsome guy right there is Michael Dove, artistic director of Forum Theatre and director of Angels in America: Perestroika. They’re doing that one, which is Part II, and Millennium Approaches, which is Part I, in rep, together.

Ballsy. Expensive. Etc.

I’ve got all the details in today’s Examiner.