Mike Daisey is an artist I’ve written about more often and in greater detail than only anyone else. He’s certainly the artist with to whom I’ve spent the most time speaking directly. The reviews I’ve written of his monologues and the features I’ve reported about how he creates them and the op-ed I was once moved to write in his defense all reflect my great admiration for his work.
That has not prevented me from condemning him when I think he’s deserved it, and he did do something that warranted condemnation, years ago. I will say that in the third year of a Donald J. Trump administration, it seems awfully quaint that so many journalists who had never publicly discussed theatre at all before they lined up to express their outrage at Daisey in the spring of 2012 got so steamed over a guy who tells stories in theaters for a living taking some liberties with one of them.
Anyway, Daisey’s wildly ambitious current show A People’s History—an 18 part retelling of American history circa 1492-to-now, based heavily on the work of Howard Zinn but also on Daisey’s own life—is the subject of my second Washington City Paper cover story about him, available today wherever finer Washington, DC alt-weeklies are given away for free. My 2012 WCP story detailing the problems he created for himself with his show The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, and his effort to remedy them, is here. In fact, all of my writings about Daisey are mere clicks away! How much time do you have?
SUPERFAMILIAS: David Deblinger and Tim Getman (Stan Barouh/Theater J)
Any honest critic will occasionally find himself out on a lonely limb, and this week it’s my turn. To me and apparently no one else, Arena Stage’s The Normal Heart — a historically vital play about the early years of the AIDS epidemic in New York City — is morally worthy but artistically wanting.
I am girding myself for hate mail.
People sometimes make fun of Ford’s Theatre’s presidential history plays for being dowdy and pedantic; for being more interested in teaching us A Very Important Lesson than in taking us somewhere. That’s how The Normal Heart felt to me, albeit with a lot more crying. (Also, I tend to like the musty presidential histories.) I happen to agree with the play’s politics, as I understand them — though that really shouldn’t matter at all — and I acknowledge in my review that activist/playwright Larry Kramer was writing in a time and place when subtlety would not have been an appropriate or effective response to the nightmare he and his peers were living through.
I just don’t think the preachy, shouty play he wrote holds up, removed from that urgent context. Your mileage may, and probably will, vary. Continue reading →
Man, I really miss going to SILVERDOCS. I don’t think I’ve been since 2009, maybe 2008. Late June has always been a crunch for me since I started handling the City Paper’s coverage of the Capital Fringe Festival, which runs the last three weeks of July, back in 2010.
I did review a screener of one doc, Joe Papp in Five Acts, about the much beloved founder of New York’s Shakespeare in the Park and then The Public Theater.
Here’s my City Paper review of Round House Theatre’s production of the stage adaptation of Double Indemnity, based on James M. Cain’s Depression-era serialized novel.
Some plot developments may seem unfamiliar to those of us who only know the story from Billy Wilder’s iconic 1944 film noir, which departs from Cain’s structure in ways that’re all to the good. There’s nothing wrong with this play, really, but it’s hardly an essential document the way Wilder’s movie is.
However precipitous its decline, The Simpsons remains the only TV show my entire family will sit in the same room and watch together. (Mom, I suspect, might just be going along to get along.) But one needn’t have so intimate an association with TV’s longest-lived comedy to appreciate the grim genius of Anne Washburn‘s Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play. I reviewWoolly Mammoth Theatre Company‘s world-premiere production in today’s Washington City Paper, available wherever finer alt-weeklies are given away for free. Sorry about the ugly split infinitive that crept in there, you guys. Continue reading →
I struggled with Kathleen Akerley‘s production of Sam Shepard‘s The Tooth of Crime after I saw it last weekend. The play is a fascinating time capsule of how much danger and possibility pop music, and rock and roll specifically, must’ve still had when Shepard wrote it back in 1972. That gives it a charm that partially compensates for the fact the (apparently) postapocalyptic world it’s set in is so cryptic and thinly drawn. Continue reading →
WEST PRACTICES: Danny Scheie, Cody Nickell, and Kate Eastwood Norris (Jeff Malet)
In Deadwood’s poetically vulgar patois, Aaron Posner’sDeadwood-inspired new The Taming of the Shrew at the Folger Theatre is “beholden to no human cocksucker.” I review it in today’s Washington City Paper, available wherever finer alt-weeklies are given away gratis. Continue reading →