Sunday, September 18, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011


It's true what everyone's been saying. Each person I've asked what to see on Broadway has told me that I must see Jerusalem, written by Jez Butterworth and titled for the famous British hymn by William Blake, simply because Mark Rylance is so damn good.
The other cast members come together to create this story in a brilliant way, it's true, McKenzie Crook as Ginger, Jay Sullivan as Lee, Charlotte Mills as Tanya and all the rest, but Mark Rylance transforms himself so completely and lays himself vulnerable to the carnage of the stage in such a way that so utterly befits the character, Johnny "Rooster" Byron, that you cannot disbelieve him for a moment. That best actor Tony is so well deserved.
My favorite thing about Jez Butterworth's work, as he weaves us the story of a woodland strung-out slacker facing impending eviction from the illegal silver bullet trailer he's been living in for twenty years, was the sense of magic he brings to the play. Taking place on St. George's day, and fair day for this particular town, Butterworth alludes to elves, fairies, giants, ghosts, Peter Pan, The Pied Piper, Robin Hood, and so on. Johnny Byron, has such an ability to create fantastical tales one after the other, that you are distracted from the character's deep, deep wounds (physical and emotional) and begin to wonder if you are, in fact, watching a mythical figure.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sleep No More

So, last night, I saw the most fascinating, guttural show I have ever experienced. No piece of theatre has ever done what this show did to me.
Yesterday an old friend, who I really can't thank enough, got an extra free ticket through work to the hottest show in town. Sleep No More is not on Broadway, it happens in three warehouses on W 27th where Punchdrunk (a British site-specific company) has created a fully decorated abandoned 1930s hotel. Complete with bar and live flapper music, the hotel is dark and terrifying and beautiful beyond measure. Upon entering each guest is given a ghostly mask and then sent wandering at their leisure through a pleasure trove of horrifying rooms. Floating from some of the graphic installations (a baby's room with nothing but an empty crib and a hundred headless stuffed babies flying just overhead perhaps) into bedrooms where you're welcome to open drawers, read letters, eat candy, and generally snoop, or step through a curtain and find yourself in an expansive forest, or literally chilling graveyard with dirt and statues and walls.
If the atmosphere and free range of the five floor set isn't enough, you may find yourself, as I did, turning a corner into a stairwell and coming face to face with Macbeth himself. All around you in the hotel the characters of Shakespeare's infamous play are also set to wandering. Reliving the play over and over in a series of movement and dance based scenes. Find Macbeth, follow him a while you'll watch him have a blood bath orgy with the witches and the devil, have a passionate row with Lady Macbeth, murder Duncan in his sleep, be washed by the lady in their private bath tub, kill Banquo, and so on. Follow Lady Macbeth a while and watch her spur on Duncan's murder, wash the blood from her husband, and dissolve into insanity in an institutional-like washing room with twenty stark bathtubs where the nurse puts her mad mistress in a tub to wash imagined or maybe real blood stains. Follow Duncan? See him have a restless nap plagued by nightmares and foreboding, pray helplessly in his private chapel, get a tense shave and shoe shine from his manservant, and watch the time tick down to his own death. Other characters are lurking through the hotel as well. You may stumble on the suite of who I assumed to be the Macduff's. In a small sitting area adjacent to an eerie nursery erratically dances the apparently mad with poison, very pregnant Lady Macduff and her deeply concerned husband.
The characters all join together before Duncan's murder for a silent dinner and lively dance in the main hall. Find yourself in the hall again later and notice the trees lining the walls have all moved signaling Macbeth's death. At some point I found myself one of the few masked ghosts in this hall when I was unexpectedly approached by an actor, a surprise as usually the actors looked right through the spectators as though we were truly mere phantoms. I could not see for the dark which character was speaking to me, but he came in very close to my ear so that I could feel the heat of his whispered breath on my neck and spoke some Biblical sounding verse ending in, "for the kingdom of God is holy as thou art," looked me right into my eyes and wandered out into the play. That was scary.
Actually, the whole three hours I spent wandering the play were full of fear, but also an unending amount of discovery and wonder. It was the most profoundly theatrical experience I have ever had. I will never see Shakespeare quite like this.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Freud's Last Session

Hurray for off-Broadway! Seriously.
Last night I rushed a ticket at literally the very last minute to Freud's Last Session at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre on W 64th. I had left my number with the box office just in case there was a cancellation, and at 7:45 (fifteen minutes before curtain) they called to say I was in. Luckily I was in the neighborhood-ish. I had gone on a lazy stroll through Central Park, which was breathtaking yesterday evening, and had to hurry over to Central Park West as soon as they called. The scurry was completely worth it, though.
If you haven't heard, the show takes place on September 3, 1939 (the day of the king's speech) in the eighty-three year old Dr. Sigmund Freud's office where he is entertaining a theological debate with a pre-Chronicles of Narnia C.S. Lewis. The events of the play, written by Mark St. Germain, are almost completely fabricated, and are based simply on Freud's journal entry on that date stating that a young Oxford Theologian had come for a visit. Lewis and Freud spend the next hour and a half in lively discussion regarding the existence of God. The opposing views are so fundamentally different and communicated so thoroughly and intelligently that the talk itself is riveting. Add the possibility that the U.K. could be bombed at any moment, and Freud, who died a few weeks after this date, has a painful and debilitating oral cancer, you have one exciting as well as provocative play.
I was able to meet both Martin Rayner (Sigmund Freud) and Mark H. Dold (C.S. Lewis) after the play during a talk back, and I told them personally how much I had loved their work. They've been performing the play for a year now, and they say that each night is still a new discovery, fresh and different. They're both truly impressive.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Shakespeare Forum

Last night I went to this really cool thing: there's this event every week at the Space on White called The Shakespeare Forum. Anyone who wants to participate is welcome to come, and it's simply a group of actors getting together and working on pieces. You can bring in something you're auditioning with, or something you're just playing with, a monologue, a scene, whatever. As long as it's Shakespeare. After you do your piece for this group of thirty or so really supportive fellow artists your work is open for constructive feedback. Being a new-be I was told that The Shakespeare Forum is like fight club (less in the sense that I can't talk about it and more like fresh blood has to get up there). Luckily I had brought in the Lady Anne (Richard III) I have been working on, among other speeches, all year, and did that. It went over very well, and the notes I got from the group were congruent with the notes I get all the time in grad school, it was nice to have them reiterated.
It was so wonderful to just go and work for a little while, and it made me really feel great to know that even when I'm in my downtime while I'm living in the city there will be safe places like this where I can be an artist.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

All's Well That Ends Well in the Park

I'm in New York City, not permanently yet, but I am spending the rest of my summer here in hopeful preparation of living here when I am done with graduate school in a year.
I arrived yesterday, and of course, why would I waste time in seeing fantastic New York Theatre? No sooner had I gotten off the plane and set down my bags, but I was back on the subway from my place in Greenpoint headed for Manhattan where a very kind friend who'd spent the morning in line had picked up a Shakespeare in the Park ticket for me too!
It was my first time seeing All's Well that Ends Well onstage, and I was so excited to cross this one off my list (I've actually decided to keep track of how many plays I've seen from Shakespeare's Canon, I'm up to nineteen now).
This production was so impressive. It was visually stunning, of course! So many beautiful actresses in beautiful costumes. Set in the nineteenth century the play opened with a small ball in which each woman onstage with the exception of the Countess of Rousillion (Tony A Pinkins) and Helena (Annie Parisse) wore a delightfully individualized green gown. Offsetting the peaceful scene's of the courtiers were riveting war scenes created so gorgeously by looming cannon smoke. Not only was the smoke lovely with the natural park backdrop, but immediately transported us to the front lines.
Conversations I've had about this play have always revolved around how a smart, generous woman like Helena could love such a flat out jerk like Bertram (André Holland), the Public's production, however, makes Bertram less overtly cruel and more youthful and foolish. At times he is almost sympathetic, which makes the unlikely love affair much more believable. André Holland makes a handsome and honorable soldier were it not for his boyish tendency to be distracted by the prospect of dishonorable relations with pretty little virgins.
I so enjoyed Kristen Connolly as Diana, and I most definitely enjoyed Reg Rogers as Parolles. He was hilarious!
Fantastic first night in the city! I couldn't have asked for better!