Monday, August 27, 2012

Theater: New Shows (August 27 - September 3)

In a parallel universe, I have gotten a PhD in a comparative religion. That universe's blogpost celebrates Job at the Flea, but this one shines its spotlight on Space Captain: Captain of Space! I've been Inspired by the interplanetary movie serials of the 1930s, this Off-Off-B'way show is staged entirely in black-and-white. A crackerjack preview promises to show us futuristic swashbuckling, puppet starships, and a general tone of Plan 9 from Outer Space. Sounds like a fun way to end the summer season!

Space Captain: Captain of Space!
where: Kraine Theater
first night: Thursday, Aug. 30

And here's the rest:

where: 9th Space Theater
first night: Tuesday, Aug. 28
An encore engagement of this hit from Off-Off that put its company, the Amoralists, on the map. A fine bit of domestic melodrama, this show hangs out with an ad hoc family of anarchists as they're gentrified out of their neighborhood.

where: The Wild Project
first night: Thursday, Aug. 30
A smart young couple inherit a farm, which forces them to tackle science, food, and other Michael Pollan-type preconceptions. Produced by an environmentally conscious troupe, this drama adds a whimsical thread of magical realism, in the form of magic beans and “defiant vegetables”. Dunno what that last phrase means, but it's evocative!

where: The Flea Theater
first night: Friday, Aug. 31
Fans of black comedy already know Thomas Bradshaw, an expert at lancing our hang-ups about race and sex. Now he bravely takes on issues of faith in an “honest, uncynical adaptation” of that biblical masterpiece, the Book of Job. Bradshaw pairs off with those Tribeca ragamuffins, the Bats, who should work well with Bradshaw's loose, brash aesthetic.

where: Peter Jay Sharp Theater
first night: Friday, Aug. 31
It's brave to tackle tough subjects like race and class, but too many shows end up flinching from brutal truths. In this piece, a white couple decide to adopt a black child out, a noble-minded intention that will probably have unforeseen consequences. Question is, just how far will the show go with that?

Last chance!
Clybourne Park
where: Walter Kerr Theater

Into the Woods
where: Delacorte Theater

The Last Smoker in America
where: Westside Upstairs

The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side
where: 9th Space Theater

Potted Potter
where: Little Shubert Theater

where: Union Square Theater

where: Radio City Music Hall

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Theater: New Shows (Aug. 21-27)

Broadway's Chaplin competes with
YouTube videos of the real deal

Let's shine the spotlight on Detroit by Lisa D'Amour. The comedy nearly visited Broadway in '11 as well as just missing the Pulitzer. A strong cast (John Cullum, Amy Ryan, and, um, David Schwimmer) and smart director (Anne Kauffman) mount the show, which bowed to acclaim at Steppenwolf in Fall '10. Subject is another jaundiced look at the 'burbs, and comparisons to Clybourne Park will be inevitable. So will Detroit's themes be lost on an urbane audience like NYC's or will it be a good fit for Bloomberg's Manhattan? 

where: Playwrights Horizons
first night: Friday, Aug. 24

And here's the rest of this week's debuts:

where: Barrymore Theater
first night: Tuesday, Aug. 21
A musical about silent cinema's greatest legend sounds like a contradiction in terms. The show rests entirely on Rob McClure's flexible cane. He's got to sing and dance but also clown well. If he can, this show'll be a delight, whether the music works or not. But FYI, an earlier draft of this show, then called Limelight, got limp reviews at La Jolla in '10.

where: Roundabout at Laura Pels Theater
first night: Friday, Aug. 24
Jake Gyllenhaal makes his America stage debut―back in '02, he played London in This Is Our Youth to respectful reviews. Here he lends his wattage to a new play by a young Brit, taking the role of a drifter-uncle who acts as catalyst for a family in crisis.

where: Theater Row
first night: Thursday, Aug. 23
For Arthur Miller completists, a revival of an early '90s drama by a small OOB troupe. The depressive playwright brings his dour game: themes involve lost dreams, arguments about capitalist striving, and committing wives to mental asylums.

Last chance!
Fringe NYC 2012
where: all over town

Sister Act
where: Broadway Theater

Two Rooms
where: Theater Row

Uncle Vanya
where: Soho Rep

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Off-Broadway: Bullet for Adolf

This moment, an impromptu drum circle,
is the only good moment in Bullet for Adolf
(photo: Carol Rosegg)

Bullet for Adolf
New World Stages
written by Woody Harrelson & Frankie Hyman
directed by Woody Harrelson
Saturday, August 4

The title's by far the best aspect of Bullet for Adolf. Harrelson and Hyman have based their farce on a halcyon summer in 1983 Texas, when, between drags off a joint, they worked construction while a boombox blared Thriller. Now lost in their creative reminiscence, they've abandoned any attempt to depict actual human behavior. Instead, they've written roles that are automatons for wisecracks and punchlines, misunderstandings and sexual anxieties. If they were people, these dolts would be odious. But Harrelson and Hyman, sentimentally fond of their characters, don't have the courage of satire. By the curtain, when their gang assembles to laugh over the lessons they've learned, the 2½ hour Adolf resembles a bad 25-minute sitcom. If you go, just enjoy the YouTube montages that function as a tour of '80s pop culture―look, there's the Pepsi commercial that torched Michael Jackson's hair!―and ignore the scenes in between.


Bullet for Adolf plays at New World Stages, closing on Sept 9. Tickets?


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Theater: New Shows (August 7-13)

Julianne Nicholson sets the mood
for Sam Shepard's latest drama
(photo: Gregory Costanzo)
As other critics prep for the Fringe Festival, I'm sitting it out. Instead, I want to book tickets for Sam Shepard's newest play and for Two Rooms, Lee Blessing's tight drama about a victim of Middle Eastern terrorism.

where: all over town
first night: Friday, Aug. 10
It's not the best Fringe Festival in the country but it is the biggest. You can't see all 187 shows but you'll have to visit the website and trawl the listings for yourself. I'll just suggest Have I Got a Girl for You, not only because it's earning positive buzz & selling well but because a friend of mine is directing it.

where: Theater Row
first night: Friday, Aug. 10
This show's keeping a low profile, which isn't a good sign. Available info calls the show a “farce noir” about an executive and his new assistant, whose agenda I'm guessing involves revenge for sexual harassment.

where: Signature Theater
first night: Tuesday, Aug. 7
Sam Shepard debuts his latest stage drama―something about a young woman's secrets in contemporary LA. The woman is played by Julianne Nicholson, who has just the sort of enigmatic presence that Shepard's plays need for their dark and cataclysmic magic to work. Plus, the show's only $25!

where: Theater Row
first night: Wednesday, Aug. 8
This Reagan-era play, inspired by a Lebanon hostage crisis, has become a core drama in American theater since 2001. It deserves its status, with its staging of the individual cost to international action, its several fine roles, and a rare sense of urgency and relevance to life in modern America.

Last chance!
7th Monarch
where: Theater Row

where: Second Stage

Friday, August 3, 2012

Musicals: The Girl of the Golden West

The Girl of the Golden West
Ice Factory 2012
created by Rady&Bloom
August 2, 2012

Collaborators Jeremy Bloom & Brian Rady have elevated the high sentiment of a hundred-year-old melodrama into a musical rich with feeling. The show's soundscape evokes 1849 California through atmosphere more than allusion by weaving an electric country guitar and cowboy-inspired vocal harmonies with synthesizers, dueting flutes, and low-tech foley-work. The set mirrors this eclectic modernism with rough-hewn, golden-stained wood suggesting rather than representing a High Sierra mining camp. But the singers and band create such a rich sonic experience, they make the visuals superfluous. In particular, the titular Girl, Catherine Brookman, has charisma and depth in her chords, which makes plausible and even pleasurable the preposterous turns of plot. Girl does have its flaws—in particular, the audio mix favors the instruments over the vocals to the point of obscuring them. But rough, joyous, and filled with passion, it offers more pleasure and artistry than a season of Broadway musicals.


Girl plays at the New Ohio Theater, closing on August 4. Tickets?