- Book of Mormon
- A Bronx Tale
The Color Purple
- Dear Evan Hansen
The Encounter Falsettos Fiddler on the Roof
- The Front Page
Holiday Inn The Humans The Illusionists
- In Transit
- Kinky Boots
- Lion King
- On Your Feet
- School of Rock
Shakespeare in the Square, a group of performers that originally began as an NYU student club, is exiting the university setting with a 2-hour (not counting intermission) production of the First Folio version of Romeo and Juliet, and the result is a swift production played by a cast of five that is one of the more captivating R&J’s I’ve seen in years.
You may not be familiar with the first Folio—it’s the version without the opening “Two Households” scene, so don’t be alarmed if it feels that SITS has cut it. In fact, they haven’t cut a single word of this edition—the two hours is performed at a speed that creates an energy matched by the excellent performances of this small troupe.
Being a cast of five, each obviously doubles or triples or quadruples in roles; of particular note are Jack De Sanz, who is hilarious as Juliet’s nurse and equally wonderful as the Friar, and Constantine Malahias who has all the fun as Mercutio but changes himself completely to play Juliet’s father and others. Each time either of these two actors are onstage they have reoriented their body stance, their every gesture to the point where you begin to lose count how many actors are actually in this troupe. Unfortunately this only underscores the occasional beginning-of-scene confusions as to who is playing who for some of the other actors, unless you know the play well enough. Director Dan Hasse has made much of the minimalist platforms in the Judson Gym and his staging is dynamic enough to make up for the sparseness, but he could have done well to have had costume designer Liz McGlone give Elise Kibler something visual to further distinguish her Benvolio from her heartbreaking, affecting Juliet.
The overall feel of the production is exciting, particularly the way it evokes the feel of a small Shakespearean troupe making the most of so little. Audience members sit directly on the stage, music is played leading up and during intermission, and you’re bound to catch a cast member beginning a scene standing right behind you if you don’t pay attention. Of course, this sort of ad-hoc approach is needed when you staunchly refuse to cut a material that sorely needs cutting, even if Hasse insists that cutting is a “crutch”. In order to squeeze in under the two-hour wire, many of the excess repetitions in speech are simply sped-through, which is a disservice to a very talented troupe. There are two types of Shakespearean actors, those who convey the general meaning of the lines, and those who understand each word as if it were their first language, and SITS’s comprising of the latter is what makes this production worth seeing.
ROMEO AND JULIET plays through February 8 2015 at The Gym at Judson.
A Delicate Balance(well, Feb 22)
- Gentleman's Guide
Cinderella Disgraced (The question is, will they try to keep this alive for a best play nom? It's a pretty cheap play to run.)
- Honeymoon in Vegas
- If/Then (I was going to half-strike this one, but it looks like Idina's in contract into the spring)
- It's Only A Play
- Jersey Boys
- Kinky Boots
- Les Mis
- Mamma Mia
Motown(unless it goes off-Broadway?) OnThe Town
(60% at a top ticket price of $85 isn't awful, but the Ford/Hilton/Foxwoods/Lyric/Apollo is kind of huge... although they will likely insist that they keep this open in time for Best Revival nominations and a very possible win)
Once Pippin Rock of Ages Side Show
- Book of Mormon
- Curious Incident
Elephant Man(Feb 15) The Illusionists The Last Ship (I wouldn't half-cross this out if Sting extended through February, instead of Jan 24) The Real Thing The River(2/8) This Is Our Youth
You Can't Take It With You(2/22)
Last week I had the pleasure of taking in "Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812" in its new uptown location. I sort of had no idea what I was going in to see; I knew it was based on a section of War and Peace, a book I will probably never pick up, but other than that I walked in unaware of much beyond the great word of mouth I'd generally heard.
The story isn't really the important part compared to the immersive atmosphere, but it mostly centers around Natasha, a young Russian girl who finds herself smitten with another man while her fiancée is off fighting in a war. The story is told in a Russian café setting where you can order food and drinks before the show and during intermission, and the atmosphere, costumes, and music all skillfully employ that thing where one foot is grounded in 1812 and the other foot in modern day setting.
This was one of those shows I truly enjoyed despite myself. The lyrics don't even attempt to rhyme or hit any recognizable meter, as if an untouched translation forced to fit uncomfortably in music, occasionally making much of the words hard to discern. But the music is wonderful and evocative of the time period without being cliche or pastiche! The entire character of Pierre barely deserved to be in the title as he was almost a nonentity. But the atmosphere was fantastic and rich! Pierre could have had more time for an arc to be developed if some minor characters were cut, as they were not as much fun as the prologue advertised they'd be. But look, your waiter brought you some pirogies! You love pirogies! I imagine that future "traditional" stage productions of the show may not fare quite as well as what elevates the show to worthwhile is the truly stunning production and atmosphere.
The show might be worth seeing just for the rousing prologue alone. Aware that the Russian source material is teeming with characters who are difficult to keep track of, each one is hilariously introduced through an opening number that occasionally assures you that if you get lost, your program's relationship diagram will get you back on track. It's like an Ahrens and Flaherty opening if they had traded sentimentality for sarcasm, and it's brilliant. I wish that sort of focus had been afforded to some other parts of the show, but nonetheless it remains a wonderful evening and I recommend seeing it quickly before it closes, which I've heard rumors of....
Alan Cumming is back on Broadway doing a limited run of his tour-de-force almost-one-man Macbeth, and it is a must-see. Set in a psychiatric ward, Cumming plays a deeply disturbed man who impersonates almost every character in the Shakespeare classic, occasionally leaving clues as to who this poor patient is, why he is recounting this story, and what has led him to become so tortured.
Typically when I go into a Shakespearean play it takes me a few minutes for my ears to get accustomed to the diaalect, much like hearing a foreign language or accent and re-adjusting your listening habits. At first you found yourself doing a similar sort of thing in deciphering the various characters Cumming plays. That is, until you start noticing how he holds himself differently for each character, takes on different affectations, and that these subtler differences perfectly bridge the line between Cumming playing multiple characters and playing one madman who embodies each of the characters in the story. It is nothing short of amazing, and when you join the rest of the audience for a standing ovation afterwards it is because of a truly spectacular performance, not because you liked the guy in The Good Wife.
I would recommend reacquainting yourself with the storyline and characters first if you're not too familiar with Macbeth, as this production adds a full layer on top of Shakespeare's text. Myself, I only had two small complaints with the show:
Complaint # 1. Towards the end, when Cumming is playing Lady Macbeth in the "out, out damn spot" scene, the lines where others describe Lady Macbeth's madness become the two asylum workers' commentary on the madness of Cumming's patient. I'm all for changed readings and meanings in Shakespeare's language, but since the lines were originally referring to Lady Macbeth, they instead continue to mis-comment on Cumming's male patient as a "she". If I presume that this particular patient's diagnosis includes Disassociative Personality Disorder--and that is a reading that may not be intended--it seems like this could be solved so simply by making the first instance of "she" more emphasized, almost in air quotes, as if referring to a side of the patient's personality.
Complaint # 2. Alan Cumming didn't get nominated for best actor? Wtf.