Small-town discontent is at the heart of That Championship Season, but in this revival, there are no small names to be found in the cast. Kiefer Sutherland, Chris Noth, Jason Patric, and Jim Gaffigan play unhappy former high school basketball teammates who reunite with their coach (Brian Cox) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their state championship win. Yet instead of cheerful reminiscing, tempers (and lots of booze) spill over.
Normally, this formula makes for guaranteed entertainment, a la August: Osage County or the film The Big Chill. Yet Championship Season feels a little too playwriting-by-numbers. Everyone has their own specific hangup: Sutherland is a school principal who feels that he lacks power; Patric is Sutherland’s alcoholic brother who sneers disapprovingly at everyone; Noth is tired of being valued only for his wealth, and he’s a womanizer; Gaffigan is the mayor who lacks brains, and he knows it. The problem is that with four troubled characters (and a quartet of heavyweight actors playing them), no one gets enough time to fully-develop their issues.
Cox’s Coach is the puppet master who takes credit for shaping the lives of these men (although not so much their flaws, which has his name all over them too). Since the focus is too divided among the four former teammates, Coach’s character is the one in which playwright Jason Miller gets to dig the deepest. With his reverence for Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Senator Joseph McCarthy, and his wild racism that bubbles beneath the surface, it is evident that Coach planted many of his personal seeds in his pseudo sons. Perhaps more interesting is Coach’s disapproval for the men’s appalling behavior, and subsequent blindness to his contribution to it. Read more
With a standing-room ticket (because that’s the only way to get into this show without breaking the bank), Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Santo Loquasto’s set, and Brian MacDevitt’s lighting pulled me into 1957 Pittsburg. The night felt like an event. You could chalk it up to the massive Hollywood-star wattage displayed on stage, and you’d be right. The way the audience of the Cort Theatre was buzzing is what Stage Rush is all about—people getting an adrenaline rush from theater. It wasn’t just Washington and Davis’ presence that made it an event though—it was the quality of the piece on display, and the acting chops and production value to match it.
August Wilson’s Fences focuses on Troy Maxson, an intense man who likes to tell big stories in order to make himself seem bigger. While he exhausts his diatribes, all his wife, best friend, and sons can do is wait for him to finish. Troy likes to recount his days as a baseball star, and how the whites stopped him from breaking into the majors. He tells animated tall tales about how he wrestled with death himself, and how he dares him to a repeat match. Troy also lectures about his unfeeling father and the unspeakable violent streak that he had. There is a lot bubbling underneath Troy’s skin, which appears to be harmlessly blustery and jovial above the surface. Read more
When Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig came to Broadway in A Steady Rain, all they did was sit in chairs and pace back and forth on a bare stage. In Stanley Tucci’s production of Lend Me A Tenor, which features Anthony LaPaglia, Tony Shaloub, and Justin Bartha, the three Hollywood men leap over furniture, dress in ridiculous getups, and tackle each other. Now that’s giving an audience what they paid for.
Tucci’s production of Ken Ludwig’s farcical play of a blowhard opera star and the two theater gents trying to handle him hearkens back to the old-fashioned comedies of the 1930s. Tucci’s direction of this revival, which takes place in the 30s, makes it feel similar to watching an old black and white comedy. The movements are big, as are the facial expressions, and hearken back to the skills of Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers.
LaPaglia plays the puffed up tenor, while Shaloub serves as the opera company manager who bosses around Bartha’s meek assistant. Tucci directs them and the rest of the cast to the most detailed and efficient degree. Tenor is very much a physical comedy, and it is executed wonderfully. Timing is everything, as these actors are contending with entrances that rely on other characters’ exits that are happening simultaneously. Shaloub leaps over furniture. Shaloub leaps onto LaPaglia’s unconscious body, followed by Bartha. So much goes on in Tenor, yet it’s all coordinated masterfully. Read more
As a nice last-minute rush alternative upon discovering The Addams Family did not have any rush tickets for their matinee performance, I hopped on over to play the ticket lottery for The Miracle Worker. I had good vibes about this lottery, after being skunked by Addams.
For the play about Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan who gave her the gift of language, about 15 people entered and the attendant announced they’d be selling 10 lottery tickets. Now keep in mind, it was more like 30 people were playing, since most people register for two tickets. I kept positive and was the fifth name called! The lotto attendant directed the winners to line up in the order our names were picked. We did, but upon directing us to line up in the same order at the box office window to purchase our tickets, the attendant walked away and the order disintegrated. A woman who was called after I was zoomed to the front of the line. I suggested that the woman whose name was called first should be the first to purchase her tickets. The woman protested my suggestion, saying that she was waiting to play the lotto since 11 a.m., and should purchase first. I told her that wasn’t the way a ticket lottery works, to which she called me a “ticket Nazi.” So to the box office workers of the Circle in the Square Theatre, this ticket Nazi is telling you that you should keep your lottery more organized in the future.
Aside from disorganization, The Miracle Worker ticket lottery is a good one. From what the attendant said, 15 people was the most he’d seen play the lotto, and the tickets are $16 a piece, up to two per person. The seats are in the back row of the theater, and that brings me to my first point of review for this show—the scenery. Read more
A quality family drama can be a greatly effective play because everyone in the audience can relate in some aspect. Geoffrey Nauffts’ new dramedy, Next Fall, has many entrance points of reliability. Not everyone in the audience will relate to the homosexual relationship at the center of the play. Not everyone will relate to the various religious stances held by the characters in the play. What everyone will relate to, however, is the common denominator of religion in our lives and how it influences our views.
Just like A Steady Rain, which boasted two huge Hollywood names, people are coming out in droves to see Scarlett Johansson and Liev Schreiber in this revival of the Arthur Miller play. Last week, it sold 102 percent of its tickets! Being that there are only six weeks left to the production’s run and I was well aware of the demand for this show, I decided to be very cautious with this rush. I’m honestly shocked that Bridge has a rush policy at all, with the rate they’re selling. It’s a general rush that goes on sale when the box office opens for $26.50 a piece, up to two tickets.
I arrived at the Cort Theatre at 8:30 a.m. and was the third person in line. The Cort has a nice, large overhang that sheltered us from the rain. Once 9 a.m. hit, the rush line grew fast, eventually adding up to about 30 people. I could tell the rushers that were beyond tenth in line were getting antsy as to whether they would be getting a seat. People even began querying the front section of the line, asking who was purchasing tickets for the matinee or the evening show. It was then that I was content with my decision to get there early, because I knew I was getting a ticket and didn’t have to worry. It was a comforting thought, and made for a very easy rush. The payoff was even larger when I got my ticket, which was for a front row orchestra seat on the aisle of the center section. I thought it was a mistake at first! The idea of seeing Johansson and Schreiber perform that close was incredibly exciting. It turns out, the front row of the Cort is extremely close to the stage, which is also quite high. But luckily, the actors stand further upstage for most of the show, so they were visible. I didn’t need a giraffe neck like I thought, after all. Read more
I arrived at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre at 11:55 a.m. Yes, this is the dreaded Sunday rush (box offices open at noon, forcing rush crowds for popular shows to wait out in the cold an extra two hours). I, however, didn’t stay out in the cold. Although it was a gamble, I used my judgment and assumed that this show would not yet be pulling a large rush crowd, while still in previews. I haven’t seen a lot of advertising yet for the show, and some people I’ve talked with didn’t know it was showing yet. There was no one waiting at the box office and the doors were already open when I arrived. I walked up to the box office attendant and purchased my tickets with ease. It ranks among the easiest rushes I’ve ever done. Time Stands Still has a student rush policy for $26.50 a piece, up to two tickets per ID. Tickets go on sale when the box office opens.
Although there are four stars inhabiting the four roles in this show, I was most excited to see it because it was written by Donald Margulies. For years, I’ve been a huge fan of the HBO movie Dinner With Friends, which is based on his play and for which he also wrote the screenplay (the play won the Pulitzer for Drama in 2000). Margulies is excellent at writing dialogue for couples, particularly for scenes in which they evaluate the fundamentals of their relationship. What Margulies does for Andy MacDowell and Dennis Quaid in Dinner, he does nearly as well for Laura Linney and Brian d’Arcy James in Time. Read more
The problem with adding this subtitle to In the Next Room is that it doesn’t fit the tone of the piece. This jocular addition would better fit the style of a show like Avenue Q or [title of show]. This play by Sarah Ruhl has some jokes, yes; good ones, at that. But at its heart, it is a drama about a historical turning point in the sexual education of adults.
Michael Cerveris plays Dr. Givings, a physician who treats women (and sometimes men) with “hysteria” and anxiety with his “paroxysm” tool, which will in the future be referred to as a vibrator. His wife, played by Laura Benanti, is inquisitive about her husband’s medical treatments, which go on in the room adjacent to the couple’s living room (hence In the Next Room). But her husband is annoyingly rigid about what he divulges about his practices and thus shelters Mrs. Givings. Read more
Usually when I can’t follow the plotline of a show, that doesn’t bode well for how I feel about the production as a whole. Bizarrely enough, this is not the case with The 39 Steps. I was incredibly engaged the entire show, and I think I smiled the entire way through. I also didn’t know what the heck was going on. I hope that’s not an insult to writer John Buchan; it shouldn’t be. What he lacks in story clarity, he and director Maria Aitken make up for in stage directions and concept.
The 39 Steps is based on the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same title and follows Richard Hannay (Sean Mahon), a detective, a college professor, a mystery writer—I don’t know!—on a mad chase. The police are after him for the death of a strange woman, Annabella Schmidt, who was murdered in his home. Earlier in the night, the mysterious Annabella (who fired a gun in a theater and followed Richard home) yammered on to Richard about some kind of something, her search for this thing called “the 39 steps.” I don’t really know what she was talking about, but it sounded serious. Anyway, she ends up with a knife in her back and a freaked Richard takes off into the night, and somewhere along the way decides to continue Annabella’s search for the 39 steps.
But wait; this all sounds way too serious. The 39 Steps is a comical mystery (comystery?) similar to the style of Monty Python. The show is incredibly inventive; a cast of only four actors portrays 150 characters, using tricks such as shadows, quick costume changes, and abstract scenery. What’s delightful about this show is that it reaches out to an audience that knows how to use its imagination. Read more
It isn’t often that we see a stage family that gets along. Recently, we’ve seen the Goodmans in Next to Normal throw things at each other (OK, maybe only Alice Ripley does), and the Gordons of Dividing The Estate are at each others’ throats, as are the Westins of August: Osage County, literally. That the King family in Broke-ology is so close and jovial contributes to the warmth that emanates through this play by Nathan Louis Jackson. But hey, I didn’t say they were free of problems.
This Lincoln Center Theater production finds Malcolm (Alano Miller) returning home to his brother and father in Kansas City, Kansas, just after completing his master’s degree and securing a local job for the summer at the Environmental Protection Agency. His blue-collar father and restaurant-employee brother are both happy for his achievements, and even happier that he’s home. Both are in need of his aid, and assume Malcolm’s summer job means an indefinite stay.
Patriarch William (Wendell Pierce) is suffering from multiple sclerosis, and the homebound son, Ennis (Francois Battiste), is his caretaker. Ennis also has a pregnant girlfriend, and it doesn’t take long to see that he is stretched thin by his responsibilities. Malcolm is wrecked with guilt, torn between his needy family and even higher career aspirations tugging at him from Connecticut. Read more