We've done it, boys. The most misguided, WTF inducing Shakespeare production that has yet been produced (and I've seen Measure for Measure with strippers, all-male musical The Taming of the Shrew, and Macbeth reimagined as a CIA op gone horribly wrong - all of them were good btw) What in the name of all that is holy were they thinking? Let's count just some of the horrible decisions that went into this monstrosity.
1. Casting Gwendoline "Dead Fish" Christie as Titania/Hippolyta. She sticks out like a sore thumb with a cast of actors that more or less discharge themselves honorably. Some more honorably (Oliver Chris as Oberon/Theseus, the production's sole saving grace) than others, but they at least try. Christie, however, has no grasp for making the language understandable, and relies too much on her body language... which is so overdone that it verges on unintentionally funny.
2. Hippolyta in a cage for no reason at all in the beginning. What were they trying to do?
3. Somehow trying to merge Theseus/Hippolyta and Oberon/Titania into each other, like the fairy royalty are... dream versions of the human royalty or something. Theoretically I can understand this, but there's no development of the idea, it's just used for some cheap gags that make no sense because the concept hasn't been fleshed out.
4. Why was Puck channeling Waluigi?
5. Every time there is a good gag (like Oberon pole dancing), it is stretched out interminably. I think the pole dancing was two minutes long. Bottom's death scene is just as long, and it would have been funny with a little restraint. After the seventh death, it got fucking boring.
6. This play thinks that references=humor. Acknowledging that cell phones exist and "taking a selfie" isn't funny by itself. Filling your play with licensed music isn't funny by itself. Referencing The Lion King isn't funny by itself.
7. The production design was sparse to the point of being pointless, and what little was there just didn't really work. I get that they're "dreaming," but making every scene take place on beds just doesn't fit the script.
8. There's no sense of direction to the play in general, really. It is dependent upon sudden, cheap laughs, and throws the script out the window to get them. Most Shakespeare comedies use supplemental gags to get the biggest laughs, but there's some understanding of fitting them into the story so that they don't stop the action. (For example, in stripper Measure for Measure, the duke goes to a monastery at the beginning to get away from his life of sin, resulting in a lovely gag in which the monk takes his belongings away and discovers fuzzy handcuffs. Or better yet, a production of Midsummer I saw in which "I kiss thy stones" was said by Pyramus, who then... kisses the wall's "stones"... Oh, and speaking through a "crack" in the wall should not have been as hilarious as that production made it.)
But in this production, they always stop the action for these gags, and it is a disaster. Everything about it is a disaster. Good heavens above, what a horrible, horrible mess.
The Old Vic is streaming The Grinning Man through July 3rd for free (below). This is based on the same Victor Hugo book that the (marvelous) silent film The Man Who Laughs (1928) is............ which influenced The Joker (2019)........haven't seen The Grinning Man yet don't know if it works ...........so with that in mind.......proceed with caution.
A classic play and America's best "non-big star" stage actor the great Raúl Esparza with a game Samira Wiley.......up for free through July 1st. Some botched lines here - Esparza at ~1:10:20 even - though he recovers quickly! - at 1:11:11 he goes so OTT that it's something to behold in this kind of staging.
Entertaining version though a bit uneven - when Esparza isn't there it lags - and in keeping the text and making the manner of performances as 2020 modern it's too cutesy ......though that allows the play to tie into our current social crisis (BLM, Trump) it's really a staged reading but fun if you know this play.
Esparza is on a whole different level of craft and wit.......I've included the NYT review (positive) but be warned Tartuffe is a very dense and wordy play......this was just done on June 27th so it's up to date!
Mattsby ...........it's not Depardieu......... but it is in English
I checked out the '74 King Lear with James Earl Jones - drab spare production design. I liked the thunder-rumble around the storm scenes that rouses the tone with more of a delirious tension, a feeling of spiraling. Drawbacks are the camera set ups that don't really add anything, and some iffy performances, like whoever played The Fool.
Jones is great, only 42y/o when performed! How many have played Lear as young or younger?? pacinoyes might know! Jones is surprisingly sensitive here, reversing disbelief into a rage on the verge of tears - in his cadence we sometimes get the crackle and bob of that verge. Like to Goneril, "That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus" etc - there's shame to his slipping control, his weakening force. Also don't remember if the other Lears I've seen do this but Jones mimics some of the hand movements of Poor Tom, which I thought was interesting. As for the other actors - I thought Raul Julia as Edmund was very good too, adds some welcome humor (the flamboyant way he says "So that it follows I am rough and lecherous, pffftt!") also in another soliloquy how every time he says "legitimate" he breaks up the word more and more in a mocking tone.
Jones is great, only 42y/o when performed! How many have played Lear as young or younger?? pacinoyes might know!
Gambon was in his earlly 40s in the early 80s stage version I think........Paul Scofield was maybe ~48 in the film version (1971) but had played it at least ~10 years earlier .......although reading that back that sounds ridiculous .....I am pretty sure he was in his late 30s or maybe 40 when he first played it in a big stage production..........that is a famous Lear - Scofield's "first" Lear.
We all know the maxim of "show, don't tell." National Theatre's Les Blancs is an example of something that is all tell, and no show. Everybody is a mouthpiece for a philosophy or viewpoint, and they will go on at length espousing their side of the argument. But there's nothing underneath. Why do these individual people hold these beliefs? What makes Madame Whatsherface so particularly sympathetic to the black cause? What really drives the American journalist, other than a driving need to have everyone (and I do mean everyone) incessantly spout exposition at him? What made the priest turn towards God? There are two characters that the script attempts to flesh out: the cynical doctor who explains how he has become embittered against his own race, and Chembe (coincidentally the only character whose name I can remember), the black man with a white wife who wrestles with wanting to leave all of this conflict behind and wanting to do what is right for his people.
Unfortunately, it's all just talk for both of them. The doctor gets a good monologue about how his beliefs changed, and it is good stuff... but he's a really minor character who is never given a proper chance to develop, so it comes off as slightly undercooked. But Chembe is the protagonist, and the issue here is that we're never given any info about his white wife and son. Oh, he talks about them a lot and about how he wants to go home and forget this (he never stops repeating this desire), but they're completely anonymous, so that neither he nor the audience actually has to wrestle with any thorny questions about what he *really* wants. Everything is all very clear in this world: dare I say, black and white. Good and bad. What must be done and what doesn't actually matter.
That is the danger of never showing us the interior world of a character. The danger of getting a surface picture of their progression, in which they can talk about their struggles from a remove, and we don't have to believe that those struggles actually exist.
By the way, the acting and staging are fine. Nothing at all special, but they're decent enough. The script is the problem.
Edit: Oops, his name "Tehembe," not "Chembe." To be fair, I can chalk that up to the accents.
I just added the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Unlike the others, they don't seem to be taking theirs down every week, so I may put them all in links later to keep the page tidy. They've got stuff like King John (arguably my favorite Shakespeare script) and Pericles, which are both underperformed.
Big shows on PBS ........including Kline in Present Laughter a Tony winning role that I saw look for me in the crowd!
************************************************************************** As part of their Broadway At Home series, Great Performances will keep the theatrical spirit alive by broadcasting a theatre favorite every week on PBS, beginning on Friday, July 24 with She Loves Me, followed by Present Laughter, In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams, Much Ado About Nothing, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I.
See below for a list of complete details.
She Loves Me
Airs Friday, July 24 at 9:00 PM ET
She Loves Me was the first Broadway musical ever to stream live during a performance at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Studio 54. In the musical, Tony Award winner Laura Benanti and Tony Award nominee Zachary Levi star as Amalia and Georg, two parfumerie clerks who aren’t quite the best of friends. Constantly bumping heads while on the job, the sparring coworkers can’t seem to find common ground. But little do they know, the anonymous romantic pen pals they have both been falling for happen to be each other. Will love continue to blossom once their identities are finally revealed?
Airs Friday, July 31 at 9:00 PM ET
Noël Coward’s Present Laughter follows a self-obsessed actor in the midst of a mid-life crisis. Juggling his considerable talent, ego, and libido, the theater’s favorite leading man suddenly finds himself caught between fawning ingénues, crazed playwrights, secret trysts, and unexpected twists.
In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams
Airs Friday, August 7 at 9:00 PM ET
Making it in New York City is tough. Few get the chance to live out their dreams, and the cast and crew of In the Heights know this all too well. This young, diverse group of relatively unknown artists and performers dreamed of making it on Broadway, but are well aware that a new original musical set outside a bodega in the Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights is a highly risky proposition. It took eight years in all, but they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations, winning four Tony Awards along the way, including Best Musical and Best Score for a Musical. In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams chronicles the personal stories of composer/lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of In the Heights in the months leading up to its 2008 opening night.
Much Ado About Nothing
Airs Friday, August 14 at 9:00 PM ET
For the first time in over four decades, THIRTEEN’s Great Performances series presents a Public Theater production recorded live at Free Shakespeare in the Park. This bold interpretation of Shakespeare’s comedic masterpiece features Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black, Broadway’s The Color Purple) and Grantham Coleman (Buzzer, The Americans) as the sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick. Tony Award winner Kenny Leon (American Son, A Raisin in the Sun) directs with choreography by Tony Award nominee Camille A. Brown (Choir Boy).
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I
Airs Friday, August 21 at 9:00 PM ET
Lincoln Center Theater’s critically acclaimed 2015 production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic 1951 musical directed by Bartlett Sher (South Pacific) went on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical Revival. Based on a true story, the year is 1862, and East and West collide when British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens arrives in Siam (modern-day Thailand) to take up her post instructing the royal household of children from the King’s several wives. Despite her sharp wit and strong will, nothing has prepared Anna for the lessons this rich and complicated new land has to teach her—or for the powerful connection she will forge with its imperious but conflicted King. The production was recorded during its 2018 run in London’s West End with original Lincoln Center Theater cast members Ken Watanabe as the King and Kelli O’Hara in her Tony-winning performance as Mrs. Anna, along with Ruthie Ann Miles as “head wife” Lady Thiang, who won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a musical.
PBS programming will be available for streaming on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Chromecast. PBS station members will be available to view all episodes via Passport (check your local PBS station
The Line will be up through Sep 1 - I haven't seen this but quite well received and new (!) and Aimee Mann new music too apparently.
The company of THE LINE features Santino Fontana (David), Arjun Gupta (Vikram), John Ortiz (Oscar), Alison Pill (Jennifer), Nicholas Pinnock (Dwight), Jamey Sheridan (Ed), and Lorraine Toussaint (Sharon). THE LINE features original music composition by Aimee Mann, and Janelle Caso will serve as production stage manager.
We're posting other taped productions here too right? BBC produced tape of Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell (1999) at the Old Vic, co-directed by Peter O'Toole (his only directing credit). Written by Keith Waterhouse, known for Billy Liar.
It's essentially one big monologue with add-on characters - a comic barstool reverie. Jeffrey Bernard the man and character seems to have lived by the Baudelaire assertion that "One should always be drunk." The play is just anecdotes from his life, you could cut any part and the rest would still work, but anyway, there's an endurance to the slow, sauced performance style of O'Toole here and I think it's an amazing trick of the perf that you don't really realize just how much he's handling here - it's over 2 hours, it's a lot, and he's so convincing as a weary-drunk but there's a constant spot-on comic timing from him too. “I’ve come to terms with the fact that my dinner is in the oven…....and always will be.”
O'Toole's physicality and look is all worryingly grey and disheveled, like the airs been let out of him, and that's sort of how he delivers the dialogue, kickstarts high and quick and then meters down like a gas tank going from full to empty in a single breath. It's fascinating to see, it's almost like each new anecdote gives him life. Last note, the ending lines are kinda classic. O'Toole fans should check this out...
Brian Dennehy - Death of a Salesman 10/20-10/25 ONLY Free
Captured on film in 2000 for Showtime and not aired since its original release, this landmark production features the Broadway cast. Donations are encouraged to the Actors Fund, supporting theater artists during this difficult time across the country.