Tag Archives: broadway

Just Did It: A View from the Bridge

Growing up, it was all about The Crucible and Death of a Salesman.  That’s one of the reasons it was such a pleasure to get to know A View from the Bridge, Arthur Miller’s play about a Brooklyn-based, Italian-American longshoreman’s obsession with his niece and the codes and ethics of a close knit community in the 50s.  Another pleasure, of course, was the all-star cast featuring perennial Top Five-ee Liev Schreiber and Broadway newcomer Scarlett Johansson.  But we’ll get to that later.

This play is like taking a mirror to On the Waterfront — both protagonists rat, but with very different consequences — and many people think that Bridge was Miller’s response to Elia Kazan’s Waterfront, after that playwright chose to name Communist names before HUAC.  Miller was also called before HUAC but refused to talk.  Making this circle even more incestuous, Miller wrote the original screenplay for Waterfront, before the HUAC controversies led to a major falling out between these best friends.

The play is swift and climactic.  The narration and plot build the action to the point that it’s impossible to not know that things aren’t heading down hill for Eddie Carbone and his family.  Yet, I was enthralled and somehow still rooted for this fink — he of the “tunnel” vision (did Miller originate this phrase?) with a singular goal to stop his niece from marrying the illegal Italian immigrant who just wasn’t “right.”

I guess I wasn’t the only one rooting for him.  Listen to how lawyer-come-narrator Alfieri closes the play:  “Most of the time now we settle for half and I like it better. But the truth is holy, and even as I know how wrong he was and his death useless, I tremble for, I confess that something perversely pure calls to me from his memory–not purely good, but himself, purely, for he allowed himself to be wholly known and for that I think I will love him more than all my sensible clients.”

I’ve seen Schreiber on stage as the sexy lover in Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, playing the great villain Iago at the Joseph Papp production of Othello and starring in Talk Radio.  He never, ever disappoints.  I was very curious to see how Johansson — she of the low, raspy voice, sultry eyes and many times dead performances — would stack up.

Pretty well, I have to admit.  For most of the play, her actions and words spoke innocence, but her body and dress spoke maturity and that delicate balance is crucial to the play’s tension.  When she finally does break free from her uncle’s firm grasp, you may even believe that it has nothing to do with love for her illegal Marco, and everything to do with the fact that she’s never tasted air.

Posted by: Mariela

Just Did It: After Miss Julie

After Miss Julie

Ben Brantley of the New York Times started his review by saying, “Let me just say up front that I was rooting for Sienna Miller.” Let me just say I wasn’t rooting for Sienna Miller. Maybe the better statement is: I wasn’t expecting much from Sienna Miller. As “movie stars” are showing up on Broadway more and more often, and many times it feels uncomfortable and forced (Julianne Moore in The Vertical Hour, anyone?), I didn’t expect much from Miller. I was pleasantly surprised by her and After Miss Julie.

Miller (as Julie) and the other Miller—Johnny Lee Miller as John—do “crazy” its justice. They both do neurotic, spiteful, sad, needy, fearful, mean…very well. Their range was impressive. One of the most titillating dialogues:

JULIE: Am I your conquest? Nothing more?
JOHN: Don’t force me to be cruel.
JULIE: Tell me what I am.
(Pause.)
JOHN: A fuck.
JULIE (childlike, to herself): I’m all dirty.
JOHN: So wash.
JULIE: STAND UP WHEN YOU SPEAK TO ME! STAND UP! REMEMBER YOUR POSITION!
JOHN (He stands): Which one, Madame? There were so many.
JULIE: You’re still a servant, you scared little squaddie, you’re still a servant.
JOHN: And you’re a servant’s slut.

Weaknesses: Miller was stretching to fill the shoes of her bourgeoisie character, a little like she was playing dress up. The segues between the fits of rage and passion felt a little quick, forced. But maybe that was just how crazy and scattered the characters were supposed to be.

Unexpected delight: Marin Ireland who wowed me in Reasons to Be Pretty as the third part of this on-stage trio.

Good show, well worth my discount ticket price, and I’d have to say it’s given me a little more faith in both Millers—and maybe even the plethora of big names on Broadway.

Posted by: Lisa

Broadway’s Explosion en Espanol

Remember in 1999, when the covers of Time, Newsweek and New York  all had some version of a Latin Explosion cover?  Ricky Martin crosses-over, Jennifer Lopez is on the six — “Hispanics have arrived!,” they boldly told us.

I thought: “weren’t we always here?”  

But now I can happily say that a similar “explosion” is happening on Broadway, and the rey and reina of the movement are Lin Manuel Miranda and Karen Olivo.

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Miranda brought us the freshest musical I’ve seen in years, In the Heights, which chronicled the lives of Hispanics in the mostly Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights.  In true melting pot fashion, the characters include Cubans, Puerto Ricans and African Americans, and the score incorporates merengue, hip hop and salsa for some catchy and emotional tunes.  Olivo originated the lead role of Vanessa, Miranda’s love interest who dreams big and far away from the hood.

She left The Heights for the West Side in the current Broadway adaptation of West Side Story. As Anita, which Bebe Neuwirth told me yesterday is the best written female character for stage, she gets to sing, dance, love, lose, rage, brag, boss and steal every single scene she’s in.  And who was responsible for the show’s bilingualism, including a fantastic, girls-night-in version of “I Feel Pretty” called “Soy Hermosa?”  None other than Miranda.

We’ve come full circle.

I had my doubts about how the songs and scenes would work in Spanish, but I’m now a believer and am curious about what the non-Spanish speakers think?  Please share!

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Posted by: Mariela

Just Did It: reasons to be pretty

 

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reasons to be pretty’s plot line pivots around that why-did-I-just-say-that moment that I’m sure most of us have had.  But it’s out there and you can’t take it back, and an apology might get someone to forgive but forgetting is a whole other story. 

In a moment of guy talk, our good-at-heart protagonist Greg tells his misogynistic best friend Kent that his girlfriend of four years may not have as good-looking a face as the new girl at the plant.  When this news sprints its way back to his girlfriend, she explodes — every crack in their relationship is split wide open, every word examined under a microscope and every insecurity stripped nude.  

They cannot survive this perceived betrayal and the rest of the play alternates between moments of fury, awkwardness, sadness and clarity.

Fury:  The girlfriend, Steph, in a very public moment of revenge, reads a letter detailing every little bit of Greg’s physical aspects that repulse her, from his thinning hair to his gross feet and disappointing member.  Or when the two friends come to bloody blows just before their baseball game and Greg realizes that they have been drifting violently apart since high school.

Awkwardness:  When Steph and Greg run into each other after a while of being separated, she on her way to a first date looking more made up than ever.  Steph admits:  “I’m trying to look pretty,” and you realize just how deep those words wounded.

Sadness:  Every time they’re shown stuck in their dead-end jobs at the plant with fluorescent lights, 15-minute breaks and jolting horns that signal the end of those breaks.  Greg’s escapist reading of Po, Hawthorne, Swift and Irving get constantly interrupted by the reality of his existence.

Clarity:  Greg takes it upon himself to reveal to Kent’s pregnant wife Carly that she should surprise Kent at home now, both knowing fully well that she’ll confirm her suspicions that he’s cheating on her.  When Greg admits to Steph that he thinks he may have just “ruined Carly’s life” Steph assures him that she’ll survive and will be much better off in the long run.

I loved this play.  It was well acted and sharply written and it was so satisfying to watch Neil Labute explore the coming of age genre with complex characters and relationships.  As he shares in his preface to the play, Greg “might just be one of the few adults I’ve ever tackled.”

Sidenotes:

  • Speaking of satisfying, in and out of intermissions at the Lyceum Theater they played Radiohead’s “Bodysnatchers,” Arcade Fire’s “Une Annee Sana Lumiere” and The Replacements “Unsatisfied,” three of my top songs.
  • The reasons to be pretty marketing campaign is pretty damn cool.  Check out the website here.  
  • Neil LaBute and Friends will be Monday’s Times Talk.  

Just Did It: Guys and Dolls

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We were drawn to the Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls primarily for one reason: Lauren Graham. The Gilmore Girl mom hadn’t sung much during seven seasons of the show. In fact, the one scene I can remember is a drunken and lovelorn Lorelai singing a karaoke rendition of “I Will Always Love You.” To be clear, it’s the Dolly Parton version.

Verdict? This woman has vocal chops! Graham was up against Craig Bierko (Lisa reminded me he was Carrie Bradshaw’s jazz musician boyfriend who made her realize she hates jazz) and Kate Jennings Grant and she definitely holds her own. You can’t say the same for Oliver Platt as Nathan Detroit.

Graham plays Miss Adelaide as a slow-talking, flashy-dressing, madly-in-love idealist. Her best moment is the revelatory scene with Grant’s “mission doll” Sarah Brown toward the end of the performance. They sit commiserating about the less-than-perfect men in their lives and Adelaide shares: “For 14 years I’ve tried to change Nathan. I’ve always wondered how he would be if he were different.” And then they break into their “Marry the Man Today” duet, which was spirited, full of girlfriend energy and beautifully performed.

The musical gives hope — but, tellingly, no proof — that people can change. The next scene is the happy ending finale; Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson are married, reformed crooks and gamblers, Sarah Brown isn’t such a tight wad…and Adelaide? Well, she just is — still tacky and still lovable.

Posted by: Mariela

Just Did It: The Seagull

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There is something obvious yet unsettling in the thought that the fight between ‘the old and the new’ still has resonance in today’s world after having seen Anton Chekhov’s play, ‘The Seagull,’ written in 1896. It is assuring yet boring–a word you will hear thrown about a lot in ‘The Seagull’–that we’re still the same creatures on the same path a hundred plus years down the road. Are we still hung up on the need to create the new avant-garde? Yes. Who cares if something or someone else comes along and demolishes the brilliance that we thought only our generation could create? A bunch of us. Let’s try new things; but let us not forget that there aren’t a lot of things that are that original. Was that the theme here? 

Kristin Scott Thomas was amazing as Arkadina. I was really excited to see her performance. She stole the ‘show’ within the play without grandstanding for the audience–even though all eyes were on her. That is a generous display for an actor. Chekhov’s meta-theatrical look at actors, playwrights and their companions could have easily allowed for Thomas to overshadow her fellow actors, but she didn’t. Kudos to her.

I was, however, a bit underwhelmed by someone that Thomas left room for on stage but who never really showed up. Peter Sarsgaard, whose acting in films I have loved, seemed rudimentary and flat on stage next to Thomas and some other characters, especially Zoe Kazan as Masha and Carey Mulligan as Nina, whom were obvious crowd favorites. Even Mackenzie Crook, my beloved Garreth from the English series ‘The Office,’ was sometimes wooden next to the women on the stage, although he had a few moments of brilliance. Was that because his hair hung too much in his face or maybe Chekhov writes better for women? The women were the real act here tonight. And really, what’s so new about that? 

Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’ runs through December 21st, at the beautiful art nouveau Walter Kerr Theatre.

Posted by: Autumn