CEOExpress
Subscribe to This Blog | Author Login | Join CEOExpressSelect | Private Label CEOExpress

 
Theatre Reviews LImited  Your Source for Theatre Reviews in New York City
By David Roberts
  
Amazon | CNN | Wikipedia | Theatre Reviews Limited | CEOExpress 
David's Blog
News


Message(s) for 5/14/2018. Click here to view all messages.


  Navigation Calendar
    
    Days with posts will be linked

  Most Recent Posts

 
Off-Broadway Review: “The Gentleman Caller” at the Cherry Lane Theatre (Through Saturday May 26, 2018

Photo: Daniel K. Isaac and Juan Francisco Villa in “The Gentleman Caller.” Credit: Maria Baranova.
Off-Broadway Review: “The Gentleman Caller” at the Cherry Lane Theatre (Through Saturday May 26, 2018)
By Philip Dawkins
Directed by Tony Speciale
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“The Gentleman Caller” was the predecessor of Tennessee Williams first successful play “The Glass Menagerie” which opened in 1944 in Chicago and happens to be the title of a new play by Philip Dawkins which is having its New York premiere at Cherry Lane Theatre, being produced by Abingdon Theatre Company. Perhaps Mr. Dawkins should have taken the hint from the playwrights he pays homage to and realize this present manifestation should be considered a precursor to a script that reveals the underlying pain and struggle of his characters to counterpoise the gay sexual farce that is currently being presented. Humor without substance or emotion can be nothing more than a manner to foist laughter, and there is enough risible physicality, references and one liners woven into this dialogue to undermine the essence at the core of his two characters.

In Act One, William Inge, working as a newspaper drama critic, invites Tennessee Williams to his apartment in St. Louis for an interview, several weeks before the opening of “The Glass Menagerie” in Chicago. There is a lot of talk but not much is said. There is quite a bit of foreplay but no actual winner in the sexual cat and mouse game farcically played out. The second act opens with Tennessee coyly saying “Welcome back. Nothing is different, and everything’s changed.” No truer words have ever been spoken. It is a repeat of the first act, nothing new happens to add depth to the characters who play the same sexual charade, at a different time, in a different place, like Déjà vu, producing no plot development or dramatic arc. It is New Year’s Eve in Williams Chicago hotel room, after curtain on opening night, and Inge is the gentleman caller to offer his congratulations. Finally, the closeted playwright is given a futile, loquacious monologue about his childhood that reveals too little too late.

The non-traditional casting is interesting but really adds nothing to the body or intentions of the script. Juan Francisco Villa exudes an animated Tennessee that lands most of the one liners with perfection but has difficulty layering his character with any subtlety and excavating what lies beneath the surface. He manages to savor any glimpse of obscure emotion but, due to the scripts shortcomings, this complex literary giant is reduced to a flamboyant, oversexed, gay alcoholic. His performance is admirable, as he seduces the audience with his charming southern drawl. Daniel K. Isaac has more difficulty maneuvering the trepidation of the depressed, suicidal Inge. Rather than turning inward he seems disconnected from the character which produces a void in the chemistry between the two wounded souls. It seems ironic that two paragons of drama, who flooded pages with storms of emotion, leaves the audience with little more than a few laughs.

Director Tony Speciale erred on the side of comedy as he moves the production along at a steady but uniform pace. The conceptual scenic design consisting of towers of manuscript pages crowned with different lamps created by Sara C. Walsh is interesting and is enhanced by the moody lighting of Zach Blane. This may be an entertaining evening, but not what one would expect when delving into the distressed personal lives of two extraordinary talents of the twentieth century.

THE GENTLEMAN CALLER

The cast of “The Gentleman Caller” includes Daniel K. Isaac and Juan Francisco Villa.

“The Gentleman Caller” features a scenic design by Sara C. Walsh, costume design by Hunter Kaczorowski, lighting design by Zach Blane, and sound design and original music by Christian Frederickson. Production photos by Maria Baranova.

“The Gentleman Caller” plays through Saturday May 26 at the Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce Street, NYC). For more information about “The Gentleman Caller,” tickets, season subscriptions and group bookings visit abingdontheatre.org or call 212-868-2055. Running time is 2 hours and 5 minutes including a 10-minute intermission.

Photo: Daniel K. Isaac and Juan Francisco Villa in “The Gentleman Caller.” Credit: Maria Baranova.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, May 14, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: Clare Barron’s “Dance Nation” Explores the Angst of Adolescence with Cathartic Wit at Playwrights Horizons’ Peter Jay Sharp Theater (Extended through Sunday June 17, 2018)

Photo: Camila Canó-Flaviá, Ellen Maddow, Ikechukwu Ufomadu, Lucy Taylor, Dina Shihabi, Eboni Booth, and Purva Bedi in “Dance Nation.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
Off-Broadway Review: Clare Barron’s “Dance Nation” Explores the Angst of Adolescence with Cathartic Wit at Playwrights Horizons’ Peter Jay Sharp Theater (Extended through Sunday June 17, 2018)
Written by Clare Barron
Directed and Choreographed by Lee Sunday Evans
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Clare Barron’s “Dance Nation” Explores the Angst of Adolescence with Cathartic Wit.

Separation-individuation is one of life’s most difficult passages: it is completed successfully by most; however, more than might be suspected remain in the mire of adolescence all their lives. Prepubescence is supposed to erupt in adulthood – adults emerging where clingy parent-dependent pre-teens once held sway. It is a passage equally traumatic to boys as it is to girls, but in “Dance Nation” currently running at Playwrights Horizons’ Peter Jay Sharp Theater, playwright Clare Barron chooses to focus on this process from the point of view of “pre-pubescent” girls. The trope chosen to immerse the audience in this time of trauma is the extended metaphor of the dance studio.

“The dance,” although appearing a cooperative endeavor in performance on stage, is as competitive a sport as one might imagine. Thirteen-year-old girls have enough difficulty maneuvering the path to self-understanding in a male-dominated environment without pitting themselves against one another as they learn the various ballet positions and attempt to absorb the “positions” of adulthood. The girls explore their fantasies, their fears, their longings, their sexual development, their private thoughts as they work at the barre, or on the floor, or in private conversations with one another or their Moms (Christina Rouner). They tolerate Dance Teacher Pat’s (Thomas Jay Ryan) self-absorbed “instruction” (a trope for the male-centered society?) and counterpoint the adolescent woes of Luke (Ikechukwu Ufomadu) – the only boy in the class – with their own.

Under Lee Sunday Evans’ crisp direction, with her alluring choreography, and with the care of the all-female production team, Purva Bedi (Connie), Eboni Booth (Zuzu), Camila Canó-Flaviá (Sofia), Ellen Maddow (Maeve), Christina Rouner Vanessa), Dina Shihabi (Amina), Lucy Taylor (Ashlee), and Ikechukwu Ufomadu (Luke) deliver authentic performances and give their disparate characters a genuine grounding in the conflicts they are experiencing as adolescents and might experience as adults in engaging scenes of foreshadowing and foretelling. Their journeys are a microcosm of dance epitomize the macrocosm of gender parity and self-acceptance.

In an explosive unison Greek-Chorus, the girls share their wish that society would urge the importance of their personal individuality as much as their sexually stereotyped identities. It is best for the intensity and the diction of this chorus to be experienced firsthand by the audience. Some might find the tone exhilarating while some might find the rant a tad impolite. Either way, the performance is powerful and authentic and represents the beginning of the evolution into adulthood. These thirteen-year-olds yearn for more than perfect genitalia: they yearn for “greatness” and “perfection” in “face,” “body,” and “soul.”

Dance Teacher Pat and Luke join the chorus exemplifying that perhaps the process is not complete until boys and men can join the chorus of equality. The recent announcement by Benedict Cumberbatch that he will not accept a role unless his female co-stars are paid the same salary is one example of gender awareness. Keenly aware of their psychosexual development into adulthood, the teenagers are also hoping to be more than their sexuality: they yearn for gender equality in education, employment, and community.

After the opening dance number – one that none too subtly discloses the variety of levels of “development” in the young dancers – Vanessa turns the “wrong way” and suffers what appears to be a compound fracture. The stage manager asks her to get off the stage, ignoring her dilemma and her pain. Her opportunity for winning ends in debilitating injury. At the end of “Dance Nation,” Amina rehearses the dynamics of her winning this way: “I rode the wave/Like I always knew how to ride the wave/And others kept falling along the way/But I kept riding/Til I was alone.” There can be no more existential angst than this remembrance of things to come.

DANCE NATION

The cast of “Dance Nation” features Purva Bedi, Eboni Booth, Camila Canó-Flaviá, Ellen Maddow, Christina Rouner, Thomas Jay Ryan, Dina Shihabi, Lucy Taylor, and Ikechukwu Ufomadu.

The production features scenic design by Arnulfo Maldonado, costume design by Ásta Bennie Hostetter, lighting design by Barbara Samuels, and sound design by Brandon Wolcott. Production Stage Manager is Erin Gioia Albrecht. Production photos by Joan Marcus.

The performance schedule for “Dance Nation” is Tuesday through Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Single tickets, $39.00-89.00, may be purchased online via www.phnyc.org, by phone at (212) 279-4200 (Noon-8:00 p.m. daily) and in person at the Ticket Central Box Office, 416 West 42nd Street (between Ninth and Tenth Avenues). For further information, visit https://www.playwrightshorizons.org/. Running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Camila Canó-Flaviá, Ellen Maddow, Ikechukwu Ufomadu, Lucy Taylor, Dina Shihabi, Eboni Booth, and Purva Bedi in “Dance Nation.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, May 14, 2018