Archive for the ‘Theater Reviews and Commentary’ Category

You Should Visit BYHALIA, MISSISSIPPI at CATF

The virtue of Byhalia, Mississippi lies precisely in its modesty. It prescribes no rules, apart from loving one another and telling the truth, for getting through a marital and race-inflected social crisis in a small town; it simply shows how one not-overwhelmingly admirable couple does it. And at that, the true secret here may just be the jokes. Those, and the blackout line at the very end of the play, which just may bring a lump to the throat.

A Clash of Perfectly Opposed Titans in THE NICETIES at CATF

A two-fisted drama of ideas, The Niceties may well leave you devastated, and will certainly send you out talking. Itwill keep you thinking and probably angry, regardless of where you come down on the issues very articulately debated in it.

Incandescent Youth and WILD HORSES, a Heady Combination at CATF

The group portrait of the youngsters (The Woman’s younger self, her partners in crime Zabby and Skinny Lynny, the callow young men who pursue them or whom they pursue, and The Woman’s big sister, aka The Favorite) in all their confusion, pain, and, most important, their exuberance and their desire to meet life head-on, even if they do not really know what that meeting will demand or entail, is the point.

Single Carrot’s Magical Mystery Tour: A SHORT REUNION

The Therapist, embodied by Paul Diem, launched into a spirited evocation of the art of theater, which morphed into a vision of all life as a work of art. In that spirit, flags and funny hats were passed out to the congregation, as the Therapist stripped down to Superman skivvies and led the whole assemblage out onto Howard Street in a bacchanal, with a motorist honking in rhythm with the syncopation of Faith, and thence back to the theater.

Appalachian Agincourt, Hillbilly HENRY V from Cohesion

The play makes no scruple that the marriage is a term forced upon France as part of a surrender, in order to bring about a dynastic consolidation. Nonetheless, I have never before seen the courtship scenes at the end of Act V presented other than as romantic comedy. Not here. Here Katherine visibly regards Henry with visceral distaste, is struggling not to be kissed by him, and the whole thing comes across as the prelude to a rape. (All without changing a line that I could determine.) Henry would be blind not to see how she feels about him, and his proceeding with a sunny demeanor and lines about his love for her, as he does, can only result from a profound lack of interest in her feelings. By now we recognize him as willing to do almost anything in pursuit of his own and his country’s interests, and not a nice guy.

Brilliant Fucking A from Iron Crow

Abortionist Hester has been required by the State to wear, publicly displayed on her breast, a brand of an A, which, it is explained, is both stigmatizing and a license to practice her profession. (Resemblances to a certain Nathaniel Hawthorne protagonist also named Hester are purely intentional.) Hester and her best friend, the self-characterized whore Canary Mary, struggle though their lives trapped between their poverty and their dreams — Hester’s to be reunited with her imprisoned son Boy, Mary’s to wrest the Mayor from his loveless marriage to The First Lady and marry him herself. The society in which they live has no plans to fulfill either dream. Like Brecht’s Mother Courage, however, Hester and Mary keep on surviving and keep on pursuing their dreams because they have no alternatives.

Women’s Work(s)

Each of these shows reinforces, then, the regard specifically female art and artists deserve. It might seem elementary and unnecessary (even patronizing) for these points to be made at this late date, but if they are being stated with such repetition on Broadway right now, it tells us something about contemporary audiences. Particularly when the points are being made by largely or exclusively female creative teams who may be pardoned a bit of an agenda, it would seem that a marker is being laid down. Parity of esteem is being freshly claimed. These works demonstrate that we will all be better off as the claim is more consistently honored.

Everyone Gets A Present Courtesy of A CHRISTMAS STORY at Hippodrome

Being a piece designed for an obvious seasonal window only, A Christmas Story is a bit like the town of Brigadoon, coming to life only during that window. That mayfly (all right, December fly) existence may be an asset. In a lyric from the show, “The moments come, the moments go, and just like that, the moment’s gone.” The verse is sung by Mother about the preciousness of holidays, but also about the preciousness of her boys’ fleeting childhoods, and that of the family’s moments together. Many of the best things gain their best quality from their transitory nature. This show may also prove the point.

Bravura LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES at Center Stage: A Welcome Antidote to Seasonal Good Cheer

So let’s see: we have byzantine complexity and unreal psychology. Doesn’t sound like the sort of thing that would keep readers and theatergoers keep coming back. Yet somehow, almost inexplicably, this slightly pornographic extravaganza of obscurity and nastiness continues to claim our attention. Never mind why; some things just are that way.

High School Hunger Games Played for Laughs: SCHOOLGIRL FIGURE at Cohesion

Set in a high school where certain girls, banded together as The Carpenters, are in an anorexia/bulimia competition, where the intermediate prize is to date the hunky The Brad and the longer-term prize is death by malnutrition, the show follows the battle between the utterly unscrupulous uber-bitch Renee and fierce competitor Jeanine to succeed Monique, the late victor in these hunger games, as The Brad’s choice. Patty is ostensibly a competitor herself, but her real role in life is to serve as Renee’s wingwoman, and the dilemma constantly thrust upon her is whether to let her appetite (which generally wins out over her anorexic aspirations) and her sense of decency (constantly outraged by Renee’s deceptions) overrule what Renee wants her to do.