Posts Tagged ‘Broadway

28
Mar
18

Grand Hotel, The Musical: My Review

Grand Hotel 2With a deeply engrossing book by Luther Davis and the beautiful music and lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest, the legend that is Grand Hotel, The Musical has reappeared once more to grace the New York City Center stage in all its glory. Reincarnation is the hallmark of this storied blockbuster. It was first a novel by Vicki Baum in 1929, it then became a star studded legendary MGM film in 1932, its first sadly unsuccessful attempt at a Los Angeles theatrical production followed in 1958, but it wasn’t until Tommy Tune breathed life into this in-depth multi-character story for a Broadway run in 1989 did Grand Hotel come to glittering life.

The setting is Berlin and the year is 1928. The roaring twenties are still in vogue and the world has yet to feel the sting of the Great Depression. On this particular weekend, a particular set of characters make their way through the lobby of the Grand Hotel. As they each check in they have no idea that their lives will be forever intertwined.

Their stories are told to us by the hotel’s unofficial resident doctor Colonel Otternschlag. He’s seen it all because even though he always decides to check out he invariably decides to stay for one more day. In this role the very talented William Ryall, a member of not only the original Broadway production but various incarnations since, serves as a more than fitting tour guide. An aging and failing ballerina Elizaveta Grushinskaya, danced beautifully by acclaimed ballerina Irina Dvorovenko, arrives for yet another tiring tour. There’s perpetual unpaid guest Baron Felix von Gaigern who’s more of a broke and down on his luck thief played with romance and flair by James Snyder.

Grand Hotel 1The voices and talents of the principle cast are all equally powerful but it’s the fatally ill bookkeeper Otto Kringelein, who is seeking a few last moments of living a life of grandeur, and the young typist Flaemmchen, who fantasizes about escape and becoming an American film star, that steal the show here. The performances of Brandon Uranowitz and Helene Yorke in those roles are both funny and touching and can’t help but bring a tear to the eye as they slowly find each other.

The Wright and Forrest songbook, made possible by a show saving assist with additional music and lyrics from theatre icon Maury Yeston, is twenty-four numbers long providing several opportunities for the company to exhibit their considerable skills. The tap dancing duo of James T. Lane and Daniel Yearwood in “Maybe My Baby” are absolutely delightful. “Girl in The Mirror” lets Helene Yorke’s charms shine. Brandon Uranowitz and James Snyder, along with the aforementioned Lane and Yearwood accompanied by the ensemble, tear things up with the raucous antics of “We’ll Take a Glass Together”. The love ballad “Love Can’t Happen” once again highlights Snyder, this time with leading lady Irina Dvorovenko, provides a sincere tug at the heartstrings. And the beautifully staged “Bolero” tango, directed and danced by Junior Cervila and Guadalupe Garcia, is a dark and delicious treat.

Grand Hotel 4Grand Hotel is a luxurious and luscious cavalcade of theatrical wonders. The moment Ken Billington’s deep, rich lightening hits Allen Moyer’s gorgeous set you instantly know you’re in for a treat. Moyer pays homage to this show’s history by once again putting the supremely gifted orchestra, led by Rob Berman, on stage and above the performers, he also retained two chandeliers which marked the original 1989 set, and while there was no revolving door for the characters to sashay through, a large gold framed mirror placed upstage on the upper tier gave an even better way for them to all seemingly emerge. Inhabiting this world of color and light are the equally lush costumes of designer Linda Cho. Her work accentuates and solidifies all the surrounding splendor.

The same remembrances can be said of Josh Rhodes’ masterful direction and equally powerful choreography. Rhodes gives a nod to original director Tommy Tune’s gold painted ballroom chairs that helped to enrich the minimalist world of its predecessor. Rhodes also enlists the aide of an almost ever-present chorus to not only sing and dance their hearts out but to also build an entire world with the use of those chairs and in some cases even their own bodies.

Grand Hotel 3This production of Grand Hotel is not a perfect show. There are a few things that don’t gel, but they’re mere quibbles. Every Encore! show could use a bit more time to achieve true perfection. But the tight rehearsal schedule and immediate on demand delivery provides an electric energy that makes the best productions in their twenty-five seasons leave a lasting impression. In this case Grand Hotel, The Musical shines and stands apart as a true legendary vehicle should.

There’s a mystery that comes with an exceptionally exquisite revival. A kind of ghostly reminiscence that lingers from the magic that brought the original production to life. This new Grand Hotel is haunted in that sublime way. As the character’s first appear, for as long as they stay, and until they all check out you feel their alchemical energy pulse through you. You feel rewarded to have witnessed them again, even if it’s just briefly, and you truly wish they could stay, for just one more day.

New York City Center
Main Stage
131 West 55th St,
New York, NY
www.nycitycenter.org/pdps/grandhotel/
212.581.1212
Mar 21 – 25, 2018

From an original post on TheaterScene.

Edward MedinaEdward Medina is an Amazon KDP bestselling author of high fantasy, dark horror, and epic adventure books, short stories, and poems. To date his combined works have earned over one hundred and fifty Amazon and Goodreads five star reviews from readers, reviewers, bloggers, teachers and fellow authors.

He is a native New Yorker who over time has built a significant and multifaceted career. He has been a producer, director, and writer for both digital media and the New York Off and Off – Off Broadway stages. He also had the honor and the privilege to work for the late great Jim Henson creator of the Muppets.

Edward founded a successful independent production company dedicated to family entertainment and children’s causes. He also established a multimedia company in order to assist nonprofits achieve their own cause related goals. He went on to become a theme park designer. For fun he became a steam train engineer and has been since childhood a sometime magician.

Currently Edward is a critic and feature entertainment columnist covering Broadway, Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, Clubs and Cabarets for TheaterScene and The Fire Island Sun. He also maintains his love of theatrical production by continuing to create new works for both stage and screen. And his dream of building a fully realized world of fantasy on tropical shores is still very much alive and well.

If you’d like more detailed information on Edward’s work, visit his LinkedIn profile or his website. You can also explore his books, follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook, and subscribe to his blog on WordPress.

Edward Medina is proud to be a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Horror  Writers Association.

18
Nov
17

Latin History For Morons: My Review

Photo 3 - John Leguizamo in Latin History for Morons - Photo Credit Joan MarcusJohn Leguizamo has a problem at home. His wife is waiting for him to step up, his daughter is at the know-it-all brat stage, his son is being bullied at school and that is the source for all the turmoil at home. He wants his son to be able to defend himself not with his fists, but with his words. It is words, after all, that built his father’s career. When the bullies at his prep school begin to taunt him about his race and heritage Leguizamo wants his progeny to be able to quote historical facts about their great ancestors. This is where the problem presents itself. When his son challenges him for facts to use in his defense his father realizes he has none. He realizes that the education that he received, the one we all received and continue to receive, is devoid of the true story of the Latin global influence.

Latin History for Morons, as Leguizamo points out, is for us. We’re the morons. So was he. Until he set about educating himself and his son. That search gave birth to the latest one-man show from the king of one man shows. This semi-autobiographical ninety minute work is a class in discovery. Our lesson spans three thousand years of Latin history. Its syllabus includes all the magnificent Latin kingdoms that once ruled a good portion of the globe. It speaks in truths of the rise and fall of great cultures, legendary heroes, and the significant impact they had on history. These historical events range the gamut from ancient wars to modern battles, through science, art, music, and beyond. All the while illustrating how these accomplishments were squashed and diminished by calculated influences that exist to this day.

Photo 2 - John Leguizamo in Latin History for Morons - Photo Credit Joan MarcusThere are shades of Mark Twain alive and well on the Studio 54 stage. Twain was, of course, known for his books and stories but he was also one of the first touring standup comics. His lectures made the people of the late 1800’s take an introspective look and question the lessons they had taught themselves about life, the class system, and race relations. This lecture is also reminiscent of the heady days of George Carlin’s landmark Class Clown where he took on the establishment and where the seeds were sown that made him a counter culture icon. Carlin dedicated that album to Lenny Bruce who led the modern-day counterculture era and paved the way for future outspoken social critics and satirists, who had no fear of mixing comedy and politics, religion, sex, and vulgarity.

Leguizamo embodies all that but he would be quick to point out that the influences don’t stop there. Cheech and Chong are the current Latin anchors of this genre. All their albums were lessons in resistance, non-conformity, and cultural reflection. There are echoes of their classic parochial school routine Sister Mary Elephant at work in Leguizamo’s lesson. Puerto Rican Freddie Prinze is here too, so are the language hijinks of Mexican comedian Cantinflas, Cuban historical comedy artist Alina Tropayo is present, even the ironic sass of young Puerto Rican Aubrey Plaza can be felt. Leguizamo gleefully speaks of the mixing of the races and the foundations of his comedic work reflects that.

Photo 1 John Leguizamo in Latin History for Morons - Photo Credit Joan MarcusActor and comedian Leguizamo is a Columbian raconteur that started in stand up and branched out into television and film. His personal life and experiences are the source of his comedic work. He is a fearless entertainer and a masterful wordsmith, who not only obviously values education but also basks in the light it provides. This producer, screenwriter, playwright, and now self-taught teacher of Latin history is also well credentialed. He has won two Obie’s, three Drama Desk awards, three Outer Critics Circle awards, one Emmy, and six Cable Ace awards for his troubles. Leguizamo needs to make room on his shelf of accomplishments because Latin History For Morons is a powerful, and powerfully funny lecture that will once again garner awards for its creator and professor.

Director Tony Taccone is no slouch either. He’s been the Artistic Director of Berkley Rep for the past twenty-three years. Amongst his accomplishments he commissioned and co-directed the Los Angeles world premiere of Tony Kushner’s Angels In America. In this production Taccone lets his thoroughbred lead run at his own pace but has crafted a world around him that lets every aspect shine. Rachel Hauck’s very realistic drab New York public school classroom is a treasure trove of nooks and crannies that Leguizamo uses to his advantage to find books, and books, and even more books to back up all his claims. Lighting designer Alexander V. Nichols work is to be commended as well for its ability to take Leguizamo on all the journeys he must travel to present the world of his stories. From his son’s constantly slamming bedroom door, to distant far off shores and imagined dance parties, then bringing us right back to class again.

At this point in his career John Leguizamo has performed in the more plays than any Latin actor. He’s also had the most one man shows on Broadway by any actor. Leguizamo is a theatrical national treasure of many nations. They’re all inside him. The Mayan warrior. The proud Incan. The peaceful Taino. The outspoken American. He’s a true citizen of the world and he’s on a mission to teach a class we should all take. Now more than ever.

Studio 54
254 West 54th St
New York, NY 10019
https://latinhistorybroadway.com/
212.239.6200
Nov 15 – Feb 4, 2018
$55 –  $249

From an original post on TheaterScene.

Photo credit Joan Marcus.

Edward MedinaEdward Medina is an Amazon KDP bestselling author of high fantasy, dark horror, and epic adventure books, short stories, and poems. To date his combined works have earned over one hundred and fifty Amazon and Goodreads five star reviews from readers, reviewers, bloggers, teachers and fellow authors.

He is a native New Yorker who over time has built a significant and multifaceted career. He has been a producer, director, and writer for both digital media and the New York Off and Off – Off Broadway stages. He also had the honor and the privilege to work for the late great Jim Henson creator of the Muppets.

Edward founded a successful independent production company dedicated to family entertainment and children’s causes. He also established a multimedia company in order to assist nonprofits achieve their own cause related goals. He went on to become a theme park designer. For fun he became a steam train engineer and has been since childhood a sometime magician.

Currently Edward is a critic and feature entertainment columnist covering Broadway, Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, Clubs and Cabarets for TheaterScene and The Fire Island Sun. He also maintains his love of theatrical production by continuing to create new works for both stage and screen. And his dream of building a fully realized world of fantasy on tropical shores is still very much alive and well.

If you’d like more detailed information on Edward’s work, visit his LinkedIn profile or his website. You can also explore his books, follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook, and subscribe to his blog on WordPress.

Edward Medina is proud to be a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Horror Writers Association.

09
Nov
17

M. Butterfly: My Review

M Butterfly 1

Clive Owen and Jin Ha (Copyright Matthew Murphy)

There’s a prison cell on stage at the Cort Theatre. It’s occupied by a single prisoner. The man in the box is a civil servant convicted of betraying his government. He’s been imprisoned mind, body, and soul along with the remembrances of the circumstances that caused him to be locked away. He fell in love with an enigmatic opera singer and he fell for the trap she set for him. Love is the key that locked him away. The cell is in Paris and the year is 1986.

This is the true story of an affair and an incident that began during the turbulent sixties. Rene Gallimard was a married low-level French diplomat stationed in China who fell in love with Song Liling, an enigmatic Beijing opera singer. His two decades old affair of the heart was blind to the political intrigues and the vagaries of espionage that surrounded his desires. China was a changing political hotbed filled with foreign devils wanting fantasy woman. Gallimard’s fantasy woman was just that, a fantasy. He believed her to be a woman when she was in fact a man.

M Butterfly 5

(Copyright Matthew Murphy)

While it was not unusual at the time for males to portray females in the Chinese opera, the diplomat goes out of his way to believe his lover is a woman and she uses that to her advantage. Her deceptions are deep and even involve spying for the Communist government. Despite warnings from his friend, suspicions from his wife, and the tacit prodding of his superiors, Gallimard falls for the deceptions that ultimately cause him to lose everything including a child that was never really his to begin with. The deceptions and delusions follow him through his trial and his imprisonment, and it’s there in his cell, night after night, that he relives it all over and over again for his own torture, and our amusement.

Butterfly is a powerful play with theatrical provenance. The original production premiered on Broadway in 1988, ran for almost 800 performances, and won the Tony Award for Best Play. The venerable Puccini opera Madam Butterfly plays a role here as well. It’s arias and music frames a great deal of the drama. However, it’s the cinematic quality of this production that truly sets it apart. Clive Owen’s performance as Rene Gallimard is reminiscent of classic Hollywood actors like Clark Gable and Robert Mitchum but with a hollow core at his emotional center. In turn Jin Ha as Song Liling carries his, and herself, with the glamour and mystery of legendary ladies of the Chinese Cinema like Ruan Lingyu and Brigitte Lin but with the added cold steel of a film noir Barbara Stanwyck. The rest of the ensemble also provide solid performances while at the same time carrying out multiple roles.

The settings of scenic designer Paul Steinberg move fluidly from place to place like origami paper sculptures that fold and unfold. Screens as colorful art pieces, transforming into shadow boxes, glass walls, and architectural forms that provide both open space and solitary confinement. The original music and soundscapes composed by Elliot Goldenthal set the proper moods and tones of all these locations as does the exquisite work of lighting designer Donald Holder. The lush costumes of designer Constance Hoffman are beautiful whether they are the drab green wear of menacing soldiers or the decadence of Liling’s gowns and Ma Cong’s outstanding choreography delivers in a multitude of styles as well. The world of M. Butterfly is a fully realized world and all these artists have given it a fluid and very visual life.

M Butterfly 3

(Copyright Matthew Murphy)

This piece of theatrical performance art has one visionary at its core. That creative eye belongs to director Julie Taymor. Her hand can be seen and felt everywhere in M. Butterfly. Her experience in theater, opera, and film all combine into a strong creative vision that coalesces each form into one outstanding piece of work. She is currently represented on Broadway by the grandeur of The Lion King, she’s most known in some circles for the nightmare that was Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, but here her work is reminiscent of the boldness of her earlier directing choices like Juan Darien: A Carnival Mass. You are just not going to find a director more willing to take an artistic risk on the American stage than Julie Taymor and here the all risks pay off.

M Butterfly 4

(Copyright Matthew Murphy)

M. Butterfly shows no signs of aging. Playwright David Henry Hwang has made some changes to his masterwork but they only serve to amplify the already clear themes of the original, and to clarify some of the facts of the actual events. Arguments can, will, and have been made as to the necessity, both good and bad, of those changes. Just like his first incarnation, time will tell. As for the obvious, one would think that the gender bending twist of M. Butterfly would have lost some of its impact some thirty years later. The opposite proves to be true. In this day and age gender identification is front and center in our national mind set. Though it may be the focus of a great deal of the current body politic, in the new M. Butterfly the issue tugs at the heart strings and serves more of an emotional punch than a shocking blow to the mind. Perhaps the well-deserved attention and accolades this revamped production will undoubtedly receive will help to broaden the scope of our collective psyche.

The Cort Theatre
138 W 48th St
New York, NY 10036
$39 – $139
(212) 239-6200
Mbutterflybroadway.com
Oct 7 – Feb 25, 2018

From an original post on TheaterScene.

Edward MedinaEdward Medina is an Amazon KDP bestselling author of high fantasy, dark horror, and epic adventure books, short stories, and poems. To date his combined works have earned over one hundred and fifty Amazon and Goodreads five star reviews from readers, reviewers, bloggers, teachers and fellow authors.

He is a native New Yorker who over time has built a significant and multifaceted career. He has been a producer, director, and writer for both digital media and the New York Off and Off – Off Broadway stages. He also had the honor and the privilege to work for the late great Jim Henson creator of the Muppets.

Edward founded a successful independent production company dedicated to family entertainment and children’s causes. He also established a multimedia company in order to assist nonprofits achieve their own cause related goals. He went on to become a theme park designer. For fun he became a steam train engineer and has been since childhood a sometime magician.

Currently Edward is a critic and feature entertainment columnist covering Broadway, Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, Clubs and Cabarets for TheaterScene and The Fire Island Sun. He also maintains his love of theatrical production by continuing to create new works for both stage and screen. And his dream of building a fully realized world of fantasy on tropical shores is still very much alive and well.

If you’d like more detailed information on Edward’s work, visit his LinkedIn profile or his website. You can also explore his books, follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook, and subscribe to his blog on WordPress.

Edward Medina is proud to be a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Horror Writers Association.

11
Oct
17

A Clockwork Orange: My Review

Pete (Misha Osherovich), Alex (Jonno Davies), Georgie (Matt Doyle) and Dim (Sean-Patrick Higgins). (Photo Credit Caitlin McNaney)

Pete (Misha Osherovich), Alex (Jonno Davies), Georgie (Matt Doyle) and Dim (Sean-Patrick Higgins). (Photo Credit Caitlin McNaney)

Welcome to New World Stages Theatre Four. Welcome to a Brechtian black box presentation of testosterone driven madness. Welcome to a space where the aesthetics of naturalism as theatrical illusion is nuked out of existence and the poetics of epic theater abounds in its place.

As you take your seat you will swear you hear the announcers call of a WWE wrestling match. Sitting there in that heavily raked bowl of a space you’ll be subjected to pounding music, a heavy dose of atmospheric fog, and fixed and focused lights that keep the space lit yet dim. You’ll be surrounded by a forced to be too loud crowd, and hawkers of peanuts and drinks. Until an unannounced street gang of four begin to make their way down the aisle. The thespian cage match is about to begin.

They call themselves Droogs. They speak in a patois of their own making called Nadsat which is a mix of Cockney slang, Shakespearian poetry, and Russian vocabulary. They drink gads and gads of a drugged milk drink they call Moloko. They fight amongst themselves. They fight with others of their kind. They appear merciless. A gay man is beaten and raped. A rich woman is raped and killed. This cacophony of ultraviolence dance fighting galore is all done to a soundtrack of Beethoven, Bowie, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, just to name a few.

An ensemble of male actors Jimmy Brooks, Matt Doyle, Sean Patrick Higgins, Brian Lee Huynh, Misha Osherovich, Ashley Robinson, Timothy Sekk, Alekssander Varadian is led by the impressive Jonno Davies as Alex deLarge. Other than Davies this ensemble will morph into a variety of characters, both male and female, that tell Alex’s tale and in that they all do an exemplary job within the parameters they’ve been given.

Our ne’er-do-well anti-hero is eventually imprisoned where he becomes Prisoner 6655321 and a subject of experimental aversion therapy to cure him of his evil ways and turn him into a guinea pig of government reform. His love of music is turned against him. It only serves to remind him of mental horrors forcibly projected into his mind. It results in his ability to manifest violence being taken from him. The thought alone pains him. He becomes a weakling before his enemies.

Brian Lee Huynh (left) and Jonno Davies (right). (Photo Credit Caitlin McNaney)

Brian Lee Huynh (left) and Jonno Davies (right). (Photo Credit Caitlin McNaney)

The newly reformed Alex is granted early release as a reward for subjecting himself to the cure of the state. His return brings him to a changed home life. His parents reject him more than usual. There’s a new boarder occupying his old room and his space in the family unit. His former Droog playmates are now on the side of law enforcement. Ex-villains being used to catch real villains. Alex ends up becoming a stranger in his own strange land and in his closing monologue, delivered directly to us, he reminds us that there are many Alex’s out there, there are also Droogs to be wary of, and they are creations of our own making.

Anthony Burgess is credited with writing the play though he passed in 1993 without actually writing a version for the stage. His dystopian novel, initially inspired by the violent assault on his wife Lynn who was robbed, beaten, and raped by US Army deserters during a World War II blackout, was first published in 1962. The film adaptation of his work by Stanley Kubrick followed nearly a decade later in 1971 but the singularly violent tone it set was created from the American version of the novel which had its most important twenty first chapter removed. The final chapter, in a structure set by Burgess to correspond with the established number of years in a young life, is one of redemption and change for Alex and seems to be restored in this interpretation.

Here in the twenty first century the reprobates in this theatrical incarnation appear more punkhipster chic than truly dangerous theatrical architypes. Even the once shocking violence while still disturbing in a live setting seems to be tame by the standards our current society has become all too familiar with as of late.

Alexandra Spencer-Jones’s all-encompassing directing style here is predicated on faster, bigger, louder, and more grotesque. This lack of finesse results in a very loud one note presentation. The complex jabberwocky like poetry of language that marks Burgess’s work gets lost as it blows passed the ear. The humor in this intended satire becomes so broad that it only registers in the lowest common denominators. The ensemble is forced into overmodulation and with everything playing at level eleven on the amp there’s no place to go but down, and down while refreshing when it does make a rare appearance, reads as weakness here.

The Cast of 'A Clockwork Orange' at New World Stages. (Photo Credit Caitlin McNaney)

The Cast of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ at New World Stages. (Photo Credit Caitlin McNaney)

Epic theatre exists in the realm of disconcerting alienation. Actors playing multiple roles to blur the lines between protagonists and antagonists. Focused specific lighting forces the eye to see only what is meant to be seen. Abstract scenery deconstructs the normal.  The clash of modern and classical music further confuses the senses. All these tricks are on display here, and while they are successful individually they fail to coalesce and deliver a whole. Bertolt Brecht once said that art is not a mirror with which to reflect reality but a hammer with which to shape it. A hammer would have been useful here instead of the unwieldy use of an ax.

New World Stages
340 West 50th Street
New York, NY 10019
$59 – $89
www.aclockworkorangeplay.com
212-239-6200
Sept 25 – Jan 6, 2018

From an original post on TheaterScene/The Fire Island Sun.

Edward MedinaEdward Medina is an Amazon KDP bestselling author of high fantasy, dark horror, and epic adventure books, short stories, and poems. To date his combined works have earned over one hundred and fifty Amazon and Goodreads five star reviews from readers, reviewers, bloggers, teachers and fellow authors.

He is a native New Yorker who over time has built a significant and multifaceted career. He has been a producer, director, and writer for both digital media and the New York Off and Off – Off Broadway stages. He also had the honor and the privilege to work for the late great Jim Henson creator of the Muppets.

Edward founded a successful independent production company dedicated to family entertainment and children’s causes. He also established a multimedia company in order to assist nonprofits achieve their own cause related goals. He went on to become a theme park designer. For fun he became a steam train engineer and has been since childhood a sometime magician.

Currently Edward is a critic and feature entertainment columnist covering Broadway, Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, Clubs and Cabarets for TheaterScene and The Fire Island Sun. He also maintains his love of theatrical production by continuing to create new works for both stage and screen. And his dream of building a fully realized world of fantasy on tropical shores is still very much alive and well.

If you’d like more detailed information on Edward’s work, visit his LinkedIn profile or his website. You can also explore his books, follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook, and subscribe to his blog on WordPress.

Edward Medina is proud to be a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Horror Writers Association.

29
Sep
17

In & Of Itself: My Review

Photo Sep 28, 2 01 07 PMSome believe that “the oldest profession” is an idiom that conjures up mental images of brothels and clandestine encounters. Others believe that the expression goes back further in time. It harkens back to the time when we as hominids gathered around the fire and told stories of the hunt. It takes us back to the time when we painted our first art on cave walls so that we could convey our stories. Some would say that it was in that time that real theatre was first born. There’s vivid art on display on the walls at the Daryl Roth theatre, and magical storytelling occurring on its stage, and both are being beautifully manipulated by a writer, performance artist, and master magician all in the form of Derek Delgaudio.

Photo 1 - Photo Credit Edward MedinaWhen you enter his performance space you encounter your first wall. It’s a wall filled with row, after row, after row of small white cards that all have the words I Am emblazoned at the top. Below that they each have a different descriptive word or phrase. Doctor. Mom. Cougar. Imagineer. Best friend. A big deal. The one that got away. The choices seem almost endless. The magician wants you to pick a card. Do so. There’s revelation in your choice. It’s about who you think you are. It’s about who you’re meant to be for the next seventy-five intermission less moments.

You then enter the theatre itself, going deeper into the magician’s chamber of secrets. As you take your seat you encounter the other wall. On stage is an imposing solid wall of wood boards with six window boxes of various sizes set into it. Each of these smaller individual chambers contains an item, a thing, a device that will each serve to tell a story that contributes to the whole. Revealing what they are wouldn’t be fair. That would be giving away some of the magic. In fact, telling you much more wouldn’t be fair to both you or to the magician. Telling you wouldn’t give away how the illusions are achieved but it would reveal the secrets of the story and story is everything here.

Frank Oz, Derek Delgaudio

Frank Oz, Derek Delgaudio photo credit Matthew Murphy

What can be said is that through the course of the evening magician Delgaudio will load each of those six chambers with a story and an illusion. Every time he does so, he pulls a trigger and fires a shot right through himself and the audience. That’s not hyperbole. It’s the truth. It’s in the telling of the tale. Delgaudio, producers Neil Patrick Harris and Glenn Kaino, and director Frank Oz have masterfully designed, crafted, and presented a supremely beautiful mix of life lessons learned, and illusionist skills mastered, all of which merge into a series of perfect entertainment moments.

Though he stands alone on-stage this magician still has his assistants. An artistic collective known as A. Bandit designed a set and performance space that is deceptively simple and cunning all on its own. On stage, there is only a wall, a ladder, a table, and a chair but this production design begins the moment you walk in the front door. The same can be said of lighting designer Adam Blumenthal’s work. The wall of white cards is lit in a bright white wash that gives them a surreal and inviting glow that draws you towards them. His illuminations during the show itself helps to illustrate each magical move Delgaudio makes. Mark Mothersbaugh, founding member and front man of the indie-pop band Devo, sets the mood with a mesmerizing original score and sound designer Kevin Heard accentuates the tone of the production and helps to make inanimate objects spring to life. Individually they all shine but collectively they form a foundation that creates an environment in which Delgaudio can further manipulate the senses.

There are the great magicians that everyone remembers because they have name recognition. Thurston. Blackstone. Houdini. Henning. Copperfield. For those in the know, Derek Delgaudio could be closely compared to a mix of the elegant stage style of Channing Pollack, the profound close-up skill sets of Rene Lavand, and the storytelling genius of the recently lost Eugene Burger. Comparisons are made here for reference but Delgaudio is a master magician all to himself. His presentation and style is for a new generation and stands entirely on its own. His relationship with the audience is everything and he achieves that by being funny and sad, understanding and coy, charming and mischievous, and at times painfully honest. Delgaudio, the magician, becomes whatever he needs to be to help us along on this most personal journey.

Photo Sep 29, 4 35 19 PM

Derek Delgaudio photo credit Matthew Murphy

By the time Derek Delgaudio is done with the telling, concluding with a mind boggling final ten minutes you will never ever forget, you will be transfixed and transformed. At that conclusion, when he asks you to stand up and believe in who you are, who you chose to be represented by that white card you picked out when you first walked into his domain, do so. Stand up. Believe in yourself and do it. He wants you to. You won’t regret it and you’ll become a part of this master’s final illusion. You’ll become a part of the touching, heartfelt, glorious, empowering magical story he tells so well.

Daryl Roth Theatre
101 East 15th Street
New York, NY 1003
$30 – $148
www.darylroththeatre.com
212-375-1110
April 5 – Dec 30, 2017

From an original post on TheaterScene/The Fire Island Sun.

Edward MedinaEdward Medina is an Amazon KDP bestselling author of high fantasy, dark horror, and epic adventure books, short stories, and poems. To date his combined works have earned over one hundred and fifty Amazon and Goodreads five star reviews from readers, reviewers, bloggers, teachers and fellow authors.

He is a native New Yorker who over time has built a significant and multifaceted career. He has been a producer, director, and writer for both digital media and the New York Off and Off – Off Broadway stages. He also had the honor and the privilege to work for the late great Jim Henson creator of the Muppets.

Edward founded a successful independent production company dedicated to family entertainment and children’s causes. He also established a multimedia company in order to assist nonprofits achieve their own cause related goals. He went on to become a theme park designer. For fun he became a steam train engineer and has been since childhood a sometime magician.

Currently Edward is a critic and feature entertainment columnist covering Broadway, Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, Clubs and Cabarets for TheaterScene and The Fire Island Sun. He also maintains his love of theatrical production by continuing to create new works for both stage and screen. And his dream of building a fully realized world of fantasy on tropical shores is still very much alive and well.

If you’d like more detailed information on Edward’s work, visit his LinkedIn profile or his website. You can also explore his books, follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook, and subscribe to his blog on WordPress.

Edward Medina is proud to be a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Horror Writers Association.

28
Sep
17

For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday: My Review

Photo Sep 29, 4 50 56 PMTwo time Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony Award nominee author Sarah Ruhl wrote For Peter Pan as a gift to her actress mother Kathleen Kehoe Ruhl who, in real life, joyously played Pan long ago. The play opens with Ann (Kathleen Chalfant), representing the embodiment of Ruhl’s mother, parting the closed curtains and stepping out to sweetly regale us with dulcet memories of her character’s Pan performance. The moment was so natural and well-acted that one wasn’t sure if this was part of the show or the beginning of a welcome to the Playwrights Horizons theatre.

Ruhl has set her semi-autobiographical drama, with hints of humor, within a framework of three movements. The first movement has us waiting in a hospital room with the family as they wait for their patriarch George (Ron Crawford) to shuffle off this mortal coil. It’s a long wait. With many lingering silences. Too many of them. In between those silences we are introduced to each remaining member of the clan. They include sister, Wendy (Lisa Emery), and brothers Jim (David Chandler), John (Daniel Jenkins), and Michael (Keith Reddin). It’s in these first moments together that we feel the hints of familial love and festering sibling rivalry that permeate their lives.

At the obvious conclusion of the vigil deceased dad sits up and gets out of bed. He takes a walk to the front door of the family’s Davenport, Iowa home where he’s greeted by the also deceased family dog, nicely played by adopted canine Macy making her New York theatrical debut. George and the pet then go inside. The father will physically yet silently haunt the remainder of the play like a specter at the awkward feast to follow.

For Peter Pan

David Chandler, Ron Crawford, Daniel Jenkins, Lisa Emery, Keith Reddin, and Kathleen Chalfant (Photo Credit Joan Marcus)

After a clumsy set change, all done to a live trumpet solo of “When the Saints Come Marching” in, we arrive at the second movement and the family dinner table. It’s there with handfuls of Chex Party Mix and copious amounts of Jameson whiskey that the now orphaned siblings truly let the catharsis fly in a verbal wake of suddenly forced adulthood.

This family venting is filled with remembrances both joyful and melancholy, growing expressions of sibling discontent and disconnect, a good dose of political regret for being both not enough or too liberal, and not enough or too conservative, in a world gone mad during the Clinton administration, and it’s all blended together with a healthy mix of Irish Catholic guilt.

It’s here that author and ensemble shine. These are all actors of a certain age and their real life skills and professional experience provide them with the tools to take what would at first glance appear to be a clichéd scene and make it sing off the page.

The third movement is somewhat magical but extremely perplexing. Its childhood fantasy rooted in the reality of age as the Pan story plays out in the children’s bedroom. Each sibling has a part to play. Ann returns to her crowing self as Peter, siblings Wendy, John and Peter become their namesakes, and brother Jim becomes a fabulous Captain Hook, even the family dog takes a turn as Nana but nothing here can help save this lost elderly children’s theatre-like conclusion.

Awkward moments abound in a crash of forced analogies, confusing concepts, and the technical requirements of attaching flying harnesses to both people and a bed. The clearly audible mechanical sounds of the pulley systems that make the magic of flight possible were painfully apparent. Whether this was deliberate to increase that feeling of encroaching reality or the theater space is just too small to absorb the mechanics involved will remain a mystery.

The end of all this returned us to a touching moment. With her brothers and sister choosing to return to being grownups Ann, as Peter, is left alone on stage to once again recall her original performance. She remembers the real magic of that moment. She remembers the audience, her friends smiling faces, and her father coming up the aisle to bring her a bouquet of roses. Ghost dad does just that and speaks for the first time with words of support and encouragement to a young Ann as she embarks on the rest of her life. This then allows Peter to take flight once more leaving the pains of the real world behind.

Photo Sep 29, 4 54 54 PM

Kathleen Chalfant David Chandler (Photo Credit Joan Marcus)

There’s a lot to be said about the Peter Pan myth and its connections to youth and lost youth, to living life and finding death, to hanging on and letting go. Unfortunately, this time, like a clumsy lost boy, the obviously gifted Ruhl overloads her quiver with tried and true tropes and takes aim at societies every day foibles, the structure of family, all the stages of death and dying, and the truths of how we can be our own worst enemies, but she ends up missing all the marks by half.

Under the direction of Ms. Ruhl’s frequent collaborator, Les Waters, the production is at times a tedious mix of misfires and missed opportunities and yet at others one can almost see the distant shores of Neverland, the mermaids and Indians and pirates that inhabit that magical place, and one can truly try to believe that if we clap hard enough Tinkerbell will live again.

The physical production is supported by scenic designer David Zinn, costume designer Kristopher Castle, lighting designer Matt Frey, original music and sound designers Bray Poor and Charles Coes, animal trainer William Berloni and flight and fly director Ryan Bourque.

 

Playwrights Horizons – Mainstage Theater

416 West 42nd Street
Tickets: $59-$99
http://www.playwrightshorizons.org
212-564-1235
August 18 – October 1, 2017

From an original post on TheaterScene/The Fire Island Sun.

Edward MedinaEdward Medina is an Amazon KDP bestselling author of high fantasy, dark horror, and epic adventure books, short stories, and poems. To date his combined works have earned over one hundred and fifty Amazon and Goodreads five star reviews from readers, reviewers, bloggers, teachers and fellow authors.

He is a native New Yorker who over time has built a significant and multifaceted career. He has been a producer, director, and writer for both digital media and the New York Off and Off – Off Broadway stages. He also had the honor and the privilege to work for the late great Jim Henson creator of the Muppets.

Edward founded a successful independent production company dedicated to family entertainment and children’s causes. He also established a multimedia company in order to assist nonprofits achieve their own cause related goals. He went on to become a theme park designer. For fun he became a steam train engineer and has been since childhood a sometime magician.

Currently Edward is a critic and feature entertainment columnist covering Broadway, Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway, Clubs and Cabarets for TheaterScene and The Fire Island Sun. He also maintains his love of theatrical production by continuing to create new works for both stage and screen. And his dream of building a fully realized world of fantasy on tropical shores is still very much alive and well.

If you’d like more detailed information on Edward’s work, visit his LinkedIn profile or his website. You can also explore his books, follow him on Twitter, like his page on Facebook, and subscribe to his blog on WordPress.

Edward Medina is proud to be a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, the Dramatists Guild, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and the Horror Writers Association.




Edward Medina Author

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