Posts Tagged ‘Playbill

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.




Edward Medina Author

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