Posts Tagged ‘The Fire island Sun

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.

27
Oct
17

Squeamish: My Review

Photo Oct 17, 12 36 10 PM

Alison Fraser in Squeamish (Photo by Maria Baranova)

Sharon is a basket case. She’s a New York City, Upper West Side psychoanalyst in need of her own New York City, Upper West Side psychiatrist. She’s off her meds. Has been for a while. She’s a recovering alcoholic. Desperately in need of a drink. Sharon’s barely keeping it together but she’s still capable of understanding her needs. She needs to see her shrink. Badly. Even though she hasn’t kept up with her visits she shows up at Dr. Schneider’s apartment in the dead of night. Once inside she takes a seat.

It’s there that we first find her. It’s there that she will remain. For the next ninety intermission-less moments we will be transfixed by her story. She will gloriously regale us, and the good doctor, with her recent adventures in the flat landscape of Lubbock, Texas. She will tell us about her nephew’s sudden death and the funeral that brought her to that hot and humid place. She’ll go on about her encounters with the locals. Her growing paranoia. Her expanding psychosis. Her continuing nightmares. Most importantly she will tell us of her hemophobia. Her fear of blood. The results of her relationship with the warm red fluid that keeps us all alive will drive the tale and keep you fixed and focused on Sharon’s every word.

Sharon has been falling asleep on her own patients as of late. Nightmares of her mother’s past suicide have been keeping her awake. She’s now at the same age when her mother did herself in. She’s also having nightmares about her cousin Eddie’s recent suicide. If it was indeed a suicide. Her trip is a journey to find the truth. Once in Texas the mystery thickens as Sharon meets Cara who has a thing for razor sharp knives and the taste of blood. Despite being squeamish about life’s vital juice for as long as she can remember, except for that one time she tasted her own and found it oddly satisfying and sexually gratifying, Sharon finds herself going along on Cara’s sanguinarian adventures. All this death and blood, and lack of booze and pills, and the smell of peppermint that permeates her cheap motel room leaves Sharon’s mind in a state of frenzied confusion. All of this leads to some very dark morbid choices on her part and therein lies the bloody rub.

A good horror story is one that draws you in closer and closer until the trap that’s been set begins to close in around you. The trappings of Squeamish are sublime. Every aspect of the All For One Theater production at the Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row are exquisite in their execution.

It is pitch black in the house when the show begins. In fact, before Squeamish even starts the usual warnings of cell phone activity is heightened by the additional caution that any light, even the light from your watch, will appear three-fold brighter should it suddenly reveals itself. Darkness is this productions friend. Everything in this world is black. The walls, the simple furnishings, the frame representing a large window overlooking the city, even Sharon is dressed entirely in black. Lighting designer Sarah Johnston, and her associate designer Sophie Talmadge Silleck, manage to use all this negative dark space to heighten the low-level lighting that they concentrate tightly on Sharon, her cup, table, and chair. There’s subtlety in design is at work here in an extremely elegant fashion.

A one-person show is primarily a dance between actor and author. A symbiosis of two storytellers at work. Here, once again, the production is in excellent hands. Playwright Aaron Mark has crafted a frightening journey that travels along a very tight wire. He balances humor and pathos with finesse. His characters are woven well and feel very real. Squeamish is his third psychological thriller and it is indeed charmed. Mark also takes the helm here as director and the benefits of his deceptively light touch are palpable. The highest compliment that can be paid to a director is that a good director is one that is never caught directing. Mark lets the words speak for themselves and he cast the perfect actress to deliver them.

Alison Fraser in Squeamish (Photo by Maria Baranova)

Alison Fraser in Squeamish (Photo by Maria Baranova)

Alison Fraser as Sharon is a wonder to behold. Along with playing Sharon she will also inhabit six other characters, both male and female. There are no doubts that the technical skills of a two time Tony Award nominee are at work here in a masterful performance. Those skills are wrapped up in an artistic tour deforce that makes you fall for the sanguine, neurotic, twisted little soul she brings to life. There’s a smoky, syrupy, sultry texture to Fraser’s voice that is intoxicating. Her delivery of Sharon’s staccato thoughts is flawless and instrumental to that all-important draw that sucks you into her story. Squeamish does indeed have a twist but Alison Fraser herself is the seductive trap.

Sharon spends the waning night in Dr. Schneider’s apartment. Time flies here and there is a profound sense of disappointment as the sun begins to rise on Sharon’s tale and the realization occurs that things are coming to an end. There’s a great deal to be said when you long to spend more time in the company of a charming yet deadly villain.

The Beckett Theatre – Theatre Row
410 West 42nd St
New York, NY 10036
$52.25
www.theatrerow.org
212-239-6200
Oct 6 – Nov 11, 2017

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

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,110 other followers

It Is Said (MBKS 1)

It Is Said

A Murder of Crows

A Murder of Crows

The Demise of Foxy Jack

The Demise of Foxy Jack

Bones, crowns and gaman

Bones, Crowns and Gaman

adventures of the x pirates se 1

Awilda

Awilda

The Corpse of Madeline Hill

The Corpse of Madeline Hill

the conversation

the conversation

casanova

stories new york

Follow me on Twitter


%d bloggers like this: